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Update: Newest material is at the end. Updated 6/22/11

My recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes caused quite a stir on the Internet. One of my harshest critics, feminist website Jezebel.com, accepted my offer to be interviewed about whatever it is that they find so objectionable about me. Jezebel's Editor-in-Chief, Jessica Coen, asked writer Irin Carmon to represent the common viewpoint at Jezebel.

Let's start with some background on the participants to give you some perspective on the bias that each brings to the table. I've been a long-time financial supporter of women's causes, particularly in the abuse realm. I have a long history of promoting and mentoring women in my own businesses.  And I'm pro-choice.

My mother was a strong woman who raised three kids, worked most of her life, taught me to play baseball, and was the first member of the family to get a motorcycle license. She kept a loaded rifle in the kitchen and often used it to gun down rabbits and other assailants to her vegetable garden.  And she didn't take shit from anyone.

My first career, in banking, came to an end when my boss told me there was no potential for a white male to get a promotion until the company did a lot of catching up in the diversity department. My second career, at the phone company, ended the same way, although I stayed around while I worked on my cartooning career on the side.

Irin Carmon has been a staff writer for Jezebel for about two years, during which time she has been covering politics, reproductive rights and health, sexual assault, workplace discrimination, and more. Irin is a 28-year old woman who reminds me that she does not deign to speak for all women.

We begin...

Scott:  Irin, your editor volunteered you to discuss your objections to my recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes. What in particular did you find objectionable?

Irin: Even seen as hyperbole or intentionally incendiary rhetoric, the piece does a disservice to men above all, and to women too. You start out by referring to men in the public eye who are "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world," and suggest that this happened because "society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable." Leaving aside for a minute the implied equivalence of that laundry list (breaking your marriage vows versus raping someone), this is a bleak perversion of biological determinism. By that reading, the presumed majority of men who don't rape (or cheat, or tweet) are simply better at managing their innate desires to violate someone else, which I'd wager isn't true to the lived experience of most non-raping men. What you deem the "natural instincts of women" isn't defined, but I'm going to assume you mean stereotypes about nurturing and nesting. In fact, history, recent and otherwise, is full of examples of women who were treated as "shameful and criminal" for following their own natural instincts for how to live their lives, whether it was whom to sleep with and when and how often, what jobs women "should" do, how many children to have and when, etc. etc. Until very recently, those strictures were on the books and enforced by men, full stop. Men and women are both better off that all that's no longer official, at least in this country. 

You write, "Society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness." In fact, what's evolved is that women are now politically and, to a greater extent, socially recognized as full human beings. In contexts where women were seen as men's property, rape, or any non-sanctioned sex was (or is) punished as such, and often the women were punished too. We now have a legal and social model that formally recognizes women as people. That changed because some men and women didn't see the world as, in your words, "a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa," and who saw the harm and dehumanization implicit in that model. Incidentally, though women were historically told they are too volatile or emotional to run the world's affairs, you suggest it's men who are unable to cope. 

You cite Hugh Hefner as an example of a man who has "lost," or implicitly, been societally shamed. ("Society didn't offer him a round hole for his round peg.") But by every possible measure, Hefner's no victim. He is a very rich man. He has a robust sex life with women who look like the ideal upon which he made his fortune. He's an icon. I'd say society has offered him quite the round hole. It's hard to think of a woman who has experienced anything comparable, but then, I don't agree this is a zero sum game. 

My question to you: What do you get out of posting these incendiary commentaries on gender? And why accuse others of misrepresentation when they've mostly stuck to directly quoting you?

Scott: Phew! Wordy.

As for your question, I write what I think will be interesting and thought-provoking. I stake out positions that I haven't seen - whether I believe everything I write or not - because unique viewpoints interest me most. My blog is about inviting readers to wrestle with unique points of view strictly for fun. My regular readers understand that. When my writing is taken out of context, the way Jezebel and others did, it sometimes looks like a crazy rant and it pisses people off. That's more of a bonus than a main goal.

I don't understand most of what you wrote in response to my question. Can you try it again without the history lessons? I agree that women had it worse in the past. My offending blog post was about today and the future.

I think we can skip the question of whether I offended men, since that is not what is bothering Jezebel or Salon, just to name two. And most men correctly interpreted the post as saying that male sexual urges manifest differently in different men. The men who complained imagined I was saying all men are repressed rapists. That's a simple case of bad reading comprehension, or maybe it is because the post was carved up by bottom-feeding websites until the meaning was distorted to fit an agenda. At Huffington Post, where the average reading comprehension is high, you can see that most commenters can't understand how anyone would be offended by the post.

You say that the natural instincts of women can lead them to shameful and criminal behavior. I have a higher opinion of women than you do, in the sense that I think men are genetically more prone to bad behavior. If your point is that women suck just as much as men, I'll take your word for it. But you'll need to explain why our jails have so many more men than women.

I'm still confused why my blog is more offensive than what you just wrote. Can you try again, in simpler terms, and without the history lesson, to explain your objection to my post?

Irin: Not sure what's left to say if all you can say about my good-faith critique of your piece boils down to TL;DR. (Sorry, "Phew, wordy.") Surely a "certified genius" such as yourself knows how to read English when strung together in three paragraphs.

But I'll boil it down anyway. Feminism is not about women being better than men. It's about creating a world where gender and sexuality don't stand in the way of each of us pursuing our individual rights, including to autonomy over our own bodies, whether that means who we have sex with, how many children we have, if at all, or what jobs we have. This might be a "history lesson," but for thousands of years, that hasn't been the case. Men ran things for most of that time, and by and large they still do; feminists and allies happen to believe that full participation will be better for everyone. Unfortunately, the transition is still incomplete, including on your blog, but we'll keep at it nonetheless.  

Scott:
If that's your point, we're in full agreement. I'll leave it to my readers to decide if the bottom line is you're unwilling or unable to defend what another writer on Jezebel has written on this topic. You simply explained some history and made some generic points about equality.

My readers should know that I requested this interview with Lane Moore, the Jezebel.com writer who characterized my opinion, with manufactured quotes, as "All men are rapists." That is the ridiculous view I was expecting your employer to defend. I assume that in preparation for this interview you reread my blog and realized there is no defense for Jezebel's position, and so you smartly retreated into history lessons and generic statements about the goodness of equality.

To be fair, you were assigned this interview by your boss. It's clear to me that you're too smart, and probably too ethical, to defend Jezebel.com's grotesque interpretation of my writing.

So we'll end here, and I'll take this up with Salon's writer, MaryElizabeth Williams, assuming her offer still stands. Stay tuned.

[Update: Jezebel.com is linking to this post. That's why the voting changed direction so abruptly.]
 
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Jun 22, 2011
I FOUND IT!!!!! the one line that explains her entire argument.
--Leaving aside for a minute the implied equivalence of that laundry list (breaking your marriage vows versus raping someone), this is a bleak perversion of biological determinism.--

she doesn't like the idea that we are nothing but organic machines with the ability to self program. everything else she writes is just a justification for that.

see-, well, almost the rest of the first paragraph.

the second she is just talking about how bad women used to have it (or do have it in some cultures NOT OUR OWN). she should read the lysistrata and see exactly how powerless women have been throughout time.


the third she is using fringe examples to trying disprove the idea. Hugh Hefner, Really? is that the best she has? someone MOST men would love to be? (and yesterday, someone wrote how HH is the proof of the rule.) He is Rich, Powerful, and has loads and loads of sex with anyone he wants in ways that boggle most minds. that is what MOST hetero men want. plus he keeps the ones he likes around for meaningful emotional connections

Scott,
you have mentioned many times your belief in biological determinism, and I agree. almost any serious anthropologist would also agree with you. we haven't fallen that far from the trees yet.
the first step is to recognize when we have urges that are purely biological in nature, then we can ignore them consciously

there is no TLDR version.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
@Stontree, Mongolian children are taught to ride a horse before they learn to walk. Raping while on horseback only goes to follow. Also, it increases efficiency and reduces the time between rapes (versus chasing down your quarry on foot).
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
@hankfu
Pillage on horeseback? sure, sounds fun.
Sleap under the stars? again, sounds fun.
Rape on horeseback? sounds difficult and uncomfortable. I mean, moral objections to rape aside, why do it on the back of a horse?
Seriously though, I literally laughed out loud.
 
 
+25 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
I am 1/4 Mongolian. I work with numbers in an office but this discussions explains to me why I have urges to rape and pillage on horseback by day and sleep under the stars by night.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
@sdjx22: Scott writes "continued..." at the bottom when there is more to come, but it isn't here yet. Like those old serial movies they used to use to lure you back to the next bad movie. ("But I HAVE to see 'Revenge of the Slurpee' -- 'Commando Cody, Part 15' is on first!"

Two thoughts of my own:
1) To everybody who is hung up on Scott mentioning rape in the original article. Do none of you remember that Dominique Strauss-Kahn ('DSK' to his friends and victims) had recently attempted to woo a chambermaid in NYC with his Euro-charms? As court records show: "The grand jury... gave the go ahead for Strauss-Kahn to be tried for allegedly forcing the women to submit to oral sex. He is also accused of attempted rape." Given that bit of front page news, it was exceedingly appropriate to include rape in that list.

2) I'm sure this will earn me the label 'sexist pig' but when I read Irin's post, I all I could picture was her blurting it all out without ever taking a breath, working into a greater and greater frenzy, and finishing off by either wheeling around and stomping off or standing there dissolved in tears.
 
 
-11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Scott, is this really a fair fight given that the girl is only 28 years old? Come on now, you know as well as I that she is not old enough or experienced enough to have created informed intelligent opinions of her own or to have developed critical thinking skills. I'm sure she is very bright and extremely well educated and expert at mimicking back the rhetoric of all those venerable professors from her private woman's college. Did you purposely rig the game in your favor? You crafty devil you.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still enjoying this immensely
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
@Shawn4168

"Scott, I don't understand why you put this disclaimer at the beginning. The whole "pro-choice/pro-life" debate has absolutely nothing to do with feminism or women's rights, as much as the feminists would like for you to think so. Scott, I would have thought that you, of all people, would understand that."

I don't really understand how you can say that Shawn. A central tenet of feminism has always been "the reproductive rights of women to make individual decisions on pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion);" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism#Societal_impact) and it is obvious when you look at heavily patriarchal societies like say Afghanistan that Daddy wants control of that stuff.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
This may be a silly question...

It says "continued..." at the bottom of this post, but I can't for the life of me find the rest of the post.

Can anyone help please?
 
 
-19 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
"And I'm pro-choice."

Scott, I don't understand why you put this disclaimer at the beginning. The whole "pro-choice/pro-life" debate has absolutely nothing to do with feminism or women's rights, as much as the feminists would like for you to think so. Scott, I would have thought that you, of all people, would understand that.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
I don't understand how professional journalists continue to read your quip as indicating that rape is the natural instinct. It is very clear that the implication is that due to society's restrictions, the natural instinct of men to procreate with as many females as possible is being suppressed and manifesting itself in rape and other violent behaviors (it is also important to note that aggression is another side-effect of male biology caused by high levels of testosterone). It follows that lower testosterone males are not going to be as predisposed to this type of behaviour. I suspect that if research was done on successful males that get involved in these controversies would be of a higher testosterone than their lower testosterone peers - other factors remaining constant (Note: this is speculation on my part, I have no data to back this as a fact). I feel that this is what Scott was getting at.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Philosotainment might be what you're missing Irin... and 'out of context' may be explained best by the idea that this blog and it's readers are generally (except those who dont get it) brainstorming on the meaning of life and cookie recipes. I acknowledge that the usual blogosphere and tv reality shows most people haunt may need to be careful about what they say as _their_ readers are looking for answers, we're just looking for questions.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
A qoute from "How to Speak and Write Correctly," by Joseph Devlin

"Words of "learned length and thundering sound" should be avoided on all possible occasions. They proclaim shallowness of intellect and vanity of mind. The great purists, the masters of diction, the exemplars of style, used short, simple words that all could understand; words about which there could be no ambiguity as to meaning. It must be remembered that by our words we teach others; therefore, a very great responsibility rests upon us in regard to the use of a right language."

Is what Irin's rap made me think of.
 
 
-15 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
I don't see what all the fuss is about - society decided centuries ago that 'manly' pursuits were unacceptable. As soon as we moved from 'might is right' to the 'pen is mightier than the sword' the future was sealed.

What I never understood is why is it OK to use your brain to get to the top of society but not OK to use your brawn?

If the class wimp makes the jock look stupid for weeks on end and the jock hits out, who gets the blame?
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
I agree the nature of men tends towards violence and promiscuity. You find it in just about every species on the planet. Women tend towards compassion and trust on the same basis.

Evolutionary pressures have led to males competing violently with each other to spread the DNA as far as possible, while females have had to evolve to care for the infants they give birth to. Of course its not quite as simple as that since humanity seems to have evolved to be more monogamous than many animals. Human society is built on this more monogamous footing because it has benefited both women and their male partners in that their young grow up more successful. This trend stands today when you look at the children of married couples and single parents.

One thing that tends to be overlooked is the importance of women throughout history in societies day to day running. Indeed society starts in species when women band together for mutual protection of their young, often from the threat of males. It's no wonder society doesn't cater for violent and promiscuous male urges, its the very opposite of the point of society.

Interestingly you can still see in monogamous animals the same deviant traits that blight many men and women. This is because their is an evolutionary niche for deviants providing they don't cause society to collapse. Recent research also suggests that female promiscuity in some species is the equivalent in the male nipple in that it presents no evolutionary advantage to the females, but is inherited and passed on because it is advantageous when inherited by the opposite sex.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Good work Scott - I was a little worried about you for a minute but I see you are keeping on track just fine.

I've never wanted to rape any woman - ever - but like any man I certainly have wanted to enter into sexual relationships that are not open to me, for whatever reason. Anyone might see that to an amoral person that might end badly. Also, when society is not strictly on top of that plenty of raping can and does still occur - anyone heard of the Congo? Rape has undisputably commonly been used as a weapon of control.

Violence - well, let's just say I have a healthy attitude towards man to man contact playing football (soccer). I like to assert my strength (mainly because I have no speed) and love the feeling of coming off the field after a hard fought victory. I love to let my aggression out on the squash court too. This is enough for me.

In summary I don't find it a crazy burden to harness my urges sensibly. I would be stupid to deny their existence though and to not consider how other people deal with theirs - thanks for the thought provocation.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Good work Scott - I was a little worried about you for a minute but I see you are keeping on track just fine.

I've never wanted to rape any woman - ever - but like any man I certainly have wanted to enter into sexual relationships that are not open to me, for whatever reason. Anyone might see that to an amoral person that might end badly. Also, when society is not strictly on top of that plenty of raping can and does still occur - anyone heard of the Congo? Rape has undisputably commonly been used as a weapon of control.

Violence - well, let's just say I have a healthy attitude towards man to man contact playing football (soccer). I like to assert my strength (mainly because I have no speed) and love the feeling of coming off the field after a hard fought victory. I love to let my aggression out on the squash court too. This is enough for me.

In summary I don't find it a crazy burden to harness my urges sensibly. I would be stupid to deny their existence though and to not consider how other people deal with theirs - thanks for the thought provocation.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011

If I were a woman and somebody said, "the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable," I would take it as a compliment.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Thank you for bringing my attention to the comments at the Huffington Post article. They are an oasis of reason in an ocean full of, how can I say this politely,.. stupidity.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Rape is about sex. Here is Steven Pinker from his book "The Blank Slate"

I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence, and is getting in the way of the only morally relevant goal surrounding rape, the effort to stamp it out.

Think about it. First obvious fact: Men often want to have sex with women who don’t want to have sex with them. They use every tactic that one human being uses to affect the behavior of another: wooing, seducing, flattering, deceiving, sulking, and paying. Second obvious fact: Some men use violence to get what they want, indifferent to the suffering they cause. Men have been known to kidnap children for ransom (sometimes sending their parents an ear or finger to show they mean business), blind the victim of a mugging so the victim can’t identify them in court, shoot out the kneecaps of an associate as punishment for ratting to the police or invading their territory, and kill a stranger for his brand-name athletic footwear. It would be an extraordinary fact, contradicting everything else we know about people, if some men didn’t use violence to get sex.

Let’s also apply common sense to the doctrine that men rape to further the interests of their gender. A rapist always risks injury at the hands of the woman defending herself. In a traditional society, he risks torture, mutilation, and death at the hands of her relatives. In a modern society, he risks a long prison term. Are rapists really assuming these risks as an altruistic sacrifice to benefit the billions of strangers that make up the male gender? The idea becomes even less credible when we remember that rapists tend to be losers and nobodies, while presumably the main beneficiaries of the patriarchy are the rich and powerful. Men do sacrifice themselves for the greater good in wartime, of course, but they are either conscripted against their will or promised public adulation when their exploits are made public. But rapists usually commit their acts in private and try to keep them secret. And in most times and places, a man who rapes a woman in his community is treated as scum. The idea that all men are engaged in brutal warfare against all women clashes with the elementary fact that men have mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, whom they care for more than they care for most other men.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
What I don't understand is where the idea that Scott wrote that men's natural tendency is to rape came from. The post doesn't appear to say that.

What *I* read was that men's urges are repressed/disdained by society, and that in that environment, we hear about a few (the "powerful") of the most defective ones who commit rape, among other things which are not in any way assigned the imputed equivalence.

There is nothing to suggest that this is how all men react, that this is the natural reaction, or that it is any way acceptable.

I also see the suggestion that chemical castration would stop rape. That's more obviously farfetched, because as is often pointed out, rape is as much or more about power as it is about sex.

These are the only two references. So I conclude that anything else about rape found in the post is sourced from the reader, not the writer. The whole thing reminds me of the earlier "Compartmentalizing Versus Smooshing" post.

Of course, l too am a long-time reader and understand the purpose of this blog. Which is why I also understand what one article-writer complains about: what Scott means when he says excerpting long quotes from a single blog post is taking them out of context. I would go farther and say that presenting such excerpts as Scott's opinion is intellectually dishonest.

Not that Scott is flawless or above reproach, as evidenced by the need for me to close out by saying, "I am not Scott."
 
 
 
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