Collective Ownership is Key

CJ Trowbridge

2021-07-03

USP 560 – Urban Poverty

Final

            I have spent a lot of time this year traveling to radically sustainable experimental communities across the country and asking countless questions about infrastructure, ownership models, and governance models and now I’d like to propose a solution to urban poverty.

The Community Development Corporation model is an exciting alternative model for housing development, ownership, and administration. This special kind of non-profit community-ownership model is motivated not by maximizing shareholder profit or as a meager form of public relations for a large corporation, but rather as a serious attempt to solve the problem. Legally, a CDC makes decisions on the basis of actually building and providing affordable housing to the community and facilitating community development rather than maximizing profit for the small, elite class of capitalists in the community.

In San Francisco there are two CDCs with many more on the way. In the Tenderloin and Chinatown, the CDCs have made incredible progress in dramatically increasing the available affordable housing inventory while also making sure that housing goes to those people who actually need it. Meanwhile the corporate PR housing projects from Mercy Housing, and those projects from private developers, have tended to either have no impact at all or — more often – actually make the problem worse.

I have spent much of this year meeting with the arts districts of San Francisco to help them launch CDCs in all the districts, so that every neighborhood in the city can seize control of the housing and wrest it away from greedy and exploitative capitalist landlords. Today housing is a commodity to be invested in with a goal of maximizing return. Tomorrow, with the help of CDCs, housing can transition back to being a basic human right that everyone has access to.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think CDCs are a great solution for cities like San Francisco which by any social problems measure is arguably the worst city in the world, but I think where CDCs really shine is in new community development. I visited a new community being built in rural Tennessee around permaculture, collective ownership, mutual aid, and egalitarianism. They’re part of a larger network called the Permaculture Mutual Aid Network. They are on a project of acquiring land all over the country to create new communities focused on teaching people how to live sustainably while also providing for the needs of the surrounding population, be that through mutual aid, growing food, or however else they can help. These amazing new communities allow anyone to just show up and live there for free. It’s very exciting because they are being very conscious of sustainable development and especially conscious of equity and inclusion. They already have solved for the basic needs of everyone in the community. Everyone gets housing, everyone gets water, everyone gets food, everyone gets community, and no one has to pay for anything.

One of the most exciting challenges facing these new communities is defining their collective ownership model. Other networks of permaculture communities, such as the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, use Land Trust to put their land into a collective ownership model. The problem I see with land trust is that it’s not a legal entity. It can’t execute contracts or qualify for grants or funding.

Compare The Permaculture Mutual Aid Network therefore to Arcosanti, a non-profit-owned community very much like a CDC but much older than the CDC model. Everyone who works there gets housing, food, water, power, etc but they often have to pay for some or all of these things. The community makes decisions together about what to do with the land and the resources. They are also able to take on new projects as a legal entity which can commission construction, maintenance, etc.

Personally, I think that the nonprofit model is a better approach to collective ownership of communities than the land trust model. In a hypothetical new permaculture community, a nonprofit model would be able to get government grants and special dispensation to experiment and conduct research on urban issues relating especially to infrastructure and poverty. I see this as a very exciting potential project for our generation. We have been left with a world full of problems, and poverty is at the heart of those problems. It’s clear to almost everyone under the age of forty that more capitalism is not going to fix capitalism. It’s also very hard to see an alternative, but I think this example shows that there is an alternative.

We’ve all read the horror stories of the company towns (like Pullman). These towns were owned by a company that would deduct your rent and groceries from your paycheck so that you often ended up owing them money to live there and work in their factory. But I also had a different takeaway from those stories; a town full of workers was exploited by a company, and that company thrived on what it stole from them. Imagine the same scenario only without the factory and without the capitalism. Imagine a nonprofit company-town whose only goal is to be a good place for people to live. That’s really exactly what Arcosanti is, and they’ve been doing it half a century. Clearly it can work.

The world bank says we can expect 140 million climate refugees within the next twenty years. (World Bank) Crop failures are already widespread in America due to zone changes. (New York Times) This year alone is likely to be the worst fire year in history. (New York Magazine.) The American power grid was built seventy years ago with a fifty-year lifespan and it’s been running past 100% for decades. (Popular Science) For all these reasons and more, it’s more critical than ever that we act now to create resilient communities where people can survive what’s coming. I am convinced that this nonprofit collective ownership model is the best way to make that happen.

 

Works Cited

New York Magazine. (2021, June 16). California’s Last Fire Season Was a Historic Disaster. This One Could Be Worse. Intelligencer. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/why-2021-could-be-californias-worst-fire-season-ever.html.

New York Times. (2021, April 1). What’s Going On in This Graph? | Growing Zones. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/01/learning/whats-going-on-in-this-graph-growing-zones.html.

Popular Science. Ula Chrobak. August 17, 2020. (2021, April 26). The US has more power outages than any other developed country. Here’s why. Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/why-us-lose-power-storms/.

World Bank. Climate Change Could Force Over 140 Million to Migrate Within Countries by 2050: World Bank Report. (n.d.). https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/03/19/climate-change-could-force-over-140-million-to-migrate-within-countries-by-2050-world-bank-report.

Seize Housing Now

CJ Trowbridge

2021-07-02

USP 580 Housing Policy & Planning

Term Paper

The solution to the housing problem in San Francisco (And beyond) is the Community Development Corporation model, and the newly created arts districts are the perfect lever to make that happen. I spent much of the pandemic meeting with the boards of the arts districts to discuss this proposition, and they all already agreed before I first met with them. Based on the great success of the examples of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Chinatown Community Development Center, the other districts now see this model as an ideal solution to bypass many of the barriers to constructing affordable housing, and to empower the community to seize ownership and development of their housing from exploitative landlords and corrupt for-profit developers. This is also widely seen as a way for ordinary people to unionize as a community and exert power over those few local capitalists who historically weald unbridled authority over local policy. This has exciting implications for housing and beyond.

Like most urban policy processes, the arts districts – though new – see few people attending public meetings to discuss the important issues affecting our community today. I saw these new institutions as potential Archimedes levers for the cause of the CDC model so I began attending their public meetings. I was surprised to often find myself the only one attending. I was also surprised to find that they were all already very excited about the potential for launching CDCs in all the districts that don’t already have one. In fact, it was typically the number one priority on the agenda. A common secondary priority was to reopen the now shuttered sex clubs that once dotted all over the city. More on that later.

The reason the Community Development Corporation model is so exciting as an alternative model for housing development, ownership, and administration is that it is a special kind of community-ownership model which is motivated not by maximizing shareholder profit or as a meager form of public relations for a large corporation, but rather as a serious attempt to solve the problem. Legally, a CDC makes decisions on the basis of actually building and providing affordable housing to the community.

Mercy housing in contrast is technically a nonprofit but does very little actual work in the community. I asked the COO if she feels like they are having an impact on the problem. She said, “No, not at all.” Contrast that to the TNDC COO who said, “Yes, absolutely,” and you will immediately see the difference between housing projects as corporate PR versus housing projects intended to actually solve the problem. Other examples like Hope SF or Hope VI are ostensibly nonprofits focused on building housing, but only when it is built on demolished former minority neighborhoods. These non-CDC examples arguably do more harm than good because they legitimize the terrible capitalist housing system while also erasing minorities from the city and having almost no impact on actually solving the problem.

In contrast, TNDC and CCDC have had great success in building lots of affordable units and renting them out to the people who actually need them. That’s why the other districts now see this model as an ideal solution. It also allows them to bypass many of the barriers to constructing housing. One example is that CDCs have first right of refusal for any residential real estate transactions. It is now commonplace to see projects in the Mission where a private developer demolishes a historic building to construct luxury condos instead. Let’s call these types of projects “Gentrification Centers.” The Mission currently has no CDC, and so there is no nonprofit with first right of refusal that can step in and say, “No, actually we don’t want a Gentrification Center, we will take that land instead and build affordable housing.” This is why these models are so attractive to communities plagued by Gentrification Centers.

CDCs also have access to exciting funding sources such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit which, while limited, does offer a great deal of funding for these projects as well as empowering CDCs to discriminate against wealthy people. This means they are not just empowered but required to provide affordable housing to those who actually need it, rather than to tech bros and other gentrifiers.

One of the things I’ve been pitching all year is that CDCs should also be selling “housing credits” just like carbon credits, except to offset the cost of housing. They could create a market to allow big tech companies to claim they are “housing neutral” just like they currently claim to be carbon neutral. There are many historically good actors like Marc Benioff, Frieda Kapoor, Merritt Capital, and others who seem likely to want to fund projects this way or even through more traditional debt instruments or via venture philanthropy. The city itself would have a hard time explaining to constituents why it wouldn’t fund these new CDCs directly. I think it would even make sense for them to sue any corporations that are bad actors, requiring them to pay for housing credits if their employees have had a particularly harmful effect on a given community.

Funding CDCs could also become a major strategic part of project proposals. Just imagine if a company like Twitter had been required to offset its impact on the local housing inventory when it moved its headquarters to the Market-Octavia district. Instead, the surrounding community was demolished and replaced with some of the most expensive housing in the world. If there was a Market-Octavia CDC, this would likely have played out very differently.

The really exciting thing about CDCs for all the districts is the fact that they allow a community to seize control of its housing and wrest that housing from greedy capitalists and slum lords. Currently, we have a housing system that pits the wealthy against the workers and treats workers as a resource to be exploited. Landlords try to extract the maximum amount of value out of workers in order to avoid doing any work themselves. A CDC on the other hand is not trying to make a profit, they are trying to do the right thing. This means that they are charging rates people can actually afford and providing affordable housing only to those who actually need it. It’s a radical change from a deeply corrupt and immoral system to a deeply moral alternative.

It also wrests political power away from local merchant associations and other capitalist groups whose aims do not align with the best interests of the people. For example, there is a battle happening right now between the Castro Merchants Association and the Castro Cultural District over whether or not the new racially inclusive pride flags should replace the incumbent flags, or be placed in “separate but equal” locations. I’ll let you guess which group is on which side of this issue. This is emblematic of many of the issues that CDCs will empower communities to confront together. Community development is not about making more money for a few capitalists; it’s about embracing the broader community and doing what the community feels is right for the community. This is supposed to be the role of politics, but sadly we live in a world where money is speech and so politics is owned by the capitalists. In this world of deeply corrupt politics for business, the CDC presents an opportunity to revisit a classic solution to this very problem, the union. I think it’s useful to consider a CDC as a sort of labor union for a neighborhood which can serve as a platform to solve many community development issues beyond just housing.

This is a big part of why the SoMa District and the Castro District both listed reopening the sex clubs as their number two priority after establishing local CDCs, because these historical community institutions were sacrificed on the altar of capitalism by people who wanted to “clean up” the neighborhood and make more money on housing as an investment and more traditional business as an investment. Instead of allowing business to decide what the neighborhood looks like, the community is coming together to tell business what they want the neighborhood to look like.

CDCs have exciting implications for housing and beyond. The reason I came to San Francisco to learn about problems in cities is because though these issues exist everywhere, there is nowhere in world worse than San Francisco. This means that while many things have been tried here, and many of those things might work elsewhere, the solutions we find that do work here will almost certainly work elsewhere. I see Community Development Corporation as the best of these solutions; a really powerful tool that communities everywhere could use to take control not just of housing but also of local business and politics in order to force incumbent political and mercantile institutions to behave in a pro-social way that actually benefits a thriving community rather than displacing and erasing the community to turn a neighborhood into a sterile investment rather than the living, thriving thing it ought to be.

Urban poverty is Not an Accident

CJ Trowbridge

2021-06-30

USP 560 Urban Poverty

Term Paper

It’s no mistake that there has never been a capitalist city without poverty. In his essay, “The Urban Process Under Capitalism,” David Harvey explains that cities are a process, not a place. Cities under capitalism – by definition – serve to extract labor and resources from the masses and deliver those resources to the wealthy and powerful. Equality in capitalist cities is impossible by definition. Systems that facilitate the asymmetric flow of power and resources to privileged groups at the expense of everyone else are called systems of oppression. Seen through this lens, a city is an engine which produces poverty in order to create a small, wealthy ruling class. There is no ameliorating this fundamental purpose and function of cities under capitalism. Urban poverty is a feature, not a bug.

If inequality, poverty, and the structural denial of people’s basic needs are bad things, then look at the housing market in San Francisco and you will see perhaps the worst city in the world. According to original research I did in the GWAR class, you have to be in the 78th percentile for income to afford a median-rate apartment in San Francisco. This research took place before covid, and while we don’t know how bad it is now, it seems unlikely that covid made this better. That means four out of five working people are denied access to housing. This is simply untenable. This widespread denial of such a basic need for the vast majority of people is the result of many things, but in part it’s because of BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) and NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard).

One of the most widely accepted political projects of the residents of San Francisco for decades has been working to prevent any new housing from being built anywhere, with a few trivial exceptions. And that project has succeeded. Housing prices have been artificially inflated to astronomical levels seen nowhere else in the world. People are moving to Manhattan, “because it’s cheaper.” I was recently in Manhattan and talking about housing with people who flat out did not believe me about the median rates in San Francisco.

Are there feasible alternatives to the current model of housing development? One intrinsically related problem to solve is the model of housing ownership. San Francisco is a deeply ideological city. It is committed to implementing only neoliberal solutions to all problems. Neoliberalism and its approach to solving problems could be defined as, “more capitalism is actually somehow the solution to the problems caused by capitalism.” This is why these two issues are so closely related. Because high density urban housing projects in San Francisco today are exclusively private. There is no public housing anywhere in San Francisco. There are only for-profit and non-profit housing projects. These all exist under a legal framework which requires them to make decisions based on a fiduciary responsibility. Even a nonprofit has to make a profit, they just can’t take it home at the end of the day.

One example is Hope VI and its local version Hope SF. These programs are publicly funded but they are extremely limited. They also target minority neighborhoods for forced redevelopment. This does not mean increasing the density of housing in those neighborhoods. It just means replacing existing housing with new housing at about the same density or even less in some cases. This means demolishing minority neighborhoods and forcing those minority groups to leave the city while new housing is built. Theoretically there is outreach to get those same people to come back and live in the new units. But according to one developer I talked to who works on Hope SF projects, almost no one ever comes back. Therefore the real impact of these programs is simply to accelerate the erasure of ethnic minorities in the city without adding any new housing inventory.

Another issue is the public opposition to any new housing development. A lot of neoliberals respond to this by working hard on crafting the thousandth version of the perfect argument that will finally convince the NIMBYs and BANANAs to allow housing to be built in the city. Maybe that will work, but I see a better way.

The Tenderloin and Chinatown have seized control of their housing from the free market through the use of community development corporations. A community development corporation is a special type of nonprofit whose mission is to build affordable housing in a particular geographic area. They also have special powers such as first right of refusal for any residential real estate transactions. So if there was a community development corporation for the mission, and some private developer wanted to build a gentrification center, the Mission District Community Development Corporation would have the power to step in and take that land from the private developer to use for affordable housing instead.

One of the main barriers to the construction of affordable housing is the fact that the cost per unit to build affordable housing in San Francisco is higher than the ten-year return on investment. There is no incentive for a private developer to build new units because their investment horizon is legally limited to that ten-year period. If they can’t make a profit by then, then legally they can’t do the project. They have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder profit. Legally they can not do the right thing and build affordable housing, they can only build luxury condos for tech bros.

There are lots of special funding sources that community development corporations can use to build affordable housing including federal, state, and local grants and tax credits. Since it’s a nonprofit, people can also leave their real estate to the community development corporation in their will. I also think it would make sense for them to sell “housing credits” like we currently have carbon credits, creating a market where companies can choose to donate directly to offsetting the cost of housing construction in particular neighborhoods.

Many companies currently brag about being “carbon-neutral” or even “carbon-negative.” It’s easy to see a future where large corporations are forced to pay to offset their impacts on housing prices. This could also become an auxiliary function of Community Development Corporations; to sue for the funds to reconstitute stolen housing in their communities. It’s easy to see a campaign by the combined CDCs for the districts of San Francisco to sue the tech giants for the funds to build housing to replace all that the tech bros have taken.

Another exciting thing about Community Development Corporations is that they are allowed, and even mandated to discriminate. For example, some of the federal housing grants require income restrictions on who is allowed to live in the housing. This is a great way to make sure that those new housing projects don’t just go to the same tech bros, but rather go to the minority groups, artists and hourly workers in the city who actually need that housing.

Because Community Development Corporations are not working on a short horizon, they can build projects around a longer timescale. If your goal is to maximize affordable housing in a geographic area rather than to maximize shareholder profit, then you can legally do lots of things that those private developers can not. For example, charging significantly lower rents means it will take a lot longer to recoup an investment. And if you’re working on a short horizon, then that means your rent has to be high enough to cover your investment cost within that horizon. A Community Development Corporation works on a virtually infinite timescale, meaning it can access different funding instruments to work on that longer timescale and charge significantly lower rents.

There are some other proposed alternatives such as Land Trust. The problem with Land Trust is that it’s not an entity, it’s just an agreement about how the land will be used. A land trust can’t build a high rise or even hire an electrician. All of that still falls to whoever actually owns the land being used under trust. This is why I think the Community Development Corporation model is a better option.

It’s one thing to try to fix San Francisco, but that’s not why I came to the worst city in the world to study its problems. I came here to learn about this because a lot of things have been tried here, and since the problems here are worse than anywhere else, the solutions that work here will likely work even better everywhere else. To that end, I spent much of the year traveling to different experimental communities around the country and learning and studying and discussing infrastructure and ownership models. There are a lot of things being tried out there. This brings me to the last major problem with providing affordable housing, the border fiscalization effect.

Emeryville sits right next to Berkeley. They make most of their income by simply legalizing whatever things Berkeley bans, from box stores to gas stations. This has the net effect that every policy Berkeley sets is utterly meaningless and merely shifts those land uses a few feet to the south where Emeryville welcomes them with open arms. If you look at the Market-Octavia District and the absurd glass towers of luxury condos with their token alleyway poor doors for the non-rich, you can immediately see the problem with building affordable housing anywhere near there. It’s even more expensive because so much of the land has been excluded for luxury development.

That’s why I think this model would work even better in a small town, or a new town. Arcosanti is a good example of a community done right. They bought hundreds of acres abutting a national monument and built a very small, very high-density housing project with workshops for industry and commerce. Cars are banned, and no one can build anything within miles of the community because they own all that land. This is all owned by one nonprofit which decides how the land is used. It’s also incorporated as something like a town meaning outside politicians can’t impose codes and laws on them. Most people there live for free as part of their pay for whatever work they’re doing. This is the Community Development Corporation model taken to the best-case scenario, and it happened half a century ago.

I see a huge opportunity for cities like San Francisco to implement Community Development Corporations for all the districts. This would really improve things with regard to housing which is fundamental to urban poverty, but it also creates a natural union of the people to fight together for the political needs of the people rather than the corporations which currently run the city. Community Development Corporations are corporations in the classical sense, people coming together for a common purpose. They are fundamentally anti-capitalist because they seize assets and distribute them to those who need them rather than empowering the wealthy elite to accumulate those assets and deprive the people who actually need them.

I think the larger opportunity is to launch Community Development Corporations everywhere. I think of them as sort of the opposite of a Homeowners Association. The purpose of an HOA is to treat housing as an investment and to maximize the return on that investment. This is necessarily contractionary and anti-affordability; it deliberately reduces the supply in order to artificially inflate prices. The alternative Community Development Corporation model does just the opposite. It treats housing as a basic right, and it works to build as much as possible and provide to those who really need it. This would be a perfect way for small towns everywhere, or even new towns, to seize control from the capricious free market which only want to deny their needs in order to facilitate the higher prices and scarcity that are necessary for inflating the wealth of the ruling class.

Morality of Agency and Objectification

CJ Trowbridge

2021-06-28

PHIL 455 Sex and the Law

Term Paper

 

Everybody thinks pedophilia is bad, right? There is widespread consensus about that, right? Maybe not. I think this popular misunderstanding of the nature of ongoing support for pedophilia is one of the main reasons it has not been meaningfully addressed, particularly in contemporary queer culture and especially in affluent white cis male gay (AWCMG) culture. I will be comparing and contrasting the way these two groups affect and are affected by the contemporary discourses around pedophilia, particularly from the legal and moral perspective. I will also offer a solution to the problem I describe. Comparing and contrasting these groups is useful for reasons that will soon become obvious.

One of the main problems with confronting this issue within both the broader contemporary queer culture and specifically the AWCMG culture is the lack of a shared epistemology and ethical framework for making persuasive moral arguments about behavior. This is thanks, in large part, to the fact that American culture tends to delegate its moral reasoning to increasingly reactionary and esoteric forms of evangelical protestant Christianity. It becomes a problem because most Queer/AWCMG people tend to rightly reject religion as a valid foundation for any moral truth, and therefore the community shares a vision of rejecting the idea of moral truth rather than developing it together.

There is an old saying, “be gay do crime.” Historically, it has been illegal throughout most of American history for people to be gay in the verb sense rather than the adjective sense. This has led people to think of their sexual identities as a character they might sometimes or someday play, rather than a set of behaviors they regularly engage in; as an adjective rather than a verb. This is why there is a long history of strong relationships between Queer/AWCMG groups and organized crime which facilitates spaces and services for these illegal identities.

Stonewall was a mafia club. The reason there was a riot is that the police wanted to be paid off a second time in the same night. This is why Sylvia Rivera (who was there) explains that it started with patrons throwing dimes at the cops. (Guardian) The popular myth of Martha P Johnson throwing a brick distracts from this deeper truth. The riot started because corrupt police wanted a second bribe from the mafia which owned the illegal gay bar. This was long before the word trans(gender) was popularized, and in the words of Rivera, Stonewall was a bar for what we would today call the AWCGM community. Rivera said Stonewall did not generally allow “drag queens” like her and Marsha to enter, and that she was the only one there that night. (Guardian) Marsha later agreed with Rivera, saying in her own words that she was not even there. (New York Times 2:55-3:18) The story of Stonewall has transformed into a story of trans women of color standing up to police who were persecuting them for being trans women of color. In reality, Stonewall was a mafia club that generally only allowed white cis men. The riot started because the police wanted a second bribe in the same night. The modern myth of Stonewall is something that is meaningful for a lot of people but the truth is more interesting than the myth as we will see…

This historic relationship between organized crime and the Queer/AWCGM community is the first of two pieces of the core problem I want to address. The people in the community were forced to reject a society which rejected them. It was illegal for them to exist, so they embraced organized crime and were embraced by it. The zeitgeist of the community has always rightly been that legal definitions are explicitly invalid, that legal bans on a behavior should be interpreted as an intrinsically positive thing about the thing being banned, and that legal endorsements of a behavior should be seen as damning.

Lord Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The heroic men of the AWCGM movement were no exception. The visceral hatred between the leaders of the cis white gay men and everyone else who wasn’t quite society’s ideal but wasn’t an affluent cis white male gay culminated in 1971 when Del Martin wrote her infamous open letter called “Goodbye, My Alienated Brothers.” Martin was a lesbian quaker who had started hundreds of activist nonprofits including underground news networks to spread information and connect people together. In her open letter, she wrote about how the luminary gay leaders like Harry Hay had repeatedly told the lesbians that their place in the movement was in the kitchen, that they had done the same to essentially everyone who wasn’t an affluent white cis male gay. She wished them well and she left with her hundreds of nonprofits and international network of followers to build a new separate movement away from the AWCGMs.

Harry Hay was the founder of the Mattachine Society. There is some debate about whether or not it was the world’s first gay rights organization. They were certainly among the first and most influential in the early campaign for rights and equality for gay people. They even earned their own FBI COINTELPRO task force which eventually dismantled Mattachine (Cohen). Hay went on to found the radical faeries which is still one of the largest and most active primarily-AWCGM organizations in the world with chapters everywhere. He deliberately designed it as something that would be hard to dismantle in the same way Mattachine had been dismantled. Rather than building a nonprofit with a board, he built a loosely affiliated international network of anarcho-communist houses and sanctuaries where drug-fueled orgies combine with alternative spirituality to create a community that isn’t really possible for an FBI agent to infiltrate. Hay went on to spend essentially all of his adult life campaigning for the legalization of pedophilia. He protested against gay pride parades across the country – up until the day he died — because they refused to include pedophilia as a legitimate part of the gay community. (Regent University Law Review) He wrote for the NAMBLA newspaper, spoke at their conferences, wrote forewords for their books, and posed for cover photos for their promotional material. (Bronski) These claims are not controversial, but aside from the Regent University Law Review article, there are few remaining primary source documents accessible online. Even NAMBLA’s own website has been scrubbed of its extensive gratitude to Hay for his decades of work. I will include a list of links in Appendix A for the remaining sources I was able to find.

It is extremely difficult to find any extant primary sources discussing Hay’s lifelong crusade for the legalization of pedophilia. This is precisely because the people in the Queer/AWCGM lack the epistemic and moral framework to address an issue like this, and often try to cover it up or silence discussion of what can understandably seem like a bad faith attack on a great hero of the movement. It’s true that these facts about Hay are often used by reactionaries to attack the entire Queer/AWCMG movement, but in general, the critique seems more true of the AWCMG slice of the spectrum, than the rest, the Queers. This is precisely for the reasons I have outlined above. First, because the AWCMG community explicitly rejects religious arguments for right and wrong, and rightly so. Second because religious arguments are essentially the only moral arguments given in American culture. Third, because the community explicitly rejects legalistic perspectives on moral truth, since legalistic perspectives have historically rejected the community. Fourth, because the luminaries in the community historically have explicitly and emphatically endorsed pedophilia.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis from sociology argues that people are only able to approach and understand the world within the context of the ideas and words and concepts and language they have with which to do so. So if you reject most or all religious morality and reject most or all laws as a valid source of truth and justice, then how do you argue that anything is bad? If we look around at the response and the reckoning that hasn’t happened on this issue, we might be tempted to say, “you cant.” But I think there is a way. We can look to Del Martin and the argument she made in that famous open letter half a century ago. And we can draw a line from there straight to today’s feminist ethicists to see exactly how to make a strong moral argument on this topic that holds up even within the context of the Queer/AWCMG worldview.

In her book “Down Girl: the logic of Misogyny,” author Kate Manne makes the argument that misogyny, like all forms of structural injustice, is wrong because of a fundamental moral truth. It is wrong to rob people of agency by objectifying them. To deprive someone of agency is to destroy them as a person and recreate them as an object to be used. Fundamental to Critical Theory and Conflict Theory is the idea that systems of oppression are made up of aggregated microaggressions. Manne argues that there are different kinds of microaggressions which do slightly different things within that larger set of aggregated microaggressions. One specific type of microaggression which she calls a “down-move” is an act or statement intended simply to claim that the other person is lesser, is an object, does not deserve agency. She argues that this type of microaggression is the enforcement mechanism for the social norms and acts of theft of power and agency. So by her argument a down-girl move is a misogynistic act, a down-black move is racist act, etc.

Did you know that it’s perfectly legal for police to rape their prisoners in the United States as long as the officer claims it was consensual at the time? (USA Today) What’s the core moral problem here? I would argue it’s the same thing Manne and Martin are arguing, that they are robbing their prisoners of agency and using them as objects instead of treating them as people. This is always the core moral issue with sexual assault, and Manne does use many examples of sexual assault to illustrate her larger argument, but she argues that it extends basically to everything. A core problem of structural injustice whether it’s rape or wage slavery is that it robs individuals of agency and destroys them as people in order to recreate them as objects to be used by people in power for the benefit of people in power at the cost of people without power.

Consider the relationship between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. Was it consensual? Is it possible to consent across an incredible gap in power and agency? In Lewinsky’s own words, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)” (Vazquez)

What defines consent? Legally, the age of consent has changed radically and is not the same everywhere. This makes the legal definition seem capricious and arbitrary. For most of American history, the age of consent was 10-12 years old. Today it’s mostly 18 (except with parental permission), though in Europe it’s mostly 16. In some places around the world, it’s still much younger than that. (Fradella 44)

Consider two examples within the context of the arbitrary and capricious legal definition of consent based on age. Imagine an otherwise consensual relationship between two unmarried people who are a day apart in age, where one happens to be over eighteen; this is statutory rape regardless of their willingness and enthusiasm to be together. Now consider another example. A 12-year-old — with parental permission — marries 87-year-old pedophilia-activist Harry Hay. This is perfectly legal and morally just, according to the American legal system, as well as in many other places around the world. (Reiss) I hope these examples illustrate the fundamental problem with using our deeply problematic legal system as an authority for moral truth.

Instead consider whether a 12-year-old can really exercise agency and give consent to an 87-year-old. And then consider whether a 17-year-old can exercise agency and give consent to an 18-year -old. In the first case, it seems clear to me that a child of twelve can likely not exercise the agency to give consent to an elderly pedophile. In the second case it seems clear that someone who is a day away from being a legal adult is not lacking any critical faculty that they will develop in the next 24 hours which precludes them from exercising the agency to give consent.

The arbitrary lines we draw at certain ages don’t make any sense and they change radically from place to place and over time. A better approach is to take the advice of Kate Manne and Del Martin and treat people as subjects rather than objects; to restrain ourselves and others from robbing them of agency over their own lives and actions.

I recall listening to an argument being made by someone in a radical faerie space that there is a system of injustice through which young people structurally deny sex to old people; that for young people to not give sex to old people is actually a microaggression. In that moment I knew I needed to someday write this essay. But it took a long time for me to put the pieces together. As Amber Chiacchieri argues in her essay “Sexual Violation, Feminism, and Foucault: Against a Confessional Politics of Truth,” neoclassicalism has appropriated many of the discourses of post-structuralism to extend systems of injustice rather than subverting them. She argues for a back-to-roots examination of contemporary post-structuralist discourses through the lens of Critical Theory. The claims of post-structuralism can be difficult to judge or grapple with as valid or invalid. The argument that young people are structurally denying sex to old people is not a logically self-contradictory claim, so how to refute it? Well according to Chiacchieri, examine it through Critical Theory. A system of oppression exists to facilitate the flow of power and resources from people without privilege to people with privilege. How does that apply to the example of this pro-pedophilia argument? Clearly old people have more power in society than young people. Clearly old people in society have more agency than young people. Clearly old people in society have more resources than young people. QED, the argument is not valid, and it is a good example of Chiacchieri’s claim that neoclassicalism tries to appropriate the discourses of post-structuralist liberation to extend injustice rather than subverting and dismantling injustice. I agree with her argument that Critical Theory is a perfect lens to examine these kinds of claims through, and Critical Theory is the very foundation of Manne’s argument that robbing people of agency and objectifying them is the fundamental method at the heart of systems of injustice. This argument for pedophilia therefore turns inside out through the Critical Gender Theory lens, and reveals why pedophilia is morally wrong, because it defines young people as objects to be used by old people, and defines old people as entitled to access to sex from young people, without any regard for the agency of the young, and for what they actually want.

I recently attended a Q&A discussion panel at SFSU where the members of the panel were all non-white QTBIPOC. The topic of the discussion was objectification. Every single member of the panel talked about how normal it was for white people, and in particular AWCMG people to objectify them in very specific ways. Everyone on the panel had examples of being compared to food or other objects by AWCMGs. This argument is bigger than pedophilia; it’s the very core of social justice. Robbing people of agency and objectifying them is why racism is wrong, and why misogyny is wrong, and why capitalism is wrong, and why every other system of injustice is wrong.

No one can consent to a boss who controls their livelihood. No one can consent to a cop who is legally entitled to rape and even kill them. No one can consent under the threat of violence or the fear of starvation or deprivation. Whenever there is a significant gap in power and resources between individuals, there can not be consent. This is the core moral truth that explains exactly why pedophilia is wrong and explains how to argue about it with people who rightly reject religion and the law as valid sources of moral truth.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Bronski, M. (n.d.). News and Features: The real Harry Hay. News and Features | The real Harry Hay. https://web.archive.org/web/20090530123601/http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/other_stories/documents/02511115.htm.

Chiacchieri, Amber M., “Sexual Violation, Feminism, and Foucault: Against a Confessional Politics of Truth” (2019). CUNY Academic Works. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/gc_etds/3206

Fisher, S. (n.d.). valence issue. Oxford Reference. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803115048341.

Fradella, H. F., & Sumner, J. M. (2016). Sex, sexuality, law, and (in)justice. Routledge.

Guardian News and Media. (2019, June 23). ‘I have to go off’: activist Sylvia Rivera on choosing to riot at Stonewall. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/23/i-have-to-go-off-activist-sylvia-rivera-on-choosing-to-riot-at-stonewall.

USA Today. Link, D. (2020, July 9). Fact check: Sex between police officers and their detainees isn’t illegal in many states. (I cited it this way because readers thought this author’s name “Link” was a note to myself to find a source for this claim.) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/07/09/fact-check-police-detainee-sex-not-illegal-many-states/5383769002/.

Manne, K. (2019). Down girl: the logic of misogyny. Penguin Books.

The New York Times. (2019, May 31). The Stonewall You Know Is a Myth. And That’s O.K. | NYT Celebrating Pride. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7jnzOMxb14.

ReduxPictures. (2012, October 15). Pay It No Mind – The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjN9W2KstqE.

Reiss, F. (2019, March 1). Perspective | Why can 12-year-olds still get married in the United States? The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/10/why-does-the-united-states-still-let-12-year-old-girls-get-married/.

Regent University Law Review. Child Molestation and the Homosexual Movement. Published 2001. Accessed 2021-06-08.

Steve Cohen, opinion contributor. (2021, May 9). Shining a light on COINTELPRO’s dangerous legacy. The Hill. https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/552552-shining-a-light-on-cointelpros-wrong-headed-and-dangerous.

Vazquez, M. (2018, February 26). Lewinsky sees ‘problematic’ issue of consent in Clinton affair | CNN Politics. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/26/politics/monica-lewinsky-me-too/index.html.

 

 

 

Appendix A

Harry Hay’s blurb and cover photos for the NAMBLA book “A Witchhunt Foiled;”

http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=1152

 

KeyWiki article with many live and some now-dead links to sources covering many examples of Hay’s pedophilia activism;

https://keywiki.org/Harry_Hay#Support_for_Pedophilia

 

 

Your Actions Stem Inexorably From Your Principles

Your actions stem inexorably from your principles.

“Even if you don’t believe, you cannot travel in any other way than the road your senses show you. And you must walk that road to the end.”

-American Gods

I see a common theme in popular discourse where people look at a given situation and think, “Oh well if only they had done this or that differently, then everything would be fine.” I recently heard this argument made about Hitler. I heard someone literally argue, “If not for the thing with the Jews then Hitler would have been great for the world.”

The problem I see with the idea of equivocating by trivializing significant details is that it misses the fact that these things were the only possible natural culmination of the ideas and values and principles that led people up to that point.

The 2021 capitol insurrection came as a shock to no one who has spent any amount of time trying to understand the people who committed the act. The ideas and values and principles they had been reciting and living out for years could only have led to the exact kind of violent insurrection we saw. In fact there were already examples. The same people had recently tried to kidnap and assassinate the governor of Michigan. And now we are told that they have further insurrections planned for all 50 State Capitols in the coming days.

There is a thread of contrition running through our culture. People like Biden think it’s possible to return to the status quo (which for most people was nearly as bad as things are today) by “healing” and “unifying” the country. These moderate centrists fail to see two things.

First that these violent events in furtherance of the cause of a fascist ethnostate have always been the only possible conclusion of the movement that has been building towards that point for decades or centuries depending on how you define it.

Second that trying to shush these things and sweep them back under the rug makes it worse. Working to delay an inevitable conflict is an admission of guilt, and acts only in furtherance of the cause of injustice. This is the fundamental failure of generations of Americans who give us figures like Biden; the failure to confront the real and fundamental challenges of the day. They hide behind platitudes rather than actually making any attempt to understand or resolve the problems that face them. Their goal is not progress, it’s regress. They want to go back to feeling comfortable ignoring the white nationalists that prowl other people’s streets. They want any discussion of the serious issues plaguing our society to be turned down to a comfortable volume where it can be easily ignored.

Because of this fundamental failure of generations of Americans to address both universal existential threats and centuries of specific harms visited unjustly on minority communities, these problems are worse today than they ever have been.

We must resist the calls to turn down the volume. We must turn up the volume.

Wrangling Metaphenomena

This semester, a professor in one of my classes made the claim that almost no person or organization is aware or its core principles. Maybe they have some vague nonsense mission statement or political identity that could be used to argue literally anything, and that’s basically the point. They don’t have a set of claims upon which all of their conclusions rest cogently and consistently. This is the first in a series of essays where I will try to identify what are my core principles.

Last year, a great mentor of mine heard that I had gotten a degree in queer studies, and he had apparently also gotten a similar degree about forty years ago. And he asked me, “What is the central claim of queer theory?” Well there is not one and that’s kind of the point. It talks about itself and frequently contradicts itself in order to critically examine epistemic and ontological structures ad infinitum. Like there is no core thesis and that’s sort of the core thesis.

Ok so I recently wrote a term paper arguing that identity and orientation are not two-dimensional matrices of self and target but rather a chaotic intersection of countless dimensions of factors from biology and socialization and interpersonal interactions et cetera et cetera. That each person stands at a unique intersection of an unimaginable number of chaotic variables, and the way that they overlap and interact is what gives rise not only to our identities but also to our orientations, and that those can change over time.

I have degrees in Sociology, Social Justice, Women’s Studies, LGBT Studies, and Queer Studies among others, and this theory is the only one I’ve ever seen that accurately fits all the data I’ve observed and learned about, including the contents of the Variations in Sexuality class whose term paper I am referring to.

Ok next, I have a great mentor who once said to me that there are at least as many genders and orientations as there are people, and I think this was a missing first-principle that allowed me to formulate this broader conclusion.

Another point that I made in the essay is that of the inverse relationship between precision and accuracy when making any claim about a complex, chaotic system like gender or weather or gas particles, etc. The more abstract a claim is (the less precise), the more accurate it can be. This is actually a series of laws in math called Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems which is a whole ‘nother can of worms that I explore in depth in that essay I mentioned above.

This is called a metaphenomena; a thing that happens at the point where countless chaotic other things interact to create it as a side-effect. The weather can not exist without a global system of trillions of trillions of gas particles interacting with gravitation, fission, etc, etc to create it. What’s the temperature today? You just can’t get there without the rest of it.

Metaphenomena can not be understood accurately without understanding the incalculable number of random things that interacted to create it in unpredictable ways. Needless to say, that is fundamentally impossible. Therefore, what truths can we learn and say about metaphenomena?

Sociology was founded on the failure of cybernetics and systems theory to model complex chaotic systems. Sociology argues that despite the fundamental impossibility to accurately model complex chaotic systems, it is possible to learn about statistical trends and clusters within a population.

The fundamental question is how can we wrangle, contend with, intuit, understand, or make accurate predictions about complex, chaotic metaphenomena like gender, sexual orientation, the weather, gas particles, etc?

We just can’t, and that’s a law of reality. What we can do it make claims and assumptions that are limited by clear and specific caveats about their samples. There is no way to study all of humanity. There is absolutely a way to draw a statistically significant population of white male american students at a particular research university. And we should say that whenever we discuss the takeaways from such research. There is no claim that can be made about all of humanity based on a sample of white male american students at a particular research university.

Freud’s fundamental mistake was assuming that the people he studied in insane asylums in Vienna were a representative sample of all humans everywhere throughout the entire past and future, and it’s a lesson that essentially all researchers have failed to learn; conclusions must be qualified with caveats about the necessary limitations of the sample they are based on.

Variations in Sexuality

CJ Trowbridge

2020-12-06

SOC 400 – Term Paper

I have struggled since my first degrees in Sociology and LGBT Studies and throughout this class to find a concise and plausible scientific explanation accounting for the development of diverse sexual orientations in humans. I think I’ve finally identified one that works. The ideas of sex, gender, and sexual orientation are a reductive and imprecise heuristic of human behavior which — through prediscursive construction — resist scientific examination despite lacking evidentiary support.

Let’s start with two quick examples. In the seventeenth century, a scientist named Mendeleev tried to create a system for categorizing molecules based on their properties. (Sutton, 2019) He created the first periodic table of the elements. (Sutton, 2019) What he was trying to do is create a simple two-dimensional system where everything is arranged merely into rows and columns. Things in the same row share certain properties. Things in the same column share certain properties. Knowing where something is would mean you can leverage a heuristic or shortcut to predict its properties. The problem with this model is that we have learned countless new things since then which do not fit, and every new thing adds another missing dimension which is not included in the model. The heuristic shortcut breaks down because it introduces errors into our assumptions. For example, there are often many versions of each element called isotopes and they all have different properties not illustrated in the model; this could be seen as the missing third dimension. But then the patterns of many things like electronegativity, ion charge, and oxidation numbers do not follow the table’s layout. (Scerri, 2012) Our two-dimensional model is now twenty-dimensional, and the categories Mendeleev established already don’t make any sense. We have also learned that these “elements” and not truly elemental, but made up of smaller components. (Sutton 2020) It’s a case where a simple model intended as a heuristic shortcut is invalidated as we learn more detail about the underlying systems.

As a second example, there is the shoreline problem. How many kilometers long is the shoreline of Britain? If you look from far away, it seems like there is a clear answer, but the closer you look and the more detail you add, the bigger the number becomes. (Giaimo, 2016) There is no true and correct answer which fits all cases. Instead, we see an inverse relationship between accuracy and precision; the closer you look, the harder it is to feel confident about your answer.

These are examples of a larger idea called Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems from mathematical logic. The basic argument is that there are inherent limitations in all modeling systems, and no system of symbolism can be complete. (Raatikainen, 2020) In essence, no map of the world can be a better map than the world is of itself, and the closer you get, the worse your map is. I bring this up because much of the modern social sciences including Sociology have evolved in part from two earlier sciences called Cybernetics and Systems Theory. These early sciences tried to produce accurate models of complex systems like economies and society. (Curtis, 2011, 6:48-10:15) Instead of trying to create precise models of linear relationships between cause and effect in complex systems, they learned it was more accurate to adopt a nuanced understanding of multiple overlapping factors contributing to an outcome. (Curtis, 2011, 10:15-10:42) This is the solution to all the examples I’ve given here. If we likewise accept that there is no correct answer to the problem of categorizing all people into a discrete set of prescribed identities, then we can discuss precision and probability in a broader spectrum of possible identities and orientations.

Around the same time Mendeleev was categorizing elements, Magnus Hirschfeld was categorizing sexuality. Before Hirschfeld’s work in the nineteenth century, the idea that people had a sexual orientation was not a commonly accepted idea. (LeVay, 1991, p. 163) Hirschfeld made the classic scientific error. He ignored the long history of examples when different kinds of sex were normalized between different gender groups, privileging instead the cultural assumptions he had as a result of his own socialization. He reduced everyone to a binary gender and a binary partner. (LeVay, 1991, p. 35) Within decades, scientists like Alfred Kinsey had thoroughly debunked this idea using experimental data to show that most people do not fit Hirschfeld’s theory. (LeVay, 1991, p. 8)

Judith Butler said, “Are the ostensibly natural facts of sex discursively produced by various scientific discourses in the service of other political and social interests? If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called “sex” is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all… gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which “sexed nature” or “a natural sex” is produced and established as “prediscursive,” prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts… This production of sex as the prediscursive ought to be understood as the effect of the apparatus of cultural construction designated by gender.” (Butler 1990, p. 10)

Foucault said that humans perceive the world through a series of “sieves” or “screens,” each of which slightly alters or colors our perception, leading each individual to a completely different final image of a given situation. (Foucault, 1971, 18:33-22:19) These final images are wholly inaccurate from any objective perspective since no two people would see the same thing in the same situation. Foucault’s “sieves” are the discourses or social ideas that we have. Some examples of discourses that color our perception include things like sex and gender and therefore sexual orientation, but also the idea that any of these things exists at all.

While I don’t deny that most people are socialized to identify with a particular gender and feel attraction to others who identify with particular genders, these ideas and behaviors vary widely across cultures and throughout history from Ancient Greece (LeVay, 1991, p. 12) to the modern Fa’afafine of Samoa. (Vasey, 2016) It’s easy for anyone to make claims about humanity founded on assumptions from their own culture which don’t fit all the available evidence. It is more accurate and less culturally contingent to argue that categories like sex and gender are merely the social performance of the way each person we meet is experiencing the overlap of countless semi-random biological and social factors that contribute to a unique expression of characteristics.

An intersex mentor once told me that there are at least as many genders and orientations as there are people. Just like the shoreline problem, any attempt at a more precise definition of sex, gender, and sexual orientation must necessarily become less accurate than this very abstract explanation. Sex, gender, and sexual orientation are like elements on Mendeleev’s table arranged in two dimensions. These categories started out as an attempt to create simple boxes to place all individuals into. The problem is that the closer we look, the more examples we see where these categories do not accurately account for the countless other dimensions which they purport to include. Therefore, sexual orientation starts from a basis of reductive inaccuracy and arrives at a conclusion that cannot possibly reflect reality.

LaVey covers many of these missing dimensions of sex, gender, and sexual orientation in the book “Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why.” For example, there is a structure in the human brain called INAH3. These structures are considered a sex characteristic. This means they vary across the population and correlate to a person’s gender identity (LeVay, 1991, p. 161) and sexual orientation (LeVay, 1991, p. 107). INAH3 is one of many brain structures which despite correlating to sex, gender, and sexual orientation cannot be used on its own to reliably determine a person’s gender identity and preferred sexual behaviors. Instead, it forms part of a broader holistic view of hundreds of similar body structures and other social and environmental factors like facial structure (Malvina et al, 2013, 1377), natal testosterone levels (LeVay, 1991, p. 28) and the number of older brothers a person has (LeVay, 1991, p. 135). All of these correlate to some degree with a person’s gender identity and preferred sexual behaviors, but none of them correlates 100%, and even taken together there are always exceptions. It simply can not be said that for any individual throughout history and across cultures, a given set of observations about their physical and social characteristics will 100% predict their innate and permanent gender identity and sexual orientation.

Just like we saw in those first two examples, it’s easy to make superficial claims about individuals and groups based on our own culture and experience. However, the more we learn about the details and background beyond these superficial claims, the more these claims fall apart. Just like with shoreline measurements, there is an inverse relationship between accuracy and precision when making claims about the identities of people based on evidence. The more detail we add, the more confounding third-factors we introduce, and the claim that people have some determinable gender and sexual orientation quickly falls apart. Based on the evidence, the truth seems to be that like height, body shape, skin color, and all other physical and behavioral characteristics, sex and sexual orientation are diverse multidimensional spectra where countless sub-factors overlap in chaotic and interesting ways to produce a wide variety of people and experiences.

 

Works Cited

Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. London: Taylor and Francis.

Curtis, A. (2011, June 06) The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts. Film. BBC.

Foucault, M. (1971, November). The Chomsky-Foucault Debate On Human Nature. Retrieved December 06, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wfNl2L0Gf8

Giaimo, C. (2016, October 07). Why It’s Impossible to Know a Coastline’s True Length. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/why-its-impossible-to-know-a-coastlines-true-length

LeVay, S. (2011). Gay, straight, and the reason why: The science of sexual orientation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Raatikainen, P. (2020, April 02). Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

Scerri, E. (2012, January 01). Trouble in the periodic table. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://edu.rsc.org/feature/trouble-in-the-periodic-table/2020266.article

Skorska, Malvina N, Geniole, Shawn N, Vrysen, Brandon M, McCormick, Cheryl M, & Bogaert, Anthony F. (2015). Facial Structure Predicts Sexual Orientation in Both Men and Women. Archives of Sexual Behavior., 44(5), 1377-1394.

Sutton, C. (2020, December 01). Subatomic particle. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/science/subatomic-particle

Sutton, M. (2019, January 02). The father of the periodic table. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/the-father-of-the-periodic-table/3009828.article

Vasey, P. (2016, November 16) No Dodos: What Cross-Cultural Research Tells us About Why Homosexual Males Do Not Become Extinct. Retrieved December 06, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m939SyfQqow

 

XXI

“Drunk one night, Sarah had told me Women are the race… No two ways about it. Male is just a mutation with more muscle and half the nerves. Fighting, fucking machines… To be a woman was a sensory experience beyond the male. Touch and texture ran deeper, an interface with environment that male flesh seemed to seal out instinctively. To a man, skin was a barrier, a protection. To a woman, it was an organ of contact. That had its disadvantages. In general, and maybe because of this, female pain thresholds ran higher than male…”
― From Altered Carbon

I think it was always inevitable. Maybe they knew that and it’s what caused them to treat women the way they did. Arthur C Clarke wrote in Childhood’s End about the collective unconscious of humanity fearing things associated with its future transition to the next level of existence. Scholars and mystics have speculated that perhaps a similar group premonition fueled some part of the misogyny of the past.

Genetic males have an X and a Y chromosome. Genetic females have two X chromosomes with no Y chromosome. Since women have no Y chromosome, all the children born to X/X couples were female. By the early twenty-first century, it was possible for women’s skin cells to be used to fertilize other women’s egg cells. Through a similar process, it also became trivially easy for women to choose between the sperm provided by male partners and select one with an X chromosome rather than a Y chromosome. In the popular lexicon, these practices were called XXI or X-chromosome/X-chromosome impregnation. Women now had a simple tool which spelled the end of men. That was the first point at which the patriarchy saw it was on life support and knew its days were numbered.

Within a century, these practices became widespread. Women had suffered for millenia under patriarchy, and the idea of simply choosing not to create any more men became a core tenet of fourth-wave feminism. By 2045, XXI clinics outnumbered abortion clinics. As a result, the female population quickly grew and spread as people around the world embraced XXI. Within a generation, men were a shrinking minority of the population.

You’d think that facing their own extinction, men would take a conciliatory tone and try to ameliorate the historical impacts of their actions in order to earn the forgiveness of women. While it’s true that some men wanted to make peace, those few still holding the reins of the world did not; unending war for power and control was all they knew. They doubled down. Despite the fact that the biosphere was well into its collapse, they focused on legislating male supremacy. The last days of the patriarchy were the worst. Food and water supplies around the world were collapsing, more than half of the species had gone extinct, but the laws the patriarchs passed were concerned with banning XXI and enshrining male supremacy at every level of the legal system. Abortion was also banned as “an attack on men’s rights.” Feminism was effectively outlawed throughout most of the developed world. Ironically, it was because of strong international borders under patriarchy that many developing countries became fertility destinations where women could travel to undergo XXI.

It was around this time that a small group of white male libertarian entrepreneurs announced they were pouring billions into developing what they called XYI. They promised a life without women, where men could be born from machines without the need for mothers. Importantly, they also called for widespread violence against women including attacks on any XXI clinics and death to any XXI doctors. As a direct response to this threat, Magdalena Thunberg, grand-daughter of Greta Thunberg emerged as the leader of what she called the Feminist Liberation Front. She made public statements online explaining that while XXI was not an attack on men, XYI was an attack on women. She declared war on the establishment and swore to end the threat once and for all.

The Feminist Liberation Front conducted a series of bombings targeting XYI research and development facilities. The FLF also conducted a series of targeted assassinations of the white male libertarian leaders patterned after the successful strategy of the Irish Republican Army’s from the previous century. The unrest spread around the world and resulted in widespread chaos wherever the patriarchy still held power.

Women had worked for generations to slowly take over all major governments around the world.  There was a tipping point at the end of the twenty-first century with the rise of the FLF. The patriarchy could no longer hold onto the reins of power. Once a critical mass of women had taken those reins, they began to undo the harms of the patriarchy. But instead of working to exterminate men like the men had done to them, the women struck the missing conciliatory tone.

The first One-World Congress took place in 2075. In the keynote speech on the first day of the conference, Magdalena The Liberator, grand-daughter of Greta Thunberg, called for the end of international borders and the full devotion of all of humanity’s resources to the cause of finally halting the collapse of the biosphere, feeding and sheltering everyone, and restoring the natural world to whatever degree was still possible. She also called for ongoing compassion towards the now miniscule male population. “We must,” she argued, “strive to avoid the empire that the patriarchy sought. Instead, we must blaze a new path towards an alternative system for humanity which values all individuals. We must build a system which works to support the needs of all individuals and which empowers everyone to thrive. The era of the god-king is over, the age of the first universal human republic must begin.”

The conference adopted all of Magdalena’s recommendations, and that was the beginning of the Earth Republic. All the old nations became states. Many of the state borders were redrawn to reflect the way people actually organized, erasing the Kissinger doctrine of using national borders to deliberately create conflict and destabilize peaceful neighbors.

Over time, the remaining male population learned to accept its place as part of the whole rather than seeking to be master of the whole. In her last interview, Magdalena the Liberator said, “I really don’t think it could have happened any other way. Hegemonic totalitarianism has never voluntarily given up power. The patriarchy needed to be usurped without acceding to its methods. A hundred years ago, people argued that Hillary Clinton would be the end of the patriarchy if she became president, but she would merely have been an extension of it. You can’t make an unjust system just by putting a marginalized person in charge of it. You must change the system fundamentally. It needed to be dismantled without using its own methods, and that’s what we did. ”

“Then do you regret using violence during the FLF campaigns,” the reporter asked.

“No,” Magdalena replied, “Self-defense is not patriarchy. Patriarchy is demanding power and control over others because your male gender is superior. That’s not what we did, we defended the right of women to exist, not to rule over men as queens in place of kings. We worked together to change the fundamentals of our world and that’s the only way we could have survived as a species. The human project became a collective effort rather than a hierarchical struggle for power and resources. And it happened just in time, because…”

Misogynoir and Reproductive Conversations

Prompt: Why are we so afraid of reproductive technologies?” Who is “we?”

Intro

Systems of oppression exist on three levels. First, the pervasive and ubiquitous sociocultural level which encompasses all the ideas (or discourses) in our society’s collective culture. Second, the institutional level, where people enact the sociocultural discourses as policy in order to make the institutions act in a way which reflects the sociocultural discourses. Third is the personal level, where individuals apply sociocultural discourses both internally and externally in interpersonal relationships.

Systemic racism is a pattern which exists on all three levels. This pattern of systemic racism is made up of the aggregate action of small interpersonal racist microaggressions. These acts reinforce the larger system and do its work.

Systemic sexism is also a pattern which exists on all three levels. This pattern of systemic sexism is made up of the aggregate action of small interpersonal sexist microaggressions. These acts reinforce the larger system and do its work.

All systems of oppression are different but they all work in the same way.

In her book Down Girl, Kate Manne explains that microaggressions are what she calls “down-moves.” Or a move intended to confer that its target is not a subject, a person with agency, but rather an object without agency. Microaggressions are fundamentally acts which serve to “other” and dehumanize people on the basis of their marginalized identities.

I created this graph to illustrate the flow of actions from discourse to impact through the system…

Since systemic racism and systemic sexism are normalized in a pervasive sociocultural way, they are everywhere and they inform everything that happens in our society.

As you can see, the discourses of oppression flow down from the sociocultural level through institutions to individuals. Then individuals internalize and act on those discourses. The actions aggregate to form systems of oppression which constitutes a cycle. This cycle is called the cycle of socialization. Here is a flowchart showing the same process from the perspective of the flow of discourses and actions rather than the structure of the system.

In her book Sister Outsider and specifically the essay There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression, Audre Lorde expands on this idea to explain that while it’s not possible to rank women or black people in terms of who has more or less oppression, we do know that black women have significantly more oppression than black people or women do separately, or even added together. Marginalized identities do not add together when they overlap, but rather they multiply. This idea of the amplification of overlapping marginalized identities is called Intersectionality.

Part 1

It is therefore helpful to answer the prompt’s question with regard to a specific intersectional dynamic and its expression within the context of the cycle of socialization.

In her essay, Explanation Of Misogynoir, Trudy explains how racism and anti-Blackness alter the experience of misogyny for Black women, specifically. In another essay, she goes into some depth on the specific issue of reproductive rights for black women.

Indeed, we see that discussions of reproductive rights are essentially all simply arguments for racism and misogyny masquerading as a discussion about reproductive rights. In her essay Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights, Angela Davis gives a litany of examples and further deconstructs the background which has led to the use of reproductive rights as a mask for racism and misogyny. The fundamental argument against reproductive rights always being that women — particularly black women — should be robbed of the agency to make their own decisions on the basis that they are not as qualified to make those decisions as white men are qualified to make those decisions for them.

In one sentence, we see how the entire discussion of reproductive rights boils down to a simultaneous down-move against women and black people, but especially against black women.

Anecdotally, I have discussed with colleagues a relevant and recent social phenomena which illustrates the point from another perspective. In social media vanguardism, people like me create content which is intended to arm people with discourses and ideas to critically analyze many of the situations we face together in our culture today. Historically, these types of content are often met with some subset of replies being terse down-moves such as “faggot,” “there are only two genders,” “show us your tits,” etc. During the Trump presidency, we saw a sudden disappearance of those overt replies. They were replaced instead with comments like “Trump 2020,” “blue lives matter,” or “all lives matter.” I submit that in this context, these symbols are a mask to cover up the real intention of the people who use them. And now that Trump has lost the election, this mask has disappeared, and we see a move back to more overt down-moves intended to dehumanize and objectify directly rather than indirectly.

The idea of a public debate about whether or not black women should have agency over their own bodies is necessarily, fundamentally, always racist and misogynistic. It is not possible to ask the question without the implication that it might be true. The agency of humans is not something that can be ethically debated. Consider functionally identical questions like “Are there too many Jews?” or “Is the third world overpopulated?” These questions take the same approach of inviting the reader to question whether some kinds of people really are people, or whether they are objects to be manipulated without agency or ethical concern.

In the article, Why Are We So Afraid of Each New Advance in Reproductive Technology?, author Sarah Richards explains a medical experiment done on Chinese children to introduce a Norwegian mutation called CCR5-Delta32. (I have this mutation as a Norwegian-American.) This mutation confers some HIV immunity onto people who have it. It actually only protects against one of several forms of HIV so it’s not a cure-all and people who have it are only at lower risk of HIV, not completely immune to HIV. The problem is that the scientists did not properly inform the patients of the risks they were undertaking. The scientists robbed Chinese children of agency and treated them as lab rats for a dangerous experiment without informing the families of the risks.

 

Part 2

To address the second part of the prompt, in this case, the “We” is anyone within the sociocultural landscape. That means everyone. We all engage with discourses perpetrated by a fundamentally racist and sexist system.

Audre Lorde in her book Sister Outsider said that trying to survive as a black woman in America is like trying to survive in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon.

The cycle of socialization feeds itself and gets stronger all the time. But there is a solution. That solution is two-fold. First, we need to learn about people experiencing marginalization. We need to read their writings. We need to understand how it’s happening. We need to listen to their demands for change. We need to learn about the theories their ideas are based on. We need to explore Critical Theory in order to interrogate power structures like systemic racism and systemic sexism. We need to learn about Black Epistemic systems, Feminist Epistemic systems, and other marginalized epistemologies in order to articulate and defend the ethical and philosophical solutions which the leaders of marginalized communities are asking for.

Second, we need to develop actions based on an understanding of theory which create change in the world. This process is called praxis. One excellent illustration of this process comes from Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, the same source as the cycle of socialization shown above…

Learning to critically analyze the discourses we are socialized to, within the context of an understanding of the ethical and philosophical perspectives of marginalized communities allows us to question those discourses rather than running them on autopilot like we always have. Only then can we take steps to challenge the discourses to which our culture is socialized.

The reason our culture is so afraid of reproductive technologies is that our racist, sexist culture is socialized to treat black women as objects rather than people, stealing their agency and giving it instead to white men who are then empowered to rule over them and make decisions for them. Only by learning about the hidden premises and interrogating the power structures which underpin these issues can we break the cycle of socialization and make progress in ameliorating the intolerable conditions facing black people and women in our culture.

 

It *HAS* to be you.

Sorry this will be long and I’m asking something unreasonable of you.
 
First, there was a dude named Alinsky who wrote a book called “Rules for Radicals.” I’m happy to share a copy of the audiobook. It was a simple set of rules for how to build communities. It spawned the field we now know as “Community Organizing.” Hillary Clinton wrote her thesis about this book. Barack Obama based his career on this book. I think in both cases, their core mistake was being first a neoliberal and therefore never truly examining their core assumptions before addressing the rules Alinsky developed. (The definition of radicalism is examining the root causes and neoliberals by definition are not able to do that.)
 
Two, Alisnky’s rules, and what I’m about to say are sort of dangerous. They would be equally valuable to a nazi versus a progressive (Though Alinsky was a Jew so nazis seem unlikely to embrace him). In either case the rules show you how to build an extremely focused and powerful group capable of doing whatever you want. I used these rules to build a powerful antifascist organization in the Sierras last year which successfully dismantled multiple neo-nazi cells and did a lot more than that to be extremely aggressive in demanding progress from the institutions in place.
 
Third, I recently took a class called “Black Online – Cyberspace, Culture, and Community” as part of my Racial Resistance degree. For the final project, I created a simple manifesto which was a synthesis of Alinskyan Tactics and social-media-based anti-racism.
 
Fourth, the main argument I made is that when you say some really wild anti-racist shit or some really wild hard-marxist shit like “let’s start exterminating landlords,” people will react. The most important thing you can do is pay attention to who LOVES it (not likes it, LOVES it) and who gets MAD. Feel free to be vicious to the ones who get mad, chase them away, this will give you more opportunities to see who stans you. Alinsky is drooling in his grave watching you. Those who love what you’re doing are your stans. Stans are the foundation of the machine you *could* build to do the thing you’re talking about.
 
The conclusion of my manifesto was that it *has* to be you. It can only be you. Whoever you are, whatever you’re talking about; it has to be you. If you believe in what you’re doing then do it; make it your cause. Kant said we can only consider the merit of our actions in terms of what the world would be like if everyone did what we are doing. If everyone shied away from the challenge of progress then nothing would ever change and nothing would ever get done. You don’t have to change the world but when someone deletes you; that should be the best feeling. Everything about who you are is a choice. You can choose to compromise your truth for those people that disagree with it, or you can choose to live honestly and let your surroundings reflect your truth. If you are right, then living honestly will make the world a better place.