This is not about R. Kelly

But let’s talk about R. Kelly for a minute.

Columbus is hosting a ‘thing’ called the Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF). The headliner for this event was meant to be R. Kelly. This did not sit well with several people in Columbus, so they became very . . . present in the lives of the people organizing, sponsoring, attending or otherwise involved with the event.

Bret Adams (who handled the booking) said there was no issue with R. Kelly as the headliner. Why? Not because he was acquitted – that was not the crux of Adams’ argument. Not because he believes in R. Kelly’s innocence. He saw no issue because it presented a good opportunity. Because, fame. Because, money.

Look at the things he says – the things he emphasizes. He is telling you exactly what he thinks is important.

Adams, a Columbus lawyer and sports/entertainment agent, didn’t see a problem in the booking of Kelly, acquitted in 2008 for child-pornography charges — and who last week made headlines for an unreleased music video with Lady Gaga whose racy storyline appeared to condone rape.

“This is one of the biggest R&B guys in the country,” Adams said. “The guy headlined Bonnaroo.” 1

“I don’t even think [Kelly’s inclusion] was a debate. We don’t have a national R&B act, and we wanted to fill that void, and he’s one of the best-selling artists of all time. Why wouldn’t we?” said FMMF cofounder Bret Adams. “He’s good national press for us and Columbus. He’s a nationally known name. He was not convicted of anything. He was acquitted. If we wanted to limit our artists to people who never had brushes with the law or were not good people, then you can eliminate quite a few across the board. We’re running a festival to help brand the city of Columbus. We’re not the morality police.”2

And then he starts telling you who he thinks is important.

“[If] somebody from O.A.R. or Michelle Williams — who just retweeted all our stuff — or any of our headliners had an issue with it, then I may take a look at it,” Adams said. “Every artist is entitled to their opinion about performers [on the bill]. We feel differently about it. He was a great catch for a first year festival that had no track record, and we’re going to put him in Nationwide Arena.”2

So what he is saying is essentially that the guy is too famous to pass up. The fact that he fucks young girls and pisses on them for sexual gratification is irrelevant. But just in case the details of his past are bothersome to you, remember that he was acquitted (despite the giant pile of evidence), so technically, it’s ok.

He attempts to validate his reprehensible opinion with the fact that some celebrities retweet information about the festival, and he’s not changing his mind until someone that matters (hint: not you) takes issue.

This guy represents way too much of humanity.

As a society, we let the rich and famous slide. People who are well known and have a lot of money do not go to jail – they pay fines and settlements. Why?

Well, in the case of entertainers, imprisonment means someone is losing money – record labels, publishers and studios are motivated to keep their meal tickets out of trouble. Maybe we do that too. It could be that we are considering them not in terms of a person with accountability, but rather in terms of their value to us. If a celebrity goes to jail, they are not amusing me, and I might miss that.

But I think a part of it is that there is some understanding – we all want something that is inappropriate to want. Unfulfilled desire is the nourishment of fantasy. And though we might not act on those desires, most people don’t really ever let them go, either. Nor admit to them. Instead, we quietly imagine scenarios in which we get everything just as we wish. We fantasize about what it would be like to exist with no rules.

I think we like believing that there is some situation that lets us us have that. Some measure of accomplishment or power or status that exempts us from the rules, that lays out all the world before us like a buffet and says Here, enjoy without restriction. It’s what you worked for, and you have arrived. You have earned this. The average person typically feels exceptional anyway.

Rejecting transgressors, telling them that they are bad and wrong, and that there are limits to what wealth can get you out of is also telling ourselves that there are limits. We don’t want hard limits. Even if we rationally know we’ll never have that kind of wealth, it may simply be too painful to openly admit that some things shouldn’t be reduced to a monetary value.

To exist with other people, you must always consider the rights of other people. End of story. You will literally never have a break from it. This fact frustrates your id to no end, and it desperately searches for loopholes and exceptions. It hates being told no. However, the more advanced parts of the brain (aka super-ego) are usually able to convince it that compromise is the way to go – so long as everything is fair. It is easier to quiet your urges when you look around and see equality. When you have a comfortable life coupled with a solid understanding that those comforts are provided by mutual compromise, things can be stable. Any discrepancy, however, demands an explanation. Once the id has been told that there is a path that sets it free, it is done with compromise. It applies all the pressure it can muster to bring the whole mind into its service.

And that is what wealth does. It promises a place above everyone else. It says “You could have a little more, if only you were a little better.”

There are a couple of issues with this. The first is that it leads to thinking “Since I have more, I must be better. However I came by this wealth, it must mean that I am better.” Not lucky. Not selfish. Better.

Wealth is alienating because it sets you above everyone else. Looking around and finding no other like yourself, it seems unreasonable that their rules should also apply to you. That would imply that they are the same as you, which is clearly not possible. If they were your equals, they would have found a way to become wealthy too. You can’t really be blamed for taking more if you yourself are . . . more.

The second is that, given a limited pool of resources, one person having a little more usually means someone else must have a little less. No matter how well the entire group does, demanding a larger piece for me also demands a smaller one for everyone else. If the wealth of a few people grows unchecked, eventually, they don’t leave enough for everyone to survive. So now everyone else is scrambling to make ends meet. And some will. But because there isn’t really enough to go around now, some people are impoverished.

Poverty puts people in survival mode. It makes us desperate. To those who are making ends meet, desperation is unsettling. Desperation makes pride a luxury. It makes people discard politeness and actually ask – or even beg – for help. But the class of not quite poor, but not quite rich folks – let’s call them the middle class – are comparing themselves to the rich, so they feel poor too. Everyone is now clinging a little more tightly to what they have.

Poverty, like wealth, is alienating. Looking around, you find so many with advantages (not being poor) that you lack. You don’t really see a way out of your situation or how you got into it, but you know everyone thinks you are poor because you are lazy drug addict or a welfare queen. Wealthy and middle class alike see you as a little bit less – perhaps you begin to internalize this and see yourself that way too.

People who have great need and a lowered opinion of themselves become a little more pliable than a person who lives in comfort and has a higher sense of self worth. A middle class person with comfort and a fear of losing it is a little more pliable than a comfortable person with no fear.

Here we see what wealth is. It is not just having plenty. It is having control. The point of wealth is to remove the word ‘no’ from the vocabulary of others. To bring other human beings into your service. To make their effort and sacrifice count more toward your indulgence than toward their survival.

So we say it is ok to let a celebrity rape and then offer a settlement rather than be made to face the same penalty a poor person would. And when we do that, we confirm that they are better than us. They must be, if even those beneath them will acknowledge that it is so. As far as he is concerned, he faced no penalty. Paying a million dollars for fucking a thirteen year old girl is not a penalty to him. It is a transaction.

These are the people we celebrate in America, while raging at the poor for feeling so entitled.

1http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2014/06/25/Music-Fashion-fest.html
2http://www.columbusalive.com/content/blogs/thelatest/2014/06/fashion-meets-music-headliners-announced.html

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/75529/r-kelly-indicted-on-child-pornography-charges
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php
http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/12/16/sexual_assault_allegations_against_r_kelly_now_online_thanks_to_jim_derogatis.html
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2008/06/long_live_the_little_man_defense.html
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=5065392
http://www.businessinsider.com/r-kelly-sexual-assault-details-2013-12
http://www.mtv.com/bands/r/r_kelly/news_feature_051304/
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/07/28/kelly-canceled.html
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2010/08/17/oedipus-complex-2-0-like-it-or-not-parents-shape-their-childrens-sexual-preferences/
http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/11/adolescentsexualactivity/newmedialitrev/index.shtml
http://www.avert.org/age-sexual-consent.htm

Whore’s Uniform

This is not about all men. This is about men given to a particular kind of attitude toward women.

I think this is something that stuck with me, because the first time I saw it, I thought he had a point. Because I thought it was a good point, I shared it with others. In the process of doing that, I realized how stupid it is.



Yes, I realize this was a bit of standup comedy, and maybe I shouldn’t take it so seriously. However, part of what makes comedy good is the commentary it provides – a keen sense of the difference between the way society tends to understand things and the way things actually are. It is a way of understanding things from a different perspective. In this case, it seems like a perspective that makes a very comfortable transition to the one held by this guy – The Death of Pretty.

The whole concept of a “whore’s uniform” is basically bullshit, because the definition of whore’s uniform is dependent on factors ranging from the overall existing standard to the personal tastes of the individual making an evaluation. Now, I think what these two men are trying to describe is something along these lines:

wu04

But maybe they meant this:

wu06

So the problem is essentially this:

If the standard is a skirt that just hits the top of your knees, a miniskirt marks you as a whore.
If the standard is ankle length skirts, a skirt that stops at mid-calf marks you as a whore.
If the standard is a burqa . . . well, you can probably see where I’m going with this by now.

If you didn’t find that very useful, I made this non-intuitive graphic to help.

HOOOOOOOERS

The brain is (in part at least) a comparison engine. It is tuned for noticing differences. When something is different – when it stands out against a backdrop of uniformity, we want to examine it. We want to know what the significance of that difference is. We want to know what it means.

Meaning is important to us – it is how we learn to interpret and navigate the world. It is also how we reconcile our impulses with the world.

You are born into the world wanting things. The world abruptly begins to tell you which wants are ok, and where and when it is permissible to satisfy them. This is important to us, because we are conditioned to be social creatures. We look for social cues from others of our own kind to let us understand how to satisfy our urges without stepping on someone else’s toes and getting banished from the village.

However, the impulses we have do not self-regulate. The old wyrm coiled at the center of your brain does not want its fair share. It just wants. Forever. So you reign it in most of the time, while keeping an eye out for when it it’s ok to  . . . indulge.  We are always looking for the special occasion – the little mini-vacation from dealing with the stress of considering others. When is ok to eat or drink to satiety? When is it ok sleep in? When is it ok to not work? When is it ok to express the fullness of my emotional state?

What situation makes it ok to see to my urges without bothering about how other people feel about it?

Sexual urges are no different – except in this case, you are not merely using up resources, such that another person cannot use them. You are not merely burdening someone else with an unfair share of work. You are using a person directly as the resource which satisfies your urges.

I get the impression that the difficulty some men have with women is inability to reconcile then notion of a woman as a person with rights, and the feeling of a woman as a resource capable of satisfying an urge1. If a man has strong sexual urges towards women, and also understands that you must generally respect the wishes of other people, then he is likely to try to find the situation where a woman can be considered not in terms of her person-nature, but in terms of her resource-nature. When is she saying that she is not to be respected as a person? What signal can I look for that tells me I am free to indulge.

Restrictive dress standards do not exist to protect women from objectification. They exist to protect the right of men to objectify some women.

Suppose you are an average male who is attracted to women. Let’s suppose also, that you have something in your system of beliefs that causes you to have a negative attitude about sex. Like you think sex is really bad, or something terrible will happen to you for wanting it or thinking about it. You are still subject to these desires even though you also feel that it is bad. You may feel a twinge of anger directed at the perceived source of your frustrations. Around that same time, your mind is furiously working out a way to relieve the stress your body is under in a way that won’t provoke so much cognitive dissonance that your mind breaks. You probably begin to see all the little ways in which females must be intentionally trying to manipulate you into feeling this way. And what right does she have to make you feel this way, after all, without expecting anything to happen to her? Why should she be so powerful?

Designating someone else as not deserving of respect is a psychological get out of jail free card for people like this. It is a way to carve out a place in both the mind and society where it is safe and acceptable to feel what they are feeling without the negative emotional state that occurs when you have the sense that you have done something wrong. The more restrictive the standard, the greater freedom there is for a man to interpret a garment (or lack thereof) as an invitation to use her as a resource, rather than respect her as a person. It makes it feel like the woman has given consent simply by not adhering to the standard. Or it removes a man’s sense of guilt because he was provoked into a reaction that “couldn’t be helped”2.

And if you feel that all of the above is reasonable, again, do be aware that interpretations vary on what slutty is.



 
 

 

 

1I also get the very strong impression that, when these sorts of men say that women have too much power, they are referring at least in part to resource control. As in, women (people) have too much control over women (resource).
2This probably also explains a lot of the homophobia that seems prevalent within the same demographic. Not just the dudes who hate the object of their own closeted desires either. Some straight dudes just have a very violent reaction to being evaluated (sexually speaking) by another dude. I suspect that the reason may lay in their own understanding of the weight of the male gaze. There is an implicit moral judgement within it. As if a gay man is saying “I am looking at you because you have done something wrong, and because it’s your own fault, I can use you.”
But honestly, wtf do I know. I have a vagina.
I obviously pulled a bunch of pictures and shit from the internet, so I don’t want to claim them as my own. However, I forget where I got most of them, so I will just credit Internet.

Subtext

I call bullshit on anyone claiming abortion is murder while also claiming that it should be allowed for cases involving rape or incest.

To claim that abortion is murder, you must regard an embryo (or fetus) as a person. So if abortion is killing a person, and you say that there should be exceptions for cases of rape or incest, you seem to be saying that it is ok to kill people so long as they were born as the result of rape or incest. Or possibly you are saying that anyone born as the result of rape or incest is not a real person.

Or possibly you are saying that you don’t actually give two shits about saving innocent little babies. Maybe, just maybe, what really bothers you is the idea that these women – these whores – are out there having shameless, enjoyable pre-marital sex . . . and they are getting away with it.

If you remove all the negative consequences, how will people know it’s bad?

Sometimes people think I’m a hooker.

I was crossing the street toward the Quick-e-mart last night, when a guy in an SUV called out to me. I thought I recognized the voice, and I turned to head toward the car. As I got closer, I realized the guy in the driver’s seat was not who I thought it was. While trying to get a better look at the other two guys in the car to see if I recognized anyone, the driver yells out “Hey baby, where you goin?”

Put off by the “meet me in the alley” tone in his voice, I stopped, backed up a bit and replied that I was just on my way home. In response, he just stammered “Oh . . uh . . . right”, then quickly rolled up his window and drove off.

I feel like I should dress a little more conservatively now.

Ultimate Sexy

If you are female and planning on buying a costume for halloween, your options are basically limited to the “sexy” version of whatever profession/character you choose to masquerade as. Last year I attended a party where I encountered the following:

sexy witch
sexy flight attendant
sexy girl scout (x2, one was a dude)
sexy snow white
sexy nurse
sexy cop

There was also a girl dressed as Lara Croft, which is sexy – but that is really just the character, so it doesn’t count.

Nothing really wrong with this I guess. I, as a woman, do feel the need to dress like I’m in a porno, and it’s important to have a day to celebrate this. If you are planning on going this route though – please, please pick something that actually makes sense to sexualize. Do not, for instance choose this:



I understand fantasizing about a little inappropriate use of force from a tarty officer or rendering Snow White less than pristine. But in whose shattered psyche is this desirable fantasy fodder?

I’m not a judgemental person, but if you buy this costume, then you’re pretty fucked up and probably strangled a whole bunch of cats when you were a kid.

We have specific reform programs for deviants like you.