Studying Law when weighty questions are being asked in Scotland on (mostly misunderstood) matters of equality, human rights and the uncodified UK constitution is fascinating enough. Recently, I’ve also been preparing for legal action, quoting the Vento bands, setting damages for Injury to Feelings, down the phone to the ACAS mediator as my former employer seems to be running scared of the public humiliation of yet another Employment Tribunal case, preferring to settle out of court.
Fascinating though the 15th edition of Smith & Wood’s Employment Law is (I’d read about half of its 829 pages a few days after it was posted to me) it’s Stanton & Prescott’s 3rd edition of Public Law that’s morepertinent to the recent failed attempt by Holyrood to modify legislation passed by Westminster. I’ve observed previously the difference between the gracious restraint of legal discourse and uninformed party political rants on the (il)legality of the GRR Bill.
Brain whirling, I took time off my studies to watch J. Edgar, the Warner Bros biopic of the Hoover who headed the FBI for around half of the last century (not the previous and unrelated US president associated with the New Deal). Subtly directed by Clint Eastwood, its understated masculine gaze, verging at times on film noir, was enough to have critics calling it ‘controversial’ on release in 2011.
11 years on, One Nation Under Blackmail, Whitney Webb’s damning dossier of US politics, detailing and evidencing the ‘sordid union between Intelligence and Organised Crime that gave rise to Jeffrey Epstein’, is far less coy about Hoover’s rumoured homosexuality and transvestism.
Where Eastwood hints, with scenes of the devoted son so distraught by his mother’s death that he dons her clothes in front of the mirror, and of a touching and tragically frustrated bromance between Hoover and his second in command and longtime companion, Webb (ch. 2 & 4) quotes eyewitnesses to the scandal of this infamous inquisitor and blackmailer frequenting the blue suite of New York’s Plaza Hotel, known as ‘Mary’, in wig and dress, pleasuring Tolson and having sex with ‘blond boys’ and with Senator Joe McCarthy’s righthand man in his persecution of suspected communists and homosexuals.
J. Edgar is a difficult film to watch, its portrayal of the public derring do of his ‘G Men’ busting mobsters and his private stoic restraint in matters of the heart undermined by the evidence of Hoover’s hypocrisy hiding in plain sight: that he was soft on crime and unconcerned about being seen in flagrante as he was simultaneously being blackmailed to go easy on organised crime and blackmailing anyone who could publicise his sexual predilections.
Two decades before It’s Time, the Scottish Government-sponsored Equality Network’s moving 2013 video campaign for equal marriage (featuring several of my old friends) there was a scandal involving senior members of the justiciary being blackmailed by the pimps of rent boys. With associated concern over the autonomy of their judicial deliberations.
It seems to me that a secret of a public figure, however well-known, does not help a nation. It festers and starts a canker at the heart of public life. Catalyst for either compensatory action or reaction, it can lead to extreme decision-making in a state of schizophrenic politics where the truth is shouted in silence.
At the height of the US ‘Red Scare’, reticence about disclosure of sexuality would be understandable. Now, certainly in any liberal democracy, being so candid might be uncomfortable or even embarrassing if the game of Let’s Pretend has been played for some time (Hoover never married but the convenient strategy of the homosexual ‘beard’ is well-known) however the health of the body politic may depend on it. For the sake of the people, and government policy, a responsible state official may decide that it’s time.
Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image Padlock into the Public Domain.
As my contract was illegally terminated by a Russell Group university recently, following over 2 years of victimisation for blowing the whistle on violation of disabled rights, I have even more respect for anyone willing to stand up for what’s right, no matter the consequences.
Although there are individuals in other parties, and some opposition to self-ID without clear commitment to female safe space (yes, Scots Libertarians I’m looking at you) there are only 5 parties that I know are unequivocally standing up for Scottish women. I want to provide a link to their policies so that voters can make an informed—and perhaps strategic—choice.
In alphabetical order:
Alba—Manifesto—“Standing up for women and girls” starts at p.10. Unique relevant points are that the Scottish Government should pause GRA reform until views of women’s groups, the EHRC and the Court of Session ruling on sex and gender are all taken into consideration—and calls for a citizens assembly to consult over any future reforms. These points are reinforced in the Scotland’s Many People section under Women’s Rights.
With the very greatest respect for the elder statesman at the head of Alba, I’d love to read his political (not personal) memoirs and I think it’s time he retired, let Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh take over and so remove the block to victory that is the lingering taint of the court case that means many women won’t vote for the party—despite the not guilty/ not proven verdicts.
Freedom Alliance—Manifesto—(This is my party but I’ll try to be fair to all.) Under “Personal Freedom”, unique relevant points are: “Freedom Alliance will: Legislate specifically to protect individual’s right to body autonomy and to prevent the state from mandating any medical procedures.” and “Always oppose any form of discrimination based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race, nationality, disability, health or medical choices.” So, to be honest, the clear commitment isn’t here—however it is in the section in Latest News named YOUR SEX IS A FACT : YOUR GENDER IS A FEELING which states clearly:
“We will protect sex-based rights and single-sex spaces. We oppose the Scottish Government’s reforms to the Gender Recognition Act”
I feel the phrase “bodily autonomy” is unhelpfully unspecific as may confuse positive rights (entitlements) and negative rights (protections). I suspect it’s being used a bit vaguely to cover the fact that the party supports politicians who agree on other party policies but have opposing views on abortion. Unlike the SNP, Freedom Alliance does not agree with a party whip, especially on matters on conscience.
Independence for Scotland Party—Manifesto—the only mentions here are: “ISP supports the Equality Act (2010) and the Gender Recognition Act (2004).” However there is explicit endorsement of Women Speak Scotland’s Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland. I can’t find that exactly (however that website is amazing for gender-critical resources) but I’m guessing it refers to the Joint Statement by Scottish Woman’s Organisations which contains this:
The Scottish Government must therefore:
ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.
Again I really respect the ISP, especially as they were so gracious in regard to not stepping on Alba’s toes, and my only personal concern is over their massive support for vaccines. I’m also not sure what differentiates them from Alba and I wonder (as my own party is exploring with ADF) whether a merger would be mutually beneficial.
Scottish Family Party—Manifesto—basically they say everything about supporting women and children that everyone else says (at length but there’s a helpful electronic ToCs) with the difference that, although they explicitly condemn bullying of LGBT people, they are very clear that the heterosexual family is the basis of morality and stability in society, and that undermining it leads to a multitude of ills. Under “Supporting families”:
As well as being a great source of joy, family life underpins our society. In the family, care and love are embodied, and resources are shared freely. The state should not seek to supplant the fundamental role of the family in bringing up children and should refrain from interfering in family life. Instead, the state should be supporting families to enable them to provide for themselves, structure their family life according to their priorities, and bring up their children according to their values.
While I respect the honesty of the Scottish Family Party, I do feel that the tone and content of some of its messaging, especially on video clips, lacks the urbane respect for diversity that people in the 21st century expect from politicians. That said, there is absolutely no doubt that they oppose gender theory. Under “Values education”:
The philosophy of gender fluidity is dangerous to young people, leading to confusion and unhelpful experimentation.
Currently children and young people are being harmed by the message that choosing a new gender identity is normal, natural and healthy. While we sympathise with those experiencing gender confusion, we do not believe that legal gender change should be possible.
We oppose the SNP’s illiberal family policies. We believe in family autonomy and we will fight for parental rights, and the right of children to be raised in line with their parents’ beliefs.
We pledge to: • Repeal the Hate Crime and Public Order Act. • Ensure parents are not criminalised for using mild physical discipline. • Outlaw Self ID as inimical to women and children’s rights and safety. • Criminalise the purchase of sexual services and strengthen anti-voyeurism legislation. • Mandate age verification on websites offering adult content.
Under “Investing in Education”:
Replace Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education with politically neutral teaching.
Another party I deeply respect and my only concern is that the respect Sovereignty have (which I can testify to personally) for all persons covered by the Equality Act 2010 could be more explicit in their manifesto.
Other defining (for some) policy points are here:
Abortion—the SFP and Sovereignty are explicitly pro-life, the former (although pragmatic about an incremental legal reduction in time limits) quite militantly. None of the others mention this topic, clearly, in their manifestos.
Europe—whereas Sovereignty explicitly opposes rejoining the EU, Freedom Alliance doesn’t oppose the concept of free trade in Europe but supports decentralisation and opposes the technocratic bent of the EU; the SFP is neutral but respects the referendum result; both Alba and the ISP promote joining EFTA as a means, with the will of the people, to rejoin the EU.
LGBT—apart from the anti-bullying stance, the SFP is clearly against same sex relationships and trans identity. Sovereignty recognises gender dysphoria and the need for treatment but seems silent on LGB issues. Alba, the ISP and FA all are clearly supportive of same sex relationships and all seek to balance the rights of trans people with those of women—although this balanced respect is not always reflected in all the media content put out by all their members.
Scottish Independence—Alba, the ISP and Sovereignty are manifestly for independence; FA & the SFA are neutral, the latter explicitly so and for the former you’ll just have to take my word for it, however FA is explicitly for decentralisation of power, UK-wide, and both encourage more local engagement with political activity and decision-making.
This post is inadequate to convey the complexity and professionalism of the political stances of these 5 parties. If I have misrepresented a party, I apologise and please let me know on Twitter by post or DM. Please take the time to read all of their manifestos because there is much that is admirable in each of them.
Whoever you vote for, please make sure they will stand up for the beleaguered women of Scotland!
Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Woman Beautiful Art Portrait into the Public Domain.
They get the music right, and there is some big hair, cardies and drainpipe trousers—though none of the boys have Wham! style haircuts. Russel T. Davies continues with his self-hatred: the positive portrayal of older White men is limited to those who support the pharmaceutical narrative and whose sexual desire is (presumably) domesticated by having a partner. Older Black men lose points if religious, as that is shown as at least comic if not sinister.
Women gain points for being secular, metropolitan and preferably ethnic as well as for dedicating their lives to the service of (young) gay men. Mothers are mostly monsters but redeemed if fat, disabled or married to ethnic males. Davies gives himself the opportunity to address female self-sacrifice but basically gets a monster mother to blame a young woman for being a fag hag—without the show narrative taking responsibility for that accusation or showing the least interest in her personal life—and leaves it at that.
Brian Mullin, writing for the Los Angeles Times, finds that It’s a￼ Sin doesn’t even advance the portrayal of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I used to believe in that pharmaceutical narrative (I don’t now) but I take his point. Davies is very good at only one thing: the portrayal of young gay male jouissance. In this series he simply makes the equation that joy = death.
Davis also airbrushes drag queens, and their internecine war with m-f transsexuals, out of the 80s gay scene in which they literally played a starring role. Instead he’s opted for vaguely sketched cardboard cutouts of “trans” characters, dotted about the set, never centred and never defined. Lesbians are limited to sitting around tables agreeing with gay men and the main character (effeminate and never shown in the least attracted to women) is shown as ridiculous in pondering bisexuality—the only mention of that sexuality at the time of its major struggle for recognition in the lesbian & gay community.
The most grave sins of the series are those committed against Africans portrayed as backwards (with zero recognition of indigenous efforts to resist or even debate the social and biological harms done by corporate pharmaceutical interests from the global north) and, ironically, against young gay men.
This series continues the profitable trend of pushing drugs. Like all the other AIDS stories, It’s a Sin dismisses the proven connection of poppers (ubiquitous in gay discos then and widely used in gay sex) with Kaposi’s sarcoma and ignores the fact that 47 gay men didn’t just turn up coincidentally at a New York hospital all with the same cancer, Michael Gottlieb was studying low T-cell counts in two cities and actively recruited patients. All of whom were long term massive drug users.
The HIV/AIDS hypothesis (at least the Gallo version, there are others) has been the blueprint for all subsequent viral drug and test advertising campaigns—most successfully with “Covid”—and will be used again if the public are stupid and uninformed enough to swallow “Monkeypox”. Predictably, this latest series, like all the others, is being used to push for more public money for the pharmaceutical industry. So it can kill even more people. That’s not an act of charity. It’s a sin.
Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Medical Insurance into the Public Domain.
The trouble with the terms “greenwashing” and “pinkwashing” is that those using them may (perhaps) inadvertently do what they accuse others of doing: painting over structural issues that need to be addressed.
Pinkwashing is often used to denigrate the success of the LGBT community in Israel and there have been several aspects to this accusation:
Denying the issues faced by LGBT people in majority Muslim countries in general and in Palestine in particular.
Denying the freedoms won by the LGBT community in Israel.
Denying the possibility of a people under oppression to simultaneously oppress a community of their own.
If you have a need to prove your “wokeness” by assimilating with those who support the rape and death of LGBT people, you don’t know the meaning of LGBT liberation.
Countering the third denial, Al-Qaws, a group dedicated to gender and sexual diversity in Palestinian society, has a more nuanced statement:
Singling out incidents of homophobia in Palestinian society ignores the complexities of Israel’s colonisation and military occupation being a contributing factor to Palestinian LGBTQ oppression
My point is not to reduce the socio-political complexities to which the latter quote alludes to some kind of catchy soundbite but rather to emphasise that key word. Some issues aren’t simple—but that doesn’t mean they should be painted over in pink.
Or green. Cory Morningstar, on the blog Wrong Kind of Green, has written a detailed take-down of current media environmentalism entitled The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (For those who prefer listening to reading, there’s a beautifully-read podcast version.)
The reaction to greenwashing can also be rather simplistic and, similarly, has various aspects:
Denying the ecological issues of the planet
Denying the benevolent motivations of environmental protestors
Ignoring the possibility of both of the above co-existing with invented (or exaggerated) issues and with malevolent motivations
To stop communicating in double negatives, let me state clearly what I mean. While climatologists are divided on the question of there being a planetary temperature crisis caused by human (or animal) agency, no-one sane denies the obvious issues of air, land and water pollution by pesticides and other poisons and by plastics. Electromagnetic (high or low) frequency pollution is another source of concern.
Related issues are those of the cost-effectiveness of supposedly environmental alternative sources of energy and fuel—as well as the social impact of the market for conflict minerals (used in phones, laptops, solar panels and electric cars).
About all these issues my point is simple:
Unless supposedly progressive groups are prepared to grapple with the complexities of real intersectional oppression and liberation, they aren’t really progressive.
It’s not enough to pay attention to the wake-up calls of green celebrities; we also need to see beyond—to the marketisation of Africa and other repressive goals of the Great Reset.
It’s not enough to acknowledge the latter and ignore the very real problems of pollution.
It’s not enough to be aware of the dangers of Frankenfood and the sinister appropriation of the means of global food production by a very small group of plutocrats; we also need to acknowledge the unnatural and inhumane treatment of farmed animals—if not for their own sake then at least for the effect that their confinement, torture, forced assimilation of toxins and barbaric slaughter has on our own bodies and on our souls.
The so-called Green parties are allied with inhuman forces indifferent to the fate of most of the planet and its population—apart from some ecological pleasure parks strictly set aside for the elite. Let’s not pretend that meanwhile these plutocrats are all ethical vegans: they’re all guzzling meat pizza, fatty hamburgers and high sugar Coca-Cola.
In contrast, the resistance to global tyranny is full of people who eat healthily, exercise daily, participate voluntarily in various community projects and grow our own food.
“Frump” is one of those Ye Olde English words with roots in Middle Dutch and Anglo-Saxon. Basically because Britain kept getting invaded. Although there may have been a religious connotation at one time (perhaps influencing the Yiddish word frum, which just means “pious”) nowadays being a frump means dressing dowdily. Like most ideas about fashion it’s incredibly sexist: wearing drab old clothes that don’t fit, don’t match and are out of fashion, while male, makes you a real man (cos otherwise you’re a metrosexual and we all know that’s a slippery slope). Dressing in the same style-free style, while female, makes you a frump.
Women and gay men have “lifestyles”. This is known. Real men don’t have these but they do have car problems (their own and those of hapless hot females) which they fix while dressed in a selection of items of said style-free clothes. Some of these items can be removed, ripped or too small to better show off their manly muscles but they have to be careful with this, cos, if it’s self-conscious, it’s basically just gay garage porn.
Lifestyle mags are currently obsessed with women (and the gays who emulate them) “getting over their Covid frump”. It’s now a female bonding experience, bewailing the state of your lockdown locks. Being a female experience, of course many men want in on the action but some of them have found their tender gender “slipping away” (if it’s constructed principally on coiffure) due to their inability to access a hairdresser for the correct swish or shade.
But being a frump isn’t just about clothes or hair. No, no, it’s a complete lifestyle! And there are 7 signs in your lifestyle that indicate that you’re a Covidfrump:
1) Your dress standards have slipped (so many audio-only Zoom sessions in PJs) and you worry you should get out more.
2) Things really bother you (like men not wearing facemasks all day and kids not constantly antibacterialising their hands) when you do venture out.
3) You find yourself snooping on the neighbours (like Mrs Dursley peering over the hedge) just to check they’re keeping to the latest restrictions.
4) You feel a warm glow of “you tell ‘em!” whenever a government minister or other Big Pharma rep says anything even vaguely logical in connection to Covid.
6) You have no desire to meet with, or even talk to, members of your family or friends who listen to conspiracy theorists like Whitney Webb or Spiro Skouras.
5) You secretly feel that lockdown is lovely and wish it could go on for ever. (The good news is, because of people like you, it may well do!)
7) You and your circle take a masochistic delight in the adverse reactions (of varying severity) that you’ve all had to the vaccine. None of you have ever admitted this.
So you’re a Covidfrump, what can you do? Embrace it! Most women and gay men are just like you because these are the most valued demographics of the pharmaceutical market. You’ve been had.
You may suspect this, but the pain of disassociating yourself from that caring sharing cooperative oh-so-female/ gay identity you’ve constructed is just too great. I mean, just by not possessing a Y-chromo (or, second best option, only admitting to Y-Y sexual attraction) you’re instantly and already wonderful. Unlike those cavemen utterly and ultimately responsible for absolutely everything wrong with everything.
Fascism only works with frumps. Yes it’s the real men who (mostly) do the strutting up and down, speechifying, killing and torturing. But behind every great fascist there’s a great frump and that’s where you can make the push for The Great Reset of humanity, the inauguration of the 4th Industrial Revolution to take (a few of us) into a glorious eco-future (for the elite) where human labour will be replaced by robots – that then will replace the humans.
Hoi polloi, the bane of fascists since Plato wrote The Republic, means “the many”. Under the coming technofascism, they will be reduced to very few. Just enough to keep the transhuman machine ticking over. And, we all know that what fascists love the most (after stomping the marginalised in the face with their jackboots) is a uniform.
Be proud and be frumpy! By being a nice person, you make collaboration with the present eugenicist agenda respectable. That will ensure its success. Because who would revolt against kindness? Enjoy being on the right side of history. Even if you won’t be allowed to see it written – by the victors of the covert war against freedom you didn’t even know you were fighting.
Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Puppet Master into the Public Domain.
Rather rambling reflections on possible strategies taken from interfaith dialogue between people committed to opposing secular ideologies they believe in and both claim to be rational and factual. Mention of: failed multiculturalism in UK and (especially) USA contrasted with success in Moorish Spain; opposing views on:
The story of Black rioters burning down a historic church near the White House – like many stories – isn’t true. According to CBS News, citing The Washington Post:
A fire broke out late Sunday night in the basement of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., the city’s fire department said.
The flames were quickly put out by firefighters who arrived with a police escort and apparently didn’t cause any significant damage, The Washington Post reports. It wasn’t clear how the fire started.
It did seem strange to me that a demographic of renowned churchgoers would torch a temple of the God whose prophetic word is on the lips of so many of their civil rights leaders. Then again, it isn’t clear how these protests turned into riots either. And who the instigators are. And why some of them are apparently wearing earpieces – as even rightwing jocks admit.
Since Jean Baudrillard’s 1991 deconstruction of the Gulf War, it has been clear to critical thinkers that we are living in what the murdered dissident Rumanian professor Ioan Culianu called “the Magician State”. Culiano contrasts this with “the Police State”, where might is right and everyone is in lockdown (I’m paraphrasing).
The lynching (let’s call it what it was) of George Floyd and of so many young Black men by White men in America is as much a physical reality as the killing of countless Arab civilians in the Middle East Oil Wars – which Baudrillard never denied but Big Oil does at least in terms of motivation (isn’t it interesting that there’s a mention of Venezuela?) – and that lynching was clearly was carried out by US police.
However the key difference between the Police State and the Magician State is that the former runs on physical power and the latter on symbolic power. The instruments of lethal power utilised by the former State are the bodies of its agents (badged or not) and their ropes, knives, injections, gas and guns. The latter State uses the microphone and the camera. That’s the State we’re in.
Because the Magician State absorbs the events of the Police State the way a spider sooks up (good Scots phrase) a fly. The meaning, the value of an event gets distorted. Spiders spin. Police police. Magicians? They manipulate all the media at their disposal – and when they have a lot of disposable income, that’s a lot of media power!
When Dr Frantz Fanon wrote Peau noire, masques blancs [Black skin, white masks] in 1952 he used his professional psychiatric experience of treating both the African colonised and the European coloniser in French Algeria, as well as his personal experience of growing up Black in French Martinique. He describes treating the tortured and the torturers – and his insights into the psychopathology of racism are still valuable today.
Part of this pathology is the deep-seated fear that many White men have for Black men, a fear fed by ignorance, suspicion, envy and desire. The Black response is similar as both relate not to each other’s reality but to the mental projections of the other constantly reinforced by the racist culture. Each wishes to appropriate the power of the other but whereas such Black men want White men to accept them, such White men want to overpower them – or to be overpowered. This is a part of Fanon’s critique that is heavily censored today – as are his remarks about Black women “raising the colour” (anyone who doesn’t know about that doesn’t know much about the Black Americas). It’s not cool to say that anyone desires either (as comments from White people, of both sexes, make clear).
Developed during modern European colonialism, and instrumental in projecting images to cast the colonisation of Africa, Asia and the Americas in a good light, the proliferation of the magic lantern show was a significant step in the installation of the Magician State. Not only could the envious White public eagerly read of the exploits of daring White “explorers” (trespassers) of “undiscovered” lands – now they could assuage their desire to see it all for themselves! It was also useful in mesmerising Black people about the merits of their great White “saviours” – and the deference they were due.
Fanon’s controversial genius was to diagnose that, whereas the Black men he describes were driven by their colonised super-ego, the pathologically racist White men he treated were driven by their colonising id. It’s not enough to simply dismiss this insight as outdated or patronising or homophobic. Early psychoanalysis in general and Freud in particular are certainly problematic in terms of their many heterosexist assumptions but, even as imagery, the controlling voice of ambition and the compelling voice of forbidden desire may be at work in the psyche.
And who knows if the defining quality of the Magician State is not to make visible the unseen. Perhaps White men lynch Black men not only in the vain attempt to extinguish their own psychic shadow but also because, letting hate into their hearts through the door of fear, they have opened themselves to the ancient and baleful influence about which all true good prophets have warned.
The desire of Black men to be accepted by White men, and the desire of White men to overpower them, are not equivalent. The former may have facilitated the rise to highest office of the first Black president; the latter, clearly, compelled a sworn guardian of the law to stoop to publicly lynching a Black citizen.
Black people don’t burn down churches. Not when they have sat in them, Sunday after Sunday, listening to these words:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
May George Floyd, and all other Black men lynched by White men, rest in peace and rise in glory. May their names be remembered and the names of their killers blotted out. May we White men attempt the hard emotional labour of knowing ourselves so that we STOP allowing our basest instincts to control our actions, with lethal effect.
Thanks to Piotr Siedlecki for releasing his image Face of a Man into the Public Domain.
“Pushing her back on the veranda floor and ripping off her thin chemise, she knew she’d get more than splinters if he got his wicked way”
was how an arch undergraduate friend of mine sent up a certain popular genre of literature. But with reports of fatal ‘consensual strangulation gone wrong’ rising 90% in the last decade as a niche (gay/ solo male) porn practice became mainstream – note the massive sales of 50 Shades of Grey: book published in 2011, film released 2015 – surely writers have a moral duty to think carefully about the possible social effect of how we write about sex.
The romantic origins of “The Bruno Benedetti Mysteries” lie in my experience of flirty relationships between gay/bi and strait men. What fascinated me was that they tended to be mutually flirty. Bruno comments on this in Tricks of the Mind, where his libido-fuelled mind is playing very nasty tricks indeed!
Justin came out of the shower towel-drying his hair. With the towel he would otherwise be wearing. […] People don’t believe me that strait (sic., yes it is my revenge) men go on like this. A woman, despite a post-Freudian century of glossy shelf-fillers to the contrary, cannot convince a man of his masculinity: he needs a man for that. Prowess on the camp of Mars may simply lead to the conclusion ‘I am a good footballer/ ruggerbugger/ tiddlywinker’ but not necessarily to ‘I am a manly man’. That’s where we are called in – the ambiguous court of Mercury […] man enough to have an opinion that counts and guaranteed to fancy anything male and therefore affirm its shaky identity. And watch out if you don’t. The huff they go into!
Poor Bruno sublimates some of his frustration into massage – which Justin willingly accepts, and even asks for – but, despite his protestations of being undesirable, men do react to Bruno’s charms and, inevitably, they end up in bed.
Here I had a choice. The bookends of erotic writing are Victorian lovers sinking fully-clothed (with perhaps his necktie and her hair undone) into the long grass at the close of a chapter and blow-by-blow graphic descriptions of flushed erogenous zones and stimulated genitalia.
The first instance, in Tricks, is closer to the former:
I’d hardly slept for two days and the reason lay inches from my face. He had the perfection of an ice-cream sundae and I was the cat who’d got the cream. [He] stirred in his sleep, stretching a smooth arm over his head to rest it on the pillow, making his chest even bigger. […] I laid my head on his blond biceps, slipped an arm over the perfect plain of his waist, my nose lying next to his ear. As I drifted off I wondered if he could feel me purring.
By the time we get to Tìr nam Bàn, the fifth book, it’s definitely nearer the latter, especially in the passage immediately preceding this:
…the scene that [they] saw was no more scandalous than one of three fairly-clothed men lounging on cushions and having coffee out of earthenware demitasses. One man, admittedly, with his head on his lover’s chest having his hair tousled while the third massaged his feet (and occasionally sucked his toes). Had they entered just fifteen minutes before, the scene would have been one of three naked men covered in sweat, lube and semen lying in each others’ arms, panting and occasionally kissing.
The reason is not only that I was now less scrupulous (I’d banned my family from reading my novels and my brother, who did read this one, skipped some pages – and had the kindness to say he also did that with Ian Rankin). I also was more confident about my reasons for writing in a certain style.
The point of the passage in Tricks is (eventually) to establish Bruno as an unreliable narrator. He doesn’t know why people do things, but he thinks he does. In the later book, the details of this scene of joyful, safe and consensual adult gay sex are provided to problematise our assumptions of morality. One of the participants has just found out that unspeakable horrors are being carried out by supposedly respectable people. So the scene is meant to shock the reader into reflecting on the nature of innocence.
I don’t tend to write about heterosexual sex (with one exception and that, hopefully, written with respect). I find much of that kind of writing demeans women and, in any case, it’s hardly new. To read of gay sex, decades ago, was a part of my liberation. Some books at that time (and now) went over the score and were either just plain porn or gay sex manuals – but I believe that writing such scenes for a conscious purpose can contribute to the story in a way that writing about other biological functions does not. Sex is also social and at least has the possibility of romance.
Writing the seventh book, TheMarrying Maiden, now, occasionally describing the sexual life of a couple gives me the opportunity to allude to their romantic history:
…he’d pounced on me. Taking full advantage of the thick walls of the cottage as he threw me around the bed with more than his usual display of strength. Since our painful separation last year, lasting from the previous year, he’d been markedly emotionally sensitive and physically possessive of me. His whole purpose seemed to be to avoid any possibility that I would ever feel unwanted again.
So what social effect do I want my writing on this earthy topic to have? I leave you with the prophetic and mysterious words of Imogen, in the fourth book, Qismet:
“No. You have to hear this. ‘Malkhut’ is the Creation. The world and all that’s in it. The universe. My father, G_d rest him, forgot that it’s good. The word in Hebrew is ‘tov’. It’s used seven times in the beginning of the Book of Genesis. […] The seventh use is ‘tov meod’. It describes all of Creation, including human beings, all of Creation. It’s the first description of the whole thing, in a book where words matter so much, and it’s not just a description, it’s a judgement. ‘Tov meod’. It’s such a simple phrase in Hebrew, we use it all the time. For a nice meal, for a good plan, ‘tov meod’, it just means ‘very good’.” There were tears in her eyes now. “My father forgot that Bruno. He died in Sfat, it Safed I mean, raving about the angels of the upper sefirot. He’d forgotten about the lowest one. The one where we live. The one that’s very good, in the eyes of G_d. I know you think I’m a materialist bitch. No don’t deny it, I know. And yes we did nickname my mother ‘Imelda’ because she likes shoes. Why not Bruno? Shoes are pretty! They’re very good! You go about disdaining human handiwork and ultimately, in materials, in ingenuity, the work of G_d! But Bruno, men no longer regard the world as the worthy object of their admiration and reverence. This All, which is a good thing, the best that can be seen in the past, the present and the future, is in danger of perishing…”
A chord sounded from the guitar she was holding, and broke her trance. I sat rooted to the spot. I recognised those last words.
Tricks of the Mind is free, in various eBook formats, on Smashwords.
It was a painful time and a shameful time, and many who lived through it would rather just forget. If you are younger than 30, or even 40, you may never have heard of it. Many will speak about it only in general terms, talking about friends, or family, never themselves. The wounds of that time still smart. Some families, some marriages, some friendships, never recovered. People killed themselves in shame, spiralled into addiction, moved away and broke all ties, or just shut down emotionally and traded life for existence.
That’s not what was supposed to happen. The therapists, and all those who wrote books and recorded cassette tapes (remember them?) and spoke at conferences, they all found fortune and a few found fame. They promised a panacea, an all-healing explanation for everything in your life that you didn’t like. Or that you did like.
The Recovered Memory Movement, as it came to be known, implied, forcefully, that:
If you were fat
If you were thin
If you were promiscuous
If you were frigid
If you drank
If you did drugs
If you abstained
If you had nightmares
If you had daydreams
If you were musical
If you were artistic
If you were organised
If you were chaotic
If you were human
If you were inhuman
You had, most likely, been sexually or emotionally abused as a child. Probably both.
The RMM depended on a specific, post-structural reading of the work of Sigmund Freud. Which – given that his work is the basis for post-structuralism (reading against the grain, turning things on their head) – is quite specific. And psychologically unfounded. Therapists, belatedly – after about a decade of accepting fees to encourage mostly young people, mostly female, to rehash memories they’d read in books and heard on tapes, mostly – admitted that they were now more ‘cautious’ or even ‘wary’ of diagnosing someone as an Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual or Emotional Abuse; but they didn’t follow up that admission with an offer to repay any fees. People were generally too ashamed, or broken, to sue them.
Need I say that some children are indeed abused and there is no doubt of the trauma that causes? I hope not. Would that it were not so, but it is. That is not my topic here.
Rather, I want to highlight the effect on the collective psyche, the, mostly, White, western, middle-class, post-industrial, liberal psyche of widespread shame, rage and moral panic from the late 80’s to the late 90’s.
This was the time when disillusion with monetarism, and even with capitalism, was general on the Left. Reagan and Thatcher had fallen, Bill Clinton followed George Bush the elder and John Major was hardly charismatic. Ecology and demilitarisation (especially after the first Gulf War protests) could have had a chance. We could have taken action then to avoid the ecological crisis we’re in now.
But, apart from demonstrations, the 90’s was the beginning of political apathy for young people especially. The numbers of non-voters rose massively: researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, looking at voter data from 31 European countries from 1918-2016, “found that from around 1990, non-voters made up the single biggest block”. Other reports confirm this as a global phenomenon among (comparatively) well-off Millennials.
The RMM spread a gospel of interiority and selfishness. Being a ‘caretaker’ (caring about someone else) was one of the worst things you could do. A better use of energy was to devote it all to ‘me time’. This was also the period of the rise of co-dependency, an addictive add-on with a definition that became so vague it eventually just meant ‘wrong’. Anyone who was anyone who was politically (which meant personally) sensitive during that time was either realising that they been abused or was supporting a survivor. Usually both. Which was caring and caretaking and co-dependent and therefore wrong.
The holy book was The Courage to Heal and the sacred mantra was: “I’m not crazy and I’m not making this up!”
Many of us who were in our twenties in the 90’s are now in our 50’s, many of us have raised children, especially girls, to believe in ‘me time’ and not listening to friends or family who don’t believe in ‘my truth’ and that ‘what I feel is my truth’.
Does this sound familiar? Did you think the trans phenomenon came out of nowhere? Now, of course, kids don’t depend on books (what are they?) or cassette tapes (museum much?) for social contagion. They don’t depend on their parents or elders for support and advice either. One generation has taught the following to be wary of older people, especially men, but also of women who are complicit in their machinations – enablers.
So we have an entire generation across the comparatively rich world of independent, vulnerable, inexperienced young people, mostly girls, brought up to focus on themselves, to see themselves as victims, to embrace an ideology that explains why they feel socially awkward or depressed or angry or embarrassed about their bodies.
It’s a club. Non-members are not invited. Girls are going to take over the world. Even if they have to stop being girls to do it. And boys are slipping into the gaps they leave behind. Anyone who doubts must be barred or cast out. They’re not crazy and they’re not making it up. That’s their truth.
That’s their pain. That’s what they’ll have to live with, and regret, for the rest of their lives.
Meanwhile, our planet home is dying. Because our selfishness and self-obsession is killing it. Think of all the people who could make a difference – if we could just stop tearing each other apart over identity politics.
The personal may be political but, right now, the politics that counts is planetary. It’s time to forget me time and devote ourselves to Earth time. While we still can.
I’m not crazy and I’m not making this up.
Thanks to Video Girl for releasing ‘Unicorn Beach Swimming Ring’ into the Public Domain.
My most popular tweets usually get a handful of likes or retweets; the one I posted on the evening of Friday 13th this month got almost a thousand and my followers are nearing that figure (from 770). Women from New Zealand/ Aotearoa to New York expressed their appreciation. So why was what I said spread so far and wide?
“If anyone at any university in Glasgow is being bullied – for refusing to push reactionary gender stereotypes, refusing to silence women’s concerns over physical safety, or simply for insisting that Equality Impact Assessment is carried out *as provided for* in law – contact me.”
A few years ago, okay maybe about ten, the reaction from women might have been along the lines of “cheers mate but why would women need male support to combat gender stereotypes or ensure safety or enforce the law on a university campus in Scotland?” Some might, quite rightly, have been a bit more vocal about male presumption, implied aspersion of female agency or ignorance of robust anti-bullying regulations at UK institutions of higher education.
Not one woman said anything of the kind. I rather wish they had. Because that would mean that the reported imposition of gender ideology, the intimidation of academic women, the mobbing of any woman who even intimates that there may be a debate about gender self-identity and its implications for female safety, isn’t actually happening.
But it is. Massively. On campus.
As for me, the only not-entirely positive reaction I’ve had this weekend is a couple of supportive but confused guys (who apologised) and a couple of good caveats from women. One guy said that 99% of men were supportive of what I said.
So my question is: where are all these men?
I think men aren’t speaking up on this issue for a variety of reasons:
They’re confused by the language of the debate
They think it’s a ‘gay [LGBT+] thing’
They think it’s a women’s issue
They don’t see what the problem is
It’s not on their radar
They don’t want to look ignorant
They don’t want to look closed-minded
Of course, these 10 reasons may not be the biggies. Maybe men just can’t be bothered to speak up. Or are afraid. But let’s address them anyway:
‘Transgender’ = ‘transsexual’ and/ or ‘transvestite’, basically; ‘transactivist’ means someone pushing for gender self-ID (that means unquestioned male access to female safe space – such as women’s shelters, showers, bedrooms, prison cells); ‘gender-critical’/ ‘gender abolitionist’ means refusing to accept a return to 1950’s White Western stereotypes of male and female – because the whole concept of social ‘gender’, as distinct to biological ‘sex’, is built on them which is why wee boys who wear pink and wee girls who play football are being manipulated into believing that they really are the opposite gender.
It was. Now it’s at a Primary school near you and your son or daughter could be next from mutilating surgery that will leave them sterile and scarred for life – along with perhaps an addiction to plastic surgery and a whole range of other medical disorders. And, no, it won’t make them any less depressed or suicidal.
Some people who resist transgenderism also resist sex-selective abortion and/or ableist abortion (and some any abortion not life-saving for the mother); some resist the sexualisation of children; some any definition of children’s sexuality; some also support religious freedom – none of this means they can’t support women’s safe space.
Conversely, some who are gender-critical are actively pro-choice and espouse a variety of opinions regarding sex-work, fetish freedom and the evils of religious ideology – none of this means they can’t support women’s safe space.
The personal is the political.
It should be!
Understandable, but, as it does concern them, they should at least learn the basics.
Again, understandable. Men supporting female safe space can be condemned as rightwing bigots or leftwing traitors.
In summary: women need our help, guys. They shouldn’t, but they do. They are being physically threatened, trolled online, stalked along streets, intimidated at their places of work – all for trying to protect the most vulnerable women as well as impressionable children. No-one is ‘anti-trans’. If adult men or women want to cross-dress or undergo surgery to alter their primary or secondary sexual characteristics, as long as that’s not the only option for them (as it is in repressive regimes for lesbians and gay men) then fine. Whether that should be on the NHS is another question.
What shouldn’t be a question is the safety and support of all vulnerable people. How we do that, fairly and safely, is very much up for debate. Men, please speak up for women whose voices are being silenced.