Thoughts on Louise Perry’s book ‘The Case Against the Sexual Revolution’ (Part 1)

The feminist writer Louise Perry published a book last year called The Case Against the Sexual Revolution which she has been interviewed about on certain YouTube channels I’m subscribed to including Benjamin Boyce (here) and Triggernometry (here). More recently, she has spoken to Jordan Peterson (here). The book was positively received by publications on both sides of the political spectrum and a number of people I follow on Twitter.

Louise Perry is part of a group of women who have been called ‘reactionary feminists’ which is made up of thinkers who advocate for women’s rights but also criticise some feminist ideas and express conservative viewpoints – you could also call them ‘anti-feminist feminists’. Mary Harrington and Nina Power are two other examples of this kind of feminist and both have also recently published books. My attention here though will just be on Louise Perry.

It might be the contrarian in me, but I am less enthralled by Louise Perry and her views as a lot of people I follow online appear to be, although this is not to say that Ms. Perry has no valid points to make.

In this post, which will be one of three, I’m going to explore three extracts from Perry’s book that were published on the Daily Mail website when the book was released. Reading these extracts is not the same as reading the entire book, but they still give us insight to Louise Perry’s thinking.

The first article adapted from her book can be read here.

Article 1

Louise Perry begins by saying that sexual freedom has backfired for women:

“Rather than women being emancipated sexually, in the digital age we have become a society in thrall to the worst of male sexuality.”

A recurring theme in the article, and presumably the book, is the contrast between male sexuality and female sexuality, but more on that later.

Ms. Perry argues that current attitudes towards sex separate it from love and commitment which in her view is more harmful to women than men. Promiscuity and pornography tell women “to enjoy being humiliated and assaulted in bed” and websites such as Instagram and TikTok are full of “women desperate for some positive male attention.” Similarly, dating apps like Tinder are often used for casual hook-ups rather than to potentially find a long term partner.

Because of this Louise Perry, and many others, have concluded that sexual liberation has benefitted men more than women.

To reiterate her point, Ms. Perry looks at what she calls the “earliest icons” of the sexual revolution: the Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and the actress Marilyn Monroe. Hefner and Monroe were born in the same year – 1926 – and are buried beside each other as Hefner bought the crypt next to Monroe’s. I was surprised to learn that Hugh Hefner and Marilyn Monroe never met when they were both alive but Hefner apparently claimed that “spending eternity with Marilyn” was “too sweet to pass up.”

As you can imagine, this caused some outrage because of the fact that Marilyn Monroe couldn’t consent to who would be buried next to her. Of course, most deceased people can’t decide who will be buried next to them! Hefner’s actions were also controversial because Monroe posed nude in the first edition of Playboy magazine and later claimed she only got $50 for doing it (I’m not sure how much this would be in today’s money).

According to Louise Perry, the lives of Hefner and Monroe show:

“in perfect vignette the nature of the sexual revolution’s impact on men and women.

Ms. Perry even quotes Andrea Dworkin, who claimed that Monroe’s “lovers in both flesh and fantasy had fucked her to death.” Given Dworkin’s status as a radical feminist who had misandric views, she might not be the best person to quote on this subject. It is true, however, that Hefner and Monroe’s lives turn out very differently: Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 aged only 36 whereas Hugh Hefner died in 2017 at the grand old age of 91.

Louise Perry writes:

“Hefner…experienced ‘sexual liberation’ very differently from Monroe, as men typically do.”

It should be noted that Monroe was not the only Hollywood actress of that era to die at a young age. Hollywood stars of both sexes who died prematurely include James Dean (24), Judy Garland (47), Montgomery Clift (45), and Jean Harlow (26). Harlow’s life was in some ways similar to Monroe’s in that both women were Hollywood sex symbols, both got married three times and both died young. Nevertheless, Jean Harlow’s death was in 1937, well before the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Louise Perry also claims that Hugh Hefner lived out an adolescent fantasy living with younger women in his Playboy mansion and had a coercive relationship with them. I don’t know enough about “Hef” to judge how much of a controlling or predatory man he may or may not have been, but you could say his lifestyle was overly shallow and hedonistic. On the other hand, it’s possible that Hefner had to play up to a certain image even in his old age and may have preferred an early night to being the ultimate Playboy! One ‘Playmate’ claimed that Hefner would lie on his bed “with his Viagra erection” which doesn’t sound particularly appealing.

Given his role as a figurehead for ‘sexual liberation’, Hugh Hefner was involved in other related political causes:

“After his death in 2017, a British journalist argued that Hefner had indeed ‘helped push feminism forwards’ by taking a progressive stance to the contraceptive pill and abortion rights and promoting them in his magazines.”

Here Louise Perry restates her argument: while the sexual revolution allowed women control over reproduction and freedom from expectations of chastity and motherhood, she believes it was more beneficial to male sexuality than female sexuality. In short, liberal attitudes towards sex has unleased male sexual behaviour and society, and women in particular, are experiencing the consequences of that.

This idea is not exactly groundbreaking, since you can find many conservatives, especially conservative women, who say similar things. While I can understand the general principles behind this stance, I think it is also incomplete and often one-sided, which I’ll get to later on in this post.

Louise Perry was originally on board with liberal attitudes towards sex but eventually had a change of heart. Her hybrid feminist/conservative viewpoint came about from working in a rape crisis centre and witnessing “the reality of male violence up close.” She goes on to write:

“It made me realise that the sexual revolution has not freed all of us, but it has freed some of us, selectively and at a price.”

As well as writing:

“I am baffled why so many women desire a kind of sexual freedom that so obviously serves male interests.”

Commenting on the commercialisation of sex, Ms. Perry points out the beliefs of those who advocate it:

“Sex is nothing more than a leisure activity”


“It has no intrinsic specialness, it is not innately different from any other kind of social interaction and can therefore be commodified without any trouble.”

These last two quotes are valid observations, which have been made by other writers such as the late philosopher Roger Scruton. Engaging in sex without any attachment involved can certainly lead to a lot of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment. Similarly, although I’m not a prude, I recognise that the commercialisation of sex has arguably made our culture more crass and self-indulgent than it had been before.

That being said, I should now explain my issues with some of Louise Perry’s views.

The reader will likely have noticed that Perry takes a dim view of male sexuality which has supposedly being unleashed onto society since the 1960s. In what could be considered an appeal to female superiority, Louise Perry makes this comment about the modern, commercialised idea of sex:

“In general terms, that has long been the male attitude to sex.”

Later she writes:

“On average, men want casual sex more often than women do, and women want committed monogamy more often than men do.”

While Louise Perry is right to point out differences between men and women, such as attitudes towards casual sex, it is clear Ms. Perry has a far more favourable view of female sexuality than male sexuality. From her perspective, male sexuality could be seen as being like a seedy, pornographic magazine, whereas female sexuality presumably is a Jane Austen-type novel full of romance, sacrifice, duty, and commitment; male sexuality is base, hedonistic, exchangeable and potentially exploitative in contrast to female sexuality which is romantic, noble, civilised and socially conscious. For Perry, women who have sex “like a man” to liberate themselves from traditional expectations are actually degrading themselves to be like men.

The idea of sex being a commodity that benefits men more than women, and is thus characteristically more male than female, is understandable considering that men are predominantly the consumers of sex industry ‘products’ such as pornography and prostitution. However, if men are able to buy sex, then some women must be willing to sell it. Likewise, some women must have chosen to become Playmates, models, prostitutes, or whatever without some evil spell being cast upon them by figures such as Hugh Hefner.

While there are no doubt men in the sex industry who are controlling, predatory and exploitative, there will be women who take advantage of the system for their own benefits. Similarly, while it is probably true that men can handle a casual ‘hook up culture’ better than women can, women in the sex industry, or many other industries, understand that sex is a useful quid pro quo. Think of women who have “slept their way to the top”.

Louise Perry does concede that some women enjoy casual sex but argues that it does not benefit women as a group. The problem, she believes, is the notion that men and women are the same – a.k.a. the blank slate idea of human nature.

In Ms. Perry’s words, if you think men and women are the same “why wouldn’t you want women to have access to the kind of sexual fun that men have always had.” Perry also argues that other sex differences are ignored, such as the fact that men are stronger than women but I don’t think this is as widespread as often stated. Similarly, she makes the points that there are more “super-horny” men than women are more “super-not-horny” women than men.

The following quotes may be familiar to anyone who has read Bad Men by David Buss (or my review of it):

“gospel of sexual hedonism is openly preached”

“The prevailing culture is a terrible deal for women. It demands that they suppress their natural instincts in order to match male sexuality and thus meet the male demand for no-strings sex.”

“Inexperienced young women are encouraged into situations in which they are alone and drunk with horny men who are not only bigger and stronger than they are but are also likely to have been raised on the kind of porn that normalises aggression, coercion and pain.”

“Many of these women are naively aware that men are, in general, much better suited to emotionless sex and find it much easier to regard their sexual partner as disposable.”

“Young women don’t have to look far for advice on how to overcome their perfectly normal and healthy preference for intimacy and commitment in sexual relationships.”

Perhaps it takes another feminist to take some of Louise Perry’s views to task: Cathy Young gives a pretty good review of Perry’s stance in this article for Quilette where she notes that Perry’s arguments have been made before by other women such as Wendy Shalit in her book A Return to Modesty. Young also writes:

“in her eagerness to push back against dogmatic sex-difference denial, Perry lapses into massive and drastic generalizations about women and men, despite some pro forma disclaimers that these differences are averages, not absolutes. Yes, the evidence of a greater male preference for sexual variety and a greater female preference for sexual commitment is quite strong; however, not only are there numerous variations in this pattern, but the preferences are often a matter of degree rather than a stark binary.”

Cathy Young – ‘Children of the Counter-Revolution’


“for all her dissent from modern feminist orthodoxy, Perry’s own feminism is stuck in the same woman-as-victim mindset. It’s telling that one of the feminists she cites most approvingly is writer and activist Andrea Dworkin, who died in 2005 and was briefly touted as a misunderstood prophet during the rise of #MeToo.”

Cathy Young

As Young points out in the above quote, it’s one thing to recognise differences between men and women, but being too black and white about the sexes can also have its drawbacks. It’s important to understand that humans are contradictory creatures who have desires that are not always compatible.

For example, we on the one hand desire safety and security, but on the other hand also desire danger and excitement. This certainly applies to our sexual desires. Women for instance may desire a stable, dependable provider in a romantic context but at the same time desire a ‘bad boy’ who will excite them sexually; men obviously like a sexually available woman but this can also be off-putting if men want to have children they can be sure are their own.

Perry reverts into a more standard feminist way of thinking by arguing that women have replaced one form of subservience towards men, such as a 1950s housewife expected to look after her husband, with another, the modern expectation of pleasing men with sex.

This argument ignores the fact that contemporary women have often been taught to be uncompromising, independent and have a dismissive attitude towards men and male behaviour. She also mentions a guide called ‘how to have sex without getting emotionally attached’ which suggests avoiding eye contact with your sexual partner. While it’s true that women desire emotional attachment, men who act distant and dismissive towards women can be attractive to the opposite sex.

Louise Perry proposes an alternative sexual culture that recognises other human beings as real people with value and dignity. While this is hardly an original idea, I’m not suggesting that Louise Perry is entirely wrong in what she is talking about, as it’s possible she is ultimately ‘right for the wrong reasons’. Are we any happier as a society following the sexual revolution? This is a question that is definitely worth asking but it all too often falls into the narrative of poor helpless women being preyed upon by beastly, sex-obsessed men.

As I noted earlier, Louise Perry does, on occasion, make some legitimate points. For example, she states that women need to avoid courting danger:

“here’s the point: rapist don’t care what feminists have to say. Posters that say ‘don’t rape’ will prevent precisely zero rapes, because rape is already illegal and would-be rapists know that. It has to be possible to say simultaneously that rape is reprehensible and that it is okay – in fact, essential – to offer advice that could help to reduce its incidence.”

She follows this by stating that rape convictions ‘are appalling low’ but this should take into account the difficulty in convicting a man in rape cases where it is unclear if the sexual act was consensual or not – the old ‘he said, she said’ problem. etc. Perry also suggests limiting opportunities for rapists because some men are aroused by violence and are unable to control their impulses. This is true but could the same thing be said for some women?

Similar to David Buss, Louise Perry comments on the potential dangers of women going on a night out:

“if you wanted to design the perfect environment for the would-be rapist, you couldn’t do much better than a party or nightclub filled with young women who are wearing high heels (limited mobility) and drinking or taking drugs (limited awareness)”

True, but for every potential male rapist, how many men would alternatively try and protect women from such men? And if women were so afraid and in so much danger, wouldn’t they never go out and get drunk in the first place?

At the end of this first extract, Ms Perry writes:

“My advice to them is this: only have sex with a man if you think he would make a good father to your children. Not because you necessarily intend to have children with him, but because this is a good rule of thumb in deciding whether he’s worthy of your trust.”

Although this advice is perfectly sensible, telling women to only have sex with men who may be good fathers is like telling men to only have sex with women who will make good mothers. What both sexes are attracted to in the other is not necessarily related to if they are good parent material. Just because a woman may be young and beautiful doesn’t mean she will be a good mother, even though a lot of men would want to have sex with her. Moreover, what women may be sexually attracted to men may not correlate with the men being good fathers. Women’s attraction to men can vary depending on their so-called ‘short-term’ or ‘long-term’ mating strategies also known as ‘dads vs cads’.

I’ll conclude here by offering an alternative reason why sex-positive feminists have promoted sexual liberation for women.

Many societies have placed restrictions on the sexual activity of both men and women, but may have been more lenient with men owing to differences in sex drive and because men don’t get pregnant. Restrictions that were, or are, placed on women can include forbidding the wearing of make-up, expecting women and girls to tie their hair up rather than letting it hang loose and wearing clothing that does not show off their bodies, such as the veil in Islamic societies. One obvious purpose for these restrictions is to reduce the likelihood of sexual interest from men which may be welcomed by women or not. This remains so even if women are married and sexually active.

Another, less obvious, purpose for these restrictions was not just to protect women but also men. This idea may seem strange in the age of #believeallwomen and toxic masculinity. Many men might also feel emasculated by the idea that they would need protecting from women. Why would they?

The answer can be found in historical portrayals of dangerous women. In Greek mythology, for example, sirens would lure sailors towards them with their beautiful appearance and singing so that the ships would crash on the rocks and the sirens could eat the sailors. Similarly, in folklore, the succubus was a female demon who would seduce men and make them physically/mentally ill or even kill them.

Given that there are countless portrayals in many cultures of women or female creatures luring men with their sexuality, it appears that humans all over the world have recognised that sexuality can be used to control, manipulate or even destroy someone. Although male predators – real or imagined – can be sexually alluring, it is often female predators who are presenting in such a way. Since men have a higher sex drive than women, they are potentially more vulnerable to being taken advantage of using sexual attractiveness. From this perspective, sex can be both a source of power or powerlessness for men.

We often assume that men have the upper hand in matters relating to sex because of their physical advantage over women. While this should always be taken into account, we also need to think about ways in which women have an advantage over men. For instance, women’s greater physical vulnerability can produce protective instincts in men which can also be exploited, whether consciously or not, by women. Women could also use their sexual attractiveness to play men off against each other or make a man sexually jealous by flirting with other men.

Similarly, women have always been able to shame men about their masculinity, or lack thereof, which can have a psychological effect. Obviously men shame other men too, but women can use sex and a man’s sexual performance as a way to humiliate, intimidate and even emasculate him. Consider how a woman could mock a man for having a small penis, or who “can’t get it up”, who “is quick at the draw” or that she fakes orgasms during sex with him. These statements could have a profound effect on men, whose identity is somewhat less clearly defined than women’s.

Although it may be taboo to suggest it, this shaming behaviour by some women may be, in certain cases, the root of men’s violence towards them, although this is not to condone such behaviour or justify violence against women in any way.

Prior to the sexual revolution, many parents may have been concerned about their sons bringing home a girlfriend who was, to use an old-fashioned phrase, ‘a woman of loose morals’. This concern would have been because parents thought such women were exploiting their sons or would not make good wives and mothers. It’s interesting how words such as ‘harlot’, ‘whore’ or ‘slut’ have disappeared from our language due to their association with a particular kind of woman and are now considered misogynistic.

In short, women who express themselves sexually can have a lot of power even it comes with vulnerabilities. In essence, both men and women are attracted to and afraid of the opposite sex albeit for different reasons: physical strength for women, sexual allure for men.

This arguably presents an interesting paradox, sexual liberation makes women more available to men, but it also makes men more vulnerable to sexual manipulation or attacks about their sexual prowess by women. Since women are assumed to be victims, men are also more vulnerable to being blamed for any sexual impropriety.

Being sexually explicit can also have an effect in other ways. In the Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls, there’s a scene where the characters are talking about which boy they might take to a 1950s style prom they’re having at their all-girls school. The sex-obsessed Michelle has this exchange with her friends and her cousin James about one of the boys she’s thinking of going with:

Michelle: I have heard he is really good with his hands. And when I say ‘he’s good with his hands’ I’m not talking about putting up shelves, girls. I’m talking about…

James: Everyone knows what you’re talking about , Michelle.

Michelle: “..fingering.”

James: Honestly!

I’ve actually encountered more women who talk in this sexually explicit way than I have men and had a similar reaction as James, although I’ve usually thought it rather than said it! Men who talk in this way might be considered sexist or even predatory which may explain why I’ve encountered in more in women.

One reason for this overly sexual behaviour might be as an expression of freedom – i.e. the freedom to express your sexuality without being judged or disapproved by others. Another reason may be as an act of provocation – i.e. to create the sort of response from people such as James, even it’s just mild disbelief. There is power in busting taboos as it allows the taboo buster to shock or even ‘trigger’ people who might be sensitive towards subjects like sex.

There is a balance here to be struck between acknowledging that women are more vulnerable than men when it comes to sex from a physical standpoint, while also acknowledging women can take advantage of men via their sexuality.

Women want to be protected from dangerous men, which is fair enough, but also want to wear make up and dress in a way that some societies would disapprove of. The fact that women dressing in certain ways encourages a sexualised response from men is often presented as a type of ‘victim blaming’ if women are sexually assaulted, like at a party or on a night out. The purpose of stating this fact however is simply to note that, regardless of women’s intentions, appearing in a sexually appealing way may trigger responses in certain men which can lead to bad outcomes for women. Feminists appear to want women to be both free to be as sexually explicit as possible while at the same time being free of any harassment or assault from male predators.

The key point here is that the sexual revolution enabled women to flaunt their sexuality without judgement and restrictions from society and in a way that might entice or disturb men, or both at the same time. While Louise Perry rightly points out some of the disadvantages for women, she doesn’t acknowledge that sexual liberation gave women a kind of power that societies in the past have tried to discourage.

Overall, I feel ambivalent about how much sexual freedom societies should have: what people do behind closed doors is their business, assuming that it’s consensual, and sex can be a very funny subject as well as a very serious one. Having grown up in the 1990s and 2000s, I’m fairly laidback about a lot of sexual matters even though my own experience has been very innocuous. However, a society that is laidback about sex has to be willing to weigh up its complexities in an intelligent way.

As I was writing this, I started to think that a better term than ‘anti-feminist feminist’ for women such as Louise Perry is ‘OG feminist’ because they believe that society needs to control male sexual behaviour for the benefit of women. The anti-feminist academic Janice Fiamengo made this fascinating video talking about attitudes of 19th Century feminists towards male sexuality which are very similar to Perry’s.

I’ll continue exploring Louise Perry’s book by looking at the second extract.

People vs Things

I occasionally type ‘masculinity’ into Google’s news section to see what articles pop up about the subject. Typically, there are pieces on ‘toxic masculinity’ that most of the time are not worth reading. However, sometimes an article comes up that is worth looking at. One such article was recently posted on the website Areo. In it, Stewart Slater explores the problems men face in modern society and how we define masculinity.

Slater here describes one commonly cited sex difference:

“The hypothesis that men tend to be more interested in things, women in people has been proven to have a large effect size by a recent meta-analysis. It has also been observed in rhesus monkeys so may well be rooted in biology. This difference is thought to explain the gender equality paradox— whereby, as countries become freer, the sexes increasingly sort themselves into stereotypical professions. Typically male occupations such as manufacturing, which are less reliant on face-to-face contact, have been the first casualties of automatization and globalisation.”

Stewart Slater – ‘Defining Masculinity’

There is certainly evidence to support this claim: if you observe the list below which shows the types of professions which are respectively male- and female-dominated, you can easily make a ‘people-thing’ distinction.

The male-dominated professions are all manufacturing/maintenance based and many involve risk, being alone or getting your hands dirty. The female-dominated professions in contrast are all either administrative and may involve working with children or the public.

Similarly, boys and girls have been shown consistently to prefer particular kinds of toys independent of outside influences and this difference can even be observed among primates. Girls tend to prefer dolls and other ‘people-like’ toys in contrast to boys who tend to prefer ‘thing-like’ toys such as guns, trucks and trains.

There is so much evidence to show this ‘people vs things’ distinction between the sexes that it cannot be easily disregarded by sceptics of natural sex differences.

Nevertheless, I do wonder if focusing too much on this difference can be a stumbling block sometimes. While the difference is definitely valid, the context in which you describe it can determine its effectiveness.

For example, if you wanted to make a general observation about how men and women are different to someone who didn’t know any better, saying that women are interested in people and men are interested in things would be useful enough to give the ignorant person some understanding. However, if you were having a more in-depth conversation about sex differences and how they are expressed, then I think the people vs things distinction can only do so much.

A while ago, I saw a woman I follow on Twitter (I think it was Helen Pluckrose but I can’t be sure) arguing that women are more likely to study psychology because women are more people-oriented and so are more interested in the subject. Someone in the comments pointed out to her that psychology was once a male-dominated profession and it was predominantly men who pioneered the field in the first place – I sometimes wonder if the word ‘psychoanalysis’ came to be replaced by ‘psychotherapy’ during this transition from male to female!

Carole Hooven makes a similar argument in her book Testosterone about women being more likely to be teachers due to being more people-oriented which again overlooks the fact that teaching was previously a male-dominated field.

Of course, women moving into the workplace in greater numbers over the past few decades has led to many of them choosing to go into professions that they are interested in such as those that are more people-focused which has changed the sex ratio of certain professions to reflect this.

It’s not a stretch however for people to assume that women being more ‘people-orientated’ means women are better at dealing with people. We hear a lot about women apparently having superior ‘interpersonal skills’ than men but it’s rarely specified what these ‘skills’ actually are.

I concede that there will be some things in the realm of interacting with people that women will be generally better at than men, but communication is very complex so why should we assume that women are always better at it?

One implication from this idea is that any man in a ‘people-oriented’ profession like teaching will always be lacking in some way. In other words, men have nothing unique to bring to these roles as they are not as ‘skilled’ as women in them. This implication could partly explain women’s dominance in these professions.

For all women’s supposed communication skills, it’s interesting that there are a lot of jokes about women being hard to understand, at least for men. Here’s two scenes from the animated shows Monkey Dust and Family Guy parodying men’s difficulties with women.

Similarly, since men constitute roughly 50% of ‘people’, there will areas where men are better able to understand other men. I’m reminded of David Shackleton’s comment in the Canadian documentary Singing the Gender Blues: “men know they don’t understand women. Women think they understand men.”

In addition to men being presented as poorer communicators, the idea that women’s ‘people skills’ gives them an advantage in the modern world may prevent us from criticising aspects of what might be called ‘feminine communication’.

It’s been suggested by some commentators that the rise of political correctness is linked to the increase of women in public institutions (which I’ve explored myself on this blog) due to more emphasis being placed on not offending people rather than being direct and honest with others even if this directness may sometimes be upsetting. The tendency to be more easily offended is also, on average, a female trait than a male trait which can additionally make communication difficult as women may find it harder than men to work with other people they don’t get along with.

This difference may reflect another ‘broad but useful’ distinction between the sexes which is that men are direct and women are indirect. If we broadly determine male communication to be more direct and female communication more indirect, we could weigh up the pros and cons of both. In fairness, there is utility in being indirect or talking around a point which is explained in this video.

Another flaw with designating certain occupations as ‘people-orientated’ is how you distinguish these kinds of jobs from others, given that any activity that involves people could be said to be ‘people-orientated’. I get that commentators have a particular type of job in mind when they are making this claim, such as a job that involves a lot of face-to-face communication or ‘caring’ professions like nursing, but it can still be a little misleading.

For instance, is medicine a ‘people-oriented’ profession since treating people is at the heart of it? Does this mean women have a natural affinity for it? What about law? Or politics? Are men always at a disadvantage because of this? Women are in fact becoming more prominent in these professions although this is also related to education becoming more female-dominated.

Although fields like psychology are now occupied more by women than men, there are still male-dominated professions which could be said to be ‘people-oriented’. Sales is more a male-dominated domain which involves interacting with people in order to get a deal even if it is not done face to face, such as over the phone.

Business as a whole could also be considered a ‘people-orientated’ activity which was, until recently, more male-dominated. Being a leader in some form or another also requires some ‘people skills’ to get others to follow you unless violence and tyranny is used instead.

Stewart Slater’s article mostly focuses on the idea that men are struggling due to technological advances leading to a decline in jobs requiring upper body strength and an increase in jobs requiring communication. This is a common observation, but the argument that men are at a disadvantage due to these developments can itself be switched around.

Since most jobs involving technology tend to appeal more to men than to women, men could potentially have an advantage as these jobs become more advanced and commonplace. Predictably, there is a lot of concern over the fact that there are fewer women than men in the so-called ‘STEM’ fields as this article describes.

Women’s relationship with ‘things’ is also worth exploring. Women are certainly interested in people, but other female interests include clothes, beauty products, accessories like handbags, furniture, art, books etc. all of which constitute things. You might say these are all linked to people in some way, but couldn’t the same be said for male interests?

To be clear, I’m not trying to disregard the ‘people vs things’ argument entirely or the people who make it. It’s important not to fall into the trap of dismissing a sex difference for simply being broad or even ‘stereotypical’. However, there’s a difference between saying ‘stereotypes are true’ and ‘stereotypes have some truth to them’. The latter implies that you can still scrutinise broad assumptions.

To conclude, ‘People vs Things’ is a good starting point to explore differences between the sexes, but it shouldn’t be an ironclad rule that all discussions about the sexes are based upon.

MMM#17: Review of the Blog in 2022

Another year has come and gone which means it’s time to look back at what has happened in the last 12 months with this blog and what I want to do with it in future.

To say that this year has been eventful would be an understatement. In the UK, we’ve have had three prime ministers and witnessed the death of our longest reigning monarch and elsewhere we have seen war come to Europe again through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the US, Donald Trump has relaunched another Presidential campaign and Elon Musk has taken over Twitter.

In the more mundane world of this blog, I set myself some targets at the end of 2021 and unfortunately I didn’t do too well! I think it was a case of biting more than I could chew. I have looked back on the targets I set and, even though I didn’t achieve most of them, I want to look at how well I did on each one.

Regular posts

I had a target of doing two posts every month this year but I only managed to do this between January to March. Although I managed to post at least once a month, I struggled to get a post finished before the month was out on a few occasions so I think this target was a hindrance rather than a help. Although I still want to post regularly, I’m not going to bother trying to post every month next year. Ideally I want to get to a point where I have enough writing to post more often. I’m not going to post anything next month and instead have a little break from writing.

More book reviews

My target this year was to read and write a review for five books but I only managed two and I’m still reading the books I had planned to review this year! I’m pleased overall with the reviews I did during the last 12 months although they were probably too long and detailed than they needed to be and it was often very draining writing them. Believe it or not, those reviews were even longer before I edited them. I’m still going to write reviews in the future but I want to try to make them more concise.

More videos (eventually)

I completely failed in this goal and I still don’t know when or if I’ll get round to making any videos at the moment. Next year I want to at least think more about this than I did in 2022.

And other things

This is the only target that I had any success with as I managed to write about other subjects such as films alongside my usual content. I have more ideas what I want to write about but I still have to work on a lot of them. I managed to redesign the layout of this blog as well and I’m happy with how it looks at the moment.

A bigger audience

I also failed on this front although I could have done more to promote my posts such as using Twitter. However, I don’t like to use that platform too much and I like having time away from political stuff – on the internet at least. Using Twitter more would mean I’d spend more time on there than I want to. Like my idea of making videos, how I could get a bigger audience is something I should try to think about more in future.

Instead of making more goals, my target next year is to just keep doing what I’m doing but keep trying to improve things. Happy New Year!

MMM#16: Elon Musk and Twitter/’She Said’ Flops/Qatar World Cup

Musk and Twitter

I try not to go on Twitter that much and restrict the time I spend there to once a week but I’m enjoying the drama that is unfolding following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the site earlier this year. Musk has reinstated accounts such as Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson, Kanye West and Carl Benjamin – a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad – much to the chagrin of many establishment figures.

Despite now being back on Twitter, Trump has not returned and instead remained on his Truth Social account. Musk reminds me a lot of Trump particularly during the latter’s Presidency as Musk has the same chaotic energy that drives many people insane.

Musk has compared Twitter to a town square but, as I argued in a post last year, Twitter – and the internet as a whole – can more accurately be described as a hybrid between public and private spaces since we can interact with complete strangers in the comfort of our own homes. Similarly, people interact with each other on Twitter either using their real names and photos or – like myself – behind a false name and image. This obviously makes the task of managing a major social media site such as Twitter hard to handle.

The question of which individuals to allow on the site and which to prevent is inevitably going to be one that Musk and his staff at Twitter will have to deal with for the foreseeable future. One solution I thought of was to allow those who use their real name and faces to have free rein over what they can say with anonymous accounts given less freedoms in comparison. There would still be a debate here however over what constitutes a banning or restriction.

Predictably, Musk’s actions have led to opponents arguing that hate speech will become more commonplace on the site. By ‘hate speech’ presumably they mean primarily ‘speech which we personally dislike or disagree with’. There has also been the suggestion that Twitter under the helm of Elon Musk is crashing and burning due to Musk’s eccentricity and hubris.

There is also likely some wishful thinking going on in the sense that people are predicting the demise of Twitter due to Musk’s mass firing of its staff and his admission that the site has various debt problems. The counterargument to this is that Musk’s reinstation of various accounts will increase interest in the site and result in more people creating accounts.

Despite various famous people claiming that they are going to leave Twitter, for the time being Twitter remains the go-to social media site for the rich and powerful. I can’t see an alternative equivalent to Twitter emerging any time soon which will culminate in a mass exodus of celebrities and establishment figures who can’t comprehend that other people don’t share their worldview. Many people announced they would leave the United States if Trump became President only to remain when Trump was elected.

The current talk around Twitter reminds me a little of the sneering criticisms that followed the launch of the GB News channel last year. In the channel’s first few months, it faced technical difficulties, disagreements over the channel’s political leanings and a rotating door of presenters joining and leaving with many people concluding that the channel would ultimately fail. Following its teething problems, however, GB News has maintained a steady number of viewers along with established and experienced presenters. At the very least, it offers a slightly different take on current events and news which is not provided by other news networks, although I still prefer online content creators. Similar to Twitter, many mainstream commentators hoped GB News would fail because they didn’t like the type of political commentary it could offer.

My prediction, such as it is, is that Twitter is not going anywhere and Musk will eventually figure out how to make the site financially stable by subscription charges or some new features to the site. Musk has said that he will eventually step back from Twitter and let others run the site but I hope he will continue to stir up trouble to drive the establishment crazy.

It will be interesting to see what unfolds during Donald Trump’s 2024 Presidential campaign and if Trump will return to Twitter during the election which, at the time of writing, is still just under two years away. Considering how eventful 2022 has been we likely have a lot to go through before 2024 even comes around.

‘She Said’ Bombs at the Box Office

A film about two journalists investigating the sexual assault claims against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein called She Said, based on a book of the same name, has been released and has only taken $2.2 million from its opening weekend despite costing $32 million to make. This puts the film among the biggest flops in history.

Despite being lavished with praise by critics, it seems audiences didn’t want to see a film about the #MeToo movement which has already been shoved in their faces since the Harvey Weinstein controversy emerged in 2017. It’s also been pointed out that other films have already explored #MeToo such as Bombshell which was about accusations against Roger Ailes at Fox News. Even Weinstein himself, via a spokesman, has gloated at She Said‘s poor performance.

She Said could go down as the definitive example of the idea of ‘Get Woke, Go Broke’. The film critic Armond White wrote a good article here where he notes that the media thinks that it simply gives what audiences want when in reality it just assumes that its opinions are widely shared by the public and makes excuses when certain films fail.

I don’t support sexual harassment but I don’t support the #MeToo movement either so it’s tempting to think that She Said flopping is evidence of the public giving a middle finger to #MeToo. However, the underperformance of She Said is a pattern shared by other ‘awards contender’ films being released which has been partly explained by people being more reluctant to go to the cinema following the pandemic. It may also point to the declining interest in Hollywood films in general.

The domination of Marvel movies and streaming services means that there is less appetite for people to go to the cinema for films they can eventually watch on services like Netflix. Award ceremonies like the Oscars are also declining in relevance. Being a film geek, although I’ve never cared about watching the Oscar ceremony, I’ve always liked to know who the winners were. However, this year I completely forgot about the Oscars and was only aware that it had taken place because of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. Also, most people couldn’t name the films that have won awards over the past few years.

Here’s hoping the failure of She Said is evidence that #MeToo is disappearing up its own backside.

World Cup – just woke bread and circuses?

At the time of writing, the FIFA World Cup is currently taking place in Qatar. Since FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 tournament, it has been the subject of controversy due to the country’s lack of footballing prowess, human rights abuses and political views that are not shared by most Western countries.

There has also been pressure on teams like England to make a stand for LGBT rights and continue to ‘take a knee’ against racism. I like football, so I’ve just watched the matches and ignored most of the politicking happening around it. A lot of other people have boycotted the competition though due to these controversies.

Detractors on the right or people who are just anti-woke in general often disparage the World Cup as simply ‘bread and circuses’ for the masses or use the dismissive word ‘sportsball’ to describe it. The argument here is that such spectacles distract people from looking at deeper societal problems but I doubt that many people would suddenly become enlightened about the state of the world if sports tournaments ceased to exist. The internet is a massive source of information yet many people are content to watch cat videos or argue with complete strangers about absolutely anything.

It is true that football is ultimately pointless, many players are overpaid prima donnas and the sports industry can be very tacky and consumerist. Not everyone likes football and that’s fine. Nevertheless, criticisms about ‘sportsball’ can just as easily be made against the entertainment industry as a whole. Much like films – unless it’s She Said – people turn to sport as a way to forget about all the crap that’s happening in their lives. Ironically, the insertion of wokeness into sport and film does the complete opposite of that.

At the Movies with Mystery Man #1

Ed Wood (1994)

From time to time, I want to write about subjects other than issues relating to men although that will remain the focus of this blog. Also, the depressing state of current events has made me want to turn my attention to other things for a little bit.

I’ve always enjoyed cultural commentary such as film analysis and have wanted to write about certain films for a while but had hitherto not had an outlet for doing so. Since most artforms contain, or at least inspire, political commentary, talking about culture – even popular culture – is a useful way to explore how societies perceive themselves. I only hope this will be interesting to whoever happens to read it.

Since I’ve already written about Johnny Depp on this blog because of the Amber Heard trial earlier this year, I thought it would be appropriate to explore a Johnny Depp film first. The film in question is Ed Wood. It helps that I wrote most of what is written here years ago when I first got interested in writing but never did anything with it. Some of the content of the film is also relevant to subjects I’ve written about previously on this blog.  It is Halloween the day after I am posting this which is also appropriate given the film’s content.

Ed Wood was directed by Tim Burton and it is the second of his and Johnny Depp’s many collaborations. In my opinion, it is also Tim Burton’s best film but also one of his least known. While I wouldn’t consider it my favourite film, I would probably place it on a list of my all-time favourites. Admittedly, this is for entirely personal reasons rather than a belief that it is superior to other films in some way or another. I have an interest in old B-movies, particularly from the 1950s and 60s, which were often very bizarre, amateurish and have an interesting back story to how they were made, even if the films themselves are dull and unwatchable.

Ed Wood is a biopic about the film director Edward D. Wood Jr. (1924-1978) who is played by Johnny Depp and is often infamously credited with the title of ‘Worst Director of All Time.’ The film focuses on a period of Wood’s life in the 1950s where he made his most well-known films which are famous for their low-budget and flawed productions.

Many of these films starred the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) who was famous for playing Count Dracula in the 1930s but had become a has-been by the 1950s. Wood was a fan of Legosi’s movies and hoped he could capitalise on Legosi’s status as a legendary horror actor. Bela Lugosi is portrayed in the film by Martin Landau whose acclaimed performance earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

The production of three Ed Wood films is depicted in Ed Wood: Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Wood made another film during this period called Jail Bait (1954) but this is never mentioned in Ed Wood. One reason for this is probably because Jail Bait does not feature Bela Lugosi whose relationship with Wood is central to Tim Burton’s film.

In addition to Bela Lugosi, the film also portrays some of Wood’s friends and associates who were key figures in his life during this period. These include Wood’s girlfriend Dolores Fuller (1923-2011) who is played by Sarah Jessica Parker (and you have to hand it to the filmmakers for getting Parker to say the line “do I really have a face like a horse?” at one point!),  John ‘Bunny’ Breckinridge (1903-1996), played by Bill Murray, Jeron Criswell King a.k.a. ‘The Amazing Criswell’ (1907-1982), played by Jeffrey Jones, Tor Johnson (1903-1971) played by professional wrestler George ‘The Animal’ Steele and Vampira (1922-2008), played by Lisa Marie. Most of these people would make several appearances in Wood’s films and became a kind of ‘band of misfits’ for Wood.

Ed Wood was filmed in black and white by cinematographer Stefan Czapsky to imitate the majority of films that would have been released in the 1950s and has a simplistic design again to portray the time period. In one scene the film plays on its lack of colour when the cinematographer for Bride of the Monster is asked whether a red dress or a green dress works better for his cameras and he says that he is colour-blind but that he prefers the “dark grey one”. The film was distributed by Touchstone Pictures which is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company where Tim Burton once worked as an animator.

The screenplay was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski who went on to write other biopics about obscure figures such as The People vs. Larry Flynt about pornographic magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon about the comedian Andy Kaufman. More recently they wrote Big Eyes about the husband and wife painters Water and Margaret Keane and this was once again directed by Tim Burton. I prefer these kinds of biopics to ones of more famous figures because they bring to light interesting people that are not as familiar or well known to the general public. Ed Wood has elements in common with Man on the Moon because both films feature recreations of events that you would not believe happened such as Andy Kaufman’s unusual publicity stunts and Wood’s bizarre films until you saw the real thing.

A recurring theme in Ed Wood is the various methods Wood had to undertake to get his films made. For example, in order to get the director role for Glen or Glenda, Wood had to convince B-movie producer George Weiss that he was the ideal person to make Weiss’ film I Changed My Sex! which was supposed to capitalise on the recent sex change operation of Christine Jorgensen. Wood convinced George Weiss that he could make the film because he was able to get a cheap but recognisable star in the form of Bela Lugosi. Wood had previously tried to convince Weiss to let him to direct the sex change film by claiming that he had “special qualifications” because of his liking for wearing women’s clothing. Wood’s mother apparently wanted a daughter and so dressed Wood in girl’s clothes when he was a boy leading to him becoming a transvestite in his adulthood. When Wood is asked if he is a homosexual when he reveals his transvestism, he responds by claiming that cross-dressing makes him feel closer to women and was said to be a womaniser.

Instead of being about transexuals however, Glen or Glenda mainly relates to Wood’s transvestism and has a sex-change operation story tacked on near the end of the film called ‘Alan or Anne’. Wood stars as Glen in the film and is credited as ‘Daniel Davis’. Bela Lugosi stars in the film as a kind of scientist/narrator but his character, much like the rest of the film, makes very little sense, especially as the actor Timothy Farrell also acts as a narrator during the film.  I’m a little surprised the film hasn’t become more well known in our age of transgender activism but it might be because it’s too old and obscure.

A key aspect of all of Wood’s films is their incredibly low budget which contributes to their often poor quality. Wood had to rely on single takes and fast production in many cases to get his films made and Ed Wood portrays the various difficulties Ed faced while he was making his productions. For example, during the filming of Glen or Glenda, which was shot in just four days, Ed films a scene of Glen wearing a dress and looking at a female mannequin in a shop window and sighing. When a crew member spots some police officers, Ed tells his camera crew: “We don’t have a permit. Run!” Similarly, during the filming of Bride of the Monster (originally titled Bride of the Atom) Tor Johnson, playing the part of Bela Lugosi’s dim-witted assistant Lobo, smashes into the door frame of the set due to his large size but Wood does not bother to do another take. Wood says that “Lobo would have to deal with that problem every day.” Wood also relied heavily on stock footage in the place of actual sets and special effects as he knew a man who supplied it.

Wood’s lack of money also meant that he had to find funding for his pictures in unusual places. For instance, during the production of Bride of the Monster, Wood encounters actress Loretta King (1917-2007), who is played in the film by Martin Landau’s daughter Juliet, and mistakenly believes that King has enough money to fund the film.  After she expresses her desire to play the leading part, Wood is forced to give her the role which was meant for his girlfriend. During production, however, he discovers King only had $300 rather than the $60,000 he had assumed! To finish Bride of the Monster, Wood had to talk a rich rancher named Donald McCoy into investing $50,000 in the film. McCoy wanted his son to play the male lead and for the film to end with a big explosion which Wood accepted.

Later, to fund the production of Plan 9 from Outer Space (originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space) Wood convinced his landlords, who were members of a church, to fund the film by arguing that a hit science fiction film would help finance the church’s ambition to make individual films about the twelve apostles. Wood got the cast and crew to be baptised to get the church’s blessing to make the project. Because Tor Johnson was so big, however, they had to be baptised in a swimming pool! In the film, Bunny Breckinridge asks Ed after being baptised: “How do you do it? How do you get all of your friends to get baptised just so you can make a monster movie?” Plan 9 from Outer Space has since become infamous for its cheap special effects, poor acting and glaring mistakes such as gravestones tipping over and fake looking sets. One of my favourite lines in Ed Wood is when one of the Plan 9 producers protests: “Mr. Wood, do you know anything about the art of film production?” Plan 9 from Outer Space has been awarded the title of ‘worst film ever made’ although I would argue that there are far worst films.

Like all biopics, Ed Wood takes some liberties with actual events and several facts and figures are altered and simplified. For example, Bela Lugosi is depicted as swearing liberally in front of both men and women which would have been unlikely in the 1950s. Similarly, Lugosi is depicted as living alone and being solely dependent on Wood for company and support. However, the real Lugosi had a young wife in his final years and lived with his son Bela Lugosi Jnr. Nevertheless, you could argue that the film neither confirms nor denies the existence of his wife and son. Moreover, in real life Lugosi and Wood met through a mutual friend instead of the chance encounter depicted in the film of Lugosi trying out coffins because he was “planning on dying soon.” Furthermore, Lugosi is depicted filming his character’s death scene in Bride of the Monster which involved him lying down in ice cold water and flailing the tentacles of an immobile, fake octopus. In reality, this scene was filmed using a stunt double. The rumoured theft of the fake octopus is also depicted as having happened in the film. Lugosi being buried in his famous Dracula cape is in fact true although it was his family who made the decision and not Lugosi as described in the film. Overall, although Ed Wood does not always accurately portray Lugosi, it still presents him in a sympathetic light.

Depp’s performance as Ed Wood as a cheerful, optimistic and ambitious filmmaker also contrasts with the real Wood who was likely a sleazier character and who ended his days making obscure pornographic movies and dealing with depression and alcoholism. The film ends after the release of Plan 9 in 1957 without presenting Wood’s later years. Tim Burton has said that he wanted to pay tribute to Wood’s desire to be a filmmaker regardless of what he had to do and has said that the film is a depiction of Wood’s life and career how Wood would have liked to have seen it. Burton when describing the film said: “It’s not a completely hardcore realistic biopic…it’s got an overly optimistic quality to it.” Burton’s decision to portray Wood and those around him sympathetically was no doubt because Wood had been ridiculed from his death until the film was released.

Given these liberties with the truth, the film is not without its detractors which is inevitable when you are dealing with a film depicting real people. Bela Lugosi Jnr., for example, was critical of his father’s portrayal in Ed Wood and believed that the real Wood was exploiting his father’s past stardom and vulnerable position to help make his movies. Nevertheless, the film suggests that one of Wood’s motivations for starring Lugosi in his films was to help Lugosi out financially. Lugosi was also struggling with drug addiction at the time of his involvement with Wood and was one of the first celebrities to go to rehab publicly. In the film, Wood is shown to be the only person to visit and look out for Lugosi such as one scene when Lugosi is being hounded by paparazzi. In real life however, Frank Sinatra is said to have visited Lugosi as, like Wood, Sinatra was a fan. There is footage of the real Lugosi leaving the hospital on his recovery and shaking hands with the staff that helped him. Lugosi was also interviewed by the press and mentions that he is filming another film project with Wood called The Ghoul Goes West.

In Ed Wood, Wood is forced to discharge Lugosi due to lack of finances and Lugosi expresses to Wood his desire to make another film. Subsequently, Ed films a scene with Lugosi to placate him. In actuality, Wood and Lugosi were filming a scene for The Ghoul Goes West outside Tor Johnson’s house. Lugosi’s death in 1956 would end any possibility of that film getting made. The scene that Wood shot with Lugosi was instead used in Plan 9 for Outer Space and Lugosi’s character was played in additional scenes by Wood’s wife’s chiropractor covering half his face! This could be an example of Wood exploiting Lugosi for his own ends, but Wood apparently thought using the footage was a tribute to his friend. While it’s possible that the real Wood was taking advantage of Lugosi, many people believe that Wood was sincere in his care and concern for Lugosi and that the two were genuinely friends.

Another character in the film whose portrayal has caused controversy is that of Dolores Fuller who was Wood’s girlfriend in the early 1950s. In Ed Wood, Fuller is initially supportive of Wood and is herself an aspiring actress but is later horrified to learn about Wood’s transvestism during the filming of Glen or Glenda. Fuller and Wood’s relationship is shown to be further strained during the production of Bride of the Monster when Fuller’s leading role was given to Loretta King and she was left with only a minor part. After the release of Bride of the Monster, Fuller leaves Wood due to his continued lack of success and association with misfits. The Tim Burton biographer Ken Hanke has criticised the depiction of Fuller saying that Fuller in real life “is a lively, savvy, humorous woman.” Hanke goes on to say:

“Parker’s performance presents her as a kind of sitcom moron for the first part of the film and a rather judgemental and wholly unpleasant character in her later scenes.”

Ken Hanke

Fuller herself was critical of some aspects of the film but gave the film a positive review overall and praised Depp’s performance. In real life Fuller left Wood because of his alcoholism and difficult behaviour and said that she genuinely loved him. After leaving Wood, Fuller went on to have a successful career as a songwriter for artists such as Elvis Presley.

Towards the end of the film, Wood meets Kathy O’Hara (played by Patricia Arquette) at the rehabilitation centre where Lugosi is staying and she would become his wife and remain with him until his death. O’Hara never remarried and died in 2006. O’Hara is portrayed as accepting Wood’s transvestism and is always supportive of him. From what I read on Wikipedia (not always the most accurate source admittedly) Wood’s and O’Hara’s actual relationship was more tumultuous than what is depicted in the film as they both allegedly got violent with each other when drinking. The real Wood had also got married once before to a woman called Norma McCarty who appears as a stewardess in Plan 9 from Outer Space. This marriage was later annulled apparently after McCarty found out Wood was a transvestite. McCarty and the marriage are not depicted in the film.

One aspect of Ed Wood that is entirely fictional is Wood’s encounter with Orson Welles near the end of the film when Wood storms off the set of Plan 9 from Outer Space after frequent clashes with his producers. Wood goes to a bar and finds Orson Welles seated at a table and approaches him. Wood was a huge admirer of Welles and was inspired by his independent attitude to filmmaking. At the beginning of Ed Wood, Ed laments the fact that Orson Welles had made Citizen Kane aged 26 while Wood was still not a success aged 30. Welles is played in the film by Vincent D’Onofrio but his voice is performed by voice actor Maurice LaMarche. LaMarche famously voiced ‘Brain’ in Pinky and the Brain and has voiced characters in other animated shows like The Simpsons and Futurama.

During their brief conversation, Welles tells Wood about the trouble he had with the studio over making his most famous and acclaimed film Citizen Kane:

“You know the one film of mine where I had total control: Kane. The studio hated it. But they didn’t get to touch a frame. Ed, visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else’s dreams?”

Orson Welles

This inspires Wood to return to the studio to complete Plan 9. The irony is that Welles tells Wood about his trouble making what is considered one of the greatest films ever made while Woods goes off to make what is considered one of the worst. When Plan 9 is screened at a theatre Woods looks at his creation with pride and says: “This is the one. This is the one I’ll be remembered for.” Again, the irony here is that the film will be remembered for its poor quality rather than the hard work and effort Wood put into it.

Fittingly perhaps, Ed Wood was not financially successful on its original release in 1994 despite being critically acclaimed but has gone on to gain a cult following like Ed Wood’s own films. Filming in black and white may have been one reason as this is a turn off for some people although it’s never been something that bothers me. Much of the praise was due to the film not mocking Wood but celebrating his ambition and determination. Films are notoriously difficult to make and even the worst films can be made with a lot of time and effort which is evident in Ed Wood. The late film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert lauded the film on their popular film review show at the time of its release and Gene Sickel noted:

“Once when I started as a film critic somebody said to me ‘You know, there’s this old story about this producer who would applaud at the end of every movie because he knew how hard it was to get any movie made’ – that’s the spirit of this picture.”

Gene Siskel

Wood has gone on to be praised as a man who made an effort despite the limitations he had available to him. Jim Morton, who wrote a book called Incredibly Strange Films praised Wood saying:

“Eccentric and individualistic, Edward D. Wood Jr. was a man born to film. Lesser men, if forced to make movies under the conditions Wood faced, would have thrown their hands in defeat.”

Jim Morton

I haven’t expressed much of my own thoughts on the film in this post which I think is because I just believe it’s a very interesting story. Other films I write about (whenever that happens) may contain more analysis. One thing I’ll comment on though is the film’s 1950s setting. I think a lot of people have a somewhat cartoonish perception of the 1950s as a period of dull conformity and the 1960s as an explosion of colour, excitement and innovation. I wasn’t alive during those decades so I can’t comment on what they were really like to live through but that is how this period is often portrayed in popular culture. Ed Wood shows that the 1950s had its own complexities and fair share of odd and interesting characters, at least in Hollywood, and so this period shouldn’t be dismissed as been entirely boring or ‘square’. It’s also worth noting that issues like transvestism and transgenderism were being explored even in this period of more clearly defined roles between men and women – albeit largely at the fringes of society.

Another message I take from this film is that even if what you’re doing is hard work with very little payoff, if you stick with it you can still accomplish things – even if those things are not very good! I’ve found that even though I have put a lot of work into some of my posts and only received a limited response, I still feel proud at what I’ve managed to achieve, whether or not the posts themselves are any good.

I would definitely recommend Ed Wood to any film fans or anyone who likes Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s other films. The biopic is ultimately a celebration of those who try even if they end up failing. Wood’s career has ultimately encouraged other struggling filmmakers to keeping going even if they don’t have the resources available to successful filmmakers and his films have come to have a cult following.

Useful links:

If you are interested in learning more about this film or Wood himself, I’d recommend checking out the links below.

  • This is a very well made review from 2012 by a YouTube channel called Happy Dragon Pictures which is where I got most of the information for this post.
  • Jonathan Ross presented this Channel 4 show in the late 1980s, before Ed Wood was made, which looks into Wood’s life and career. There are interviews with some of the people associated with Wood and it also gives some more background information such as what Wood did after he made Plan 9 from Outer Space.
  • This documentary was made after the film was released and explores in more detail the people who surrounded Ed Wood.
  • Wikipedia has articles about the film Ed Wood, the man himself and his films and you can even watch some of them for free on the site if you’re so inclined (or particularly bored!)

Thoughts on the Blank Slate

I recently read an article by Ed West on his Substack page in which he wonders why the blank slate theory of human nature still persists despite abundant scientific evidence against it and 20 years after Steven Pinker wrote The Blank Slate also refuting it.

In the simplest terms, the ‘blank slate’ theory posits that all or most human differences are the result of socialisation rather than biology or nature. Proponents of the blank slate theory can take issue with any suggestion that certain distinctions between individual human beings, such as sex differences or IQ, are products of nature rather than culture. In keeping with the rest of my blog, in this post I’ll focus here only on sex differences.

In his Substack article, Ed West writes:

“Rather than blank slate-led ideas falling into mockery and obscurity, the opposite has happened – they’ve proliferated and spread. Pinker was obviously right, yet seems to have lost.”

Ed West, The triumph of the blank slate

Evidence for this trend, according to West, comes from recent articles that deny certain differences between men and women such as one published in The Atlantic arguing whether or not boys have an advantage over girls in competitive sport and another from The New York Times suggesting that women’s maternal instinct is not natural (you can find the links on his post). More troubling perhaps is scientific publications such as Scientific American arguing that Western science only considered one sex – male – and the female body was considered inferior to it resulting in a ‘two sex model’ to reinforce gender divisions.

For me, the short answer to the question why blank slatism has persisted is because many influential publications, and institutions, have become dominated by people with the radical ideology we broadly call ‘woke’. I realise this is not exactly a groundbreaking revelation, but it is the simplest explanation to why the blank slate theory has still not disappeared.

Since ‘woke’ ideology assumes that Western societies have been formulated for the benefit of straight white males at the expense of everyone else, be they women, black or LGBT, any suggestion that, for example, male dominance in certain fields is a result of sex differences – rather than the preferred argument that men have gamed the system for their own advantage – is rejected.

I call this a ‘fact-narrative mismatch’ as any facts that go against the established ideological narrative are considered verboten. This has been complicated further by transgenderism, which argues that biological sex is determined more by personal identity than by our physiology. It was perhaps naive of us to assume that science would not be free of the kind of mental gymnastics that blank slatists engage in elsewhere even though science is meant to be objective and impartial.

Ed West notes at the end of his article:

“…as (Steven) Pinker points out, people can still fight for liberal causes while acknowledging these facts (MM: biological sex differences), but many people choose not to.”

Again, the reason for this is likely because it is easier to reject facts that go against a certain ideology than to try and incorporate the facts or change your beliefs to accommodate them.

The article concludes:

“It is odd that, as the evidence for genetic influences has stacked up, so the scientific community has come to be more enthralled to the blank slate. Strange ideas that Pinker confidently predicted were on the way out are stronger than ever, and the hereditarian view more, rather than less controversial — even such obvious facts as physical differences between the sexes are a matter of dispute.”

I would disagree slightly here because I think the controversy is more about the conflicting views of the pro-blank slate side vs the anti-blank side rather than one view taking precedence over the other. It is also likely that there are many people in the scientific community who have avoided getting involved in the discussion in the first place. Even feminists, who are often favourable towards blank slate theory, have ended up in conflict with each other over the transgender issue which challenges the existence of sex differences.

Ed West is correct however that blank slatism has been surprisingly robust even in scientific fields for reasons I have already mentioned. Furthermore, it is entirely possible that blank slate thinkers will eventually dominate the prominent scientific institutions – in which case we can only hope that genuine scientists can establish themselves elsewhere.

Nevertheless, is it possible to question or disagree with some of the conclusions reached by scientists about human sex differences whilst also being against blank slate theory? If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you may have seen my reviews of The Ape That Understood the Universe and Testosterone.

I am broadly in agreement with what the respective authors of those books, Steve Stewart-Williams and Carole Hooven, write about the biology behind sex differences and I thought both books were overall good. Even so, I pointed out in those reviews certain points that were made by Stewart-Williams and Hooven that I disagreed with. In short, I did not always share their opinion on certain sex differences even though I believe that sex differences do exist.

My main disagreement with Stewart-Williams and Hooven was not so much about the existence of sex differences, but more about how those differences are interpreted. I believe current understandings of sex differences can lead to a romanticised view of women over men which is one of the problems we have in current discourse. Steve Stewart-Williams was at least honest enough to note in The Ape That Understood the Universe that current theories about sex differences shaped by evolution present a more unflattering picture of men than they do of women.

Similarly, Carole Hooven ends up making vaguely feminist arguments in her book Testosterone despite presenting very good information about sex differences. You might say that beggars can’t be choosers in the present situation and we need to support academics who are against blank slate theory as much as possible. However, I think you can still support somebody even if you don’t always agree with them, which is often the case anyway. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t express scepticism towards some of their ideas.

For example, Steve Stewart-Williams and Carole Hooven both explore the more violent tendencies of men compared to women; I didn’t have too much of a problem with the information presented by either author; it is true for instance that men are more likely to commit crimes and acts of violence than women are. However, I got the impression sometimes from both books that male violence was some kind of taboo subject that believers of blank slate theory or other progressive notions were in denial about.

This assumption that male violence is a taboo subject reminded me of a post I once saw on Twitter which presented a graph on crimes rates between men and women. As you might expect, the line representing men was far higher than that of women, leading to mock surprise from commenters that men and women really are different after all. The responders possibly thought they were being very edgy and politically incorrect in expressing these sarcastic reactions but how many feminists would dispute this discrepancy? After all, look how much attention is placed on trying to change men’s behaviour and end so-called ‘toxic masculinity’.

To be clear, I’m not denying that men are more violent than women, only that pointing this out is not as provocative or dangerous to woke ideas as some people appear to think. In fact, this difference in violent behaviour between the sexes can lead to the following thinking process:

  1. Men and women are different
  2. Men are more violent than women
  3. Something must be done about male violence against women

Points one and two are correct, and point three is still reasonable, but this is hardly controversial for feminists. In addition, female violence is often overlooked or excused by the fact that women are on average weaker than men.

Let’s look at another claimed sex difference:

  1. Men and women are different
  2. Women are more empathetic than men
  3. If women had more power, then society would be better off because they would be more empathy and compassion.

I’ve written before about whether women are in fact more empathetic than men, so I won’t go over old ground. Maybe the difference in empathy is indeed true, but whatever the truth, point 3 is again something that feminists may believe themselves and they don’t have to have a blank slate view to come to that conclusion.

The fact that men are bigger, more physically stronger and more aggressive than women also fits very neatly with the feminist view that women are victims and men are perpetrators. Similarly, the fact that women are typically more risk averse and anxious then men can lead to the assumption women are naturally timid and need constant encouragement and support.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that acknowledging sex differences only takes us so far. It does not necessarily stop ‘woke’ or ‘progressive’ ideas such as feminism from taking hold. In fairness, this point was pointed out by Ed West and Steven Pinker in the above quote. Obviously, the answer is not to adopt the blank slate belief yourself, but I think having a degree of scepticism about some (but not all) of the current thinking about sex differences is important.

I admit there is a danger here in that you can end up in the same boat as blank slate thinkers in rejecting certain differences between groups because you personally dislike them. One way out of this is to consider how you deal with those you are in disagreement with. Do you believe that those with opposing views to yours should be prevented from expressing them or ‘cancelled?’. The answer for me would be no. It’s also crucial to have humility and not assume that your position cannot change in light of new information.

Returning to Ed West’s article, the impression I got from reading Steve Stewart-Williams’ and Carole Hooven’s books is reflected in what I read from West. In other words, I’m more or less on the same side as him, but I’m also more sceptical than he is about some of the current understandings on sex differences. I don’t mean obvious differences like men being physically stronger than women, but more complex ones such as differences in personality.

In his article, Ed West cites studies that suggest that personality differences are sex-linked and are larger in more equal societies than unequal ones. This increase rather than decrease in difference has been called the ‘gender equality paradox’ which suggests that efforts to eliminate barriers against both sexes allow sex differences to emerge freely. Occupational choices also seem to be more divergent between men and women in more equal countries which also supports this apparent paradox. There is likely some truth in this gender paradox, as well as the idea that both sexes have distinctive personality traits, but we can still run into the same problems I described before.

For example, Ed West states:

“When Jordan Peterson told Cathy Newman in a Channel 4 interview in 2018 that men tend to be more disagreeable than women, I was quite surprised by how many people were scandalised, seeing it as horrifically provocative rather than something so obviously true it takes courage to say it.”

Men are probably more disagreeable than women in the sense that men are more competitive and more likely to engage in physical violence, but I would still question the idea that men are more disagreeable than women as a general rule. It’s also important to note that personality tests are largely self-assessments, so subjectivity will affect results. Nevertheless, the pros and cons of personality tests are a topic for another day.

The assumption that men are on average more disagreeable is that, by contrast, women are more agreeable. Although we can easily find evidence that supports this idea – women are more nurturing, etc. it is easy to fall back into the same old narratives – women are victims, men are perpetrators and so on.

For instance, Jordan Peterson argues in his book 12 Rules for Life that agreeable people tend to sacrifice themselves for others and find it hard to stand up for themselves. This is often presented as one of the flaws of agreeableness. While being a pushover is certainly a flaw, it’s still a rather flattering one. People are far more likely to sympathise with an ‘agreeable’ person who is excessively selfless than a ‘disagreeable’ person who is excessively selfish.

If women are more agreeable than men, than perhaps something should be done about this. If only there was a political movement that wanted to ’empower’ women in some particular way? I’ve called this idea before the ‘women are too nice for their own good argument’ which seems to suggest that the worst thing about the female sex is their excessive compassion.

The mention of the gender equality paradox reminded me of a tweet I saw from Ed West a couple of years ago in which he posted a study suggesting that sex differences in narcissism were larger in egalitarian countries with men being higher (of course) than women. In response, I expressed scepticism in the comments like I have in this post.

If the reader thinks I’m just rejecting sex differences I don’t like, all I can say is we can still ask some questions: if women are becoming less narcissistic and more agreeable, why do men increasingly feel unhappy and discouraged about seeking relationships? Women who are high in agreeableness and low in narcissism would seem to be ideal marriage material, but many men are put off from getting married and are instead opting out. Women are also often presented as lacking self-esteem and being self-critical, yet women will freely criticise men while any criticism of women is met with outrage and women are told nothing is their fault.

I also don’t think the idea that women are more compassionate than men, like sex differences in violence, is particularly controversial. Notably, Steven Pinker argued in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature that the apparent decline in violence over the past few decades is partly the result of ‘feminisation’ and the ‘rights revolutions’ that have accompanied this. Women being less violent, according to Pinker, means they are more likely to advocate for non-violence. This is similar to the feminist idea that giving women more power will make the world a better place, and it came from the author of The Blank Slate himself! In this interpretation, femininity could be said to be the antidote to a world tainted by poisonous masculinity.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting there are no sex differences that give women an advantage over men. For example, I believe it’s probably true that girls pick up reading and writing quicker than boys do and can sit still for longer periods of time. This partly explains why girls tend to perform better than boys at school, although I don’t think it’s the only reason. Similarly, I think women can detect emotions in others more readily than men can, but I still wonder whether this is empathy as it’s traditionally described. I also think the idea that men and women are complementary – i.e. both sexes have strengths and weaknesses that balance each other out – is largely true.

Although I wouldn’t dismiss Steve Stewart-Williams, Carole Hooven or Ed West for simply having a different view of sex differences than mine – recognising that sex differences exist is as good a starting point as any of course – there is a danger that the conversation gets stuck in one interpretation and alternative ones are dismissed as the same as blank slatism.

As I’ve tried to show here, we can be against the blank slate and recognise that sex differences exist on the one hand but also debate some of the assumption about differences on the other. This is one of the reasons I decided to start this blog and something I’d like to write more about in future.

MMM#15: The Queen Is Dead

Queen Elizabeth II has been the Head of State my whole life so it’s strange to think that she is now no longer with us. I naively thought she’d make it to 100 as her mother died aged 101 and her husband died at 99. Since women typically live longer than men, I assumed the odds were in her favour even though I also knew that she was increasingly frail.

Her death comes at a time in the UK when we are facing a cost of living crisis and increasing cynicism towards our politicians and institutions. It’s hard not to think that the Queen’s death coincides with a particularly gloomy period of British history.

However, I did find the 10 day mourning period a welcome respite from the usual news even if some people may have found the media coverage about it to be excessive. It’s no surprise that there are a lot of people who are anti-monarchy and would rather the UK become a republic with an elected Head of State. It is also likely that anti-monarchists hated the displays of grief and pageantry that were ubiquitous earlier this month.

Although I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Royal Family – when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, for example, I volunteered to work rather than have the day off to watch it – my opinion of them has changed over the years.

I’ve come to the position of preferring a constitutional monarchy over the alternative mainly because I hate the thought of a President Boris Johnson or Tony Blair! The fact that many of the anti-monarchy crowd tend to be devotees of wokeness is another reason to be on the opposite side. Having said that, I know people who have similar views to mine who are also against the monarchy.

Nevertheless, the argument that democratically elected Heads of State can be voted out unlike Kings and Queens doesn’t convince me since the kind of people who want to be elected to political office are often the ones who shouldn’t be there in the first place! Why assume that whoever replaces a bad Head of State will be any better? Monarchs can obviously be tyrants, but in most cases in the modern world they are driven to serve their subjects and try to put their personal views to one side. Whatever flaws the Queen may have had, I believe her devotion to serve the British public was a genuine one.

A blog I follow called ‘Grey Enlightenment’ also argues here that celebrities, politicians, athletes, etc. in the USA inspire devotion in people despite not being elected to any position of power by public vote. This post also notes that, especially in the case of athletes, their high status is partly down to some accident of birth like being naturally good at running and so is not that different to an individual who happens to be born into royalty.

Critics of the monarchy, and the Queen in particular, do not always come from the pro-republic and/or ‘woke left’ though. Some people on the political right have criticised the Queen for not intervening at certain times during her 70 year long reign to try to prevent changes which, to right-leaning critics, have made the UK worse. This is usually relating to controversial subjects like immigration or political correctness.

During the Queen’s time as monarch, the UK went from being a great world power with an empire to just a little group of islands off the coast of mainland Europe that may well splinter even further. The social changes that have happened during this period, whatever their pros and cons, have also contributed to the tension and divisiveness we see today. In this sense, it’s fair to say that the Queen took a decidedly hands-off approach.

However, I’m not sure what the Queen could have done to try to withstand these changes without threatening the institution of the monarchy. After all, during this same period, trust in other institutions like religion and the police also declined, ending what is sometimes called ‘the age of deference.’ The British Royal Family had also experienced threats to its stability earlier in the 20th Century with the abdication of Edward VIII and the overthrow of monarchies in other countries like Russia.

Like everyone else, the Royal Family have had to adjust to a rapidly changing technological world which has completely altered the way humans live their lives and contributed to atomisation. This, to me, is one of the reasons why there is so much tension today as we don’t have many things that we can unite around. The monarchy, or opposition to it, at least provides something to bring people together.

I watched some of the footage of what became known as ‘The Queue’ and saw people waiting for hours to walk past the Queen’s coffin to pay their respects and I was struck by how religious it felt. People from many different backgrounds were clearly inspired by the Queen and it shows that qualities like duty and sacrifice are still appreciated. Whether or not the new King can evoke a similar response remains to be seen.

MMM#14: Defending free speech

The attempted murder of Salman Rushdie earlier this month has given rise to people declaring the importance of free speech which is often threatened by fanatics and extremists, religious or otherwise. The only thing I knew about Salman Rushdie prior to this incident was that he wrote the novel The Satanic Verses which led to the infamous fatwa being placed on him by Iranian ruler Ayatollah Khomeini.

Nevertheless, despite not knowing that much about Rushdie, I admire his courage in remaining a public figure and advocating for free speech despite the obvious threats against him for his work. The fatwa against Rushdie has not only resulted in this recent attempt on his life, but also the murder, or attempted murder, of translators of The Satanic Verses like Hitoshi Igarashi and William Nygaard. If I was in a similar position, I don’t know if I would be so willing to expose myself to such threats even though I know this would compromise free speech.

The importance of freedom of speech is highlighted by the willingness of people to defend other’s right to speech even if they disagree with them. Theodore Dalrymple notes in this article that Rushdie has said things that Dalrymple finds objectionable but still recognises that Rushdie is a “staunch and brave supporter” of free speech.

Although most people recognise that freedom of speech is important, such a stance is not without its difficulties, particularly in the culture war era. Rational centrist types might advocate for a world that is based primarily on logic and freedom of expression but it is likely that societies will never be totally free of taboos no matter how liberal the most powerful countries in the world become.

It’s telling after all that the socially liberal/neoconservative worldview of “making the world safe for democracy” has been met with a pushback by countries who have been occupied by the US and its allies such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The Western values that were offered to these places obviously conflicted with the taboos and customs that are prevalent in the Middle East. Not everybody wants a McDonalds in every street corner and a rainbow flag flying in every embassy. Personally, I’d prefer to live in the West but I recognise that people grow up in different environments and circumstances so will not have the same attitudes as me.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is also in some ways a clash against two different worldviews which could be simplified as nationalism on one side and globalism on the other with the unfortunate Ukrainian citizens caught in the middle of it all. While I don’t want to come across as too sympathetic to the Russian side, it’s notable that any criticism of the Ukrainian government (as opposed to Ukrainian citizens who I have every sympathy with) or the portrayal of the conflict by Western media as biased against Russia will result in attacks and condemnation. Here we see that freedom of speech in the West has its own taboos and heresies.

We can also see this in other areas. Would public broadcasters like the BBC, for example, employ a presenter on their TV or radio channels that openly opposed gay marriage, was critical of feminism or expressed scepticism towards other sacred cows like climate change? The answer is very likely no. This is in spite of the fact that many people who work for the BBC would likely be supportive of Salman Rushdie.

It has been pointed out by other political commentators that despite many institutions like the BBC being obsessed with all kinds of diversity, they do not try to promote diversity of opinion. One reason for this may be because the positions that I deemed as impossible for a BBC presenter to openly express (anti-gay marriage, feminism, etc.), would be considered ‘oppressive’ and therefore anti-free speech. That such positions would likely be held by religious extremists is also seen as evidence of their oppressiveness.

Social media sites have the same mindset as broadcasters in blocking or preventing the expression of ideas they find oppressive. An argument used by advocates of ‘woke’ or ‘political correctness’ in support of bans on platforms like Twitter is that these companies are private and so should have the freedom to ban whoever they like. Paradoxically, then, free speech can be used to prevent free speech.

This complex and contradictory aspect of freedom of speech has led me to think that it is not possible to have open debate without some amount of taboo and intolerance, although what this would look like is itself open to debate. Being free to speak and express ideas always appears to lead to some boundaries being set up even if these boundaries have some flexibilities. Even though I believe in as much freedom of speech as possible, the inevitability that certain ideas and thoughts will be discouraged and restricted seems to me to be a realistic observation.

In a sense, the culture wars are not just a battle for freedom of speech, but also over what issues societies should be prejudiced and censorious about. In other words, should we attack or restrict ideas that are thought of as dangerous towards designated victim groups, or against ideas that are dangerous towards Western civilisation?

Considering the intense and difficult debates that Western societies will have to address in years to come, such as how people with completely different worldviews and cultures can peacefully co-exist with each other, the relationship between men and women, and race relations among others, it’s at least a good thing that there are people like Salman Rushdie who will fiercely defend free speech, even at their own risk.

MMM#13: Are Women Being Erased?

Since Holy Pride Month has come and gone, I thought I’d write about an issue that currently dominates LGBT discussions.

Controversy around transgenderism continues to appear frequently in the news: the comedian Ricky Gervais’ latest stand up special included a segment in which he mocked issues such as transgender access to women’s toilets, the Labour MP Stella Creasy gave a bizarre interview for The Telegraph newspaper in which she argued that women can have a penis, the conservative commentator Matt Walsh has released a documentary entitled What Is a Woman? and Jordan Peterson had his Twitter account suspended for a comment he made about the trans actor/actress Ellen/Elliot Page.

The ongoing conflict regarding transgenderism has led some to conclude that women, in particular, are under threat since we seem to be unable to define what a woman is. For example, Brendan O’Neill wrote an article in The Spectator back in 2017 arguing that the word ‘woman’ was being erased from public life.

Similarly, the American conservative organisation The Heritage Foundation wrote about the erasure of women escalating in this piece. However, it has been noted that, since the overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, progressives have suddenly remembered what a woman is!

Are we heading towards a dystopia in which nobody can tell the difference between men and women and in which women themselves will be erased as a recognised group altogether? My own feeling is that this is highly unlikely.

While I like Brendan O’Neill’s content for the most part, it should be noted that five years have passed since he wrote his Spectator article and the word “woman” still remains in use in public, although the reader might argue that it too soon to argue against this claim.

A similar accusation is often made towards feminism wanting to erase all differences between men and women. There is truth in this, but I believe it is often overstated. Feminists can put forward the blank slate theory of human nature one moment and then suddenly notice differences between men and women when it suits them to do so. Obviously, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem as there is clearly confusion about how to define the two sexes.

Although I sympathise with many women’s concerns over issues like transgender athletes and the access that men who identify as women may have to female toilets and changing rooms, it should be noted that worries surrounding women and their safety have not exactly disappeared following the rise of the trans movement – #MeToo and the Sarah Everard case being just two examples in recent years.

It is interesting, after all, that even lesbian feminists like Julie Bindel (one of the more independently minded ones, admittedly) are on the same side as Harry Potter author JK Rowling in opposing the excessive claims of the trans rights movement. Again, while I agree with many of the arguments that so-called “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” (TERFs) like Ms Bindel and Rowling have made, my sympathy towards them is limited. This is because TERFs have been happy to push forward progressive ideas when these ideas benefitted women at the expense of men and have only objected to such ideas when they appeared to disadvantage ordinary women.

I have my own conspiracy theory that the trans movement was pushed forward by some feminists as a way to rejuvenate their own movement as many women no longer identified with feminism or, more accurately, considered themselves to be ‘post-feminists’ who had believed that feminism had run its course. The apparent threat of transgenderism in erasing women has helped feminism have a new cause to fight against even if it involves a lot of infighting – although infighting is common in feminism anyway. I’m not saying my conspiracy theory is true necessarily, but it’s fun to think about.

Most of the anger coming from feminists on this issue is likely because they believe their slice of the victim pie has just got a little smaller. I can imagine many of the feminists campaigning against the trans lobby suddenly aligning with them and saying both have a common enemy in straight men and the patriarchy when it suits them.

I’ve seen a few people wondering why transgender issues appear to affect women more than men and why women seem to be in more danger of being ‘erased’. It is often concluded that misogyny is the answer. However, there are other reasons that can explain why transgenderism has affected women rather than men, such as:

  • Since men are, on average, physically stronger than women a man who identifies as a woman is perceived as more of a danger in an all-female space.
  • Women arguably have a stronger sense of identity than men so any issue that encroaches on female spaces will be considered a bigger deal. Even an issue that could affect male identity, e.g. a transman who is pregnant, will be seen as more of an issue that affects women for obvious reasons.
  • In some ways, femininity is more flexible about boundaries than masculinity as it is easier for women to cross boundaries defined by sex than it is for men. For instance, women have entered previously male-dominated spaces more frequently than men have entered formerly female-dominated spaces (notwithstanding the current transgender controversy). Similarly, women are more likely to be bisexual than men who typically identify more as either heterosexual or homosexual. Therefore, the current transgender issues are possibly a reflection of this flexibility in femininity working against women.
  • Male identity has already been made vulnerable by feminism – e.g. women moving into spaces which were once exclusively occupied by men – and this remains so regardless of transgenderism, which will also have some effect.

Our obsession with transgenderism is disproportional to the actual number of people who identify as trans or ‘non-binary’ in the same way that people often overestimate the number of people who are gay. This article suggests that 1% of people in the UK recognise themselves as transgender which amounts to slightly over 600,000 people although that estimate may be inaccurate since no everybody will be identified. Notice that ‘identify as’ is not the same as ‘are’.

In other words, although 600,000+ people is a lot, this is miniscule compared to the 60 million+ population of the UK. Even though these numbers appear to have increased, they are still comparably small. Similar findings are likely in other countries of comparable or larger populations. It’s possible that the pro-trans rights lobby would use this argument to deflect any criticism against them by accusing opponents of overreacting so my point here is in no way to dismiss the concerns women have about all of this.

Even in this age of supposed “gender fluidity”, most of the teenagers and young people I encounter are still recognisably male or female even though there is probably more who identity as “LGBT” or what the comedian Dave Chappelle calls “the alphabet people.” On the other hand, I am aware that there has been a concerted effort to push trans ideology on children at a younger and younger age.

But if the number of transgender people is so small, why are public figures such as Labour leader Keir Starmer unable to answer questions like “what is a woman?” The mealy-mouthed response from such politicians is indicative of their well known tactic of not answering a question directly. On the surface, it is obviously absurd that there are people who can’t answer a question like what a woman is but I believe the issue is not so much that they don’t know, but rather that they don’t know HOW to answer that question. It is similar to a child asking their parent “where babies come from”: the parent knows the answer, but not necessarily how to explain it.

Politicians, mainly on the Left, are caught in what the South Park character PC Principal would call a “PC pretzel” where they cannot give a definite answer without upsetting a certain group of people. There is also an element of ‘having your cake and eating it’ about all of this as I’ve noticed articles about pregnant women using “women” and “pregnant people” almost interchangeably as a way of covering all bases to avoid any controversy.

For all of the concern about not being able to identify women and women being erased, it should be noted that the obsession with women’s issues in the media has never gone away. For example, a recent drama appeared on TV called Maryland which was yet another lamentation about male violence against women.

At the heart of this controversy appears to be whether we can define ‘man’ or ‘woman’ in purely biological terms or on individual terms.

I could be too charitable here, but I imagine their encapsulation of “what is a woman” would look like this:

  • majority – adult who is biologically female (cis)
  • minority – adult who is intersex/not biologically female but identifies as such

A man who feels like a woman trapped in a man’s body may believe he is truly a woman even though biologically he’s not. While this could be seen as taking philosopher Rene Descartes famous statement “I think, therefore I am” way too far, in our age of all-inclusivity, even these minority cases are included in the group ‘woman.’ In this sense, Stella Creasy saying that a woman can have a penis – if a man genuinely believes he is really a woman born in the wrong body – has some logic if you define ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as terms that can be applied depending on how you perceive yourself,. but you have to do a lot of convoluted thinking to get to that point. Even if you don’t agree with the explanation I’ve offered here, it makes more sense than the incoherence spouted by the people interviewed in Matt Walsh’s documentary, which is reviewed here.

At best, we can say that human are made of two sexes, male and female, plus a grey area where trans and intersex people (such as those described in Carole Hooven’s Testosterone) occupy and whose numbers, as already pointed out, are few and far between.

In these circumstances, we have to weight the concerns of the majority group – so-called ‘cis-gender’ women – with the minority of those men, who for medical and/or psychological reasons, identify as women.

I think eventually Labour and other Left-leaning parties will have to take a clear position on this as they will lose support and votes if they continue to be ambiguous.

I’m willing to hold my hands up and admit I’m wrong if the dystopian, genderless society does come to pass, but for now I believe that reports of women’s erasure have been greatly exaggerated.

MMM#12: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Although it’s a little belated I thought I’d write briefly here about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial which ended a few weeks ago and featured prominently in the news.

I looked at the news of the case only occasionally while it was ongoing rather than following it live as some people have done but I was interested by the amount of sympathy that was directed by many towards Johnny Depp, a man, over Amber Heard, a woman, which was in contrast to many cases of relationship conflict which tend to portray women in a more positive light.

Despite this being the age of culture wars and stark divides between people on a variety of issues, I was struck by how many people, regardless of their sex or political leanings, seemed to support Johnny Depp over Amber Heard. Who would have thought it would take a case like this for a consensus to be reached?

Of course, there were a few people who sided with Amber Heard and many more who were indifferent to the case and wondered what all the fuss was about.

I’ll admit that I was more on Johnny Depp’s side partly due to believing he had been a victim of the #MeToo hysteria but also because I have watched and enjoyed some of Johnny Depp’s films whereas the only Amber Heard films I knew were The Rum Diary (where she met Depp during the filming) and Aquaman and I’ve seen neither of them. Bias is always a danger in a case such as this as you can inadvertently mould facts to favour or disfavour whichever person you happen to be for or against.

Nevertheless, I understood people who took a more neutral position and thought both Depp and Heard were as bad as each other. Johnny Depp, given his excessive drug taking, is far from perfect and appears to be a poor judge of character. Who’s to say he won’t fall into another dysfunctional relationship?

It was encouraging to see women speaking out against Heard and the assumption that they should believe her because she was female although this may have been motivated by their fondness for Johnny Depp. Whilst looking at responses to the trial online I stumbled upon a woman who goes by the name ‘Colonel Kurtz’ (I’m aware that’s the character Marlon Brando played in Apocalypse Now), who has made videos defending Johnny Depp and, more controversially, the musician Marylin Manson who has been accused of sexual abuse by his ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood.

I was particularly interested by this 1 hour 45 minute video that Colonel Kurtz made over a year ago in which she analyses a number of Amber Heard interviews to explore Heard’s possible psychological problems. This video also features the very creepy looking Elizabeth Holmes who was behind the Theranos scandal. Later I retweeted Colonel Kurtz’s tweet noting that people’s interest in Amber Heard was partly because Heard represented the reality of false accusations by women (in Kurtz’s opinion at least) against men which had been denied by the media.

The idea that psychologically damaged women could use #MeToo to peddle false or exaggerated accusations of abuse by men was not something many journalists were comfortable with. It was amusing to see the mainstream media contort themselves into trying to make Amber Heard the innocent victim being bullied and harassed by online trolls which was illuminating in how reporting is driven by narratives instead of facts. At the time of writing, Amber Heard has continued to portray herself as the victim in public appearances following the verdict being ruled in Johnny Depp’s favour.

That being said, there was an element of a media circus being created to air the couple’s dirty laundry for the audience’s amusement and for us to observe how messed up Hollywood celebrities really are. On the other hand, the broadcasting of the trial did show the benefit of being able to observe a legal dispute between a man and a woman which allowed the public to see how both parties presented themselves rather than having to rely on potentially biased accounts by the media. I believe that most of the support that Depp received was down to him coming across as more genuine than Heard as well as having a far more competent legal team.

The Depp/Heard trial can be compared to other ‘he said, she said’ trials for more serious offences like rape. In discussions over how to handle rape prosecutions, there is often a debate about whether accusers should be allowed to be anonymous while the accused is named or whether both or neither side should be given anonymity.

I used to think that both the accuser and accused should be given anonymity but I’ve started to think it would be better if neither party was anonymous since it allows a neutral observer to decide for themselves who they think is telling the truth. Inevitably, there will be people who instinctively side with one person over the other but it seems better than allowing such controversial cases to occur behind closed doors. I doubt the suggestion that anonymity should not be allowed in rape cases will gain much traction though since the old excuse of “this will prevent victims from coming forward” will be argued by the growing number of people who seem to think “accuser” always means “victim”.

If the Marylin Manson case features prominently in the news, it will be interesting to see if there is a similar reaction to what has occurred with Depp vs. Heard. However, since Manson is not as well known or as well liked as Johnny Depp, I don’t believe the same amount of support will be present.

If there is one positive outcome to the Depp/Heard trial, I think it is that a lot more people, whether they are men or women, have become more sceptical about #believeallwomen and #MeToo.