Friday, September 6, 2013

Quick hit: rape and violence in Sweden is not increasing

For people who have heard that Sweden is breaking apart and rapes and violence are at RECORD HIGHS due to the immigrants: it's bullshit. This is the way rape and violence have developed in Sweden over the past couple of decades (note the time-scale, they vary a bit):
The upper line is for victims of "any violence" (16+ years of age), the lower for "assault" (16-79 years of age) (percent).

These lines are for "sexual crimes", upper line women, lower line men, and the total in the middle (percent).

Now some people may say "hey, that doesn't fit with this article I read!". Well, that's because you read a shit article. Any article that uses "reported crimes" for Swedish criminality is utter garbage. Why? Let's take a look at deadly violence - with deadly violence we can relatively easily show the real rate, since dead people are examined for cause of death. Here's a graph about deadly violence in Sweden:
Number of cases of deaths due to deadly violence in Sweden. Thick line according to reported crimes, lower two lines are cause of death-statistics from hospitals and the Swedish Crime Prevention Council.
Notice how murders have tripled according to reported crimes since 1990 while hospital statistics don't bear it out? That's because the police changed their system of reporting in 1990 and stopped removing duplicates, among other things. In general, crime statistics suck because a lot of it is based on trust of  the police and willingness to report, rather than the actual amount of crime. However, reporting about crime in a panicked fashion makes the media happy, so these are the graphs they use:
Amount of reported sexual crimes ("other sexual assault", rape, sexual abuse, indecent exposure).

Amount of reported assaults (lower lines against women and against children).
The graphs I showed in the beginning are according to crime victim surveys. These are by no means perfect, but the results are much less sensitive to the system used for police reports and willingness to report. They are a far better indicator than crime reports, which should never be used for that purpose.
Of course, if you want to argue that violence in Sweden should have decreased more since the 1980s when considering the lead theory, that's more of an interesting argument, but essentially, very little has changed over the past couple of decades in Sweden, crime-wise.
All data from here.
One extra thing, this is a graph over the number of people treated (per 500 000 people) in hospitals due to violence, with knife and gun violence in separate lines:
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Wonder Woman movie I want (and will never get)

Recently, the ignominous fates of various attempts to put Wonder Woman on screen have been discussed, such as the failed Wonder Woman tv show pilot and the Joss Whedon movie that never got off the ground. Since many other comic book adaptations are moving forward, many of which feature far less recognisable characters, this is rather disappointing to us Wonder Woman fans:

However, I have to admit that I don't expect to ever be really happy with a Wonder Woman movie. Because it really is pretty complicated compared to, say, Batman and Superman. Batman is by virtue of not having powers and being raised there tied to Gotham City, and his target is the rampant criminality and the direct harm it causes to the people of Gotham. That's what the movies have shown, and it's very much congruent with what we know of his past. Superman stands for (unironically) Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and was raised with good ol' American values on a farm in Kansas (luckily not modern day Kansas). His ties to Metropolis, the US, and his wish to be both a normal person and a superhero are easily understood and can be shown quite straightforwardly.

Wonder Woman by K.Feigenbaum
Wonder Woman, however, is a warrior-philosopher from the hidden island Themyscira, who believes in truth, positive peace, and equality (among other things), while having no allegiance to any established country or creed in the "world of men". If you keep that origin (which I very much want them to do, if they ever create a movie), it's difficult to see how you're supposed to create the hooks to a specific location and specific people. I mean, why would someone who wants to bring peace to the world go to the US in the first place? And why would she approve of a world where the wealth of the world is concentrated in a just a few hands? Why would accept that trafficking victims are deported after being "rescued" or the structure of a society where trafficking is possible? Remember when Wonder Woman stopped The Flash from putting out a forest fire because forests need intermittent fires? How would she really react to the way the world's resources are being over-used?

This is not to say that she would necessarily have to have the same moral principles that I believe in, but rather that a character who has the power to take on entire countries, combined with strong beliefs and convictions, would be incredibly uncomfortable to all of us, and certainly to governments and  other superheroes who tacitly accept the status quo. It is also not to say that she'd have to go around righting wrongs left and right and create a utopia - after all, power alone can't create sustainable change, might does not make right, and the balance between negative peace (stability) and positive peace (justice) is not always a given. But I am saying that for a Wonder Woman who keeps the usual origin, if you ask the question "what would she do when she leaves Themyscira?" the answer wouldn't be easy, and I don't think it would be very comfortable. Nevertheless, it's the kind of movie I would like to see. And it's a movie that would never fit in with DC and WB's vision of a movie universe centered around the Justice League.

If we turn away from what I want for a moment, I do hope that whatever we do get won't follow the model of "Single Female Superhero" that the two latest TV series adaptations seemed to be, and that however Wonder Woman will be depicted, she will be a lot more alien in many ways in comparison to Superman and Batman.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Papers, Please is out, and it's art

Papers, Please (you can also download a free beta version here) is a computer game which succeeds where many others fail in creating art. There have been others, of course, such as the simple flash game dys4ia, as well as interesting narrative experiences such as The Path. A good and accessible source for interesting indie game development as well as the mainstream are Patrick Klepek's Worth Reading articles on Giant Bomb, for those who are interested.

What Papers, Please manages is to wrap a game mechanic that relates intimately to the real life experiences of many in a setting which is enjoyable to explore through the game. You are a border guard in a fictional Eastern Bloc country of the 1980s, having been assigned the position and every day having to deal with ever more complicated rules to control the people who want to get into Arstotzka (Glory to Arstotzka!). Throughout the game you are confronted with the life stories of prospective visitors and immigrants to Arstotzka as well as the political developments through the eyes of a border guard. As the breadwinner you have to keep your family fed, sheltered, and warm, else they will start getting sick and ultimately die. Though a totalitarian state with a Communist bent, food, heat, and shelter costs money, and you get paid for your labour for every person you process - if you process someone incorrectly (either letting the wrong person in or denying the wrong person) you first get a warning and don't get paid for them, and then you start racking up fines. As such, you are under time pressure to scrape together enough money for your family to live on, as well as follow the rules accurately, no matter how draconian. Of course, instead of reading this description, you could have just watched this video to see the gameplay.
The rules change as the rulers of Arstotzka react to fears of terrorist attacks, smuggling, and immigration with progressively harsher rules in regards to documentation, fingerprinting, body scanning, and whatever else can be thought up to make sure that only the "right" people enter your borders.

The game can be seen as many things; the art style and your job brings forth a vision of the dreary, grey drudgery and long lines of the Communist bloc countries, the progressively harsher rules and technologies can be seen as a send-up of TSA security paranoia, while your position as a border guard can (and should) serve to highlight the daily injustices inherent in border crossings (oh, you don't have the right documentation - well, that's a valid reason to send you to your death in your own country).

What makes it art to me, though, is that the experience of the game is generalisable to a lot of bureaucratic positions today and highlights the moral quandary of the individuals put in those positions as well as a society based on that kind of logic. Every government employee whose job it is to review applications face it to some extent, as well as insurance adjusters, or something as simple as accepting warranty returns. On the one hand, you have a resource or service that people have a right to, and on the other hand you have people who are employed and are evaluated on their efficiency (where efficiency means getting people through the door as quickly as possible) and rules and forms that can overwhelm a lot of people who aren't experienced with working the system (or simply do not have the time to do so). Though people to a greater extent have a choice than the character you play in the game (labour lotteries not being that common), most people are cogs in the greater machine, and the refrain repeated by Jeff in the video linked above is just as valid in our society: hey man, I have to feed my family. Most of us don't live in totalitarian hell-holes relegated to class-8 housing, but we do live in societies where someone is tasked with rejecting insurance claims, sending people back to countries where they get killed, work in a justice system that is often unjust, force disabled people to look for jobs daily because there might be that one job where they can work while lying down, or be a prison guard. It's not like conscientious objector status exists at the unemployment office, and moral rectitude is not very often celebrated when it comes to promoting people.

Today even supposedly inefficient government jobs are ruled by NPM principles, by which most positions have to reach productivity goals defined by what is possible to measure, which often comes down to processing people as quickly as possible, just like the protagonist in Papers, Please. Did someone fill in a form incorrectly, not understand directions, need to visit some other office before coming to yours? Well, that's too bad, but it's not really your job and your productivity goals does not really mesh with explaining the form to a 70-year old. So you give them a pamphlet and send in the next person. Since it's everyone's personal responsibility to read up on the rules (readily available on the department webpage for everyone who can operate a computer), are you really to blame for shoving them out the door? In the game, if someone fleeing political persecution is lacking a stamp, is it really your fault for rejecting them? Sure, you might get a twinge of regret when you read about political dissidents being executed in the country you sent them back to, but you do have to feed your family. And you do have the ambition to get a better job. And rules are rules. And that's true whether you're a border guard in Arstotzka, a Swedish Migration Board employee, an insurance adjuster, or a DMV worker, even if the consequences differ significantly. The employees in the trenches have to do their job quickly, otherwise they get screwed, no matter if it fucks over the people who need some extra time to understand a form or whom the rules unfairly target.
That is the world that Papers, Please shows us. And hopefully it also makes us ask ourselves if that's the way it should work.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oozing privilege awarely

This was written on an airplane and not really edited so no promises in regards to quality. Or, you know, sense.
While listening to Jaclyn Friedman's podcast Fucking While Feminist on the topic of Chloe Angyal's work on romantic comedies recently, I reacted a bit when Jaclyn and Chloe mentioned an attitude that writers of "smarter" rom-coms have: "we're smarter than this, but we're still going to do it". It's when writers clearly signal that they're aware of the tropes of the genre, or realise the problematic nature of what they write, and then use the fact that they have signalled that to do the same thing. It was something I recognised because it's one of the things I do a lot as someone who's progressive, believes in social justice, and importantly, is a white, straight, cisgendered man. It's also something I'm starting to get tired of.

An oft-quoted piece of wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut is that we should be careful with who we pretend to be, because that's actually who we are. In that light, the smart and ironically aware behaviour of progressive people in privileged positions (and people who don't define themselves as progressive but do consider themselves to be better than being racist, transphobic, sexist, or homophobic) is starting to bother me. Who are we pretending to be when we spend a second on establishing that "we all think racism is bad" and then spend a whole lot more time on jokes and conversation which would, were it said by "them", disgust us deep into our progressive souls.


Irony is a powerful tool and can provide a needed and welcome outlet for the oppressed, but when used by supposed allies speaking from a position of privilege, it can instead work to distance ourselves from injustices, because accepting the reality of those injustices, and our participation in them, would be extremely uncomfortable. One example that comes to mind is one of my favourite online hangouts, Broken Forum, which is a forum that skews politically to the left and have strong ideals when it comes to social justice issues. On that forum there is a thread called "Insert your hilarious examples of white privilege here" - we all "know" that white privilege is bad, and we all frown mightily at the people who exhibit it and use that thread to name such people... except that the thread itself, given that it's overwhelmingly frequented by white people, speaks of white privilege itself. After all, white privilege is, at its core, not something that's fun - it forms the basis of the treatment of people of colour in a lot of western countries, and works against reforms that would create a juster society. It's a huge part in the recent tragedy of the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer and puts the real lives of people of colour at risk from both state and common people. The author and participants of the thread naturally mean well (we always do, after all) and see white privilege as something both bad and sad , but I would argue that it's only our distance to the negative effects of white privilege that allows us to talk about it in terms of hilarity.


It's the reason I can read an odious place like freerepublic and laugh at how over-the-top and weird the people are - I very rarely feel targeted by the threats, hate, and slurs they dish out every second. This doesn't mean I'm a person with a healthy distance to the world, it means I'm immune from the direct negative effects, and that is a privilege that very few people, on the whole, have. If we don't respect that, and try to avoid creating a culture around us that only makes people who share our privilege comfortable, we'll never be able to have a constructive conversations about oppression and how to resolve such issues together.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Yay! Same-sex marriage! Now let's get rid of marriage

Time to start being against marriage again! Obviously as an issue of equal rights, I'm for expanding marriage to cover same-sex couples, but marriage has never been something that I actually like. As a recognition of gay couples it's been great to see the tide shift, but as an article on Slate recently wrote, it has gone together with a greater appreciation for marriage among everyone. Which is a great pity, because no matter what everyone else thinks, I do want to destroy marriage.

Ok, so if a couple or other constellation of people want to make a promise to each other and refer to it as a marriage, that's great for them and I certainly hope no one would stop them. But what I do want is for the state to stop privileging marriages as the legally recognised relationship above all others. As the same-sex marriage debate has made clear, there are several rights and privileges exclusive to being married, and above all else, it's the easiest way of clarifying your relationship in a way that will be legally recognised. Which is great for the people who see close, monogamous, long-term relationships as the way they want to live their lives (and actually end up doing so; best laid plans don't always work out), but leaves the rest of us in a bit of a bind. I'm not going to list the myriad of ways that people might prefer their relationships that don't fit the narrow definition expected by legal marriage, as they should be obvious to most. Start with polyamory or shorter term relationships and work from there, if you want to.

It's a well-known phenomenon (at least in Sweden) that when couples have children they get married if they weren't before. Why? Because of security - it's a way to make sure that they have the benefits that married couples do and make clear the relationship in case of death or other forms of upheaval. To be in a clear situation in regards to the law, your potential children, and to your partner(s) is important to most everyone, though. Keeping marriage (and common-law marriage and limited cohabitation laws) as the main way to organise that, you disadvantage a lot of people who don't want to order their lives according to those principles.

So what I want is for the state to offer a simple way for people to organise their lives with others, whether it's based on a romantic connection, platonic, friend, or family relationship, so that you have an easy and widely accepted way to make clear your wishes in regards to property, medical decisions, and any of the other situations that come up when people share their lives. It should be as simple as possible to do and to change (though obviously we must allow that people have reasonable expectations once you've started sharing property, not to mention what happens when children are involved). Won't be easy to implement, but it's way past time to open up more possibilities for letting people organise their lives together with others.

Some people prefer getting the state out of people's relationships entirely and don't see a need for registries of that sort, but most people don't have the resources to spend researching legal arrangements that can help in relationships, and that's why I think the state can be helpful in providing a shorthand for that kind of thing.

I also have pretty strong opinions about marriage as an institution in general (antiquated, hetero-normative, unrealistic, patriarchal mess that it is), but I will leave that for another post. This one is simply trying to say: let people live the lives they want.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gay athletes and the cult of masculinity

Jason Collins came out today. The reason that this is noteworthy is that he is the first active male athlete in a major American sports league to come out as gay. Despite the progress that has been made in the past years and all the qualifiers in the last sentence showing how few barriers there are left, he will undoubtedly catch a lot of crap for being a male homosexual athlete, whether from fans or on the court or in locker rooms. I wish him all the best and that he'll get the support he deserves from fans, friends, the league, and his teammates.
However, I want to take this moment to talk a bit about sexism, femininity, and masculinity. The reason why coming out as a man in the world of professional sports is so rare is of course that there are certain gendered expectations in society: the stereotype is still to an extent that there's something wrong with gay men, that they are not quite masculine enough. Straight-up homophobia is definitely part of the equation, but to quote a New York Times article from a couple of weeks ago about female star athlete Brittney Griner coming out:
“We talk a lot in the L.G.B.T. community about how sexism is a big part of what contributes to homophobia,” said Anna Aagenes, the executive director of GO! Athletes, a national network of L.G.B.T. athletes. “It’s disheartening when there are so many great role model female athletes out that we’re so focused on waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in one of the four major sports.”
Vice versa, lesbians have often been considered "wrong" as women, and since achieving in the sporting world is not intrinsically tied to our notions of femininity, it's one reason why it's easier to come out as a female athlete (not that that means it's easy, of course), apart from the sexism inherent in the fact that less people pay attention to women's athletics.
The idea of masculinity and male homosexuality is a rather large topic to tackle in a short blog post, but let's just say that whether in the form of masculinity-eschewing or hypermasculine behaviour, the stereotypes of gay men that are common have been at odds with those masculinities thought appopriate for the sporting world. One is threatening by saying that men can be feminine, or at least not follow traditional standards of masculinity, and the other projects a kind of threatening male sexuality directed at other men. Both are anathema to the toxic notions of masculinity that still rule the day, exemplified in many ways in sports culture, which say that men should be strong physically and emotionally, have the capacity for violence, independent, competitive, and not cry, not show human weakness, not be victims, and not be vulnerable. To make sure athletes conform, the worst insults imaginable are often used in sports against those behaving wrongly: girl, lady, and fag.

A hope I have is that the discussion about homosexuality in men's sports that will result from Jason Collins coming out will also focus a lot on these pernicious notions of masculinity and the odious sexism that go hand in hand with it, and that the culture surrounding sports can be very negative and reinforce gender norms that are incredibly harmful (even though athletics, all other things being equal, is a good thing), both on the court and in the supporter culture (where predominantly European examples of hooliganism are the most obvious, but it's certainly not limited to those). What I suspect and fear, however, is that this will not be the starting point of a much-needed discussion about toxic masculinity and sexism, but will rather be a step in colonizing gay culture with the self-same ideals of toxic masculinity and thus establish them even further in the norm.
As J. Bryan Lowder points out, Jason Collins' coming-out article is also a display of anxiously defending his normative masculinity:
At least one of the answers, of course, is the homophobic nature of his industry, and, unfortunately, that is a state of affairs he never criticizes directly beyond promising to set “hard picks” against individuals who trash-talk him. If anything, Collins takes pains to appease the players, coaches and fans who make up the sports-masculinity complex that will determine whether his career continues, and unwittingly, insults some of his new friends in the process. To start, Collins makes the classic maneuver of exempting himself from the dreaded gay “LABEL” (I’m never sure what that means) and then spends multiple paragraphs telling us how butch and eager to foul he is. At this point, I’m waiting for it, and Collins delivers: “I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay?”
 I'm appy Jason Collins is coming out; it's an important step far too long in the making, but the way he (and a lot of commentators) needs to stress that "I'm just like you, in fact, I'm more like you than you are!" makes me think that the door that's opening will be quite narrow. In other words, it will be ok to be gay, as long as you're performing the same old athletic hypermasculinity, and that's a smaller step than I would prefer to see, and I fear that the stronger message will be for gay men to act more according to masculine norms that we should all work to tear down.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Manly men in Defiance

I've watched about half of the pilot to the new sci-fi series Defiance so far, and so far it is seriously disappointing me (having been a big fan of Rockne S. O'Bannon's Farscape), mostly because it seems to be a dick-measuring contest between alpha males (discredited though the concept may be). Rough male protagonist comes to the city which has a conflict brewing between the men of two families and then it just starts feeling like a display of different masculinities competing. Admittedly, the mayor of the city is a woman, who coincidentally is the only one who seems to be expressing doubt about her abilities in the series so far. Otherwise the women mostly seem to exist as daughters, sisters, prostitutes, and lovers, classic archetypes playing their background parts.
And it's just. So. Boooooring. Maybe this reflects a greater failure of the series to make me care for the characters, but a big part of that is that the genders seem like cardboard cutouts at this point. And for a series that's about the enormous changes that have happened to Earth after the arrival of eight alien races, it doesn't seem very imaginative. I think I will try to push through the first couple of episodes all the same and see if there's any improvement, but I'm not holding out hope.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Is Sweden suffering a rape and violence epidemic?

Yes, I know there's Betteridge's law for these situations, but I have noticed this issue being mentioned more often in places I frequent online recently. The idea is that Sweden is becoming horribly violent with rape statistics going through the roof, often with the implication that it's because we're too soft on crime or the ever-present specter of immigration. Naturally this is also a line pushed by populists and nationalists looking for more success in the next election, and it's a line people tend to believe.
However, the answer to the title's question is no. NO.

This is not to say that there isn't a rape problem or culture, that it's not something that is often treated incredibly poorly, that there doesn't exist extensive problems with victim-shaming and rape apologia, nor that Sweden doesn't have a high rate of rape and sexual violence (something that the EUICS from 2005 suggests). However, the charge that rape and violence is clearly on the increase is simply not true. For evidence, let us go to Brottsutvecklingen i Sverige 2008-2011 (Crime Development in Sweden 2008-2011) by the government body BRĂ… (The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention).
Let's start off with two charts that people use to make the case that we're dealing with an unprecedented increase in violent crimes in Sweden (on page 73 and 115, respectively):


The thick line of the first graph shows the development of reported assault cases in Sweden since 1975 (the dotted line is assault against women age 15 and higher, and the lowest line is against children 0-14 years). The thick line of the second graph shows reported rape cases in Sweden since 1975 and the other lines other types of sexual crime. So, case closed, right? Since 1990, we've had more than a doubling of assaults and almost a quadrupling of rapes!
Well, no. These tables show crime reports to the police, which change over time due to many different factors. First and foremost, for a crime to be reported either a victim, bystander, or other person has to report it. To report it, the population has to think that the police are trustworthy, how easy it is, and that it would make sense to report it. Rape is a crime where the willingness to report has changed over time due to changes in social acceptance of rape and still depends very much on the nature of the crime. Standards have also changed as to what is an acceptable level of violence before you bring in the police (perhaps particularly when it comes to schools), and insurance companies demanding a police report can incentivize people to report crimes that they otherwise wouldn't.
Secondly, crime statistics depend on technical issues like how police register crimes, how much they are pushed to report potential crimes while patrolling, and how much repetition happens if several people report one crime (say if an assault is seen by 20 people) and whether duplicates are removed. In 1990 the Swedish police changed their reporting system and decreased the number of checks to get rid of duplicates.
Trust for police, police procedure for reporting crime, the accessibility given by the internet, and standards for what we accept in regards to violence before we go to the police are all things that change over time.

Some of this might seem a bit like hand-waving, so I'll give the best example of discrepancy between reported crime and actual crime (page 44):
The thick line here is the statistic for reports of "deadly violence". An increase from about 100 in 1990 to 250 in 2011. Also a shocking statistic, were it to reflect reality. The lower two lines, which are hovering around 100 the entire period, measure the number of people who have died from deadly violence per year according to cause-of-death statistics collected by hospitals and police. Deadly violence is one of the few cases where we can be relatively sure that there is very little underreporting; most people who are victims of it are found, and it's unlikely that attempts to hide bodies change over time. So in this case, the reported crime statistic is about 2.5 times higher than the actual number of cases in Sweden. Remember how I said that the Swedish police changed their system for reporting crime in 1990? Except for duplicates, many reported cases of deadly violence also turns out to be due to suicide and accidents, and unless they're removed from the system, obviously the total will be much higher than the real number.
Of course, deadly violence is a special case; every other crime is reported less than the actual number and by a significant amount, for several different reasons. An increase in crime reports can be a good thing if it means that more people report if they are victims to a crime, but it can also mean that the same cases that used to be reported are getting reported in duplicate and triplicate.

So what is the current state of rape and violence in Sweden? The answer seems to be "much the same as it was a decade ago". The reason I feel comfortable making that point is statistics derived from other sources. Every year government agencies send out large surveys about what has happened to people in the past year, and some questions ask about victimization. At the same time, all hospitals register the cause of patient injuries when they are treated in hospital. Both these measurements have problems, to be sure, but there is in my mind little reason to believe that there is much change over time in measurement error (in other words, while not everyone will answer a survey truthfully (and many won't answer at all) and hospitals can register causes wrong, this is not something that changes much over time - about the same amount of error will occur year-to-year, meaning that variations are more likely to reflect real-world trends). Let me begin with violence (pages 71-72):


 
The first graph here is the rate of people (as opposed to absolute numbers of the crime statistics above) responding with "yes" when asked if they have been targeted by any kind of violence (the thick line) or assaulted (the lower line) in the last year, the thick line representing the answers from ULF, the Swedish Living Conditions Survey, which has been going on longer than NTU, the national safety/security survey. As one asks about assault and the other any kind of violence, the levels are different where they overlap, but the message seems clear: among the respondents used in these surveys (a random sample of about 5000 and 13000 new people per year, respectively, which is a very good sample size), the rate of violence did not increase in the past decade (2006 seems to have been a violent year, however).
The second graph shows hospital records of people hurt by violence (thick line, in number of people per 500 000 of inhabitants in Sweden), knife-wounded (dotted line, in number of people per 1 million), or wounded by gunshot (lowest line, in number of people per 2 million). Though the thick line has more variation over time, it also shows little change in the level of needed care due to violence over the past decade.
As such, I see little reason to believe that assaults and other forms of non-sexual violence has increased particularly in Sweden over the last decade.

As for rape, I can't be as certain, since the NTU only asks (in one question) whether a person has been "molested, forced, or assaulted you sexually", which puts several different sexual crimes together. At any rate, here are the results (page 113):

Over the years the survey has been in use, the number of people in percent (thick line is women, middle line is the total sample, and the dotted line is men) who have answered that they have been molested, forced or assaulted has held more or less steady, possibly a small decrease. Now, it is possible that for whichever reason rape has increased significantly while other forms of sexual crimes have decreased, but I see little reason for that to happen. As we see in the chart over reported crimes at the beginning of this post, rape is a third of sexual crimes, and between 2005 and 2011 it increased threefold; for that not to show up at all here suggests to me that the reported crime increase is due to other reasons (increased likelihood of reporting, police procedure, etc), and indeed, the NTU survey has shown that people are becoming more likely to report sexual crimes to the police. 

So in all, I think the amount of rape committed is still horribly high, but that it isn't getting worse. We need take a strong stand against those who would claim that Sweden is a downward spiral of rape and violence because of whichever reason the reactionaries are currently pushing (which is most often immigration), and start dealing with rape culture, make sure rape survivors are treated well by the justice system, and stop legitimizing the behaviour of rapists. Those last three should be pretty obvious. But we all know that they aren't.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The problem of comprehensive sex education SOLVED

In two short music videos, at that.

DO:

DON'T (warning, NSFW):

Sunday, February 10, 2013

SlutWalks: It's about changing society

In my previous post, I mentioned the importance of changing law enforcement and how they treat rape and what SlutWalks do to make that change happen. This was, however, not what I had intended to write in the first place, but rather what SlutWalks can do to change a society and a culture that clings to (double) standards and ideals that make no sense and are harmful to people in general and women in particular. It's also why I hope that SlutWalks or similar forms of activism will continue (and I'm sure it will, because moral standards tend to upset people, once they've been pointed out).
There are two main ways in which SlutWalks work to change the world for the better: by saying that sex is not a bad thing, and by exposing the word slut as having very little to do with actual behaviour and far more to do with shaming people you don't like with the notion that liking sex is bad.

The idea behind the word "slut" is, at its essence, that women having sex is a bad thing, and that it's valid to base social hierarchy on sexual behaviour. This is, in short, complete bullshit. While it is certainly true that people can have sex in ways that are negative (wilfully hurting others, and so on), the same is true of talking, and I'm sure most people would agree with me that conversation is, on the whole, a good thing. Sex simply does not have much of a moral value in and of itself - not, however, that that means sex is necessarily directly comparable to other activities; if we ignore the emotions of ourselves and our partners when it comes to sex, we will likely make no one very happy. However, sex based on enthusiastic consent with a compatible partner is pretty great, and doing it in a safe, responsible way (though as with all physical activities some risks remain) is easy as long as you've received a decent education (or take the time to look it up).
Of course, it's important to reiterate that this is a problem that exists overwhelmingly for women. Although there are some terms for men that could be comparable (cad, player), they are much less used and often old-fashioned; it takes a certain kind of blindness to think that this is not a way to judge women specifically. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I see no reason why moral behaviour would be different between genders, so on that principle alone the idea of enjoying and having sex being bad if you're a woman is absurd.

Yet sexual terms and judgements based on women's sexual behaviour are still used to create social hierarchies and impossible double standards, and it's that absurdity that SlutWalks speak out against. By saying that enjoying sex is good, that we would all gain by moving away from the repressive and negative messages we receive about sex and ourselves, and that by letting the word "slut" have such strong negative power we are accepting the framing of people who hate women and happiness, SlutWalks and other forms of activism against double standards and to improve sexual politics make the world a better place.

Secondly, SlutWalks also do the valuable work of pointing out that "slut" is a term that doesn't really have that much to do with actual sexual activity. Instead, it's a word used against women who someone doesn't like enough to use the word and where they have an opportunity to use it. To call someone a slut is to use the language of sexual shaming against someone you don't like, and due to the often private nature of sex and tip-toeing around the subject, it can cascade through groups and communities in a powerful way and become an accepted truth (whatever the word "slut" means to the people listening). Whether the word was first uttered by a man bitter at a woman who didn't want to have sex with him, for instance, quickly becomes irrelevant. Apart from all the other negative effects, this also has an effect on law enforcement, as the usual defense put up in rape cases is that the victim consented. If "everyone knows" that someone is a "slut", then that will also affect the attitude of law enforcement and give the victim less protection of the law than we all deserve.

Embracing sex as something good, getting rid of the absurd double standards regarding women's sexuality, and no longer accepting the language of sexual shaming are all incredibly worthy goals. SlutWalks might bother some people, but it's important to confront the language used in society directly to get at the negative values that underlie it, so I hope SlutWalks and similar forms of activism will continue to see support in every place where it is needed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

SlutWalks: it's about changing law enforcement

I was originally only going to write one post about the SlutWalk, but since I started thinking about it, I need to preface my intended post with this post outlining more directly what the SlutWalk was originally about.
 
While I was living in Toronto, the first SlutWalk happened. This was in response to a police officer in a safety information session at York University saying that women can keep safe by not dressing like a "slut":
“One of the safety tips was for women not to dress like ‘sluts.’ He said something like, ‘I’ve been told I shouldn’t say this,’ and then he uttered the words,” said Bessner, Osgoode assistant dean of the Juris Doctor Program. “I was shocked and appalled. I made contact with the police [...] and we’ve asked for a written apology and an explanation.”
 The problem with the police officer's line of thinking is that the main reason why rape happens because someone is willing to rape someone. There are certainly, as with other crimes, ways to protect yourself that are not unreasonable, and indeed most women are well aware of them, but the way you dress has very little to do with rape happening. I've been linking the Yes Means Yes blog post about Predator Theory about a million times now, and it's still true. The idea that what you wear could make, say, a man not being able to control himself is ludicrous; we don't have women being assaulted randomly on a crowded street, no matter what they wear, meaning that rapists can control themselves until they know there is less risk that they'll get caught - they are acting in a motivated and targeted manner, rape does not "just happen" based on the behaviour or dress of women. When it comes to assault rape, there is even more reason to think that the perpetrators are specifically motivated to rape someone if they get the opportunity. That means that you're dealing with people who will go after the "most vulnerable", and that being a relative term, means that someone can always be identified by a rapist as being such. To focus on what women wear or their behaviour is essentially to play a game of musical chairs and telling women to hope not to be the one left without a chair, instead of rejecting that idea and focus on perpetrators.

The police officer's comment was especially troubling since rape is a crime that is very underreported and that convictions are even more difficult to come by. By framing women's behaviour and dress as being an important point, the police are not actually helping women, but are blaming the survivors of rape for the harm they suffered and implicitly (or even explicitly) saying that certain women can't expect the full protection of law enforcement and that rape of certain women (insofar as the rape of them doesn't get punished) is tolerated. So the SlutWalk is, at its basic level, about telling law enforcement loudly and clearly to focus on perpetrators, and not be a moral tribunal against rape survivors.

In my next post I will write about the other important messages that I think SlutWalks have to communicate.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Quick hit: because you WANT to

I read this comment on the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, and it said something about sex and sex education that I find really important, which I'm not sure I wrote in my posts on sex education (my bolding):
What my mom said was that when you decide to have sex, it should be because YOU want to — period — not for any other reason — and that you should use protection, because you should also get pregnant because you want to and not because you weren’t paying attention. (Not, as it turned out, a problem I was ever going to have … but we didn’t know that when I was 14.) She didn’t tell me to wait till I was married, or even, really, to wait until I was ready — she told me to make sure I was doing it because I wanted to, and not because I felt I had to, or ought to, or didn’t have a choice, or wasn’t in control of the situation. And I think that was a really, really valuable piece of advice.
 The problem with saying something like "wait until you're ready" is to imply that there is a maturation process and when you're "mature enough" you'll want to. This ignores the existence of people who are asexual, on the one hand, and gives teens the message that sex is an adult thing to do, which at least to me sounds like a pretty irresistible framing to people who want to show themselves to be mature, and a pretty good tool for whoever wants to badger someone into sex (well, if you don't feel mature enough for it...). Better then to stress the values I've mentioned in past posts, and stress that wanting it for yourself and wanting to have sex with the person(s) you're doing it with.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Treating men as people is also good

As a feminist, who aso has plenty of feminist friends, over time you start noticing the kind of accusations that get thrown feminists' way. We're too extremist being a common one, even among my friends who do not identify as feminists, and another that often gets leveled by the internet hate-o-sphere and other more dedicated opponents to feminism is that we hate men. In this post I want to write a bit about the latter. Being a white cisgendered man myself and having attended several gender classes and observing the world around us, I've certainly had very strong feelings, such as disgust, for being part of a system that privileges me and works against women, queer people, and people of colour. However, being disgusted at the system is not the same thing as hatred of men. Indeed, my disgust is, apart from the fact that it's a system that does harm to large groups of people, also grounded in my belief that people have a great potential for good, and as I wrote in my response to Kaplinski a couple of weeks ago, systemic inequalities and power imbalances make for a worse society and worse people. Among the feminists I read and the feminists I know, there is generally more of a focus on systemic and social issues that give rise or reinforce to the behaviours we are opposed to, so while the tone can be harsh against men as a group to act in a way to be part of the change we want to see in the world, hatred against men does not really make sense. We are all people, and people who are privileged need to see how that privilege can make them blind to systemic issues and need to participate in changing the system that harms others and blinds them.

On the whole, I find a lot of non-feminist thought that exists in the mainstream to be far more man-hating than feminist opinion. For example, the idea that men can't control themselves, which is often brought up when talking about rape. This is the excuse used by Mr. Kaplinski, and a common trope of rape apologia, often expressed as "what did she expect when doing x". I, and I think many with me, expect people to act like decent human beings, and that it is the behaviour of the perpetrators that is what should be questioned and not the victim's. Indeed, that is the expectation most people have in most standard interactions in places where there exists an ok level of law and order. But with rape, suddenly there is the idea that men are barely constrained rapists waiting to happen. I hardly need to point out how insulting and what a low opinion of men that is, and to repeat a link made in a previous blog post, there is very little reason to believe that a large category of men are intrinsically prone to think that way. And the feminists I know don't think that way. Instead, we generally believe that social norms, how we raise boys and girls, and our expectations on men and women play a large part in how we act, both when we are alone and especially when we act in a social context. And that includes when someone makes the decision to rape (it is important to remember that rape does not just "happen", someone makes a conscious decision to sexually assault someone who has not given consent, sometimes that decision is reached as a result of peer pressure or even under threat, but it is made). As this article from Stassa Edwards at Ms. Magazine on the Steubenville rape case points out, the way we raise boys in regards to rape, and indeed girls and women in general, can be a problem:

At one point, former Steubenville baseball player Michael Nodianos says, “It isn’t really rape because you don’t know if she wanted to or not.” At another point an unidentified boy asks “What if that was your daughter?” Nodianos responds, “But she isn’t.”

Nodianos’s words are telling, because for too long we’ve been teaching our sons to think of the consequences of rape within a familial context (i.e. “Imagine if it were your wife/daughter/mother”) and it’s clear that this method of education is a complete and total failure.
A still all-too-common approach when confronted with stories about rape is to look at the victim and ask questions about her: what was she doing? why was she in that place with those people in whatever state of sobriety? who is she?, and that's reflected in the idea that specific women are worthy of protection (your family, for instance), rather than having the expectation on men to act in an empathetic way towards all women as well as everyone else. What is needed to change a culture where so many rapists get away with their crimes and a lot of people reflexively cover up or ignore the crimes of their peers or write articles about how rape and consent are "complicated" concepts is partly to speak out against the reflexive defense of men who rape, and to raise boys in a way that empathy is valued. Of course, there is a problem in that children are rather clever and pick up on a lot of cues from society around them, which means that we also need to constantly reinforce (warning: links on this page can lead to content that is not safe for work) that disparaging, objectifying or discriminating against women is unacceptable.

Some people would appeal to nature here and say that men have a lower capacity for empathy (I seem to have argued against that very point very recently). However, there is research saying that that is not necessarily the point. For instance, take a look at this abstract linked from an article at Feministing (translation for people who haven't spent way too much time reading abstracts to follow):

[...]Graham and Ickes (1997) speculated that reliable gender-of-perceiver differences in empathic accuracy (a) were limited to studies in which the empathic inference form made empathic accuracy salient as the dimension of interest, and (b) therefore reflected the differential motivation, rather than the differential ability, of female versus male perceivers. These speculations were tested more rigorously in the present study[...] The hypothesis was strongly supported, consistent with a motivational interpretation previously proposed by Berman (1980) and by Eisenberg and Lemon (1983), which argues that reliable gender differences in empathy-related measures are found only in situations in which (a) subjects are aware that they are being evaluated on an empathy-relevant dimension, and/or (b) empathy-relevant gender-role expectations or obligations are made salient.
The most important line here is the one that states that differences in empathy "reflected the differential motivation, rather than the differential ability, of female versus male perceivers". In other words, we have more empathy when we are motivated to be empathetic. If society around us treats a group of people (slaves, immigrants, women, homosexuals) as less worth, there will be less motivation to feel empathetic. If we tell boys and men that women's opinions don't matter or that only certain women are worthy of protection according to some kind of social hierarchy, then that is not any better than the laws of old that stated that a woman being raped was an economic loss for her family, rather than a crime against her, and leads to the kind of callous disregard (and acceptance from others of that callous disregard) for another person exemplified by the quote above.

As in so many issues, this is not something that can be solved easily. It is the kind of structural messages that can exist to a certain extent in pretty much all walks of life, like the idea that boys teasing "girls they like" against those girls' will is adorable until they reach a certain age where we try to reverse it and say it's sexual harassment (it was never ok), or the common devaluing of women's opinions in discussions, or not speaking out against sexual harassment, or promoting different ideals of empathy for boys and girls, or slut-shaming, or victim-blaming, or a society where men hold a clear majority of powerful positions. The list goes on and on, and a lot of the problems are difficult to know what to do about. But what I will try to do is to speak out against harassment in public transport, streets, and my workplace (I'm not a very confrontational person, so that can be difficult, but where would we be if we didn't challenge ourselves?), set a good example for my nephew and speak out against bad behaviours, vote for political parties that support my vision of society, and, apparently, write blog posts and argue against those who would dehumanise men and rob them of responsibility.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Some words on entitlement

I was going to start this post with the dictionary defintion of the word "entitled", but its usage as an adjective seems to be a neologism. Perhaps that shouldn't surprise me overly much, as entitlement as a negative term seems to have gotten more popular in recent years, albeit with some pushback. Being entitled, in common usage, has come to mean that you expect something for nothing and that you expect more than is reasonable. It has been used about the youth of today (I dare-say in every era), the recently unemployed, men embittered by gender relations, people in southern Europe, and just about any other group that another group doesn't like. The problem with the word is that it's a lazy way of slandering people without backing it up by saying the way in which they are entitled. To feel that you are entitled to something can, after all, both be good and bad, depending on what we think we are entitled to.

To begin with the good, people should feel that they are entitled to human and civic rights, a working education system and economic structure, equality under the law, a central bank concerned with a well-working economy for the masses rather than a small group of creditors, and in general decent opportunity in life. If we feel that we're entitled to these things, we will fight for them, and they are worth fighting for. To shrug away people's completely reasonable concerns and ambitions with the word "entitled" is to spit in the face of everyone who has fought for social progress and democracy throughout history.

On the negative side, we have people who think that they deserve something particular by virtue of who they are, rather than wanting something they think everyone deserves. Like men who get bitter at women for not giving them a good-night kiss after having paid for dinner or who think they deserve a date with the person they like and don't want to take no for an answer, or people who think that they should be treated differently by the law because they're such important individuals. Calling them out on their negative behaviour makes sense, but to use the term entitled without properly backing it up with what they're entitled to and thus why it's fucked up is to further lower the discourse (though admittedly, I have not seen too many examples of the latter).

The words entitled and entitlement should not be seen as bad in and of themselves, and should never be allowed to be used to avoid a discussion about the role of the state and what we collectively should reasonably expect of society, nor as a way to avoid saying outright why something a person is doing is bad. Or as I could also have put it, weasel words are bad.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Myths take a long time to die

Sometimes, trolls  on the internet are successful in generating a response when maybe you should just leave it alone. Like when they try to sound reasonable and yet manage to hit a point I find completely illogical or based on flawed assumption with pretty much every argument they make. And when they apparently count as legitimate intellectuals in Estonia.
Jaan Kaplinski, an Estonian author, wrote a blog post at the end of last year giving his views on rape, naming it Rape or Non-consensual Sex. In it he presents several arguments about why some kinds of non-consensual sex happens, and why it is sometimes, in his mind, not rape. He explicitly calls out "radical Scandinavians" and since Radical Scandinavian Man are some of my middle names, I feel compelled to answer. The radical thing in this case is to not accept non-consensual sex, apparently. I will warn the reader that I have other radical notions like "try not to harm others" and "women and men are part of a category called 'people' and it is possible to communicate with them".
Mr. Kaplinski's basic assertion is that men can have problems understanding a no in certain situations, and that it shouldn't be illegal when a man then penetrates a woman without consent. I have several problems with this, and will go through them in order (though obviously some of them overlap). Mainly, I find that the argument is immoral by itself, that it is based on flawed assumptions, and that it is an argument that has negative consequences for society as a whole.


The moral argument is quite simple, when you remove all the frills. It is wrong to do what you want with another's body against their wishes. I don't think I need to ask people or Mr. Kaplinski to imagine how they would feel if they were penetrated by someone without consent, as it should be pretty obvious that it constitutes harm. Sometimes, there can be circumstances where you can transgress against someone to stop some greater harm from taking place, I do not see how penetrating someone against their will could possibly stop some greater harm. This seems like the kind of thing that is so self-evident that I almost don't want to write it down - as someone who thinks sex can be a wonderful thing you do together with another person, I don't think I should have to. And what argument does Mr. Kaplinski make for why doing this kind of harm is acceptable? Because communication is difficult sometimes. If it's not clear by now, I am no great philosopher, but it seems to me that if you're in a situation where you could potentially cause great harm, you have some responsibility to make a decent effort at avoiding it. Making an extra effort at communicating with your sex partner seems like a very small effort to make, if you are indeed motivated to not do harm to your sex partner (which I sincerely hope).


Mr. Kaplinski makes several assumptions that I don't think hold when analysed critically, the first being that communication is necessarily so complicated. Take these quotes from his blog post:
[...]often the female no is not an absolute no but can be a step toward finally saying yes.[...]
Here, it is not simply a person understanding another person, but a body understanding another body. And a male body tends to understand the closeness of a female body in a very straightforward way. Yes, with an effort, a man can even then abstain from sex.
In the first case, obviously the sex should wait until you actually get that yes, while using the skills you have gained in other social interactions to make sure that you're not badgering, intimidating, or making the woman you're talking to feel uncomfortable. If we see the important word as being "yes" rather than "no", we seem to avoid a lot of the problems. To the extent that women are conditioned to not express sexual desire for fear of being accused of being a slut or similar shaming language, I suggest working to tear down sexist double standards on the structural level, and making sure that there is enough trust between you and your sex partner to express desire despite it. As long as you honestly care about communicating with your partner, most of the time you should be able to make it work. If there's still uncertainty, well, lack of sex has never killed anyone. Of course, Mr. Kaplinski is here talking about situation where two people have come quite far sexually already, so that a yes shouldn't be quite that difficult to express, if the other person is indeed interested in expressing it.
In the second quote, Mr. Kaplinski suggests that the male body understands the presence of a female body meaning a "yes" to sexual intercourse. The answer to that is easy: the body is wrong. And as Mr. Kaplinski writes, men can back off at that point. He says it takes effort, but as mentioned, making an effort to avoid inflicting great harm is obviously the right thing to do.


A second assumption used by Mr. Kaplinski to explain why communication is so difficult for men is an appeal to nature: in mating rituals in the animal world, no doesn't necessarily mean no, and men, by their nature, are "autistic" and have more problems understanding others than women.
We are willingly or unwillingly a part of animal kingdom and our erotic rituals are quite similar to the rituals of some other animals. And in these rituals, often the female no is not an absolute no but can be a step toward finally saying yes.[...]
Yes, we men tend to be autistic. As I have been explained by women, they always understand whether a man is interested in them. Not so with men.
First off, and it is perhaps needless to say, that something is natural does not make something right. A person who is angered and kills someone else can not excuse it with death being a common result after conflicts in the animal kingdom, nor can someone who kills their children say that animals often do it during hard times.
Perhaps more importantly, we live in a world where women have at various times been considered frigid, at other times too emotional, at some times dangerously part of the natural world, and at others removed from it. Men, on the other hand, were often seen as their opposites (and often somehow better because of it). What I mean by that is that if we lived in a society where boys and men were encouraged to have an active emotional life, strong empathy and caring for others, and put a greater focus on communication and friendships over gender lines, we might well end up with men that are different than what seems natural right now. Will gender differences persist? Quite possibly, but looking at history, there is obviously a great variation in behaviour among men and women alike so we should never be too tempted to see our behaviour at present as being "natural". In addition, we live in a society where women's voices in general are given less validity than those of men's, if we were to make more of an effort to not denigrate women's opinions, maybe there would be less of a problem to understand them in more intimate settings.
The mention of autism is interesting. People who are diagnosed with autism often have problems throughout their lives, whether interacting with men or women. Autism is not a problem that occurs only in the bedroom or when dealing with relationships. What people with autism spectrum disorder usually do is to learn to cope with their problem so as to improve their social life, using certain cues as signals for moods and situations they don't instinctively get. If you care about social interactions where you might have a problem (and if you think you might cause harm by misunderstanding consent, I hope you do care), you will hopefully take steps to rectify it, by learning various cues and ways of communicating for that which you don't understand instinctively. It might be prudent to add, in this context, that literature and other culture is a way of understanding the world around us; romance literature and movies are overwhelmingly coded as feminine, and are to a great extent read by women. Though I won't make any absolute statements about it, it's entirely possible that Mr. Kaplinski's experience with romantically psychic women is merely the effect of a group of people taking a more intense interest in romance than he (or his male friends) do.


A third assumption that seems to motivate his post is that women are not attracted to "good guys" but rather macho-men who are, presumably, not good:
And it was a shock to me to discover that men relish talkint obscenities, that in their discourse sex is very much connected with rude force, even with violence. And the greatest shock was to find that girls were more interested in such macho-type men than in good guys as me.[...]
[...]I was too good a guy and couldn't understand that bad guys had more luck with women than good guys. And quite possibly still have.
First off, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that a guy who is truly good would not write a resentful blog post decades later complaining about not having had enough sex.
Secondly, in my experience women don't particularly like bad guys (though obviously that also happens) - they like interesting, funny, confident, attractive people in a mix, much like men do. I can't mention that many female friends of mine who find someone being nice being a turn-off; however, if "nice" or "good guy" was the main thing they could say about a person, I would also not assume that they're very attracted by him. Confidence and being clear about what you want probably helps quite a bit in many kinds of social interaction, flirting and getting into bed with someone among them; being withdrawn probably doesn't. Of course, if a woman is mostly interested in getting laid for a night or for a little while, getting together with an attractive guy who clearly signals he's into that is probably the right way to go. I don't know if those guys are what some people see as "bad guys", of course. In many blog circles, this kind of thing is called "nice guy syndrome", and plenty has been written about it.
Additionally, in the context of this post, wouldn't the fact that women are supposedly more interested in macho-type men mean that there were less situations where consent was lacking? I mean, if they were attracted by them, wouldn't it stand to reason that they actually had consensual sex when they did have sex? And what's wrong with that? The lesson here should not be (and never should be) "care less about women's consent", it's (if it matters that much to you) "become more attractive".


A final assumption is the way Mr. Kaplinski sees the interplay of men and women in society in regards to sex:
I cannot but agree with the assertion that a female no is a no when it is told seriously, not as an element in a play where woman rises the stakes, present herself as a more valuable partner asking for an effort from the male to get access to her favours.
Mr. Kaplinski seems to see sex as a commodity, something that women possess and men must bid to gain access to. A similar idea is that sex is something men want and seek, and women's role is only to accept or deny. I won't deny that a lot of people follow these concepts, and that a lot of social rules are based on them, such as shaming women for having sex (giving it up too easy). However, what I do say is that we should all work to change it. I have never understood what women supposedly give up when they have sex to make society get all scandalized; sex should be something two (or more) people do together because it's enjoyable for both of them. They both get enjoyment and both "lose" some time (they probably weren't going to do anything better with it) and give some physical effort. To me, at least, sex is worth having so long as everyone involved is into it; I want partners who find me attractive and are confident enough to take pleasure in my body as I take pleasure in hers, and more than anything the confidence to ask what I like. As long as people are aware of the risks in regards to STIs and unplanned pregnancy, why should we expect men and women's attitudes to sex and sexuality to be so different from each other?
Though it's certainly a long process (and one that's been championed by feminists for a long time), if you don't like the game, the right response isn't to punish someone by minimizing their wishes and to do them harm; it's to change the game.


Before going to the final section where I'll add why I think Mr. Kaplinski's argument is a bad thing for society as a whole, I must comment on this part:
[...]last minute abstention is detrimental to male health. Strong arousal without following gratification, without the possibility of penetration and ejaculation can easily lead to inflammation of the prostate and the lower urinary tract. If it becomes chronical, it can lead to prostate cancer and other nasty illnesses.
That is silly. I'm not going to dig up the incidence rate of prostate cancer for men who become aroused and then don't ejaculate vs. those who don't, because the dilemma Mr. Kaplinski presents here has such an obvious solution: if you're concerned that not ejaculating after becoming aroused is dangerous for your health, most of the people reading this have two hands. Do use them.
I will add that Mr. Kaplinski urges women to consent more because of this risk to men's health. To me, that would more or less amount to pity sex, which I can frankly do without, as I prefer women to have sex out of pleasure, not out of obligation.


At long last, a comment on the responsibility of a public intellectual and this kind of argument about rape and consent.
Culture and society matters. It matters to how people relate to each other, the acceptance of violence and oppression. You only need to look to times such as that of the Slave Trade, apartheid in South Africa, World War II, pretty much any occupation, and any place or time where women are considered to be property rather than citizens to make that clear. In these countries, the people who are in power gain great power and privilege over other groups, which are commonly denigrated, dehumanized and devalued. Though people are, in my opinion, generally decent people who want to do right, power corrupts, and when you have a society that tells you that some people are not worthy of respect and that your wishes matter more than theirs, great ills can be done to the oppressed in a casual manner by anyone who's sadistic, having a bad day, frustrated by their lot in life, or any other reason. That is understandable, though obviously something that is unacceptable and we should always work to prevent. So culture matters, and can increase the number of people in society who commit violence against others, or who simply stand by and do nothing when harm is done. We need to look no further than the recent rape cases in Steubenville and Delhi for examples of cultures where sexual violence against women is done and few if anyone intervenes to stop it.
However, as I mentioned before, I think that people as a rule can be decent, and with a society and culture where people are treated as equal, most people will not treat others as less worthy, they will be. To back up that point, especially in regards to rape, I would like to point to recent research in the US that has given rise to Predator Theory, which is simply that most rapes are actually committed by a small group of men who victimize many women. They target the women they identify as most vulnerable and get them into a position where they know they have what society regards as plausible deniability: they were drunk, she didn't say no clearly, she seemed interested earlier, and the like. As the research shows, however, they are well aware that they are assaulting non-consenting women, and will continue to do so. This is well in line with other criminological research, which shows that most crime is committed by a small minority who are repeat offenders.
With that background, I think Mr. Kaplinski's argument that men have problems understanding a no and because of that non-consensual sex should not be seen as rape or something illegal is not only immoral, but also on the larger scale promote a society and culture where women's wishes and consent are ignored, which would likely lead to increased victimization, and effectively give cover to the group of rapists who repeatedly and wilfully victimize others by letting them say that consent and communication is "confusing" when in truth it is navigable by most with a bit of effort, and those who don't make the effort or don't care are clearly in the wrong.


What bothers me the most about Mr. Kaplinski's blog post is perhaps that it presents sex and sexuality as something joyless, where it's not about people doing something pleasurable together, but rather a social competition where spending time with someone else stops mattering in favour of the raw mechanics of sex. As someone who thinks that the person you're doing it with and mutual enjoyment both while having sex and while spending time together otherwise is important, it seems like a very strange world where women's personalities and desires are erased in favour of a worldview where putting notches on your bedposts is the only positive you gain from having sex. That is not the kind of society I want, and indeed I am surprised that anyone would.