Liberals Reacted to James Deen Exactly Like Conservatives Reacted to the Last Mass Shooting
Jonah Mix Blog on December 5, 2015 by
Last Wednesday, there was another mass shooting in America. This time it was in San Bernardino, where fourteen people were executed by a pair of gunmen. The previous mass shooting was last Friday, when Robert Lewis Dear killed three at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. The Monday before, Barry Kirk murdered an entire family in Columbus, Ohio. Exactly how many killing sprees there have been this year depends on your measure, from five or six to three hundred and fifty. But what is undeniable is that something is very wrong with America.
Immediately, conservative politicians and gun enthusiasts shifted into their tired script of condolences for the victims, hasty quips on mental health, and a shrug of their shoulders. And, like always, they were rebuked by the majority of Americans who want to do something serious about this epidemic of gun violence. The New York Daily News summed up their frustration with a cover featuring Republican calls for prayer and the headline, “God Isn’t Fixing This.”
Prayers soon fell out of favor when it came to light that the two shooters in San Bernardino may have been connected to Islamic terrorists. But the American liberal class was correct regardless: America’s gun problem, whether expressed in periodic spree killings or the endless white noise of suicides and single-victim shootings, is a problem too big for prayers. It’s a problem based in a very specific economic and political arrangement between conservative governments, arms manufacturers, and regressive citizens’ groups. It’s a problem based in centuries of economic and social disenfranchisement that has rendered effective policing impossible and bred the conditions to make violence inevitable. But most of all, it’s a problem based in the central failure of a culture that defines itself on masculine rage, violence, and a psychopathic disregard for community norms.
But while the causes of this epidemic are varied, none of them reduce cleanly to the NRA’s favorite figure of the Bad Guy With a Gun. Liberals are right to call out these easy answers and demand better. So the question remains: If they’re so quick to reject the platitudes provided after a mass shooting, why do they spout them verbatim when the conversation shifts to rape?
I ask this because last week popular pornographer James Deen was also outed as a rapist by his ex-partner Stoya. More women have since come forward, and the details are disturbing. It’s become clear that Deen was a serial abuser and criminal who used his position in the pornography industry to sexually assault at least eight women and very likely many more. He did so while enjoying widespread popularity and acclaim as the “Good Guy of Porn,” giving interviews to women’s magazines and even dispensing sex advice on a feminist website.
To their credit, many pornographers have come out to say they will no longer work with Deen since these allegations were made. Unfortunately, their statements are on the level of what Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan will tweet after the next mass shooting: “My thoughts are with the victims of this senseless tragedy.” The liberal party line was trotted out, consent was praised, Deen was condemned for being a ravenous abuser, and backs were thoroughly patted. The next question: Now that it turns out he’s a rapist, who else can we masturbate to?
The pathetic cycle of condolences, blame-shifting, and silence that took place in the porn industry was indistinguishable from the same dance that takes place weekly in this country on the issue of gun violence. The Frisky, where his sex column was hosted, quickly denounced him, but their condemnation spent no time reflecting on why exactly a man who put out Butt Bang Bitches IIand Asian Slut Invasion was given a platform to opine on women’s sexuality in the first place. The non-state torturers at Kink.com proudly announced in their statement against Deen that “consent and respect are sacrosanct” for them; however, the question of whether or not it’s appropriate to continue waterboarding, electrocuting, and battering women for a sexual thrill was strangely absent. The libertarian website Reason even published this article – a bold critique of critical thought – that literally demands we “stop connecting the dots” in the wake of his abuses.
I can’t help but feel like a gun control advocate scrolling through the NRA’s tweets the morning after a mass shooting. But where they might ask why a man with mental health issues or terrorist connections was allowed to buy a gun, I would ask instead: Why was a man who joked about rapeallowed to claim status as a feminist? Why did the multiple industry witnesses to his rapes keep quiet? Why did so many women suffer his abuse and not feel comfortable speaking out? And perhaps most importantly, why are any of us surprised when a man rapes, having spent the last eleven years simulating it for a sexual thrill? Liberals bemoan the inability of conservatives to draw the obvious connection between a hypermasculine gun culture and explosions of random violence. So why are they still throwing up their hands in confusion when the star of Assault That Ass is accused of anally raping a female acquaintance?
These questions are likely to go unanswered. The pornography industry has instead reduced Deen to the same Inexplicably Evil Bad Guy that the Republicans identify as the root of all gun violence, and with that fantasy dies any real analysis that might lead to change. Quite a few liberals have even accused anti-porn feminists like Sarah Ditum and Meghan Murphy of “exploiting rape to score points” and “politicizing tragedy” for daring to ask questions. Of course, Wayne LaPierre is quick to say the exact same thing every time a white man walks into a shopping mall or school and murders a dozen strangers. And while the liberal response – that it’s not too early to talk about gun crime after a mass shooting, but too late – is cliché, it’s also true in both cases. But the pornographers and their apologists have no interest in stopping rape. They just need to make sure they can prevent anyone thinking too hard about it.
This childish, willfully ignorant approach to James Deen and his crimes just shows that what guns are for conservatives, sex is for liberals. It’s the Thing That Must Not Be Criticized, the silly totem around which an entire worldview has been sloppily draped. Just like the right-wing gun fetish has completely eclipsed any practical need for self-defense, the liberal obsession with sexual freedom has moved past self-expression or even pleasure. It’s now little more than an extended middle finger, held high whatever the cost. And this tantrum-turned-politics brings the same paranoia and tribalism that has already consumed American gun owners. White Republicans might deserve mockery for their paranoid rants on government seizures and national disarmament, but every smug lecture on sex positivity and panicked op-ed on Puritans and prudes reduces to the same timbre: You can have my orgasms when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.
I don’t have much of an allegiance to either camp myself, although I do shoot guns far more often than I have sex. But by any objective standard, penises pose a far greater risk to the safety of this nation and the world than firearms. A fatal shooting comes every twenty minutes in America. But in between those gun deaths, men will rape at least ten women. When you add the thousands more who will be battered, abused, and murdered by men whose penises function as a ticket to power, the body count easily takes first place in the contest of atrocities. I’m not quite at the point of advocating mass penis disarmament – I’ll leave that up to my comrade Will Falk – but our efforts to end sexual violence should match or exceed our dedication to ending gun violence, not wallow in the same old cul de sac.
Outrage with the NRA’s pablum rings hollow if James Deen’s crimes led you to spit out the same easy answers. After all, neither random shootings nor rape in pornography are an incomprehensible tragedy. They are the inevitable result of two cruel and hateful cultures, one of which liberalism has allowed to flourish as a marker of its enlightenment. We have to do better. A few prayers to an absent God and a gun safety course won’t stop killers backed by the full weight of the white male American death urge, and a four-minute talk on consent tacked on to the start ofSluts Fucked Into Submission won’t stop abusers soaking in the woman-hate of pornography. Liberals have spent years lamenting our inability to move past trite condolences and towards real solutions in the case of gun violence – isn’t it time they take their own advice when it comes to pornography and rape?