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In Which I Live-Blog The Secret of NIMH

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Because it’s not like I have eight million other things to do.

I loved this movie when I was a kid, but in retrospect, it’s kinda fucked up. Who decided that animal testing at the National Institute of Mental Health was an appropriate topic for a kid’s movie? And how many other people had to approve this idea before the film was released? Oh, animators. You crazy kids.

Anyway, in lieu of a serious post, I offer you:

The Secret of NIMH Completely Pointless Live-Blog.

EXCITING BEGINNING-OF-MOVIE MUSIC.

The United Artists logo was so dramatic.

Ok, I’m just gonna say it: most of the time, the candles in animated films look absolutely obscene.

Mr. Ages lives in a rusty contraption and appears to be an insensitive dick.

I love the nonsensical costuming of animated animal characters. Sometimes they wear shirts, but no pants; pants, but no shirts; overalls, with no shirts; short dresses, which look like shirts; and Mrs Brisby wears a little red shawl, like a Beatrix Potter character. The clothing never seems to cover body parts that are sensitive to cold, and the animals aren’t concealing any accurately-rendered anatomical parts, so…what the hell?

I forgot how sparkly this movie is. I think that’s part of why I loved it. It just threw all the magic right in my eyes and was like, LOOK AT IT SEE HOW IT SPARKLES.

Oh God. Pneumonia. I had pneumonia as a kid, and when I was diagnosed (after fainting in the doctor’s office), all I could think about was this movie, and how Mr. Ages had said “it’s not uncommon, but you can die from it.”

Ah, the quintessential Absurd Bird character. The Rescuers movies had one too. It’s kind of perfect, though; gawky adolescents are bird-like. The way the awkward bird character clumsily flaps his wings reminds me of teenage boys with disproportionately long arms.

Absurd Bird expects to feel love “way down in [his] wishbone.” I’m just gonna leave that there.

Absurd Bird “hates to see a woman cry,” and deals with this uncomfortable feeling by boasting about his mad cat-escaping skillz, even though Mrs. Brisby just demonstrated that she’s actually the tougher one. PATRIARCHY.

Absurd Bird’s name is Jeremy. That’s lame. I’mma keep calling him Absurd Bird.

Oh lawsey. Absurd Bird is such a Nice Guy. But props to Mrs. Brisby for offering kind of a call-out.

What is that thing above the Brisbys’ home? A rusted pot? I hope the handle doubles as a sundial or something.

Every animated film I’ve ever seen has featured at least one poor character with patched clothes, but the patches are never in a logical place. The little girl mouse’s skirt has a patch on the left side of the skirt, a ways above the knee. Why on earth would this area get worn through? Does she spend her free time striking elaborate yoga poses in her dress?

Uh, hi there, Auntie Shrew. Holy gender stereotype. Are you ever revealed to be a complex individual?—I can’t remember.

Ah yes, make soup and float some herbs in it. That’ll cure Timmy’s pneumonia.

We know Mrs. Brisby is good because she’s sweet and domestic. Auntie Shrew, however, is to be pitied, because she’s a bossy bitch who no man could love. Also, Mrs. Brisby is a timid widdle mouse, and Auntie Shrew is…a shrew. Facepalm headdesk. C’mon guiz, you could at least be subtle.

My one experience with shrews was in fifth grade, when I had to dissect a piece of owl poop and re-assemble the bones to discover what the owl had eaten. I was the lucky winner of a shrew skeleton.

I think this movie and A Christmas Carol are to blame for my tendency to associate the name Timothy with sickness.

Ok, I know those gold lights are supposed to be fireflies, but it just looks like a laser pointer zipping around.

So the Brisbys live in a tree stump with a rusty pot positioned precariously over it? It’s probably a good thing they’re moving.

And there’s our first mention of NIMH. Lab rats, how do they work? We don’t find out, because Stereotype Husband is ignoring Stereotype Wife’s incessant chatter. Bitchez, they be chattin’.

HOLY SHIT A TRACTOR.

Something about Mrs. Brisby reminds me of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, but I don’t know what it is.

Sooo…the Great Owl lies to Mrs. Brisby, telling her there’s nothing she can do except move her sick son to a safe place, until she tells him her name, and then he’s all, ooooh, I knew your husband. I’ll give you the good advice. Way to be a douche, Great Owl.

Great Owl: The rats be movin your house, yo. Mrs Brisby: I don’t understand, but I will do as you say. Me: What the FUCK? PATRIARCHY.

From a certain angle, the door to Nicodemus’ lair looks like an unrolled condom.

Where the hell are Mrs. Brisby’s children? They just sort of disappeared. Plot holes, guiz. Oh, plot holes.

And just like that, the kids are back.

Oh look, there’s Justin, the Heroic Leader of the Rats. I think he’s supposed to be cute, Mrs. Brisby. Go for it!

Finally! The anti-NIMH propaganda. You know, it’s not that I don’t care about the effects of animal testing, because I do, but I somehow doubt that a group of scientists is going to accidentally create an army of hyper-intelligent rats who just wake up on morning and start reading—and comprehending!— English. This does not seem like a strong possibility.

Wait. The super-intelligent mice got sucked into the ventilation system and died? First, that’s terrifying, and second…what? That’s their solution to the problem of “how we be splainin’ the absence of genius mice?”

Nicodemus gives a shiny (look, shiny!!) red pendant to Mrs. Brisby. The pendant’s inscription says, “You can unlock any door if you only have the key.” DEEP.

Ugh, Mrs. Brisby keeps doing that thing where she repeats one key word of whatever someone else says in a voice of complete awe. “The plan? What plan?” I bet if you offered her waffles she’d be like “Syrup? What syrup?”

Absurd Bird is transfixed by the red pendant, and keeps saying “a sparkly. You’re wearing a sparkly,” which pretty much sums up my eight-year-old self’s reaction to this whole movie.

See, Mrs. Brisby just took off her cape/shawl thing and is scampering around all naked-like. There is no logic to the clothes!

CRAZY HIJINKS. Will the rats/mice defeat Dragon the Cat?!

Ah, Jenner the Evil Rat of Evil tells everyone not to listen to Mrs. Brisby because “she’s hysterical.” PATRIARCHY.

Is it just me, or do a lot of animated battle scenes start at sunset and end at twilight?

I want a status update on Timmy. How’s he feeling? Is his fever down? When I had pneumonia, my fever went up to 105, and my lungs shriveled up like those black snake firecrackers and died.

OoooOOOOoooh. The sparkly is doing sparkly things. My inner child rejoices.

What is that thing that emerged from the pool of lava? It looks like a huge flaming brick, and that’s kinda lame.

According to Absurd Bird, “girls can’t resist a sparkly.” PATRIARCHY, and also, I can haz sparkly?

Absurd Bird and Lady Bird Friend hooked up fast. I’m a little jealous.

D’awww, everyone’s so happy.

SAPPY END-OF-MOVIE MUSIC.

I thought Mrs. Brisby and Justin the Heroic Leader of the Rats got together at the end. Guess not.

 

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An Open Letter to the Couple Who Roofied Me During My Otherwise Awesome Vacation (TW)

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Man, fuck you guys.

What was that shit anyway? Ketamine? Home-brewed GHB? Some kind of magical Puke In the Gutter and Fail At Keeping Your Head Up chemical masterpiece? I didn’t even know where I was. I had to puke up what was, hands down, the spiciest (and most delicious) Indian food I have ever eaten. I had to do this on the curb, in a skirt. And it came right out of nowhere. One minute I was standing on the sidewalk trying to change from heels into flats, and the next? Boom. Vomit.

You had a pretty smart set-up going, I must say. You, chicky, looked like Ginny Weasley, and barely old enough to even be in a bar; you walked up all, “hey, my brother wants to get you a drink, but he’s shy…” and I was just like, cool, whatever, I’ll take a free drink. So I ordered it, and the bartender made it. You grabbed it and handed it to me, which just seemed polite, given that you were standing and I was sitting. And then you, Mr. Shy “Brother,” shuffled over and made small talk while I drank it down.

I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I think you said you were studying Forensic Science–which I hope you made up, because for the love of whatever, you need to stay the fuck out of the criminal justice system.

Anyway, I drank this sugary, pineapple-infused drink that looked and tasted totally normal, and sure, you, lady, had briefly handled my drink…but you’re a chick. And you were only in my blind spot for a second. And I was sitting right at the bar, so it’s not like you’d had to walk across the room to bring it to me. This was a distance of maybe four feet.

And you, Mr. Shy, you were just a chatty dude. So wev.

And who roofies someone who’s in a group anyway?

Oh wait. That’s right. There is no perfect victim, just like there’s no perfect criminal. There are just, yknow, assholes and the people they choose to target. And while I could continue to beat myself up for accepting the drink at all, I think we all know who’s at fault here.

So you were trying to drag me to a different bar, and we said we’d meet you there even though none of us had any intention of going, and you finally left. And then we walked outside, and bam.

Again, fuck you guys. It apparently took thirty-five minutes for Pepper and her sister to even get me to stand up from the curb, and then they had to walk me to a taxi, and the driver gave me a plastic bag to puke in, and then I somehow made it back up to Pepper’s sister’s apartment and blacked out. I guess. I don’t really remember. I couldn’t even hold down water until two p.m. the next day. It’s taken me a week to even imagine the taste of alcohol without wanting to vomit. I had stomach problems for three solid days. I had to forgo oysters for lunch thanks to you shitheads.

Stay the hell out of my close relationship with seafood.

And personally, I didn’t really enjoy that whole “I can’t move my limbs” feeling. The “where the fuck am I and who am I with?” feeling wasn’t much better. But you know what really pisses me off? The part where I have to take a drug test for my new job, and, since I don’t know what you gave me or how long it can stay in my system, I’m gonna have to drop thirty-something dollars on this shit:

I think you mean "Vile."

Thanks, guys.

Oh, and to that one person who was all, “well that happens, that’s why I’m careful when I go to the bar”? Stop talking. Not just in this one instance, but as a general rule. Just don’t.

Here, consider this painting Pepper and I saw at the pier in Bandon, Oregon:

 

Yes, it says "Repent" on the bottom.

For the record, you did not ruin my vacation. It was still made of awesome and fuzzy bunny happiness. But seriously–I got roofied by a woman? My faith in humanity, you guys took it.

Sincerely,

Paprika

I Wish the Humanities Were Such a Noble Field of Study.

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Dear Elementary Education Program,

Thank you. You have truly produced some extraordinary students. There is nothing I love more than reading a paper in which the writer ends a sentence with four exclamation points, substitutes ALL CAPS for the less ostentatious and sadly pedestrian italics, and, rather than provide actual statistics, simply states, “I believe the number is something like 10%.”

I appreciate that you have entrusted me with the task of explaining plagiarism to a student enrolled in a 400 level class. I think it’s great that college seniors feel free to eschew quotation marks, and forgo in-text citations in favor of simply embedding URLs into their essays. Proper documentation is hard, so fuck it.

I admire your willingness to let your students build their “arguments,” such as they are, solely on the foundation of personal experience. Logic and research are overrated; there is little in the world that is more persuasive than an incoherent soliloquy about your friends in high school and how they were like totally back-stabby and stuff.

Ad hominem attacks are fantastic; seeing your students misuse the term ad hominem is even better. Two sentence paragraphs are always a delight, as are uncontextualized quotations. I adore phrases like “an act of incest discrimination”—it rivals the Book of Job for number of potential interpretations. Such rudimentary, purely informational theses as “Jonathan’s Swift’s A Modest Proposal is an example of satire” make my heart simultaneously sing and soar, while the suggestion that The Simpsons is just mean and “makes light of a working-class lifestyle epitomized by a family with the same name, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie” makes me feel so woefully inferior that all I can do is curl up in a fetal position on my couch and inhale a bag of chocolate chips.

But what really buoys my spirits is the knowledge that these students will go on to teach the children of Amurrica. I’m so grateful that you have kept these emerging leaders focused on what’s truly important—the ability to make beautiful snowflakes with nothing but a piece of construction paper and a pair of scissors. Had they not benefitted from your careful guidance, they might have paused to engage in serious, rational thought, and then, well, who knows what kind of atrocities might have occurred.

Thanks, El Ed! You make me feel like maybe everything will be okay after all.

Love,

Paprika

Your Most Devoted Writing Tutor

Why Do People Keep Shitting All Over My Facebook, Yo?

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You know, some of my Facebook friends are not that bright–and some are goddamn obnoxious. (These two qualities have a tendency to overlap.) But the ones that annoy me, I hide. If they really piss me off, I delete them. You know what I don’t do, though? Swan in on their Facebooks and squawk about they’re wrong about evvvverything and they don’t know stuff about stuff and god, seriously, if they have all these strong strong opinions, why aren’t they better activists?!

You know who does do that, though? My Facebook friends.

One of them did it here; he was publicly flamed and blocked me in a fit of entitled white male fury.  And a couple days ago, a NEW logic fail was erected–and subsequently toppled–on my page. I’m red; Pepper is yellow; the first contrarian, a dude, is blue; and the second, a lady, is green. (Her picture is obscured because it features one of her children. See?–I’m only a part-time asshole.)

Behold:

Is it possible for a man to be raped by a woman?! Well, despite the fact that my stepmother is on trial for sodomy down in the southeast (Flannery O’Connor wrote my fucking life, I swear), I say: of course not. Has never happened, nuh-uh. No wai, guiz!!

Prepare yourself for my avalanche of misandry!

Oh, and now it really gets special. Two lady feminists, gettin’ schooled in sexism by a privileged white dude!

So, to recap: despite the fact that I never identified myself as a rape survivor (since, you know, I’m not), I’m publicly airing my victim laundry all over Facebook. And so, operating under the assumption that I am a) a victim, and b) using my past experience to make a point about rape, the only logical conclusion to be drawn is that I’m totally privileging my experience over everyone else’s, and using my trauma as an excuse to become a dude-hating 21st century Valerie Solanas.

No, wait…that doesn’t sound right.

And then there’s Contrarian #2, who thinks I just don’t know what I be talking abouts, and also, why don’t I stop bitching and start a revolution? Well, I’ll get to that in a moment. But for the record, um, if you’re going to criticize someone’s level of social activism, you’d better be fucking amazing. You’d better be Gandhi.

Contrarian #1 has officially bowed out. Contrarian #2, however, is about to board the condescension train and head straight into Piss-Off-Paprika-ville.

And then, silence. Chirping of crickets, chill night air. A metaphorical raven fell to the ground and lay there, gasping–with broken entitlement wings and a logic arrow lodged in his shoulder. Or something.

It’s 2:27 a.m., and By God, I’ve Got Shit to Say

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I had a class with a really dumb girl once (well, woman—but a woman with girl-level dumbness). Unfortunately for everyone, the class was creative writing, so she communicated her dumbness through cop novel clichés. And in this double-spaced 15-page load of tripe—which managed to encompass two entire chapters, by the way—there was a cop whose workaholic nature she ascribed to “what doctors said was a form of OCD.”

Yeah, no.

I have OCD. Mild, controllable OCD, but OCD nonetheless. Of course, OCD manifests itself in a metric shit ton of different ways, and I would hardly try to say that my particular version of it is the gold standard by which all subsequent cases should be measured, but. That girl was full of crap.

Morons who try to create disorder-plagued characters seem to take one of two positions: either that the disorder is horrific and debilitating, and causes the sufferer to, say, mutilate live bunnies while gnawing on the bones of brave social activists, or (my favorite) that the alleged sufferer is in fact a tortured, eccentric genius with a unique and valuable view of the entire goddamn universe, a view often accompanied by some vague, new-agey sort of mysticism.

Both of these portrayals are incredibly offensive, of course, but I think the tortured genius trope pisses me off more. Because mental disorders don’t make you brilliant—they make you miserable. And not everyone who has a mental disorder is smart—sometimes they’re complete fucking morons.

Which is fine.    A mentally ill neurosurgeon has no more intrinsic value than a mentally ill c-store cashier, or a mentally ill homeless person. (Of course, I choose to believe that homeless men—and they’re always men, of course—are just drug-addled rapists who cuddle crack bulbs in their sleep. Otherwise, I might actually have to care about them.)

But my point: Anyone can have a mental disorder. Those disorders can take many forms. And every one of those forms fucking blows.

Also, every single one of them deserves to be helped.

And can I just say that it is possible, god damn it, to have OCD minus the obsessive hand-washing? My symptoms, for example, include:

Counting. Of everything, but especially of objects that are arranged in easily-discernible patterns, like tiles.

Rearranging numbers into mathematical equations. I usually do this with home addresses, zip codes, and phone numbers. Because my math skills are limited, the equations are limited to those using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents, parentheses (for the order of operations), and occasionally, when I feel all smart and stuff, fractions.

Rhythmic clicking in the back of my throat.

Ending stairs on my left foot—which is weird, because I’m right-handed and extremely right-dominant in every area (except politics, this being Pepper and Paprika after all). I can’t even use my left hand to zip my jacket. I have memorized the number of steps on many a staircase so I know which foot to start on, because I really hate having to skip a step to finish the stairs correctly.

Fitting two steps into each sidewalk block (left foot, then right foot, so I step over the cracks with my left). I really wish sidewalks didn’t have blocks; it would make my life so much easier.

Counting the letters in words, then the syllables; dividing the number of syllables into the number of letters to see if it comes out evenly. Words that do, I remember. But words like “beautiful,” despite fulfilling that requirement, are not among my favorites, because each syllable, as pronounced, does not have three letters. It’s beau / ti / ful, not bea / uti / ful, amirite? Words like bookcase (book / case) are nice, though. And words of three or more syllables that follow this pattern are great.

Most people will never pick up on my habits. I’m good at hiding them. But, trust, I engage in them constantly, and utterly against my will.

It’s not always bad, I guess. Counting soothes me when I’m stressed. The letter/syllable thing means that I spend a lot of time observing the patterns of people’s speech, which probably improves my dialogue-writing abilities. But generally, it’s stupid, and annoying, and it distracts me from shit that actually matters.

Which is why, during the full-class critique for creative writing dumbass’s cop drama, I made a point of basically saying, look. I don’t mean to use my experience as the ultimate example of OCD—especially since my case is so manageable—but OCD is not generally something that improves your career. It fucks things up. On account of it being a disorder. On account of it sucking. On account of it being something that nobody should ever want ever.

OCD doesn’t signal an Einsteinian brain, nor is it quirky and fun. And I would venture to say that Schizophrenic hallucinations don’t allow one to commune with a higher power, either.

So what I’m trying to say here is that Monk is a good show, because it depicts a character who is both helped and hindered by his disorder. I really wish that more shows/books/movies/people would take on such a wonderfully nuanced view.

See? You can be OCD and still write a rambling, disorganized blog post. Misconceptions, I SHATTER THEM.

Also: WTF, People?

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Seriously:

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Pepper Wants to talk to You about Sex…

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Spider sex! Ha Ha! Gotcha!

Actually, in addition to spider sex, I’ve been thinking about all the ways that science and sex and reportage intersect and PISS ME OFF. I’ve been putting off writing this because I didn’t feel like digging up a shitload of links and “proving” my points. And I still don’t, so for the time being take my facts with a large grain of salt, and use your own google-jutsu, mmkay? I am lazy like a tarantula but may get a burst of energy and liberally pepper (heh heh who doesn’t love a good pun?) this with links at some point.

Anyway. Spider sex, yo!

Nothing demonstrates the human proclivity to project, the problem with the intense compartmentalization of the sciences, the silliness of  the science and reportage of sex and our own deep love of the appeal to nature quite like the poor, much maligned black widow.

For expediencies sake I will dispell some common myths. First of all, it should be known that some spiders can in fact choose which male’s sperm they will use to fertilize their eggs ( WHY DIDNT YOU GIVE ME THIS ABILITY EVOLUTION!?!?! WHYYYYYYYYYY!?! LIFE WOULD BE SO.MUCH.SIMPLER!).

Female  black widows do not in fact eat every male that they mate with. There are two classes of males that are likely to be eaten. The stupid, who persist in trying to mate with a female who is not interested in them, and those who are already dying. The first class of males is quite rare. They have a fairly elaborate set of mating behaviors worked out to avoid these situations. The second class is very common, and they give Black Widows their macabre reputation.

But! This is because male spiders go through a final molt, become sexually mature, fill their little reproductive gloves with semen, and wander around furiously looking for a mate. They have an expiration date. They live very brief lives relative to female spiders. Often, by the time they find a mate, they are very close to death. So, as a nutritional insurance policy for their offspring, and in the hopes that their sperm will actually be used, they offer themselves quite calmly as a nuptial gift. Their offspring are well fed, their fitness increases over-all, and boom, sweet mystery of love. For spiders, the tendency is  toward female gigantism and longer lifespans. Because female spiders are more important to the fitness of the species as a whole, they tend toward what would be called grossly unfair matriarchy of the most extreme sort in humans. A little something like this:    

Why have I regaled you with this delightful tale of sweet sweet spider love? To make a point about the many many degrees of distance between the actual facts of natural sexual behaviors and the way we read them, and project our own sexual fears on them. Black Widows and their particular sexual behaviors have come to stand in for spiders as whole (although they are in no way representative of the ridiculous diversity of sexual behaviors for all spiders, kind of like strictly hetero humans). Female Black Widows have become a popular symbol and metaphor for the “man-eater,” the sexually voracious woman, who has become, by stepping outside of prescribed social boundaries, not just monstrous, but actually dangerous.

Dudes have some anxieties, people.

Now, most people have been socialized to fear and loathe my friends the spiders. So you could argue that I have it backwards. Its not the scary power of female sexuality that we are projecting onto spiders, but the scariness of spiders that we’re projecting onto the sex-lovin’ ladies. I wish you wouldn’t bother, but you could.

So lets look at some other interesting examples of how we read sexual behavior in animals we do not loathe. Lets look at Lions, just casually. I’m an Arachnology wonk. I won’t claim to be an expert in feline behavior. This is a thought experiment not me whimsically declaring mammal behaviorists morons. Mmkay? Mmkay.

But. In Lions, you have a group of females that do the food, social and offspring rearing, and a “dominant” male that basically just lounges around fucking, and fighting off other males. I think its really interesting how this gets read. The idea that the male in these groups has lots of power, runs things and is dominant is very patriarchal, and super weird when I look at it from a spider or, hell, bee sex/sociality perspective.

Because from that perspective?

The males in these groups aren’t in charge. They are totally, and absolutely dependent for survival and fitness on the real social group, which is the females. In fact it is not proof of power and prestige that they don’t do the offspring care. Because the survival of their offspring is the measure of their genetic fitness and success (this is something I like to remind asshats who pull the women love babeeyz and are clearly biologically inferior emotional morons because they do the childcare while I am out doing real work– dude, biologically, childcare is the REAL work, its the most important thing in the world, bar nothing, full stop). Its also not a measure of being king shit that they don’t hunt their own food, because it means that they are dependent on the success of the females to continue, y’know, living.

So it’s a measure of dependency in both cases. They don’t just fight other males for sex, they are also fighting for food and safety. In fact, they are essentially sex workers in this kind of group dynamic. When you see a female that is lower in the social hierarchy of the female group approach the male and get rebuffed, it doesnt mean that the male is particularly powerful, it means the male is jockeying for more fitness (in this case fitness would equal mating privileges with the more dominant females), and that the dominant females control his reproductive life, and the reproductive lives of the females lower on the totem pole.

The tendency of these males to kill off the offspring of other males confirms this. They don’t have the “power” to cause the females in the group to maintain strict polygamous faithfulness. They rely on the estrus and generosity of the female group pretty hardcore, it seems. Fuck knows they don’t seem to be leading the group a la lion king. They get to eat well because again, reproductive workers need lots of nutrition to maintain their reproductive abilities (queen bees, ants and termites anyone?), not because they are OMG BIG MANLY DOOD LIONS RAWR!!

I’ve deliberately excluded herd animals from this analysis, because as prey animals they have a whole different set of selection pressures resulting in a different set of behaviors. Humans haven’t been prey animals for a very, very long time so it would be an even less apt comparison.

Oh and also, I am not saying, MRA/Nice Guy™ style, that women have all the power! Look Look Look a feminist said hot women are in charge of everything WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ! So don’t even go there.

Anyhow, this is how I would read these kinds of social dynamics in arachnids or eusocial insects (Sorta. Eusocial insects have some genetic weirdness that muddles things up, just google it. Whatever). I would start by looking at the relationships between female group members, assuming those to be the most important ones. It’s actually pretty easy to do this without getting confused, especially with spiders, because their sexual dimorphism tends toward female gigantism or equal size. What the hell does that have to do with anything, you ask? Oh you clever, clever reader.

Here’s what. Humans (scientists even!) tend to see male mammals as bigger, and thus stronger, and thus somehow more important to the species.

Heck, I just mentioned above that female gigantism in spiders is remarkable because it inverts the perception.

We do this. Why? Patriarchy!

But its a bias. Its kind of like the different ways that people read a text. Male size dimorphism probably doesn’t say a fucking thing about capability or biological “importance.” It says that males need to outwardly show their genetic quality, and be able to fight off other males in order to reproduce, and for their sons to reproduce ad infinitum (See the “Sexy Son hypothesis.” I love it) It also says, interestingly enough that females in these groups need to show their genetic quality socially rather than physically.

Humans aren’t Lions, and we don’t play by these rules. If we ever did, it wasn’t to any great extent, because although men are larger than women on average, its not by that much. Certainly not the difference between a female and male black widow, or a pair of peacocks. They also don’t have frills, manes, ruffs, antlers, horns, or any other extremely conspicuous male only physical attributes. We also basically flirt the same way regardless of sex, allowing for slight socially scripted variances.

But it raises some questions about our biases and perceptions in reading nature. I do think it really puts paid the idea that “I am a man, and thus stronger than you, and my strength exists to dominate you, little lady, and thats how it is all over nature so its obviously correct and true!”

So,  Pepper, you may be asking, what the fuck are you talking about and what does it have to do with me? Patience.

I don’t think that human sexually is “naturally” polygamous, or polyandrous (as many spiders are!). I dont actually think that human sexuality is “naturally” oriented any which way, except that we tend to form some kind of child rearing bond, if we reproduce. Our ovulation is hidden, our chromosomal, genital and performed sexuality is incredibly diverse and for us, sexuality may actually be more about social bonding than reproduction. It seems that pleasurable sex that is practiced for more than simple reproduction has increased our over all fitness by keeping us together (Captain and Tenille were socio-biologists all along. Who knew!) in families.

For what its worth I don’t believe that a strict sex/gender binary exists now, or has ever existed. So it would make perfect sense that I also don’t think that one biological sex has a higher sex drive than the other. There is so much chromosomal variation that it just seems unlikely to be a biologically fixed reality.

But all the stuff I talked about above? Those behaviors have been read as patriarchal (or in the case of the widows, as horrifying inverted patriarchy) and natural. Boom, the patriarchy is natural and thus inevitable and thus the best possible mode of society and sexual behavior! And god damnit, we will make the science prove it!

You see, I told you I had a point. I doubt that I’m the first person evar-omg-so-genius to read group dynamics in nature this way. In fact, I think maybe LOTS of scientific observy types going back to forever have probably seen these dynamics.

But wtfox then! This conflicts with what YOU JUST WROTE, PEPPER! MAKE UP YOUR MIND, FICKLE WOMAN!

Oh no, it really makes an unfortunate sort of sense. Because If you live in a patriarchal society, and you have a shitload of dudely privilege, the last thing you want is for anyone to come swanking up questioning whether or not this is the correct natural order of things.

Humans have a stupid tendency to look outide of our species for clues about how our species should behave (I’m looking at, you fucking prairie vole assholes).

So you, mr. patriarchy, you are probably deeply uncomfortable with the idea that your big manliness may not mean that you the natural born god damned head of heaven and earth. That your natural born manliness may in fact mean that you are…a kind of reproductive/sex worker, like that is maybe your most important biological role, whilst the women do the important  social engineering.

As an aside, there is nothing wrong with sex work or sex workers and this should not be read as me criticizing them. This is about how the patriarchy views sex and specifically reproductive labor as fucking awful. Presumably its like deciding that since there is no Thai food where you live, Thai food (reproductive labor) just sucks, man.

Oh, and to re-iterate:  I IN NO WAY BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE TRUE ETERNAL BIOLOGICALLY DETERMINED ROLE OF MEN.

Humans seem quite biologically equal, in terms of reproductive roles. We are equally important to the fitness of the species. The sexual dimorphism that you see in men is actually fairly minor, probably a leftover from our very ancient ancestors, and not proof that ladies can’t be in combat/drive monster trucks/fish for lobsters/whatever it is that NOT A SINGLE ONE OF US is strong enough to do this week.

But If you are looking to nature for clues about how your patriarchal society is the bomb and you find the above situation instead, well, CLEARLY the only  logical conclusion is that… … …

WOMENS SEXUALITY IS TERRIFYING! IT COMPELLS THE MENZ AGAINST THEIR WILL! IT MUST.BE.STOPPED! I AM SUPER IMPORTANT AND DESERVE TO BE IN CHARGE! MY DESIRE TO HAVE LOTS OF SEX IS NATURAL AND POWERFUL AND MANLY AND CORRECT!  BUT UM….WOMEN HAVE NO NATURAL DESIRE! EXCEPT FOR BABIES! OBVIOUSLY BABIES ARE AWFUL! BUT WOMEN’S DESIRES (THE ONES THEY DON’T HAVE) ARE HELLISHLY POWERFUL AND WILL DESTROY THE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD! HOT CHICKS CONTROL EVERYTHING BUT I AM SUPPOSED TO CONTROL EVERYTHING BECAUSE I HAVE A PENIS WHICH EQUALS CAPABILITY BUT O MAI GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

It sort of explains the oddly incompatible attitudes about womens sexuality that persist to this very minute, doesn’t it?

On the one hand, good girls don’t have any sexual desire. Indeed, in our patriarchy women are frigid sexual gatekeepers, and men are sexually voracious. But good girls must be engineered.

They don’t exist “naturally,” no no. Their sexuality is so powerful and fearsome that it is the thing that must never be spoken of! It must be shamed! It must be forcibly punished! They must be ignorant of sex for pleasure (fuck you, genital mutilation)! Failing this, “uppity” women become sexually voracious too, but dangerous. They must be even more tightly controlled, censured, punished and sent back to the basement of society. Men must demand virgins who fuck like whores! It’s all impossible!

And this shit seems to persist in science around sex. Oh how it persists. With a delish buttercream layer of western beauty fascism, MORE patriarchy, racism, hetero-sexism, rape apologia (my least favorite), and hand waving ignorage in re socially shaped attitudes about sex.

For example. It is rarely  mentioned in the reportage or even the actual studies about sexuality themselves that the default for human and the ancestral condition of human, is a. female and b. black african.

Seriously you would think that white and male is the standard of human, and the only yardstick by which human biology can fairly be measured, because fuck you, thats why.

Please, hold the sides of the boat I just rocked for you.

All fetuses are female by default. The point of this is to say that biologically, female sexuality is the norm, not incredibly complicated MAGICAL WEIRDNESS that it is popularly treated as. Female sexual response is the standard, not the deviation. Female orgasm is the egg that came before the cock was hatched.

And our ancestors, ALL our ancestors, were Black Africans. This means that when you read some bullshit study about men’s preference for busty small waisted blondes because blondness is associated with youth or some nonsense, you should question the shit out of that. Blondness and blue eyedness are both mutations, and they are not super old mutations either. They are definitely not old enough to have deeply and profoundly, on genetic level, shaped human sexual behavior. That kind of thing is either bad science or bad journalism.

Pretty much any kind of gender essentialist science, especially evo-pych, just straight up ignores the default and ancestral conditions in which humans evolved. Instead, the preference seems to run to acting like only white people have actually “evolved,” and that you guessed it, inequality is our natural biological state. So refreshing, right?  Such a brave new paradigm in the face of 30,000 years of feminist hegemony…Oh wait.

Lots of the slut shaming that isn’t argued via religion, will be argued via shit science. The fucking voles and oxytocin are an example (google-fu). Any argument that monogamy is unnatural for men but natural for women.

Any argument that women have evolved to cope with rape, or that rape is a reproductive strategy. Anytime you read about how women are attracted to rich old dudes and ITS BIOLOGY! Anytime you read that rich old dudes are attracted to women young enough to be their grand-daughters because science dammit!

Women are bad at math and science because its science damnit!

Bullshit. If human females did not already possess the innate ability, neither could males. Any science that ignores the incredible complexity with which social mores shape our sexuality in favor of shoring up the same old shit is bad science. Because patriarchy is near-ubiquitous, but not completely so. Exceptions mean that non-patriarchal human groups are either very genetically different than the rest of us, or patriarchy is not biological. Last I checked, women in non-patriarchal cultures weren’t growing feathers and taking to the sky (although that would be fucking sweet), soooo….yeah.

And even within patriarchal cultures, attitudes about sex and gender are NOT universally shared. Heck, even within genetically related populations these things are not universal. Which would lead me to believe that most of this stuff? Not actually evolutionary, or biological. Not, in fact old enough to be so. Its like arguing that corsets existed because men had a preference for big hips and tiny waists in 1899, but suddenly, because everyone knows that evolution is super fast like that, by 1920 men had a taste for boyish figures without well defined waists or hips at all, and then 20 years after that broad shoulders because shoulder pads, and then 30 years after that huge calves because bell bottoms… you see?

I am not decrying biology. I love me some biology. I’m not even saying that science should just avoid looking at human sexuality. I’m saying that scientists need to acknowledge some important core factors about what it means to be human (clue: not exclusively white and male). I’m saying that science doesn’t exist to agree with society, that science doesn’t exist to maintain misery and inequality, and promulgate stupid fallacious logic with its authority. If that is what your science is doing, it isn’t boldly telling the truth that the feminists don’t want to hear, its missing a better hypothesis. It is serving something beyond the pursuit of knowledge or better living.

I am saying that journalists need to not take a study on fucking prairie voles, and extrapolate that feminism has ruined women’s lives, ladies cannot avoid bonding with every man they sleep with, and will use up some mystery reserve of magic love juice and then die lonely and broken. Its not true. It doesn’t even make sense.

I am saying that anytime anyone makes an assertion that men’s and women’s visible physicality and modern behavior speaks to their respective eternal biologically fixed-by evolution sexual/gender roles, it is hugely questionable.

Especially if it is not in fact based off actual humans, but some other animal who doesn’t practice agriculture, build cities, or watch cartoons. I am saying that there is nothing un-natural or natural about monogamy, polyandry, polygamy, poly-hermous, monogamy, serial monogamy, bi, queer, trans, strict hetero, strict homo, or strict asexuality.

Because if these things were in any way detrimental on a species wide level, to the point of actually causing deaths ( and no, STI’s do NOT count, I’m talking about the sexual behaviors themselves not the little bastards hitching rides on them) which is really the only point where we need to worry anyway, they would have gone out long before now.

So we need to stop paying lip service to the “men’s sexualities as simple and women’s as complicated” bullshit. Everyone’s sexuality is complicated. We need to stop buying into shit that is tenuously linked from voles and bonobo’s as gospel truefax.

Actually, its more than this. We need to stop searching for the essential truth of men’s and women’s gender and sexuality (clue: it’s not binary!). If there was a great truth, it would probably be SUPER obvious (see, spiders). But it’s not. We need to read nature, even our own natures carefully. The patriarchal explanation should probably always be the throw-away hypothesis, not the go to framework.

This is the same usurpation and mis-reading of nature that has been going on since forever. And its a freaking fallacy anyway. Because what works well for one species, does not translate to another (or men would have to be suiciding themselves CONSTANTLY).

We read nature through our own prejudices, but that does not make our prejudices true, inevitable or right. It also does not mean that what is natural is right. Because we really don’t know what is natural. We don’t know how other animals perceive their own sexualities. We don’t know how social animals think and feel about their social structures.

But we do know that the patriarchy hurts every-fucking-body. It squeezes lots of us into really uncomfortable robot suits. It mocks the dignity of both men and women. It erases the identities and importance of so many people I couldn’t even begin to list them all. It ruins all our fun. Not sadistic mean spirited oppressive fun, but real fun.

Fun where you can sit down with someone and not put them in a  mental box, and go deaf to half of what they say, or worry about going to a party and drinking because all men may be predatory rapists and its all your fault. It costs us happy, satisfying sexual encounters, and manufactures uncomfortable exploitative ones in their place, it tells us we should be having lots of sex, or no sex or both at the same time. It fills us with anxieties and lies and loneliness.

The antidote to bad science and bad patriarchy is to be educated and educate, to challenge, to have happy enthusiastically consensual sex and to not feel guilty or weird for not having sex, to communicate well, be respectful and ethical, and for gods sake don’t fuck anyone who thinks you are lesser.

And to question the fucking voles. They LIE. Look at this lying faux-mongamous little bastard! Poly all along. Just own it, Vole. Own it.