On the nature of addiction

June 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Posted in Conditions, Ethics, Media, Opinions | 2 Comments

This is going to be a complex post in which I will make a certain very uncomfortable admission that I’ve never made in public before. For that reason it might ramble slightly. Bear with me.

First of all, news today that the European Court will rule on whether obesity is a disability. I have some thoughts about that.

Obesity isn’t a disability. People become disabled because they are obese. Disability is the symptom, not the cause.

Take that one step further though: Obesity is also a symptom. It’s a symptom of addiction; addiction to over-eating, and specifically to sugar.

See, this is why we have angry fat acceptance activists like “This Is Thin Privilege” (I’m not providing a link, because they’re honestly borderline psychotic and I don’t need the aggro) and the like; pointing out to an obese person that their obesity is a problem is exactly the same as pointing out to a junkie or an alcoholic or a gambling addict that they have a problem – Until they’re ready to accept it, all you’re going to get in return is anger and denial. And some of them will never be ready to accept it.

Obese people aren’t disabled, they’re addicts.

And here’s where it gets really messy:

If a patient comes in to my care having seizures from alcohol withdrawal, maybe with a case of hepatic encephalopathy, then we can dry that patient out. We can give them benzos to control their seizures and withdrawal, we can give them IV Pabrinex to save their liver, we can get that person back on their feet, and we can say with complete honesty: “You cannot drink alcohol ever again, or it will kill you”.

How do we say that to a food addict? “You can’t eat ever again or you’ll… Oh… Wait… Never mind”.

See, abstinence is EASY. Alcoholic? Don’t drink. Heroin addict? Don’t take heroin? Smoker? Don’t fucking smoke.

It’s a piece of cake. Honestly.

Know what’s hard? Moderation. Tell somebody with an addiction that they can have just a little bit of what they’re addicted to? They’re ADDICTED to it. One drink will become twelve really quickly. That’s what recovering food addicts have to deal with: They can’t just avoid their addiction entirely. They have no choice but to have a little bit of their poison, at least three times per day, ever single day.

Quitting booze and cigarettes is easy. Getting slim is a bastard.

And I know this for several reasons. Firstly, I smoked (heavily) for thirteen years and quit without incident the first time I seriously attempted to. Secondly, I am a recovering fatty. My BMI is 32, and it’s not because I don’t exercise, it’s because I eat too damned much sugary, high calorie food. I’m doing my best to moderate it, but it’s bloody hard. Thirdly, and this is where I make an uncomfortable admission, I have an alcohol problem. If I’m drinking, then brother I am DRINKING. I am addicted to alcohol. I am an alcoholic. I’ve never said that before. Feels weird. But good.

But I can cope with my alcohol addiction. Really, it’s not difficult at all. I either drink nothing whatsoever (the default state of being for the last few months), or if I drink at home I buy four 330ml bottles of beer and no more (never any spirits, and oh my God do I miss single-malt Scotch whisky). When I’m out and exposed to unlimited booze, any of my friends will tell you: I drink. I really, really drink. Which is why I don’t go out very often.

The problem is, none of these strategies work for food addicts. You cannot abstain from food entirely. Neither can you have a house in which there is no food (not and maintain a marriage anyway). I guess the challenge for the 21st century is to find a way to break the addiction. Methadone for sugar.

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On “Health at Every Size”

August 31, 2013 at 10:55 am | Posted in Conditions, Media, Opinions | Leave a comment

Oh boy. I don’t think I’ve ever written a post outside of the realms of aggressive atheism that I knew before I even started was going to be such flame bait. That said, I will try to keep this sensible and not bash any particular demographic. My goal here is to state facts, not to tease obese people. I’m even going to add a disclaimer: I am a chubby fat-ass. Oh yes. But I’m not kidding myself about the impact that has on me.

Health at Every Size (HAES), from their own website, ”acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors ”.

That’s a good goal, and it’s one you have to approve of. Getting anybody to be healthier is a good thing; getting somebody who’s very unhealthy to be healthier is even better. So I don’t want to take issue with that. But I really do take issue with some of the methods it advocates and the messages it sends. I’ll get on to those in a moment.

So: Who invented Health at Every Size? A lady by the name of Linda Bacon (save the jokes, people), who to be fair holds a lot of qualifications in a lot of disciplines. However, while she does have a PhD in physiology she’s not a medical doctor, and that makes me a little wary of putting too much weight in her opinions about something as important (and medical) as obesity and overweight. It’s also interesting to note her list of peer-reviewed published works: Not extensive, and nothing in any of the big, high-impact journals. She calls herself an ”internationally recognized authority on weight and health”, but honestly I see nothing in her public profile that backs up that assertion, and I’m cautious about people who proclaim themselves to be internationally recognized. If it’s true, they shouldn’t need to say it themselves because other people are saying it for them – I read widely in medical and care journals, and until I started looking at the HAES website, I’d never heard of Linda Bacon.

The HAES website lists three principles that I want to talk about.

First: ”Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.”.

Yes. Totally with you on that. We do come in all shapes and sizes, and it is nobody’s place to make judgements about an individual’s weight. There is a huge amount of body dysmorphia in the Western world, mostly thanks to media depictions of absurdly “perfect” (I use the word guardedly) bodies, faces and teeth. Anybody who doesn’t look like Beyonce or Brad Pitt* is made to feel like they’re inferior, not good enough, second class. And that’s a bad thing. So I have no bone to pick with this point at all.

Second: ”Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.”

…Aaaaand then again, there’s this one. Oh boy. How much is wrong with this one? First of all, Western diets (particularly among poorer demographics, who are also – non-coincidentally – more obese) mostly use fat and sugar as flavours. It’s a general rule of thumb that any processed food proclaiming itself to be low in fat is likely to be high in sugar, and any processed food proclaiming itself to be low in sugar is likely to be high in fat. The problem with fat and sugar (particularly sugar) is that they are incredibly calorie dense and are digested and absorbed by the human body very, very easily. A tablespoon of sugar contains 45 calories and no nutrients whatsoever except pure carbohydrate, and your body will absorb all of those calories immediately. On the other hand, a large bowl of salad will come in at less than 50 calories, not all of which will be absorbed by your body, and a shedload of micronutrients that a healthy body really does need.

The reason that this is such a problem is that sugar triggers the pancreatic feedback response, dumping insulin into your body. Insulin does two things in this context: First it enables cells to absorb glucose in your blood quickly and easily so that your sugar levels (which have already risen rapidly at this point) drop rapidly back down, and it stimulates your body to store fat. That’s right. Sugar makes you fat. It also has an addicting effect; when the sugar rush is followed by the sugar slump, your body wants more sugar. And that’s more high-density calories that your body just does not need.

The “Too Long; Didn’t Read” version of this is: Processed foods and beverages are addictive, calorie dense, habit forming, nutritionally crap, and don’t satiate hunger. They trigger a pleasure response, but it takes way, waaaay too much volume of them to fill your stomach and satisfy your appetite.

And chances are, if you’re already overweight, obese or super-obese, the foods that you respond to hunger cues with and get pleasure from are foods that you really, really shouldn’t be eating.

On to principle three: ”Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”

Or, as it’s otherwise known, ”Doing exercise and getting healthier, which as a side effect will cause you to lose weight”. Do I even need to add anything here? Of course better cardiovascular health through exercise is a good idea. Anybody who tells you otherwise is a moron.

Now I’m going to move on to some things that come from Linda Bacon’s own promotional website.

”MYTH: Fat Kills. REALITY: On average, ‘overweight’ people live longer than ‘normal’ people.”

How can I put this? It seems to me that this quote is misleading. It seems to me that a layperson probably doesn’t know the distinctions between overweight, obese, morbidly obese and super-obese. It seems to me that Linda Bacon might be deliberately using the word “overweight”, knowing that it’s probably the word most people in all of the above brackets would use to self-describe. It also seems to me that The New England Journal of Medicine (one of those big, high-impact journals I mentioned earlier) has published research which disagrees strongly with this point. It seems to me that a reasonably unbiased, well informed, outside observer might look at this point on Linda Bacon’s website and consider it to be very cynical and manipulative indeed.

Moving on.

”MYTH: Lose weight, live longer. REALITY: No study has ever shown that weight loss prolongs life”

Well this is just flat-out wrong. I can only charitably assume that Linda Bacon doesn’t know about Google Scholar, because it took me all of about ten seconds to find a study which evidences a link between losing weight and living longer. I assume that Linda has Athens access. Because I do. And there is more than one study that says the same thing.

”MYTH: Anybody can lose weight if he or she tries. REALITY: Biology dictates that most people regain the weight they lose, even if they continue their diet and exercise programs

(Emphasis mine).

And physics dictates that this point is utter bullshit. It’s really simple: Your body cannot create mass or energy out of nothing. Therefore, if calories in equals less than calories out, your body converts mass to energy to make up the difference. Conversely, if calories in equals more than calories out, your body converts energy to mass to store the excess. This is not rocket science. I would love to know what research Linda Bacon has to support her assertion here, because I guarantee you if there is any it’s based on self-reporting by study participants – Because people routineliny underestimate their own calorie intake by A LOT, while simultaneously overestimating their own physical activity levels.

I’d like to throw one more point in here before I close. Life expectancy is going up, even amongst high BMI populations. But that isn’t because high BMI is healthy; life expectancy is going up despite increasing BMI levels. The fact is, if you have a high BMI, your life expectancy is still much lower than it would be if you have a normal BMI.

The danger in the HAES movement lays in the fact that it’s impossible to take a general rule of thumb and apply it to a whole demographic. While it’s entirely possible to be both fat and healthy, it is very rare to be both fat and healthy, and everybody thinks they’re the outlier, the exception to conventional wisdom. The problem is, most of them are wrong.

The HAES movement is popular amongst what is known as the “Fat Acceptance Movement” (or self-styled “Militant Fatties”). This is a demographic that has already made up its collective mind to ignore evidence and reality in favour of confirmation bias.

That is a group of people who nobody is ever going to convince that they are harming themselves with their lifestyle choices. When their knees collapse and have to be replaced, when they’re on BiPAP at night so they don’t die of sleep apnoea, when they’re on mobility scooters to go to the shops, these are people who will insist that all of those things are coincidental, that they’re nothing to do with their weight. Ultimately, though, when they have a serious cardiac event twenty or thirty years before their healthy BMI contemporaries and lay dead on a mortuary table, they’ll still have been just as wrong.

*Disclaimer: I think she looks like a blow-moulded Barbie doll and he looks like a skinny manlette, but whatever.**

**Disclaimer 2: Yes, I just judged two people on their appearance. I’m a hypocrite. Deal with it.

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On homeopathy

July 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Ethics, Opinions | 5 Comments

Homeopathy is a system of treatment invented in 1796 by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann. “Medicine” in the eighteenth century was not exactly evidence based, and Hahnemann correctly realised that a lot of it did more harm than good; however unlike some of his contempories (such as Edward Jenner and Anton van Leeuwenhoek) , Hahnemann didn’t really grasp the scientific process with both hands.

Hahnemann knew that, through experiment, effective drugs were being developed to treat illnesses, and he wanted to be a part of improving medicine; he tested many substances to observe their effects on the human body. It is pretty clear that he understood the nature of experimentation through trial and error, and he even got so far as formulating a hypothesis to explain some of his observations. Unfortunately, he also had some fairly large gaps in his knowledge. In combination with what I suspect might have been a little too much enthusiasm to make a name for himself in medicine, this lead him to some very simple errors. It should be noted before I continue that aside from homeopathy, Hahnemann’s other major hypothesis was that disease was caused by coffee. I mention that here just to give some insight into the mind of the man I’m going to talk about.

While working on the translation of a treatise on malaria, Hahnemann began to self-experiment with the bark of the cinchona tree – Commonly known as Jesuit’s Bark, or Quinine. For many years, Quinine was the only effective remedy for malaria. It was so good that British explorers made infusions of it called “tonic water” and drank it with gin (Edit: that might or might not be where gin and tonic comes from, this may be apocryphal, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge weight of evidence either way). Sadly, malaria has long since evolved an immunity to it.

Despite translating the work of others, Hahnemann was no expert on the use of Quinine. Whilst testing its effects on himself, he took an overdose and made himself extremely ill. What followed is the invention of the founding principle of homeopathy – Forged from pure ignorance.

Despite having little or no knowledge of malaria as a disease, Hahnemann seems to have unilaterally declared that the symptoms he experienced due to an overdose of Quinine were exactly the same as those experienced in the acute onset of malaria. Ten seconds on Google will be enough to demonstrate that he was quite wrong.

On the basis of this extremely shaky logical foundation, Hahnemann went on to make two even shakier logical jumps: Since he knew that Quinine cured malaria, and since he thought that Quinine induced the same symptoms as malaria, and since he had found that a large dose of Quinine was nearly fatal (or at least extremely unpleasant), it followed in his mind that 1) Any disease could be cured by a preparation of any substance that could induce the same symptoms as the disease in the person taking it (the “doctrine of opposites”, and 2) The smaller the dose given, the more effective this “medication” would be.

I trust I’m not going to have to point out the logical fallacies there.

Homeopathy has been developed (if that’s the right word – perhaps “completely made up” would be better) from that beginning. One interesting aspect (that completely trashes the “doctrine of opposites”) is the technique homeopathists use to dilute their preparations. Let me start by saying that mathematics is probably not their strong suit.

First, a solution of the substance to be used in the “medication” is prepared by diluting it one part in ten with distilled water. The vial containing this dilution is then struck hard against a leather bound book, ten times (bear with me, I’m not making this up – Hahnemann did that). The solution so produced is then further diluted, by taking one tenth of it, and diluting it again one part in ten with distilled water. Bang the book ten times and voila, you have a one part in one hundred dilution.

And now it gets a little tricky: Homeopathists believe that the more times you repeat this process, the more potent the medication becomes. Homeopathic remedies are often sold as a “potency” of “6C” – In real terms, one part in one trillion of the original ingredient, diluted in distilled water. A 12C concentration would be equivalent to a single pinch of salt in the Atlantic Ocean. But that’s not even where it gets really absurd – Some homeopathic treatments are diluted up to 200C. To give you a rough idea of what that means in real numbers, 40C would be the dilution given by one single atom of the original substance, diluted in all of the mass in the known universe, if it was all distilled water. To be sure of containing any of the “active” ingredient, a 200C dilution would actually require the existence of 10^320 more universes that this one, all made entirely of distilled water, and between them containing just one atom of the original substance.

But wait! There’s more! You might have noticed that homeopathic remedies don’t tend to be in liquid form – And you’re quite right, they don’t. They tend to be pills. And that’s because, having gone to all the trouble of contaminating distilled water and then diluting it so heavily that the contaminant is completely undetectable even compared to the chemicals the water leaches from the sides of its glass container, homeopathists then take this “preparation” (read: “water”) and put a single drop of it on to a sugar pill. They then allow it to evaporate (i.e. the pill to dry out). And the resulting sugar pill is what they sell in pharmacies and health food shops all over the world as homeopathic remedies.

Was ever a process so long-winded, so complicated and so utterly pointless?

Unsurprisingly, the research evidence (yes, people have wasted their time researching it) on homeopathy is unequivocal: It has no effect whatsoever beyond placebo. It revolves around people assuming that natural regression to mean is the same as cure. It does nothing. It is quackery at its absurd finest.

Edited 02/07/2013 to reflect uncertainty over the history of tonic water. Sources:

http://goo.gl/daT0F
http://goo.gl/yuDag (Athens or Wiley login required)

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On gender identity and empathy

June 30, 2013 at 9:30 am | Posted in Opinions, Politics | 2 Comments

Those of you who’ve come here from Twitter will know that I use as my avatar a picture of Nurse Ratched from the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Some of you might also have read my “about” page here and realised that I’m not actually a mental health nurse, nor am I a woman, and nor am I quite that evil.

Most casual Twitter followers and repliers, however, are not that observant – Or maybe just not that invested; it seems to me that Twitter mostly relies less on engaging with a personality (apart from certain celebrities), more on responding to what’s been said right here, right now. I could write an essay on communication theory and why innocently intended tweets can still lead to a huge amount of butt-hurt and whining from people who are far too delicate to survive on the internet, but I’ll do that another day.

I’m increasingly finding that even amongst those like me who choose to remain anonymous, the trend is to either pick a gender-neutral avatar, or to pick one that is of the tweeter’s own gender – You can often tell by the self-descriptions, or by following links to blogs. This seems (in my experience, and I can’t back this up with data) to be a particular feature of anonymous male tweeters; there’s something that stops men in particular from using avatars of the opposite sex. I wonder if that’s a subconscious acknowledgement of gender privilege. Honestly, I don’t know, but it’s interesting.

Anyway, my point is that the vast majority of people who read my tweets probably presume I’m a woman, and many of them respond in ways that they mistakenly think are appropriate to that. You probably won’t read a lot of those responses, because a lot of it is in DMs, and because I block the offending tweeters as soon as I see them. And I call them “offending” tweeters for good reasons.

It’s fascinating to be regularly mistaken for a woman. Really, it is. Working as I do in a female dominated profession, with mostly female bosses, I had no idea how much people condescend to women. There’s a steady stream of “darlings”, and “sweethearts”, and “cupcakes” – You read that right. I have, without irony, been addressed as “cupcakes”. I’ve had my (very qualified, thoroughly educated, highly experienced) thoughts and ideas questioned and dismissed by lay-persons (lay men, obviously) solely because they thought that I was a woman and that therefore my thinking was inferior to their man-thoughts. I regularly experience overt flirtation and sexually inappropriate messages (because all nurses are like Barbara Windsor in Carry On Matron, clearly).

The Angry Nurse is not my first anonymous online persona. I wrote for and moderated Unreasonable Faith as Custador, with a male avatar, for about four years. I had far, far more readers there than I do either here or on Twitter – At its peak, UF clocked over a quarter of a million unique hits per week, and my posts tended to be popular. Conversely, I have less than 250 Twitter followers and less than fifty people per week currently read this blog. The only thing that has changed other than my pseudonym is the gender of the avatar I’m using. Out of the millions of people who read what I wrote as Custador, only one of them was ever sexually inappropriate, belittled my ideas because of my gender, or felt the need to address me with titles like “cupcake”. For completeness, that one was a self-described “radical feminist” who took extreme offense when I questioned whether regularly posting photos of herself on the internet dressing as a schoolgirl and then stripping to graphic nude, was really a feminist thing to do (note: I did not slut-shame her or question her right to do so, only her association of it with feminism).

Conversely, as The Angry Nurse, behind a female mask, I have had perhaps a few thousand people read my ideas over the course of about six months. And the issues I’ve described above have occurred dozens of times. It’s like background radiation pervading the environment of my discussions, and to me, it’s fascinating. But I can escape it whenever I want to, because regardless of my picture of Nurse Ratched, I’m not a woman. I can have my male privilege back at the press of a button. I keep reminding myself that actual women are not so fortunate.

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On rape culture and why it’s men who have to change it.

June 19, 2013 at 9:41 am | Posted in Opinions, Politics | Leave a comment

This is a re-blog of a post I wrote some months ago for Unreasonable Faith while I was still blogging for them under the name of Custador. Since a large chunk of my discussions these days seem to revolve around feminism, I thought it was appropriate to re-blog it here, on my own blog.

This post will discuss rape, including specific instances of rape, both historical and fictional.

I want to take a little side-track from talking about religion today. I want to talk about something else instead.

I know it’s not really what we do here at UF, but I think what we do do boils down to talking about ideas; today I’d like to talk about feminism. Or at least I think I’d like to talk about feminism; the definition of that word seems to change depending upon who you talk to; I’ve always considered it to mean something like “the promotion of equality between the genders”, but I’ve had more than one person (mostly frothy-mouthed Men’s Rights Movement types, admittedly) telling me that it’s about “empowering women”, and has nothing at all to do with equality. Personally I think that women worldwide are starting off with a socially imposed gender disadvantage anyway, so empowering women pretty much does mean the same thing as promoting gender equality at this point. But however. Your mileage may vary, and I’m happy to be educated about what feminism means if anybody would care to take the time. I freely confess, I don’t know what the “waves” of feminism are/were, I’m largely ignorant about feminist history, and I don’t know who most of the great feminists throughout history have been (except I once dated a girl who was named after Ememline Pankhurst and my mother thinks Germaine Greer and Janet Street Porter are awesome).

But really, those issues are kind of peripheral to what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about something that I disagree with a feminist spokesperson about. But I’ll come back to that in a while.

First I want to set some context. It’s context that I suspect that all of our female readers will already be aware of, but which may come as a surprise to at least some of our male readers (though let’s not get started on the Male Privilege Argument, which I think we have done to death on the forums).

The context I want to set is this: We live in a rape culture. If you doubt me, then let me give you some examples:

1) The movie Observe and Report, which contains a “comedy” rape, in which the main character initiates sex with an unconscious woman (who he has drugged), but we’re supposed to think it’s okay because she wakes up and, while clearly still under narcotic influence, gives consent after the fact. I don’t even know where to start tearing Seth Rogan a new arsehole for that one, but I refuse to provide a link to a clip of it.

2) Convicted rapist Mike Tyson plays himself in cameo roles in movies like The Hangover and The Hangover 2.

3) Roman Polanski, a darling of Hollywood who won’t go anywhere near Hollywood (or even America) for fear of being arrested for drugging and having forcible sex with a fifteen year old girl while she was saying no and telling him to stop.

The next few examples I want to give are taken from an article in The Independent titled “2012: the year when it became okay to blame victims of sexual assault”.

“At Caernarfon Crown Court earlier this month, a 49-year-old man was convicted of raping a teenage girl. Jailing the rapist, the judge told him: “She let herself down badly. She consumed far too much alcohol and took drugs, but she also had the misfortune of meeting you”.”

A Crown Court judge, victim blaming over a rape.

“In August, the MP George Galloway publicly dismissed allegations of rape and sexual assault against Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder, he said, was guilty simply of ‘bad sexual etiquette’ when he began to have sex with a sleeping woman who had previously consented; his actions were ‘not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it’.”

Notwithstanding that George Galloway is a complete idiot, I don’t even know where to start with this one. I’ve got quite a lot of sense, personally, and I have no hesitation in saying that if that really is what happened, then that was rape.

“In April, after the footballer Ched Evans was convicted of raping a woman who was too drunk to consent, his victim faced an appalling backlash of online abuse. Twitter users called her a “money-grabbing slut” and circulated her name so widely that she was forced to change her identity.”

I don’t know if anybody else followed the Ched Evans case, but it was a much needed victory for the relatively new and largely untested UK law which explicitly states that having sex with a person too intoxicated to consent is rape. He had sex with a woman so drunk that she was virtually comatose, having had a friend pick her up and bring her back to his hotel for that specific purpose. And the great British football loving public responded with a round of vitriolic victim blaming so severe that she’s had to move to a new part of the country and adopt a new identity.

Let’s not even bother quoting any of the US Republican party’s record on rape. It’s too long, and has been done to death in recent months.

And now onto the part I want to disagree with somebody over.

Christina Diamandopoulis from the charity Rape Crisis was quoted in The Independent as saying “We have to get together as women … to grow the seeds of the fightback, which has already started, with organisations such as Rape Crisis, Object, Everyday Sexism, Mumsnet and others. Together, women have moved mountains before – we can do it again.”

No. Sorry, but no. To imply that women will stop rape, to my mind (however unintentionally), perpetuates the harmful myth that women are responsible for rape. That is, on the whole, untrue. I’m not saying that women don’t have a role to play, they clearly do: It’s a role that they share with men, though – Educating our children so that they don’t passively accept rape culture, voting with their wallets by not contributing financially towards media which denigrates women and promotes patriarchy and rape culture, and by pressuring our political representatives to at least have a clue what rape culture is and why it’s bad.

But the reason that I disagree with Ms. Diamandopoulis’ sentiments is this: The one and only person responsible for a rape, is the rapist. And rapists, in the overwhelming majority of cases, are men.

It’s not women who need to adopt a change in attitude, it’s men. I think as men we can probably all think of instances where we’ve laughed amongst ourselves at jokes that we would absolutely never tell in the presence of a woman. I can certainly think of instances from my own youth where my attitude to women was not so much questionable as downright disgusting. I’ve given unthinking support to male friends who were accused of rape, without even stopping to think that maybe they did it. I’ve certainly had sex with women whilst we were both very drunk, and not thought to ask myself if they would have wanted to do it sober. I’ve hung around in groups of male friends discussing women like they were trophies to collect. And to my fellow men I say this: I know damned well that my experiences are not uncommon. The vast majority of us have done (or still do) these things.

And that is what needs to change to end rape culture: The things that we men do and say and are, when only men are present; the ways we interact with each other, the things that we find acceptable; the standards that we relax when we are with “the boys”.

So to that end, I’d like to make a little pledge:

I will never condone rape or support rape culture in any way. I will object, loudly, when a rape joke is told. I will not tolerate objectification of women, amongst my male friends or amongst anybody else. I will do my best to be aware of my male (and white, and straight, and middle class) privilege, and to not take advantage of it. If and when I have children, I will try to educate them to critically appraise the media to which they are exposed and be aware of the gender messages within it. I will not spend money on any product, company or media which I am aware of having promoted rape culture or gender disparity, regardless of whether they have done so deliberately.

I think that pretty much covers everything I wanted to say today. Once again, I extend my usual open invitation to educate me. Go go go!

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