Last month, conservative columnist Ross Douthat published an opinion piece in the New York Times, in which he aped the utopian socioeconomic theories of Karl Marx. Gazing out at the troubles of our modern world, Douthat recommended that to save ourselves from the waves of violence from angry incels — involuntary celibate young men — perhaps, we should redistribute sex. Maybe sexing them up would lead to a fair and just society. Essentially, conservative columnist Douthat advocated what could be referred to as “sexual communism.”
The thing is, Douthat’s zeal to mock progressives, feminists and socialism, ends up blinding him; and so, he overlooks one all-important fact: A woman’s sexuality isn’t a common good to be nationalized like an oil field or a railroad.
If you accept this idea that women are essentially similar to lumber, gold or gasoline — just another raw resource to commodify — then perhaps a call to redistribute sex to minimize violence in society might sound reasonable and effective. But all that well-meaning talk goes out the window when you focus on the fact that Douthat’s argument can be boiled down to: Maybe we should force women to have sex with angry virgins, that way they’ll stop committing mass murder.
A better question to consider is: Why do these conservative thinkers sink the foundations of their arguments into the backs of women — why do their solutions always require the subjugation of women?
After all, legally speaking, in our civic and democratic arrangements, every adult is your equal. So unless you’re willing to recommend that men and women both start taking dick from sexless guys in order to keep our society safe, don’t leap to recommend that women sacrifice their sexuality in order to protect the rest of us from incel’s terroristic acts of violence.
And the value of democratic equality in the streets also exists in the sheets. Want some proof of that? Consider the cautionary tale of the king who exposed himself to be a sexual pauper.
You know him as DJ Khaled.
Recently, the internet spent a few days clowning on DJ Khaled after he went on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club to promote his new headphones, and while he was there, he decided to out himself as a terrible lover. The the club shaking DJ and amateur Snapchat life coach, confessed that — well, more like bragged — he doesn’t ever perform cunnilingus. Never. Not ever.
Yes, for real. He said that shit. To be fair, though, it was a four-year old interview that was resurfaced by The Breakfast Club and posted as a throwback video on YouTube. Khaled actually said that shit back in 2014.
In the video, when Power 105 host Angela Yee questioned Khaled about why he refuses to give his wife oral sex, he kept repeating, “Nah, I don’t do that. I don’t do that.” She persisted and asked him what if his wife said “she don’t do that for him” anymore. Would that be okay?
Khaled was quick to say, “Nah, it’s not okay. Because, you know what I’m saying… You gotta understand — I’m the don. I’m the king.”
Yee then asked if the queen, his wife, doesn’t deserve that same royal treatment.
Khaled said, “I don’t do that.”
To which Yee asked, “Then how can you go around claiming, ‘We the Best?’”
“It’s different rules for men,” Khaled continued to argue. “We the king.” He then referred to his wife sexually servicing him, adding, “There’s some things you might not wanna do, or wanna do, but it’s gotta get done. I just can’t do what you want me to do.”
What then do DJ Khaled, Douthat, incels and Jordan Peterson (in many ways, the public intellectual of such beliefs) all have in common?
They share a poisonous expectation that men should always be satisfied by women.
It’s a tempting premise. To be fair to them — and Peterson would insist — throughout history, you’ll find the concept of female subordination comes in many pleasing forms — not just sexual satisfaction. Why? Because it flatters a man to fall into the belief that women were put on Earth to make him a better man. To help him in his struggle. To be his tagalong companion. And as Peterson likes to point out, you see this idea pop up throughout human history. All over the globe. But that doesn’t make it natural. You also see sacrificial murder pop up throughout history, all around the world. So unless you wish to argue that sacrificial murder is also part of the natural order of humanity, you may not want to use historic trends as inviolable laws of nature.
Yet the male fantasy of subordinate women is a fairytale men have protected and projected since its inception way back in antiquity. Then, at the end of feudalism, the old story transformed into a new myth, as the witch and good common woman emerged as archetypes. This isn’t because it’s some universal moral value, as Peterson likes to believe. If anything, those emergent female archetypes resulted from economic developments in Europe, following the devastation of the Black Plague. But it’s easy for Peterson to believe the subordination of women is a universal value. If for no other reason than he likes the uses and functions they perform.
He also prefers reducible basic values. He ignores diversity as he seeks universal values. This tendency causes his thinking to lack universality — which arises from specifics. If something is true among a diverse sample set, we can say it’s universally true. It doesn’t work the other way around, wherein you declare a universal truth and then apply it to diversity. If Peterson liked women, he would’ve considered their experience, seen it as equivalent to his, added it to his worldview and sought universal truths that included them as active partners, rather than impose his sexist monomyth on them.
Diversity has chased him down, though. The #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign have demanded attention be paid to the rape culture that’s historically excused sexual harassment, misconduct and assault. There are now demands of accountability for the crimes of abusers. If you wish to check an example of how male myths play into this, look at the dynamic of woman as savior. Check male writers. How they fictionalize women. Then look at how those same male writers work through their personal traumas by using women as idealized saviors. Although they are goddesses, they still act in service of men. Junot Diaz comes quickly to mind.
Originally, Junot Diaz won praise for his recent New Yorker essay that shone a light on the abuse that can also destroy boys. Diaz wrote very honestly about how he was raped as a child. In response to his essay, he received love and support from around the world. Then it came out that Junot Diaz had his own history of abuse. He’s both victim and abuser.
And so, the tide began to turn against Diaz. More and more women came forward; they shared accounts of their bad experiences with the writer, the one who’d always been so committed to the People, the gente. The signs were always there, though. In his books, in the scenes and sentences. Going back to his work, it now appears obvious. Diaz has a problem viewing women as his equals. This poem by Alicita Rodriguez makes the case. It’s called “How to Know You Are a Woman in a Junot Diaz Novel”:
Another thing worth mentioning: Your politics won’t save you from your sexism.
This is the trap that Diaz fell into. You’d like to think he could see it coming. That his novelist’s attention to the world around him would allow him to see and confront the fact he was being sexist — that he was exploiting women to ease his own pain. But he ignored it. Or perhaps like all the other men above, he told himself that women are here to help men, that women heal men.
That’s not how it works, though. Women are your equals. There’s no natural law or eternal universal value to suggest otherwise. It’s just a matter of belief, as Peterson would argue. So what do you believe?
For a visual reminder of what it looks like to be the guy who answers wrong, the sad sack who still thinks that women owe him anything, here’s exhibit A: Steven Crowder, the dude in the “Change My Mind” meme.
Back in February, the conservative podcaster was at Texas Christian University and thought it would be funny to provide an open invitation for women to do free labor for his benefit.
In other words, no matter the level of engagement with women — whether it’s a sexual conversation, a polite social interaction, an online convo with a stranger, a first-time business meeting or even an intimate personal engagement on a private island like Khaled and his wife — keep this one truth in mind: Women don’t owe you shit.