Undead Sexist of the Day: Warren Farrell

Lots of people have said something hideously sexist. Some people have built careers out of it. Case in point, Warren Farrell.

Back in the 1970s, Farrell was, I’ve read, an active male feminist. For whatever reason, that changed. He’s now a men’s rights activist, rape apologist and generally odious, at least to someone of my political bent. I first encountered his work in the 1990s, in The Myth of Male Power. Here he argues that husbands are way worse off than wives because men are often drones at the bottom of the hierarchy in their workplace; women, by contrast, are 100 percent in charge at home

Except they’re not. If the man earns the money, that gives him a greater say in decisions. Much more so than a wife can exercise over her husband’s career. And far from being an exalted position, being a stay-at-home wife/monther is damn hard work. The husband’s work day may stop when he gets home; Mom may be working (dinner, putting the kids to bed) long into the night.

And even if a man is top dog at work, in reality his sexy secretary controls him.

Farrell also claimed that as many as 100 percent of rape accusations could be false [corrected in response to comment]. Women lie, for example because, the guy dumped the woman and she wanted revenge. Um, no (see here for relevant discussion) And besides, lots of things are just as traumatic for men as rape is for women. Getting fired is equally traumatic (I’ve been fired. I’ve known women who were raped. Not. The. Same.). Getting cockteased is equally traumatic (wrong again).

It’s no surprise his more recent writing (which I encountered working on Undead Sexist Cliches) thinks that “date fraud” or “date rejection” — a couple go on a date when the woman’s already decided not to have sex is a)a Bad Thing and b)very traumatic.

He’s also argued that no means yes: if a woman says no to sex but she’s French kissing her date, isn’t that a sign she wants it? Maybe she’s hoping her date will just keep going and seduce her, like in romance novels. Because if chicks read romance novels, they must want the same in relationships, right (spoiler: no). Heck, according to Farrell, even if she sues a man for sexual harassment, what she really wants is for him to not give up, just like romance novel heroes!

Besides, it’s sex, so she has to be enjoying it, right? “A man being sued after a woman has more sex than intended is like Lay’s being sued after someone has more potato chips than intended. In brief, date rape can be a crime, a misunderstanding, or buyer’s remorse.” Pinning someone down and forcing them to eat potato chips would have a coercive quality to it — but that’s clearly not the simile Farrell’s going for here.

If Farrell was ever sincerely a feminist, he went way, way to the dark side.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

10 responses to “Undead Sexist of the Day: Warren Farrell

  1. Aapje

    It’s rather ironic that your accusation that Farrell “claimed that 90 percent of rape cases were false accusations” is itself a false accusation. He literally says in the book that “the percentage of false accusations overall could be anywhere from zero to 100 percent.”

    The rest of your blog post is of similar accuracy.

    • Clarified, thank you for the correction.

      • But a claim that 100 percent of rape accusations could be false is still a lie.

      • Aapje

        What he was claiming is that there is no proven upper or lower bound, because there is no solid data on how often false accusations happen. You seem to have no problem with his claim of a zero percent lower bound, even though that is just as incorrect, suggesting that your true objection is less with the accuracy of his statement, than with his larger claim that false accusations may be common.

        Calling his statement a lie is merely correct if you call any simplifications that are technically incorrect a lie, but you yourself regularly engage in technically incorrect rhetoric, so I perceive your criticism as mud-flinging at someone you disagree with, where you apply standards to that person that you won’t apply to yourself or your allies, rather than fair criticism.

        I’ve seen quite a few feminists make the claim that false accusations are very rare, which is far less scientifically defensible than Farrell’s statements on the matter.

        Also, as I said, this merely one of many errors in your post. Your claim that Farrell believes that “no means yes” is a falsehood, where you take a relatively nuanced belief and distort it into a straw man that he would never endorse. Farrell beliefs that women can say ‘no,’ when they mean ‘yes’, not that any ‘no’ means ‘yes,’ which you claim. The ambiguity can actually be intentional (just like people often use ambiguous communication, which can have substantial advantages).

        There has been a study where a fairly high percentage of women (around 40% if I recall correctly) admitted to saying no when they meant yes. So we have women themselves admitting that their ‘no’ meant ‘yes’.

        You seem to think that it is a strong counterargument to dismiss it snarkily as a romance novel idea, but this would only be a strong argument if romance novels would typically be read by men or if there is strong evidence that women aren’t influenced by romantic ideas. The opposite is true on both counts.

        Your argument that women don’t necessarily want the same in real life as in the novels they read is simplistic. Perhaps they do want some aspect of it, but not another aspect and novels (which allow for unrealistic scenario’s and a level of detachment) allow for this. This is similar to how many men read books about war, even though most of these men don’t (voluntarily) go to war, suggesting that they probably don’t want to experience the negative aspects of war (boredom, PTSD, dying). That doesn’t mean that there’s not an aspect of war that many men like and that they might want to recreate in real life.

        Women may want to do something like that to. We actually know from research that a third to half of women have rape fantasies, and that 10-20% have these frequently. That doesn’t mean that they want to be raped in reality, but it is quite plausible that there are mechanisms behind this that would also impact dating and relationships.

        For example, rape can be perceived as the ultimately proof of desirability, as the man breaks the law and social conventions to have sex with her. During dating, a woman can say no, but then also send seductive signals, to generate the feeling that the man is breaking the law and social conventions, even though she is giving permission with those seductive signals, to make herself feel more desired by him.

        Rape can also be perceived as a liberation of guilt, as many women seem to suffer from feelings that it’s improper for a woman to have lust. When the woman doesn’t have a choice, there is no guilt, so this may make a rape fantasy attractive, as well as real life scenario’s where that guilt is minimized by reducing her own sense of agency.

        Warren Farrell’s argument is that the feminist anti-rape campaign cannot work and is unreasonable, as long as very many women demand this behavior from men. Either we have to accept that men regularly make mistakes and misinterpret these inconsistent and nuanced signals, or we should create a situation where men can commonly date successfully by asking for and getting unambiguous signals.

  2. “What he was claiming is that there is no proven upper or lower bound, because there is no solid data on how often false accusations happen. You seem to have no problem with his claim of a zero percent lower bound, even though that is just as incorrect, suggesting that your true objection is less with the accuracy of his statement, than with his larger claim that false accusations may be common.”
    I do have a problem with that as there’s no evidence that false accusations are common or significantly worse than false accusations of other crimes. There’s little risk of “zero percent of rape accusations are fake” becoming accepted truth but plenty of people already believe 100 percent of accusations are lies so that’s a bigger issue.
    And the claim is bullshit. Squeal about it all we like but 100 percent of rape accusations are not false. We have convictions. We have confessions.
    Farrell has repeatedly encouraged guys not to stop if a woman says no and gives what they imagine are mixed signals (she’s french-kissing bur she said no! She doesn’t mean it!). That equates to “no means yes” in my book.
    “Your argument that women don’t necessarily want the same in real life as in the novels they read is simplistic.” No, actually it isn’t. Rape’s a traumatic experience, quite different from fantasizing about it.

  3. I will be blocking this individual shortly. I draw the line at interacting with rape apologists any more than necessary. For anyone who’s curious, I deal with comments the same way a friend of mine runs trivia contests: the decisions of the moderator are arbitrary, capricious and final.

  4. Pingback: The rules of the moderator are arbitrary, capricious and final | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  5. Pingback: Undead Sexist of the Day: Matt Walsh | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  6. Pingback: Undead Sexist Cliche: Sexual Consent Is a Bad Standard | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  7. Pingback: Undead Sexist Cliches: Sex is just a form of retail shopping | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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