Rape and stuff: some depressing odds and ends from around the internet

1) A Stanford coed made the New York Times Magazine by getting raped by her rich techie mentor-cum-boyfriend on a junket in Rome. They returned to the Bay Area, and he raped her again and again when they weren’t cordially dating on a very regular basis, punctuated by e-mail and text message exchanges that spanned the range from mildly smitten to twee. Over time, the exchanges started becoming pained, upset, paranoid, hostile. After being raped in Italy, the undergraduate victim joined her rapist mentor sugar daddy business partner on additional trips to Hearst Castle, New York City, and the Far East. Having previously taken time off from school to get treatment for an eating disorder, she accused him of depriving her of food. One of the last straws was the rape that her mentor retrospectively committed against her at his house in Los Altos Hills before their trip to Rome. She broke off the relationship and pursued disciplinary action against him through the internal disiplinary system at Stanford. He was found guilty of multiple sexual infractions and ultimately banned from the Stanford campus for ten years, although he is allowed to petition the administration for reverse furloughs for special private events on a case-by-case basis.

The story gets even weirder. The coed’s mother and two friends got entangled in her relationship with her rapist. Over time, they got spooked by his behavior. Her mother flew to California, withdrew her from school for the second time in two academic years, and placed her in an aggressive psychotherapeutic counseling regimen. During these sessions, the therapist intoned–liturgically, it seems–that she had been “held captive” and “brainwashed.” The repeatedly violated coed, or whatever she is, now refuses, at her therapist’s suggestion, to refer to her relationship with her ex-boyfriend-mentor-n-shit as a relationship, or even as an abusive relationship, but a “psychological kidnapping.”

The description of the therapy is the biggest red flag in the article. It’s the key piece of evidence that this convoluted story is not a straightforward morality play about rape or false rape allegations or problems with campus disciplinary systems. The therapist, Keith Saylor, is a fucking quack. He’s on the record in a major newspaper effectively dicking around with recovered memory. For all I know he may be perfectly sincere and well-meaning (I can’t get a gut feeling one way or the other about his ethics from the article), but he’s dangerous. There’s no doubt about it. The therapy he gave Ellie Clougherty was totally crackpot and out of line. If Saylor’s peers or the professional societies for psychologists and psychatrists consider this sort of therapy appropriate or efficacious, they shouldn’t. It’s every bit as medically valid as using leeches to treat hemophilia.

At the time of her “prolonged-exposure therapy,” Clougherty was an admittedly troubled young woman on her second medical leave from college, with a history of sexually-tinged difficulties with men going back to the age of ten, when she had been accosted and sexually harassed by a stranger in a restaurant when she was walking to the bathroom. She had done extensive modeling during her teens, taking equally extensive time off from school to go on the road for corporate photo shoots and drawing additional unwanted sexual attention from strangers on the street and from near-strangers on set. She had just dumped her first serious boyfriend, a man eight years her senior who had also been her academic and professional mentor and quasi-business partner. The relationship had often been fractious. Now, in the aftermath of this fresh romantic drama that had been punctuated by her prior mental health problems, her mother had frantically referred her to a psychotherapist in Northern Virginia who was aggressively asserting that her ex-boyfriend in California was a serial abuser.

Clougherty’s mother, Anne, and two of her close friends, identified merely as “Rachel” and “Jane,” had an unseemly social entanglement with her boyfriend, Joe Lansdale. They had a love-hate relationship with him that became heavier on the hate over time. At times, Lonsdale charmed them, but at other times, they found him to be a maladroit oddball and a schmuck. Clougherty’s parents and Rachel all attended ultra-high-end social events at Lonsdale’s invitation and expense. Anne was forward enough to e-mail Lonsdale an explicit request for help marketing one of her business ventures by networking with business contacts of his who might be interested or helpful. By the end of their involvement with Lonsdale, every one of them had turned on him, although Jane came back into Lonsdale’s corner before long, providing him and his attorneys with a rather favorable affidavit. At press time, she was estranged from Clougherty on account of what she considered a pattern of escalating dishonesty and exaggeration about her relationship with Lonsdale.

There is absolutely no way that a reasonable and impartial jury would convict Joe Lonsdale of sex crimes against Ellie Clougherty. He has saved extensive electronic correspondence with Clougherty, in which he forthrightly expresses his ongoing concern about whether she’s mature enough to handle their sexual relationship and his unease with the mixed signals that she has been giving him. He has correspondence in which both of them express their thrill at being together, and other correspondence in which they are openly acrimonious. Clougherty’s mother and friends have corroborated the gist of Lonsdale’s account with their own descriptions of witnessing a troubled and unpredictable romance. The case is shot through with ulterior motives, and Clougherty’s therapist is an open lunatic, unfit to practice psychology.

None of this particularly matters. Lonsdale is still under a ten-year ban from setting foot on the Stanford campus. He must still grovel to the administration for waivers allowing him to visit his alma mater on special occasions. Cases like this one, we’re to believe, are why universities must adjudicate allegations of sexual assault under an evidentiary standard that amounts to, “Well, it probably happened.”

1a) Cui boner? Why does the New York Times publish salacious stories like this to illustrate the threat of rape? Why do other major publications do likewise? Rolling Stone threw its reputation into a burning dumpster by tarring UVA with an incredible rape allegation that dramatically fell apart within weeks. Is there some reason for this madness?

Statistically, college and university campuses are some of the safest places in the country. They generally have below-average rates of sexual assault and even lower overall rates of violent crime. There’s much more rape on Indian reservations, for example, and yet it’s almost impossible these days to come across an longform piece about, say, a 43-year-old whose husband gets roaring drunk every payday and forcibly rapes her in their trailer fifteen miles outside of Farmington. One doesn’t get to read about how sometimes the screaming and the commotion reach such a fever pitch that a neighbor becomes sufficiently alarmed to call 911, or simply fed up with all the noise and disorder. There’s nothing about how the tribal police arrive to find the husband passed out and get cursed out by the wife when they check on her welfare: No, ma’am, we’re just trying to make sure that you’re all right. We’ve got shelters available if you need one. You gonna be all right here tonight? She says she’ll be fine and encourages the fucking pigs to go fuck themselves, and it isn’t her first ride in this rodeo. The cops have been called out here before, so they shrug and go to tell the complaining neighbor that they’ve done their welfare check and the victim is refusing to press charges. Maybe they encourage the neighbor to call back if things get really bad again, or maybe not.

Then they head for Denny’s. The all-night specials will be starting soon. It isn’t exactly that they’re callous; it’s that they’re jaded. They see this shit all the time. America’s Diner is Always Open (TM), and it’s usually more wholesome that whatever they aren’t trying to clean up in some rural shanty at the moment. You’d want an eight-dollar seafood meal break, too, if you had to deal with that shit. Me, I want them to bring back the Texican burger and the spicy cowboy chopped steak. That was all mighty good eatin’.

We hear very little of any of these people. Instead, we hear about an affluent but troubled coed with meddlesome loved ones and a fruitcake therapist who has been making no predicting what sort of inflammatory accusations against her very wealthy ex-boyfriend, the point being that this mess may be indicative of a campus rape problem. Our attention is redirected to this Young Turk at Stanford who, we’re told, is a sort of Forrest Gump of domestic abuse, claiming that she has been raped on two continents and was fed poorly on a third. Lord have mercy, this may happen to your daughter, too, if she falls into an erratic whirlwind romance with a totally loaded dot-com bigshot at their highly selective undergraduate alma mater.

Yup. That’s why we’re reading about the Clougherty-Lonsdale donnybrook and not about whose baby-daddy was raping and smacking around whose baby-momma in a trailer park up near Four Corners. When push comes to shove, Bougie is not interested in the tragic dysfunction that ruins so many lives on Indian reservations. White girls in distress are a lot more captivating. It could be your daughter. It could be your sister, too, but it’s preferably your daughter, since that means that you are of a certain age and have a certain disposable income of which the Times’s advertisers would like to partake.

What’s twisted about the Stanford rape article is that even though it is well written and seems quite scrupulous, it still functions perfectly as a powerful limbic mindfuck on easily rattled bougies. An innocent Catholic girl lost her virginity to an older Jewish half-breed (who, if you were paying attention, is Irish on his dad’s side, just like his victim) in a maybe-sorta rape within walking distance of the Vatican. She was so troubled by the situation that she covered up with her soon-to-be-rapist’s sweater and jacket and prayed about it at a venerable statue at her church’s headquarters, only to have him make crude moves on her while she was dressing for evening mass. Wow Such Pious. It’s a fucking Billy Joel song, except that the half-Jewish/Judeo-Christian interfaith synergy only really works with Long Islanders, not with some dude from Fremont. Then it turned out that this bastard had actually taken her virginity in an earlier rape in exotic Los Altos Hills, but by the time this story is told, the initial story about Virginia coming out of (so help me) Virginia to Palo Alto (left-coast libertines of a culturally we-don’t-give-a-shit-about-religion bent) and on to Rome (Silvio Berlusconi, the Borgia popes, Eat Pray Love, nuns, non-Borgia popes), and the bell cannot be unrung.

The tacit point of the story is that this poor girl got seduced when she went away to college, as one does, and then sexually violated while studying abroad, as one also does. It’s pretty clear that someone at the Times is looking to scare the shit out of the readers for page views. At the very least it’s quite serendipitous. I could tell an equally Catholic story about the time I went to mass in Palo Alto and the choir was led by a guitarist in an excellent aloha shirt, making that parish not only my spiritual home but also my sartorial home, but that’s all there really is to the story, since I don’t remember much else about that mass. I’ve prayed on my own in Palo Alto, I’ve prayed for Palo Altans, and I’ve even prevailed upon a Catholic youth minister in Maryland to pray for a Palo Altan in distress. I don’t mean OMG I’m like sexually ambivalent and confused distress; I mean “farewell, my friends, I am shortly to die of cancer” distress.

These aren’t stories about which you should feel any duty to give a shit. Our friend with the cancer found a good surgeon and is alive, well, and in fairly hale health today; come to think of it, I wrote one or two thousand words about his cancer scare in a previous essay, so enough about this story for now. I’m not trying to be a sympathy troll, even if I am one through my most grievous, &c. My point is that this Clougherty chick went to Rome and prayed about her First World Problems, and we get to read about it in our country’s premier paper of record. The first thing I did when I got to Rome was to set my suitcase down on the floor in Termini and get it stolen in a matter of seconds, so I’ve done embarrassing shit there, too. The difference is that Clougherty got written up for it in the New York Times, while I wrote my first and, to date, only essay in Italian (“Ho perso lo mio bagaglio….”), and handed it to a lost-and-found clerk at Termini, but in vain, since the nice fellow came back a few minutes later, sympathetically shaking his head.

Don’t worry about my lost clothes; I can’t recall what the hell was in that bag, although I can recall wearing my dad’s clothes for close to two weeks. Worry instead about why the New York Times wants you to fret over the sexual turmoil of a rich Catholic girl from NoVa who lost her virginity in a rape that probably wasn’t rape in a high-end hotel in Rome. While she was dressing for evening mass. There are movies premised on such encounters, but most of them suck because the studios try to hard to be dirty and hire top-heavy cyborgs of limited intelligence as actresses.

The affront to an innocent young lady’s Catholic womanhood isn’t the real purpose of that article’s maudlin Roman opening. It’s intended as a tale of appalling desecration, a profanity in deed, not just word, but the Catholicism of it all is completely incidental. If the Times’s readers were as piously Catholic as Ellie Clougherty presented herself, they wouldn’t be reading the Times. They’d be reading the National Catholic Reporter, or maybe the parish bulletin. The Times is dog-whistling to a readership that is in large part anti-Catholic. In the normal course of things, these people are broadly hostile to the Catholic Church, its teachings, and its worldview, and many of them are appallingly disingenuous about it. Bring in a damsel in distress, however, and they can’t resist a horror story of the sacred being desecrated, along with a pious Catholic girl’s hymen.

I’m not exaggerating here, at least not by much. The story was introduced for maximum overwrought effect because OMG Vatican mea maxima culpa miserere nobis. This is the part where, if we’re interested in the liturgy rather than who was getting ready to get nasty while getting ready for evening mass, we’d remember the dona nobis pacem thing. In this case, however, we omit it. It’d be a buzzkill to realize that this whatever the hell it was in the hotel room (less than totally joyous and guilt-free sex in the context of an increasingly serious romance, apparently) went down in the worldly part of Rome. This is the part of Rome where parliamentarians and bureaucrats occasionally threaten to cut off the electricity to the Vatican’s shortwave radio towers because they’re giving people brain cancer or some shit.

No timid American chick falling into a sexual guilt trip because she skipped mass in order to fuck her boyfriend will ever keep up with the locals in irreverence for the one holy catholic and apostolic church. “OMG I can’t believe I did that in Rome!” is a distinctly foreign scruple. The local prostitutes who service, among others, priests from the Vatican must consider it utterly prosaic to taste that strange within a stone’s throw of St. Peter’s Square. Most of these whores, if they’re religious, are Catholic. Maybe they aren’t religious for a while, but then they hit a rough patch in life and get their religion back in a hurry, and it ain’t no Pentecostal tent meeting where they come back to Jesus, homeskillet. It’s hard to imagine that any priests lonely enough to hire hookers are thinking that they’d better find heretics, lest they cause scandal among the faithful. Little is heard about these people, however, because they tend to keep their mouths shut. They believe in discretion, and for not awfully dissimilar reasons. Meanwhile, every preening, overly pious wackjob of the Catholic persuasion and a pilgrim’s mindset has an eye on getting to Rome, along with a fair number of historically minded non-Catholic Christians looking to walk the ground that martyrs once tread. For many of these people, it’s on par with the hajj. Some of them get scandalized or butthurt or generally worked up over the existence of cultures other than ostentatious Catholic piety in Rome, like homosexuality and premarital sex, conveniently forgetting that only a tiny rump of the city has been left under Church administration, the rest of it having been reclaimed by a revanchist Italy, along with much more expansive hinterlands, to put an end to a longstanding feudal racket.

So basically, any halfway devout Catholic gets guilted to hell and back for not scrupulously abiding by all Catholic sexual teachings for the duration of any visit to metropolitan Rome. Non-Catholics have a sense of this, too. It’s a crude sort of superstitious nonsense having nothing to do with Catholic doctrine or canon law, unless one is up for retaking the Papal States by military force, and having everything to do with silencing and running social controls on those who have misgivings about, say, extreme manifestations of Catholic sexual zealotry. Freaking out over a non-kosher sexual tryst in a hotel room in Rome because the Vatican is down the street is like freaking out over the operation of a whorehouse because there’s a church somewhere else in the neighborhood. But this story about rumpy-pumpy with one’s Jewish boyfriend in lieu of evening mass at the Vatican wasn’t written to work its magic on the rational mind. Its magic comes from its workings on the limbic brain, the one that subconciously processes affronts to honor and dignity and sanctity and whatever other holinesses it can be made to consider. It uses measures like proximity as crude proxies for things that matter, and damned if that posh hotel isn’t in the same metropolitan area as the worldwide headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Damned if evening mass isn’t on tonight.

Guilt. Shame. Confusion. Self-loathing.


2) Adria Richards had a history of offense-trolling and treacherous backchannel gossiping before she got herself forked by making the big dongle blow its load at PyCon. This is a woman who alienated the hell out of her nominal allies–women in high tech who are unhappy with the proliferation of bro culture man-children in their industry–by blindsiding them with shrill, conspiratorial, public accusations that they had been offensive without saying a thing to them in private. One of her freakouts was over a software talk called “Getting the Money Shot.” Another was over a T-shirt featuring an XKCD comic strip in which a stick figure proposes using promises of beer to keep the audience engaged with an otherwise boring presentation.

Both of the people behind these references that Richards found so objectionable were women.

It’s beyond reasonable for colleagues, loosely defined, who discover that Adria Richards has gone behind their backs and stirred up a moralistic internet mob against them to call her out. For that matter, it would be beyond reasonable of them to refuse to cater to her hypersensitivity to themes of sex and alcohol if she were to approach them directly and privately, and to tell her to fuck off if she makes a repeat nuisance of herself with that kind of bellyaching. She wasn’t involved in organizing these conferences. She was an attendee, or even just a prospective attendee, fishing around for reasons to be offended. None of the organizers had a halfway credible moral duty to cater to her. She was a crazy prig.

This means that we must add tech to the list of American industries that cater to crazy prigs. Broadcasting is a big one, of course, given the hopelessly vague “decency” standards of the FCC. Cialis commercials at dinnertime are cool, as are panel-hosted drivetime radio shows and “F my life” specials with Danny Bonaduce, but woe betide the woman who lets slip a nipple on air. These shows are almost certainly worse than what would result if broadcasters were allowed to cuss on air as much as the spirit moved them; instead, they find unimaginably unctuous ways to be crude while pretending to be outwardly refined. Hence “F my life,” an occasional series of utmost discretion with the gentleman Mr. Bonaduce.

The FCC’s decency regime would be unenforceable without snitches. There’s no way the commissioners are listening to goddamn drivetime radio in the office to make sure that it’s linguistically kosher. If they’re listening to anything at work, it’s NPR, or maybe the BBC or some really obscure non-Anglosphere network. Likewise their assistants, assistant assistants, and so forth through all possible degrees of meta. If anyone close to the top of the FCC totem pole is familiar with “All About That Bass,” it’s because Ken Tucker finally got around to reviewing the soft acoustic duet cover by James Taylor and Carly Simon. Beyond whatever garbage lurks above 91 on the FM dial in the Washington market, there’s endless commercial radio to monitor in other markets, and television, and stuff involving channels for drones, military communications, police communications, and air traffic control.

There aren’t enough employees at the FCC to keep a running watch of what’s being broadcast under its jurisdiction, nor should there be. The “decency” rules, however, are an excellent excuse for astroturf busybody pressure groups to concern-troll the precious ears and eyes of their compatriots. All they need to do is find some incident of fleeting broadcast nudity or recourse to the heavy seven and activate their church/700 Club/Eagle Forum e-mail lists, and they have a ready-made citizen-activist moral panic. This is how meddlesome fuckheads and the authoritarian tools under their sway in flyover country are able to force the FCC to waste time adjudicating the retina-searing exposure of Janet Jackson’s breast. This is why FOIA releases by the FCC in matters like the Jackson nipple slip turn up thousands of letters from “concerned citizens” using exactly the same fucking language that was distributed by mass e-mail weeks after the offending incident in question as talking points from “family values” outfits.

These are the citizen-custodians of our republic.

Understand, too, that this sort of priggish offense-trolling is a good portion of what passes for “community” in the United States, especially as it pertains to “community standards.” In a genuine community, standards are enforced informally through routine peer pressure. Positive law is called upon only in emergencies to deal with the most belligerent and dangerous outliers; otherwise, natural law is perfectly adequate to keep most of the community members behaving decently enough most of the time. Savvy, engaged, and energetic community leaders can make this approach work pretty well in some really rough ghetto neighborhoods, sometimes much better than the local police. In pseudocommunities, like the theoretical aggragation of everyone who’s watching some television broadcast at the moment, the actual standards in force are whatever the hell the broadcaster decides they are, as constrained by known limits on what the FCC, advertisers, and the audience will tolerate. Normal people watch television in order to take a break from community, but there’s power to be had over community standards because the FCC deigns to regulate them, so the only people who are willing to ride into town at high noon and declare themselves sheriff are the kooks and the busybodies. Conveniently, no one has shown up lately to assert the community’s interest in not allowing direct-to-consumer broadcast advertisements for prescription drugs, say, because this sort of advertising is corrupt, inimical to good medicine, and an unnecessary opportunity for Bruce Springsteen to sell out and inflict his shittier numbers on the viewing public in ads for diabetes pills. Instead, it’s just an intermittent chorus of “Waaah, you said frickin’ poopy bad words, and I’m butthurt!”

Adria Richards is more American than one should hope. She’s far from the only officious twatwaffle who crashes other people’s scenes and makes a big ruckus about how she’s all offended because they aren’t catering to her precious tastes. Richards and her kind proliferate because we tolerate them. We provide them moral hazard when we should tell them to fuck off and not come back until they’re willing to show some respect for the sense of the meeting.

We also have them because Americans merely like to talk loudly about their work ethic instead of having one. Taking offense professionally is easier than picking strawberries, am I right? Besides, we have illegals/wetbacks/Latinos/immigration reform for the strawberries, leaving the plum offense-trolling jobs of the service economy safely in Bougie’s hands.

3) Now for some good news, after a fashion, although the author and peanut gallery in that link consider it news of civilizational decline. There’s something perversely upstanding and refreshing about the Kardashians. To understand why, it’s crucial to understand that mainstream Armenians have become the Jews of Fresno and have bugged various people around Glendale with communal grievances having to do with the official commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. The agitation in the lower San Fernando Valley is bad enough that non-Armenian politicians have pandered to them by promising to take an unyielding hard line with Turkey. This is a local variation on the Israel/Palestine mess. It’s bad news.

The Kardashians pretty much stay below that fray. They’re also fully assimilated into the mainstream American community, albeit through the fun house weirdness of Hollywood, instead of pursuing kinship business practices and communal grievances in some middle-class ethnic ghetto. Surprisingly, they aren’t the only crass Armenians to make asses of themselves in lowbrow entertainment; their compatriots in the business include Hooman “Nik Richie” Karamian (formerly known as Corbin Grimes) and Dan Bilzerian. Outside Fresno and Los Angeles Counties, the Armenian community in the United States is quite small, so we’re talking about more than one parallel to the Jews.

28 Sherman complains that Kim Kardashian took up with a trashy black D-lister, but shit, she’s trashy herself. It’s just assortative mating. Kimye is the polar opposite of Phil and Emada Tingirides. The only people who have heard of the Tingirideses (yes, that’s the correct English plural) are community types in South LA and policing buffs, but that’s all right, up to a point. Upstanding citizens who give a damn about the safety and welfare of rough neighborhoods in LA can marry each other across racial lines and move to Irvine, and lowdown worthless gutter clowns who are interested solely in the optical properties of bling on the chest and oil on the ass can marry across racial lines and move to Mulholland Drive or wherever-the-fuck.

Maybe Americans are interested in Kimye and not in the Tingirides brain trust because we’re an empire now, not a republic, but the problem here is not miscegenation. Kimye doesn’t have any crucial synergy as a couple that the two of them would lack on their own or in the company of some other attention-whoring yahoos. They don’t offer some marginal degree of vulgarity that celebrity-mongering shitheads pandering to the lowest common denominator wouldn’t be able to find from some other freak. Kanye West gets all up in other people’s faces and steals their limelight, and Kim Kardashian rubs oil all over her ass for photoshoots. It’s especially hard to argue that the latter practice is a talent. She was involved in some porno? Whoop-dee-fuckin’-doo. She still isn’t as hot as Dagmar Midcap.

The studios aren’t going to cut off anyone associated with the Kardashians because in so doing they would leave a shitload of money on the table. With the advent of internet streaming, they can no longer act as a monolithic cartel like they did when they broke up Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr. If the legacy studios blacklisted the West-Kardashian-Jenner circus train today, some upstart would swoop in, maybe at a discount, and put the freaks right back on contract. The extra income from signing them would give the upstart enough cash flow to establish itself in short order as a major player, and eventually as a legacy studio. Why do people watch that shit? I can’t grok it, especially Bruce Jenner’s Mr. Garrison-style sex change (if it isn’t just a publicity hoax), but for better or worse, that garbage has a loyal audience.

In any event, we’re a post-racial enough society, or something, that racist authoritarians no longer have the totalitarian power to force the breakup of interracial celebrity couples. This is a good development, as that sort of power is dangerous and destructive. It’s Nietzsche’s proverbial monster-fighter turned monster. I know very little about Sammy Davis Jr. and Kim Novak, but I doubt that their romance was just a function of cross-racial sexual attraction. They met each other through the industry, like Kimye but with a lot more class. The idea that they should be content to date and marry “their own kind,” even by means of an arranged shotgun marriage, is wrongheaded and ludicrous. Kim and Kanye are already married to their own kind, and Kanye should thank his lucky stars that he isn’t married to Emada Tingirides. That’s one broad who would kill his vibe dead.

The idea that Kimye is the result of a linear cultural progression into vulgarity, stupidity, and chaos is fallacious. One could just as easily compare 1950’s science fiction B movies about cardboard cutout spacecraft and that stupid Ramalamadingdong ditty to The Departed and Sara Bareilles, and argue that Moses has led New Israel out of the cultural desert. There’s no way to seriously argue that “Barbara Ann” is as thoughtful as “Your Lips are Moving.” Maybe there’s something more wrong with Meghan Trainor than there was with the Beach Boys, but even that’s doubtful, especially after listening to Brian Wilson’s solo work. There was a popular burlesque song during the Second World War about a boy with “the cutest little dinghy in the Navy,” to be construed exactly as you’re afraid. It’s not as if pop culture back then was nothing but Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life, and since then we’ve been drowned by a rising tide of filth. Bitch please.

Another thing: the extended Kardashian family are not civic actors. Any solution to American civic dysfunction will come from other people, probably ones who are less interested in the pursuit of bling and butt balms. But perversely, this is a good thing. The Kardashians are too busy being eccentric at a level that the rest of us will never achieve (and don’t want to achieve, if we have any sense) to use ethnic back channels to push non-Armenians out of the carpeting or farming businesses in their communities unless they find a way to marry in.

Feel free to plagiarize any of these comments for your school paper on the contributions of Armenian-Americans to the American melting pot or rainbow or whatever the fuck our country is supposed to be. You’re most welcome. Seriously. If your teacher has assigned shit like that, I’d love to get her all butthurt over your insolence and free thinking. That would be even better than the minor glory I achieve directly on this blog.

4) A sort of clickbait piece came through my Facebook feed the other day, featuring some celebrity I’d never heard of insisting that she wouldn’t have become as self-confident had she not gone to an all-girls school. The woman who posted it went to an all-girls high school and is one of the most forward people I’ve ever known (but ultimately pretty civil and decent), but I’m hesitant to believe that this is probative of anything. It isn’t just girls who get flak from the popular kids for being nerds. Being a nerd can suck for boys, too. I also get this weird feeling that there’s a rising level of interest in sex segregation, and even in the reimposition of parietal rules, in which case cherry-picked clickbait stories about boys making fun of girls for being intellectually engaged or opinionated will be deployed as lines of evidence in a revanchist campaign against open society. One of the toughest things I had to deal with in high school was the creeping realization that both of the really intelligent and well-spoken girls I was chronically interested in were out of my league. As far as I know, nobody at school encouraged them to shut up. I was encouraged to shut up from time to time, but that was mainly because I’d gotten obnoxious again. (On one of these occasions, I was assaulted by the headmaster, Mike Mersky, for cursing within his earshot, but that was a one-off incident.) I’ve had to deal with similar situations in college and after college, too.

The point is that gender is just one variable in these dynamics. Unfortunately, it’s the sexiest one. In the American cultural context, ginning up a war of the sexes is a lot more popular than ginning up an interest in individual rights and the responsibilities that go with them, like not being a sniveling little shit every time one hits a setback.


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