Man has sex with dolphin. Jezebel writes about “complicated intimacy”. (content note)

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that a man inserting his penis into a dolphin constitutes rape and not “the sincere, troubled and complicated intimacy with which Brenner recalls these events, which took place when he was only 19.”

Granted, Jia Tolentino only interviewed Malcolm Brenner because of the new documentary made by Joey Daoud and Kareem Tabsch, but it’s still all kinds of fucked up. Tolentino’s ‘interview’ wasn’t exactly a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism either. This is the type of language used to describe the rape of an animal:

About their eventual open-water sexual consummation—the dolphin had to be horizontal, him vertical; the CGI rendering in the film is really something—Brenner said it felt like he was “merging with her” into “one creature that was making love with himself.”

(And, yes, the fact that the ‘documentary’ includes CGI footage of the rape is also seriously problematic).

Daoud talked about his initial reaction to reading the “Man Has Sex with Dolphin” headline. “You imagine that the guy got into a shallow pen with a dolphin and chased it around,” he said. “But then I realized it was more detailed, more nuanced.” Tabsch added that he was taken by Brenner’s openness, and that the aspect of the story he found most surprising was “that he views his zoophilia as a product of nurture instead of nature, which is controversial, as many zoophiles and people of non-normative sexualities really feel that nature is the cause.” More specifically: Brenner attributes his zoophilia to a protracted period of molestation at the hands of his childhood psychiatrist, now linked to many such crimes. (He also compares zoophilia to interracial dating, hoping that one day, the former may be as acceptable as the latter.)

As an non-shockable person interested in the point where the unimaginable becomes mundane, I sought out Malcolm myself for an interview. We talked on the phone yesterday, and at the beginning of the call, discovered we both own collie mixes. I asked him, awkwardly, if it was confusing to own a dog and be a zoophile. I’m not indiscriminately attracted to animals,” Brenner said, “in the same way that I’m not indiscriminately attracted to women.”

Obviously, Brenner has experienced severe trauma in his life. I’m just not sure how productive it is to allow someone who has experienced serious trauma to continue with the delusion that an animal is capable of consent – and, yes, I do know that dolphins are smarter than hamsters. I’m just not buying it. Also, please save us all from tools who insist they are so “non-shockable” as to be down with animal rape being “complicated intimacy”.

I’ve included a selection of questions from the interview below to show just how badly Tolentino fucks up the interview. Brenner refers to serious trauma, drug dependency, and identifies the ‘positive’ voices in his head as coming from the dolphin. These aren’t things to celebrate. They are quite serious red flags for someone who may self-harm or harm others. There is no attempt to engage with Brenner’s anthropomorphising of the dolphin or his belief in a ‘telepathic’ bond. Instead, Tolentino has gone for the “look how UBER-COOL I am. I’m even down with animal rape.” Even by Jezebel’s piss-poor standards, this is an appalling piece of journalism.

That’s good. So, I have a general question. What is attractive to you, in animals? Is it a type of animal, or a type of personality, or a situation, or a combination of these things?

I’m attracted to animals that have a rather independent streak in them. Animals that think for themselves. In addition to the dolphin, the only animal I ever had any sexual experience with is canines.

How did it feel after she touched you? Did you immediately start thinking about initiating a sexual relationship with her?

I felt very embarrassed. I was not comfortable with my own zoosexuality—I didn’t want to be a zoophile. I was trying to do everything I could to avoid this animal, who seemed to know what my secret was. It took her literally about 3 or 4 months to begin to win me over and convince me that she was intellectually pretty much my equal.

And at that point, I had to start asking myself—well, if I have this high of a regard for her, and if this was a woman who was being so forward with me, would I hold out on her? The answer I came up with was, no I wouldn’t. And so I felt my sort of inhibitions just eroding.

Dolly actually changed her courtship tactics through the course of the relationship. At first she was gentle and forward, as you noted, but after that she became very aggressive. She would throw herself on me and rub her vulva against my knees. Any protruding part of my body was fair game for her. She would masturbate on me, essentially. I had to watch out that no one was around to witness this.

I was going to ask you if anyone in the park noticed.

Nobody picked up on it. I was slow to pick up on it, to be honest. I was not a virgin, but basically one. I wasn’t either sexually very experienced, or emotionally very experienced. That, I think, was the downfall of the relationship.

In what way?

I’d made plans to go to college out of state, at Evergreen, in Washington State. I’d been going to New College of Florida, and I was dissatisfied, and Evergreen looked like an exciting and innovative type of place. But I was also frankly freaked out by the intensity of my involvement with the dolphin. I was having telepathic connections with the dolphin.

The dolphin was acting like a girlfriend.

Yeah, she sussed what was up. And I saw, she is appropriating me like this. 

What was it like when you were finally had sex with her?

It felt like I was making love with the ocean itself. It felt like, first of all, that I had forgiven myself—gotten over my hesitations about finally giving her what she wanted. When I had that realization, then it just seemed there was this energy surging between us, growing more intense, bringing us both to orgasm. Some scientists say that female animals don’t have orgasms, but I know she did. She vocalized it.

Would you describe this as the greatest intimacy you’ve ever felt with anyone?

Yeah, it stepped right over the species line. The dolphin, I know, was just as aware. She’d had to elude a male dolphin to get to me.

Does it feel lonely to you now that this height of intimacy in your life happened so long ago, and with a dolphin?

Yeah, it does. But I had a very strong sense of intimacy with my second wife, also. It was some physical thing that happened when we were close together—her smell, or her electrical field. I thought that that intimacy would sustain our relationship. In the long run it did not, and I’ve always felt cheated by intimacy, ever since.

You’ve been married twice—was either of your wives ever jealous of Dolly?

I don’t think jealousy was a big part of what caused this relationship to founder. There were other circumstances.

Was the act of intercourse you talk about in the documentary the only one?

Yes. But the telepathic connection was much more intense than the documentary represents, and it started earlier. I was getting high a lot back then, and it began while I was high one night. The voice did not immediately announce itself to be a dolphin trying to communicate with me—it was a voice that wanted to play games, 20 Questions, that kind of thing.

I was skeptical but intrigued. And I couldn’t make it go away. I could tell it to shut up, but not to go away. I wondered if I was going schizophrenic, but most schizophrenics have voices that are violent, tell them to hurt themselves. This voice was playful and benevolent, and gradually, I came to the conclusion that it was the dolphin.

Fuck you Jezebel

So, Jezebel weighs in on the discussions around Lena Dunham’s troubling passages in her autobiography by insinuating Women of Colour are just being a tad hysterical about the whole thing and the follows it up with this charming paragraph:

It is fundamentally difficult for people—parents, researchers, peers—to identify the fuzzy and necessarily, inherently self-defined line between normative childhood behavior and potential sexual abuse. Women, and people who have worked with victims of sexual abuse or been victims themselves, are (quite understandably) more likely to describe a behavior as abusive that other people would describe as normal, unremarkable, fine.

Us survivors of child sexual abuse are just too damn emotional to be able to do things like read books and come to conclusions. It’s understandable that people working with vulnerable children are more likely to describe a behaviour as abusive: not that they are more likely to recognise the signs of child abuse than someone who isn’t.

The sneering tone of the article makes it clear that any challenge to the construction of Dunham The Quirky Wondergirl is women over-reacting. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Jezebel reminds us that its absolutely HILARIOUS to publicly humiliate a distressed woman

I’ve been busy all week so I missed this truly spectacular piece of humanity in action. I’m not surprised people think this is funny; after all Bradley Wiggins thought it was oh-so-hilarious to suggest someone “suck me off” at a Barnado’s charity dinner. I’m hardly shocked some entitled fool on Twitter thought it was hysterically funny to harass an already distressed woman trapped with him on a plane. I’d like to say I’m shocked and surprised that Jezebel thought it was funny enough to link but I’m not. Participating in the public humiliation of women being an anti-feminist act has somehow passed them by completely. Jezebel has moments of absolute brilliance but they frequently resort to lazy stereotypes about women – and that’s without getting into the whole hiring the obviously abusive Hugo Schwyzer.

Jezebel supporting a man publicly humiliating and sexually harassing a woman who was upset is disgraceful.

What Elan Gale did was not funny and it wasn’t clever. It was the exact same manipulative and abusive behaviour women experience from men on a daily basis. Sending a woman alcohol when they are trapped on a plane with you isn’t a compliment at the best of times; sending a woman, who is in distress, alcohol to wind her up is shitty behaviour. Naming her, taking photos of her seat and then tweeting out a description of her is frightening behaviour. Telling a woman to “eat your dick” is sexual harassment. Frankly, if I were in this situation, I would assume the man was a sexual predator and I would be scared shitless on the plane. Gale’s “defence” of his behaviour, by suggesting it’s the woman’s fault for being annoying, is classic deflection and victim-blaming. It’s precisely the defence I would expect of a man with a history of violence against women.

It’s obvious the woman on the flight was upset and distressed at missing Thanksgiving. And, come on, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been distressed, angry or whatever and taken it out on someone who didn’t deserve. It’s not acceptable but it happens. And, yeah, as a teenage single mother, I’ve been in those dead-end jobs where people shout at you for things which are neither your fault nor something you have control over. I still remember being 15 and working in an in-store bakery in a huge grocery chain and a woman yelling at me for 20 minutes because our hot cross buns didn’t taste like her grandmothers. Did it make me feel like crap? Yup. Hell, if it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t remember it. It’s also the least abusive shit I’ve had to put up with at work (try being a teenage girl in a bakery for constant sexual harassment from customers who think they are the first person EVER to make a joke about buns and your ass).

A passenger on a plane being in distress and annoying the flight attendants (and other passengers) isn’t uncommon. It’s the number one reason why I believe alcohol should be prohibited on planes and trains. But, no matter how inappropriately someone behaves through distress, it is never acceptable to publicly humiliate, abuse and sexually harass them.

What Elan Gale did was clearly abusive. He targeted a women in distress and harassed her. Repeatedly. He made a threat of sexual violence and then he followed her off the plane to harass her further. The flight attendants were complicit in allowing him to further abuse this woman. She was a victim and the male flight attendant supported the abuser.

This isn’t funny. It’s male violence.

Shame on the flight attendants who colluded in helping a male passenger abuse a distressed woman.

Shame on Jezebel for claiming that the abuse of women is hilarious.

And, shame on Elan Gale for being an abusive asshole.

Comments: My policy on comments is here. If you get deleted for abusive or offensive comments, you lose the right to have any comments kept on this blog.

Jezebel: Could We Please Stop Confusing Humanism with “Humanism”

This image is by Tatsuya Ishida at Sinfest

I have a love/ hate relationship with Jezebel. Sometimes they are just spot-on. Sometimes they are a bit confused. But, mostly, they seem to forget what that word feminism means and they participate in the same women-blaming culture they claim to be critiquing [see: anything they’ve published about Kim Kardashian]. Lindy West’s piece “If I Admit that ‘Hating Men’ is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?“is one of those pieces that I really, really want to like but West resorts to some lazy stereotypes about RadFems which generally annoy me. There is nothing more dire than a supposedly feminist organisation completely misunderstanding the political theory of radical feminism and babbling on about how the RadFem community of tumblr hate men. Yeah, some do. Let’s take 10 minutes to think about why this is and not resort to lazy stereotypes. And, erm, I may have missed a news item but I can’t remember a single moment when a RadFem raped, tortured, abused or murdered a man. 

West also gets confused about the actual definition of “humanism“. Now, I get that some of the MRAs out there insist on babbling about humanism in order to discredit feminism but do we really have to lower ourselves to their standards? Humanism has an actual definition which is historically and culturally situated within the Western understanding of the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution and the rejection of religious “truths”. Granted these are all problematic theories in and of themselves but the MRA co-option of a term they don’t understand doesn’t require the rest of us to join in. The word MRAs [and other categories of anti-feminists] are looking for is equalist: the definition of which is “don’t change anything because otherwise menz will have to acknowledge their misogyny and other generalised nincompoopery”. Alright, possibly this definition works for humanism as well since I’ve not seen a definition of humanism which discusses sex/gender analysis but, really, it’s not helpful to conflate the two just because MRAs are too dim to use Wikipedia. 

I guess what annoyed me is that most of the article is seriously brilliant. It just got let down by two lazy cliches. These are my favourite quotes from the piece: 

Though it is a seductive scapegoat (I understand why it attracts you), none of these terrible, painful problems in your life were caused by the spectre of “misandry.” You can rest easy about that, I promise! In fact, the most powerful proponent of misandry in modern internet discourse is you — specifically, your dogged insistence that misandry is a genuine, systemic, oppressive force on par with misogyny. This is specious, it hurts women, and it is hurting you. Most feminists don’t hate men, as a group (we hate the system that disproportionately favors men at the expense of women), but — congratulations! — we are starting to hate you. You, the person. Your obsession with misandry has turned misandry into a self-fulfilling prophecy. (I mean, sort of. Hating individual men is not the same as hating all men. But more on that in a minute.) Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted? Feminism is, in essence, a social justice movement—it wants to take the side of the alienated and the marginalized, and that includes alienated and marginalized men. Please stop turning us against you. 

It is nearly impossible to address problems facing women—especially problems in which men are even tangentially culpable—without comments sections devolving into cries of “misandry!” from men and replies of “misandry isn’t real” from women. Feminists are tired of this endless, fruitless turd-pong: hollow “conversation” built on willful miscommunication, bouncing back and forth, back and forth, until both sides throw up their hands and bolt. Maybe you are tired of this too. We seem to be having some very deep misunderstandings on this point, so let’s unpack it. I promise not to yell.

Feminism isn’t about striving for individual fairness, on a life-by-life basis—it’s about fighting against a systematic removal of opportunity that infringes on women’s basic freedoms. If a woman and a man have equal potential in a field, they should have an equal opportunity to achieve success in that field. It’s not that we want the least qualified women to be handed everything just because they’re women. It’s that we want all women to have the same opportunities as all men to fulfill (or fail to fulfill, on their own inherent merits) their potential. If a particular woman is underqualified for a particular job, fine. That isn’t sexism. But she shouldn’t have to be systematically set up, from birth, to be underqualified for all jobs (except for jobs that reinforce traditional femininity, obv).

Feminists do not want you to lose custody of your children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy.  

The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy. 

Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you. 

If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?