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What Men’s Rights guru Warren Farrell actually said about the allegedly positive aspects of incest. (Note: it’s even more repugnant than that sounds.)

So there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the recent talk that old school Men’s Rights guru Warren Farrell gave at the University of Toronto. Protesters troubled by Farrell’s repugnant views on incest and date rape, among other things, blocked the entrance to the building holding the talk; police broke up the blockade. You can find various videos of what went down on YouTube. I’m not going to try to sort out all the various claims and counterclaims about what happened.

I personally don’t approve of blocking people from giving talks, even if their ideas are repugnant. But I certainly do approve of holding people responsible for what they say, and Farrell – in addition to being wrong about nearly every aspect of relations between men and women – has said some truly awful things over the years.

Exhibit A: A notorious interview he gave Penthouse magazine in the 1970s in which he discussed a book he was researching about incest, tetatively titled The Last Taboo: The Three Faces of Incest.

Let me put a giant TRIGGER WARNING here for disturbing discussion of incest and child sexual abuse.

In the interview, he argued that incest could be a good thing for everyone involved. Indeed, he waxed poetic about the possible positive effects:

“Incest is like a magnifying glass,” he told interviewer Philip Nobile. “In some circumstances it magnifies the beauty of the relationship, and in others it magnifies the trauma.”

The book Farrell was working on never appeared, and Farrell would apparently prefer it if what he said in that interview simply vanished into the memory hole, but a radical feminist site called the Liz Library has a copy of the original 1977 magazine in which it appeared, and has put high quality scans of it online. You can find them here.

Here are some of the things Farrell said in that interview. I’ve put the direct quotes from Farrell in bold; the rest is Nobile’s summary of what Farrell told him.

The article summarized the “findings” of Farrell’s (at that time incomplete) incest research, starting with his take on mother-son incest:

Mother-son incest represents 10 percent of the incidence and is 70 percent positive, 20 percent mixed, and 10 percent negative for the son. For the mother it is mostly positive. Farrell points out that boys don’t seem to suffer, not even from the negative experience. “Girls are much more influenced by the dictates of society and are more willing to take on sexual guilt.”

Apparently, in his view, girls feel bad about the abuse not so much because abuse is inherently bad, but because “society” tells them it’s bad; he returns to this theme repeatedly.

Apparently Farrell’s “findings” about father-daughter incest were not quite as cheery:

The father-daughter scene, ineluctably complicated by feelings of dominance and control, is not nearly so sanguine. Despite some advertisements, calling explicitly for positive female experiences, Farrell discovered that 85 percent of the daughters admitted to having negative attitudes toward their incest. Only 15 percent felt positive about the experience. On the other hand, statistics from the vantage of the fathers involved were almost the reverse — 60 percent positive 10 percent mixed, and 20 percent negative. “Either men see these relationships differently,” comments Farrell, “or I am getting selective reporting from women.”

Yea, that’s right. He’s saying that the overwhelming majority of the abusive men he interviewed enjoyed sexually abusing their daughters, but for some baffling reason their daughters generally didn’t enjoy the abuse. And the explanation for this is that perhaps the daughters are lying – er, sorry, “selectively reporting?”

The bit about advertisements seems to suggest that Farrell went out of his way to try to find and interview women who felt positively about being sexually abused, but still was unable to find more than a small percentage who did.

The article continues. (This is Nobile summarzing Farrell, not Farrell’s direct words.)

In a typical traumatic case, an authoritarian father, unhappily married in a sexually repressed household and probably unemployed, drunkenly imposes himself on his young daughter. Genital petting may have started as early as age eight with first intercourse occurring around twelve. Since the father otherwise extends very little attention to his daughter, his sexual advances may be one of the few pleasant experiences she has with him.

Let’s just repeat that last sentence for emphasis:

Since the father otherwise extends very little attention to his daughter, his sexual advances may be one of the few pleasant experiences she has with him.

The article continues:

If she is unaware of society’s taboo and if the mother does not intervene, she has no reason to suspect the enormity of the aberration. But when she grows up and learns of the taboo, she feels cheapened.

So the incest “taboo” is the main problem, not the abuse itself?

And here is a doozy of a quote from Farrell directly:

“When I get my most glowing positive cases, 6 out of 200,” says Farrell, “the incest is part of the family’s open, sensual style of life, wherein sex is an outgrowth of warmth and affection. It is more likely that the father has good sex with his wife, and his wife is likely to know and approve — and in one or two cases to join in.”

(Note: I’m relying on the Liz Library’s transcription of this quote; some of the text in their scan of this page is blurry.)

Farrell told Nobile that he was feeling hesitant about publishing his book, because it might encourage exploitation of daughters, but that he felt compelled to continue researching it for two main reasons:

“First, because millions of people who are now refraining from touching, holding, and genitally caressing their children, when that is really a part of a caring, loving expression, are repressing the sexuality of a lot of children and themselves. Maybe this needs repressing, and maybe it doesn’t. My book should at least begin the exploration.”

“Second, I’m finding that thousands of people in therapy for incest are being told, in essence , that their lives have been ruined by incest. In fact, their lives have not generally been affected as much by the incest as by the overall atmosphere.

Farrell also hopes to change public attitudes so that participants in incest will no longer be automatically perceived as victims. “The average incest participant can’t evaluate his or her experience for what it was. As soon as society gets into the picture, they have to tell themselves it was bad. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. “

According to The Liz Library, Farrell now claims that the bit about “genitally caressing” children is a misquote, and that what he really said was “generally caressing.” You can see the scan of the page here; Penthouse clearly has him saying “genitally.”

But let’s assume that Farrell is telling the truth and Nobile misheard the word. Here’s the quote again, with that one word changed.

First, because millions of people who are now refraining from touching, holding, and generally caressing their children, when that is really a part of a caring, loving expression, are repressing the sexuality of a lot of children and themselves.

I’m not sure that’s much better; he’s still talking about “touching, holding, and … caressing” children in a sexual context.

Farrell has not, to my knowledge, challenged any of the other quotes in this interview besides that one. Nor, again to the best of my knowledge, has he forthrightly repudiated the substance of what he said. If he wishes to clarify or challenge any of this I will happily give him space here on this blog to do so.

I should note that in the interview Farrell stopped short of actually advocating incest. But his reasoning here is curious, to say the least:

“I’m not recommending incest between parent and child, and especially not between father and daughter. The great majority of fathers can grasp the dynamics of positive incest intellectually. But in a society that encourages looking at women in almost purely sexual terms, I don’t believe they can translate this understanding into practice.”

So apparently father-daughter incest – ie, sexual abuse – isn’t a good idea because in a sexist society fathers are likely to do it wrong?

I encourage everyone with the stomach for it to read the entire Penthouse piece, which also discusses the incredibly creepy views of some other incest “researchers” at the time.

I will highlight more of Farrell’s problematic views in future posts.

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Carleyblue
Carleyblue
9 years ago

Evito, I have to say your experience and confusion about your beliefs really resonated with me. Please know that you’re not the only one.I used to sympathise more with MRAs than with feminists. My background was not the same as yours and that of some others here, in that I grew up in a pretty pro-feminist background. Unfortunately my family experiences, as well as my college classes turned me against feminism somewhat (not entirely, of course). I grew up believing very strongly in equality for everyone, but (naively) thought that had been achieved, for the most part, and that the kinds of men you often see on MRA websites didn’t actually exist anymore. So, when I first encountered them, as well as a couple of friends in real life who believed the same way, I assumed that they legitimately wanted equality. One of my first ‘wake-up’ moments was when one of my friends confessed that he would rape a woman if he knew he could get away with it.

I posted on here for a while under a different name, but was still confused. After a while, I disagreed with one of the posts and lashed out. I believe now that there is no salvaging the MRM in its current form. It is incredibly frustrating to me how much hate and anger some of the men I know carry around with them, and that there are many men (and women) out there who simply think I am deficient because of how I was born. I can say that I tried, but I just don’t know what to do anymore. I am now at odds with a few of my male friends, and I don’t think that hurt can ever be repaired. Sorry to be dramatic, but that’s the way it is.

Anyway, I think it would be great if you would stick around. The people here are smart and kind, and so unlike MRAs. You don’t have to agree with all of the commenters all of the time (I don’t), just keep in mind that this is a site for mockery primarily.

LBT
LBT
9 years ago

I HAVE SURVIVED THANKSGIVING! Hallelujah. Unfortunately, am kinda drained and not much capable of anything smarter or more intense. Welcome and condolences to the newbies?

And oh god, the fucking apedologia of the 60s and 70s. Whyyyyyyyy.

Bingo
Bingo
9 years ago

Evito: “As a woman who suffered at the hands of an incestuous stepfather from age 10 to 18, I am horrified that anyone could think that ANY sort of incest would be a good thing…and am further disgusted by the idea that the interviewed women who said it was negative are LYING about their feelings.”

I’m sorry you grew up with that experience. I’d just point out that Warren Farrell didn’t say incest was a good thing either. Some people here say he did, but he contends that he was in part misquoted, and that he doesn’t think or believe that and nor does he approve of rape. It’s very difficult to know what to make of people like David Futrelle and many of the commenters on this site, who persist in claiming that someone holds a view or a belief, when the person concerned completely denies holding such a view. If Warren Farrell was an advocate for incest, or had been an advocate for incest, then of course the only moral act would be to condemn that. However he insists he’s done no such thing. I’m not entirely sure how one justifies not believing a person who is describing the views and beliefs they themselves hold.

Also, Farrell has carried out research into sex and relationships, and the fact is that by it’s very nature that is going to lead you into some very sensitive areas. Incest is not a subject I would wish to study or know much about, but I’m sure you agree that it’s probably a good idea for someone to do so. When they do research like this, they’ll be looking at very large numbers of survey responses, and there will be all kinds of responses and some of them will be positive about the experience. Now I know and appreciate that that is very hard to believe, and in fact I find it abhorent, but it’s just a statistical reality that any survey of this nature is unlikely to report a 100% finding no matter what the question posed. Like many things, this is a topic which requires cool reporting and careful handling. It is not helped by accusatory point-scoring such as this posting and many of the commentors are engaging in.

In another posting, you put forward an odd picture of the MRM: “the Fundamentalist Christians, the pushing of 1950s life as a “pinnacle of civilization”, being told that I’m a spy, the odd ideas that I was actually (radical Fem blogger names here), and the idea that I would eventually have to find a husband, and I was being a bi*** for not allowing the use of my body already. I tried, I really did, to be a good FeMRA. But my views on rape, incest and reproductive rights meant I was never fully welcomed.”

This is an odd collection of stereotypes to be honest, almost all MRAs are anti-Marriage, so wouldn’t push you to ‘find a husband’, MRAs also believe rape and incest are wrong, they don’t want to go back to the ‘1950s’, and who exactly would you be ‘spying’ for? I’m sorry, but can you provide more details about which part of the MRM you were involved in exactly?

katz
9 years ago

LBT, glad you survived.

Mine was better than expected, too. It seems that my mother (not present) may have been the source and the ending of all the drama.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
9 years ago

I ate roast pork and roasted potatoes and green beans (made by Mr C) and raspberry and apple crumble (made by me), drank wine that was given as a thank you gift (seasonal!), and watched silly movies. These things are much more fun without the extended family involved.

hellkell
hellkell
9 years ago

Bingo: you’re fractally fucking wrong. But thanks for playing.

ithiliana
9 years ago

@Bingo: Intent, it’s FUCKING MAGIC: http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/intent-its-fucking-magic/

A few other notes, you who have now joined the Troll ranks: Farrell did not publish his research (that was the subject of the interview). We only know what he said–and the impact of what he said is not affected by your claim of his intent.

And since his scholarship was never peer-reviewed by those qualified to do so, we don’t have any idea of the quality of it–or else, it was rejected for the shoddiness of the work. We don’t know.

Regarding your comment to Evito (and if you continue demanding she justify her perception of her experiences, it’s going to verge on harassment, just so ya know), who are you to question her understanding of her experiences with the people she encountered who identified as MRM?

So far: you support Farrell being a good dude despite his incest apologism.

You deny Evito’s experience, related in her own words, because it doesn’t jive with yours.

I call fucking troll dipshit. Slime off, plz.

ithiliana
9 years ago

@Evito: Seconding what others have said, or thirding, etc.

I grew up Republican, in small town Idaho.

I was anti-feminist (based on what I read and heard in the media–keep in mind this was the sixties–I graduated from high school in 1973). I remember my younger self telling two men who thought I was feminist that I could not be a feminist because I liked men too much.

Now, I didn’t want to marry, didn’t want children, was in fact queer (though it took me until I was in my twenties to even start realizing it), and I didn’t like the social role constructed for women (but like many women, I decided that really I was just ‘better’ than them, because I liked what men did, and it was all those silly women’s fault–i.e. I drank the misogynistic kool aid).

I changed–and am still changing. It’s long, and it can be hard (because questioning what I was taught about gender, led to questions about what I was taught about race–and even after getting into feminism, realizing a lot of what I read was racist–then there was the trans*phobia in some parts of the feminist movement).

So, yes, you are welcome here, and in amongst the mocking misogyny, we often have lots of fun with cute animal pics, recipes, sff and other fun stuff! Plus, of course, whacking trolls which can be tremendously fun.

mythago
9 years ago

It’s very difficult to know what to make of people like David Futrelle and many of the commenters on this site, who persist in claiming that someone holds a view or a belief, when the person concerned completely denies holding such a view.

Who are you gonna believe, ladies, Warren Farrell and his apologists, or your own eyes?

@Evito, welcome. Don’t worry about the trolls.

Evito
Evito
9 years ago

@Everyone
Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving, or just a good day if you’re not American. Once again, thank you all for the warm welcome and for not kicking me out. Owl hugs for everyone 🙂

@Trix I’m sorry for what you are feeling, and hope you get through it all ok.

@CassandraSays The guys I actually know and care about never said the were oppressed, and I don’t think ANY of them agree (or know about) the MRM. They simply disliked double standards and cultural perceptions of men/boys. Nothing they ever told me about was misogynist…it was more “I hate that some women act afraid of me on the street” or “I wish people didn’t assume I’m good at math because I’m male…I suck in that subject!” Things like that, which seems like the type of things you all dislike too 🙂
But yes…I need to reevaluate the things I’ve “learned” online.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
9 years ago

About the men hating that women on the street are sometimes scared of them issue, you might want to check this out.

http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

Short version – there are reasons that women react that way, and it’s not because of unfair double standards or cultural prejudice against men.

Ugh
Ugh
9 years ago

@Bingo

MRAs also believe rape and incest are wrong

I would be damn impressed if you could find a single MRA who believes that rape is wrong and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

thebewilderness
thebewilderness
9 years ago

My oldest son was picked on and bullied at school. He was very shy, but he grew up to be 6′ and well muscled and not shy. Took a while for the reality to catch up with the self image. It was very difficult to come to terms with the idea that he was perceived by women as a threat when he walked down the street. But he did come to terms with it and accepted that it was not personal or even about him. He does despise the abusive asshats who created the conditions and contributed to the conditioning of women to be fearful when walking down a public street in daylight.

Evito
Evito
9 years ago

@Bingo

I appreciate that you understand that what I went through was horrible, and that you also find incest to be wrong. I am happy to hear that.

As for Warren, Mr. Futrelle or any commentors here, I don’t have enough information about any of this situation to really make any solid opinions of my own. I suppose that I’d be extremely wary of this Warren guy, given what he said in the interview. While it’s entirely possible that he was partially misquoted, it seems that at least SOME of what he said would mean that he believed rape could be positive in certain situations. Obviously, I’d disagree with that. :/

As for the oddities of the MRM…I truly wish I knew why there were so many different views. I won’t tell you what my Tag/Name was, but I will tell you that I’ve posted on various blogs, forums and on Youtube. Most (if not all) of them are places you’d probably know or comment on yourself!

I have found that while many MRAs say that they are against rape and incest, others are definitely of the opinion that the age of consent should be drastically lowered, and that if a woman is out unaccompanied at night on the street/in a club, that she is “asking to be raped”. There are those like Vox who state that all women should be genitally mutilated and the conversations on Reddit usually have SOME mention of violence.

Personally, I’ve been told that I’m a “slut waiting to happen” when I state that I finally enjoy/want sex. Despite the fact I’ve only been with one man, I’m simply “waiting for my turn with alpha cock”. I have had huge rants against me for saying I’m financially independent…everything from “Yeah, lets see how independent you are if we dump you naked in the mountains” to “I guess you fix your own car, grow all your own food, deliver your own mail, etc” and “Only men can be independent, a woman will ALWAYS need others to give her money”. I’ve been told that if I REALLY was a good woman, I’d share my body with more than one guy OR that I should have “waited til marriage”.

I’ve had MRAs tell me that it didn’t matter that I’d been abused…I probably led him on. That if I hadn’t asked for goodnight kisses, he’d never gotten any sexualized signals from my 10 yr old self. That if I didn’t work, then I’d be able to settle down and run a man’s home for him.

I was also told that the fact I’m pro choice (NOT pro abortion!)meant I was promoting the killing of babies. That because I thought women should be able to have as many safe sex partners as a man meant I was personally a whore. That as a 26 yr old woman, I was doomed to complete loneliness/depression/heartache in only 4 yrs…unless I found a man, gave up my job, became his submissive Christian wife and had many children.

I have been told ALL of this. I’m sorry if you find it contradictory but please realize that *I* did too! I put forth the theory that it was due to so many different voices and opinions…after all, you ask enough people, and you’re bound to get answers you don’t think are right or consistent with what you would expect, right?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
9 years ago

@ Evito

Out of curiosity, how long were you actively involved with the MRM before enough was enough and you couldn’t take the mindless rage being directed at you any more? I always wonder this about FeMRAs, how long it’s possible to take that kind of abuse for before you lose your patience with it completely and tell people to fuck off, or at least start to have second thoughts about the wisdom of the whole thing.

Evito
Evito
9 years ago

@thebewilderness

Yes! This is exactly how it was for my friends. Some of them are big, but most of them are “goth” and wear black/renaissance clothing (even to the mall or park) and have either piercings or tattoos. They were/are the absolute nicest guys you’d ever meet…though we are all QUITE geeky/nerdy. None of them ever tried to pick up women on the street/at night because they weren’t those type of men.

Let me tell you, we got strange looks waiting in line at the movies. Them: look like men who LIVE at the Ren Faire, with slicked back hair, leather boots, tats/earings, and cloaks. Me: average sized, blonde hair, blue eyes, thin, brightly dressed. Didn’t matter, we cared about each other 🙂

Evito
Evito
9 years ago

@CassandraSays

About 5 years for the ideology, only made it through about 1.5 years when I finally went online though. The seething hatred and suspicion was…unexpected, to say the least. Instead of meeting an online community of menfolk who shared my ideas of equality, I found hoards of people who delighted in shaming me because of my “evil sex”. It was strange and disturbing on many levels. 🙁

inurashii
inurashii
9 years ago

Evito, big ups for coming here and sharing your experience with it, and even bigger ups for the dramatic, life-changing introspection that led you to where you are now.

With all the stuff that these men have said to you, you may have noticed that a lot of it is projection, drawing from a wellspring of self-loathing on the part of the speakers. The MRM assigns its own traits to people it doesn’t like, which is a common tactic by abusers and other unhappy people.

I’m glad you’re not putting up with it.

Fitzy
Fitzy
9 years ago

like many women, I decided that really I was just ‘better’ than them, because I liked what men did, and it was all those silly women’s fault–i.e. I drank the misogynistic kool aid

I grew up believing very strongly in equality for everyone, but (naively) thought that had been achieved, for the most part

OK ithiliana, Carleyblue – how did you two get into my teenage head? ‘Cause that sums up how I thought for about the first twenty years of my life. Well, I had a great big dose of slut-shaming self-satisfaction mixed in for good measure, too. But I’d rather not go there…

Thank goodness minds can change.

whataboutthemoonz
9 years ago

I find that a lot of would-be feminists fail to identify with feminism because of the mistaken belief that (a) equality has been reached or (b) feminists hate men.

I’m always like ‘hey, you know Rush Limbaugh doesn’t know shit about feminism, right?’

pecunium
9 years ago

driver: You could always look into his sources, but that would take time and analytic ability. Sucks to be you.

His work has been referenced. We’ve read it. It’s crap.

The thing you aren’t paying attention too (because you don’t actually read the blog; you see someone at AVfM, or some such, whining about how unfair Dave is being and you [knickers in a twist] come in to vent your spleen and enjoy your righteously ignorant sense of indignation) was that we were talking about this part of Farell’s past in another thread.

Dave didn’t bring it up to get us in a lather, he did it so people who didn’t know what was being discussed could have context, and make a rational opinion, based on evidence.

So no, I’m not going to play with your little straw men and debate Farrell’s politics.

Wrong. You are. You are saying Dave is wrong about Farrell, ergo you are alleging Farell is right.

What you aren’t willing to do is have your beliefs held up to scrutiny. Given that what feeble attempts as rebuttal you have made (alleging that we are afraid to go to AVfM, lest we learn something, when we have ample evidence of Farell’s work from other sources, etc.), I can see why you might want to avoid that.

Given that his subsequent work does nothing to imply the 1977 interview misrepresented his views, nor that he has substantively changed them.

Yeah, I can see why you’d like to pretend you aren’t defending him.

Sucks to be you.

Steele
Steele
9 years ago

So first, we have a post about a flippant comment Sam Harris made in a interview circa 2006.

Now, we have a post about an interview from forty years ago.

Spank me black and blue if it doesn’t seem as though the Boobz King is running out of material. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise anyone; when you’re dishonestly promoting a non-issue like “misogyny” and “patriarchy”, you’re going to run out of examples pretty darn quick.

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
9 years ago

Whereas if your hate movement depends on the idea that men are collectively disadvantaged in favor of women, you have to set the bar so low that practically anything is “misandry.”

I mean, I realize you think your teacher discouraging you from writing was misandry, Steele, but if the only patterns you can put together are the ones that favor your own dishonesty, I am forced to set it down as prescience.

katz
9 years ago

Says the author of the revered long-running blog Anti-Manboobz.

katz
9 years ago

Dammit, blockquotes.

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