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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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Kim
Kim
9 years ago

My best friend’s Mum was part of the Sydney Push (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Push) with Greer back in the day.

I’ve spent a few evenings with my friend and her mum and a bunch of her mum’s friends, drinking and talking. They are a bunch of the coolest and most interesting women I’ve met. They are all feminists/feminist activists, and have been since the 60s. I remember them saying they didn’t like Greer much as well. So there’s my anecdote about feminists criticising Greer. 🙂

katz
9 years ago

But when you pet one owl, it makes the other owls jealous!

hellkell
hellkell
9 years ago

I want to pet an owl.

Amnesia
Amnesia
9 years ago

Who’s shocking? Me? Hah! I’m just somewhat amused to see how easily you all fly into a collective spastic hissy-fit. Doesn’t take much, does it, for you to forget the adage: Don’t feed the trolls.

While I have not been let in on the details of Warren Farrell’s PR strategy, I think I can see a method in this madness. All you obsessive “incest controversy” wankers generate quite some publicity for him, and I suspect that this is effectively *good* publicity. Your foaming fixation on one single thing he said over 30+ years ago is obvious to intelligent observers, some of whom must be wondering about the *real* motivation behind your continual attempts to character-assassinate Farrell.

Come on, sheeple! Can’t you see that having the emotional capacity to be even slightly upset over someone EXTOLLING THE VIRTUES OF PARENT/CHILD INCEST is just a product of your feminist brainwashing? Warren Farrell just wants you to think he’s a horrible human being because hey, any publicity is good publicity!
/troll

Also, responding to Tulgey Logger’s screenshot, once again, we get the idea that just because women like to fantasize or read about something, that must mean we really want it even if we say we don’t. What utter shit of bull.

Guess what, Warren Farrell? People are more complex than that. It’s possible to, get this, read or fantasize about scenarios that we wouldn’t actually be okay with in our day-to-day lives. We can write historical fiction and not want to live in that time period. We can dress up as zombies for Halloween without actually wanting to become zombies. We can even get off to non-consensual erotic fiction without wanting either to rape or be raped.
To further complicate matters, people might consent to something in certain contexts but not in others. We might enjoy a hug from a friend, but feel violated when a stranger hugs us. We might feel like having sushi one day, but want BBQ the next. We might agree to jump out of a plane with a parachute and safety gear, but not without it. We might try skiing once, and decide never to go skiing again after that.

But, most importantly, Warren Farrell, I hope you trip over some kid’s lego creation and fall into their giant tub o’ legos, and then have to buy them more legos to get them to stop crying. On Black Friday.

mythago
9 years ago

trix, I am so sorry.

one single thing he said over 30+ years ago

I look forward to MRAs using this Stupid Quotes Have An Expiration Date logic when they bust out the tired old list of Robin Morgan and Valarie Solanis quotes supposedly showing feminists hate teh menz. I won’t hold my breath, though.

Funny how the leaving-but-not-really-leaving new trolls still can’t explain why we should ignore the interview where Farrell rhapsodizes about incest. Has he changed his mind since then? Has he repudiated it, or explained why his perspective is now different? And, uh, why is he lying and claiming that the ‘support of incest’ was a metaphor for workplace romance? Should ignore everything else he said in the 1970s? What’s the cut-off year for Shit Warren Farrell Says?

I mean, shit, it’s not that hard for him to say “that was stupid, back then everybody was a little weird about sex”. Why hasn’t he?

Jayem Griffin
9 years ago

So long as we’re sharing adorable owl fluffies, you may wish to see this picture of a baby owl from the SPCA where my friend works: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m48mzbvRn71qck6noo1_400.png

@katz: I suppose I will have to pet ALL THE OWLS then. Oh well.

Also, joining everyone in welcoming Evito. Thanks for sharing your story. *hugs* if wanted.

Evito
Evito
9 years ago

Owls: The only creature that is capable of being a swift, deadly predator while simultaneously feeling like the tuft of a Truffula Tree. 🙂

Okay, I must say that everyone here is FAR friendlier than I’d ever hoped people could be. It feels very strange after being on the blogs and sites I used to frequent. Be careful…I could grow to like this, and you’ll be stuck with a vegetarian Wiccan. I’ve found that most MRAs tend to dislike that combination for some reason.

Now, I do have a deep, dark secret that I should let you all know before I get too comfy here. Until earlier this month, and for about 4 or 5 years prior, I considered myself a Men’s Rights Advocate. Since 8th grade, all of my friends have been male (I just have stereotypical male thoughts/hobbies). I hated seeing the double standards that they were held up to due to the stupidity of society and its expectations. I’ve known men who were abused, hurt, and shamed by their girlfriends, men that I’d spent time with and cared about. (My personal pop psychology? I “became” a boy in the hope that I’d no longer be seen as a girl by my stepfather. I really think this is true).

So, given that nobody had ever talked nicely about Feminism in my homes growing up, I delved more and more into gender studies…but always with a male preference. I listened to my friends’ problems, and saw first hand how “non alphas” were treated by the girls at school. Thus, when I truly started using the Internet, I assumed I was an MRA. After all, I cared deeply for the nice men in my life, thought that people should look into the higher rates of male suicide, that people shouldn’t shame a male victim of abuse, that men should not automatically be arrested during a DV case, and that men should never be looked at simply as a mobile wallet. And I knew that despite what I went through at younger ages…not all men were like that, and that the majority were perfectly wonderful beings.

I was content nuturing this idea of total equality between the sexes/genders in my mind. After all, I am a healthy, attractive, nice, woman who works long hours to put herself though college (done) and have a nice car and apartment. I treat everyone as an equal regardless of sex, color, ability, gender, ethnicity and even species when it’s applicable. This equality is all my friends wanted…surely that’s what other MRAs wanted too.

Sadly, when I finally discovered the “manosphere” I found men who SAID they wanted this, but then backpedaled when I revealed I was a woman. My religion automatically meant I was a Feminist. My vegetarianism meant I was weak or a treehugger. My insistance that marital rape was real for BOTH sexes was met with revulsion. I was called horrible names for the “mistake” of saying that I am independent. Praised one minute for saying that I thought a particular (Feminist) viewpoint was hateful, spat on the next for disagreeing with a misogynist counter to it.

And of course, I may have been a happy, single, “independent” woman who liked and cared about menfolk…but I still had the unspoken power to land a man in jail or seduce a man into marriage then steal his home and kids. It didn’t matter that I *thought* I’d never do it…my vagina is steal essentially a loaded gun, ready to go off whenever I want.

I simply got tired of it all…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. I was “halfway” there…but didn’t WANT to go all the way over.

As I told Mr. Futrelle, I am now lost. My ideologies have not changed. I still believe in equality for all, but am willing to engage in real debate. Now what do I do, now that I have found that I’ve been beating my head on a wall and now have a concussion of confusion and hurt. Where do I go from here?

And am I even welcome anymore?

katz
9 years ago

Evito, I speak for no one but myself, but I think you are absolutely welcome here! We love discussion and hearing from different opinions and backgrounds. You are obviously open-minded and willing to think critically, and that’s the important thing (what tends to tick us off is when people say “I’m willing to give feminists the benefit of the doubt” and then get mad when we don’t all agree with all their views).

And guess what: We care about the things you care about! We absolutely want abuse of men and boys to be treated as a real, serious problem; we hate it when someone says a male rape victim “got lucky” or suggest that it’s okay for a woman to beat up a man because he was stronger and could have stopped her. We want all victims of domestic violence to get the help we need. And, of course, we want both men and women to have earning arrangements that work for them and their families.

cloudiah
9 years ago

Seconding what katz said. You’re not the only former MRA here.

Also, I think Ithiliana posted some good links for you on the Feminism 101 stuff.

Kim
Kim
9 years ago

@Evito. Wow, you’ve been through a lot. And of course you’re still welcome here. I imagine you’ll have some very interesting things to say on the topics that come up here. We were talking just the other day about FeMRAs in fact, and trying to understand them.

So, welcome to manboobz. Do you like kittens?

katz
9 years ago

Actually, I should mention another thing that really bugs us:

When people try to make every conversation about men and men’s problems.

Like I said, we care about many problems that affect men. But a) many of those problems are part and parcel with women’s problems (eg, men being regarded as income sources is inextricably connected to women being expected to stay home) and b) there’s a common tendency to ignore women’s issues or to try to always make them into men’s issues. So, for interest, if we’re talking about women’s roles in film, don’t butt in with “But male porn stars get paid less!” It’s a different topic for a different time.

Remember that this can extend to entire sites. Not so much here, but if a site is specifically about, say domestic violence against women, that might not be the place to go and talk about DV against men (even though it’s a legitimate topic in general).

The good news: No Seriously What About the Menz, a feminist site entirely devoted to men’s issues, by erstwhile Manboobzer Ozy.

katz
9 years ago

And, just to be clear, I’m not telling you all this to try to scare you off or anything; I’m telling you because I want you to stay and therefore don’t want you to accidentally say something that seems reasonable to you but is an instant annoyance button to us.

hermionesotter
9 years ago

@Evito: just to second (or rather, fifteenth) the general welcome, and extend hugs, if you want them, from a fellow vegetarian Wiccan x

Hope everyone in the US had a pleasant Thanksgiving.

bloodquartz
bloodquartz
9 years ago

@ evito, i’m – sorry i’m replying and probably going to put things wrong and be obnoxious, but i’m sure everyone will agree that you are very welcome here whatever your background – as long as you are respectful of others (thats what i’ve found anyway ).
I haven’t been around on here for a while (personal issues -blah) but I read your ‘story’ and feel for you and want to say welcome and I wish you all the best – I too have had a background of abuse and was raised in a MRA home that was not welcoming to feminism,(Hah! understatement :/) learning about it and that it wasn’t a dirty word or somehow unreasonably against men has been a journey – I understand that position of feeling lost, its tough to question things we ‘know’ or have believed, but I think growth comes from questioning – sometimes we feel lost when we wander off a path we know, but it could very well lead us to another path – so maybe sometimes feeling lost can be a good thing! (sorry, therapy was harsh today and i’ve had a few drinks)
I hope you can find what you are searching for, I won’t go off on my rants about mras, but – i know that feeling of wanting to be ‘one of the boys’ so you’d be left alone. I remember binding my chest as a child because I just didn’t want to be the ‘woman’ who was being used and raped. I read your post and just wanted to say – I feel you, its a hard place to be. But kudos to you for having the strength to get through everything and trying to find a way for you that doesn’t deminish you and fits what you feel. Whatever that may be. I wish you all the best.
-and seriously these fucks saying that abuse is only ‘bad’ because society says it is – can go – f*k themselves; no shit the fathers are saying its all good and the daughters aren’t! I really cannot comprehend the mentality of someone who doesn’t understand that element of abuse. Hey, you want scary – nz’s acc board for ‘sensitive claims’ included felicity goodyear-smith, a doctor turned pedo apologist when she married the son of the centerpoint cult leader; who – along with the son – was charged with abuse of children., But she agrees with whats his face; its not like its really anything bad! Seriously You think this article is bad; don’t try reading her book ‘first do no harm’. Seriously, don’t. I threw up at least seven times and my friends threatened to take it off me when I was shaking with rage few pages in. (yeah, my masochism is an issue) That this woman is an advisory for the system (profit based of course) making counselling availiable for those of us who have had sexual abuse in our past – is a travesty and should never have happened. But – tis just one of the fucked up aspects of our system.
But i’m sure like MRA’s will be claiming, its all overblown; what do you mean its endorsing the abuse of children!?! ~_~ Funny thing; if you said something that was published and its not what you think? You *say so*, you try to set the record straight.
This guy, I get the feeling all he wants is to not be called on it. Ask me no questions and i’ll tell you no lies right?..except with these guys, its all lies. :/
Yeah, i’m rambling and my wine glass needs refilling.

Also @ trix, I know i’m an internet stranger whom you know nothing of but my heart goes out to you and I am so sorry for your loss. Please take care of yourself <3
Everyone else – hi again! Sorry, i'm back 😉

Skyrimjob
Skyrimjob
9 years ago

Has Warren Farrell ever actually written anything for the Manosphere itself? I always got the impression his was like the Forerunner from Halo, with A Voice for Men as the Covenant.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

Evito – repeating what everyone else has said: you’re definitely still welcome here as far as I’m concerned, and you’re far from being the only former MRA (or someone who thought of themselves as such – your description makes it really clear how not MRAish you were from their reactions).

I don’t think I can embed the video, but here’s a link to a news broadcast about two ring-tailed lemurs born at Melbourne Zoo a week ago. Cuteness!!!

marissa@equibbly
9 years ago

Creepy, I’d say.. that the use of words here somehow twisted the fact that incest is a taboo to start with. Well, perhaps they do it in the dark ages.. but we’re much more civilized than that. I was particularly looking for notes on date rape when I stumbled upon your post. It’s just that recently, we’ve had our first case of date rape where this girl doesn’t remember what happened to her and she’s in dire need of help. If you’re curious, here’s her story: http://www.equibbly.com/disputes/i-don-t-remember-what-happened-to-me

So, that leaves us with a question: just how do you justify rape when it’s a person you or someone close to you care about? Makes things more complicated, I guess. Thanks for sharing this intriguing piece, anyway.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
9 years ago

Evito, if it was me, I’d be reevaluating all the things I used to believe*. Not that bad people can’t occasionally have good ideas – stopped clock is right twice a day and all – but if most of the people who support the ideas that you used to support are, well, awful, it might be time to reevaluate the ideas themselves. If you’re holding on to the underlying idea that men are oppressed as a group, well, honestly, that’s kind of silly. It might help to break things down into categories – rather than seeing every case in which shitty stuff happens to a man as proof of societal oppression of men, start trying to figure out what other, extra dynamics might have been going on in the case of those specific men (geeks faring poorly in dating during high school/college, for example, or the specific abuse directed at queer men).

What I’m saying here is that it seems like you might be headed for a paradigm shift, and that’s a big leap to take, but it’s something that probably needs to happen.

* Not the idea that people should be treated equally and with kindness – that’s a good principle to have. It’s the belief that men as a whole are currently being discriminated against on a societal, structural level that needs some reexamining, because the evidence just doesn’t support that theory.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

You’re still welcome here, Evito. I hope we can help you answer some of your questions. (I probably won’t, not being a heavy thinker, but there are plenty here who can.)

Fitzy
Fitzy
9 years ago

Evito, I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions. You’re still very welcome in my book.

And take care of yourself right now. Being adrift and disillusioned is hard on the psyche. I know that from experience.

Still jealous of your owl-petting, though. 😛

Fitzy
Fitzy
9 years ago

trix, I hope you go through the holiday OK. More jedi hugs here if you need them.

trix
trix
9 years ago

Evito you rock. The older we get the harder it is to change

Thanks for hugs everybody.

hellkell
hellkell
9 years ago

Evito, you’re more than welcome.

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
9 years ago

Hi, Evito! I’m a bit late to the party, but I’mma hop on the Welcome Wagon anyway.

Also, as a fellow parakeet owner, I’d be happy to squee about birdies with you any time! I’m super jealous of your owl-petting. I recently applied for an internship caring for wild animals, but I didn’t get it 🙁

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
9 years ago

Did anyone else notice Driversuz’s dig at the Vagina Monologues? What is it with MRAs and that play? Dudes, most of us agree that the story about the girl being preyed on by the older woman is fucked up. You can stop pretending that Eve Ensler and the woman in that story represent all of feminism.

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