recommended reading 1

the war on porn, pretendians, conversion therapy lies, and a teensy bit about the hot new cult right now

Hey, friends - this newsletter has been quiet for a bit as I devote myself to my primary job and life stuff (I moved!), and haven’t had time to do some of the research and longform writing I’m itching to here. In the meantime, here are some pieces I’ve read lately that interested me for the same reason this project does, and thought you might feel the same way!

  • How the War on Porn Distracts Us From the Realities of Child Sexual Abuse, Reese Piper

    Full disclosure, I was the editor on this piece, so wanting to share it is in some ways self-aggrandizing (although I don’t benefit materially in any way from views or shares on it, this isn’t Medium). But I do want to share it because in working on it with Reese, I was amazed by how it unfolded under her command as a writer and reporter into something much more complex and urgent than I had initially imagined as an editor. I reached out to Reese initially about writing something about SISEA, a bill ostensibly designed to mitigate revenge porn and the exploitation of children; she expanded the piece into something more significant about how often our collective efforts in this area rely on the fantasy narrative of a predatory Other external to the family unit, and why we’re invested in our commitment to borderline (and actual!) conspiracy theories in this vein even when time proves again and again that they don’t keep us safe - very much aligned with this newsletter’s interest in why we cling to the falsehoods we cling to.

  • Playing Indian Constitutes a Structural Form of Colonial Theft, and It Must be Tackled, Kim TallBear

    Kim TallBear’s work as a writer, scholar and public thinker is invaluable; you may already know her from her work on decolonizing settler sexualities at Critical Polyamorist or from how her work on race science and Indigenous identity was catapulted to the forefront during the last election related to Elizabeth Warren’s false claims of Cherokee heritage. This installment from her own newsletter digs into some of the really complex issues surrounding attempts to deal with the presence of ‘pretendians,’ or false claimants to Indigenous identity, and the material harm these claims cause - as well as a harrowing window onto both the labor and the harm imposed on an intracommunity level by being constantly forced to engage with and relitigate this issue.

    “Calculating the amount of fat a pretendian takes from Indigenous people is a critical structural analysis. (For those of you not in the know, the Dakota word “wasicu” for white person allegedly means “they who take the fat.” That is the dominant translation, although my Dakota language instructor told me another less critical translation.) Such analyses are never comfortable, not for those implicated in the taking nor for their friends and colleagues. Sometimes too their families are pained and uncomfortable. What has been and continues to be taken? Indigenous lands and relations with nonhuman relatives; our governance structures; our children; resources beneath the land; our bones, blood, and DNA; and finally, our rights to define ourselves and say who belongs to us and who IS us. This in turn, leads to the appropriation of monies and resources allocated to/for Indigenous peoples, often through multi-generational, arduous struggle by Natives in community to advocate for their people who are disadvantaged by colonialism.”

  • A Trans History of Conversion Therapy, Jules Gill-Peterson

    Sad Brown Girl is a consistently excellent newsletter and I’d definitely recommend subscribing — I wanted to highlight this issue in particular because Jules does such crucial work highlighting how the onslaught of harm against trans people we’re in the midst of is fueled by intentional disinformation, not just ‘lack of education about trans issues’ or misunderstanding.

    “Of all the morally depraved lies and vicious agendas peddled by transphobic grifters, one of the most unforgivably fallacious and reprehensible—though there’s surely a hot contest there—is the idea that transition related healthcare for children is a form of conversion therapy… What a tawdry… heap of lies, almost line for line the opposite of the truth. …Here is the real trans history of conversion therapy.”

    Having a corrective on hand to this kind of disinformation is key, as is, unfortunately, recognizing the limitations of education to active disinformation campaigns — I’m reminded also of this excellent piece by Katie Baker on the TERF radicalization pipeline at Mumsnet, and its elucidation of the similarities in the radicalization process of TERFs, incels, and QAnon-style conspiracy theorists.

Also, for folks who are more here for the grisly true crime side of things, you will perhaps be interested in VICE’s new doc and 101 on the Love Has Won stuff, and I’m also interested in this reddit thread on the overlap between Love Has Won and QAnon (with the connecting link seeming, from a layperson’s point of view, to be “conspirituality” or toxic conspiracist wellness culture, e.g. anti-vaxxers.)