Over at the blog Defending People, Mark Bennett, a Houston-based criminal defense lawyer, writes a long, technical, closely argued post critiquing Danielle Citron‘s putative rebuttals of arguments–based on First Amendment concerns–against her proposals for ‘revenge porn’ laws. Bennett titles his post ‘F**ing Danielle Citron’ and at the end signs off thusly:
P.S. “F**king” is fisking. Sicko.
That was very witty. Chuckle, guffaw, chortle, snicker. I hope you got it and appreciated the joke, otherwise, Bennett is going to think you are one square, stodgy dude. I’m playing it safe, and issuing a few preemptive cackles.
It’s no surprise, of course, that a male blogger–a brave defender of free speech!–should have chosen such a title and chosen to express his wit in such puerile fashion. He is, after all, writing a post that aims to ‘fisk’, to ‘take apart’ arguments made by a woman. So why not invoke, for the amusement and entertainment of his male readers¹, the kind of aggressive language many men–academic or otherwise–like to attach to the art and practice of argumentation. Like, “I tore him a new asshole”, “I wiped the floor with him”, “I shut him the fuck up” and many others. So if you’re refuting someone’s arguments, you’re fucking them. Argumentation is a contact sport, innit?
Such language is almost exactly the precise converse of another kind that men are inordinately fond of. As I wrote in a post last year commenting on a “culture, local and global, of sexual harassment, ogling, [and] innuendo”:
[M]en when talking about sex, cannot drop the language of conquest and domination, of conflating sex and violence (‘Dude, I fucked the shit out of her’ or ‘I was banging her all night’), who imagine sex to be a variant of rough-and-tumble sport (‘scoring touchdowns’), who associate weakness with womanhood (‘Don’t be a pussy’ ‘Man up’ ‘Put your pants on’).
In his self-exalted mind, Bennett intended to ‘eviscerate’ the arguments mounted by Citron; he was really going to lower the boom; Citron was going to get some rough rhetorical treatment. So why not analogize–in that dazzlingly witty style above–that forensic analysis to, you know, sex? And for even better measure, why not stick your interlocutor’s name in the title? Citron does write about the harassment of women online, by–among other things–hate speech and revenge porn, so it would only be appropriate that her name feature in such a title. I bet that would make her squirm just a bit. Why not just let your dick flag flutter proudly? I’m sure some of his male readers–perhaps some drenched-in-testosterone male law school students and bloggers–are passing around Bennett’s post and chuckling over how ‘Bennett gave Citron a good bitch-slapping.’ (Incidentally, the tweet that led me to Bennett’s post said that it ‘just filets open and guts pernicious Danielle Citron+MaryAnne Franks revenge porn laws.’)
I’ve given up being amazed or appalled by the sexism of smart men. Male power is well-entrenched and defiant, but it is embodied in some very insecure folks.
Note #1: I doubt Bennett thought any of his female readers would find that title amusing.
PS: Bennett’s arguments are well-worth a read. Even sexist tools can be good First Amendment analysts.