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Sex-Positivity versus Sex-Coercion: Selling Sex, Iconoclasm, and TERFs

This Marxist-feminist longread examines differences between sex-positivity and sex-compulsion in sexualized media. Specifically, it examines how corporations and TERFs use canonical imagery to create sexist arguments, while simultaneously condemning sex-positive artists and their own iconoclastic output.

Note: Currently intended as a chapter within, this longread (which I am editing on a daily basis) touches on notions of body representation that I analyze in my upcoming book, Neoliberalism in Yesterday’s HeroesIf you're curious, the first chapter can be viewed, here.

Trigger Warning: This post discusses transphobia, homophobia, racism, hate crimes, misogyny and fascism.

(artist: Aurora Prieto)

Introduction: Glossary and Summary

Humans are complicated. Our bodies have ambiguously gendered and sexual components that can be expressed in a variety of self-potentiating ways, including art. Alas, sexual expression under Capitalism has long been colonized, transformed by the status quo into something to sell. This includes the turning of sexual language (specifically the language of bodies) into prescriptive, coercive icons; as well as groups who confusingly uphold the status quo while posing as liberators: TERFs 

"If you scratch a transphobe, a fascist bleeds." TERFs are Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Or, as I call them, fascist "feminists." To be fair, they can be neoliberal, operating through national exceptionalism obscured by a polite veneer of Capitalistic facades (centrist media). However, I prefer the label "fascist" because neoliberals invariably lead to Capitalism-in-crisis, aka fascism. In crisis, centrists drop the mask and become outright fascist, adopting racist/sexist dogma in more overtly hierarchal ways.

Moving forward, I want to expose this relationship through the canonical sexual imagery on display and how it serves as a kind of visual rhetoric that reinforces the status quo on a material level. This becomes something to defend from iconoclasts, precisely because those individuals are seeking equal treatment from the powers that be—i.e., their basic human rights as executed through actual material change, not high-minded ideas that never come to fruition. Above all else, if we are to argue for the basic human rights of workers, we must enact serious material change in the systemic arrangement of material conditions between workers and the elite.

Note: Seeing as this piece deals with groups who frequently employ obscurantism (and other deliberately ambiguous, bad faith tactics) to control others through sexual and gendered language, I want provide some definitions before moving forward. If you're already a Marxist gigachad, feel free to skip ahead.


Sex-positivity: Sexual expression that enables individual self-expression (thus self-empowerment) by relatively ethical means. In other words, it is a positive freedom, specifically "the possession of the power and resources [material conditions] to act in the context of the structural limitations of the broader society which impacts a person's ability to act." Apart from being morally good and materially beneficial, sex-positivity empowers marginalized communities (who, amongst other things, are generally exploited for sex as a form of labor); it does so by arguing for mutual consent using historically regulated language: bodies, gender identity/performance and sexual orientation.

(artist: Moika)

Sex-coercion: Sexist argumentation that enforces sexual and gendered norms by abolishing others through various unethical means. This includes corporations downplaying their harmful actions as benign, or fascists framing their openly harmful actions as justified. This freedom to act is a negative freedom; i.e., freedom from external restraint on one's actions. It is generally repressive towards marginalized communities, exploiting them on a material level while also denying them their basic human rights (re: bodies, gender identity/performance and sexual orientation).

Material conditions: The factors that determine quality of life from a material standpoint; e.g., not a moral argument ("this is right/wrong"), but one that deals with access to various materials that reliably improve one's living conditions: housing, food, electricity, clothing, water, education, employment, loans/credit, transportation, internet, etc. The status quo reliably constricts material conditions to benefit the elite; this occurs within a societal hierarchy that structurally privileges marginalized groups from least to most marginalized—along systemically coercive (personal responsibility, billionaire worship, heroic propaganda) and phobic (racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia) lines.

Canon: Official icons and material accepted as genuine, legitimate and sacred. Typically produced by anyone who upholds the status quo, including corporations, but also individual authors like J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Scott Adams (Dilbert) or Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim). American consumerism generally frames canon as "neutral," despite hiding sexist attitudes in plain sight. 

Iconoclast/-clasm: An agent or image that attacks established images, generally with the intent of transforming them in a deconstructive manner. Deconstruction, aka Postmodernism, seeks to move beyond Modernism, or the Enlightenment (whose high-minded principles are really just excuses to enslave and control people, re: negative freedom). Enlightenment ideas typically present things in binaries: civilization/nature, white/black, man/woman, mind/body, etc.

Fetishization: A fetish, or the act of making something into a fetish, is "a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body." Generally fetishes are pre-existing social-sexual trends that people either embrace or reject. They aren't explicitly sexist (mutually consenting to show feet), but become sexist when used in exploitative ways (sex workers forced to show their feet to generate profit for someone else).

Kink: Nontraditional forms of sexual activity that don't necessarily involve forms of power exchange between partners.

BDSM: Nontraditional forms of sexual activity that involve unequal power exchange: bondage, domination, sadism, masochism. These can be consensual or non-consensual.

SWERF: Sex Work Exclusionary Radical Feminist. A feminist who hates sex workers. Not at TERFs are SWERFs (or vice versa) but there's generally overlap. Both are unethical.

Neoliberalism: The ideology of American exceptionalism (which extends to allies of America like Great Britain) that enforces global US hegemony through Capitalism. Neoliberalism seeks to foster a centrist attitude, preaching false hope* while keeping things the same; it also disguises the inner workings of Capitalism—how Capitalism is inherently unethical and unstable: It inherently exploits nearly everyone (workers) to benefit the few (the elite), a framework that eventually decays and leads to societal collapse.

*For a quick-and-dirty example of vintage American neoliberalism, consider the opening to Double Dribble (1987) for the NES: palm trees and skyscrapers in the background, a bare concrete lot and tight, manicured lawns in the foreground—where hordes of consumers flock to a giant stadium to "the Star Spangled Banner" while a Konami blimp emblazoned with an American flag soars overheard.

Fascism: Capitalism in decay. When Capitalism starts to fail (which it does by design), it creates power vacuums. These allow populist strongmen (an unintended side effect) to foster unusual sympathies within the working class: the installation of a dogmatic (sexist, racist, transphobic) hierarchy that intentionally abuses a designated underclass, promising social and material elevation for those following the leader. 

Cultural appropriation: Taking one (or more) aspect(s) of a culture, identity or group that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest. Although this can occur individually for reasons unrelated to profit, Capitalism deliberately appropriates marginalized groups for profit.

Cultural appreciation: Attempting to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden one's perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.

Prescriptive sexuality: Sexuality and gender as prescribed according to various explicit or tacit mandates: Sex and gender are not separate and exist within a cis-gendered binary. This can come from corporations or groups that produce media on a wide scale, or from individual artists/thinkers who uphold the status quo (TERFs, for example). Generally illustrated through propaganda that appropriates marginalized groups.

Descriptive sexualitySexuality and gender as describing actual persons. This includes their bodies, orientations, and identities, etc as things to appreciate, not appropriate.

Heteronormative compulsion: The idea that heterosexuality and its relative gender norms are prescribed/enforced to normalized extremes (or hypernormality) by those in power—i.e., the Patriarchy. In Marxist terms, capitalists and state agents own, thus control, the media, using it to enforce heterosexuality and the colonial (cis-)gender binary through advertisement on a grand scale (what Marxists call the Superstructure). This influence reliably affects how people respond, helping them recognize "the social world of linguistic communication, intersubjective relations, knowledge of ideological conventions, and the acceptance of the law," aka the Symbolic Order. Acceptance of this Order when it is decidedly harmful is called manufactured consent. 

(artist: Meg-Jon Barker)

Manufactured consent: The theory that advertisers are beholden to their shareholders, aiming consumers towards a position of mass tolerance—tacitly accepting "negative freedom" as exclusively enjoyed by the elite exploiting them: "Boundaries for me, but not for thee." In Marxist terms, this amounts to the privatization of the media (and its associate labor) as part of the means of production.

The means of production: The ability to produce material goods within a living market. This operates on a mass-manufactured scale, but also through work performed at the individual level—what Marx would call labor. Workers seize the means of production by attempting to own the value of their own labor. Conversely, Capitalists exploit workers by stealing their labor. Billionaires privatize labor through unethical means, "earning" their billions through wage theft/slavery. 

Privatization/private propertyPrivate property is property that is privately owned; privatization is the process that enables private ownership at a systemic, bourgeois level. Under Capitalism, the elite own means of production by encouraging negative freedom to "liberalize" the market. They do so by removing restrictions, allowing the owner class to privatize their assets. In class warfare, capitalists disguise this fact by deliberately conflating bourgeois ownership with "bougie" (middle-class) ownership:
  • Owners, in the academic, bourgeois sense, own the means of mass production, thus individual production. They privatize factories, territory, industrial sectors, the military, paramilitary (cops), and the means to print money. As a consequence, they also own people, albeit by proxy (wage slavery). 
  • Middle-class ownership is merely an exchange of wages—direct purchases or taxes—for material goods. These goods become something to defend, resulting in a great deal of punching down.
Punching down: The act of aggression against a lower class by a higher class. For our purposes, middle class people are afforded less total oppression through better material conditions (wages, but also healthcare, promotions, etc) by the elite—a divide-and-conquer strategy that renders them dependent on the status quo. This dependency allows the elite to demonize the poor in the eyes of the middle class, the poor being framed as a threat. This reliably engenders prejudice against them as a target, often to violent extremes, especially in popular media that popularizes the idea:

Bad-faith: The act of presenting a willingness to discuss ideas openly while deliberately seeking to cause harm to the opposite party.

Dogwhistles: Coded language, generally presented as innocuous or unrelated to those using it, meant to disguise the user's true ideology or political identity. A popular tactic amongst cryptofascists, but also TERFS.

Cryptofascists: Nazis by any other name. These fascists deliberately mislabel themselves to avoid the Nazis label, thus preserve their negative freedom by normalizing themselves. This includes white nationalists, Western Chauvinists, and pro-Europeans; it also includes TERFs, who have gone as far as spuriously decrying the label as "hate speech." I write "spurious" because hate speech is committed by groups in power, or sanctioned by those in power, against systemically marginalized targets. Please note: TERFs claiming self-persecution in bad faith (a standard fascist tactic) does not make them a legitimate target for systemic violence; it just makes them dishonest.

Obscurantism: The act of deliberately concealing one's true self (usually an ideology or political stance) through deliberate ambiguity. The Nazis called themselves national-socialists, intentionally disguising their true motives behind stolen, deliberately inaccurate language. For example, sex-coercion frequently employs concealment as a means of negative freedom. Corporations are allowed to frame themselves as "neutral," and fascists will celebrate dogwhistles (sans admitting to them as bad-faith) but condemn whistle-blowing as "censorship." Again, "boundaries for me, not for thee."

Girl boss: A neoliberal symbol of "equality," a girl boss is a strong woman of authority who defends the status quo: a female "suit," in corporation language, but also amazons or orcs. Suits present Capitalism as neutral, but also ubiquitous; amazons and orcs (and all of their gradients) centralize the perceived order of good-versus-evil language in mass-media entertainment.

Abjection: The process by which a state of normality—the status quo—is forcefully generated by throwing off everything that isn't normal. Through the status quo, normal examples are defined by their opposites, the latter held at a distance but frequently announced; the iconoclast, often in Gothic fiction, will force a confrontation, exposing the viewer (often vicariously) to the same process in reverse. Facing the abjected material reliably leads to a state of horror, exposing the normal as false and monstrous, and the so-called "monsters" as victimized and human.

Gender trouble: Coined by Judith Butler, gender trouble is the social tension and reactions that result when the binary view of sex, gender, and sexuality is disrupted. 


Before we move onto the main section, let's combine these ideas to summarize the larger argument: TERFs and SWERFs perform social activism in bad faith, upholding the status quo on an ideological and material level by pointedly attacking marginalized groups, but also activists (the focus of this chapter being trans people, sex workers and iconoclasts). This makes TERFs sexist, not sex-positive.

Though bad, TERFs function as a smaller symptom inside a bigger disease: Capitalism. While Marxism encourages self-potentiation through one's own labor, Capitalism exploits the labor of others to empower the elite; these persons privately own the means of production—from the banks that process transactions, to the platforms on which sex workers work, to the bodies and images associated with them (or vice versa). In doing so, they seek to own that which they have neither right or ability to actually possess (at least not forever): people, as framed through a Symbolic Order whose canonical propaganda advertises the whole practice as "correct," until one day manufactured consent is achieved.

Correctness is tricky, though. It can mean "what is right, or ethical—i.e., pertaining to basic human rights"; or it can mean "socially acceptable—i.e., correct according to the beliefs of a specific group." As we shall see, correctness dialogically amounts to interpretations of media made by consumers towards producers, be those individual authors or giant corporations. These interpretations are not fixed and can easily change given the proper push. 

For these reasons, those in power continuously manipulate the eyes of the public in ways that favor them (their image, or optics, but also their material conditions). By using canon to valorize billionaires (owners) and dehumanize workers, neoliberals stress negative freedom for the elite; they advertise sex-positive ideas in bad faith, reinforcing the status quo as something to constantly maintain. 

At the elite level, the status quo can be summarized as the roomful of suits. Their "neutral" appearance belies an inherently destructive nature far more extreme (through its longevity) than any dark lord: Neoliberals outlast and outproduce fascists (whose tenure is generally short-lived). This concept is generally referred to as the banality of evil—destructive greed minus all the gaudy bells and whistles: the men (suits) behind the curtain (canon).

Relative to those in power are those who seek power. Whereas neoliberals worship Capitalism as benign and hide its true function over a long period of time, fascists seek short-lived, hierarchical power through equally unethical, media-driven means. Alternatively, sex-positive individuals are social activists who want to replace the current world order through egalitarian power, promoting basic human rights through improved material conditions for all people (not just the elite) as a permanent paradigm shift away from Capitalism.

This includes the rights of sex workers. Sex workers exploited by Capitalism seek to end exploitation, often presenting themselves as human to the middle class (re: abjection). By illustrating their basic human rights, specifically bodily autonomy and consent, sex-positive artists are iconoclasts who seek to
  • undermine neoliberal and fascist stigmas against sex workers, including sexism and transphobia
  • help sex workers gain relative ownership over their own labor, thus improve their own material conditions 
These artists include sex workers, themselves. Not only does sex worker labor stem from their literal bodies, which also act as conspicuous extensions of their personal identities; capitalists exploit these identities by claiming private ownership over sex worker bodies, hence their labor. 

The alienation of sex workers is both a casual factor—workers are alienated from their labor—and deliberate marketing tactic: Capitalists intentionally alienate workers who seek to reclaim their labor by presenting them in progressively alienating ways (often quite literally as monsters):

(artist: H.R. Giger)
  • One, sex workers are viewed as advertisements for corporations to sell and consumers to purchase. Human billboards.
  • Two, this exploitation is downplayed, while its profitability is celebrated.
  • Three, the exploited are generally dehumanized, portrayed as: sex objects to consume without regard for their human rights, or objects of ridicule, derision and shame (demonization, slut-shaming).
  • Four, it demonizes critics by framing them as standing in the way of American (thus global) consumerism—specifically social activists that seek to upset the current arrangement of power by arguing for basic human rights, including body ownership as step towards material equality. 
The result are many middle class people who consume canon voraciously and think (or at least posture) themselves as not being sexist; but in truth, remain hostile towards seeking sex workers as human. This includes genuine, ethical, social-sexual activism as something to express in iconoclastic visual language.

Hostility towards sex workers generally manifests in three basic ways:
  • open aggression, expressing gender trouble as a means of open, aggressive attack (disguised as "self-defense" reactive abuse): "We're upset and punching down is free speech."
  • condescension, expressing a moderate, centrist position that perpetuates the current status quo as immutable, but also optimal: "This is as good as it gets."
  • canonical indignation, using sex-coercive symbols to defend their unethical positions, aka "voting with their wallets": "They're out to destroy your heroes, your fun, all you hold dear."
As we'll see moving forward, TERFs fit this bill perfectly.

Main Section

The main section are six main sub-sections:

  • Illustrating Mutual Consent
  • Sex Sells, Fetishes and SWERFs
  • Trans Discrimination and Ambiguity
  • TERFs, or Fascism-in-Disguise
  • Bridging Gaps
  • Sexist Ire: Persecuting Iconoclasts
Illustrating Mutual Consent

While it's true that artists often depict sex (drawings, photography or performance art), mutual consent is harder to illustrate; context determines if consent is mutual, but digital copies are easily divorced from context. Because we can't always ask the artist/invigilator personally for context, the rest of this section will explore illustrating mutual consent through cultural appreciation and descriptive sexuality as something to actively recognize when viewing or creating art. 

Canonical art generally depicts sex as being separate from daily existence; its sexuality is prescriptive. Iconoclastic art returns sexuality to the fore; its sexuality is descriptive. Hence, artists who depict sex are given a choice: to prescribe or describe sex. In either case, many stigmas surround the practice, including the idea that sexual artwork is inherently non-consensual. It's not, but the abjection of sex still needs to be challenged for mutual consent to exist.

Mutual consent determines if artwork is sex-coercive or sex-positive. While this fact might sound obvious, less obvious is what actually amounts to mutual consent in visual terms—especially in sex-positive artwork, whose sex-positivity won't be visually obvious short of spelling things out:

Sex-positivity represents sexuality through people. However, representation is more than showing people as they actually exist. It's about showing societal roles people can perform. Corporations use canon to visually assign human property to specific tasks, stressing their negative freedom to prescribe with impunity. By comparison, iconoclasts appreciatively represent peoples generally excluded from canonical norms, implying mutual consent as a positive, egalitarian freedom. People can choose how to present themselves, bucking systemic labor.

Regarding sex work, mutual consent is sex-positive, granting the subjects on display a choice they can make if they want to (while people may choose to be modest, they generally do not choose to have their rights stolen from them): "I choose to be drawn or photographed as I decide, to exist for others to see as proof of my agency. I am not merely something to exploit."

(artist: Disharmonica)

In terms of sexualized artwork, egalitarian consent differentiates sex positivity ("sexy") from sexual coercion ("sexist") in that it advertises mutual consent and bodily autonomy through descriptive, inclusive illustrations and photography. Sexism, by contrast, is coercive; it deprives people of their rights, manufacturing consent and enforcing heteronormativity through prescriptive, exclusive canon. 

I say "heteronormative" because the status quo is patriarchal. No matter what anyone in power says, trans persons, sex-positive feminists and other iconoclasts aren't going take your ability to consent, your bodily autonomy or your sexual pleasure by standing up for their basic human rights. By comparison, the elite—which tend to be white, cis-het men—intentionally use canon to deprive people of those things; or, as we shall see, so will cis-het/cis-homo TERFs/SWERFs.

Let's further examine mutual consent as it exists in artwork. The problem with mutual consent—and by extension, bodily autonomy—is that both are difficult to isolate in pin-up art or photography. It's not like you can ask a pinup girl if she agreed to be photographed. Even if she did, further context is generally not communicated by the artist. A woman wearing makeup can be wearing it as much for herself as for anyone looking at her, but don't expect the picture to communicate that each and every time in no uncertain terms. 

So how do you tell?

The simplest determining factor is function: how is the image being shown and why? Take a pretty girl smoking a cigarette. It can be 

  • an advertisement overtly selling the product (the cigarette, but also the girl, who is a sexual promise to consumers: "smoking makes you sexy" or "smoking gets you laid")
  • product placement in a film, appropriated to boost sales
  • part of the story in ways that appreciate the mere existence of cigarettes (or their advertisement) as part of the world, not as something to directly sell to the audience 
Three distinct functions, three different uses of the same basic image: a girl and a prop. However, in the above image, Sean Young is actually playing a replicant (a robotic slave designed to look human). She's not only smoking a cigarette; she's doing it while taking a test to verify that she's human. If she fails the test, that means she isn't human, thus open to on-the-spot execution (called "retirement" in the movie). Not only is this treatment perfectly legal; her body also belongs to the company that made her, the Tyrell Corporation.

The image doesn't convey any of this. Instead, the imagery from the movie is so famous (which Ridley Scott lifted directly from older noir films and jammed into a dystopian, '80s tech-noir) that you might recognize it without having seen the film at all. Without context, all you would see when looking at Sean is a conventionally pretty (if corporate-looking) girl having a smoke. Never mind that Sean herself recounts abysmal treatment on and off set precisely because she was a 22-year old woman working with much older, sexist men

For the rest of the subsection, we'll recognize how to determine function in sexual artwork through empathy, informed consumption/critical awareness and nuance within sexualized artwork. Note: All of these steps require an active participant, not a passive viewer.

Regarding empathy, let's return to Sean Young, who is generally recognized for her outbursts and eventual exile from Hollywood. Empathy towards her is generally discouraged, official narratives unfairly portraying her as an unprofessional, lippy harridan. Sexist critics do not question this reading of events. Rather than acknowledge Sean as a victim abused by a sexist system until she got mad, they see a crazy lady's "comeuppance." For them, her treatment is justified, legitimate, and ultimately without question. 

As sex-positive feminists, we shouldn't blame Sean for being upset, but try to understand her plight to begin with. Her complex, life-long struggles demonstrate that context matters when interpreting sexual imagery because sexual imagery is inherently colonized. This perennial fact requires an active, informed viewer—someone who doesn't just take things at face value, but thinks about them intersectionally and what they signify inside a larger, biased system.

This includes unironic versus ironic consumption, or the critical awareness of a informed consumer towards the product as something not only to consume dutifully (canon), but actively question. This extends to creative responses that "question" canon through alternative, inferable positions: parody ("haha, that cigarette is a penis") or pastiche, the latter potentially inserting allegory using postmodern (deconstructive) analysis: "The world of the smoker can be a parallel, Vaporwave space* that mocks the authoritarian nature of 1980s Capitalism, visually appreciating '80s corporate aesthetics while isolating them from destructive corporate ideology." 

*Parallel space (or language) works off the anti-totalitarian notion of "parallel societies": "A [society] not dependent on official channels of communications, or on the hierarchy of values of the establishment." State media is inherently manipulative, making its chronotopes (time-spaces, generally sold as products; this can be actual, physical places, like Disney's Celebration, but also fictional times-that-never-were, like Spielberg's canonical 1980s) not simply illusions, but mental "thought prisons" for those who view them. 

Whereas mainstream/state media blind and trap the mind, parallel spaces seek to emancipate the mind using language pilfered from the state; the spaces they offer are often hauntological, presenting a once-upon-a-time that "could be" but never actually existed, except in the minds of those who try to envision it. I say "try" because these minds are already loaded with a pre-existing idea of a "better time," supplied to them by those in power. 

In essence, the recreation of older styles for new purposes can become a powerful tool of critical engagement: the critique of icons and aesthetics. The same nuance applies to bodies. Bodies aren't just objects in artistic displays; they represent subjects, often autographically according to a carefully chosen aesthetic. For example, many sex workers have a logo or brand associated with their bodies, whose various images and video constitute their artwork being a morphological extension of themselves, but also their ideologies framed through artistic expression more broadly. This can be a persona within an artistic movement ("the big-titty goth GF") or forms of sexual activity commonly illustrated through sex work: kinks, fetishes, and BDSM.

While this should promote bodily autonomy within a consensual arrangement that allows the sex worker to express themselves through art, Captialism invariably exploits workers by stealing their labor. Even so, self-expression and commodification aren't mutually exclusive concepts. An individual worker can choose to self-fetishize to generate profit (or achieve a desired sex response from a client or partner), improving their material conditions while recognizing and discouraging the potentially sexist nature of objectification at a systemic level.

As you might have guessed, these power relations are incredibly complex, but also vast. This makes them extremely hard to communicate through pin-up art (which tend to be single-body images with zero font). For the sex-positive iconoclast, the aim shouldn't be direct communication via pinup art, itself, but perceived through public reactions towards that art. After all, iconoclasm critically functions as much through the heated response to the original deconstructive statement. 

An iconoclastic statement provokes for many reasons: to change minds, make money or entertain, often all at once. American consumer culture already shows us that few things are as regulated (and provocative) as the human body. Sex-positivity is iconoclastic because it uses pre-existing visual language (re: bodies, but also fetishes, kinks and BDSM practices) to ultimately favor mutual consent, personal agency and descriptive sexuality within a larger, sexist world. Within a sexual market that communicates through purchases, the artist can make a variety of sex-positive arguments that are inherently antithetical to the status quo. 

For example, an artist can chose the genders and sexes of the bodies they draw, but aim to illustrate the above points (re: mutual consent, personal agency and descriptive sexual) relative to gender and sex. In doing so, they demonstrate the radical ideas that gender, sex and performance are

  • entirely separate
  • highly variable, arbitrary and fluid concepts that individual people can self-mold according to their own desires and preferences, all without infringing on the rights of others (re: positive freedom)

While sex-positivity is at odds with sex-coercion, intersectionality allows for combative ideas to co-exist. For instance, sex-positivity is antithetical to Capitalism as an inherently unequal system, but its parity isn't mutually exclusive with enjoying eye candy provided the individuals or art remain mutually consensual, ironic produced/consumed, and descriptive/appreciative. These are collective ideas behind sex-positivity must remain continuous. 

By comparison, neoliberals appropriate feminist ideas of consent and bodily autonomy into a "trans-friendly" label they can exploit with impunity. Such "stickers" recooperate anti-Capitalist ideas, specifically so the elite can turn a quick, unethical buck. If they can profit by recuperating feminism, including trans-activism, they will, but Capitalism's underlying design remains the same: profit above all else, achieved through sexual exploitation.

All of this means that sex-positivity must be performed by workers under late-stage Capitalism. Sexualized artwork
 is already colonized within the language of bodies, so any message conveyed by sex-positive illustrators will intersect with material consumption as

  • fundamentally unethical
  • symbolically loaded/interpreted to enforce profit through various marketing strategies that are inherently sexist

I don't condone the first fact, but individuals also have no power to replace Capitalism on their own (sex-positivity is a group effort). The second fact is merely a reality of dialectics-within-Captialism more broadly. Materials function within competing ideologies that borrow and use the same language to generate profit as a means of visibility. Money talks, even for communists; but so do icons that reliably produce wealth—so-called "money-makers": the butt, boobs, breasts and other parts of the often female body (meanwhile the penis, and the pleasure it depicts during arousal, penetration, and climax—the "money shot" during the 1970s/80s, the so-called "Golden Age of porn"—is incredibly overrepresented in heterosexual pornography at large).

The paradox—of a sex-positive Marxist making money by drawing erotic art/porn—is not lost on me. However, I also understand that we, as individuals, become invisible in the absence of material conditions. I also know that minds are changed through language as already-coded and defended by those in power. Whereas power aggregates to defend material interests, Marxists-within-Captialism specifically generate wealth as a means to critique power ("When in Rome..."). Sometimes this stems from selling our bodies, or by selling sex-positive artwork of bodies to express mutual consent through appreciative representation.

Sex-positivity undermines the Patriarchy as an ideological structure. Artists do this specifically through iconoclasm as the process of abjection—to draw bodies outside the established norm, which the artist then advertises: piercings, tattoos, skin color, hair color, hair length, body hair, muscle, alternate body types, and various other attributes that pointedly cause gender trouble—not to sow discord for the sake of it, but to break the spell of sexist Enlightenment thinking by critically engaging with Modernity. To do this deliberately is to foster postmodernism—a movement beyond the Enlightenment and its harmful ideologies. What conservative reactionaries call "sexual anarchy"(!) is really just the depiction of bodies as they actually are, how people chose to express themselves. Descriptive sexuality.

And that's how one illustrates mutual consent in sexualized media. Even so, this deconstruction needs an image—more often than not, an image to sell: the sale of sex, specifically that of sex subjects displaying their bodies. I say "subject" because someone choosing to sell their body is different than having that choice made for them by the powers that be. What's more they can still cater to various audiences' cultivated tastes, including pre-existing kinks and fetishes (within reason), while still being politically sex-positive.

Creative output includes self-expression—art as something to sell, but also how someone chooses to present themselves whether they're an artist or not (which art can imitate or vice versa). To this, let's briefly examine ironic performance in either case. 

First, professional art. Though fetishized, social-sexual roles in media often become reclaimed through ironic performance by increasingly marginalized groups. First you have the scream queens—cis-women who play the sexy heroine under attack, surviving sexism in fairly conventional ways (the perils of the middle class woman). However, the irony extends to increasingly persecuted positions. Witches, trans people, and other social outsiders/targets—once reliable objects of ridicule, fear and punishment—suddenly become cool, fun, and sexy. 

More to the point, Medusa, Wednesday and the xenomorph (a female, egg-bearing monster that traumatically impregnates other animals regardless of sex, the egg being fertilized by an unwilling host) become empowered—reclaiming their agency by presenting as something sex-positive for society to emulate. This emulation is performative and, like a Halloween costume, occurs according to varying degrees of commitment. In the process, symbols and performers mutually undermine patriarchal hegemony through the bourgeois fear of societal change. Said change occurs by replacing sex-coercive* symbols with sex-positive counterparts, fostering an artistic trend that allows minorities to improve their material conditions in the process. 

*This coercion amounts to prescribed phobias—symbols pointedly designed to elevate middle class anxieties through moral panic towards a target underclass. With gay/trans panic in particular, this communicates the false idea that one might be suddenly killed, raped or violently assimilated at any moment by the trans person as alien—a perfidious infiltrator whose mere presence constitutes a threat that must be immediately identified and violently dealt with (re: punching down): "How do we kill it?"

So while canon is inherently fetishized, systemically objectifying marginalized bodies for profit, the mutual consent of goth irony allows for active, personal engagement inside a system designed to materially benefit the elite. The worker becomes an ironic performer who can use said system to materially benefit themselves. Even if their creative output is visually ambiguous—i.e., doesn't spell out mutual consent at first glance—the context needed to infer its existence can be identified by the sexist backlash it receives (the ambiguous love-and-fear worship of goth monster moms, for example).

This brings us to the other form of self-expression: fashion statements. Ironic performance extends to everyday people making fashion statements, regardless if they're professional artists or goth (though perhaps being inspired by either of these things). 

For example, if a sexy girl decides to wears sexy clothes and walk the streets unattended, she's making the choice to perform in spite of the consequences. Moreover, the context behind her decision only becomes clear once she is confronted, thus forced to defend her position. In this street interview (see: above), the woman being questioned declares that no one told her to dress the way she does. Instead, she proudly tells the interviewer she wears these clothes for herself, in spite of the sexist world she lives in. Her performance consciously engages with a sexist audience to demonstrate positive freedom not just for herself, but anyone exploited by sexism.

The woman demonstrates this freedom in several ways. She 

  • made the money required to wear the clothes and wants to showcase her wealth by wearing nice clothes. 
  • likes the clothes and how they look, wearing them for herself. 
  • advertises sexiness as a choice by choosing to display herself in an openly sexy manner. 
None of this might be clear before the interview takes place. However, the moment sexist people criticize her behavior, she vocally defends her sex-positive position, making it an open, articulated act of defiance. Not only does she refuse to be modest; she self-expresses in ways that make her feel good despite how others (sexist people) want to control her.

This control extends to the sale of sex. There's nothing inherently sexist about selling sex, nor the people doing it. This includes buying and selling sex, whether one is the consumer, the product, or the producer (or all three). Marginalized peoples and privileged dissidents love sex, including an anarcho-communist like yours truly (I'm a total slut, Your Honor). To see what is potentially sexist (or sex-positive) about selling sex, we'll have to go in for a closer look...

Sex Sells, Fetishes and SWERFs

The sale of sex is a hotly-debated issue. So-called "working girls," for instance, were historically owned by men, leading 2nd wave feminists, specifically SWERFs, to treat sex work globally as enslavement. Under the proper conditions, however—conditions that admittedly didn't exist on a wide scale in the 1970s—the sale of sex can actually

  • provide freedom of sexual and gender expression, including consensual fetishization
  • liberate sex workers by letting them claim ownership over their bodies. By doing so, they seize the means of individual sexual image production (much of the world's sex work today is conducted online), generating wealth to improve their own material conditions. Yes, companies take a static, 20% cut, but the terms are dictated individually by sex workers who can set their own rates in a larger market. This success is relative, of course, workers being incentivized by Only Fans to earn more (with those who do so often marketing their success—i.e., the top "1% on OF" status).

So while it's a truth universally acknowledged that sex sells, it's not enough (for a Marxist) so say that most people "just enjoy sex." Rather, the heightened reliability of sex-as-lucrative is enforced through compulsory means. Canon as a means of control stems from the Patriarchy—specifically sexist norms ratified during the Enlightenment through the emergence of Cartesian thought: dualism, or the separation of the body and the mind.

Dualism has had many sexist consequences. Chief among them is that men are framed rational and women are not. Men know best. Men deserve best. This sexist division (called "the creation of sexual difference" by Luce Irigaray) is inherently exploitative—a lopsided, colonial binary that conflates sex and gender to specifically benefit the elite. It historically exploits women—or people forced* to identify as women—excluding them from the socio-sexual-economic benefits the elite reap for themselves

*The cis-gender binary treats the man-male-masculine:woman-female-feminine dichotomy as the sole, universal state of affairs (elevating it to a natural order). Anything else is anathema, alien, worthy of attack.

Social activism is also a process that is made in steps, with earlier steps being taken by those with relative means. Cis-white women certainly had more means than more marginalized groups did at the time, but tended to make arguments that only took things so far. They not only emphasized cis-women; they generally critiqued sexist mediums or institutions that represented target groups exclusively. Anything outside these conversations did simply not exist, excluded by media and critic alike.

As a result, 2nd wave feminists didn't routinely stress queer distinctions towards individuals they themselves called "women." Simoine Beauvoir famously wrote "woman is other" in 1949, leaving others to put in the legwork for trans persons; Laura Mulvey described it specifically through the act of looking: the male gaze, illustrated not just by icons, but the cinematic gaze showing viewers what to look at (the female body) and how (voyeuristically). While a good first step towards address sexism in general, the rhetoric of either remains grossly inadequate regarding transphobia.

What's important to note is that whether biologically female or not, those deemed women are treated as the non-subject, the sex object. Historically this has occurred in movies and books that tended to exclude trans people by default (we'll explore this more in the next section):

  • making them invisible by ignoring their existence or conflating them as cis-women
  • making them conspicuous by inaccurately portraying them as inhuman, often as criminals or demons

Trans or not, women are fetishized against their will, turned into sexual property. However, the same condition is applied to anyone who exhibits traditionally feminine characteristics within the colonial binary: AMAB/AFAB (assigned male/female at birth) homosexuals, crossdressers, and yes, sex workers (whose so-called "female" or "feminine" nudity is seen as vulnerable, thus deserving of exploitation within the status quo).

Sellers of sex can be workers or owners. To this, it's not the sale of sex that's bad, but the means of selling sex in ways that are unethical. The marketing of sex—vanilla, as well as kinks, fetishes and BDSM—as sold and controlled by the owner class is unethical because it takes control away from the owner of the body by making that worker's body—or images of their body—as property owned by someone else. Canon.

For example, if a cis-woman or trans woman makes an Only Fans account to own her labor, she's one step closer to owning her own body. To this, a model, photographer and artist are generally one in the same. This rationale extends to all aspects of production from a labor standpoint: diet, clothes, sets, lighting, filming and marketing. Such control is relatively ethical because the woman, even when catering to fetishists, is still vying for equality and ownership over her own body (and the labor profit it affords) within an inherently unequal system. 

Conversely, if a banking company denies Only Fans the right to process credit card transactions, the elite are effectively seizing the means of production, including the body of the woman and all the money she can generate with it. Consensually ambiguous activities (re: fetishes, kink, BDSM) automatically become non-consensual through unequal power relations the worker did not agree to. Called "negotiation" in BDSM language, workers do not consent to be sexually exploited by the elite, forced into coercively humiliating positions. 

The difference between privatization and mutual consent is not visually immediate. Certainly the existence of non-traditional variants in sexual media affords sex workers the means to express themselves sex-positively through historically sexist language. The sexism, here, is less about content and more about a lack of consent: Some people like to be humiliated, if it's their choice. However, seizing the means of production constitutes not just the elite forcing workers to do sex work, then stealing their labor as profit; it includes body theft and image theft, too. It's no different, in concept, than Disney recursively treating Mickey Mouse (and other canon) as their intellectual property in perpetuity. This is called privatization, and capitalists do it by design. 

As we'll see moving forward, TERFs/SWERFs aren't against all sex work. Most reject unethical sex work in the abstract (sex trafficking). But many more will defend heteronormative sex roles commonly expressed through gender language  (even fetishes) while also abjuring emancipatory sex work. Rather than critique Capitalism, TERFs demonize sex workers for "enslaving" women (again, not all TERFS are SWERFs, but I'll hazard that many tend to be). Unbeknownst to them, privatization, from a material standpoint, enslaves everyone, including them. On par with a prison warden giving a particular gang protection from his guards, the status quo grants TERFs special rights for defending canon by attacking ideological enemies of the state (it also conceals the structure and its nature as a prison).

The process is meant to discourage iconoclasts, turning marginalized groups into conspicuous targets that can be readily treated as sexual property within sex work as corporatized. Such biases makes sex work "easier" for women, in the sense that it's expected of them and they have a large customer base. It also gives SWERFs something to reliably attack. This goes to show that sexism is not uniform. AFABs who identify, thus conform, as women face less prejudice than those who don't, say nothing of persons of color or trans people (or both), let alone if they do sex work (which many do because they're poor and trying to survive).

Moreover, much of this bias is complicated by the natal and gender-performative ambiguity of the human body and its overarching signifiers. We'll explore some of these ambiguities relative to trans people and the unique discrimination they face, next.

Trans Discrimination and Ambiguity

Despite their aforementioned ambiguities, humans are funneled by the status quo into rigidly prescriptive gender roles. This system is multi-registered, favoring a superior group over an inferior group on various levelsFor example, while cis-women are coded as inferior to men (and have been for centuries), trans people are coded as inferior to cis-people. This bias (and its subsequent discrimination) is cumulative, compounding if the trans person also happens to be AFAB, non-Christian and non-white.

Neoliberals and fascists handle this treatment differently. Fascists reject trans person legitimacy outright by aggressively denying them their chosen gender identities. To the fascist, a trans person is false, a woman or man pretending to be something they are not. Meantime, neoliberals have historically profited off transphobia, using the free market to decide "correct" ideas through "neutral" consumption ("free" meaning privately owned by the elite, whose canon they encourage the middle class to consume). 

In either case, trans discrimination includes inaccurate representation through "correct" bodies (and behaviors) and "incorrect" bodies: Normal people have normal bodies, normal sex, and normal genders; trans people do not, are instead portrayed as sexual deviants, criminals and monsters (Buffalo Bill, Norman Bates, Ray Finkle) in canonical works. Disseminated through mainstream media and enforced on a societal level, this binary is ontologically prescriptive; audiences see what they are meant to be—the self as defined by objects the viewer is meant to identify with, while also reacting negatively towards objects they're meant to abject. 

Hate groups and corporations encourage heteronormativity by abjecting trans people inside the minds of their target audiences. The resultant biases are lucrative—meaning they're easy for the elite to produce, maintaining the status quo for as long as possible. Even so, Captialism is hierarchical in nature, incumbent on a sexist language system. While Neoliberals use this system to turn a profit (whether through colonies, corporations, or slave labor) anywhere and everywhere, fascism use the system to colonize itself, effectively entering a state of decay (or rather, decaying under crisis). Like a vat of toxic waste, this condition can last for years (the Third Reich lasted for twelve), but remains highly charged and dangerous throughout.

We'll examine that more in the TERF section. For now, remember that normalized people looking at sexualized imagery (canonical or not) often lack critical-thinking skills. This faulty analysis occurs due to underlying biases encouraged by those in power—in part because mainstream canon is designed to inaccurately represent the everyday struggles, and actual identities of, trans people. Not only are consumers not trained to think critically about canonical media; they're conditioned to react violently towards individuals already demonized within these stories.

(artist: Dærick Gröss Sr.)

This interpretive failure happens on various levels. The author of the image can be sexist, or the gaze of the beholder can be sexist. And generally the author is someone who learned their trade by looking not just at bodies, but transphobic body imagery (a kind of fetish in its own right) repeatedly sold to them through canon. Viewers learn to legitimize themselves by defending canon, seeing trans people either as gender-confused in the process, or as monsters deserving of punishment. This includes sexually objectifying them as a means of social-sexual dominance, castigating them publicly but consuming them in private (see: Nick Fuentes and cat boys).  

This policing isn't homogenous, but it is hegemonic—applied unevenly across various marginalized groups according to the same base concept: enforce the status quo. Under this status quo, trans people are the perpetual victims, the state of exception for which anything goes. They do not exist—becoming either fully invisible or demonized—and anything can happen to them. Like zombies, how they are abjected depends on who's abjecting them: cis-het white men or women, cis-het people of color, various religious communities with built-in stigmas towards queer people, cis-queer people, and out-and-out TERFs.

Nevertheless, trans people are not space aliens. They share the same physiological and gendered components as those attacking them (and many of them enjoy canon, albeit ironically). Consider vaginas. AFABs own vaginas because vaginas belong to their bodies, which are their own (according to natural human rights, anyways). Those in power and seeking to exploit the bodies of others will train society to interpret the human body (which can be naturally ambiguous) and their imagery (which can also be ambiguous) in highly concrete ways.

Take Ms. Chalice from Cuphead (2017): Short of looking under that skirt and checking for ourselves (which would be rude), the game cannot distinguish if Ms. Chalice actually owns a vagina, let alone how they identify (despite being called "Miss," a title is not explicitly one's gender, the possible exception being Mug Man—a reference to Mega Man, a highly sexist series in its own right). Regardless, the characters are coded as male/man and female/woman according to their performative aspects (their clothes, body language and makeup). 

If we wanted to be descriptive, here, we would need to allow all possibilities to occur, not just prescriptive ones. What if Ms. Chalice was an AMAB trans person, and Cuphead and Mug Man were AFAB trans persons? This playing with body language might seem minor, but it remains inherently deconstructive, thus iconoclastic. To merely change the heroes' presumed gentials without changing anything else about them would generate a considerable amount of gender trouble all by itself. Sexist norms would be threatened because sexist systems leave no room for nuance

For example, if Ms. Chalice wears a dress, they must have a vagina; if they have a vagina, they must do their duty (to have babies); if they refuse or don't have a vagina, they must be a traitor or an impostor. The problem is, impostors can depicted in a plethora of ways: the transphobic trope of the rapacious man-in-disguise, the homophobic trope of the gay pedophile, the misogynistic trope of the man-hating lesbian. These slurs are legion, but all serve the same, underlying goal: Defend the status quo.

Sex-positive individuals are faced with a colossal problem: Canonical bodies belong to an institution that colonizes everything around it, discouraging iconoclasm in favor of so-called "perfect" bodies. This means that whatever utopian paradigm shift we want to impose has to occur within the means and materials of society as it exists presently (we'll examine this concept briefly for the moment, then examine it more fully in the "Bridging Gaps" section).

(artist: Elena Berezina)

The canon of the present uses ambivalent imagery that I, as iconoclast, seek to alter. I don't want to ban the use of sex, for example; I want to change how it's perceived. While the historical function of these complicated symbols—specifically when utilized by state agents and capitalists forging American propaganda—is often sexist, it doesn't need to be. 

This being said, any alternative will be judged by those who corporations historically pander toSexist men are the obvious example. They believe games should be made a particular way to please them. Whenever they aren't the center of attention, they act slighted or betrayed by companies who dare to cater to other demographics in search of profit.

Capitalists (those in power) care about profit, first and foremost. Fascists often desire power but do not have it; they view profit as secondary to the means of population control: rigid social hierarchies that control sex and gender. Such individuals not only vote with their wallets; they perform the conservative online grift of acting besieged, fostering attitudes surrounding canonical media and who should be making it—i.e., "We're your fans. Notice us, senpai." 

(artist: Linkartoon)

The above behaviors aren't exclusive to sexist men. Women can be sexist, too, and yield their own artistic slogans with which to channel their bigotry. This includes feminists, or icons of unethical feminism—i.e., the girl boss. In fact, older generations of feminism were (and are) progressively more racist, homophobic and transphobic, and their liminal positions generally frame their victories as fraught with compromise—concessions that ideologically reject positions more radical than themselves.

We'll examine these individuals next, specifically TERFs.

TERFs, or Fascism in Disguise

TERFs are sexist, the transphobic prejudices they uphold stemming from commonly-held beliefs they refuse to abandon (re: trans women are "men playing dress-up"). They see themselves as true activists, and sex-positive individuals as perfidious rabble-rousers harmful to "true women everywhere." For TERFs, trans people constitute a "fake" category, while the artists who illustrate them (erotic or otherwise) undermine the status quo through cultural appreciation: Draw Ms. Chalice with a penis and you erase "actual" women.

Such iconoclasm generates gender trouble through abjection, which many out-and-out sexists call "political." To them, "politics" is used in a delegitimizing sense towards emancipatory activism, which ideologically threatens the status quo. "Political" as an unironic slur only serves to demonize civil rights activists, effectively portraying them as harmful outsiders in some shape or form (usually as some kind of invader threat: zombies, demons, aliens, bugs, etc)—anything to dehumanize activists, thus open them up to increasingly brutal (and disparate) forms of self-defense by bad-faith sexists.

Consider the TERFs of Great Britain (aka TERF Island). J. K. Rowling is their chief, the corporate girl boss claiming to speak for "all women" (including trans men). Rowling spreads bias through widespread, unchecked media visibility (novels, movies, tweets), she and her followers framing
 trans people (and the sex symbols that represent them) as inherently negative. TERFs will even court known fascists to facilitate this myth—teaming up with strange bedfellows against a perceived "Greater Evil" to defend "true feminists'" hard-fought "gains" (the "This is as good as it gets" argument). 

It doesn't matter that fascists will eradicate TERFs once they are in power. Fascism cannot tolerate anything that threatens their racist, sexist, xenophobic dogma, but TERFs fail to realize this for the same reason that all agents of fascism do: Like neoliberalism, fascism lies to those it professes to aid, destroying them in the process. Foucault likened this process to an Imperial Boomerang and it starts with the promise of great rewards. Over time, the structure gradually colonizes itself, starting with the most marginalized—an underclass—and gradually cannibalizing its own soldiers, from most to least marginalized.

All fascists are victims of fascism. Polite, urbane, deliberate—TERFs are fascists in disguise; they might think themselves safe, fighting for true equality through reasoned arguments (i.e., Rowling: "women are a biological class" is on par with "the moon isn't made of cheese"). This shell of reason won't keep them safe from fascists; it isn't actual armor that can deflect bullets or knives—more like armor in the Radcliffean sense: swooning in the face of danger to protect a fragile mind from obliteration.

TERFs hate sex positivity more than they hate fascists, and both parties' view the present through the esoteric language and outmoded symbols of an imaginary past (what fascists call "greatness"): a warped fantasy doesn't intersect with the dialectical complexities of the here-and-now anymore than Hitler's Third Reich did. It's precisely this here-and-now that must be considered when being an iconoclast—that is, phrasing sex symbols and gendered language descriptively. 

This being said, bodies (or images of bodies) can be interpreted as representing actual persons according to ideologies that fundamentally disagree on shared language—especially gendered terms like "men" and "women" (to the point that non-binary transactivists will deliberately say "transmasc" or "transfemme person" instead of trans man or trans woman). With this kind of duality in effect, someone's politics can be incredibly difficult to ascertain according to their outward appearance, all but requiring picket signs to spell things out (which, for the sex-positive protestor, can be incredibly dangerous).

For example, TERFs will want Gen Z to examine sexualized media through their lens: "the correct way." 
However, as stated during the introduction, there's a difference between being correct within the norms of a particular group and being correct according to the idea that people have basic human rights. Fascist hierarchies are incompatible with human rights; trans activism upholds human rights for everyone (with trans people being some of the most marginalized people on Earth).

To this, sexualized media can be ethical—i.e., can uphold the rights of everyone while also being sexy at the same time. Certainly it's not a human rights violation to like sex, or to even advertise sex as something fun; it is a human rights violation to induce compulsory heteronormativity in bad faith. By endorsing the racial and sexist pseudoscience of fascists, this is precisely what many TERFs embody (even if they are cis-queer)! 

However, their compulsion also results from sexist norms in popular media in ways that go beyond the obvious examples. It's easy to picture the female body "crushed" by the male gaze—Patriarchy bad; it steals women's clothes and bones! While that's certainly a good starting point, activism needs to go further if marginalized groups are to be accurately and fairly represented. Otherwise, one can denounce the "crushing" of the human body—specifically the female body in laughably sexist pin-up art—and still endorse a sexist Superstructure. That's what the (non-corporate) girl boss often does: She kills enemies of the state, specifically targets of US neocolonialism, becoming neoliberal canon in the process.

(artist: Laurel D Austin)

Art has to be more than "empowering" in the way TERFs generally view power—not just a woman with a sword killing an orc, demonstrating her team as good and the orc's team as bad*; it has to tell the story of the entity described as an orc as it actually existed. In other words, the past, present and future oppressions of an human people need to be described. For this to happen, there need to be good orcs and goblins—meaning, sadly, victims of US Imperialism (aka, "the highest form of Capitalism").

*Neoliberal canon uses the binary of teamwork to enforce us-versus-them thinking. Actions are not good or bad, teams are. This grants the good team free reign—to kill, enslave or otherwise abuse the bad team with impunity. A good example of this are paramilitary agents. This can be police officers on domestic grounds or mercenaries on foreign soil. In either case, the inhumane, illegal nature of their actions (except in police states, which legalize police abuse) will be shielded by valorous language, sanitized as virtuous, benevolent and, more importantly, justified.

Consumers, even iconoclasts, can privately and ironically enjoy warrior barbarians or space pirate ladies kicking ass. Iconoclasts simply refuse to endorse girl bosses' behavior unironically as metaphors towards real-world groups deserving of colonial retribution (which someone like Ellen Ripley definitely did: The xenomorphs were a metaphor for the people of Vietnam who deserved punishment). Likewise, the iconoclast can enjoy (or create) fetishized content, such as sexy orc women (or other green-skinned AFABs); they merely try to recognize the historically racist trope behind* demonically sexualizing persons of color (which orcs represent). Doing so doesn't take away the iconoclast's ability to feel sexy or turn them into less of a person; it does make them less of an asshole.

*Oft-times, problematic historical markers are obscured through decades, if not centuries, of consumption. The so-called "ghost of the counterfeit" is that which haunts something that has largely become a series of increasingly neutral copies: Orcs are the historical targets of the state canonized in fictional media like D&D and LOTR.

These types of intersectional analyses are difficult for TERFs to swallow, but they will adopt traditionally-recognized personas of strength when it suits them. This can result in various ironies under the right amount of balance. For example, a TERF probably won't think twice about being a classy swordswoman because it's an assimilation fantasy that amounts to class elevation: an aristocratic woman-of-means with a killer hat-pin or rapier that acts violent towards criminals (the poor) or cartoonishly obvious sexists (old-timey oil barons, Marlon Brando, Don Draper, etc). 

(artist: unknown)

However—and I know this from experience—TERFs will tolerate less gentrified personas, as well. They might not actively relish a strict pin-up of a sexy orc woman, but will happily embrace one that's more "correct" according to their bellicose standards; i.e., if the orc (or redheaded, alcoholic, lusty barbarian: a racist Celtic trope perpetuated by the English) is unquestionably sexy-but-tough. Here, the TERF will mark her for a tomboy (or butch lesbian) and probably not complain—especially if she looks like a savage, brutal fighter. My ex called this status "being capable," a person who can handle their shit; in Neoliberal language, this means enforcing US foreign policy.

Neoliberal orc fantasies reinforce the myth of the "violent savage" through a kind of middle-class slumming: normalizing police violence by performing as violent people of color who need policing (see: every Blizzard game ever). It maintains the status quo similar to Ripley vs the xenomorphs or Samus vs the space pirates. It's literally cops-and-robbers or cowboys-and-Indians thinking dressed up as "pure" (meaning "dislocated") fantasy. 

I'm placing extra emphasis on "us-versus-them" because TERFs are feminists in bad faith; they preach equality from a position of order that uses systemic conflict to maintain the status quo (and its material inequalities) everywhere. As centrist thinkers, TERFs "centralize" conflict by equalizing both sides—not in appearance, but as part of a rigged system that invariably yields the same result regardless who is the hero or the villain: exploitation. How that exploitation plays out depends where you are—outright genocide, for non-citizens, and a police state (to varying degrees) for citizens.

However, while TERFs hate their assigned enemies performatively, they openly despise anyone who undermines their orderly view of conflict as a structure. This is why you see TERFs (usually middle-class women) punching down at trans people (who are automatically assigned to the bad team, thus incentivized to eliminate the binary of us-versus-them); the elite have instilled TERFs to divide and conquer through a deliberate, prescribed fear of the underclass that manifests in popular media (much in the same way racism works in America, the state; or how xenophobia works in American geo-politics the world over). 

The problem with centrism is that it denies actual change in favor of perceived change through propaganda victories. Such "wins" are bogus: As the state passes policies that rob people of their human rights, capitalists paper over these abuses with neoliberal illusions: centrist myths that depict everything as fine, which become the normal way to perceive things beyond our regular scope of vision. These stories present their victories as somehow translating to real life, when really they just keep things the same by whitewashing societal inequalities perpetuated by the elite. 

For example, Junker Queen becomes queen of Junkertown by defeating its patriarch in gladiatorial combat, touting some kind of "special victory" that trickles down for everyone around her. It's literally bread-and-circus pastiche, changing nothing at a systemic level: Junker Queen is queen of the arena and the arena isn't going anywhere. Her tenure isn't going to change anything because her desire to be violent through team-based gladiatorial sports is a defining part of her character. It's literally her character's ludic role in Overwatch 2, as well as her origin story* celebrating her role as a complete, unrivaled slayer of the Wasteland's "feral omnics" (Australian settler colonialism dressed up as science fiction).

*Origin stories are generally a fascist tool, a creation myth justifying the current state of affairs. One, they present an imperial whitewash, the colonists having settled "empty" land; two, they scapegoat anyone rightfully against the state, presenting them as vengeful evils that must be destroyed through heroic self-defense. For a good (if wacky) illustration of this concept, listen to Gloryhammer's "The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee."

Neoliberal stories doesn't just hide human rights violations; they also recycle poisonous ideologies that encourage direct abuse, its political endorsement, or apathy when it occurs (Junker Queen is pretty sexist: "You fight like a girl!"). TERFs are feminists whose hatred for the patriarchy has become performative, all while hating trans people's actual guts. This hatred stems from the neoliberal's other weapon of choice: political incrementalism, or the deliberate hindering of emancipatory policies through a rhetoric of veiled threats—that barbaric regression will inevitably occur should attempts at more equal change be met. Whether through feet-dragging or downright stonewalling, the neoliberal belittles emancipatory activists, claiming the latter "doesn't understand politics." 

Meanwhile, neoliberals disguise their true purpose with propaganda victories: to uphold the status quo, not change it. Those who challenge the status quo and attempt to move it away from Capitalism are discounted either as miscreants, or doomed victims* who cannot be saved. To this, moderates belittle emancipatory politics within a rhetoric of manners: Concession is polite, and it's rude to ask for more than crumbs. People who do are violating the neoliberal notion of personal responsibility (socializing blame) by "rocking the boat." However, such fears are middle class xenophobia leveled at the underclass by the elite, keeping the workers divided, thus in check and unable to revolt against their bourgeois overlords.

*Doomed victims include those whose exploitation from U.S. foreign policy is obvious, but whose clemency is denied because it is "impossible"; e.g., not actually impossible, but framed as such to give neoliberals an out (taking the moral high ground) while also letting them "be realistic" in defense of U.S. Capitalism overseas: the Zionist centrist argument that Palestinians deserve a human Right of Return, not a physical one.

In keeping with the status quo, TERFs also court fascists. Using neoliberal illusions and incrementalism, they make concessions that fascist dogma will tolerate. This includes tolerating sexist media (or sexist interpretations of sexualized media) that fascists produce. Fascists will accept TERF aid in bad faith because they want to achieve official power. Once this happens, their generosity will vanish; they will betray their former allies by revoking TERF concessions and installing a fascist hierarchy in their stead.

By courting fascists, TERFs are fascist themselves. To this, it's important to view sexist media as potentially fascist, and fascist sexism as something to recognize in seemingly more moderate forms, each working at various speeds to keep things the same, thus guarantee fascism. Remember that preservation of the status quo variably leads to Capitalism-in-crisis. However, regardless of when that occurs, some groups are invariably imperiled before the boiling point. In other words, only white cis-het people are slow-boiled alive (as Three Arrows points out regarding the slow descent into fascism in the United States versus the Weimar Republic); trans people are placed directly on the burner, feeling the heat from the start as constant, immediate, and excruciating.

Neoliberals disguise this reality—and fascism's endemic nature within Capitalism more broadly—through a variety of masks. For TERFs, this means proudly displaying as lesbians, swordswomen, and suffragettes; they also love dogwhistles. As such, their moderate veneer of outwardly good manners and activism-in-the-abstract becomes the perfect disguise for cryptofascists to hide behind, endangering trans people in the bargain. This is not an accident; TERFs intentionally target trans people to demonstrate their fealty to the powers that be, attacking the latter's political targets in exchange for clemency (which is really just a brief reprieve).

This centrism isn't singular, but a kind of "better masks" mis-en-abyme. If an out-and-out Nazis are mask-off, then American/American-aligned alt-righters, traditional conservatives, liberals (moderate Republicans) and the performative "Left" (re: TERFs, economic white supremacists) represent a spectrum of political masks, often stacked on top of each other. 

While these "gobstopper" disguises face progressively leftward—deliberately tailored to match the financial incentives afforded by a political market expanded by dissent—all of them remain centralized positions with a conservative core; they preserve the status quo at a systemic level. This includes Sam Seder's Neocon past and continued material defense of American Imperialism; streaming giants Destiny and Vaush, whose variable centrism Bad Empanada lovingly refers to as the Clout Human Centipede; and anyone else who dresses up right-leaning material positions through activism relegated to the moral abstract (a frequent neoliberal tactic), so-called "ex-fascists." 

At the beginning of the chapter, I quoted the trans maxim: "If you scratch a transphobe, a fascist bleeds." The same is true of scratching neoliberals, including TERFs. They might think they're not fascist when appealing to fascists. It won't change the fact that TERFs engender the worst sort of sexism imaginable by normalizing persons who will happily wipe them off the map. This makes TERFS functionally fascist, a kind of "false friend" to the automatic targets of fascism, trans people. To determine which is worse—out-and-out fascists or closeted ones—I'll simply quote MLK, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

TERFs present as seemingly benign icons—like swordswomen, lesbians, and suffragettes—not genuine, sex-positive symbols of equality, but sexism-in-disguise. At best, this amounts to neoliberal illusions that hide bias; at worst, it invariably turns fascist, aggressively targeting the state's enemies. This includes inaccurate metaphors lifted from dystopian stories.

For example, TERFs demonize cis-women who support trans people (and sex workers) by calling them "handmaids." A deliberate misreading of The Handmaid's Tale (1985), this conflation makes about as much sense as calling a trans person's home a "joy division" (the sexual slavery wing of a Nazi concentration camp mentioned in the 1955 novel, House of Dolls). The point isn't accuracy at all, but a pejorative label that helps establish a reliable pattern of reactive abuse (abuse that provokes a genuine self-defense reaction from the victim, whereupon the expectant abuser "self-defends" in extreme prejudice). Trans people and those who aid them are painted sexual criminals who can be attacked, penned in and goaded until they snap. 

The threat, here, is cyclical and two-fold: First, Neoliberalism valorizes Capitalism by hiding its true function: to enslave the majority (workers) and profit off their labor.  The subsequent societal collapse (a built-in feature of Capitalism) allows strongmen to ascend to formal seats of power by pointing the finger at scapegoats—Jewish people and communists, but also trans people. This alleviates some of the pressure put upon neoliberals, who regain control by calling fascists "the real enemy." Rinse and repeat.

Whether neoliberal or fascist, TERF rhetoric is inherently bad faith. This requires the audience (us) to scrutinize their arguments (and the canonical apologia inside), no different that double-checking Pepe if the source image came from 4Chan.

Bridging Gaps

Unlike TERFs, sex-positive artists promote universal basic human rights while also discouraging sexism (sexism is not a basic human right, but a violation of human rights). However, the iconoclast also aims to bridge gaps—to change people and bring them over towards a humane and egalitarian way of thinking about sex. For this to reliably happen, iconoclasts need to expose sexist behaviors by speaking to people at least partially in their language—through canonical imagery.

For example, I like sexy bodies, but generally dislike superheroes. Nevertheless, superheroes are ubiquitous, and their strong bodies are generally regarded as sexy within mainstream society. Taken a step further, these bodies often conflate sex and gender within a colonial binary. In doing so, they present feminine behaviors as "strong," thus sufficient for even more masculine-appearing cis-women. Be superheroes, ladies... by having babies (or protecting them as "natural-caregivers").

(artist: Joel Herrera)

Obviously this is a problem for any AFAB who doesn't want to be powerful in the traditional, sexist sense—not just to bear children, but to defend the practice to the proverbial death by becoming an Amazonian girl boss. To bridge the gap, you will have to use some of the visual language to show them a better alternative. This means an alternative better than fascists, but also better than centrists and their neoliberal fantasies. Show them a Ripley who isn't a violent killer hell-bent on serving the state.

This comes with risks, mind you. My ex—I'll call them Jim—threw me out over my political views (a rather punishing maneuver given I was financially dependent on them). This might seem isolated from politics, but it's not: Jim is a relatively well-to-do neoliberal TERF/SWERF who defended the likes of J. K. Rowling, Bill Gates and Joe Biden* over the course of our relationship. Jim also looked down at sex workers and erotic art (including mine), claiming this "erased feminism" by having women cater to a sexist male audience by prostituting their bodies in a "normal" way (Jim was fine with sexual expression as long as it appeared bad-ass or monstrous: "monster fuckers").

*I once told Jim that if Biden wanted to actually do something meaningful, he should pass a Constitutional amendment that legitimizes trans and non-binary people instead of opting for executive orders that can simply be undone in the next election cycle: "Trans men are men, trans women are women, non-binary people are valid." Jim hated this idea, calling it "impossible" and telling me, "Well, at least he's doing something!" They also thought that Rowling as the first billionaire author (and female, to boot) somehow merited praise, ignoring her TERF politics; and lauded Gates for his billionaire philanthropy while ignoring his privatization of the 90s computer market and his dubious connection to Jeffery Epstein.

And yet, despite liking tentacle dildos (which is fine), Tool music videos (which rock), and Rammstein (whose allegory and social critique they felt was moderate enough to be legitimate), Jim deemed my writing "masturbatory." "You're not George Orwell!" they loved to remind me. Jim went on to describe me as "indulging in fruitless academic exercises to pointlessly self-aggrandize," taking serious contention with me daring to critique hero narratives—as if those demonstrate meaningful change for legitimately oppressed groups! Trans people will still be oppressed regardless of how many times Ripley bitch-slaps the Alien Queen. 

Alas, deprioritizing the unironic consumption of neoliberal theatricality was entirely unthinkable to Jim and they hated me for it. They hated me because, without their toys to distract them (including D&D, which is heavily structured around racial conflict), they might have to acknowledge the material inequalities enforced by the ruling class on everyone else. They needed Ripley because Ripley to them was "as good as it gets."

I'm not for terminating hero fantasies outright. But I am an iconoclast, humanizing various outlier groups by framing traditional heroism (and its archetypal, warlike bodies) as dubious. For example, I can draw someone who is fem and masc, but AFAB, who isn't a superhero—or at least, isn't acting like a superhero; i.e., they aren't murdering everything around them. Maybe just have them peg a femboy consensually instead? Make love, not war, people (except class war, amirite?)!

Iconoclastic artwork can open people's minds to a new kind of existence, one generally consigned to the nadir of xenophobia in American society (or anywhere that sexists call home). It specifically happens through abjection, granting the victims of sexual and gender division the right not only to exist, but thrive. To reject sexism is to throw its harmful divisions back in sexist people's faces. This can potentially change minds. 

Such transformation is certainly not a given—and it certainly didn't work with Jim, my ex—but I'd argue it's still worth a shot. 

John Lennon once wrote, 

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man [clearly Lennon's imagination is limited by his own sexism, but at least he tries]


You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will live as one.

Now imagine Conan with a pussy. It's not hard. However, fans of Conan can't anymore than Christofascists can see Jesus as a person of color. "Conan's a guy!" they'll cry—i.e., he has a penis, he must have a penis. Never mind that I can draw Conan with a pussy faster than you can blink. For added fun, I can even have him identify as a trans man(!). 
Or keep the penis and have Conan gay or identify as a transwoman. The sky's limit, really. 

(artist: Sabs)

This radical creativity not only flies in the face of the original author, Ron E. Howard, who was racist and sexist; it insults those who uphold his fascist ideas: his fans (it's possible to like Conan and not be bigoted, but those who actively defend Howard's sexism are bigots). These bristling reactionaries will defend Howard's problematic canon by beatifying the very hero that personifies his hyperbolic gender norms—their gender norms. 

Generally this stance is ontological—i.e., "Conan is cis-het!" Such claimants likewise abject alternatives by treating them as anathema. To these persons, I'm not an iconoclast (which to acknowledge would belie their adversarial function as canonical gate-keepers oppressing me); I'm just a silly person who gave Conan a pussy (which is different from Red Sonya, but that's a whole 'nother conversation). Conan needing to have a penis will quickly eclipse anything else about him, and erase alternatives by shading them as inherently vile, twisted and demonic. 

The iconoclasts who author these alternatives are generally scapegoated. We'll explore this concept next, and why persecuted groups choose to make decisions that invariably lead to punishment.

Sexist Ire: Persecuting Iconoclasts

Because iconoclasm invites persecution by defying the status quo, it is invariably performed by marginalized groups or their champions. Being neoliberal/fascist, TERFs function as canonical gatekeepers, reacting in bad-faith towards those who defy the social order. Generally this involves two basic stepsself-persecution, followed by self-defense with extreme prejudice. Apathy and murder, basically.

This perfidious theater justifies the TERF's lethal response, granting them the right to be as cruel as they want. The victims of their treachery can be authors who generate counterculture media, but also trans persons who author their own, chosen genders. Both are iconoclasts, but sometimes iconoclasts also choose their own identities and make media:

(five LGBTQ game designers whose work goes back to the 1980s)

Iconoclasm isn't merely a choice, but something that goes beyond the individual. Contrary to popular opinion, a trans person does not choose to be trans—rather, does not choose to experience the overwhelming gender dysphoria* that pushes them away from their assigned gender identity. Nor do they choose the discrimination and unequal punishment that results. Their biological sex, their assigned gender and the socio-economic forces that compel sexual and gender standardization—all are accidental parts of a broader sexist world the trans person is born into through no fault of their own.

*The psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.

Trans people still have agency and they still make choices; these simply involve societal conditions beyond their control. By shaping their personal identities as they see fit, their decisions inevitably lead to persecution. The same concept applies to authors and illustrations, which often represent actual people. The iconoclastic act—of deliberately reshaping a hero's morphology beyond the established norm—is akin to choosing one's own sexual/gender beliefs in a non-prescriptive manner. Its mere existence challenges the status quo, leading to gender trouble. 

Consider Gregory Maguire's Wicked (1995): The story is about Elphaba, a trans character whose ambiguous identity was pre-selected by Maguire, the author. Being gay and married, I'm not surprised that Maguire writes Elphaba's own choices as melding inextricably with her persecuted status: She's a witch—a symbol already martyred by patriarchal sexists in the real world—but also someone described has having chosen her sex and skin color: "Perhaps little green Elphaba chose her own sex, and her own color, and to hell with her parents." 

Maguire's writing Elphaba as trans makes the novel far more iconoclastic than it might be otherwise. Yet, despite his deliberately iconoclastic Oz, Wicked nonetheless launched his career. People liked the story (or rather, they liked the musical based off his work, which sanitized everything to G-rated extremes and launched Wicked to bestseller fame 10 years after it was written). The question is, why?

Prudence. For all his creative risks, I think Maguire was actually pretty careful in his approach. Yes, he famously humanized the Wicked Witch of the West, giving her a name and a past. He also deliberately framed her as sympathetic, if not strictly good. By his own admission, though, he deliberately wrote things to be ambiguous. In doing so, he plays it fairly safe. There's plenty of naughty ideas, but nothing definitive that would alienate him concretely.

This caution isn't impossible to understand. The "friends of Dorothy" method and similar "passwords" involves a careful amount of concealment to avoid overt hostility from straight people. And while Maguire may or may not have been using that strategy in no uncertain terms, I can't help but detect a whiff of it in his Wicked novels. Rather than patently excoriate the Wizard and those in power, there's a great deal of imperfect, sideways criticism. 

For example, much like Sean Young lashing out against Hollywood, Elphaba lacks that "pure" victim status, instead being framed as someone outrageously angry. Maguire chose this on purpose. Perhaps, it was to illustrate the confusing nature of intersectional politics. Nevertheless, Elphaba, is absolutely the victim, a trans person who chose her skin color and sex, only to be killed ostensibly by her own father (the Wizard, who might have sired Elphaba by raping her mother). Maguire's decision to not only understate this, but also intentionally confuse the facts, feels pretty toothless from a critical standpoint.

Maguire also cared less about failing to deliver a pre-existing image that people had a very clear idea of, and more about transforming everything around it. He did so at length, making Oz as different from the 1939 film (or Baum's earlier novels) as Elphaba herself was. In other words, he didn't break into someone else's church and desecrate the icons inside; he built his own church out from bastardized language. There's a buffer, a disguise that hides what he's doing.

By comparison, visuals artists that alter icons in isolation invariably get compared, side-by-side, to their canonical palimpsests. For example, I once drew Deet from the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance as thicc(!). There wasn't a grander story to distract from the changes, just a shapely Grottan posing for the camera. I very quickly found myself under attack by fans of the original design. 

Though I was unaware of them at the time, the broader mechanics of this social exchange highlight the same perils faced by any author who defies the status quo. I remain entirely honest when I say hadn't intended to be an iconoclast—at least, not in relation to Deet's body. On some level, I knew that drawing thicc women allows for them to exist* (especially in a world where women are generally fat-shamed to anorexic extremes), but I saw that as a win-win. What I actually expected people to hate was the deliberately schlocky gore. 

*I hadn't meant to represent anyone in a strictly iconoclastic fashion. Regardless, that's precisely what happened: During the ensuring debate, a grateful moderator defended me, saying it represented their actual body and how they looked. Cool!

Imagine my surprise when the drawing was removed "for depicting sexual content." My loudest critics didn't mind that Deet murdered Hup and was using his decapitated head like a sock puppet (that show is deliciously violent); they disparaged Deet's uncharacteristic thicc-ness, declaring loud-and-proud that she was being portrayed "incorrectly"—i.e., into something she wasn't supposed to be according to their cultural values. Thiccness, for them, wasn't canon.

Without meaning to, my desire to self-express (through the kinds of bodies I find attractive) led to me being persecuted. I had struck a nerve connected to deeper social biases regarding the human body: fat-shaming. There's more to be said about fandoms defending canonical body types—i.e., body values assigned by the bourgeoise. However, deliberately choosing non-canonical bodies can ironically yield a tremendous amount of gender trouble all by itself. 

(creator: Lloyd Kaufman)

Public outcry on Facebook is one thing. The problem is, the destruction of iconoclasts differ historically from the destroying of icons. Yes, there's the vandalistic approach of pulling down of statues—i.e., to efface the Lost Cause Myth (which is good; the Civil War was about slavery and Southern Pride is a racist dogwhistle). But history frowns equally upon the humanist iconoclast: the artist or thinker who plays with icons in literature, "destroying" them by transforming them into something new. Like Toxie (see above)!

Privileged authors like myself (I identified as cis-het when I drew Deet) experience less risk than more marginalized groups. The more marginalized you are, the more your iconoclastic notions affords you genuine, lethal punishment. Some ridicule those in power, including their bodies. But some iconoclasts are trying to merely stand up for the rights of others by creating documents that defy the social order.

For example, when Nazis protestors raided the Institute of Sexology in 1933, they burned 20,000 books that argued for the rights of trans people, homosexuals, and women (a world first, at least by post-Enlightenment standards). I can't say if Magnus Hirschfield intended to make an overt political statement. Nonetheless, his practice painted a giant target on the institute he oversaw. When the Nazi attacked, it wasn't defense of a besieged community against an alien menace; it was a pointed attack by fascists against marginalized communities fighting for equality under an inherently unequal system. 

Historical Nazis are easy to attack thanks to American 
neoliberal propaganda. However, most practicing Nazis are crypto-fascists. This isn't to say they're invisible. It just means they don't call themselves Nazis. Jordan Peterson is an incredibly visible thought leader who doesn't call himself a Nazi; he's still trying to flip the script by comparing consensual gender-correction surgeries to Nazi Germany. In other words, he's functioning like a Nazi by attempting to bad-faith criminalize gender equality in the fields of medicine and the humanities. 

Peterson specifically calls these fields "post-modern neo-Marxist," aka "Cultural Marxism." The latter phrase is not just a Red Scare tactic; it's a fascist dog whistle: Hilter himself famously described the soviets as "Judeo-Bolshevist," prosecuting eastward expansion into Soviet Russian to destroy "Cultural Bolshevism." Not only were the Nazis inspired by the United States' own Westward Expansion; they also borrowed heavily from American-style propaganda, replicating Hollywood to create a copy of fascism, not an anomaly. They were copycat killers.

Fascists are easy to critique; they're Nazis. However, Neoliberals are just as bad because they 

  • permit Nazis to exist
  • open the doors of power to Nazis
  • look the other way when Nazis break shit and kill people

This includes TERFS. Not all TERFs are cis-het women; the gender-critical movement includes the Manosphere, and Feminists can be male or cis-queer. Regardless of one's biological sex, many TERFs are still "mask-on," normalizing Nazis as people to respectfully debate in the free marketplace of ideas. TERFs are the dad from The Neverending Story telling Bastian to grow up and accept things the way they are: Use polite language. Don't give Conan a pussy or make Skeletor a communist trans woman. Be nice to Nazis. 

Such mandates are dangerously similar to book burning as a form of media control. So much so that, when things reliably get worse and marginalized communities suffer from Capitalism-in-crisis, TERFs/SWERFs will either turn a blind eye, cover it up, or fan the flames. And "where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people." 

(artist: unknown)


History is littered with the scorched remains of fascist victims. Like a silk curtain, the fire starts at the edges. It devours the outliers first, moving inward as it consumes every alternate mode of gender and sexual expression. Femboys and catboys become extinct—not just their anathema images, but the associate victims as well. 

What follows are any non-normative person or identity you can think of: trans people, enbys, ace persons—on and on down the line, until homosexuality and gender performance are a myth, and cis-men and cis-women are all that remains, divided along strict, uncompromising lines. Soon, these fringe atrocities will creep inwards, ravaging the center (re: Foucault's Boomerang). Those in the middle aren't fireproof; they merely have to wait longer before they're burned alive. 

Sexual hierarchies subjugate to infantilizing extremes. Rendered deaf, dumb and blind, those under them become hopelessly dependent and trapped, oblivious to anything outside their cages. Alas, the disappearance of iconoclastic language doesn't erase the threat, only the ability to discuss it clearly and openlyThe exceptions to these boundaries still exist; they simply become invisible, including the atrocities committed against them. 

Those with power will be there. They lord over the entire trap, installing its boundaries to impose their will upon "lesser" individuals. Such negative freedom is universally toxic, spelling the premature end for so many people's lives. This includes the tyrants! Trapped inside their glorious fakeries, these fatal authors fall upon their own swords, dying ignominious deaths. It's such a fake, short-sighted existence, brutal and misleading when it doesn't need to be. 

I'm not saying punch TERFs or Nazis (though if you did, I wouldn't complain); individual cases of physical violence are far less important than striking them where it hurts: their propaganda. While some iconoclasts prefer exploitation revenge fantasies, I prefer abjection. By illustrating genuine consent, I 
  • denude the fascist as a killer-in-disguise
  • break the neoliberal spell by demonstrating the Symbolic Order as an arbitrary construct
  • humanize other groups through sexual alternatives to the establish norm
  • deromanticize the TERF infatuation with us-versus-them violence 
As Derrida once said, "There is no outside of the text." To personify consent, gender performance and bodily autonomy is to allow persecuted groups to exist in artwork, but also the world at large.


About me: My name is Persephone van der Waard and I'm a Gothic ludologist. I primarily write reviews, Gothic analyses, and interviews. Because my main body of work is relatively vast, I've compiled it into a single compendium where I not only list my favorite works, I also summarize them. Check it out, here!

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