Cenk’s Old-School Blogs Reveal Some Uncomfortable Truths About Masculinity.
Cenk Uygur, a noteworthy voice in progressive politics and founder of the Young Turks, recently stepped down from his position with the progressive advocacy group, the Justice Democrats. This decision came after the discovery of blogs from the late 90s and early 2000s in which Cenk expresses a variety of racist and misogynistic opinions. “Obviously the genes of women are flawed,” Uygur notes in a post from 1999, “They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully.”
Cenk has since disavowed these comments and apologized for them, and I’m pleased to see him take full responsibility for his actions. But we’re not here to talk about Cenk. We’re here to discuss a follow-up video by Kyle Kulinski of secular talk. Kulinski initially believed that Cenk Uygur’s comments were “the textbook definition of sexism,” but his opinions changed after speaking to “a bunch of people” who convinced him that he was taking Cenk’s words too literally.
Kyle now believes that Cenk was poking fun at himself, “whining about how he can’t get laid.” Later in the video, he disagrees with the idea that Cenk’s words perpetuate rape culture. “I couldn’t disagree with that any more strongly than I do.”
Kyle describes himself as being “on the spectrum,” which I assume means the Autism Spectrum; so, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here because multiple people talked him out of his initial his initial reaction. Being neurodivergent myself, I know that it’s very easy for your sense of reality to waver when everyone around you insists that your perceptions are flawed.
Neurodivergent people are trained to question their own perceptions. We’re frequently told that we read situations incorrectly, and this makes us second guess ourselves. Kyle, I’m sure by this point in your life, you know that there are people who will take advantage of this vulnerability.
Your initial assessment was correct; Cenk’s words were the textbook definition of sexism. You weren’t being too literal; the “bunch of people” you talked to bamboozled you into doubting yourself, and they did it for a variety of reasons. Some don’t want to address systemic sexism on the Left because they know they benefit from it. Others are afraid that losing a progressive icon like Cenk Uygur will be a setback to their cause. And there are some who legitimately believe what they’re saying because they too have been conned.
When a man whines about how he can’t get laid, that is the very definition of rape culture because it’s predicated on the assumption that access to sex is his birthright as a man. The world has wronged him by denying him what is rightfully his.
Let’s take a look at what Cenk actually said. “It seems like there is a sea of tits here, and I am drinking in tiny droplets. I want to dive into the whole god damn ocean.” He goes on to blame women for being uninterested in him because he doesn’t make enough money, and he refers to this supposed materialism as “depraved whorish blatantness.”
We don’t actually know why these women weren’t interested in Cenk. Maybe it had nothing to do with money; maybe he was just projecting his own insecurities onto them. In all likelihood, each woman who looked at Cenk and thought “hard pass” had her own individual reasons for doing so. It doesn’t really matter what those reasons are; she has the right to decline sex for any reason.
But Cenk’s decision to call these women whores is predicated on the assumption that they have to justify their decision to decline sex. Being uninterested because he doesn’t make enough money is not a good enough reason, in his opinion.
Now, do you see how it perpetuates rape culture?
There’s something even more insidious that we need to discuss. At about nine minutes into the video, Kyle brings up the infamous locker room talk defense. “This is just how young men talk,” he insists.
No. No, it isn’t.
There is no biological instinct that compels men to describe women as “a sea of tits.” We do it because we’ll be ostracized if we don’t.
As a teenager, I used to be disgusted with my male friends when they made vulgar comments like that. I would ruin a party by starting an argument when one of the other guys said “there’s a nice piece of ass” or something like that.
But everyone — even the girls in our group — told me that I was being too uptight.
By the time I was twenty, I stopped protesting when one of the other guys made a lewd comment. By the time I was twenty-five, I started joining in on some of the “locker room talk.” Always in private, when it was just us boys.
Wanna know what happened?
I went from being a teenage boy who insisted that girls could do anything guys could do to being a twenty-five-year-old man thought women would never be good at video games, who believed women would never like Star Wars. And the most damning thing of all? I was angry with women all the time.
I blamed them for being more interested in Sex and the City than they were in Lord of the Rings. I blamed them for not understanding computers, for not being interested in comic books, and for not appreciating “nice guys” like me. I blamed them for the very gender roles that I had assigned them, even though those gender roles had no basis in fact.
What you call “locker room talk” is a poison. It’s not about bonding with other guys; it’s about crippling other men emotionally so that those other men won’t challenge outdated gender roles. It’s about establishing a pecking order. One-upping each other in a contest of who can be the most vulgar is one way that men establish dominance over other men. Kyle, if another guy is pressuring you into taking part in that, he’s not your friend.
It doesn’t have to be this way; we can all get better.
(I’m speaking metaphorically now) The devil tries to convince you that it’s too late, that you’re too far gone, that you can’t ever find redemption, so trying is pointless. It’s not. You can free your mind from this poison.
Rich Penney is a science-fiction author and futurist. You can check out his books here.