The culture wars have officially reached the next level. First, Wall Street has been segregated for all intents and purposes as men refuse to have private meetings with women out of fear they will get caught in a #metoo situation; then Tumblr decided to ban porn from its platform in an effort to make their platform safer; and perhaps most interesting of all, Penthouse released its culture wars issue featuring Jordan Peterson, Dr. Debra Soh, and Quillette founder Claire Lehmann on its cover.
Bloomberg reports that the new rules for the men of Wall Street are as follows: “No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.” In fact, there is a widespread fear of false accusations that is sweeping across all of our industries. An unintended consequence of the weaponized #metoo movement is that women are now finding it hard to get ahead in industries that are historically male-dominated. Men have started to protect their careers by reverting back to the old boys’ clubs that equity feminism fought so hard to get rid of. It’s clear that North America is still in the grips of a powerful and destructive sex panic.
And then there’s Tumblr, a platform that is well known for two things: empty social justice activism and porn. Of course, this was always an unhappy marriage, and earlier this week, Tumblr announced, much to the disappointment of horny millennials, that porn had to go. No more porn as of December 17th. According to Verge, “Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity.” So, the silver lining for those of you who simply must show your junk on Tumblr is that you still may be able to if you are doing it for a specific cause. You can bare it all as you rail against misgendering, you can share some crotch shots to protest the misogyny of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” or you can reveal your female-presenting nipples as you rally against the violent cultural appropriation of unsafe taco trucks.
Penthouse’s new culture wars issue is intriguing to say the least. It seems like an odd place for members of the Intellectual Dark Web to congregate, but it’s also worth considering that in these censorious times, while so-called mainstream outlets like The Huffington Post or The New Yorker are too cowed by fear of the Twitter mob to feature the words of formidable public intellectuals like Peterson or Soh, Penthouse has risen to the challenge, and provided a platform for free thinkers and open inquiry.
So, these are the new developments—fear reigns in our workplace culture (and larger culture) with men and women scared to death of each other, if you’re looking for some sort of pornographic release don’t bother with the old standby, Tumblr, and if you’re interested in a rational, reasonable, centrist debate, then you must, of course, turn to the pages of Penthouse.
I’m comforted by the fact that people will always rebel. Recently, a friend of mine who is in her 20s told me about a close call she recently had on a bus while on her way to work. She was fumbling around in her bag and accidentally activated her phone. A “problematic” podcast she was listening to started blaring very loud for all of the bus to hear. The podcast in question was Joe Rogan interviewing Dr. Debra Soh. It’s not that she thinks the podcast is problematic, it’s that she feared that she would be judged by woke people her age who hold this preposterous view.
Another friend told me about how he went to some burger joint near his local university. He and his friend had lunch, and she spotted some writing in pen on the wall near their table: “I listen to Jordan Peterson. Call me!” followed by a phone number. Under that scrawl was another one: “#metoo” with an arrow pointing to Peterson’s name, and another phone number.
This is what happens when the entire world has been switched to safe mode. Think about it: Young people around the globe are rebelling these days by attending lectures by Peterson, a middle-aged university professor who talks about Alexander Solzhenitsyn and tells them to clean their rooms. High school kids have to hide the fact that they read his books and enjoy his podcasts the way the previous generation had to hide their Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks albums.
A quintessentially 2018 domestic scenario comes to mind:
Mom: “Astrid! Are you reading Quillette in there?”
Kid: “No. I swear.”
Kid: “No. I swear, Mom!”
Mom: “You had better not be reading about biological essentialism in the academy again!”
Kid: “I’m not, Mom! I swear. I’m reading Teen Vogue’s guide to anal sex!”
Mom: “Oh thank God! Carry on, sweetie.”
For many people, The Intellectual Dark Web has become the new punk rock—a transformative movement that unifies those on the fringes, those who have been cast out by polite and elite society. The IDW is the cultural movement that is using logic, reason, and freedom of expression to try to switch off the safe mode the world is currently stuck in. I’m very thankful for the work they do and I am confident that, as a result, we will soon be living in more coherent, saner times. I, for one, can’t wait. Call me old fashioned or conservative, but I preferred when being punk rock meant drinking, smoking, yelling, having sex, and shoving safety pins through your nose.