The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Aug. 30 2016 4:28 PM

Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Rape Are the Wrong Response to the Brock Turner Case

Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who was sentenced to six months in prison for raping an unconscious woman, is scheduled to be released for good behavior on Friday, after serving half his allotted jail time. There’s a bit of poetic justice, then, in the fact that California state legislators passed a bill on Monday that would institute a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of penetrating an intoxicated or unconscious person.

The problem is that, while cracking down on rape and rapists is a righteous liberal cause, the effort to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing laws—which helped create this era of mass incarceration—is equally so. Now, California democrats have allowed one mission to pit them against the other—not for the first time in the case of Brock Turner. In June, liberals across the country, appalled by Turner’s lenient sentence, clamored for the impeachment of the judge who imposed it. (Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky ultimately put in for a transfer to civil court earlier this month.) As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote trenchantly at the time, we should fear “the willingness among a certain faction of the American left to jettison progressive principles in a good-hearted but profoundly misguided effort to stop sexual violence.”

Aug. 30 2016 3:32 PM

“How to Talk to a Woman Who Is Wearing Headphones”: The Most Wrong Blog Post Ever?

There are a few more-or-less universal symbols that mean “stop.” A red octagon. A “no trespassing” sign. A flat, vertical palm extended away from someone’s body.

Many people believe that headphones fall into this category: Choosing to cover your ears in public is a clear indication that you do not wish to be bothered. But apparently, some people didn’t get the memo—namely a dating blogger named Dan Bacon, who wrote a post called “How to Talk to a Woman Who Is Wearing Headphones” a few years ago that is now blowing up on Twitter.

The post does not appear to be joke. It does contain categorically incorrect declarations like “if a woman wearing headphones is single and hoping to meet a boyfriend (or even a new lover), she will usually be happy to take off her headphones to give you an opportunity to create a spark with her.” It includes the following advice for breaking down your headphones-wearing prey’s defenses:

Aug. 30 2016 3:31 PM

New York’s Highest Court Redefines What It Means to Be a Parent

The legal definition of a parent long required a mom or dad to have a biological or adoptive tie to a child. Other adults—no matter if they were there at delivery, referred to as mom or dad for years, packed lunches every morning, and kissed boo-boos on an as-needed basis—didn't count. Without paperwork, or shared DNA, they weren’t considered a parent.

Now a new ruling from the New York State Court of Appeals challenges this thinking by expanding the definition of parent to include caretakers who are not related to, or a legal guardian of, a child or children. The old way of defining parents “has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships,” according to the court.

Aug. 30 2016 2:13 PM

Study Shows People Divide Chores by Gender Norms, Even for Gay Couples

If an actual glass ceiling breaks in a couple’s home, which partner sweeps up the shards? According to a new study from Indiana University, most Americans would give that duty to the woman. Study participants who read sample marriage scenarios assigned more chores in general—especially traditionally “feminine” chores like cleaning, cooking, and childcare—to women, even in scenarios that described straight couples where the woman earned more money than the man. Nearly 75 percent of participants thought women in straight couples should be the ones to buy groceries, cook, do laundry, and clean the house; nearly 90 percent thought their male partners should do the auto work and outdoor tasks.

Aug. 29 2016 6:07 PM

The New York Times Reassures Parents That Their Sons’ Penises Are Probably Totally Fine

As Boys Get Fatter, Parents Worry One Body Part Is Too Small.” It’s hard to say whether this New York Times article title violates Facebook’s algorithmic crackdown on “headlines that withhold information required to understand what the content of the article is.” On the one hand, the headline doesn’t explicitly say what the “one body part” is. On the other hand, anyone with even a passing familiarity with common euphemisms can guess what the body part is: the ear.

Just kidding, it’s the penis. “Questions about penis size have become more common over the past decade, as my colleagues and I have all seen more overweight children coming in for physical exams,” writes pediatrician Perri Klass, who offers no statistical evidence to back up her observation. (To be fair, it’s probably not easy to secure funding for longitudinal studies about parents’ penis anxieties.) “I see dissatisfaction with the phallus very regularly,” Dr. Aseem Shukla, a man who has a way with words, tells Klass.

Aug. 29 2016 3:43 PM

A Rape Accusation at Rikers Island’s Women’s Prison, Among the Worst in the Nation for Sexual Abuse


A corrections officer at New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex was indicted Friday of raping a female inmate in November 2015.



Any sex between a guard and an incarcerated person—who cannot legally consent—is rape. The woman the New York Daily News has identified as the victim, Jacqueline Healy, has said that the guard, a 9-year veteran of Rikers named Jose Cosme, forced her into a storage closet out of view of the security cameras. There, she says, he raped her with a blank look on his face, “like he wasn’t there.” Healy told the Daily Newsthat she mailed the shirt she was wearing at the time of the attack to relatives, hoping to preserve the evidence.


Aug. 29 2016 3:26 PM

Anthony Weiner’s Downfall Is a Farce. But It’s Also a Tragedy.

Now that Huma Abedin, soignée aide to Hillary Clinton, is leaving Anthony Weiner following his latest sexting scandal, there is no longer a fig leaf of public justification for prying into his sad compulsions. It is time to give him the privacy he can’t seem to decide if he actually wants.

I’ve felt bad for Weiner since his sexual exhibitionism was first exposed to the world five years ago. Unlike, say, Eliot Spitzer, Weiner broke no laws and betrayed no one but his wife.* There wasn’t even an allegation of hypocrisy, since as a politician Weiner was no puritan. The justification for the scandal lay partly in the fact that he was reckless enough to risk a scandal, which always seemed rather recursive. It never made sense to me that Weiner had to step down while the socially conservative David Vitter, who was linked to a prostitute and rumored to have a diaper fetish, stayed in the Senate. Weiner’s greatest sin wasn’t that he had online sex, but that he was caught red-handed looking ridiculous.


It’s not that Weiner was an otherwise admirable politician brought down by a weird sexual peccadillo. He was an ineffective grandstander with a reputation as a bad boss who was brought down by a weird sexual peccadillo. At Business Insider, Josh Barro aptly described him as the Ted Cruz of the left, a man who annoyed his congressional colleagues with big gestures on issues such as single-payer health care, riling up his base while acting as an impediment to useful legislation. One reason Weiner had to resign from Congress in the wake of his sexting scandal is that he’d alienated too many of his fellow lawmakers, leaving them unprepared to stand by him through the media tempest.

Even jerks, however, don’t deserve the sort of gleeful public shaming visited on Weiner. It was enough to almost—almost—make me root for him when he was running for New York City mayor, simply as a victory for second chances. And then, in the midst of that race, he lost his chance at redemption with yet another sexting scandal. It was excruciating to watch even before the documentary Weiner gave us an intimate look at a man slowly realizing that he’s condemned to be a punch line for the rest of his public life.

It shouldn’t surprise any of us that Weiner, a man with a bottomless need for affirmation, was unable to give up virtual sex in the aftermath of his first epic humiliation, before his attempt at a comeback was fully underway. Think of your worst habit, your most shameful vice. Imagine trying to quit it immediately after losing your job, at a time when your marriage is uncertain and your professional future bleak. Nor should it surprise us that, with his most cherished ambitions thwarted, he’s still trading naughty pictures on the internet. Shame rarely makes people better than they were.

There appears to be some sort of half-conscious masochism at work here: The woman at the center of Weiner’s most recent sexting scandal is reportedly a Donald Trump supporter, and Weiner had to have suspected that she would sell him out. Maybe on some level he missed the public attention, no matter how negative. Maybe he just has an impulse for self-destruction. Either way, the media is all too eager to help.

One slim reed of public justification for this renewed bout of interest in Weiner’s virtual sex life is that his young son was in one of the pictures. Apparently the boy climbed into his bed late at night while he was messaging with the Trump supporter; Weiner sent her a photo in which his erection shows through his underwear while the boy lies next to him. “Daddy sexts while taking care of tot,” announced the cover of the New York Post, which published the picture with the boy’s face pixelated. Online, Weiner is being accused of child abuse. “Man needs help, shouldn't be around kids,” tweeted Luke Russert.

I certainly don’t want to defend what Weiner did: Having your child walk in on you during sex is no crime, but Weiner’s decision to take a picture juxtaposing the boy’s unknowing innocence with his own arousal is disturbing. Still, if this picture is so lewd that it justifies separating a parent and child, perhaps the Post shouldn’t have put it on the cover. As long as the boy was oblivious to what his father was doing, he was unharmed. The picture can only damage him because it was made public, and the only reason it was made public was to put a moralistic gloss on another round of jeering at Weiner.

I don’t begrudge anyone his or her interest in goofy Weiner and his glamorous wife; once you’ve consented to a documentary that’s largely about your marriage, you can’t blame people for wanting to follow new developments. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this story is a tragedy as well as a farce. We’re watching a lonely man undone by his inability to resist the furtive gratifications he finds on the internet, even as people on the internet laugh and laugh.

Correction, Aug. 29, 2016: This post originally misspelled Eliot Spitzer’s first name.

Aug. 29 2016 2:19 PM

The 2016 VMAs Were Great for Pants and Pregnancy

The red carpet at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards was different from those of all the other awards shows in the land. First of all, it was white, making all the stars look like they were strutting into the living room of their grandma’s condo in Naples. It was also trodden upon by an unprecedented number of women in pants.

Aug. 29 2016 1:43 PM

French Towns Continue Harassing Muslim Women Despite Court Ruling Against Burkini Bans

Muslim women sporting burkinis on French beaches faced harassment from law enforcement this weekend, despite a Friday ruling in which the country’s highest court forcefully defended their right to the swimwear. The court called burkini bans—which bar from the beach anyone in the full-body suit favored by some observant Muslim women—“a serious and clearly illegal blow to fundamental freedoms of movement, freedom of conscience, and personal liberty.” But so far, local authorities in Nice have vowed to “continue to fine” anyone caught wearing one, according to the Agence French-Presse.

Aug. 26 2016 5:23 PM

Eco-Friendly Branding Must Be Super Manly to Attract Manly Men, Study Says

Men are more likely to buy eco-friendly products and donate to environmental charities if the branding strokes their fragile masculine egos, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research. A series of seven studies from researchers at universities in the U.S. and China show that people link “greenness” to femininity, making men less likely to engage in behaviors that might support the health of the planet they too must inhabit.

Researchers found that consumers who take sustainability into account when making purchases view themselves as more feminine than those who don’t; outsiders perceive these consumers as more feminine, too. “Building on prior findings that men tend to be more concerned than women with gender identity maintenance, we argue that this green-feminine stereotype may motivate men to avoid green behaviors in order to preserve a macho image,” the authors write.


In one study at a BMW dealership in China, researchers surveyed shoppers about a well-known eco-friendly car with a name that explicitly nodded to sustainability. When they changed the car’s name to “Protection” but kept all other descriptors the same, more men expressed interest in the car. Another study found that men were more likely to donate to a charity called “Fun for Wilderness Rangers,” featuring a logo of a howling wolf, than to a charity called “Friends of Nature” branded with a green tree.

This won’t surprise anyone familiar with the concept of “Prius Repellant” and the insufferable masochists who retrofit their diesel-burning trucks to use gratuitous amounts of fuel, emitting streams of sooty exhaust out of smokestacks. This is called “rolling coal,” and it’s supposed to be some kind of macho political statement against the pussification of America. “To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving [liberals] the finger,” a smokestack seller told Slate in 2014. “You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

The new findings also align with the marketing strategies of companies that make grenade-shaped bath bombs and black-label sunscreen that boasts “TRIPLE DEFENSE” against UV rays. Sandwich bread, throat lozenges, basic hygiene: These are things men associate with women, and they will not buy related products unless the packaging somehow reassures them that they can still be men after making the purchase. Advertisers have long painted certain kinds of diet sodas and smartphones as products for girly princess wimps in an effort to sell men other kinds of diet sodas and smartphones, which are meant for manly destroyer beasts. A successful sustainability campaign might have to have a tire-tread print or tactical grip to get wolf-loving—NOT TREE-LOVING—men on board.