Steroids are another very clear example of this phenomenon, and if anything even more poignant as the hypertrophied muscles are nominally functional, even if pursued by most users for primarily aesthetic reasons. Their availability has distorted concepts of what the ideal male body is, to include a comic book musculature that is simply not available with baseline human biology. Further, while it is meant to signal hypermasculinity, the endocrine damage it does actually degrades one's masculinity in the long run - so again we have the signified being damaged by exaggeration of the signifier.

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As a former health professional I always want to ask “how much responsibility must the medical profession (doctors) take in driving these trends?” So much for ‘do no harm’.

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May 12·edited May 12Liked by Mary Harrington

So here's the problem. Almost no *body* existing in an industrialized society is in its "natural" state; we have all been subject to a huge array of enhancement technologies, surgical and non-surgical. For example, we trim our nails. We cut our hair. We take vitamins, electrolytes, eat fortified food, drink flouridated water. We routinely resort to painkillers. We live way longer than we are "supposed" to for a huge array of reasons. Inside the medical system, we happily line up for skin grafts, vaccines, kidney transplants, tonsil removal, etc. So here's the question: how do you draw the line between "natural and healthy" and "unnatural, modified meat lego" in way which allows me to have a skin graft when burned, kidney transplant if sick, or tonsils out when necessary?

Now, the answer will of course be that the good procedures preserve what you here call our *health* or *organismic function* whereas the bad procedures do not. But the problem is that your opponents are claiming that their health and organismic functioning *is* dependent on the procedures, it's just psychological health in this case. The bit of our organism that resides in our heads. So I think this is the nub of the whole thing: you need to say why this opponent is wrong. Perhaps they are, but this isn't accomplished by any reference to "organismic functioning"; you need to positively argue FOR a particular normative conception of that kind of functioning, one that doesn't catapult us back into our "natural" state in the Stone Age.

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The "trans issue" is only tangentially about men or women or sexuality at all. It about whether reality exists. Is Plato correct that language is a human effort to describe (however imperfectly) an objective real world? (That's what Plato's allegory of the cave is all about.) Or is Foucault correct that language is a vehicle by which we create a shared delusion that functions as reality. (That's what "man and women are social constructions" actually means.)

The amount of degradation of our society since Foucault's academic triumph would lend credence to Plato's model. However even that is a Platonic statement, since in order to measure "degradation", one must agree on the standard that you are measuring it from. If there is no common, shared, objective reality, there can't be any shared standards. It's no longer possible to say that something is "better" than something else. In short, most of the world falls apart. Welcome to postmodernism: a philosophy that deconstructs reality in order to fashion a new one, only to deconstruct that one too. Wash, rinse, repeat... until your society forgets what a woman is. Then you die.

Getting people to understand this is so hard though. My mother (age 76) still believes it's just about being polite to people who don't want to fit into gender stereotypes. And she gets that, because she's a 60's feminist. Whether Amy Schneider (winningest woman in Jeopardy history) has female parts doesn't matter; just be polite and call her a woman. She can't understand that it's about so much more.

BTW: the last line is the best "Desire: the ultimate prison and the ultimate profit centre." Aristotle would agree.

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Ladies - despite what you may believe the majority of men prefer natural breasts even if it means their small. Just because heterosexual men's eye's quickly drift towards large breasts that doesn't mean we want all women to have them. Bigger is not always better and that goes for either sex. Males may joke about desiring big boobs as women do about large penises but the fact is the majority of both prefer what natures provides and not what healthcare can magnify. Sexual attraction is a natural biological function. As such nature (or the creator if that's your belief ) is NOT going to create the average man/woman with something that's not of adequate size. I genuinely believe the pressure women face about larger breasts comes more from a feeling of female competition then anything men are doing or saying. The same goes with make-up, most men will tell you that while the make-up may add to your look when it comes down to it they'd rather see you as nature made you.

The lesson is nature or natural is better.

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Isn't most of this stuff that masquerades as 'progress' just a form of hyper-consumerism? A kind of retail therapy for unhappy people? I've been unable to shake this idea for the last 4 years because it also fits with the weird alliance between the 'leftish' and what we once quaintly called capitalism.

If you are a hyper-consumer, rather than situated within the constraints of your immediate resources (ie your body & its qualities) you're presented with simulacra of consequential decisions. Which products to choose. Meaning flows from consequences, so hyper-consumerism is just pursuit of meaning.

I'm afraid I may have failed to join up these notions effectively here. They're still a work in progress for something I'm trying to write.

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"Transgender is the on-ramp to transhumanism." --Martine Rothblatt

Not sure if it's an exact quote but Rothblatt wrote a book about essentially that.

Orthodox Christianity teaches a lot on escaping being enslaved by the passions, something the hyperpalatability is of course opposed to.

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Once liberated from any external constraint (which mostly comes from tradition), what are we left with? Answer: desire. Without any external check on our "freedom", we ultimately become creatures that simply do whatever their immediate impulses tell them to, which could be constantly changing and are likely to be destructive.

The "end game" – properly, the liminal case, since there's no guarantee we actually get there – is a world of constant, rapid change with no end goal and no direction outside of the impulse of the moment. After striving for so long to master our impulses with pure rationality, we become enslaved to them.

There would be a transitional period, most like, where we hold on to some remnant of traditional morality. This is what things like "empathy" and "equality" amount to: historical holdovers from a time when we took things like tradition and transcendence seriously.

As I said, though, there's no guarantee we actually get there. I have a forthcoming piece entitled "Psychotic Apocalypse" which will address this...

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Best subheading ever

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This was viscerally upsetting. My youngest is adopted from a country with extremely short average height. Our mostly Northern European family are all over 6’ tall, (my daughter is “only 5’10”) his adult height is 5’. I do not know what he would be willing to do to be taller but it certainly stops well short of what you are describing! He was born without a hip socket and endured several complicated surgeries and body casting as a young child to eventually be able to walk, run, and even backpack and rock climb. The surgeries were spectacularly successful and a testament to his pediatric orthopedic surgeon, widely regarded as one of the best in the world to judge from the comments of the ever present string of international surgeons trailing him. To waste truly life enabling skills like that on this madness is a sign of a very decadent society. I hope that the clowns willing to do this to foolish people for money are firmly at the bottom of their profession.

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It's alarming to me as a man just barely over the average make height that we have men who feel they must go thru painful surgery to increase their height and they do this because young/modern women no longer view avg as avg but as below avg. The majority, around %80, want a man who's at least 6ft with a figure income and another 6 measurement I won't mention. These are highly unrealistic expectations that will only lead to you're being single and and alone when you hit 30 and find it has become a lot harder to find male attention. It's not always 30 for all , 30 is more of a warning.

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All capitalism is limbic capitalism, indeed. One could say countless time on the phone and the use of culture generally as attention/dopamine fodder is “junk information” in the same way.....

All of these things are transparently unhealthy to the person as they would normally develop, to see people defend the openly degenerative ones demonstrates morality of any overriding kind is being ignored.

The real force of this amoralism attitude of nonjudgment is of course the market, if people were deterred from indulging profits would not be as high.

As it has been noted, addictive products dull the natural experience and more and more extreme flavours are needed. The war against judgement and taste and flattening reactions to grotesque art and other things is at least 60 years old (Arendt wrote about the decline of judgement) but the origins are clearer than ever

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"It’s easy to shrug and say ‘people should be free to modify themselves’. But assenting to this order isn’t assenting to greater freedom for anyone or anything, except desire: the ultimate prison, and the ultimate profit centre."

I think your conclusion is incredibly important. Freeing desire brings a greater imprisonment.

Reminds me of reading the Pauline letters in the Bible. Feeding "the flesh" - i.e. desire - leads to slavery to the flesh.

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Mary's writing here makes me think about the difference between the medical profession and the technology profession, both which can be characterized as knowledge-intensive work.

Yet one has created a professional monopoly and one has not. That is, to become a physician, one must be accepted (supply artificially capped), subject oneself to certain training, then pass a series of tests. To begin programming, one needs to convince a firm that the six-week coding camp open to the public has provided some form of competency.

One might offer that the difference between the two is the nature of knowledge and how it is applied, perhaps even the nature of consequences? I think a better explanation is provided by a line of research about professions several decades ago (e.g., The Systems of Professions by A. Abbott and Professional Powers by E. Fredison). It is the profession that has the power to work with the legislature that will enact professional boundaries.

The difference I see is that the medical profession is seen as restorative and therefore comforting; the profession of technology is transformative and concerning. So one can "justify" control and barriers, the other cannot.

Where I am going with this is that, if Mary's characterization holds, as the medical profession drifts to transformative practice, we will see a breakdown in the medical professional standards. Specifically, competing journals, certifications, and so forth will be introduced. In two decades, when you seek medical care, you will have to examine which sublicenses are consistent with your own beliefs and goals rather than assume a physician starts with the objective, "do no harm."

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desire: the ultimate prison...

is there a deeper or more necessary piece of wisdom that needs to be shared and taught to the 21st century monads of the market state? a better medicine for the anxious and addled slaves to the algorithm?

imagine teaching this to kids instead of the latest fads from the Foucault cult about "radical liberation". but of course this would be verboten bc it would actually help them think for themselves and not be foot soldiers for the cause, which is the new purpose of all modern education.

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Once again, amazing writing.

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