Menu

InstagramTwitterYouTubeFacebookSnapchat
Globe Icon
Join and support LGBT+ journalism

Join

and support
LGBT+ journalism

Trans

Leading gay sex researcher claims he was ‘emotionally blackmailed’ over anti-trans essay in defence of JK Rowling

Lily Wakefield August 26, 2020
Sex researcher Dr James Cantor and JK Rowling

Sex researcher Dr James Cantor resigned from both his membership of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, and from the editorial board of the society’s Journal of Sex Research. (James Cantor/ Facebook and Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

A leading Canadian sex researcher has ended his association with a scientific society, claiming he was “emotionally blackmailed” over an anti-trans essay that defended JK Rowling.

James Cantor has ended his 27-year-long membership the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality after he published an essay titled When is a TERF not a TERF?

The essay defended the anti-trans views of JK Rowling, and insisted that describing the Harry Potter author as a “TERF” was part of a “current climate of extremism”.

Intended as a scientific discussion, the essay also promoted Cantor’s own opinions on when trans people should be allowed to transition, and referred to the recognition of trans people’s identities as a “debate”. 

The gay sex researcher, who often uses social media to retweet the anti-trans pressure group LGB Alliance, posted his essay on the society’s listserv (online forum) and prompted a heated email thread between sexuality academics.

Jules Purnell, the trans associate director of sexual violence prevention at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, responded: “The original piece in question was a difficult and frankly irresponsible read — especially in light of the fact that 21 trans people have been murdered in 2020 so far (the vast majority of whom are Black trans women).”

Purnell’s raised specific issues with the essay, criticising “Cantor’s commentary about someone whose body is ‘externally male’ and whose female features are all ‘internal’,” and “the suggestion that trans people under age 12 shouldn’t have access to even social transition”.

They added: “Cantor’s piece makes it seem as though the validity of trans people’s identities is up for debate or determination by people other than trans people themselves… Categorising all trans people who call Rowling a TERF as ‘extremists’ is an irresponsible generalisation, and suggests that trans people are not equipped to be experts on their own experiences of transphobia.”

Jami C Pittman, a clinical psychology PhD candidate at Wayne State University, added: “I would just like to express a great sense of violence that I feel from being exposed to this conversation, particularly the points that rest on invalidating and undermining any person’s claim of, ‘You may not have intended to, but you’re hurting me. Please stop.'”

Cantor said that those criticising his essay had “no argument beyond emotional blackmail”, but shortly afterwards he was temporarily banned by administrators from the online forum.

They did not cite Cantor’s essay as a reason for his suspension from the forum, but rather a “pattern” of bullying and harassing other users, according to The Gananoque Reporter. 

Indiana University psychology professor Zoe Peterson, who is president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, said: “Many members of the board felt that Dr Cantor had demonstrated a pattern of harassment against several other members – even after those other members had repeatedly asked him to stop.

“The board determined that Dr Cantor’s unwillingness to be responsive to other members’ requests to cease his argumentative and harassing posts violated the guidelines of the listserv.”

However, in response to his suspension from the forum, the sex researcher instead decided to resign from both his membership of the society, and from the editorial board of the society’s Journal of Sex Research.

In an open letter of resignation, Cantor wrote: “My 27-year association with SSSS must come to an end.  In the present culture war between science and popular appeal, the SSSS board of directors selected the latter.

“This is not the first time the SSSS board abused their authority to silence science opposing their personal political views, and no valid organisation can be in the name of science in name only.”

 

More: Harry Potter, James Cantor, JK Rowling, Jules Purnell, Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, terf, trans rights

Swipe sideways to view more posts!

Dismiss

Loading ...

Close icon