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Another theory is that Maxim-style retro-sexism is just a self-conscious, deliberately ironic joke. The men are making fun of themselves as much as they are degrading women. Besides, it’s not reality. It’s just a normal urge to flout convention, to have some bawdy fun. It doesn’t mean anything. […] But there is more than irony at work here. Participants in these bits of public theater are somehow simultaneously engaged in both play and not-play. Readers of Maxim may put invisible quotation marks around their leering at women, but they are still leering at women. In fact, the quotation marks constitute an easy escape hatch in the event that anyone ever challenges these men. They can say, not least to themselves, “I’m not a crude ogler or a loser porn addict. I’m a hip ironist. I’m playing a media-savvy game, and therefore I have permission to spend hours looking at women in their underwear.” […]
It is the least privileged parts of society that are often the most sexist, reactionary, and even materialistic. We have a dynamic urban culture that treats women like whores and that regards owning a Mercedes as the highest possible human aspiration, and the leading articulators of progressive opinion have almost nothing to say about it. They can’t seem to bring themselves to admit out loud that their most effective ideological enemies have turned out to be the same underprivileged people they wanted to rescue from exploitation.