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5 April 2010, 9:00 am 37 Comments

The Lives of Otters: A Conversation with Alex Knepper

This post was submitted by Managing Editor

In the two years we’ve shared as undergrads at American University, this will be the first time I’ve crossed paths with Alex Knepper. The self-described “renegade conservative” writes a column for The Eagle, AU’s independent student newspaper, and in that capacity has been involved in more than his fair share of controversy. His most recent piece, “Dealing with AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade”, has drawn heavy criticism from students who understood it to be trivializing date rape – criticism which quickly escalated from angry letters to the editor to organized protests, acts of vandalism, and threats of bodily harm.

I sit down with Knepper late Sunday afternoon. He seems remarkably well-composed for a college sophomore who’s been at the center of a heated debate on free speech and sexuality that has by now extended beyond campus to local and national media coverage, not to mention the flurry of blog attention from sources as diverse as the Huffington Post and David Horowitz’ News Real, to which Knepper regularly contributes. After chatting briefly about how lousy Randians are in the sack (Knepper begs to differ) and his recent encounter with Christopher Hitchens at a house party hosted by David Frum, I finally figure out how to work my audio recorder and get down to business with the young man who might well be, for the moment, the most notorious homosexual in the District of Columbia.

TNG’s Andrew F: I notice your body guard isn’t with you today.

Alex Knepper: Jesus is my body guard, and he is risen today.

TNG: So how has the past week been? You’re twenty years old, studying political science at American University, and you find yourself quite unexpectedly cast into the middle of what you’ve termed a national media firestorm.

AK: I have the feminists to thank for all of this. If they hadn’t trashed the papers, none of this would have happened. I’ve written columns in the past that have been controversial, usually they receive about 50-60 comments at a time. I figured this would be like anything else, but I underestimated the fury with which feminists would disallow a discussion about rape.

TNG: I think this is important to build some background for our readers: you’ve described yourself elsewhere as a gay intellectual conservative. In a climate in which any two of those terms might seem to be mutually exclusive, what’s it like to live your life?

AK: I don’t so much like the term “conservative” on its own. I describe myself variously as “renegade conservative” or a “classical liberal.” My beliefs in ten seconds are laissez-faire capitalism, a robust foreign policy, social tolerance, anti-religion, pro-sex, and anti-psychiatry.

I think there’s a niche out there for a contrarian in the media that needs to be filled. As far as what’s it like, I think it’s done me more good than harm, reaching out to people, because there is a dearth of voices that are speaking in the same ideological fashion that I am.

TNG: The fact of your homosexuality –which you’ve never concealed — you described yourself on the CBS morning show as an openly gay man – has been conspicuously absent in a lot of the media coverage. The Huffington Post story and ABC news interview come to mind. I’m wondering what you think of this resistance, willful or not, to factor your sexual orientation into the dynamics of the controversy?

AK: The subtext of all of the interviews has been that I’m a douchey fratboy trying to justify his way with women. Half of the interviews that I walk in to, I get the feeling that the media are trying to perform a community service in being the capital-G “Good Guy” and putting this douchey college fratboy in his place.

Mentioning my sexual orientation flips the script. It’s a shame we can’t have a dialogue about this detached from identity, and when women like Camille Paglia or Katie Roiphe or gay men like myself can even halfway get away with talking about this. But that’s the state of identity politics and victim politics right now.

TNG: You’ve talked about, sort of, the Duke Lacrosse phenomenon, situations where it doesn’t so much matter who people are or what they’ve actually done, so much as where they fit in a politically convenient script…

AK: It seems like there are two crimes in this country in which people are considered guilty until proven innocent, and those are rape and child molestation. You see this in the media coverage of any rape case in which the accuser is referred to as “the victim.” It’s an inversion of how the justice system is supposed to operate, and we can’t even talk about this rationally because it’s Judeo-Christian morality that’s locked in sexual behavior as the pinnacle of what constitutes morality.

TNG: Speaking of child molestation and Judeo-Christian morality, happy Easter.

AK: Arrest the pope.

TNG: In your piece on the Frum Forum you write about what you’ve characterized as an “outpouring of support from Middle America,” and that most of the backlash as you’ve experienced it so far has come from a “pampered, middle class, white demographic from the coasts.” I’m wondering what form that’s taken.

AK: It’s kind of knocked some of the elitism out of me. Almost unanimously from racial minorities I’ve received support. Racial minorities are used to living in a world with risks. They’re more used to reading signals when partaking in risky behaviors. These wealthy, upper-class white suburbanites have never had any problems in their lives and have never bothered to read any philosophy, literature, history, or psychology, and so they don’t even have the intellectual background to understand it. So I guess I’m not really surprised in hindsight. But in Middle America, this is still a common sense view. If you’re going to inject yourself into risky behaviors, you need to understand what you’re getting in to before the fact.

TNG: Of course I have to ask, because this is for a gay blog, and both of us like cocks…

AK: I like cocks.

TNG: … because you’ve established this dichotomy of common-sensical Middle America on the one hand and a sort of out-of-touch elite on the other – have any of those supportive Middle Americans engaged the matter of your sexuality and if so, how?

AK: No, most of them don’t care. And this has been something that’s continually irritated me about the left and even some of the elites on the right , their continual conflation of the religious right with the Republican party and Middle America. The religious right is a loud, well-heard minority of the Republican party. Everyone else is completely open and willing to dialogue, and I would even say that most of the religious right, in my experience, is. I have never received as much hatred from the religious right as I have from the gay left.

TNG: On a related note – and by the way, if you keep talking so reasonably about these things, you run the risk of convincing me, so this could be dangerous…


TNG: You’ve talked about what you’ve termed, on campus, the “AU anti-sex brigade” and the two groups at its helm: “feminists” and the people you refer to as the “gay party.” These are terms that mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. What do you mean when you use them?

AK: Victim groups. Self-styled “victims.” People who need mommy government or mommy administration of American University to step in and make them empowered. Truly self-empowered individuals derive that strength from philosophy and from values. This is how it’s been in the entire Western tradition. But they’re ignorant of the Western tradition and so they have no basis on which to judge whether this is an accurate means of empowering one’s self or not. Anyone who’s ever read Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus can attest to the fact that self-empowerment does come from values. But these people don’t even know who Marcus Aurelius is. They know who Jacques Derrida is, they know who Andrea Dworkin is, but they have no idea who the great classical writers are.

TNG: I find it interesting, this sort of intellectual question, if you will. There were something like fifteen words that set off the tinderbox of sexual politics on campus , and then the national conversation, and the other 95 percent of your piece has been neglected by everyone but Amanda Hess at the City Paper. If we could just sort of bracket the “rape question” altogether – let the record show that I’m using quote fingers right now, so as not to seem presumptuous…

AK: (chuckles)

TNG: This is what interested me the most: the claim that, in order to have any fulfilling or meaningful kind of sexual relation there has to be a certain dynamic of submission and domination, of hierarchy and asymmetry. I’m wondering if you could talk about that now, maybe in a way that you couldn’t in the space that the Eagle allots you.

AK: I’m saying that what makes sexual exploration exciting is that exchange of energies, and, as I explained it to Amanda Hess, femininity in sex is not literally about being female. It’s about assuming a role of surrender or submission, and that simply relates to the metaphysical nature of “the female.” And that’s extrapolated from there. If somebody asks me, is it bland to be gay in light of this, well, absolutely not. There’s a lot more wisdom in the old question “which one of you is the girl?” than it gets credit for. Well, which one of you is playing the female role in sex? Who’s taking the dick? That’s the person playing the female role. This isn’t homophobic. This isn’t insulting. It’s hot.

TNG: So there is that element, right, and I think it plays out in the sexual ecosystem of Washington, DC. But I can’t help but think of another perspective, and first I’ll address this question theoretically: What if we worked with a picture of sexuality that involved, rather than, as you’ve put it “two amorphous, genderless blobs, asking if they can place their lips below each other’s nipples” – what if we moved from that toward a robustly homoerotic, egalitarian, and democratic picture of sexuality we get from someone like, for instance, Walt Whitman, who writes in stunningly poetic language about gay sex that is thoroughly and beautifully non-hierarchical, thoroughly and beautifully egalitarian?

AK: … so you’re asking me about a model of sex based on egalitarianism?

TNG: Right, and I think there are important moral and political consequences to be discussed here…

AK: I think we can separate romantic sex from pure sexual exploration, and especially in the context of the column I was talking specifically about anonymous sex. Romantic sex is more emotional, sexual exploration is primarily erotic and physical. I think you have to be able to separate the two. The hotter element is definitely the latter.

No, I don’t think you can separate gender from pure eroticism, it’s impossible. As long as you have a receiver and a giver, you’re dealing with the twin powers of masculinity and femininity. I speak also in the column of fetishism, kinks, masochism, an erotic cross-dressing. These are inherently gendered, because of that. So, when we’re dealing with cross-dressing, for instance, you can’t cross something if it isn’t said to exist. If we take radical feminism to its logical conclusion, there can’t be cross-dressing, and it completely loses its erotic element.

TNG: To begin wrapping up – I appreciate you’re honesty on these questions of sexuality, and I think that if more Republicans were as in tune with and transparent about their kinks as you are, we’d have a more interesting kind of national political conversation…

AK: I don’t see any democrats being up front with their kinks…

TNG: .. Snorkeling? Nancy Pelosi’s heels? Really?

AK: This is the hilarious thing about what the left-wing narrative about gay rights and the place of gay culture within American culture. The Democrats are as bad as the Republicans. Honestly, it’s because they’re beholden to the cultural interests of racial minorities which are overwhelmingly anti-gay. That’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. Black people voted against proposition eight 85 to 15. No one wants to talk about this. The Democrats can’t make a move on this because they’re going to piss off a third of their constituency. It’s terrible, the Democrats really can’t make moves on anything because they have such heterogeneous constituencies, all with clashing interests and linked together only by their sense of victimhood. If they lose that connection, they lose the entire coalition. And that’s why nothing ever gets done, not only for blacks or Hispanics but for gays.

TNG: Speaking of coalitions, the conventional wisdom on the left is that there is, or should be, an alliance between all the people represented by the letters in “LGBTQ” and people who identify as feminists. I’ll hazard a guess that you don’t agree.

AK: No, because it’s all rooted in victimhood. You can’t live a fulfilling life as a gay person qua gay person or just as a human being living in constant victimhood. We can’t have a nation of infants, a nation of whiners, we have to have people that say, “Fuck the government, I don’t need the federal government to validate my existence.” All these people making these marches on Washington and equality pride marches – these are people whose self-esteem is at risk. If the government isn’t validating their marriages or their existences – I support same-sex marriage because I think the federal government shouldn’t be hoarding benefits for heterosexual couples. If it were up to me, the federal government would get out of the marriage question altogether and leave it to the market, or perhaps civil unions for all. I don’t think that the Human Rights Campaign would be satisfied with that.

TNG: You mentioned in your column– and we’ll end here, I promise – the set of intellectuals who have come to inform your views on sexuality. People like Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Summers, and the man you describe as the “divine” Marquis de Sade. In the spirit of unflinching self-analysis that these thinkers represent, and to have something interesting and inflammatory to tack on to the end of the column, would you describe the most intense sexual fantasy you’ve ever had?

AK: (long pause)

To preserve my mother’s sanity I’ll omit this.

TNG: Those don’t sound like the words of a “truly self-empowered individual.”

AK: (chuckles) I love my mom.

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  • SRJ said:

    People who parrot Camille Paglia word-for-word as they espouse her thinly-veiled “Date Rape is Okay and Racism is Okay As Long As You Yell About Empowerment and The Fragile Male Ego While You Support These Two Atrocities” line for their own publicity and profit should be forced to live with her for the rest of their lives.

  • StreetPunk said:

    What a great interview.

  • huh? said:

    Why is it that TNG continues to allow people to make these claims about the racial breakdown of Prop. 8 votes that have since been completely discredited?

  • Bridget said:

    Nice interview as usual.

    “It’s kind of knocked some of the elitism out of me. Almost unanimously from racial minorities I’ve received support. Racial minorities are used to living in a world with risks. They’re more used to reading signals when partaking in risky behaviors.”

    am I the only one slightly bothered by that statement? It’s a little bit “John Mayer-y” for my taste.

  • Alex M said:

    A much more interesting look at Knepper’s ideas–apparently based entirely on a combination of ideas almost exclusively from the 18th century or earlier, and his own contradictory politics (his greatest support comes from racial minorities ‘used to living in a world of risks,’ he says…only to complain later that they are ‘overwhelmingly anti-gay’). Stereotyping racial minorities and defining ‘the metaphysical nature of the female’ in a sentence or two is neither impressive nor is it productive for anybody’s ‘empowerment.’ Thanks for the fresh discussion.

  • Alex (yet another one) said:

    Complains about the “continual conflation of the religious right with the Republican party and Middle America” but characterises contemporary feminism with Dworkin and the eradication of gender? Hmm…

  • Margaret said:

    I feel uncomfortable the way he talked about minorities knowing about risky behavior because then you have to define risky behavior, which can be risky in and of itself. (For instance, is it risky for a woman to be wearing a skirt, tipsy, and flirting?)
    Also, isn’t feminism’s goal just to have women equal to men? I did not think that it meant abolishing genders just abolishing inequalities between the genders.

    Great interview though.

  • g said:

    so the guy has problems with identity politics and victim-status, yet he sets himself up as the victim of feminist attacks, and revels in the language of identity politics – elites, middle america, gay party etc. he privileges the romans over derrida yet doesn’t seem to understand how thoroughly Derrida relied on the greeks and romans for his own work and deconstruction. then he uses phrases like the metaphysical nature of ‘the female’ without ever, for a moment, pausing to consider gender performativity, straight after he’s linked submission and surrender to femininity… these are the phrases and manouevers of professional polemics… who benefits from this talk? who benefits from this endless talk about talk? i don’t know the guy, but the language and the message is a poor effort at an intellectual engagement with the subjects covered… and it doesn’t matter that he sucks cock or not

  • Xenophon said:

    “Also, isn’t feminism’s goal just to have women equal to men? I did not think that it meant abolishing genders just abolishing inequalities between the genders.”

    Maybe in 1925, sure.

  • Betina said:

    Gotta love the vagueness of the concept of an essence to “Western civilisation” and how he can project whatever bullshit that serves his own purposes on that.

  • WomanReporter said:

    This guy needs to shut up. Seriously. He’s so damn pretentious, spewing out all this crap, misquoting statistics, and he’s acting like he’s god’s gift to intellect. He’s a fucking 19-year-old college kid. He’s not radical. He’s not edgy. He’s pathetic. He’s the stereotypical misogynistic queen.
    Perez Hilton would be proud.

  • Bridget said:

    I just got back from crashing my stolen car full of drugs into a whore house, because I’m a racial minority, and you know how we do!

  • Lonny said:

    Right on “g”. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • LT said:

    Ugh, what a repellent little brat. He speaks with such authority on the “metaphysical nature of the female” and the lives of racial minorities, although he is neither. He decries drinking and frat environments, although he has experienced neither. He is quick to blame the victims of rape although he has probably never been raped. So what has this fellow experienced? Well, he namedrops every book he read in his Intro to Philosophy course, as if 18th century theories are still applicable in a world like ours. He hides behind a sterile, over-intellectualized facade and calls proud LGBT people and their allies “people whose self-esteem is at risk.” Ugh. As a “racial minority,” a female, a feminist, a queer, and a college student, I’m deeply and personally offended by everything that comes out of this elitist d-bag’s mouth.

    Alex, if you’re reading this, higher education is supposed to craft young adults into well-rounded citizens. Instead, you’ve holed yourself up in an ivory tower, surrounded by your antiquated books and antiquated notions. I’m always astounded by the authority with which white people speak on “problems” of the “racial minority.” I am just as astounded by the entitlement with which men speak of women and the female body.
    Here’s some food for thought, Alex. Choosing to drink does not mean consenting to sex. Walking into a room with someone does not mean consenting to sex. Wearing “provocative” clothing does not equal consenting to sex. This is not “crying victim,” or being sex-negative. This is basic logic and common decency, something I hope you pick up in one of those classes.

  • tu quoque said:

    My, LT, what a repellent cunt you are.

    Do you really believe that you have to experience something in order to analyze it ethically? By that logic, one must serve in the military or be a victim of military aggression in order to have an opinion on war. Do you want to take that stance?

    Also, do you realize that requiring consent for sex be verbal means that millions of men are raped each day. Do you believe that millions of men are raped each day?

  • small rock said:

    “g” has it right. And can we stop with the antifeminists trying to make Andrea Dworkin the ‘Jesus’ of feminism? That line is getting tired.

  • LT said:

    Tu quoque,

    Alex Knepper is not performing an ethical analysis. No, he wrote a piece in which he tells people that date-rape doesn’t exist. He asserts that women, racial minorities, and the LGBT community are a bunch of whiners who, in pursuing equal rights, simply “the government [to]…validate their existence.” These are not thoughtful opinions on ethical issues. These are boorish, pretentious generalizations from someone who, like his classical philosopher heroes, takes the “I’m a educated white male so this is what’s wrong with you” stance when writing about women, race, and the LGBT community. Knepper dismisses the experiences and struggles of the people he writes about in favor of his own “worldly” knowledge (for example, warping statistics and namedropping Marcus Aurelius). Right. So I’m going to say that yeah, experience does matter. I mean, “by your logic,” I should be able to write an opinion piece about how much I hate haggis and how fake and whiny the Scots are, even though I’ve never had haggis, been to Scotland, or met a Scottish person.

    As to your second paragraph: Really? Where are these “millions of men” who just start banging somebody (or get banged, whatever) without verbally agreeing to it? If such a population exists, than yeah, those men were raped. “By your logic,” if a customer walks into a car salesperson’s office and reads a contract, they’ve purchased a car. Pay up. You were askin’ for it.

    I’ll repeat, Alex, or whoever you are, choosing to drink does not mean consenting to sex. Walking into a room with someone does not mean consenting to sex. Wearing “provocative” clothing does not equal consenting to sex. No means no and yes means yes. Pretty basic stuff.

    Oh yeah, you probably should have called me a n*gger c*nt, would’ve been a little more accurate.

  • tu quoque said:

    “I mean, ‘by your logic,’ I should be able to write an opinion piece about how much I hate haggis and how fake and whiny the Scots are, even though I’ve never had haggis, been to Scotland, or met a Scottish person.”

    Um, no. The first is a value judgement and the second is an empirical statement, both of which require experience and observation. Ethical conclusions require reasoning.

    “Really? Where are these ‘millions of men’ who just start banging somebody (or get banged, whatever) without verbally agreeing to it? If such a population exists, than yeah, those men were raped.”

    Where are these men? Everywhere. Men don’t verbally give consent; their consent is assumed by the situation and their actions due to assumptions about male sexuality. I have never once been asked literally if I wanted to have sex, which feminists claim is required. By that criteria, I’ve been raped by four different men and every man I’ve discussed sexual matters with have all been raped by at least one women. Only women are asked for consent, with men it’s assumed. If feminists applied the rules of consent equally, the result would be that men are in fact raped in far greater numbers than women, which recent surveys are actually showing to be the case.

    “‘By your logic,’ if a customer walks into a car salesperson’s office and reads a contract, they’ve purchased a car. Pay up. You were askin’ for it.”

    Walking in onto a car lot *does* indicate you want to buy a car. Like walking into someone’s bedroom, it’s the first step in a process that has multiple steps. Alex has already stated that saying “no” invalidates someone’s right to have sex with you from that point on. His point is that people indicate their desire for sex in ways that are not verbal and literal. What he’s arguing against is giving women the right to claim rape due to the fact that they didn’t give unambiguous verbal consent when they did give other nonverbal indications that they wanted sex. He’s right to make that argument.

    “No means no and yes means yes. Pretty basic stuff.”

    Most people do not indicate they want sex in simple declarative sentences. Get real.

    “Oh yeah, you probably should have called me a n*gger c*nt, would’ve been a little more accurate.”

    I think you mean “specific,” not accurate. But my experience tells me that your opinion has more to do with you being a cunt rather than a nigger.

  • @tu quoque said:

    you opened your mouth and removed all doubt.

  • tu quoque said:

    You just proved you’re a coward with no actual counter-argument, which is typical for a feminist. Looks like you have some growing up to do.

  • Matthew O said:

    I find this guy’s metaphysical claims about the inherently submissive nature of “femininity” to be interesting…not necessarily because I think that his claims correspond with some objective, timeless, inherent “femininity,” but because it could possibly tell us a lot at least about our culture’s take on femininity, and my take on it.

    And that’s what I’d like to talk about real quick. I don’t know what this says about me (maybe that I am a misogynist pig), but my gut impulse is to find the most satisfaction in sex that does involve some sort of surrender on the part of the “feminine” partner in the act. Now, sometimes I will be the “feminine” partner in the act, and sometimes the girl will be (but to be honest, I suppose that more often I feel inclined to play the role of the “giver,” which brings up the interesting question of why I associate this word “feminine” more with concepts like “surrender” in the first place. Despite my conscious effort to be an egalitarian-minded individual, am I just hopelessly screwed up by hierarchical society?

    I don’t know, maybe I got these odd notions from my dad. I remember him giving me some sort of advice at some point like, “Women deep down really want to surrender. They really get off on that. But they have to know first that you are a person to whom it is safe to surrender, and that you will not take advantage of them. If you can achieve that and keep to that, then you will have the most gloriously intimate sex imaginable.” And my dad is no red-meat, bigoted Republican. He is about the most sensitive, thoughtful, and tolerant dad that I have ever known. I don’t get the sense that he has ever viewed this as implying any non-egalitarian power dynamics, although maybe he (and I) are just blind to it. I don’t know…tricky stuff.

  • LD said:

    All I know is that Knepper (hereafter referred to as the fucktard) can spout all the theory and philosophy he wants, but without practical experience to back it up he is just another pompous overeductated brat.

    Fucktard, if you want to understand more about sexual violence, put down your books and go volunteer at a shelter for abused women/men/children. Volunteer to work a rape hotline. Sit in on some counseling sessions with victims of sexual violence.

    Fucktard, be grateful you are male, as you are much less likely to be harmed physically by someone you are alone in a room with-sober or drunk.

    You probably won’t be hit in both the face and stomach by a man who chose not to hear you say stop. (But I’d been drinking) You won’t have a lifetime to remember the odd disassociation of focusing on the gum stuck on the underside of the table that you were looking at while a man forced his penis inside you. (But I’d been drinking) You won’t get to spend the rest of your life resenting your friends because they thought you were “lucky” that such a hot guy was interested in you. (But I’d been drinking) You won’t have to deal with pretentious young white males who are convinced they know more about a subject than someone who has been through it.

    I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor.

    Fuck you, Andrew Knepper. Fuck you very much.

  • Factory said:

    I followed a link from the original article’s comments section to this interview, and I have to say I’m pleased as hell that I did.

    I’m an MRA. I admit it. I’m also white. And male. And (gasp) STRAIGHT.

    And I think this young man has one hell of a head on his shoulders. I’m happy to see that he has an opportunity to speak openly about controversial issues too. Speaking as a Straight White Male, I can tell you that particular privelege is carefully parsed out.

    I have to wonder, though. When you look at what “plagues the Gay Community”, how much of that is Anti-Gay, and how much of that is Anti-Male-Sexuality?

    Cause I sit on the outside of both “camps” in the LGBT inasmuch as I don’t partake of the cock, but I have one, and am friends with those that do…

    And I see a lot of “Gay” issues (meaning, towards Gay men) that aren’t reflected on the women side at all.

    Could it be that really, as gay men, you are “guilty” both of Homosexuality, but also of being the “wrong” sex?

    There are a couple of openly gay contributors at the-spearhead.com (and one lesbian), but to date, I haven’t seen much analysis of the relations between the two “states”.

    If anyone is interested, I’m 100% positive there is interest in the MRM in these matters. A good article might be quite productive.

    I’m just sayin’.

  • tu quoque said:


    “Fucktard, be grateful you are male, as you are much less likely to be harmed physically by someone you are alone in a room with-sober or drunk.”

    It is impossible for Alex Knepper to claim the title “fucktard” because you are the absolute pinnacle of fucktardation and nobody could ever lay claim to your crown.

    Men experience violence and coercion in greater numbers than women, including coercive intercourse:

    “Several studies have provided gender comparisons in the area of sexual coercion. Muehlenhard and Cook (1988) developed a 51-item questionnaire and compared unwanted sexual activity among 507 male and 486 female college students. Results revealed that 97.5% of women and 93.5% of men experienced unwanted kissing, petting, or intercourse sometime in their lives. More men than women reported unwanted intercourse: 62.7% vs. 46.3%.”


  • William said:

    On serious matters I concur with g and LT, excellently said

    In solidarity with Derridian(and andrew inspired) antics, lets put Knepper in conversation with his own aporia. As a pro-sex (really?) gay among dc gays, he prefers to open his mouth…and alienate most of queer dc (oral sadistic?). As this young writer puts his first shit out there in the middle of a firestorm of media, his mother has more reason to worry about his sanity than her own. Will he become a retentive ass swelled with his own ego made into an even more formidable aporia (look up the etymology), or an expulsive type in an endowed chair of punditry?
    Alex, if only you were that frat boy you played at being in your original column. You could be handing out jungle juice and chasing greek boys in pastures sparsely populated with feminists. I recommend you take a hiatus from writing to research your pro-sex views. Your metaphysics need more grounding, you don’t seem much interested in learning about Kant, and if you had a few more valuable life experiences maybe some existential contemplation could save you.

  • Joe said:


    Tu Quoque: You sort of opened the floodgates to all sorts of criticism when you called LD a repellent cunt.

    Ethical conclusions require reasoning, yes, but I think you would agree that they also require experience. LD’s point is simple: Knepper is a bit inexperienced in life – judging by what I have heard, at least – to be making such bold statements. Now, for the most part, I actually agree with him. Sure, he sounds a bit snotty, but that shouldn’t come to bear on his rationale – which is sound, albeit controversial. But I certainly don’t agree with the way you just handled yourself. If anything, I think YOU have repelled a solid percentage of this article’s readership. Not that you care.

    It’s comically coincidental your name is “Tu Quoque”…I always considered that the weakest form of argument.

    Be a little nicer next time.


  • Jon said:

    I agree he’s a little pretentious. Seems like he goes to intellectual extremes when in reality a more mediated response would be more accurate.

  • Knowledge said:

    “The Democrats are as bad as the Republicans.”

    I agree.

    “Honestly, it’s because they’re beholden to the cultural interests of racial minorities which are overwhelmingly anti-gay”

    I disagree.

    Racial minorities may very well be overwhelmingly anti-gay, and are detracting the Democratic Party from the business of running the government. It is quite a stretch, but I’ll give him that. Then he proceeds to say:

    “The religious right is a loud, well-heard minority of the Republican party. Everyone else is completely open and willing to dialogue, and I would even say that most of the religious right, in my experience, is. I have never received as much hatred from the religious right as I have from the gay left.”

    As a racial minority who doesn’t identify with any major political party, I can say with a great sense of seriousness that if anti-gay minorities were the biggest deterrent to gay marriage and civil equality then why hasn’t the “pro-gay majority” resolved the issue? Oh, that’s right, it’s because this problem scales much deeper than “blacks voted overwhelmingly for prop 8.” I’m not sure what rock Alex has been living under but it’s an issue that’s been talked about in depth among the LGBT community since the votes were counted and among gay blacks, explicitly.

    If Alex would like to know why the “black vote” with regard to Obama and Prop 8 wasn’t discussed more in the media he need not look too far for someone to ask. I’ll answer. It’s because there was NOTHING to discuss. The right didn’t care about the “black vote” until it was used against them, successfully, and aided in an election win that did not benefit the “right wing”.

    What black people did was vote in line with their religious beliefs. Plain and simple. As much as it disappointments and disgusts me that the majority voted in mass to deny another group its rights, it’s not a big media affair because of the obvious reasons.

    Despite that glaring fact Democrats aren’t making a move on this because of a vocal minority who has the backing of a silently religious majority.

    Great interview. This was a great discussion all around. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Knowledge said:

    Eek, what I mean to say in regard to this exchange:

    “Honestly, it’s because they’re beholden to the cultural interests of racial minorities which are overwhelmingly anti-gay”

    I disagree.

    Racial minorities may very well be overwhelmingly anti-gay, and are detracting the Democratic Party from the business of running the government. It is quite a stretch, but I’ll give him that.

    I meant to say that “racial minorities” may appear to be overwhelmingly anti-gay, but that is in no way detracting the Democratic Party from conducting the business of running the government. Do you know what Eisenhower did when he knew he would not gain a consensus regarding the civil rights act? He did it anyway. That’s what I like about free will with regard to political correctness.

    No matter what the people say, there lies a duty to strive to do what is ethical and right.

  • Mike Cifone said:

    A rather horrible interview.

    Don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but I will:

    As far as I can tell, the intellectual content is about zero (perhaps dipping into negative territory with the last question) — but that just proves the piece to be perfectly “New Gay” (irrespective of the fact that it’s perfectly in-line with the Old, whatever these terms are supposed to mean anyway).

    This “interview” was solely concerned with sex, and the “controversy” surrounding Knepper’s attitudes about “victim-hood”. The underlying premise of Knepper’s entire position — the sacrosanct premise of individualism that he and his “classical liberals” cling to — was never called into question, nor was any inquiry made into the works of the “great classics” Knepper held up as supposedly timeless examples of “self-empowerment”.

    The interview perpetuates ideology, both left and right, pure and simple, and as such is intellectually vacuous — I would say, “vapid”.

    Perhaps we could call it a big “joke”: wink, wink … we just want to know your sexual fantasies, for all the cool New Gay-ers out there, and from what untoward depths your views about rape emerge.

    Allowing Knepper to clothe himself in the tired conservative rhetoric of “victims” and “mommy states”, glowing (it is true!) with the intellectual (self-) stamp-of-approval of the “great classics” (notwithstanding that the “great” thinkers of Ancient Greece don’t possess the notion of (radical) individualism that Knepper’s so-called “classical liberals” champion), we find nothing fundamental to Knepper’s point of view criticized by the interviewer. Absolutely no conversation, we could say, could be found. It — much like a lot of what I see going on here and especially in Andrew F.’s writing — is just a great echo chamber, where ideas go to get confused, and finally, to die.

    It follows that here we have an intellectual vacuum into which we might pour our New Gay fantasies: look at us, how socially engaged, how over-the-Rainbow, how re-made, re-newed, hyper-beyond-cool we are.

    Marlowe *could* say it better than Andrew F.

    (Oh, and I love the Viagra Ads. Charming. Quite a “New Gay” message — and certainly provides more substance to the “interview”: the substance of Irony.)

  • Matthew O said:

    Yeah, Fogle’s tone is hip and ironic and doesn’t really engage with some of the fundamental issues, but so what? In an interview format it is impossible to get to doing the work that really needs to be done, such as examining unstated assumptions. In order to interview a person, you kind of have to meet them half way on, for the time being, mutually indulging in their unstated assumptions. When you start questioning their unstated assumptions, then you have a debate or a philosophical interrogation of a person’s worldview, which is fine in its own right, but human egos are fragile things, and it is difficult to get people to willingly submit to such sort of questioning that really hits at the vulnerabilities of their ideas and self-conceptions. And sure, you can always ambush a person, but I would feel that that’s sort of sacrificing basic human realness and decency on the altar of uncovering the “Truth.”

    Oftentimes the alternatives are getting the person to talk and at least reveal their unstated assumptions (even if those are not immediately questioned), or driving the person away and losing out on any window into that person’s thought.

  • Mike Cifone said:

    … I don’t understand: I sacrifice myself on the “altar of Truth” every night, and yet I still get thousands of hits on Voyeurtube? I think “Viagra” and “Progressive” might just cut me a check this month!

    I don’t think you ever heard of the hippest thing of all, though. It’s called “thinking”. And I don’t think you’re aware of some of the coolest lyrics composed about this thing called “thinking”. One lyric goes like this (but somehow I can’t find the link to the actual music):

    “False dilemma
    Black or White,
    Whatever else they say
    Never give ‘em the
    Excluded Middle”

    Experts in poetic lyricism, of course, deny that there is any merit here — perhaps that it died on the infamous “Altar” of which you speak? But, historians now think that this lyric, despite its obvious lyrical inadequacies, can be traced back to Ancient times. In fact, there is a line — I think it was composed by Herodotus? — that claims that the “False Dilemma” has been known since at least 800 B.C. (just after the Greek Dark Ages), but the details have been lost. On this score, researchers (these researchers actually spend time researching historical science) say that a certain fog — or a mist, we cannot be sure — prevents our clear understanding.

    I guess if we surrender ourselves to the altar of Truth (whose doing the axing these days of Thebes?), we might appease the Gods.

    Just a guess.

  • Matthew O said:

    Well, the fallacy is assuming that there is always an excluded middle…but sometimes there is. Some things in the universe are binary. And in my experience, this one is as well.

    I used to be (and heck, probably still am when I don’t check myself) quite disdainful of opposing opinions, quite ready to mercilessly attack their weaknesses at the first opportunity, quite all about winning the battle of rational thought at all costs. But since then I’ve found that what people are usually dealing in is not really rational thought, but more often than not, just ego constructions and rationalizations that they have invested in that they come to be attached to and defend, regardless of whether the original rational merit for the argument is still shown to exist for them (this selective rationalization process can only go on so far, of course, until the contradictions pile up so much that they can’t be rationalized, and they suffer a radical break in their thinking, which, if the issue is weighty enough, is also an emotionally traumatic thing). Now, that’s not to say that such things don’t need to happen. These rationalized defenses of these ego-attached ideas do untold collateral damage to everyone else in society. But a friendly interview is probably not the place to tear someone’s world down.

    And you might say, oh, here I sound all sympathetic for the plight of the bigot being interrogated, but where’s my human compassion for those whom he is lashing out against? I guess I just have this feeling that it is unreasonable to expect the bigot to begin to treat others with human compassion and understanding if others have not first extended the same goodwill towards him.

    “Love love love,” blah blah blah, yeah, I sound like a whiny, sensitive little hippie (insert non-sexually-offensive expletive here), don’t I? Jesus-fucking-Christo…I’ve become a Christian, I guess. When the fuck did THAT happen?! Damn, better fix these misconceptions of mine ASAP before I start to self-identify my ego with them and begin to defend them thoughtlessly without regard to their real merits.

    Although if I were true with myself, I’d admit that everything I’ve written in the last two posts ALREADY really has more to do with me than it has to do with the objective situation that is ostensibly concerned. So take everything I’m saying here with a huge grain of salt. This is partly me thinking out loud and wrestling with my feelings, and less about me having good answers about conducting interviews or dealing with bigots.

  • Mike Cifone said:

    … I honestly don’t know what you’re (really) saying, but I guess that it doesn’t matter that there might actually be no real content here, does it? (Just one damned ego against another?)

    Caught in abstractions, you seem to be on the way to that Altar. Good luck when the blade comes down.

    (By the way, at least bigots have real conviction; it might be grounded in stupidity, but at least it’s grounded. Test for the reader: see if you can find the heart of the argument implied in the previous statement. Hint: it’s not about bigotry.)

    Three cheers for the Great Fog!

  • Matthew O said:

    No, I know that it sounds like I am trying to obfuscate things, and I really am sorry about that. But to demonstrate how much of my input into the discussion is about my own ego, I am going to do something that one might find very shocking in light of the usual expectation that people will defend their positions into which they have invested their egos–and I will recant on my previous position and say that you are right. (Although this is merely a more clever way of salvaging my ego by making a ploy at appearing to be the better man in the debate). Now, perhaps it is an unfounded psychological projection to believe that the discussions of most others function from similar ego-driven principles to a large extent. Perhaps I must recant on that too.

    In any case, let’s say that you are right about how the interview could have been improved. Let’s explore how that could have been done, going off of the pointers you originally gave by noting some of the “sacrosanct” assumptions that were not questioned in the interview.

    We might have learned how Alex Knepper would have responded to questions about whether he took individualism for granted, or about what foundations his sacrosanct individualism was based on. We could have asked him to justify his classical liberalism from first principles, as we are often called on to do in freshman political science classes. We could have asked him why he thought that the classics had any merit, or why they were, in Knepper’s eyes, about self-empowerment.

    As for wanting to know about Alex Knepper’s sexual fantasies or the origins of his views about rape, on the one hand, one could justify this line of reasoning as an interesting investigation of a particular human psychology, and on the other hand, we could criticize such questions as perpetuating a meaningless celebrity-gossip, “human-interest-newsstory”-sort of interest in this stranger’s personal sex habits that won’t really affect us very much compared to the large extent to which his views will affect us. It is a difficult call.

    We could have questioned Alex Knepper about why he felt that a “mommy state” existed, about what constituted a “mommy state,” about why he disliked the allegedly-existent “mommy state.” We could have questioned him about why he felt that the “great classics” are a good counter-argument to this supposedly-existent “mommy state.” We could have asked Alex Knepper about why he thought that the writings of the Ancient Greeks justified his brand of individualism–about what sort of specific arguments the Ancient Greeks made to support Knepper’s brand of individualism.

    I think one could very well conduct such an interview. However, I think it would require an exceptionally patient interviewer and especially an exceptionally patient and forgiving interviewee, as most people being interviewed probably would not submit to such grillings (despite the extent to which one believes that they should for the sake of truth–like I said, when push comes to shove, I predict that they will value the maintenance of their egos over the elucidation of truth, and they will then subsequently walk out of the interview).

    I think this might be a question of the format that is most conducive to the desired goal: a grilling of someone’s dissertation and the mounting of a defense of that dissertation in front of a committee is clearly a better format for elucidating the facts of the case than a casual interview. An interview, by contrast, is undoubtedly better for obtaining material for writing an “infotainment” article.

    Which is exactly what this article is, of course. It is half-informative, half entertainment. Now, I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with that. Sometimes I like reading infotainment. So do many people. Perhaps this is something about our present culture that you find repulsive. Perhaps you would say that this means that we, in other words, like being ignorant. Yeah, perhaps you could say that. Well, okay.

    The conclusion that I have come to in my life is that happiness in life is not about sacrificing my life for truth. That would be, as Max Stirner would say, a normatively-unfounded “idée fixé,” a fixed idea that we do not question because it is a part of our culture to value truth above all else. (That said, our culture is internally contradictory on this—there are many things in culture which convey a contrary message). Anyways, in the end, why does truth matter? Because it is a useful tool for manipulating reality to suit our desires, no? In other words, I need to know the truth about how plants grow so that I can grow corn in order to eat and live and be happy. For this reason, I would demand that my conception of reality be “true enough” to get the job done. But truth is not the end-all-be-all.

    In the end, human happiness lies elsewhere, at least for me. Sometimes, it resides in observing and being titillated by endless human novelty—observing human interactions and screeching with joy in simian fashion. It is unabashedly in this very crude sense, perhaps, that I find the celebrity infotainment about Alex Knepper’s sex life interesting and fun to read about. So what if I am a monkey that is not programmed perfectly for the gathering of truth, but rather one that gets distracted by monkey tribe gossip (which was once quite evolutionarily-important but is now oftentimes not when it is directed towards monkeys that are not really in my tribe, but who I think are in my tribe because of the trickery of modern technology).

    I find it much better (happiness-inducing) to deal with our monkey selves in an understanding and loving way (while giving our monkey selves some tough love and extra guidance when our monkey selves get distracted from truth-seeking that is vitally-important), rather than scolding our monkey selves and making our monkey selves feel guilty because our monkey selves do not live up to the Christian notion of the rational, free-willed, always-truth-seeking being that was created in God’s image.

    So, I guess, I’ve somehow come around to convincing myself to not agree with your positions after all, Mike Cifone.

    This interview suits my purposes just fine. I commend Andrew Fogle on writing a titillating article.

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