So, Rolling Stone magazine have rolled back on Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s University of Virginia gang rape story.
A typical reaction when that story first came out came from CNN Political commentator Sally Kohn: “Stop shaming victims in college rapes”. I quote:
Will Drew and UVA get off easily while Jackie’s life — and other college women like her — is shattered?
If UVA has any sense of moral rightness and wishes to remain a great university, it should conduct a thorough investigation into these and similar allegations and mete out appropriate punishment for the perpetuators [sic].
A more senior colleague might like to take Ms Kohn aside and teach her the proper meaning of two words, “allegations” and “perpetrators”. The spelling correction alone does not put right what is wrong with the way both of them combine in that last sentence.
A typical reaction now that the story has been semi-retracted came from Guardian columnist and Feministing founder Jessica Valenti. “I trust women,” she tweets. She disavows the idea that her choice to trust a person is made on the basis of any assessment of individual trustworthiness; she simply trusts the 50% of the human species who belong to the same group as she does. It is group loyalty. On the same grounds, given that she is white, she might as well say, “I trust white people.”
Kohn, Valenti and their like present themselves as the friends of rape victims. There is such a thing as toxic friendship. Before the retraction of the story, I read this account by Liz Seccuro in Time magazine. Ms Seccuro was raped, at the University of Virginia, at the same Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, thirty years ago in 1984. “Do you believe me?” she asks. The answer to that is yes. A man was convicted and jailed for her rape, though she says that there were others who escaped any punishment. But observe that I had to make it very clear that she really was raped. Because after the Duke University lacrosse team affair and this recent one, “rape at frat house” stories (including that of Jackie as described by Erdely, which will now be entirely dismissed by most even though some of it could still be true) provoke an involuntary twitch of doubt even in observers wishing to remain impartial.
Not that the feminists I’ve read on this story ever had any such wish. They said, very clearly, that unquestioning partiality was exactly what they wanted. “I trust women.” They said, as they have been saying for years now, that even the attempt to judge any rape claim on the evidence was to be a “rape apologist”, as Rachel Sklar was quoted as saying here, or was an instance of “rape denialism”, as Amanda Marcotte tweeted here, adding for good measure that it was equivalent to Holocaust denialism.
It is they who are the rape denialists. Or perhaps “deniers that rape matters” would put it better. If you don’t care whether or not a rape actually occurred, then you don’t care about rape. It is a tautology, and a separate point to the one about the trauma faced by real rape victims who seek justice being intensified by the additional scepticism with which their account will now be met. If you think that the moral force of a claim of rape cannot be diminished by evidence that it is false, then in the same act you believe that it cannot be added to by evidence that it is true.
What to make of this?
Shia LaBeouf: I was raped during performance art project
In an interview with Dazed, the actor says that a woman ‘whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me’ during his silent performance art work #IAMSORRY
My question “what to make of this?” is a real one. There is a whole slew of issues involved in this story, ranging from the double standard surrounding female-on-male rape (or allegations of rape), to the extent to which silence can be taken to be consent (particularly the absence of any appeal to bystanders when they were present), and including issues of fairness to the woman accused of rape and to the spectators implicitly accused of indifference to it, and the propriety of staging such an event “starring” a person whom all sides admit has mental issues, which leads us to the politically-charged question of how far one should question the testimony of one who is or may be mentally incapable . . .
Frustratingly, the Guardian story gives much more detail on LaBeouf’s philosophy of art than on what actually happened. A follow-up story quotes his collaborators in the art project as saying they “put a stop to it” as soon as they became aware of it. No mention is made of force being used; apparently she did stop when told to.
So why didn’t Mr LaBeouf say a word to stop her himself? As far as I can make out his reason was because the point of his performance was that he should sit still and not react. On its own, “I could not object because it would have spoiled my artwork” appears ridiculous. Yet people do sometimes freeze when subjected to sexual assault in a public place; it is a common reaction when women are groped on trains, for instance. Then again, what might the woman say in her own defence if these charges were put to her? Was not the whole point of this famous artwork that Mr LaBeouf consented to being humiliated? What did the spectators think was going on? If, as seems to have been the case, his artistic collaborators held that this was something to which a stop should be put, why was no attempt made to arrest the woman? In general I reject the blanket assumption that a person initiating sexual activity must obtain explicit and ongoing verbal assent before continuing. Such an assumption would only apply to creatures not human; the vast majority of all voluntary sexual intercourse takes place without anything remotely resembling such a procedure. But the vast majority of all sexual intercourse does not take place between strangers in public during performance art.
My bewilderment is genuine. All serious comments are welcome, and I would not be surprised to see serious disagreement among the comments. I do not expect to delete remotely as high a proportion of comments as the Guardian moderators did to the comments to the account in the link, but will not hesitate to delete any of which I disapprove.
So Oxford student Niamh McIntyre writes in the Independent. She says,
The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups. Debating abortion as if its a topic to be mulled over and hypothesised on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue. It may seem harmless for men like Stanley and O’Neil to debate how and if abortion hurts them; it’s clearly harder for people to see that their words and views might hurt women . . . In organizing against this event, I did not stifle free speech. As a student, I asserted that it would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body.
Oxford Students For Life (OSFL) originally planned to hold the debate in Christ Church college. The Oxford magazine Cherwell quotes the Christ Church JCR Treasurer, Will Neaverson, as saying:
“I’m relieved the Censors* have made this decision. It clearly makes the most sense for the safety – both physical and mental – of the students who live and work in Christ Church.
A blog post by OSFL (see link above) indicates that Niamh McIntyre’s pleasure and Tim Neaverson’s relief that debate had been shut down were not spoilt by anyone finding an alternative venue. You can, however, read what Tim Stanley had planned to say had the debate taken place in an article in the Telegraph.
Hat tip: Instapundit and Eugene Volokh.
*The two Christ Church Censors are the equivalent of college deans and only occasionally censors in the other sense.
I could write for an hour on why this is logically unjustifiable, practically unenforceable, systemically corrupting, and morally wrong:
Northern Ireland ban on paying for sex is approved by Stormont assembly.
Then again, why bother? A brick wall is conveniently placed and sticking plasters are cheap.
‘Drunk’ Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol is arrested for tearing full-face veil off a Qatari princess
A senior Belgium [sic] diplomat specialising in protocol [!] has been arrested for tearing off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions.
In the latest example of the difficulties involved in imposing a so-called ‘burka ban’, Jean-Marie Pire did not know the identity of the massively wealthy VIP before attacking her.
She approached him with two other women in broad daylight in central Brussels last week, asking for directions to the famous Grand Place.
The kind of full face veils favoured by some Muslim women are banned in Belgium, just as they are in neighbouring countries including France.
‘I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,’ said Mr Pire. ‘With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.
‘Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!’
The woman, who has not been named, said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.
I assume that any woman wearing the full Islamic garb is either a slave or a fanatic, but it was the diplomat “specialising in protocol” in the tradition of Kira Yoshinaka who first used force. She just asked him for directions. Admittedly, she was breaking the Belgian law against full face veils, but it is an unjust law of which she may not even have been aware. And somehow I don’t think all the British people cheering his vigilante enforcement of that law would be quite so keen on a random Belgian taking it upon themselves to impound some unfortunate British tourist’s car if he were to break, through ignorance or indifference, the Belgian law requiring a red warning triangle and a reflective waistcoat to be carried in a vehicle at all times.
Never apologise for saying what you think. The people whose opinions matter to you either agree with you, or if they do not, they at least understand why you think the things you do… but your enemies will still hate you anyway no matter what you say, so why bother apologising? If you have offended someone, that is not your problem, that is their problem. It is a fairly major mistake to give a damn.
Here is what I think the issue is: ‘Jews’ pretty much run Hollywood. Indisputable. Generally when someone mentions this the subtext is “and this is bad because Jews are the secret reptile masters of the world” (or insert whatever particular strain of the craziness).
But I am pretty sure that is not the point Oldman was making. What I suspect is he was saying that it is actually impossible to mention that fact no matter what. Much like you cannot discuss race and IQ. Or race and crime statistics. Or race and GDP. Or anything that suggests some genders might be better suited to certain jobs. Cannot be done in ‘polite society’. It does not matter what your motivation and ‘subtext’ is, the entire subject is haram.
Now I understand why these topic are haram better than you might think. For example I once wrote this on Samizdata:
[it should be possible to discuss race in a reasonable manner with strangers]. In theory true but the reality is otherwise. I have yet to have a conversation with, well, almost anyone on-line about race which did not segue into a conversation expressing views that are simply race-collectivist (i.e. racist). That should not be the case but that is indeed my experience. Whilst I am willing to admit to the possibility of a discussion of race without racism, the empirical evidence suggest that if I assume anyone who brings up the subject of race is a racist, I will rarely, if ever, be proved wrong. Sure, if I was to find myself chatting academically with a genetic scientist, that may not be the case, but otherwise…
…and I shut down and ban ‘race realists’ on Samizdata’s comment section immediately, because of their habit of turning pretty much *any* discussion into a discussion about race. Utterly tedious. Some topics seem to simply be beyond rational discussion other than with a closed circle of friends.
But the trouble is people like the ADL are not defending their blog the way I do, they are reaching out and shutting down any discussion of “The Jews” (an alarmingly collectivist notion right there, it must be said, as if all Jews were some fungible mass). Heaven knows I can understand why a certain ‘sensitivity’ might have developed, but if Oldman was simply pointing out that people like the ADL treat the world as their blog and their job is to moderate all discussion therein, well he does have a point. And if the ADL dislike me saying that, take a guess how much I care
The other day I wrote a post about the plight of the Bushmen living in the Kalahari desert in Bostwana.
Jaded Voluntaryist commented,
Survival International are a bunch of arseholes who would see brown skinned human beings being prevented from rising out of the mud because it’s just so quaint. I wouldn’t take their word for it. Of course that may not be what’s happening here, but they don’t have a great track record.
They moaned for example when the Saint family (at the cost of several lives) brought Christianity to the Huorani tribe in Ecuador, which helped reduce their murder rate down from somewhere in the 70% region. Hardly anyone lived to old age. No one would deny that not everything the Huorani got from contact with the developed world was good, but only a sociopath would want them to keep living as they were.
I take your point about the patronising attitude of groups like Survival International, although I have also heard that they sometimes do good work on the ground protecting tribal people from state and other violence. As I am sure you agree, if any particular Bushman wants to carry on as his or her ancestors did, good luck to them, and if he or she wants to head to the relatively bright lights of Gabarone and seek their future there, good luck again.
However it looks very strongly as if the Botswanan government has taken away the option for Bushmen to live in their traditional way by the use of a mixture of force (eviction from their ancestral hunting grounds and the hunting ban) and state “help” (the infantilising effects of welfare as pointed out by Mr Kakelebone).
I may write a post someday about the superiority of the attitude of Christian missionaries towards tribal people compared to the attitude of groups like Survival International towards tribal people. My argument would not be based on the fact that I am a Christian, nor on any general assessment of how much or little I admire the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (which might vary widely between different groups). My argument would be that the missionaries wish to persuade some other human beings to believe as they themselves believe, whereas the “protectors” wish to keep them as living museum exhibits. They always remind me of those science fiction stories in which Earth is kept ignorant / keeps other planets ignorant of faster than light travel and so on. My sympathies are nearly always with those who say, “Screw the Prime Directive”.
Then I said,
Come to think of it, screw the “I might write a post someday”. I will cut and paste the above comment as a post right this minute.
…Mark Goddard of Newton Abbot in Devon is not a man afraid to take his medical destiny into his own
Man builds home-made guillotine and chops off hand after doctors refuse to amputate
Mark Goddard has been in constant pain since he was involved in a motorbike crash 16 years ago.
But after an unsuccessful two-year campaign to have his nerve shattered hand surgically removed, he decided to do it himself.
He rigged up a home-made guillotine using an axe with a weight strapped to it, to ensure it would have enough power to amputate his hand.
The first blow sliced though the bone but didn’t sever all the tendons, leaving his hand hanging off a bloodied stump.
He then used a surgeon’s scalpel to cut through the remaining tissues before dropping the remains into a bin, which he later filled with charcoal and set alight – in order to prevent his hand being re-attached.
That was the Express. The Mirror adds some more details:
Dad refused NHS operation builds GUILLOTINE to amputate his own hand – but it still hurts
Mark spent two weeks designing the guillotine and ensured his wife and son were out before he severed his hand.
He tied two tourniquets above his forearm to reduce blood flow and had a first aid kit nearby.
Mark wants a device called a spinal stimulator implanted into his back to ease the nerve pain.
He said he was “reasonably hopeful” his wish would be granted after receiving a more sympathetic hearing from doctors and psychiatrists in the wake of his dramatic protest two weeks ago.
A Devon and Cornwall police spokesman said: “Police received a call from the ambulance service to say a man had cut his hand off.
“We were concerned he might have a knife and be a risk to himself or others.
“Units attended and upon arrival a 44-year-old man had indeed cut his hand off. He was otherwise rational.
While it is not the place of the police to criticise the behaviour of citizens who have remained within the law, it would be a harsh judge who held it against the police spokesman quoted that the placement of his penultimate word did imbue his observations with a slightly ironical tone.
I totally support Mr Goddard’s right to do as he pleases with his own body, sympathise with the suffering that led him to take such a desperate measure, applaud the practical and rational way he went about it, and very much hope that the NHS will be persuaded to take his pain seriously in future, but I am not sure I would recommend his method. Hands up who thinks it was a good idea? (Er, not you, Mark.)
“Those French bastards. Will they never learn?”, asks Joan Smith in the Independent. And answers. By the grace of the State and in the Most Holy Name of Equality, yes! Those bastards will learn. They will be taught a lesson.
There is a bunch of well-known “bastards” in France who are keen on having sex with prostituted women. Don’t take my word for it: that’s how they describe themselves in a declaration insisting on their right to buy sex. The “bastards” (salauds in French) are so cross about a proposed law which would impose fines on men who pay for sex that they’ve decided to out themselves in a monthly magazine. The “manifesto of 343 bastards” has been signed by writers, actors, and commentators who say they have used, or are likely to use, “the services of prostitutes” – and aren’t ashamed of it.
The question of whether anyone (although it’s mostly men) should be able to buy sex is shaping up to become one of the great battles of the 21st century. France’s socialist government intends to follow the example of some Scandinavian countries, which have criminalised “punters”.
If you believe in equality, it’s hard to see why men should be allowed to pay to use women’s bodies, especially against a background of alarming levels of domestic and sexual violence.
To my astonishment the most logical riposte from among the Independent comments to Ms Smith’s last quoted non-sequitur comes from a man blogging from the bottom corner of the political diamond, conservative-socialist authoritarian David A.S. Lindsay. Mr Lindsay says,
Alike in Britain and in France, by all means let it be made a criminal offence for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to buy sex. And, with exactly equal sentencing, for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to sell sex. Are women morally and intellectually equal to men, or not?
So far as I can tell this is not sarcasm; he wants both buyers and sellers of sex criminalised. I differ, but one cannot fault his logic on the “both or neither” point.
Edmund from King Lear gave me the title of this post. It is mostly there because I am incapable of passing up a nifty lit ref. However it does occur to me that there is a way it might be made relevant. Many people will particularly want to cheer the way the salauds proudly snap their nicotine-stained fingers in the faces of their would-be oppressors:
Nous aimons la liberté, la littérature et l’intimité. Et quand l’Etat s’occupe de nos fesses, elles sont toutes les trois en danger.
Aujourd’hui la prostitution, demain la pornographie : qu’interdira-t-on après-demain ?
Hell, I cheered that, and I’ll be in church tomorrow and I had to look up “les fesses” in a French dictionary. (By the way, does “quand l’Etat s’occupe de nos fesses” have the double meaning I think it might have?) But it would really be nice, and principled, and a bloody good strategy for those who do not cheer, for those godly folk and their secular equivalents whose skin crawls at the thought of prostitution, to also stand up for the bastards. Because as the bastards say, “Today prostitution, tomorrow pornography: what will they forbid the day after next?”
Circumcision ruling: European bureaucrats are effectively banning Jewish boys, argues Brendan O’Neill, quoting the Jerusalem Post and unintentionally supported in his argument by the creepy quote from the Council of Europe in which it calls for “debate” and in the same breath announces what the result of said debate is to be. And this was put forward by a German rapporteur. I am not usually one for endless digs at modern Germans for evil done before most of them were born, but, Frau Rupperecht, do you have any idea of what that must look like to some of the Jerusalem Post’s older readers?
And yet – irreversible modification of a child’s body without the child’s consent. Gulp.
And yet again – parents irreversibly modify their children’s bodies by surgery all the time.
We have discussed this several times before, acrimoniously. Any new thoughts? Any constructive reformulations of old thoughts?
I have a question for medically knowledgeable readers. I gather that a far higher proportion – 79% in 2002 – of men in the US are circumcised than in the UK, yet the number uncircumcised is also huge. There must therefore be scope for large scale comparisons of outcomes. Have these been done? Does male circumcision make much difference?
The trashtastic AOL home page instructs me to “Guess why this woman was kicked out of a water park?”
“Because her bottoms were too small,” claimed the staff of the water park, in opposite talk. As commenter rmsaerials put it, “She will never drown.”
The lady concerned, Madelyn Shaeffer, is now suing the water park. She says, “I felt like it was both age and body discrimination and I felt like I could look around me and I could see a handful of other girls half my age, wearing the same size swimming suit and not being singled out and told to put on clothes or leave.” The instant I read the words “suing” and “discrimination” the sympathy I had for Ms Shaeffer evaporated – but I have condensed some of it back by mental effort. Although I support the right of clubs and other private establishments to admit and eject whom they please for good reasons or bad, those reasons ought if possible to be honestly stated in advance and predictably and consistently applied. I can see why Ms Shaeffer is angry that she was ejected on grounds of costume when other women in similar costumes are not ejected. The trouble is, both sides are pretending. Both know but do not say that the actual reason she was ejected was that her artificially enlarged breasts mean that in a bikini, any bikini, she is emitting a loud and continuous sexual signal.
It is a difficult situation for the water park. I stand by my statement that it is desirable that their rules be known and predictable, but nobody can write rules in advance for every situation, which is why it has to come down to the manager’s discretion in the end. I hope Ms Shaeffer loses her suit, but I also hope her entrance fee was refunded. The rule behind the rule against nudity or near nudity is a rule against unignorable sexual signalling. She was doing that, and I think she knows it. When I look at her pose I see someone who is more than ordinarily aware of her appearance. (Truly, the first thing I noticed about her picture was that her stomach was really, really sucked in, to the extent that for a moment I thought it was photoshopped.)
A water park should have the right to position itself in the market as a “family” place where customers are not going to be bombarded with sexual signals. Equally, the water park down the road should have the right to position itself as the place where the hot girls go. The latter ought to have the right not to admit people for not having sexy enough body shapes, whether self-chosen or not. Oddly, this right is often honoured even in our unlibertarian society – the bouncers at many a club will not let ugly or fat people in and nobody sues.
On the last Friday of May, May 31, the Friday coming up, which happens also to be the last day of May, the speaker at my regular Last-Friday-of-the-Month meeting at my home will be Aiden Gregg.
I bumped into Aiden Gregg at another talk we both attended at the Institute of Economic Affairs, and quickly discovered two things about him. He is an academic psychologist, to be more specific: a lecturer at Southampton University. And, he is a straight-down-the-line, uncompromising libertarian. Those two facts alone were enough to get me inviting him to give a talk at my place. Libertarian economists are, if not two a penny, at least quite numerous, hence the existence of such institutions as the Institute of Economic Affairs. But libertarians in other academic specialities are much rarer, and we must, I think, do everything we can to encourage and make much of such people.
Just being a libertarian, and mingling and continuing to mingle with the kind of academics who are just about never libertarians and who in many cases have no idea that such a thing even exists, is itself something of an achievement. Even if you say very little about your libertarianism, and perhaps especially if you say very little, this can have all kinds of consequences. One particular consequence is that knowledge of what academic psychology typically consists of will be drawn into the libertarian movement. They may not learn much about our opinions, but we are far more likely to learn about theirs. As the late Chris Tame used to say, we need our people everywhere. And by that he meant especially everywhere in academia.
So, my attitude to Aiden Gregg is: well done mate, for just being what you are, never mind whatever else you might manage to do for the cause of liberty by actually saying stuff to your academic colleagues, and publishing things.
In that spirit of admiration, I said to Aiden Gregg, just talk about whatever you want to talk about.
Here is the email he sent me in which he said what he will be talking about:
The title of my talk will be “Sax and Violence”. “Sax” is not a typo but a contraction of “sex and “tax”!
In the talk I shall argue that, ethically speaking, the proactive seizure of one’s body and property by others, including for the greater social good, are analogous at an fundamental level.
According, it is either the case that both are generally legitimate, or that neither are generally legitimate, but not the case that one is generally legitimate but the other is not.
In Western cultures, however, the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s property (or income, its monetary representation), for the purposes of enriching some while impoverishing others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is readily accepted by most democratic voters, and is seen not only as permissible, but also as obligatory, or at all events, regrettably necessary.
In contrast, in the same cultures (though not others), the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s body, for the purposes of sexually satisfying some while sexually dissatisfying others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is firmly rejected by most democratic voters, and is seen as not only forbidden, but also as repugnant, and in any case, wholly unnecessary.
If, ethically speaking, it is not the case that one is legitimate but the other is not – and I shall attempt to rebut several key objections – then the acceptance of the first, but the rejection of the second, is an ethical bias stands in need of explanation.
One theoretical approach to accounting for such a bias would be system justification theory, developed by left-liberal thinkers to explain the persistence of social hierarchy, but arguably even better suited to explaining the perceived legitimacy of statist authority.
So, the talk will feature some ethics and some psychology.
So, this will be a talk that is in several ways outside the usual libertarian boxes, both in terms of who is giving it, and what it will be about. Good.
If this or any other of these meetings are of interest to you, and you aren’t already on my email list, get on it by emailing me. Click where it says “Contact”, top left, here.