Milo Yiannopolous seems to have got himself into a spot of bother over remarks about homosexual sex with teenagers. The gist of it – especially if you read his clarification – seems to be that he was ready to take it up the bum at 13 and if it was OK for him then it would probably be OK for others. I suspect – given the little I know about him – that Milo at that age would have been capable of weighing up the pros and cons of such a decision. But not many others.
Milo raises – albeit indirectly – an important question: when does a child become an adult? As it happens, I drafted an attempt at an answer to this some time ago but lacked the guts to publish it. It’s time I did:
As the law stands if a man has sex with a female of 15 years and 364 days he is a scoundrel who should be imprisoned for a very long time. However, if he has sex with a female of 16 years and 0 days that’s just fine and dandy.
Or to put it another way, in the opinion of the law all women undergo the transition from young, innocent child to responsible, rational adult in a split second at exactly the same age.
That’s absurd; but, for the law, hardly uncommon. Similar rules apply to all sorts of aspects of growing up: when you can drive a car, enter into contracts, vote, marry, drink alcohol, leave school, get a job etc. And in each case the state’s answer is some arbitrary, one-size-fits-all number. And often it is a different number: 17 for driving (I am referring to English law here), 18 for drinking, 16 for sex. That can’t be right.
Could there perhaps, be a solution that is – to paraphrase H. L. Mencken – simple, neat and not wrong? The argument for numbers is that you have to draw the line somewhere, meaning: the law has to draw the line somewhere. But why should it be the law drawing the line? Why can’t it be the child? What if when the child comes to the decision that he is old enough to take on the rights and responsibilities of adulthood he just does? Obviously, he would have to tell people but that implies some sort of arrangement not unlike marriage with documents, ceremonies and cooling-off periods. Hardly beyond the wit of man.
I’ve been trying to think up some drawbacks. One might be that a girl’s declaration of adulthood might look awfully like a declaration that she wanted to have sex. And women are a bit coy about that sort of thing. Another might be that some children would decide to become adults at an absurdly young age and then proceed to ruin their lives, perhaps by driving the car into a bunch of passers-by. Or drinking themselves to death. But how likely is that? My personal experience of childhood is that I was perfectly well aware of my unpreparedness for taking on the responsiblities of adulthood. Perhaps we should be more worried about the other end of the age scale. Would some people choose to extend their childhood into their 20s and beyond?
Perhaps one way to look at this is to consider when we might ourselves have felt ready for the transition. In my case I think it was about 14-15. The only issue for me at that age would have been the predatory homosexuals who made up the school’s English Department.
Here are two contrasting articles from the Guardian:
Watching porn in public is not OK. It’s harassment – Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
Pussy Riot celebrate the vagina in lyrical riposte to Trump – Luke Harding
It is no discredit to the Guardian that different writers for the paper have said contradictory things, although none of the dozens of comments I read to Ms Cosslett’s article brought up the the difference between the views of old and new feminists on whether it was liberating or deplorable to shock the public.
Many Libertarian-ish people would say that incompatible preferences across different groups of people regarding what should be seen in public could be solved by property rights and competition. Each shopping mall and bus company could set its own rules, some catering to the puritans, some to the libertines. That would be nice, but until we find the door into Libertopia we must deal with the major regulator of such things being the State.
What do you think? How should people behave here and now? Do the existing laws come first or ten millionth on our list of things to oppose – or should we support them? Is there more of a problem than there used to be, now that people can watch R18 movies on their Kindles on the bus while a twelve year old sits next to them? Or is this just another moral panic that could be solved if people kept their eyes to themselves?
By the way, consider this blog post to be a a venue where, as they say on the cinema screens, “Strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification”.
The first article was by Eve Livingston writing in the Guardian: “The state is an enabler of sexual violence. So what hope for the victims?”
The headline caught my interest, which lasted well into the third paragraph. She wrote,
Violence does not exist solely in the instant that blow meets body, but in the circumstances that facilitate it and the systems which excuse it.
My heart soared. Could it be that Ayn Rand’s argument that all state laws are ultimately enforced at gunpoint had penetrated the pages of the Guardian? For it is certainly true that the state facilitates and excuses its own violence, and I have long thought that this produces a climate of opinion that tends to facilitate and excuse violent acts by anyone.
‘Fraid not. It was just another rehash of the tired old trick of redefining “violence” to mean “anything I don’t like”. Ms Livingston thinks that the government spending less money than she thinks it should on women’s refuges is “violence”. As is the government spending less on anything, or talking in metaphors that might induce unpleasant thoughts.
If economic policy too accurately embodies its violent language of slashing and cutting,
Whatevs, thought I. And nearly missed a rather good point:
…legislation around crime and justice delivers an almost laughable irony. In some cases, the very laws purportedly designed to protect women from violence can, in practice, enable it: the criminalisation of various activities relating to the sale of sex, for example, is universally opposed by sex worker-organising collectives, on the grounds that it limits their ability to work safely – for instance, in groups or designated zones – and without fear of violence from both clients and state agencies.
I was surprised and glad to read this. Until now almost the only voice in the Guardian opposing the fashionable “Nordic model” put forward by an unholy alliance between old style authoritarian conservatives such as Caroline Spelman MP and Gavin Shuker MP (one of whom does and one does not have the abbreviation for “Conservative” written after their name, not that it matters) and new style authoritarian feminists such as Guardian regulars Joan Smith and Catherine Bennett, came from Melissa Gira Grant. Ably though the latter writes, she tends to be discounted because she would actually know. Dear me, we can’t have that.
I really was glad to see that Eve Livingston sees that laws that claim to protect women from violence can have the opposite effect. It is sad that she almost hid her message from me (and not only me judging from the comments) by that silly attempt to stick the label “violence” on something that, even if one believes it to be bad, is not violence. Ironically that same trick is played by the crusading politicians she rightly opposes. Click on the link relating to Gavin Shuker MP above to read the following (emphasis added):
The year-long parliamentary enquiry argues that prostitution should be seen as violence against women and an affront to sexual equality, but sex workers have reacted furiously to the proposals arguing that the criminalisation of clients will push sex work underground, further stigmatise women and put lives at risk.
The second article that surprised me is from the New Statesman. Sarah Ditum writes, “What’s missing from the transgender debate? Any discussion of male violence.”
One of those things that supposedly never happens, happened. Luke Mallaband was convicted of six voyeurism offences after a female student at the University of East Anglia found his phone hidden in the university library’s gender-neutral toilets. The probation report described him as “high risk of posing serious harm to females”.
Here I was simply and honestly surprised that a piece in the New Statesman admitted there was a potential problem at all. I had thought that the whole “transgender bathroom rights” issue was still so new and shiny, like a newly socialist country whose economy has not yet visibly gone to pot, that no one on the Left dared break ranks. But Sarah Ditum did dare, and despite the many poor arguments elsewhere in her article, she saw where Eve Livingston did not the danger in the attempt to use the emotions stirred up by a word as a substitute for argument:
“Inclusion” and “equality” are words with strong positive connotations, and those positive connotations can sometimes smother the problem of competing rights in a warm feel-good fuzz. On 1 December, Parliament debates the report of the Women and Equalities Committee into transgender equality: from reading it, you would have very little idea that the rights of women and the rights claimed by trans people have any points of conflict.
It is not that I have any particular opinion on whether gender neutral public toilets are a Good Thing or a Bad Thing in general. Of course they should be allowed, and of course gender segregated public toilets should be allowed. Libertarianism offers a way out of the contradictions about the “competing rights” of this or that group: respect the right of whoever provides the toilets in a premises to enforce what rules they think best and the right of potential users of the toilets to use those ones or go elsewhere as they think best.
Yesterday something reminded me of the Space Cadets:
The series described itself as the most elaborate hoax perpetrated in television history. The title is a comical reference to the slang phrase, which is used to describe vacuous, gullible fools, untethered to reality (compare airhead). It was not clear if the contestants were aware of the show’s title, although a whiteboard in the ‘barracks’ had “Space Cadettes” [sic] written on it during one of the parties organised in the facility.
A group of twelve contestants (who answered an advert looking for “thrill seekers”) were selected to become the first British televised space tourists, including going to Russia to train as cosmonauts at the “Space Tourist Agency of Russia” (STAR) military base, with the series culminating in a group of four embarking on a five-day space mission in low Earth orbit. The show and space mission contained aspects of Reality TV, including hidden cameras, soundproofed ‘video diary’ rooms and group dormitories.
However, the show was in fact an elaborate practical joke, described by Commissioning Editor Angela Jain as “Candid Camera live in space” and claimed by Channel 4 to have cost roughly £5million. Unknown to the “space cadets”, they were not in Russia at all, but at Bentwaters Parks (formerly RAF Bentwaters, a USAF airfield from 1951 to 1993) in Suffolk staffed by costumed actors, and the “space trip” was entirely fake, complete with a wooden “shuttle” and actor “pilots”. Indeed, during the shooting of Space Cadets, smokers amongst the production crew were given Russian cigarettes to smoke in case any of the cadets discovered the butts. The production crew went so far as to replace lightswitches and electrical outlets in the barracks with Russian standard. In addition, three of the Cadets were actors, included to misdirect any suspicious cadets and to help reinforce the illusion.
At the time I talked about it a great deal, as everybody did, but I could not watch it for more than a few seconds at a time. Too close to home. On discovering that it was a hoax one of the cadets said, “I was planning my speech about achieving my childhood dreams. I’m a little bit broken-hearted.” I was a little bit broken-hearted for her. I, too, had grown up dreaming of space. The cruellest aspect of the show was that it made clear to the world that the cadets had been selected for their credulity and lack of scientific knowledge. Like many of those reading this I would have “failed” that particular test. But let us not put on airs; it is proverbial among scammers that there is good hunting to be had among educated people who think they could never be fooled by anything.
Why am I still thinking about these nine innocents sold a pup when a whole decade has gone by? Millions agree to take jobs and find them not as advertised. Billions agree to take spouses and find them not as advertised. Such is the way of the world. At least the cadets were handsomely paid. Enough, I assume, to head off any lawsuits about breach of contract – and I would imagine that those contracts were written by clever lawyers in the first place. If the cadets had been the type to read every sub-clause in a contract they would not have been chosen to be filmed larking around in a wooden replica spaceship allegedly equipped with gravity generators.
My memory was triggered (not, like, triggered triggered; just triggered) by all the talk now about consent. I am not thinking primarily about sexual consent, although that is relevant, but about the increasing sensitivity around posting any photographs and films of people without their permission. This new sensitivity isn’t just politically correct wailing. Brian Micklethwait of this parish finds it entirely consistent with his libertarian principles to take care to hide the faces of ordinary people he photographs, as he mentions here, even as he points out that the case is different for public figures. The world has changed. The internet never forgets a name. It is getting closer to never forgetting a face. When the cadets signed their contracts that wasn’t so obvious.
The BBC reports:
Bolton transgender councillor comment treated as hate incident
A comment in which a transgender Tory councillor was called “he” by a Labour rival is being treated as a hate incident by police.
Zoe Kirk-Robinson, 35, said Guy Harkin, 69, referred to her twice as a man in a debate at a Bolton Council meeting.
The hate crime ambassador, who transitioned 10 years ago, said the comments on 24 August “hurt a lot” and she reported them to police.
Mr Harkin has apologised. Police said “hate incidents are not tolerated”.
Mr Harkin said: “I inadvertently referred to her as a he during a heated debate.
“As soon as I was made aware of it, I apologised… It is something and nothing.”
A GMP spokeswoman said: “Hate incidents will not be tolerated in Greater Manchester.”
Metro takes the story further:
Councillor refuses to take punishment for calling transgender woman ‘he’ instead of ‘she’
After reporting Cllr Harkin to Greater Manchester Police, officers downgraded it to a ‘hate incident’ rather than a ‘hate crime’ and advised the pair to talk it out through a restorative justice programme.
But the former Labour mayor has refused his punishment, maintaining that his comments were just a ‘slip of the tongue.’
The political affiliations of the parties add spice to this story, don’t you think? When Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced a purely subjective definition of a racist incident following the MacPherson Report, and then in 2006 added new provisions to the Public Order Act 1986 to cover “hatred” based on sexual orientation in the same way that racial hatred had been covered before, I doubt the legislators envisaged the roles of denouncer and denouncee falling this way round. Perhaps, too, they did not envisage that things would go so far that a misspoken word would bring the police to the council chamber. I expect they were quite sure that these laws would never be used against people like them.
With that in mind, it seem positively hilarious that he appears to be unaware of the Streisand Effect!
You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh 😀
Hillary Clinton objectifies women by reducing them to mere body parts:
Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, said that she would win the nomination and unify the party. She gained perhaps her biggest applause of the night for taking on the moderators of this and past Democratic debates.
There had been “not one question about a woman’s right to contraceptive health care”, she said. In spite of attempts in some states to impose limits and “a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, saying women should be punished (for abortions)” it had not been discussed. “It goes to the heart of who we are as women,” she said.
So Secretary Clinton believes that the core of a woman’s identity is decided by her stance regarding contraception or abortion (as if all women had the same stance), or, more limiting yet, decided for her by the stance of her local jurisdiction regarding contraception and abortion. Time was when feminism was about refusing to define women by so-called women’s issues.
While I am on the subject of the decline of feminism, Guardian Clickbait-profiteer Jessica Valenti says in an article for which comments are closed,
I’m tired of having to explain, over and over again, why the tone of the comments under my pieces is indeed sexist
I strongly agree that the Guardian moderators have the right and are right to delete insults and ban those uttering them. When it comes to threats they should contact the police in any case where it appears that the threat might be credible.
But I’ve read many, many Guardian feminist articles and their accompanying comments and observed a few things.
The typical insult thrown at a woman writing online by a male troll is vile by convention. He will either denigrate some aspect of her physical appearance or sexuality, or will call her by the name of a body part. Conventions matter. These insults still hurt because all sides know they are meant to hurt. But looked at objectively, they are meaningless. The things referred to are not actually bad things. I am a woman who writes online and I have had a few such insults. I mentally sent them back to their originators with knobs on, then turned to other matters.
The typical insult thrown at a man writing online by a female troll (the Guardian sub-species of which is usually found writing above the line) is to accuse him of something that, if true, would actually be vile. She will typically call him a “misogynist”, a hater of women. That really is a bad thing to be. Worse still, she might call him a rape-apologist, a rape-enabler, or a would-be rapist. To truly be any of these things is evil. Yet such terms are frequently thrown around very casually at targets who have done no more than act in what the feminst writer sees as a sexist way, behaviour which may even be acknowledged by the writer to be unconscious, or at those who have simply expressed disagreement with her version of feminism.
I’ve had a few of this type of insult too, in the days when I used to comment on the Guardian website using a screen name that did not clearly indicate my gender. They made me far more angry than the body-part type of insult. What did I do to get me called a rape-apologist? I argued that not every claim of rape is true.
“Bring back self-defence classes for women – it’s the feminist thing to do”, writes Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in the Guardian. That’s right, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, more typically to be found writing such gloriously quotable effusions as “Why it’s OK to cry about this election”, is writing kick-ass pieces about kicking ass in the Guardian. This is strange but good.
Sex worker to launch legal challenge against NI prostitution ban
A sex worker is using European human rights legislation to try to overturn a new law in Northern Ireland that makes it illegal to pay for prostitutes.
Dublin-born law graduate Laura Lee is launching an unprecedented legal challenge that could go all the way to Strasbourg, against a human trafficking bill which includes banning the payment for sex among consenting adults.
The region is the only part of the UK where people can be convicted of paying for sex. The law, which was championed by Democratic Unionist peer and Stormont assembly member Lord Morrow, comes into effect on 1 June.
Lee said she will fund the case partly via crowdfunding on social media networks and from sex worker campaign groups across the world.
Lee, an Irish psychology graduate whose range of services include S&M and bondage, said she was also taking the legal challenge to thwart an attempt to introduce a similar law criminalising the consumers of sex in the Irish Republic.
An alliance of radical feminist groups and a number of nuns from Catholic religious orders are lobbying southern Irish political parties to pass a Nordic-style law outlawing the purchase of sex.
I have no stupid puns to make. This legal case is an important challenge to intolerable state intrusion. I wish Ms Lee the best of luck.
Incoming from UK Liberty League, telling me about Liberty League Freedom Forum 2015, which will take place from the evening of Friday March 27th until Sunday March 29th, and tickets for which are now on sale.
Panels and seminars with leading academics, activists and professionals will discuss key areas of contemporary libertarian debate, with sessions for everyone from the new and curious to even the most seasoned liberty-lover.
“Seasoned” liberty-lover. Sounds like I’ll fit in. Again. For I have written about earlier iterations of this event, in 2013 and in 2014. LLFF15 is being pitched at “Pro-Liberty Students and Young Professionals”. But if you are willing to pay a bit more, you can be a “student aged 30+” and still show up. I will pay over-the-odds for my ticket, and I and my camera will both attend, although I’ll be hosting a gathering of my own on the Friday night.
So far, twelve speakers for LLFF15 have been announced. I am personally acquainted with five of them, all excellent. Seven I am now hearing about for the first time. That seems to me like a good mix.
One of the speakers whom I am not acquainted with is Nichi Hodgson, Director of the Ethical Porn Partnership. What exactly do they mean by “ethical”? A glance at that website is quite encouraging. Porn is one thing, but sex slavery is quite another. On the other hand, they talk about “best practice”. Is that just not being part of the slave trade, or does it mean, as it usually does, something more restrictive? Where, in short, are they wanting to draw the line? We shall see. The important thing here is that other kinds of liberty besides the merely “economic” are being flagged up at this gathering. The presence of such a person on the speaker list is a sign that these LLFFs really are about freedom in all its aspects, rather than merely about the sorts of innocuously pious generalities that the majority of political people already feel comfortable talking about (even as they immediately turn to explaining why even these freedoms should routinely be violated). The safe and respectable freedoms cannot be forcefully defended unless you are willing to talk also about the unsafe and disreputable freedoms, because even if you choose not talk about such things, the enemies of freedom will, especially if they twig that you don’t want to.
Via the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), I found this interview with Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, who believes that “Allah does not speak against homosexuality in the Quran”. A transcript can be read by clicking the relevant icon below the screen.
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.