“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?”
Lisa Longstaff is a spokesperson for a group called Women Against Rape. She and and Lisa Avalos, assistant professor of law at the University of Kansas, wrote this article for the Guardian: Michael Le Vell’s acquittal is no reason to give rape defendants anonymity.
If you want to read my views on the anonymity issue, see here. The discussion of that was not what shocked me. This was:
But the prosecution of women for alleged false reports strengthens the myth that women frequently lie about being raped and discourages victims from coming forward. It diverts law enforcement away from thoroughly investigating rape and lets rapists loose on the public. It is not in the public interest, and must be stopped.
The writers literally believe that no woman ever should be prosecuted for making a false report of rape. Not that the decision to prosecute should be weighed carefully, that it should never be made. Effectively that it should be legal to knowingly and maliciously make a false report of rape. This cannot be put down to careless phrasing; as pointed out by commenter snoozeofreason, Ms Longstaff has made the same demand at greater length here.
I was relieved to see the response from Guardian commenters, particularly StVitusGerulaitis and EllisWyatt, but that relief could not overcome my disgust that a law professor could be so utterly indifferent to any notion of justice, or that a representative of a group that claims to want to help real rape victims could lobby in favour of those who are parasitical upon them.
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.
When women tell us men how unhappy they are, our job is to listen, not to try to fix everything. What matters is empathy, not problem solving.
Here is a video that illustrates the principle.
My apologies to all those who saw this about half a year ago, which is often how these things work, and my thanks to 6000, which is where I first encountered it. Says 6000:
If my wife sees this, I’m dead. So let’s keep it between ourselves, ok?
So, commenters, try not to shout.
My main comment is that the still shot that introduces the video, and the title of the video, both give the game away. But maybe they have to, to get the video noticed.
The Guardian wished to host a debate on the question ‘Is there a gay gene?’
In the spirit of modern scientific enquiry, the experts to whom the newspaper turned in order to examine this question were Julie Bindel, a freelance journalist and political activist, and Paul Burston a journalist and author of the novel The Gay Divorcee.
I have little knowledge and no very strong opinion on the question. We will find out one day and I suspect the answer will be complex. No strong opinion, but I was gripped by their debate. Not because of their insights into genetics, obviously. Their examination of their own memories and feelings as gay people, though unable to provide an answer to the question of whether there is a gene for homsexuality, did at least provide two “survey responses”, so to speak, to the broad question of whether homosexuality is inborn or acquired, a question which might well be partly answerable by self examination by homosexuals. Correction, one survey response. Julie Bindel just said that people cannot remember being babies. I did not see the relevance of this.
She also seemed to resent any attempt to have the question she was there to debate researched by anyone who might actually be able to answer it, judging by the scare quotes she put around “cause” and “condition” in the second paragraph of her article. (‘And despite the obsession of some scientists to find a “cause” for our “condition”…‘) She felt all that was her gig, I suppose.
No, what really fascinated me about this debate was the the assumption shared by both that the way to determine what is true is to decide which hypothesis best advances their political goals. Even that was interpreted in a narrow, tactical sense, and in a shape determined by their opponents. Bindel writes,
So when people say “If being gay was a choice then why would we choose to live a life where oppression, violence and discrimination are inevitabilities?”, I say to them so is being a feminist in countries where sexism exists, but they still exist and persevere. It is about wanting to be part of creating a better world.
Some gay people might feel that finding a gay gene might diminish prevalent homophobia, but this is naive. Racism has not diminished because we know that blackness or whiteness is genetic.
What concerns me is that, all too often, people who claim that homosexuality is a choice are the same people who stand in the way of lesbian and gay equality. If it’s a choice, they argue, then we only have ourselves to blame.
Proof by Aspiration. Disproof by Bad Company. Ms Bindel and Mr Burston may oppose each other, but both have understood the spirit of the age.
Should the word “rape” in the American term “statutory rape” be replaced with some other word?
I would argue in favour of replacement that it diminishes the perceived magnitude of the crime of rape in the ordinary sense (“rape rape” to use Whoopi Goldberg’s term, or “legitimate rape” to use Todd Akin’s) to use the same word for those cases of statutory rape where consent was present, or arguably present. It also makes calm discussion and clear thinking about the complex issue of consent much harder.
Incidentally, I think that most of the criticism that both Goldberg and Akin got for using the terms they did was unjust. They both deserved criticism for making public pronouncements about subjects of which they knew next to nothing. Goldberg apparently did not know that Polanski’s crime was indeed a particularly vile coercive rape of a minor. I suspect that she assumed that talented people from her own social milieu did not do that sort of thing. Akin had the silly belief that women’s bodies have the power to prevent conception by an act of will. However I do not think for a moment that when he said “legitimate” rape he meant that there were circumstances where rape should be permitted, and I do not think that those howling for his head really believe he meant that either. He just used the wrong word. He should have said “coercive rape” – but the very fact that people need to hunt around for a term that gets that across, and get into trouble when they get it wrong, is why I think the term of law should be renamed.
I am not arguing against the existence of such laws, although no doubt many of them could do with adjustment. I am told the term does not exist in English or Scottish law but it has certainly soaked into British public discourse, muddying the waters.
From an auctioneers’ website:
lot no 305
A silver rectangular medallion, London 1977, applied with ‘WE FIX’D IT FOR JIM’ and ‘NATIONAL VALA 1977′, 4.2cm high, with a suspension loop, on a belcher link chain, the ring catch stamped ‘STER’
The National Viewers’ And Listeners’ Association (National VALA) was founded by Mary Whitehouse, CBE (1910-2001) in 1965.
Provenance: From the estate of Sir Jimmy Savile. OBE, KCSG, LLD (1926-2011)
It would be ridiculous to attempt to extract some moral from the existence of a medallion apparently issued by the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, 1970s campaigners against obscenity, particularly obscenity on the BBC, and the late Jimmy Savile, 1970s BBC DJ and TV host, now alleged (credibly alleged, despite the inevitable swarm of bandwagoneers) to have been a sexual predator with no regard for gender, age, vulnerability or consent. Any competent hack could whip up two think-pieces with mutually exclusive morals in one hour flat and bank his cheques from the Mail and the Guardian in the morning.
It was just an odd thing I found on the internet.
Just to add to the oddity, the auction was held in Saviles Hall. It is no longer possible to Google for the origin of that name.
The medallion went for £220, somewhat below the estimate. Wonder what it’s worth now?
Yes, I think I am avoiding talking about the Savile case. You can remedy that below. The case, as opposed to the medallion, throws up so many questions and points for discussion that I was hard put to keep the number of categories for this post under half a dozen. Please bear the laws of libel in mind if referring to living persons.
What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool.
- Peggy Noonan.
My own prediction: Obama’s finished.
David Cameron, who clearly does not have enough to do, has pledged to consult on campaigners’ proposals to force internet service providers to block porn by default. I am against the proposals because of the force. I also agree with Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group that non-porn will get blocked by mistake. There will likely be other technical problems. And it will make the perceived problem it is trying to solve worse because parents will have a false sense of security while savvy children figure out how to work around the filters. And I am not convinced that porn harms children.
But mostly I want the government to stop messing with my internet.
Stanley Fish is rightly getting a lot of heat in the internet for his brazen assertion that it is okay to adopt double standards in terms of the kind of language used to describe women so long as the person using such terms holds the “right” views and is, in some more general sense, on the side of the intellectual “good guys”.
David Henderson, over at EconBlog, has what I think is the most devastating take-down of this character, all the more devastating for doing so in measured tones. The associated comment thread is well worth reading also.
“Might is right”. For heaven’s sake.
I have pretty much ignored the Weiner Dong flap as I am not much fussed about how the man gets laid. Whether he is true to his wife, a kinky netizen or as much a womanizer as some of my musician friends of old does not much matter to me. His political stands would be equally obnoxious to me whether he be Saint Weiner or an alley cat guitarist. However, I could not pass up this brilliant little bit of poetic license from the always humorous Iowahawk which Taylor Dinerman pointed out to me.
`My name is Weinermandius, Dong of Dongs:
Look on my junk, ye mighty, and despair!’
As oft saith Glenn Reynolds, “Read the whole thing.”