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.
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.
For every type of crime there are false victims as well true ones, suggestible and forgetful witnesses as well as witnesses whose recall is accurate, scam artists digging for gold as well as honest people bravely speaking out to bring monsters to justice. The existence of cynical liars, fantasists, and well-meaning but tragically mistaken people is part of the human condition and always will be. That is why any half-way civilised society has trials and rules of evidence instead of just declaring people guilty or innocent by category.
Coronation Street star Bill Roache found not guilty of rape and assault, reports the Telegraph.
and in a separate article,
Bill Roache not guilty: high-stakes gamble backfires for CPS
Accusations that the Crown Prosecution Service has indulged in a “celebrity witch-hunt” gather strength as Coronation Street actor found not guilty of all charges
We have a challenger! First it was “No smoke without fire”. Then “We will never know what really happened that night” became the passive-aggressive hint of choice for the modern feminist forced to contemplate a man somehow left unconvicted of rape despite being accused of it.
Now there is a fresh new contender. Diane Roberts!
Does the Heisman Trophy still stand for integrity after Jameis Winston’s win?
Although allegations of the football player committing rape resulted in no charges, we should reconsider who we call a hero.
It is probable that Diane Roberts did not write that standfirst. She definitely wrote this:
Much as we want to think we know Jameis Winston, we don’t. Maybe what happened that night was consensual, just like his lawyer says. Maybe it wasn’t. We don’t know. Nobody knows, except Jameis Winston and that young woman. There will always be a bruise on this glorious season of big scores and big awards, always an asterisk. And in Florida somewhere, there is a woman who’s not famous and who still maintains she was raped.
“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.