A spot of venting (possibly triggering)

Echidne posts a link to a post by Steven Landsburg, a professor who looks at the Steubenville case and asks why rape should be illegal if the victim is unconscious. Assuming there’s no injury—no pregnancy, no physical damage, no STDs—the damage is only emotional. He specifically equates it to people who object to someone else viewing pornography—there’s no physical harm to the would-be censor, so what grounds do they have to make a fuss: “why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits? And if the thought of those benefits makes me shudder, why should my shuddering be accorded any more public policy weight.”
If you think the victim has the right to decide what’s done with her own body, guess again—the idea you have a property right in your body is what’s at issue: “To appeal to a “respect for property rights” solves nothing, since in each case the entire dispute is about what the property rights should be in the first place.” I imagine he’s serious about this: He compares rape to situations in which people try to ban activities that don’t involve their property interests rather than, say, someone holding a party in your house when you’re not there but not causing any damage (so presumably that would be a more clear-cut case than a woman’s right to her body)
I swear to god, even after years of reading rape apologist bullshit, I wouldn’t have expected something this bad. An argument whether rape is acceptable based on cost-benefit analysis is so creepy I’d have dismissed it as a strawman if I hadn’t read the post. As one of the commenters points out, the logical extension of Landbergh’s rape apologist post is that any rape should be evaluated based on cost-benefit standards: Did the attacker suffer worse harm than the benefit the rapists gained?
Just in case anyone’s in doubt, here’s my take: Yes, we do have a right to our own bodies. That includes who we sleep with. And that right is inviolate (obviously not in practice): Someone using your body without your consent or against your consent (i.e., someone you’ve specifically refused to sleep with) is in the wrong, regardless of whether you know about it or not. And decent people actually realize this—they don’t have to figure out the cost-benefit element in rape (Landsburg reminds me of the Christian conservatives who insist that if they didn’t read in the Bible that killing was wrong, they’d never figure it out for themselves).
Landsburg’s choice of the Steubenville case adds creepy on top of creepy. Here was a case where the victim was publicly humiliated by passing around videos of the rape (as Yes Means Yes, says, that was the point), but he’s arguing that she wasn’t really hurt—or more precisely, that her emotional pain isn’t really anyone’s problem but hers (somehow I bet that if anyone ever sodomizes him while he’s passed out, he’ll find perfectly valid arguments that he has been harmed so his case is completely different).
While Landsburg apparently thinks all emotional pain is the same, I’d disagree. The pain of knowing you’ve been assaulted is a different category from disapproving of other people’s behavior (again, most mentally healthy people know this). Arguably if I threaten someone with a gun and don’t use it, it’s only psychic pain but again, different.
And more generally, what are the chances of actually raping someone without causing them harm? Either bragging about it (which does have consequences for the victim), physical damage, etc.? So he’d be talking a fairly narrow range of rapes—as several people said in the comments, it would be worth banning these supposedly harmless rapes just to make it harder to carry out the ones even Landsburg admits are harmful.
Landsburg may think he’s being brilliant in raising challenging, contrarian questions. I … don’t.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

4 responses to “A spot of venting (possibly triggering)

  1. Pingback: A bit more on this morning’s rape apologist | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Bring on the weekend! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: If you support taxing the rich, why don’t you support raping hot women? One idiot’s theory | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Real men rape, professor says | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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