Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sargon of Akkad vs. Big Lundi - Feminism and Consent

Usually I use this blog sparingly and only to talk about religion and religious arguments or skepticism and pseudoscience but I've just sat through one of the most painfully tedious debates I've ever seen and I feel compelled to talk about it. The debate in question was an informal off the cuff livestream between youtube user Sargon of Akkad and youtube user "Big Lundi". If you want to watch it here, but be warned it's two hours of two people talking past each other and getting nowhere (though to be honest the same can be said of most atheist vs theist debates or debates in general).

I'll start by explaining who I am and what I believe because labeling oneself is very important (apparently) to anything online that might attract Feminists or MRAs or Social Justice Warriors. The whole issue of Feminism has only really become of interest to me since the discovery of Sargon's channel thanks to Armoured Skeptic. Before that I viewed Feminism as a taboo subject not to be discussed because it's one of those words that means different things to different people and tends to just piss everyone off. To a really hardcore radical Feminist I'm sure Feminism means something like "the movement to dismantle the patriarchy and eradicated gender based oppression". 

To many Feminists, however, the dictionary definition is what they use to identify who is and is not a Feminist. And the thing is for a long time I did consider myself a Feminist, or at least Feminist leaning, though I rarely used the word because of the obvious confusion over what it actually means. Ironically I am someone who gladly adopted the word atheist, another label with a ton of working definitions some of which have negative connotations, but was very tentative on using the label Feminist despite fully supporting equality of the sexes.

Once I discovered Sargon's channel and began absorbing his content though I decided that I am DEFINITELY a Feminist. I don't mean that I'm going to start parroting Anita Sarkeesian or dismantle the establishment, I mean that as far as the vanilla dictionary definition is concerned I AM A FEMINIST and I refuse to let fucking crazies on the internet have that word as if they are the one true Feminists using the one true definition.

So I'm a skeptic. I'm an atheist and anti-theist (I was raised Pentecostal Christian). I'm also a Feminist and a Humanist and politically I would probably fall somewhere in the Left-leaning Libertarian camp. I'm also a straight white cis male  but I support gay marriage and equality as well as transgender rights and equality. I support equality across the board.

With all of the labels out of the way I can say that on the vast majority of subjects he talks about I side with Sargon although I think a lot of the time he paints with a broad brush or says things that he knows other people will take out of context or jump all over (which may sometimes be intentional).

This discussion with Big Lundi was painful but in particular I want to focus on the nonsense Lundi spouted about consent, rape/sexual assault and intoxication. According to Lundi if two people are drinking and one is visibly intoxicated while the other is merely a little buzzed, and they both consent to sex the one who is less impaired is now guilty of either sexual assault or rape for not refusing sex. Lundi holds that this is the case even if the person who is more drunk makes the move to try to sleep with the less drunk person.

 Throughout this portion of the debate Lundi continuously conflates - and doesn't grasp the difference between - legal culpability/responsibility, moral responsibility and social responsibility. He seems to think that because it is a dick move to agree to have sex with someone who is way more drunk than you are that this makes it, at the very least, sexual assault. Quite frankly this is retarded.

There is a difference between something being your moral responsibility, social responsibility and legal responsibility. For example, if I father a child it is my legal responsibility to pay some amount to help raise that child, even if no longer in a relationship with the Mother I legally have to pay child support. It might be my social responsibility to raise that child to be a productive member of society. It might be my moral responsibility not to abuse, neglect or otherwise knowingly harm the child. 

These are distinct categories though not mutually exclusive (obviously some things, like murder, theft, rape, etc, are immoral, illegal and socially abhorrent). Obviously paying child support might be seen as fitting all three categories, while raising the child to be a productive member of society might only be a social responsibility.

Sargon does his best to try to get Lundi to see his points both about how drunk people are still held accountable for their decisions/actions and on how Lundi is conflating different forms of responsibility. But here's a hypothetical that I think could elucidate the point further and it's much better than the stupid "my friend goes to play in traffic" one that Lundi trumps up.

Let's say you have two friends, Steve and Dan, who are hanging out drinking at Steve's house. Steve is visibly intoxicated, he's noticeably more drunk than Dan. They're watching football on Steve's big screen TV. Before Dan leaves Steve repeatedly propositions Dan to take his big screen TV home with him and keep it. Dan says no at first but Steve insists, it's a gift freely offered from one person to another. Dan shrugs and decides to take the TV home despite knowing his friend is pretty damn drunk.

Now if Lundi is right than when Steve wakes up the next morning and realizes he gave away his big screen TV Steve can actually ACCUSE DAN OF THEFT and press criminal charges. Dan is now a THIEF, an actual CRIMINAL worthy of being PROSECUTED. Why? Because according to Lundi Dan is "taking advantage" of his friend. Personally, to me, it seems stupid to say that Dan is a criminal for accepting a gift from his friend, drunk or not.

(Keep in mind here that I'm talking about criminal proceedings not civil ones. The question is should Dan be considered a thief and a criminal)

Maybe it is a dick move for Dan to keep the TV, maybe Steve feels so betrayed by the fact that Dan kept the TV that he breaks the friendship off. Maybe Dan is socially ostracized for keeping the TV because Steve tells everyone he knows that Dan is a shitty friend. In other words it is completely possible that Dan has done something immoral and socially irresponsible without doing anything criminal... and that is the point of confusion that Lundi doesn't seem to get. I don't see a reason why Dan has committed a crime or why the law should consider him a thief.

In that same vein I don't think it makes sense that consensual drunk sex where one side is noticeably more drunk makes the person who was less drunk a rapist.

One thing I think Sargon could have done to make his point a little clearer is swap the gender of the people in the example. In the hypothetical it is the man who has had little to drink and the woman who is very drunk and is coming on to him. To Lundi this is apparently rape (or at least sexual assault) and this man should be in prison and labeled a sex offender for not refusing to have sex with an attractive woman who is coming on to him. However if it were the other way around would Lundi really defend this insane stance? 

Let's say there's a woman with a crush on a guy, she's very attracted to him but he always puts her in the "friend zone" when she tries to flirt. They are at a party and he drinks a ton of beers and becomes visibly intoxicated while she only has a few and is thus not nearly as impaired. In his drunk state his inhibitions are lowered and thus he sees her in a new light, he feels bad for all the times he put her in the "friend zone" and decides to give her another chance. He makes the first move on her and she, having feelings for him, goes through with it despite the fact that he is clearly more drunk than she is, she consents to his advances and they have sex.

The next morning, according to Lundi, this man should be able to call the police and have this woman arrested for sexual assault merely for accepting HIS advances.

Now personally for me I think this changes things, because male sexual desires are always seen as filthy, base and vile. Men are animals, dogs, predators, and are supposedly just out there trying to fuck. That is how society portrays male sexuality and for the most part men accept these horrible stereotypes of themselves (call it internalized misandry if you want). 

But this innocent woman in this scenario, this flower, this paragon of beauty and creation, is apparently a rapist just for following her desire to have sex with this man she really likes by accepting his advances... a man who CLEARLY CONSENTED.

If Lundi had his way and men started reporting women who were more drunk than they were as criminals, and started setting up support groups for assaulted men, would Feminists support them? Would Feminists admit that those women are horrible people? Or would they say, "now hey wait a minute, regretting a bad decision the morning after ISN'T RAPE or ASSAULT"? Would they come to their senses?

Now again this isn't to say that this sort of behavior is socially acceptable or moral behavior. Dan taking Steve's TV IS in fact a dick move in the same way that Marsha taking Steve's dick (in my gender swap example) is also a dick move socially speaking - maybe even MORALLY speaking. But it IS NOT A CRIME and should NOT BE A CRIME.

Lundi argues that when you are visibly intoxicated you are NOT ABLE TO CONSENT. This implies that you lose all agency and responsibility for decisions you make at least in cases where that decision involves other people agreeing or disagreeing. But Lundi takes it a step further when he starts talking about indirect responsibility in regards to NON-INTERVENTION. That is to say if you drunk friend says, "I'm gonna go walk in front of a bus" and you don't intervene to prevent their injury you are in some sense responsible for their actions. This to me is ludicrous and Sargon seems equally baffled by it.

Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes

Central to Lundi's idea seems to be a "all that it takes for evil men to triumph is for good men to do nothing" philosophy but the way he sells it it comes off much more like "if you're not part of the solution you are a part of the problem" or even worse a George W Bush Revenge of the Sith style, "if you're not with us you're against us" attitude. If you are not actively trying to prevent bad things from happening to everyone around you at every turn you are automatically responsible in some part for bad things that happen. I don't know how to break this to Lundi but we're not fucking omnipotent or omniscient.

As an example let's say I'm talking to a friend and one he quips "Man I am so sick of this job, I'm gonna fucking kill my boss!"

My natural assumption, unless he looks or sounds unusually deranged and I think he may have truly snapped, is going to be to assume he's being hyperbolic and exaggerating. I'm not going to report him to the authorities just because he said that. Now let's say hypothetically he does kill his boss the next day. Am I really going to sit there and hold myself responsible? Because I failed to fucking predict the future? 

Let's give Lundi the best case scenario and the benefit of the doubt by bringing up a very famous example, the death of Uncle Ben in the many incarnations of Spider-Man. Spider-Man blames himself for the death of his Uncle despite the fact that it wasn't his fault. Spider-Man had a chance to stop the thief but didn't because he was selfish. Now personally I've always felt like what happened was not Spider-Man's fault because there's no way he could predict some two-bit crook with a bag of cash turning into a killer (and the person he killed being his uncle) and that he wrongfully blames himself for the actions of a criminal. 

With that said Spider-Man does have some responsibility that comes with his power but he is not omniscient, there is no way for him to predict the future. In truth Spider-Man is the victim of a tragedy that befalls his Uncle and his family as a whole, the twist of fate being that he could have prevented it IF he had acted but as I've said there's no way he could have known... we should not be blaming the victim. It isn't helpful to say Spider-Man is RESPONSIBLE for Uncle Ben's death in the same way it is wrong to say a woman's short skirt is RESPONSIBLE for her getting sexually assaulted. Hindsight is 20/20, telling a woman that she might have avoided rape if she wore more conservative clothing doesn't fucking help and certainly should never be used to take responsibility away from the actual criminal who committed the crime. 

Another important thing to understand in this whole conversation is FEELINGS of responsibility. As stated above in the example about drunk sex it may very well be a dick thing to do if the woman in our example has sex with the drunk man even if he is the one coming on to her. If he is well and truly impaired we may even say that she is taking advantage of his impairment despite the fact that he has made the first move. 

BUT people can feel varying degrees of guilt, responsibility and/or obligation all without ever actually doing anything wrong. There can be a feeling of guilt without doing anything immoral, illegal or even breaking any social norms. FEELING as though you've done something wrong is not always an indicator of what is actually wrong. 

There can also be a feeling that you were taken advantage of, when that wasn't actually the case.

When Sargon admits that it's a shitty thing to do to have sex with someone who is clearly more drunk than you Lundi reacts as if he's just caught Sargon in a trap as if there's no way Sargon couldn't agree that it should also be illegal since it FEELS WRONG in some way. This is not the case at all. 

In the example I gave of the television Dan might feel great about keeping Steve's TV or he might admittedly feel guilty and give the TV back and apologize and try to stay friends with Steve but regardless of what he feels HE IS STILL NOT A THIEF for accepting a gift from his drunk friend.

The rest of the debate was far less interesting. The first part of the discussion is about the nature of labels and it was during this part I realized Lundi's tactic of being backed into a corner - thinking for a moment - and then twisting words around (or putting words into Sargon's mouth) and then acting as if he'd proved a point.

On the Wage Gap I feel like I disagree with Sargon when he says that implicit biases don't affect business as a whole, Here in the USA Donald Trump is considered a legitimate candidate (but then so was a man named Barack Hussein Obama). I think it's safe to say that there is some implicit bias at least here in the states though I'm sure it varies from region to region (I'm sure its probably worse in the Bible belt for example). However he is absolutely right that there's no way to fix implicit biases other than through arbitrary quotas that do away with meritocracy. The whole notion seems to me similar to thought crime and very difficult to correct for or eliminate.

The aggravating thing is I want to be on the side of women, I am a Feminist and I refuse to give up that label (pry it from my cold dead white straight cis hands!), I absolutely consider myself supportive of the LGBTQ community and racial and ethnic minorities. But radical Feminism and Social Justice Warriors so often cross into new frontiers of stupidity (and sometimes outright hatred) that I sometimes find it hard to believe what I'm hearing/seeing.


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