Rochester University Professor Trivializes Rape of Unconscious People

***Trigger Warning for Rape Apology***

I just read a rather horrifying post. Every time someone claims there is no such thing as rape apologia, I read a post like this. This one is by Steven Landsburg, a professor of economics at the University of Rochester. Say what? Say yes.

Here are three dilemmas about public policy:

Question 1:

Farnsworth McCrankypants just hates the idea that someone, somewhere might be looking at pornography. It’s not that he thinks porn causes bad behavior; it’s just the idea of other people’s viewing habits that causes him deep psychic distress. Ought Farnsworth’s preferences be weighed in the balance when we make public policy? In other words, is the psychic harm to Farnsworth an argument for discouraging pornography through, say, taxation or regulation?

Question 2:

Granola McMustardseed just hates the idea that someone, somewhere might be altering the natural state of a wilderness area. It’s not that Granola ever plans to visit that area or to derive any other direct benefits from it; it’s just the idea of wilderness desecration that causes her deep psychic distress. Ought Granola’s preferences be weighed in the balance when we make public policy? In other words, is the psychic harm to Granola an argument for discouraging, say, oil drilling in Alaska, either through taxes or regulation?

Question 3:

Let’s suppose that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is raped while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm — no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission. (Note: The Steubenville rape victim, according to all the accounts I’ve read, was not even aware that she’d been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later.) Despite the lack of physical damage, we are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought of being treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result. Ought the law discourage such acts of rape? Should they be illegal?

Say what? Where the heck did that last example come from? Two of these things are alike . . . and one is completely different. And did he just really honestly ask if rape should be illegal?

Meta Question

If your answers to questions 1, 2 and 3 were not all identical, what is the key difference among them?

Is this question supposed to be hard? Did he seriously have to ask the difference between someone wanting the government to control other people’s physical property on the one hand (computers and land), and wanting the law to protect your own body from being non-consensually assaulted on the other hand? There is a world of difference between saying “I don’t want other people to watch porn” and saying “I don’t want other people to rape me” on the other hand. Did I say a world of difference? I meant a universe of difference.

Let’s give Steve the benefit of the doubt and assume his question was rhetorical. Right? I just set up the scenario and asked what the difference is so that he can then come out and hammer home on that difference. I mean, surely that must be what’s going on.

Some Thoughts

A. I have a strong visceral sense that Bob McCrankypants’s issues are his own and ought not impinge on public policy. This makes it incumbent on me to think about where I draw the line — why should one sort of harm (e.g. a punch in the nose) be legally actionable and another (e.g. psychic distess over someone else’s reading habits) not be? I’ve mused on this before (e.g. in the final chapter of More Sex is Safer Sex), but I think I’ve failed to draw a compelling bright line. That said, some clearly relevant issues are:

  1. We have only Bob’s word for the magnitude of his distress.
  2. We don’t want to encourage others to dredge up their own feelings of psychic harm, which might have lain safely buried in their unconsciousness until they noticed that conscious expressions of such feelings tend to get rewarded.

I’m sorry, what? There’s several universes of difference between the harm someone suffers from being punched in the nose and the harm someone suffers from being upset that someone across the bus is reading Harry Potter. And his points one and two, really? Seriously? He sounds almost like the people who have argued that child sexual molestation only hurts kids if they’re told when they grow up that they’re supposed to have been harmed by it. And I don’t think that’s the kind of company he wants to be keeping.

B. It seems crystal clear to me that there is no substantive difference between Bob and Granola. If Granola plans to hike the Alaskan wilderness, and if those plans are likely to be disrupted by oil drilling, that’s a legitimate reason to discourage oil drilling (though of course there might be countervailing reasons to encourage it). But as long as she’s sitting in her own living room fuming about other people’s drilling habits, even as Bob sits in his living room fuming about other people’s viewing habits, I see no reason why her fumes should get more public policy weight than his.

I’d argue that there is a difference here—if we screw over our country environmentally, we and future generations will be harmed in very real ways. Now of course, the guy wanting people to stop watching porn probably thinks that if we allow porn future generations will be similarly harmed. But only one of those two arguments has real evidence on its side. But really, this isn’t the point of this article, and is just a nitpick.

C. I’m having trouble articulating any good reason why Question 3 is substantially different from Questions 1 and 2. As long as I’m safely unconsious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, 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 than Bob’s or Granola’s? We’re still talking about strictly psychic harm, right?

Someone make this nightmare stop.

“Reap the benefits”? “Reap the benefits”? I’m starting to hyperventilate over here. My body is not a benefit for someone else to reap. Look, if Landburg’s logic were correct here, then it would only make sense, from an economic standpoint (he is an economics professor, remember), for the freshman guys of ABC Hall at XYZ University to roofie the freshman girls each night and rape them while they’re unconscious. The boys reap the benefits an the gals are shielded from the costs of the assault, amirite?

If this is what economics professors like to spend their spare time thinking about, I don’t think I like economists anymore.

Are ideas like bodily autonomy and consent really that hard to grasp?

D. It is, I think, a red herring to say that there’s something peculiarly sacred about the boundaries of our bodies. Every time someone on my street turns on a porch light, trillions of photons penetrate my body. They cause me no physical harm and therefore the law does nothing to restrain them. Even if those trillions of tiny penetrations caused me deep psychic distress, the law would continue to ignore them, and I think there’s a case for that (it’s the same as the case for ignoring Bob McCrankypants’s porn aversion). So for the issues we’re discussing here, bodily penetration does not seem to be in some sort of special protected category.

No. Freaking. Way.

Is Steve seriously comparing someone turning on a light and that light shining on another person with someone being raped by another person? And somehow the fact that we don’t regulate who can turn on and off lights means that a person’s ability to control their own body is somehow moot? That makes no sense at all. Or does Steve advocate for getting rid of the laws that make beating someone up a crime? Clearly not, since he already distinguished between rape while conscious and rape while unconscious (just writing that makes me feel sick to my stomach).

Also, this bears repeating: “bodily penetration does not seem to be in some sort of special category.” Yes, he actually wrote that. I don’t think I really need to explain this, but yes, bodily penetration is in a special category, because it entails violating someone’s bodily autonomy. And while Steve may not see a difference between someone’s porch light lighting up his silhouette and being raped, I actually see a huge amount of difference.

E. One could of course raise a variety of practical issues. If we legalize the rape of unconscious people, we will create an incentive to render people unconscious. If you answered Question 3 differently than you answered Questions 1 and 2, was it because of this sort of thing? Or do you see some more fundamental difference among the three cases?

If we legalize the rape of unconscious people . . . if we legalize the rape of unconscious people . . . did I really just read those words?!?

Also, yes Steve, I do see a fundamental difference among those three cases, and the fact that you don’t appear to see one makes me wonder how in the world you got tenure at a research university.

F. Followup question: If your answer depends on the (perfectly plausible) assertion that the trauma from learning you’ve been raped is of a different order of magnitude from the trauma suffered by Bob and Granola, would you be willing to legalize the rape of the unconscious in cases where the perpetrators take precautions to ensure the victim never learns about it?

What the hell is wrong with this guy?

Also, in case you’ve been wondering what it looks like, this is rape culture! This suggestion that if you can rape someone while they’re unconscious and make sure they never know, that should be legal! And he works at a university! I don’t think I need to point out that universities have long had serious rape problems, and that perpetrators often use things like alcohol and drugs to render their victims unable to resist or even unconscious. Is it just me or is posting something like this horribly irresponsible?

Edited to add: Some commenters have suggested that Question 3, unlike Questions 1 and 2, involves a violation of property rights. This seems entirely wrong to me; in each case, there is a disputed property right — a dispute over who controls my computer, a dispute over who controls the wilderness, a dispute about who controls my body. 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.

Oh my word.

First of all, I don’t put my body in the same category as property. My right to my own body isn’t a property right. It’s more fundamental than that. There’s a huge difference between someone doing harm to my bike or my patio furniture and someone assaulting my body.

But that’s not actually the problem with this little addendum. This is not actually parallel. Let’s have a look:

  • Farnsworth wants to control other people’s computers so that they don’t watch porn.
  • Granola wants to control other people’s land so that they can’t alter wilderness areas.
  • An unnamed woman wants to keep other people from raping her own body while unconscious.

There’s a big difference between wanting to control your own property and wanting control someone else’s property, and there’s an even bigger difference between wanting to have control and autonomy over your own body and wanting to tell other people what they can and cannot do with their own things on their own time.

I repeat: How in the world is this guy a tenured economics professor? This is without a doubt the worst piece of rape apology I have read in a very long time. This man is suggesting that we should think about decriminalizing what happened at Steubenville, seriously and honestly make an argument that as long as a woman is blacked out when she’s raped, there’s no harm done. And he seems almost to wonder why women are so uptight about wanting to be able to control their own bodies. Oh, I don’t know, maybe the fact that two centuries ago our bodies were property and half a century ago it was legal for us to be raped by our husbands, yes, while being conscious might, you know, have a little something to do with it. Also, the fact that not only is my body mine in the way that no piece of property I own is, but in actuality my body is me.

Somehow I think Steve thinks he’s just having a jolly little thought experiment. He doesn’t have the visceral reaction to contemplating legalizing the rape of unconscious people experienced by myself or other women, some of whom have been raped and essentially all of whom have had moments when we’ve wondered if we’re going to be raped. He thinks he’s grappling with these fascinating questions, but in reality he’s asking whether it should be legal for me to be raped. He may think he’s just having an abstract conversation, and dealing in hypotheticals, but his lack of ability to see the difference between me wanting to be able to control my own body and someone wanting to control someone else’s ability to look at porn, combined with his utter disregard of the idea that bodily autonomy might be, you know, important, is gobsmacking.

And do you know what? I just looked him up, and Steven Landsburg isn’t just a tenured economics professor and published academic. He’s also written for, or is currently writing for, Slate, Forbes, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Oh, and in 2007 he was awarded professor of the year by his university. (I’m guessing he didn’t get that award for his work on rape prevention.) Oh, and would you look at that. People are now pressuring Rochester University to fire him. I wonder why. /sarcasm

The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
Fifty Shades of Evangelical Justifications for Patriarchy
Fifty Shades of Disagreement: Evangelicals and Feminists on Fifty Shades of Grey
Why Does Lily Work Two Jobs while Carl is Unemployed?
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • RaeBrownie

    This is horrifying. Deeply horrifying.

  • M

    I’m appalled. I hope this guy is fired, I really do. My life is not a thought experiment.

  • KaliYugaz

    His views are simple to understand if you understand the philosophical paradigm in which he operates. This guy is a tenured economics professor, which means that he has likely spent so much time in a single narrow field of study that he has lost the ability to understand the world in any way other than economically.

    All of economics deals with the goal of rationally maximizing utility. It’s completely and ruthlessly utilitarian. Landsburg’s entire moral universe centers around this same goal of maximizing happiness and minimizing harm. So, if somebody is raped while unconscious, or executed while under anesthetic, or subject to anything while unable to evaluate pleasure and pain, it doesn’t really matter because if there is no pleasure or pain involved, the actions become morally irrelevant. If there is a conflict between preventing a bit of psychic harm and gaining a lot of physical benefit, then a lot of physical benefit is always preferred.

    Of course, even if this is logically consistent, it’s still completely insane, because no non-sociopath can be a strict utilitarian. Libby Anne and everyone else tends to see morality in more rule-based terms: we assume a moral principle that nobody has the right to violate somebody else’s property rights (including your right to your bodily autonomy) except in the rare case that one can appeal to a more important principle.

    • Contrarian

      In fact, this is a pretty straightforward ceteris paribus exercise isolating “emotional harm from the knowledge of X” and wondering whether emotional harm from the knowledge of X — as negative utility — should impact public policy. If it rape were swapped out for some other topic, it might even be a homework assignment.

      You do slightly misrepresenting utilitarianism with this quote–

      So, if somebody is raped while unconscious, or executed while under anesthetic, or subject to anything while unable to evaluate pleasure and pain, it doesn’t really matter because if there is no pleasure or pain involved, the actions become morally irrelevant.

      Not quite; for execution, for instance, you have to compare total utility had they lived out their lives to total utility had they not. In this case, if he would have been unconscious anyway, and if he doesn’t learn about it, and of course since this is ceteris paribus assuming away secondary social effects, the utility from his life doesn’t change and the rapists gain positive utility. If he learns about it later, the question is now how we weigh the emotional trauma from knowing he was raped while unconscious against the pleasure the rapists experience.

      That’s what makes Landsburg’s question interesting: he’s constructed an example where utilitarianism is ambiguous between rape and non-rape and uses that example to probe public policy justifications. Even within his unreasonable assumptions (as Olidamarra points out, of course there are other practical reasons to ban rape) the last two points E and F are where the meat of the discussion is.

      • Anat

        Why assume away secondary social effects? There is utility to being secure in one’s person, being able to expect not to be killed, raped, having degrading photographs of oneself taken, etc while asleep or unconscious. I don’t see why the utilitarian arguments have to be only about immediate effects.

    • Caravelle

      Unless this guy is fine with people joyriding in his car and squatting in his home when he’s on vacation, I highly doubt he’s even internally consistent. If he hadn’t claimed that Questions 1, 2 and 3 were substantially the same and instead had used an example actually likely to happen to him I’d have been more impressed.

  • Olidamarra

    Even disregarding the moral issues with what he’s saying – which are pretty bad, don’t get me wrong – the argument seems to have some obvious logical flaws. We don’t only forbid things that cause direct harm, we also forbid things that expose people to great risk. Drunk driving, for instance, isn’t illegal because it causes any direct harm – it’s illegal because it increases the risk of harm. There’s no way to guarantee that a “harmless” rape (“harmless” only in this guy’s twisted mindset) will in fact be, well, “harmless”. Even if you somehow buy that “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”, there’s absolutely no way of guaranteeing that a victim won’t suffer a variety of consequences – mental trauma, physical injury, pregnancy, et cetera. That in itself should be enough to shoot his argument down – it’s illegal to play with a loaded gun in public, not because it makes people uncomfortable but because it actually exposes other people to danger.

    A more accurate analogy would be this: Every night, your crazy roommate loads a revolver with one bullet, spins the chamber, and plays Russian roulette against your head while you sleep. You’re lucky, and the bullet never goes off before the guy is discovered. Is Mr. Landsburg saying that this insane roommate should get off scot-free, because he hasn’t actually hurt you _yet_?

    • Contrarian

      We don’t only forbid things that cause direct harm, we also forbid things that expose people to great risk. Drunk driving, for instance, isn’t illegal because it causes any direct harm – it’s illegal because it increases the risk of harm. There’s no way to guarantee that a “harmless” rape (“harmless” only in this guy’s twisted mindset) will in fact be, well, “harmless”. Even if you somehow buy that “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”, there’s absolutely no way of guaranteeing that a victim won’t suffer a variety of consequences – mental trauma, physical injury, pregnancy, et cetera.

      Observe that this scenario was constructed specifically to isolate mental trauma from the knowledge that he was raped while unconscious. That is why he ruled out all of the other effects; you’d have to be mentally impaired to think that in constructing law you focus only on this aspect. So what about the other effects that you cite: rape exposes people to great risk, these impacts aren’t guaranteed, letting people rape unconscious people perpetuates rape culture, etc.? Well, he asked, “If we legalize the rape of unconscious people, we will create an incentive to render people unconscious. If you answered Question 3 differently than you answered Questions 1 and 2, was it because of this sort of thing?” It looks like your answer to that would be, “Yes,” but it’s not really relevant to his other questions.

  • Heynonny

    Should I legally be allowed to shit in this guy’s food as long as I make sure he doesn’t realize it? If I cook the shit at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, he shouldn’t get sick, so what’s the problem? Maybe it would amuse me to have someone eat my shit, so why not reap the benefits of his ignorance?

    I’m using that as a counterexample, not being literal.

    In my opinion, being allowed to control what you put in your body by eating is another example of bodily autonomy, albeit one less extreme than rape. I don’t think he would agree that it should be okay for me (or, for example, corporations) to put unpleasant things into his food without his knowledge just because I deem them safe for him to consume.

    • The_L

      You just reminded me of the best revenge scene in The Help. And I think we should tell Landsburg this directly.

    • Contrarian

      Should I legally be allowed to shit in this guy’s food as long as I make sure he doesn’t realize it? If I cook the shit at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, he shouldn’t get sick, so what’s the problem? Maybe it would amuse me to have someone eat my shit, so why not reap the benefits of his ignorance?

      Is this supposed to be a devastating counterexample? That’s exactly the kind of question he’s asking. If you remain entirely ignorant, and there’s no other harm done to you, then what’s the harm in it? If you think it’s a no-brainer, then why do you have any problems with the same reasoning applied to rape — that’s also a no-brainer.

      • Caravelle

        The point is that he’s asking that question using an example that
        1) He doesn’t expect to ever happen to him
        2) A lot of people who don’t expect to ever have it happen to them do think is OK
        3) People who actually have it happen to them think is horrible.

        This is the kind of question that you have to look at from all angles. If you distance yourself from the question by treating it as a hypothetical and ignoring the subjective point of view of the people actually involved you aren’t being objective, you’re looking at it from a specific point of view – the point of view of those who reap the benefits of ignoring property, privacy or bodily autonomy rights.

  • Aimee

    Someone should ask him if (and get him to actually mentally put himself in this situation) if it should be legal for his dentist or doctor to rape him while he is unconscious (I use this example because I feel like he considers being unconscious from alcohol to be something he’d never do). I swear men like him only can engage in this kind of “thought experiment” because they are so assured they will never be in that situation themselves and apparently think it is because they are superior people.

    Just like I bet the people defending the Steubenville rapists would not have the same arguments if the rape victim had been one of the football players (even if the rapists were the same people). Something about the idea of an unconscious woman makes the concept of body autonomy mighty confusing for some people.

    • Contrarian

      Someone should ask him if (and get him to actually mentally put himself in this situation) if it should be legal for his dentist or doctor to rape him while he is unconscious (I use this example because I feel like he considers being unconscious from alcohol to be something he’d never do).

      Did you actually, you know, read the post? Where he mentally put himself in exactly that situation? Notice the first person: “As long as I’m safely unconsious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?”

      • Alison Cummins

        An indication that he had actually thought this through would be to phrase it more like this:

        “Some of my students have formed a roofie club and have announced that they will drug and rape me at least once this semester. Since the roofies mean I will not remember, and since we are all men I will not become pregnant, why shouldn’t this be acceptable to me?”

  • The_L

    I have posted to Landsburg’s non-apology post on his blog. Hypothetical Photoshopped images of Landsburg having sex with a mule were brought up as an example of why Scenario 3 was a bad, bad, BAD idea.

    • Contrarian
    • Contrarian

      Note that it doesn’t even pretend to be an apology. It’s an explanation of his thought process.

      • The_L

        More worrying are some of the other comments:

        “Oh wait, I forgot that the only thing we’re allowed to say about rape is ‘it’s bad.’”

        “Be glad you’re young. I remember having to also say ‘it’s not about sex’ and ‘women never lie about it.’”

        I shouldn’t have to explain why those comments squicked me.

  • Plunderb

    So . . . party at Landsburg’s house? Don’t worry, we’ll clean up before he comes home. Maybe just rearrange the furniture slightly so that he feels just a little uncomfortable going to sleep.

  • jose

    Well, he’s an economics man. They put prices to everything, human beings included.

  • Contrarian

    This is just a drive-by commenting, and Libs will probably delete my comments anyway, but I just want to make sure that everyone is actually READING THE BLOG POST before getting outraged. All too often, liberals’ brains turn off when rape comes up as a discussion topic, and it’s soooo frustrating because we’re the Good Guys. So beware mistakes like the ones Libby made in her blog post.

    For example, Libby responds to

    But as long as she’s sitting in her own living room fuming about other people’s drilling habits, even as Bob sits in his living room fuming about other people’s viewing habits, I see no reason why her fumes should get more public policy weight than his.


    I’d argue that there is a difference here—if we screw over our country environmentally, we and future generations will be harmed in very real ways.

    Notice that Libby is not responding to Landsburg’s point! Landsburg has specifically homed in on ONE PARTICULAR ISSUE: the mental harm caused to Bob and Granola by the knowledge that (porn-watching/oil-drilling) is occurring.

    The question Landsburg addresses is: “is the psychic harm to Granola an argument for discouraging, say, oil drilling in Alaska, either through taxes or regulation?” He is NOT asking, “Are there any good reasons to discourage oil drilling in Alaska?” He is NOT asking, “Is there any difference between oil drilling in Alaska and watching porn?”

    I don’t have time to go through the post point-by-point, but Libby does this quite a lot. It’s a departure from her usual well-argued blog posts, and really, we liberals are the Good Guys. We should hold ourselves to higher standards than, say, creationists.

    • ako

      I read the entire post, and I get the point that he’s trying to make (if you artificially narrow the parameters to rule out any plausible and realistic rape scenario, and accept “The enjoyment that rapists get from raping people” as a positive good, you can come up with a theoretical argument for allowing certain kinds of rape), so you can spare me the condescension. I still think it’s horrible. He’s playing logic games in public without a thought to the impact of what a “Is rape really wrong?” message might have on actual people in the real world. (And please don’t get into any artificial concerns about censorship. Just because I think it merits condemnation when people say this kind of thing in public doesn’t mean I want it outlawed.)

      And he’s not even good at playing logic games. He keeps brushing off valid points and doing things like lumping a person’s control over someone else’s computer with another person’s control over their own body into the category of “disputed property rights”, which is an insipid argument that serves only to force people into the artificial quandary he’s trying so hard to create. His examples are distracting from his point, not only because they’re so inflammatory, but because the scenario he wants to use is so far from the realities of rape that he has to create all sorts of artificial caveats and restrictions which make his actual point less clear.

      • SophieUK

        But is his purpose not to make people think about why these things are different? I bet he is very aware that a lot of his students if not all will instinctively say that these things are different. He may even have this instinct himself. But his job is to try to make us question whether this instinct is based on logic or something more primeval. And if it is based on logic he wants his students to be able to understand why they think as they do.

        And the realities of rape are irrelevant. His point is a purely theoretical one. His point is not intended to have real world applications. I think his point is extremely clear.

        To be honest I have the same musings with regard to murder. Because in almost every aspect of my life I base my moral decisions on whether or not an action causes suffering, I wonder if we could remove all the suffering from say, murder (eg kill someone in a non traumatic or painful way – ensure the person is known to noone who will be hurt by the loss etc) why it would be wrong (I’m not saying it’s not wrong but I’m trying to understand my moral instincts). Exhausted – this reads terribly, my apologies.

      • Michael Busch


        If Landsburg intended this as a strictly hypothetical scenario, then he failed miserably in conveying that intention. And his intentions do not magically make him any less wrong.

      • ako

        If his purpose is to make people think about why these things are different, then why does he keep brushing off people’s answers or changing the parameters to make everyone focus on the “Purely psychic distress” idea which isn’t even what people who argue for those laws base their reasoning on?

        I agree that he failed in making it sound like a strict hypothetical. Bringing in the Steubenville rape case was a big failing there. If he wants to simply play with hypothetical, then tying it to a real-world rape case (where one of the people who stood by and watched said that he thought it didn’t count because it wasn’t forcible) is entirely the wrong way to go about it.

    • Nea

      Ah, us women, getting all emotional when men treat a horrific violation that many of us have lived through as though it’s a simple thought experiment. How manly you are to tell us what we should be doing, thinking, discussing, and feeling, as our fluffy pink ladybrains are not up to the task of deciding these little things for ourselves.

      Bestow your wisdom on the same discussion on Pharyngula, I dare you. Just let me make popcorn first.

    • Michael Busch

      The scenario Landis has constructed is a hypothetical and has _no_ real-world relevance, because in reality it is impossible to have someone rape someone else and have there be no risk of harm to the victim. Even a strict utilitarian should be able to understand why Landis is horrifically and offensively wrong.

      And your comments here stray very close to the language of rape apology. Stop that.

      • Michael Busch

        I understated: in reality is impossible to have someone rape someone else have for the victim not be harmed. As others have stated, real oppression is not a thought experiment.

    • Christine

      Landis’ argument is not an intellectually honest one. If he is truly trying to say that a lack of “psychic harm” (i.e. mental trauma) means that not all rape is a crime, then why is unconsciousness necessary for rape to not be a crime? While he may very well think that he doesn’t believe that men are entitled to sex, and that’s why it’s ok to have sex as long as the woman doesn’t say no, he obviously has been affected by the culture which says that rape is bad, but it’s not rape if she doesn’t say no. (Also the idea that there are benefits to rape is even more disturbing than the question in the first place.)

    • saraquill

      I resent that accusation that I am bad for getting angry at this professor.

    • Ember

      [quote] All too often, liberals’ brains turn off when rape comes up as a discussion topic…[/quote]

      This is just an odd statement… Because of all those cases where liberals are overlooking that the rape was ok? Rape IS something to be outraged about.

      I have to wonder if you actually read Libby Anne’s post before getting all worked up about irrelevant arguments. Specifically the bit where she points out that the environmental impact of oil drilling is beside the point, but it’s worth mentioning as further evidence of how skewed from reality this article is. Plenty of others here have elaborated on that subject already, so I won’t be redundant. Maybe ACTUALLY READING would be of benefit here.

  • Judy L.

    He’s a professor of economics, not philosophy. This little ‘thought experiment’ is missing a very important piece: The relationship between two human beings, conscious or not, is not like the relationship between a conscious person and an inanimate sex doll. The kind of rape Landsburg is suggesting here would be harmful not just for the victims and potential victims, but also for the relationship the conscious raper has with his victims and potential victims, as well as the the raper’s sense of self in relation to others. In a world where using other people’s unconscious bodies for sexual activity without their consent is deemed okay, other people become mere objects for other people’s use, and people live in fear of being exploited when they’re most vulnerable. Even if individual rape victims might never know specifically that their next-door neighbour raped them, the next-door neighbour would know, and everyone would live under the tyranny of constant threat and paranoia. Do we want to live in an even more predatory society where the strong (and apparently non-somnolent) are licensed to behave as monsters so long as they don’t get caught? Everyone is entitled to their own inner life, but the ‘thrill to power’ that comes from dominating someone either physically or through possessing knowledge about them that they’re not privy to sets up a dynamic that corrupts the powerful individual and poisons those he subjugates. Our morality really only exists within our relations to other people, and the fundamental relation is that of intersubjective reciprocity. The notion that an individual would have right to do things to another person’s body without their consent so long as they didn’t know, to use and regard them as an object, goes against most people’s instinctive and enculturated sense of morality. We have a name for people who use others as objects: Sociopaths. Yes, as a species and within our societies we have all manner of exploitative and sociopathic behaviour that’s very much rewarded, but most of us instinctively regard our bodies, and our sexual organs in particular, as sacrosanct. The most of us who are not sociopaths are capable of empathy and make the theory-of-mind assumption that other people’s bodies are sacrosanct to them too. Encouraging sociopathic behaviour isn’t good for the individual in relation to others, and certainly isn’t good for the others who are the objects/victims of the sociopathic individual’s behaviour.

    What I’m trying to tease out of this is that this talk about ‘legalizing rape’ leaves out of the discussion the people who would be doing the raping. Raping is not a healthy expression of sexuality. It is harmful to men to promote the notion that it’s okay for them to rape so long as they don’t ’cause trauma’. Rape culture traumatizes men too: We know that there are in fact cases of men who are peer-pressured or coerced to rape, and that young and adult men live in cultures that give them crap messages about women and sex and what constitutes consent and rape. The ‘No Means No’ campaign worked really well except that too many boys and men internalized it to mean that ‘Sex is a Go Unless There’s a No’, and an unconscious woman doesn’t say no. Of course, ‘Rape Culture’ and pervasive misogyny don’t exist on their own – they’re created and re-created every day by both men and women and the institutions we establish and maintain. We need to call on men men to accept that the power principally lays with them to eradicate most of rape culture and most rape itself, but it is decidedly myopic to assume that men and boys can’t be victims of rape culture too, even when they are doing the raping.

    • KaliYugaz

      >”other people become mere objects for other people’s use, and people live in fear of being exploited when they’re most vulnerable.”

      As a tenured economics professor, he has probably spent so much time and effort in mastering his narrow and highly specialized field of study that he has lost the ability to understand the world in any way other than economically.

      Technically, all people ARE objects that other people use to produce value. Its called labor, and it can be quantified. Of course, morally speaking, people are also subjects and ends in themselves, but it seems that Landsberg’s ability to follow ethical trains of thought that do not involve calculations of utility has atrophied. It’s a sad state of affairs that really shows the importance of cross-pollination and interdisciplinary programs in academia today.

  • Jurgan

    Okay, the main argument here is horrifying, and I don’t think I need to spend time explaining that to anyone on this website. However, I’d like to jump on a side issue: He insists repeatedly that raping an unconscious person is in a separated category because it “causes no physical harm.” My question is, how do you know? What powers do your hypothetical rapists have that prevent the unconscious women from being impregnated or contracting STD’s from their attackers? Does the female body have ways to try to shut that whole thing down (thank you, Todd Akin)? And even if you have magic foolproof condoms, more mundane harm like tearing of the vagina (or anus) could occur with repeated rapes. Well, maybe not- maybe the professor thinks that, since the unconscious women won’t be struggling, there won’t be any physical harm. But then, that same argument legalizes rapes of conscious women who don’t struggle, so what’s the distinction there? Ooh, I’ve got it! We’ll legalize rape of women, conscious or unconscious, but make it illegal for them to fight back! Yeah, because the harm of being raped is purely “psychic,” while fighting back is physcially dangerous to both the man and the woman. Really, then, preventing her from fighting back is for their benefit- it would be safest for them to lie still and let the men safely “reap the benefits.”


  • Jayn

    While I’m not surprised that he went with the idea that if you’re unconscious then you’re not really being harmed (because apparently violation of trust/boundaries/one’s own body isn’t in itself harmful), I couldn’t help but note that he implies that being unconscious inherently protects one from any sort of harm. Even IF he had a point about being unconscious shielding one from some of the potential harm, there’s still pregnancy and STDs to worry about, which are very real, physical and undeniable types of harm.

    • Anat

      Well, when rape is performed with an object rather than a body part (and said object doesn’t have bodily fluids on it) pregnancy/STDs aren’t a significant risk. But everything else applies.

  • Alison Cummins

    The thought experiment is specifically focussed on the psychic trauma to Person A caused by the knowledge that Person B is doing something, and specifically excludes any other harms. Which is a pointless thought experiment and a straw man.

    We don’t make good law based on whether it makes us feel bad to think about things. Sodomy laws are based on this kind of third-party, abstract squick without any other grounding in reality and are the province of the bigoted right-wing. There’s a lot of projection that happens though, when the bigoted right-wing and the smug libertarian objectivists get together and accuse the progressive left of wanting laws to protect people’s fee-fees.

    That’s what’s going on here. He’s reframing all three issues in terms of someone’s feelings being hurt and specifically excluding discussion of anything else.

    If the problem with the Steubenville rape, or destruction of wilderness, or even porn, were that they made me feel bad to think about them, it would be easy to fix: avoid the media. Problem solved. Thought experiment completely redundant and unnecessary.

    Since he thinks the thought experiment serves a purpose, it clearly isn’t the one he says it is.

  • Kodie

    He might not see it this way, but I was thinking the same thing as Judy L. (above). He sees sex as a mere benefit, and that if we all just minded things less, that eases everything. For the rape victim (as well as other crime scenarios I could trade in its place as additional examples), if she’s unconscious and never finds out, what is the actual harm – likewise the rapist is harmed by the exact same concept.

    In one example, he knows what he’s doing and is horrified and remorseful. In another example, he can completely justify raping someone unconscious because she will not find out. It’s totally better to feel fine than to feel bad. It’s totally better to get a good night’s sleep than to wrestle with the trauma that you have wronged someone. If you can always find a loophole, you can do a lot more that you want to do that you would have otherwise refrained from doing.

    And I will say this generally. There are many actions and behaviors going on that other people judge one another all the time. A lot of people believe god is a person who is being harmed when you engage in homosexuality, and that people should feel guiltier about upsetting a deity than justify the pleasure. The prof sets up some straw man arguments here in the 1st and 2nd. It causes the prude only psychic harm that someone else is looking at porn – ? What could possibly cause his psychic harm here? In this one scenario the guy may be offended at the naked body and think nobody should look at it, but just glosses over this as the guy is clearly labeled a prude who should mind his own business. Prof is offensive at labeling these opinionated people as well, as if there’s only one reason, their ridiculous “psychic harm” and inability to mind their own business. Economic choices have other repercussions than personal harm or benefit. Just shut it out of your mind and it shouldn’t bother you. The exploitation of women, the exacerbation of rape culture itself, are other reasons to mind other people looking at porn. But you say, the woman in the picture voluntarily entered into contract to sell her nudity for pay, so in an economic sense, that’s all the evidence we need to know she had as much agency as she needed and is satisfied with her outcome as well, no worries, which may after all be true.

    In the 2nd example, it is a hippie. Just a dirty hippie. Who cares what they think. The imaginary psychic harm to one person who will never travel to behold the natural beauty of Alaska shouldn’t worry that it’s going to be destroyed. Nature doesn’t have psychic harm! (I saw part of a documentary on PBS last night that makes arguments otherwise, but I want to check it out again). But all it is is a straw man, as if there is no other valid reason to be concerned over drilling for oil in Alaska than nature is pretty to look at, and why should people worry about it if they’re never going to go there anyway? He cuts off this and the first example by painting the concerned folk as downers getting in the way of everyone’s pleasure, and then making straw man arguments to set up the 3rd – also a downer who is getting in the way of everyone’s pleasure.

    Which is sick, by the way.

    It really is easy to justify doing anything you want if you can paint the grievances as insufferable douchebags who have no stake except to spoil it for everyone else. And it’s really easy to think of dozens of other examples right off the top of my head. Going back to the homosexuality thing I mentioned earlier, and thinking back to Libby Anne’s post about the boxes, one which had “sin” and one which used “consent” to form a decision about what is right or wrong to do, religious people complain all the time that we atheists deny god just to do whatever we want. That’s not true, but from that perspective it is. That’s where we talk about where is the evidence for this particular deity, and how do you know what a deity might actually think (see: the bible).

    But it makes me think of other things – like is it ok to kill a homeless person if nobody will miss them. Or is it ok to embezzle money if nobody’s going to find out. Is it ok to scare people about hell to attract their wallets to your church. Is it ok to scam people in general if they get enough out of it that they never catch on. Is it ok to sell products that are advertised to appeal to people’s insecurities, that is, basically “drug” them into a need for your product. Is it ok to get into a good school if you forge your transcripts. Is it ok to have several wives and sets of children if your job takes you to different locations and they never find out about each other.

    Anything at all is possible to benefit someone personally if nobody is the wiser, and yet, YOU KNOW what you’re doing. You know what you’re doing is unethical. If you can just remove that obstacle by believing it doesn’t harm people who won’t find out in any way, you can just go ahead. From there, where would you go? The next straw man is “psychic harm”. If someone does find out what you’ve done, you might even argue that psychic harm is not harm at all and they should just go back to minding their own business, or even argue that up to a point, they were on board, as with religion or another marketing ploy or signed contract. The problem is that sometimes, some things are ok.

    What if there’s nothing wrong with what you’re going to do? I am thinking of a couple with house rules, and as soon as one of them is out for a day or gone for a long weekend somewhere, the other one revels in their absence and breaks the house rules. Eats junk, sits on the couch in their underwear, the mere pleasure of throwing a jacket on the chair instead of hanging it up. Is that wrong if they straighten up before the other person comes home? Something about being obedient all the time makes even the smallest disregards feel like the freedom you’ve been missing. But the other person could find out, and what is the actual harm if everything is put back the way it was eventually? If it’s just psychic harm, what is that? The jacket is hung up now. It is an expression of autonomy that may feel stifled when you’re there together, and that the rules actually cause psychic harm enough to disregard them when they can. Then your wife is making the bed and finds a pair of panties that aren’t hers. Is that psychic harm or actual harm. You missed a detail and how can you justify this the same way as you could excuse the jacket on the chair or eating something unhealthy that’s not usually allowed in the house? I feel the same way as most about adultery. But what is the difference between excusing what they put in their mouth and not being able to get over where they put their penis? Ownership of one’s own body and ownership of certain parts of another person’s body is confusing.

  • JohnH

    I think it is needful to bring up a point 4 to his three, which is partially laid out in Huxley’s “Brave New World”:

    If a person is a slave but is unconscious to the fact they are a slave and to the harm of being a slave (and perhaps even desire to be slaves (‘soma”)) should slavery be illegal merely because the idea of slavery is repugnant to others? Should the physic harm to those that object to slavery an argument against slavery?

    The reason I bring this up is that I believe it focus on two big problems I see with Steve’s question in regards to rape that are missing in his point 2, and more indirect in point 1.

    First, both this point and his point 3 treat people as a commodity rather then as acting entities, which in itself is a harmful physic disorder to those that support the legalization of such rape and/or slavery. Steve is a economist and has focused solely on “given that people order their preferences this way, what should policy be”, without asking the question of what other problems those preferences bring up. Even assuming the wholly impossible case that the girl never finds out about the rape and that no one she ever meets will ever know she was raped, the fact is that the rapist will continue to cause harm to other women elsewhere (regardless of him ever raping anyone else) as he sees women as objects and therefore treats them as such (proven because he already has treated them as such). But the case of the rapist being a complete stranger who never interacts with the victim and that the victim never knows nor does anyone else the victim interacts with ever know is completely impossible, the victim will face real and lasting harm because of what happened.

    Second, just as slavery changes the functioning of society in harmful ways, so would legalizing unconscious rape drastically alter society. Women and womens families would behave very differently and be treated differently by society. The objectification of women would not be discouraged and generally socially unacceptable as it is today, and this is not a spurious statement as there are existing cultures where women are objectified and this objectification is something that people still fight against, and struggle with. That is not all though, the fear that women already deal with would be greatly amplified, behaviors of women and their families would be drastically altered as going to college, going to a party, going to a bar, going on a date, going out to lunch or dinner, going to work would all carry extreme risks with no legal recourse. As romantic as some young girls find princesses locked in a tower, I don’t believe that there are any girls that actually desire to be locked in towers for their own safety or that would not consider being locked in a tower, literally or figuratively as being harmful to them.

  • Emma

    This is utterly horrifying. However, FWIW, I don’t think he should be fired over this. The whole point is that academics ought to be able to write what they want without worrying that they’ll lose their jobs if they say something unpopular (even if, as in this case “unpopular” means “horrifying and repulsive”). For universities, firing a tenured professor (unless they did something really awful/illegal, like murder someone) means having a harder time getting the best professors to come work for you.

    However, I do hope other professors at Rochester/in his field call him out on this.

    • Michael Busch

      There are limits on academic freedom. They are quite broad (or at least should be), but there are still limits. If a professor says something that oversteps the boundaries of protected speech, says things in their office as an educator that illustrate they aren’t doing their job of adequately educating, covers up crimes, etc. they can and should be censored.

      • Bobby

        If it’s at a university or a college that is supported by government funds, I don’t see how they could punish or censor someone for exercising their right to freedom of speech, even an employee. I might be wrong, and please correct me if I am, but I didn’t think that a government entity could do that.

      • Michael Busch

        Academic freedom does not extend to the promotion of hate speech, and may also be restricted in certain other ways depending on the school (see ). And schools are allowed to censor or fire professors if they are not doing their jobs – there is a particular list of just causes for termination, even for tenured faculty.

    • Nea

      I could imagine that the university letting this stand is going to make it pretty darn hard for them to hire the best women professors. Would you work with someone who thinks that rape can be turned into “no harm, no foul”?

  • Eamon Knight

    So: I guess Economics is where bad moral philosophy goes to die?

    • Kodie

      I’m not sure about this but it seems like economics is like science in that it has no inherent morality, so I don’t know why he’s talking about these things and mixing them up. As a thought experiment, I think the fields can be used together. For example, ethics can be applied to science, i.e., just because we can do something, should we? Economics would weigh benefit to cost in an isolated manner, but then just because we can, for example, harm no one (in essence?), should we. He is making the mistake in the part where he assumes no harm is done just because it makes someone sad. My parents just sold the house I grew up in and that makes me sad, but was I harmed and should my sentimentality prevent them from doing something that was economically good or necessary for them? Should we care about preserving nature (in the example, because someone is merely sentimental about it) if we can benefit ourselves by having a local source of energy?

      I’m not sure that I am able to tackle this correctly, not being so far as considered even a dilettante in any of these subjects. If someone throws out the cold economical facts of the matter without addressing the ethics, maybe they were expecting this sort of feedback by being controversial anyway. Maybe he has already discarded the ethical concerns as being sentimental and nothing more. I don’t know. In the 3rd example, certainly, he seems to consider rape about sex and sex an unqualified benefit over no sex. Psychic harm would be near to sentimental attachment to a thing that might as well not have happened if you were never aware. So I don’t know really think he meant to be provocative in order to raise a discussion about applying ethics to economics, or whether he should even be introducing these issues together, since it seems like he sincerely believes the premises and isn’t just using a cultural assessment (the presence of rape culture) to talk about why economics needs to be applied responsibly and ethically.

  • JJ

    Why is the third example the only one he links back to a real case? In the first two we could remove ourselves into a black void of hypothetical space to discuss, it is removed from reatlity (though what the point is of discussing thing removed from reality, and real life consequences, I don’t know). But when he is talking about rape he draws it back to a real life example, he not just talking hypothetically, he’s talking about a real victim.

  • Debbie

    I am sorry but his article could only have been written by someone who has no concept of what it is like to live in fear of rape. ie. It could only have been written by someone without a vagina. This is where philosophy and academia get to me after a while. How emotionally distanced from all reality must this guy be to have written something like this.

    • Libby Anne

      This. The author includes himself, saying “what if I, or anyone else was raped” while unconscious yada yada, but not being a woman I don’t think he can really imagine himself in that situation. Not viscerally, at least.

      • jose
      • Bobby

        So, men have never been raped while unconscious? I can provide a couple of examples to the contrary.

      • Michael Busch

        This isn’t about men or women. It’s about Landsburg not getting the basic point that anyone raping anyone is wrong. Culturally, fewer men appear to understand this than women. And if you were about to go on one of the tangents you’re gone off on before, I encourage you to take it elsewhere.

      • Bobby

        This is what I was referring to.
        “but not being a woman I don’t think he can really imagine himself in that situation.”
        Ask any kid who’s ever stood a good chance of going to prison if he can imagine himself getting raped.
        I’m not planning to go on any tangents. Just thought that comment was a little weird.

      • Michael Busch

        Landsburg does not appear to understand why anyone raping anyone else is wrong. In current culture, most people who do not understand this point are men. Since women are far more often the victims of sexual assault than men, this is not surprising. That is the point I take from Libby Ann’s comment.

      • Jayn

        To expand on Michael’s point a little, jokes about prison aside women live with the threat of rape far more than men do. While men can be victims, women are the ones constantly being told what to wear, where to go, how much to drink, how late to stay out, etc. and all in the name of rape prevention. We’re the ones with alarms on our keychains, pepper spray in our purses and who are looking over our shoulders any time we go past a dark alley or down a stairwell. Men might worry about it in certain circumstances, sure. Women worry about it as part of our daily lives.

      • Caravelle

        The point isn’t that men can’t be raped, it’s that Lansburg’s never had to think of it happening to him in anything but the most abstract sense, because as a middle-or-upper-class man (and I’m going to guess straight as well) he has a very reasonable expectation that he’ll never be raped.

        Men do get raped, but the fact that it’s a lot less common mean that your average man usually expects to be raped a lot less than your average woman does. Prison is indeed an exception but most men aren’t in prison and your average middle-to-upper class law-abiding person expects to go to prison about as much as men expect to be raped.

        In other words, I don’t know what the relevance a “kid who’s ever stood a good chance to go to prison” has to the discussion since I highly doubt Lansberg was ever such a kid anymore than that he ever was a woman.

      • Bobby

        I don’t know about any other guys besides my friends, but, anytime we go out, we carry weapons. I myself carry a stun gun with two charges, a switchblade, and a baton. We try to never go around outside where we live after dark, and for damn sure never go down an alley at night. We live in a high crime, gang-infested area. This is not a sometimes thing, but always. The only reason I got assaulted and robbed is because I was stupid enough to try and go fix my friend’s dishwasher at night, after I’d gotten drunk, instead of telling her that I would do it in the morning. I’d gotten drunk enough that I forgot my weapons.
        I don’t know about guys outside of my social circle, but we worry about being attacked every day. Not raped specifically, no, but attacked. I’ve asked female friends if they ever walk around worried about being robbed or beaten, and they say that usually, they don’t. And they’d be justified, because they are statistically way less likely to be victims of those type of crimes.
        And yes, I’m saying that rape shouldn’t be handled differently than any other type of assault.

      • Caravelle

        I’m sorry you live in such a dangerous area Bobby. But again, I highly doubt Lansberg does so the point stands.

        Moreover, even if Lansberg did live with the expectation of being attacked and beaten up the fact that he doesn’t expect to be raped would still be relevant because his argument applied to rape specifically, in a way it couldn’t apply to getting beaten up.

        I’m not sure what rape being handled differently from other types of assault has to do with things here. I mean, I’m pretty sure nobody here thinks it would be OK to roofie and beat up Superman because it doesn’t physically harm him.

      • Michael Busch

        Bobby: “The only reason I got assaulted and robbed is because I was stupid enough to try and go fix my friend’s dishwasher at night, after I’d gotten drunk, instead of telling her that I would do it in the morning. I’d gotten drunk enough that I forgot my weapons.”

        No. That was not the reason you were assaulted. You were attacked because your assailants decided to attack you and not because of anything you did. Do you see what you’re doing here? You’re feeding into the same patterns of victim-blaming that Jayn pointed out. You are not to blame for your assault; nor is anyone else who is attacked.

      • Bobby

        I knew that I live in a dangerous area. I knew not to go out after dark because I will get attacked. I knew what to avoid, and I chose to do it anyway. I put myself in a situation where I was more likely to be attacked, and I was. I am partly to blame for what happened to me. Not fully, but partly.
        It does not excuse what they did. They should not have done that, and in a fair and just world, it wouldn’t have happened, but we don’t live in a fair and just world. I failed to protect myself, and I have to live with the consequences.
        Caravelle, I’m saying that people shouldn’t be more outraged over rape than other types of assault. I believe that slut-shaming and the way that rape is treated in this country, as some sort of special crime that’s particularly horrible, are the same thing, as they both stem from the idea that a woman’s value is in her vagina.

      • Michael Busch

        “I knew that I live in a dangerous area. I knew not to go out after dark because I will get attacked. I knew what to avoid, and I chose to do it anyway. I put myself in a situation where I was more likely to be attacked, and I was. I am partly to blame for what happened to me. Not fully, but partly.”
        No, you are not to blame – nor is any other victim. It may be sensible to avoid situations where you are more likely to be attacked, _but that does not make you to blame_. No victim of rape is _ever_ to blame.
        People _can_ be at fault for being beaten, but only when they were the direct aggressor in a confrontation and even then there are limits as to how much someone may retaliate if attacked (e.g. a friend of mine was mugged. He blocked and threw the attacker and ran away. Self-defense, the mugger is at fault. If he had killed the mugger, he would have been at fault because he exceeded the bounds of self defense).
        And others have explained already why rape is far more serious than most other forms of assault, social effects aside.

      • Bobby

        Rape maybe more serious psychologically in many cases, but I don’t believe that legislation should be based off of psychological trauma. There’s too much variation from one person to the next, and it’s too easy to fake. Physical trauma, on the other hand, can be measured effectively, and it is rare for there to be severe physical trauma as a result of rape.

      • Michael Busch

        “Rape maybe more serious psychologically in many cases, but I don’t believe that legislation should be based off of psychological trauma. There’s too much variation from one person to the next, and it’s too easy to fake. Physical trauma, on the other hand, can be measured effectively, and it is rare for there to be severe physical trauma as a result of rape.”

        You are wrong, and given that that has been explained to you before, you also a liar. And given your assertion that “legislation shouldn’t be based off of psychological trauma”, you are exhibiting a disturbing lack of empathy.

        1/3 to 1/2 of people who are raped meet the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and there is a separate diagnostic for “Rape Trauma Syndrome”. Neither are “easy to fake”. Nor is the high fraction of rape victims who attempt or commit suicide.

        And a few percent of women who are raped become pregnant. Depending on the country, a larger percentage may be infected with an STI. More common physical effects of rape: vaginal/anal bleeding and infection, urinary infections, vaginitis, vaginismus, and chronic pelvic pain.

      • Michael Busch


        And just to make sure it is abundantly clear: many of those physical effects of rape (STI transmission, bleeding and tearing, other infections, long lasting chronic pain) apply to all victims, not just cisgendered women.

  • bill

    There are lots of great logical rebuttals here. Let me add a different kind of observation. In Landsburg’s argument he assumes that the earth is dead and there to be exploited, that society is dead so exploitation has no real consequences, and that women are not really alive and so are there to be exploited. In his example, he even assumes that he (and I guess all men) is not alive and are ripe for exploitation. I appears nothing is fully alive in Landsburg’s world.

  • Anna

    So many comments here circle around and hint at some things that I think need to be voiced.

    First, what Steven Landsburg is doing is at the very best/most charitable, amounts to useless mental masturbation, and, under all other readings,
    is socially/culturally very harmful, and morally tonedeaf.

    Let’s try the most charitable reading to begin with. He is trying to make us imagine a universe of NO SECONDARY CONSEQUENCES WHATSOEVER. Farnsworth is fuming that someone somewhere is viewing porn on their computer. Farnsworth has NO OTHER BELIEFS about this: he is not concerned about how this porn was made, and how either the making or the distribution or the consumption of porn affects either the society in general or any subset of it. Granola is fuming about oil drilling in some area, in a world where the ONLY effect of oil drilling is to spoil the landscape. Granola has no other possible objection except that she will never be able to visually enjoy said landscape. THERE ARE NO OTHER CONSEQUENCES here, no other environmental effects from the drilling/accidents/spills to the local ecosystem, or wider environmental effects from the subsequent purification and consumption of the oil, and no other person now or ever will visit this area for the purposes of enjoying the landscape. Similarly the rape victim is COMPLETELY isolated from any and all effects of their rape: there is no physical damage and NO RISK of damage/disease/pregnancy/relationships/reputation whatsoever either from the rape itself or from the means used to render them unconscious and the only possible consequence to the victim is knowing that their private parts were penetrated by someone else (possibly not even with their own private parts, but maybe just fingers/inanimate objects). Furthermore, it is presumably A-OK that there’s a second actor in this situation that wants to and derives enjoyment from penetrating an unconscious person without their consent, and this person cannot/will not go on to cause any other harm to anyone else ever.

    I’ll just be very charitable and agree that if such a universe actually existed or were even possible (because it’s VERY doubtful that any universe where arbitrary interactions between arbitrary entities (and arbitrary numbers of entities) took place in complete isolation without affecting any other entities could actually come to exist and not be completely static (because presumably nothing causes anything else, things just spontaneously interact or not)), none of the three people would have anything to complain about. In fact, it would be difficult to understand why they are displeased by the things they are described to be displeased about, or believe their displeasure.

    If I were the hypothetical rape victim in this universe, subject to ONLY the interactions and effects specified, I would have no objections. Really.

    I also know there is some amount of ground up insect parts in my flour. Supposedly this is completely harmless. I personally consider insects icky and disgusting, and I don’t like thinking about insect parts ground up into flour that I later consume as bread, but most of the time I just don’t think about it, especially not with a deliciously smelling warm loaf of bread in front of me. No harm at all can come to me from the half a roach that was dried up, ground up, and baked into the bread, so I don’t bother thinking about it as I dig in.

    But you know what? The universe he is describing is so laughably, completely implausible and so unlike the actual universe we live in, that imagining it is pointless except in giving him something to think about for 10 minutes. It’s mental masturbation, pure and simple, because NOTHING we learn about that universe is applicable or generalizable to this one in ANY way.

    First of all, let me state that I personally have no problem with porn or the consumption of porn. I realize there are serious issues to be considered about how it is produced and distributed and how the consumption of the specific kinds of porn on offer to consumers affects culture in general… but it’s just not a hot-button topic for me, so please don’t jump down my throat for being anti-porn.

    But, you know, in this universe, Farnsworth can be argued to have some valid points. Even if he doesn’t care about the issues I just mentioned, Farnsworth might be religious, might believe that looking at porn (and producing, and distributing it) are sins, he might believe that people who sin are angering God with their behavior. He might believe that God will retaliate against people in general, by sending down diseases and natural disasters to punish the sinful mankind. Or maybe he is just worried that when there are so many temptations around, he might not be able to resist sinning himself, and go to hell for all eternity. Now, I don’t think it’s reasonable for Farnsworth to believe these things, and I think they are bunk, but Farnsworth THINKS he lives in a universe where these things are real, and there can be real bad consequences, that may affect him or people he cares about, from people looking at porn on their computers. That is really why Farnsworth is upset about porn. He might also think it’s icky, but he is also afraid of other, bigger consequences and secondary effects that porn will have on the world he lives in. I’m willing to bet anything that it’s the fear and not the ickyness that keeps Farnsworth up at night.

    In this universe, I believe that Farnsworth has the least valid concern, because I think that most of the things Farnsworth are counterfactual. He simply believes a bunch of stuff that is demonstrably not true about the universe we live in. But I can still empathize with Farnsworth’s fears and unhappiness, because his fears are real to him and they are really affecting his life.

    The other two cases we are asked to consider have even more UNAVOIDABLE secondary consequences to consider. In this Granola has a reason to be upset, because drilling for oil, refining oil, and consuming oil has MANY well-documented far-reaching and very damaging environmental effects, aside from ruining the landscape. Also Granola is not the only person who might derive pleasure from simply looking at that landscape (and she might be someone who cares about other people’s ability to enjoy the landscape as tenderly as Steven Landsburg clearly cares about hypothetical rapists’ ability to enjoy using other people’s unconscious bodies).

    In the universe we live in, as we are repeatedly reminded by some people, all sexual activity comes with some risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. A lot of it also comes with the risk of SOME physical damage, however minor, however unnoticeably/quickly healing. In this universe, also, all means of rendering a person unconscious, besides naturally falling asleep, also come with non-trivial risks (all anesthetic agents, and alcohol, can outright kill you, for instance). In this universe, people also care about their ongoing physical safety, and being able to trust other people around them, and constantly going around wondering whether someone might sexually violate their unconscious bodies is going to cause non-trivial amounts of stress and far reaching consequences to their physical and emotional health, and EVERYONE’s relationships with each other… There’s a lot of fears being voiced by various people about how society might fall apart if this or that phenomenon came to be accepted… well, society might very well fall apart if everyone had to live with the thought that they could be molested while unconscious by anyone at any time and that would be completely acceptable to everyone. Also, society might just fall apart if the world were populated entirely by people who thought it was fun and acceptable to use other people’s unconscious bodies like sex dolls. Etc, etc, etc. It seems like a horrifying place to live, no matter which way you turn it.
    The reason Steven Landsburg is doing something very harmful and intellectually dishonest is because, by writing his article about a universe that doesn’t exist, he is trying trick us into drawing a parallel between a universe where it’s possible for things to occur in complete isolation and have no secondary consequences whatsoever and the one where we live, the one where there ARE secondary consequences, long complicated, interconnected webs of them. By doing this, he is manipulating us into framing three very different situations in the same way. This is an invalid/dishonest because these situations are different PRECISELY BECAUSE of all the secondary consequences involved. If Farnsworth is concerned about porn because of his beliefs in a supernatural being that will somehow interfere in the natural world to punish us for porn use, well, he is sadly misinformed, and although his suffering is real, it can be remedied by fact-checking his beliefs about how the natural world works. If Farnsworth, on the other hand, is concerned about porn because of the social harms he thinks it causes, well, to the extent that these social harms are real and detectable/demonstrable/documented, they can be minimized through policy. I would be willing to listen to Farnsworth’s points. Depending on the magnitude of his upset in proportion to the magnitude of actual harm porn is causing (presumably to other people), I might think he is making a mountain out of a molehill, but I would still not dismiss his concerns. Presumably Granola’s concern is similar to Farnsworth’s, in that, even if she believes that she is personally affected by the consequences of oil drilling (and she is, by the way), the way she is affected is small and diffuse. Granola’s concern encompasses much more than her own personal stake in the situation, but also, the collective stakes of all other people on the planet, and, to some extent/possibly all other organisms also living on this planet. Her emotional reaction (depending on what it happens to be) might seem disproportionate to any given observer, but it is certainly not frivolous or based on false beliefs, as Steven Landsburg implies by transporting her to a universe of no secondary consequences.

    I’m not even going to bother discussing what’s wrong with his treatment of a real-world case of rape, with EVERYTHING that comes along with it, including risk of physical harm that the victim was subjected to without consent (“nothing bad happened” is not a valid defense because our society recognizes the concept of risk, and generally demands informed consent when one person subjects another to it), emotional harm to the victim from the incident itself and all the other things that happened in connection with it, from participating in prosecution to being subjected to threats/harassment, public exposure, harm to reputation, etc, and emotional harm to everyone who has even heard of what happened, etc. It’s been covered already, much better than I could have managed.

    But there’s another/separate angle here. Steven Landsburg also drags in a red herring of property rights into his discussion. And, as has been pointed out already by several people, it seems very odd that a tenured economics professor could have such a difficult time distinguishing the three very different types of property rights concerns here… Farnsworth is concerned about how other people use their property. Granola is concerned about what is known as “commons” ( The unnamed rape victim is concerned about the violation of their own property rights to their own body (and it’s already been pointed out that since WE ARE OUR BODIES, or, at the very least, encased and inseparable from them, our property rights to our bodies cannot even be likened to our property rights to our bikes or clothes, or houses). Unless Landsburg is trying to advocate the idea that nobody has a right to own any property in any way (as in, nobody has the exclusive rights to their bodies OR their computers, and no say about the commons at all), which I seriously doubt, he is basically refuting his own argument that all three cases should be regarded exactly the same from an economics standpoint (nevermind whether we can agree that it’s even valid to consider the environment or bodily autonomy from an economics standpoint).

    Whichever way you turn his article, there’s no redeeming qualities in it, no matter how charitably it’s read. And, frankly, I don’t think it deserves a charitable reading, because despite of Landsburg’s “this is purely a thought experiment” protestations, it’s clearly (consciously or not) meant to both discredit “liberal environmentalism” by equating it to the theocratic ambitions of values voters, and provide a piece of “it’s not legitimate rape” apologia.

    • Rachel

      +1. Absolutely. I’ve been going around and around in circles explaining that the issue with this hypothetical isn’t that he dares to make a hypothetical about rape, but that it’s constructed poorly and framed in such a way to trivialize the very real consequences in all three scenarios.

    • Miranda

      Thank you, Anna: I posted your comment underneath the shared link to this article because I think you so well articulated many of the glaring errors in this horrible man’s “argument.” Because the military has a sense of humour as well as inadequacy, I’m stationed in the South via parents: I’m extremely close to the hot seat of these rape apologists insisting that girls are “asking for it” and the like.

    • PetraLorre

      Thank you, Anna. You’ve said everything that I wanted to say, and so much more concisely than I could have done it.

    • Pam

      Excellent response, especially in teasing out the secondary consequences of the first and second hypotheticals as well as the abhorrent rape hypothetical.

  • Alison Cummins

    I’ve just gone to Landsberg’s post and glanced through the comments. Almost all men, lots of delight at being given a rational puzzle to tease apart, little or no outrage.

    Really discouraging.

    Though it appears that the comments thread is heavily moderated: at one point Landsberg responds to a commenter that he moderated her comment in for such and such a reason even though her arguments about something else were poor. Presumably none of the arguments on Libby Anne’s thread would pass moderation, being insufficiently rational and not following the rules.

  • Kristen

    His argument is garbage, and he’s making the classic economist mistake of ignoring any harm that can’t be quantified or monetized.

    However, I do not think he should be fired from Rochester. This is exactly the situation tenure was created for. Professors need to have the freedom to say really terrible, evil, garbage things because some of those really terrible, evil, garbage things turn out not to be that terrible or are a matter of opinion. I’m thinking of government criticism, some of Peter Singer’s more controversial opinions on animal rights, radical ecofeminism, etc. I think it is very important that professors have absolute intellectual freedom, and their ideas stand or fall through public debate and peer review, etc. Firing him disrupts that very important process.

    Slate should can him, though.

    • Rosie

      “… he’s making the classic economist mistake of ignoring any harm that can’t be quantified or monetized.” Which I find ironic, because as far as I know sexual pleasure cannot be quantified or monetized either, yet he not only does not ignore it, but must assume it as a benefit for his points to be made at all.

      • Alison Cummins

        Sexual pleasure is quantified and monetized every day in red light districts around the world.

  • Shaney Irene

    What appalling, repugnant, irresponsible bullshit. This “thought experiment” doesn’t deserve any words more dignified than that.

  • JethroElfman

    You can clearly see that Landsburg lives on another planet by the way he casually throws out, “I’m safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs”, as if mental trauma is the only harmful effect of rape. I slogged my way through all of the comments, hoping for someone, anyone, to get the right answer. Yet, they all come back to property rights, as if the 50 shekels is what matters to her. (As anyone who believes in the biblical definition of marriage knows, in Deut. 22:28–9, a rapist is compelled to marry his victim and pay that fee to her father for spoiling her property value. Her state of consciousness during the event, or psychic condition thereafter are irrelevant. ) Hey! The monetary cost of her damaged property is irrelevant.
    Let’s suppose, as he argues, that there is no cost to her, even a psychological one. She is not property. It’s not about the boundaries of our bodies either. She is a person. Remember that document which begins, “We the people…”? People are granted rights and privileges far beyond those afforded to mere property. There is no Eminent Domain provision over a person. She cannot be required to grow a larva in her uterus for 9 months, and she cannot be raped even if she doesn’t know about it. Sometimes, in very special cases such as immunizations and fluoridated water, we waive the autonomy of the person because there is a definable benefit to them. Personhood is the bright line of distinction between cases 1,2 and case #3.

    • KaliYugaz

      Your comment is really confused.

      The issue here is the distinction between an action and its effects as a source of moral concern. Is rape/murder bad simply because it is bad, or is it bad because of the harm it causes, which we are emotionally revulsed by? If the former is the case, then you are begging the question; your moral opinions aren’t founded in anything substantial. If the latter is the case, then it follows that if rape theoretically caused no harm, then rape would not be immoral.

    • JethroElfman

      No it’s not. He specifically states (in comment 135) that the question is not about the morality of rape or deforestation or porn. He stipulates that the girl in question was harmed in no way whatsoever, and asks whether that should be illegal. Everyone goes down a blind path, saying that of course she was harmed, as if the inherent immorality of the act thereby makes it harmful. Myself, I reject the existence of moral absolutes, so I don’t care whether what happened was moral or not. Either way, I say that it should always be illegal, since personhood trumps the property ownership question of his first two examples.

      • M

        The act of rape is inherently harmful. There is no way to have a “harmless rape”, any more than one can have a “harmless murder” or “harmless robbery”. The rapist is harmed (seeing people as objects, while much more harmful to the objectified people, is still not a healthy way to view the world), the people around the rapist are harmed, and societal norms are twisted in ways that harm people.

        I don’t give a shit about morals, which is the determination of Good and Evil. I care about ethics, which is the determination of Right and Wrong. It is Wrong to treat people as objects because it is inherently harmful to do so.

      • Anat

        But if the rapist tells people about the rape or shows them pictures – then even if somehow the victim never finds out explicitly about the rape, the victim is harmed because all the people who know about the rape treat the victim differently. The victim loses social standing, and may not even understand why.

  • Random_Lurker

    This is a pretty straightforward thought experiment of the kind philosophy professors love to use: targeted at an extremely specific subject, with the intent of eliciting a powerful emotional response from the students. It’s designed to teach/test the ability to focus on the specifics of the argument, and not your own personal emotional reaction to it. His response is shaped by that specificity.

    Also, I see nothing to indicate that he is articulating his true feelings on the subject. There’s no evidence that his argument is not merely intentionally inflamatory, for the purpose of teaching (by creating personal experience) about how emotions affect judgement. To be fair, there’s also no evidence that it isn’t his true opinion either. That’s probably part of the point.

    My philosophy teachers used examples involving Nazi’s instead of rape. The basic technique is the same.

    There are two desired responses to the thought experiment. Firstly, that the student correctly identifies the specificity of the experiment, and follows it to it’s logical conclusion. This is what the Professor is demonstrating with his own response. The second desired response to the experiment is to REJECT that specificity, and to SUPPORT that rejection with a counter argument. That the professor posits his own response in favor of the repugnant option hints that this is the response he is trying to get. Most likely, these two responses would be considered “B” work and “A” work respectively. The first response (specificity) correctly identifies the boundary of the experiment, and follows the experiment to it’s conclusion regardless of knee-jerk reaction to it’s content. The second response (rejecting specificity) goes farther, and correctly identifies that specificity, and then correctly identifies it’s weaknesses. Both responses are testing the ability to reason through an argument on a purely intellectual level. Prompting the student to take that extra step of rejection ON THIER OWN, in spite of pressure from the teacher, is part of this kind of thought experiment. Very likely, it’s the entire point of the lesson, as the students will find out when they get their grades and their responses are deconstructed.

    For example, the astute student will reject the professor’s argument and respond by saying that the 3rd argument is unsound- it’s predicated on a situation that is impossible to occur in reality, the idea that rape results in no physical harm. Recognizing this validity/soundness* dichotomy is probably one of the things the professor is fishing for. Note, that this is EXACTLY the response given by commenter “Fiasco Tavish” (and others) in the original link.

    *-”valid” and “sound” arguments have very different, and very specific definitions in the context of formal logic. A valid argument is one where the conclusions follows necessarily from its’ premises. A sound argument is one that is, in addition to being valid, is also factually correct. Example: 1: All pigs have wings. 2: All things with wings fly. 3: Therefore, all pigs fly. This is a logically valid argument, but a very obviously factually unsound one.

    tl:dr I don’t believe this is rape apologetics at all. To believe that, you have to take it out of the context of the philosophy lesson it comes from.

    • Judy L.

      Just want to point out that the Professor here is not a professor of philosophy, nor is he presenting this ‘thought experiment’ to an actual or assumed group of students who are being immersed in the DISCIPLINE of philosophy.

      • Random_Lurker

        Perhaps, I’m going to grant him the benefit of the doubt though, until proven otherwise. It follows the EXACT same pattern as my old philosophy lessons did.

        He does seem to be a misogynist though, based on comments he’s made in the past.

    • Eristae

      As someone who got a degree in philosophy, I am also familiar with people using Nazis in thought experiments. And let me tell you, any philosophy teacher who wants people to talk about Nazis while demanding that people ignore the effects that the Nazis had on the Jews (and other minorities) is a terrible, terrible teacher who cannot be said to know anything about philosophy.

      • Caravelle

        I haven’t got a degree in philosophy, and I can certainly see how using Nazis as a shorthand for “absolute evil” can be useful in thought experiments, but Godwin’s law does exist for a reason. I wonder what the ratio of appropriate to distracting Nazi thought experiments are involved in philosophy.
        (not a rhetorical question, I’d love for the insight of someone with that background)

  • Alison Cummins


    I get it. I really do. I get really annoyed when people can’t distinguish between “well-intentioned” and “appropriate,” or “mean” and “untrue,” for instance. Doing well on this exercise requires the ability to make this type of distinction.

    But did you read the comment thread? The commenters mostly find making this distinction both easy and enjoyable. Taking the exercise as given and looking at the meaning of psychic pain and the body as property and working at it as an economics exercise instead of the real, implicit and explicit threat many of us live with every day is the intuitive part. The hard part is treating women as people, as if our participation in society is worth something beyond the utility that others can unarguably gain by raping us. The lessons required here are *not* about how to treat people as abstract symbols to be manipulated according to an approved logical template. They have that one down pat.

    Landsberg himself, in comment 129: “Vladimir (#125): I think you’re (at least slightly) off topic, since you’re considering cases where there has been physical damage, whereas the interesting case is the one in which there hasn’t been.” In comment 155: “ We all agree that the sorts of actual harm you’re describing should have public policy weight. The question was whether Granola’s psychic distress should have *additional* weight over and above that. That’s why I proposed a hypothetical in which the psychic harm is the only harm, and by ignoring the hypothesis, I think you’ve devoted a lot of effort to rehashing things that are quite uninteresting precisely because everybody already understands them and agrees on them.”

    So you are incorrect when you suggest that he is seeking a response that would point out that it’s not possible to rape someone without harming them. When one is proposed, he *rejects it as being off-topic.*

    So Landsburg’s purpose is specifically to discuss harmless rape, which in the world we actually live in makes about as much sense as discussing methods of containing flying pigs in an agriculture class, but is much more problematic in that his students are much more likely to believe in the existence of harmless rape than agriculture students are to believe in flying pigs.

    He specifically forbids the argument that rape is not harmless.

    While there may be a theoretical argument that this is not rape apologetics, there is a much more compelling real-world argument that it is.

    • Random_Lurker

      well that certainly changes things a bit. A respectable Philosophy professor wouldn’t censor responses based on the argument like that.

  • Bobby

    I have been raped, and I have had the shit beaten out of me by three guys so that they could rob me. Personally, the effects of the rape were gone in a few hours, after I reported it to the police. The assault and robbery though, took me a lot longer to get over with. I know people handle things differently, but my question is, why should rape or other sexual assault be considered any worse than other types of physical assault? Aside from the possibility of STD’s or pregnancy in women, what exactly is the difference? Both are infringements on bodily autonomy. So why is one punished so much more harshly than the other? Especially considering that assault could lead to broken bones, punctured organs, brain damage, and other things, including death.
    Please don’t take this as an attack on women, as others have done before. I have never received a reply that did not claim that I was trying to denigrate the experiences of women, which is not my intention. I’m just trying to figure out what logical purpose there could be behind it, because I can’t see one.

    • Anat

      I managed to escape an incident of sexual assault (which might have progressed to attempted rape if I hadn’t) and didn’t realize how much I was traumatized by it until years later I tried to talk about the incident. It’s the fear and the shame. Especially when our society assumes in so many ways that rape victims are the ones at fault.

    • M

      A lot of rapes are carried out by people the women know, too. So adding to what Anat said about fear and shame and blame, it’s also a trust issue. If a man you trusted could do that, how can you ever trust a friend again? They’re supposed to protect you, not hurt you!

      Rape also can have some really ugly physical side effects. Violent rapes can lead to pretty serious vaginal and/or anal tearing. Fistulas, while rare, do happen (where the tissue between the vagina and rectum or vagina and urinary tract tears, leaving a hole whereby urine or feces leak out of the vagina). Those require pretty serious surgery to fix. The risk of STDs and pregnancy is also quite serious- pregnancy requires a lot of thought about abortion, and getting an abortion can be an additional trauma because of protesters and/or lack of availability and/or cost. Even just the stress of the possibility can be pretty awful, added to the emotional stress of the attack itself.

      I’ve also never been raped. I’ve only been seriously scared once, and nothing more serious than groping happened. I still don’t really talk about it, and that is way less serious than rape.

      • M

        And yes, the same goes for men raped by men or women too. Most men who are raped are raped by other men, but female on male rape is one of the most underreported crimes in this country. Just heading off this tangent before you go down that unprofitable road, Bobby.

      • Bobby
        If we look at the more reliable statistic, the risk of rape in the last twelve months, and we fix the NIPSVS’s mistake in classifying forced envelopment as “other sexual assault” and not rape, we find that 80% of men report a female rapist and 98% of women report a male rapist. (This estimate is based on the sex of reported perpetrators for sexual assault over a lifetime. There is no reason to think the number of female perpetrators for ‘forced envelopment’ would decline between the lifetime and last year reports: if anything they would increase)

      • M

        Does that report include prison rape, which is almost exclusively male-on-male? No, it does not.

        It has interesting findings, but it’s also going against every other report and statistic I’ve ever seen. That sort of result would be trumpeted to the high heavens if it were accurate, so I’m inclined to take it with an extremely large amount of salt until it’s replicated by others. There are a lot of people interested in sexual violence- quantifying it, figuring out who does it and to whom, and ending it. NO ONE ELSE has results anywhere close to this, which makes me think it’s bogus. For example, did the author count all men who experienced ‘other sexual violence’ as being raped? I don’t know. If ze did, that’s a huge failure that invalidates all results right there.

        So yeah, still not buying it. Nice try to center male victimhood, but no.

      • Michael Busch

        That link is wrong and offensively so. Here are actual estimates of the reporting rates of sexual assault:
        Only approximately 1/3 of rapes are reported to authorities, and as M said the reporting rate is far lower for male victims (~10%). Reporting rates are also distressingly low for female victims of female rapists and for victims who are trans or who do not identify as either female or male. 90% of reported rapes in the US are of women. Doing the math: _women are currently more than three times as likely to be the victims of rape than men are in the United States at the present time_.
        No victims of sexual assault should be ignored and none should face any double standard, but over the entire population women _are_ far more often the victims of rape.
        And witness that your derailing this thread and how you would derail it was foreseen.

      • Bobby

        Forced envelopment should not have been counted as “other sexual assault”, it should have been counted as rape. The reason other studies don’t find the same thing is, well, they don’t count forced envelopment as rape. They only count penetration as rape.
        Okay, you just said that men report way less than women, so how can you know that women are three times as likely to be victims? I mean, it’s highly unlikely that anyone knows just how many men, or women, are raped and don’t report it.
        If you count prison victims in the statistics, it skews them because prison rape is going to be mostly same sex due to the perpetrator and the victim pool, though sometimes female guards do rape men in prison, and male guards do rape females in prison. This type of thing is more prevalent in juvenile detention.
        And Michael, are you familiar with the saying, “Anything before but is bullshit,”?
        I didn’t derail the thread, I responded to M’s claim that most men are raped by men. I was not going to go on a rant about how men are raped by women too.
        Here’s another little tidbit for you though.

      • Michael Busch

        The reporting rates of sexual assault are estimated by comparing the number of cases reported by the fraction of people in different cohorts to the number of people who report having been sexually assaulted in confidential surveys. Women are consistently and disproportionately victims of rape.

        “And Michael, are you familiar with the saying, “Anything before but is bullshit,”?” Yes, and it is very often nonsense. It does not apply to what I have said.

      • Bobby

        If you had read the article from Genderratic, you would have seen that men are less likely to categorize what happened to them as rape or even abuse, even when there’s documented proof of the abuse. So, self reporting isn’t exactly the best way to find out how many men have been abused.
        Also, I never said that more men are raped than women, though if you count prison rape this is likely true, I said that men are more likely to report a female rapist. There’s a difference. Also, like I said before, no government agency considers it rape when a man is forced to penetrate. It’s simply “other sexual abuse.” If rape is to be defined as unwanted sexual intercourse, shouldn’t you count rape by envelopment.

      • Michael Busch

        ” So, self reporting isn’t exactly the best way to find out how many men have been abused.”

        In the good demographic work, the surveys are carefully designed to estimate and correct for reporting biases to identify all forms of non-consensual sex as well as possible. And women are still disproportionately the victims (by a factor a bit over 3) and men are still disproportionately the aggressors (6% of men as compared to a very much smaller fraction of women).

      • Nea

        Bobby, it is long past time for you to realize that Libby Anne, not you, controls this blog and what is discussed on it. You do not get to determine what the definition of feminism is. You do not get to determine the percentages of what is talked about. No one here is interested in or bound by your expectations of acceptable discussion topics; if you want to control the conversation, start your own blog.

        This blog is written by a woman, it covers women’s issues from a woman’s perspective, and as far as I can tell, the majority of readers of this blog are women, so you can most certainly expect backlash when “people don’t want to talk all about women.”

      • Bobby

        Here is a comment I found on another website.

        “Having found my way here as an atheist through Elevatorgate the comparison to fundamental religion was obvious from the get-go.”

        Feminist = Adherant
        Rad Feminist = Acsetic ahderant
        White hetero male = heretic
        Privilege = Original sin
        Mansplain = Blasphemy
        Misogyny = Sacrilege
        Patriarchy = Satan

      • Michael Busch

        That is both entirely wrong and entirely irrelevant to this thread. If you don’t want people to call you out for derailing, _stop derailing_.

      • Bobby

        I was just pointing out some interesting parallels, since it seems that no one is allowed to define feminism.
        Anyways Michael, I took a look at that link you proffered from the National Institute of Justice. I don’t see what the point of posting it was. It did not rebut the article from Genderratic. If you count forced penetration as rape, which I’ve never seen in a study that was shown to me by a feminist, men and women report being raped at a nearly even percentage. Most studies only count forced penetration as rape, which is going to skew the results so that it looks like women are raped in vastly larger amounts than men.
        Ignore the place that the links are going to, but not the studies that are linked within. These studies have similar results to the one that was quoted in the Genderratic article.
        M, like I’ve said on another thread, the domestic violence/sexual assault (female) victim advocate industry is a billion dollar business, and the thousands of lobbyists they have are interested in keeping their cash cow afloat. To do this, people need to think that women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence and domestic violence. To do this, because the numbers don’t add up the way they want them, they have to fiddle with the definitions of whatever it is they are studying to make it look like this is true. Rape doesn’t happen way more to women than men, well, just define rape as forced penetration, don’t mention being made to penetrate and everything is fine. Women abuse just as frequently, if not slightly more, in domestic situations, which places like Jezebel have mentioned before, yet you still have bullshit laws like VAWA pass, laws that perpetrate the myth that women are the majority of victims. If one men’s shelter gets opened due to or receives federal funding under VAWA, which is very unlikely, it should be national news. Please read the following. The link is long, but it’s a worthwhile read. It’s a critique on how VAWA funding is not free of discrimination.'s+shelters+that+receive+funding+under+VAWA&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShMDJQTH-Jf8Cs8BaKEnRZizkIrF50i7Ozda17vJD2p2JXB8iZqiqQgp-t2i1UiVGWhb8kp7OswjGmcUZClMFH6sjtlGJzIsGjq4EwjNEv4F-3strwAh9nI8yZCgxWcIOnSKU65&sig=AHIEtbRKVnQ8XmNfKPmsiwJAvv268GpmKg
        If they were to admit the truth, that these are not a gendered problems, but human problems, they wouldn’t receive nearly as much money.
        And to Nea. First off, I didn’t try to “define feminism.” I went by the definition that every feminist everywhere has told me and others who ask about it. They say that feminism is for equality. If feminism is about equality, and this blog is about primarily women’s issues, then Libby Anne should change the name. If it’s about women’s issues, and this blog is about women’s issues, then the name should stick. If feminism is about women’s issues, and Libby Anne’s blog is about equality, then, again, she should change the name.
        Secondly, I ask you, where can people talk about men’s issues without being called misogynists? I am serious. Where?
        Men, and women, operate their own sites on these issues, usually also critiquing feminism, and are called misogynists, rape apologizers, pedophiles, wife-beaters, racists, rapists, and all other types of nasty things. They are called unnecessary, and harm true equality because they don’t subscribe to the idea that there is a patriarchy, therefore they are evil(misogynistic). Because no one is allowed to question patriarchy/feminism.
        Men and women organize discussions on men’s issues, automatically branded as misogyny and hatred against women. Protesters show up and refuse to listen to what people who aren’t feminists have to say, especially Ms. “SHUT THE FUCK UP” Red. They also try to deny them opportunity to speak about said issues once they arrive.
        Here’s a page with a bunch of videos shot of protesters at a talk about misogyny and misandry, that’s right both, with the point of view of men and women, gay and straight. There’s also a video of TJ, the Amazing Atheist, commenting on the protest.
        We’re told that we need to work with feminists, that we’re natural allies, and to stop complaining about misandry, or women will really start to hate us.
        Nowhere in that article does she reach out to marginalized men. In fact, she kind of marginalizes them even more.
        Funnily enough, when I read the article, incidents from my past came back to me. My mom had a bad habit of asking me why I made her hit me as she was beating the shit out of me. It’s like a person who abuses their spouse saying, “Why, honey? Why do you make me do this.”
        Justin Vacula did a marvelously brilliant deconstruction of it. If you don’t go to any other link in this post, go to this one. It is worth it.
        Also, another one that is even better.
        Then, when we take that advice and go into feminist spaces and try to discuss these issues, we’re told that those spaces are for women and women’s issues. Any discussion of male issues is typically verboten. We’re told that feminists are addressing our issues, which is complete and utter crap. We’re told that talking about our issues is taking the focus off of women, and I agree that it is, but, they say it like everyone should always talk about the wiminz, or that talking about both is just not a viable option. Oh sure, maybe a few individuals here and there talk about them/do something, but as a group, feminists don’t give a damn about what happens to men. Hell, when we claim that there’s certain things that happen to us because we’re men, we’re called liars because, OMG, men are privileged, even if you aren’t.
        So, Nea, where the fuck can we go? We can’t have our own spaces, and we can’t use yours. Are we just supposed to sit here with our thumbs up our asses, waiting and praying that feminists might just deign to take time from such pressing issues as getting outraged over an overheard dick joke or spreading the word that men are so fucking dangerous that you can never trust them to address the issues that we care about? Because I’ve seen no shortage of men jumping on the bandwagon and supporting feminists and their causes. Do we have to beg and plead for a blurb in an article, kiss ass for a soundbite on national tv, stick our heads so far up your asses that we come out the shoulder, making an individual with two different thinking heads, a la Johnny Knoxville in MIB II, before you’ll actually decide that our problems are worth doing anything about?
        The irony is, this time, I was not looking for a debate on men and women, and feminism and shit like that. I was looking to see if anyone had the courage to admit that rape is only treated as a special type of assault when females are victims. After all, a woman can’t rape a man except by penetrating him, and we all know that this rarely happens.. A man forcefully penetrates a woman, rape. A woman ties down a man and envelops him, other sexual assault. An adult male who statutorily rapes a thirteen year old girl is a sick, filthy pervert who deserves to rot in prison. Reverse the genders and she’s a troubled woman who had an affair. Probation is enough. Female victims have specialized shelters, males have to go to the homeless shelter, which often doesn’t provide comprehensive services. Hell, I couldn’t even say that I’d been raped here, on a feminist blog, without one person, you, questioning that I’d been raped. I don’t fit the profile of the “typical” rape victim, female and traumatized for a long time, therefore it’s okay to question if I had been. If I had done so to a female comment maker on here, I’d probably have been castigated and blocked from posting here.
        Hell, I’m afraid to respond to Sophie’s comment below, because I know that if I do, even though I do feel empathy for her, something I say will set somebody off and I’ll be accused of being a rape apologist, despite the fact that I don’t support rape. I wasn’t going to question if she’d been raped or not, but, isn’t it funny that you can never, ever, ever, ever, ever question if a person has really been raped? It’s always, “Oh my god, you’re an insensitive asshole.” It’s never, “You know, maybe we should give this person who’s been accused the benefit of the doubt, and not call him a rapist until it’s been proven that they are one.” I’ve never seen a feminist utter something along those lines. Never. Because women almost never lie about rape. Or domestic violence, or child abuse, or any other violent behavior. They just aren’t that vindictive.
        Anyways, I’ve spent long enough typing this out. I’m tired, and I have to go to bed. Peace.

    • Eristae

      Because legislation is not based solely on your personal experience. If I am assaulted and robbed but get over both quickly, that has no bearing on your own experience of being robbed and assaulted.
      Rape, in general, has effects that are negative beyond that of other types of assault.
      Furthermore, rape is often carried out with the kind of violent assault that you describe, or at the very least the threat of the kind of violent assault that you describe. Rape also happens in an environment that accepts it more than assault is accepted. If the men in the Steubenville rape case had taken a man and beaten while he lay unconscious, would that victim be receiving death threats? Would everyone have just stood by and watched, laughing? Would the judge have gone off about how the assailants shouldn’t have recorded their assault? Would people have indicated that merely being drunk made the assault okay? Would the news media been talking about how the assailants lives had been ruined by being convicted of assault while ignoring the ruined life of the victim? It seems unlikely.
      And, to be absolutely honest, rape isn’t punished more harshly than assault. Rapists are rarely punished at all. Out of every 100 rapes, 46 get reported to the police. 12 lead to arrest. 9 get proseuted. 5 lead to a felony conviction. 3 rapists will spend a single day in prison. 97 will walk free.* Can you imagine if these kind of statistics applied to your robbery and assault? Can you imagine that if you were assaulted and robbed 100 different times and only 3 of the assailants would spend even one day in prison? That would be terrible, and it’s the reality for rape victims.


      • Bobby

        First off, I don’t trust an organization that doesn’t count rape by envelopment as rape.
        Second, when I spoke of being punished more harshly, I meant that they will on average get a much longer sentence than one would get for assault. Then, after they get out, they are stigmatized for the rest of their lives due to the ineffective sex offender registries, and laws designed to push them out of cities and towns, which in turn makes them more likely to re-offend. There is no other crime where the perpetrator gets treated this way. Which is weird, because statistically, sex offenders are less likely to commit another crime of the same nature than any other type of serious criminal, except murder.
        Third, nothing ever happened to those guys that assaulted me, because I live in a high crime, gang-infested area, and they are gang-affiliated. If I had gone to the cops, I would be dead right now. If I went after them, I’d be dead. This is true of pretty much every victim of crime where I live when the perpetrator is in a gang. There is no justice against them.
        Finally, just because a rape is claimed, does not mean a rape occured. This is not out against those who have been raped, but the rate of false allegations is higher than usually stated.–one-in-one-thousand-eight-hundred-seventy-seven

      • M

        Actually, sex offenders are extremely likely to commit additional offenses. “For example,
        Prentky, Lee, Knight, and Cerce (1997) reported a 39% sexual reoffending rate over a 25
        year follow-up among rapists who had undergone sex offender treatment. Quinsey, Rice, and
        Harris (1995) reported a 20% rate of reconviction for sexual offenses after only a four year
        follow-up period that included only a two-and-a-half year period of offending “opportunity.”
        Further, these figures are widely viewed as underestimates, because a high proportion of
        sexual crimes are never reported, effectively hiding these crimes from researchers.”

        The average self-identified repeat rapist (not all of them are repeat offenders) rapes over 5 women, never getting caught. This study, unlike a random blog post, has been peer reviewed and published. It is a replication study, confirming results from previous studies, which lends it quite a bit of credibility all on its own. It doesn’t deal with female sexual offenders at all, so don’t even bring that up, OK? That’s outside the scope of the study. It does suggest that male offenders are extremely unlikely to be reported or, even if reported, convicted. Smart rapists use alcohol and drugs to render women unconscious, building into the cultural narrative of “she was at a party so she deserves it” and using that to cover their predatory actions.

        Is male rape underreported? Yes. Does that invalidate women’s experiences and struggles? No, no, and hell no. Women are uniquely harmed by the patriarchal assumptions about sexuality in this country. One of the ways that happens is people invalidate their experiences, or tell them other people are getting hurt too, or try to put the focus on men “where it belongs”. You’re doing that. Stop it.

      • Bobby

        No, I’m not trying to put the focus on men. I’m saying that the focus shouldn’t always be on women. There’s a difference. As for the recidivism rate, you are way off.

        A 2002 study by the United States Department of Justice indicated that recidivism rates among sex offenders was 5.3 percent; that is, about 1 in 19 of released sex offenders were later arrested for another sex crime. The same study mentioned that 68 percent of released non-sex offenders were rearrested for any crime (both sex and non-sex offenses), while 43 percent of the released sex offenders were rearrested for any crime (and 24 percent re-convicted).[3]

        According to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) of the United States Department of Justice,[4] in New York State the recidivism rate for sex offenders has been shown to be lower than any other crime except murder. Another report from the OJP which studied the recidivism of prisoners released in 1994 in 15 states (accounting for two-thirds of all prisoners released in the United States that year)[5] reached the same conclusion.

        There’s also this, which also backs me up.

        If given treatment, sex offenders have a low recidivism rate, and most prisons have some type of one. Those on probation and parole are almost always required to attend a program too.

      • Michael Busch

        “No, I’m not trying to put the focus on men. I’m saying that the focus shouldn’t always be on women. There’s a difference. ”

        Not when you come into a thread focused on someone being an apologist for rape and repeatedly say “what about the men”, ignoring female victims.

      • M

        All sex offenders DOES NOT MEAN only rapists. People get put on the sex offender list for non-rape sex crimes. I’m focusing specifically on rapists and the academic literature on rapists, and you’re responding with [people on the sex offender registry]. Those are not synonymous groups.

        If I said “apples are red or green or yellow and round”, and you responded with “fruit comes in all different colors and shapes”, you would have said something both true and irrelevant to the point. Your sex offender stats are both true and irrelevant to the point. Sex offenders may reoffend at low rates, while rapists reoffend at high rates, and both can be true, because the population of sex offenders is greater than the population of convicted rapists.

      • M

        Also, every time someone posts about rape, you bring up all the “but what about teh menz!?” stuff. Every. Single. Time. That isn’t saying the focus shouldn’t always be on women, that’s centering your experience while trying to ignore everyone else’s. That’s saying that women’s experiences are less important than men’s experiences.

        Your response when a woman courageously posts about her rape/sexual assault?
        “It happens to men too, get over it.”

        Your response when people post about purity culture and how it impacts rape culture in ways that are uniquely bad for women?
        “Why won’t you talk about men (who are impacted entirely differently by purity culture) and rape?”

        Your response when people talk about PTSD, secondary trauma in the media and courtroom, and slut-shaming?
        “It’s all about men, dammit!”

        Your response to to societal disrespect of women, the way women are uniquely over-sexualized in movies, television, ads, and video games? Your response to how rape culture and pop culture intersect in vicious ways that teach men terrible ways of interacting with women, eliding what consent is and what masculinity is?
        “Why are you whining about women getting raped? You’re not talking about men enough, or how women rape men sometimes, even though that’s not the topic at all!”

        So tell me, Bobby. At what point can a person talk about women’s issues without also talking about the “more important people”, men? Yes, men get raped by both men and women, and that is a serious problem. That does not have to be brought up every single time people want to talk about patriarchy, feminism, machismo, and rape culture.

      • Bobby

        This thread was started when I asked why rape is treated as more horrible than other types of assault. I made no mention of men or women. Yes, I mentioned my own experience, which in retrospect I should not have done. I had no intention of getting into a debate about men and women specifically, but about rape.

        Saying that men should also be addressed when talking about rape is trying to ignore other’s experiences? That the focus should not always be on just women is trying to ignore other’s experiences? I ask you, when is the appropriate time to talk about men’s issues on a blog supposedly about gender equality? After all, isn’t feminism about gender equality.

        When did I do this? When did I say, “it happens to men too, get over it,”? I mentioned that I was over my rape in a few hours, and I conceded that not everyone reacts the same way.
        If women want to talk about their experiences, fine, I never said anything bad to them. Hell, I’ve ignored the person who claimed that I wasn’t raped because I didn’t react the way that most people who are assaulted or raped act. I didn’t react that way because I won’t allow myself to. I won’t allow myself to wallow around in depression, fear, mistrust, self-hatred, self-pity, anger, and all of the other emotions. I hate those feelings, so I don’t allow myself to wallow in them. When I had problems getting over my assault, I got help. I hate the fact that I hate my mother, even though it’s perfectly justified, so I am going to therapy for help because I can’t do that on my own, and I’ve tried. I accept that I am an agent, not a victim, and that I am responsible for myself, and only myself. If someone does something bad to me, I am not to blame, unless I chose to do something I knew would likely lead to me being hurt. For example, I know Jack likes to push people off of their bikes. One day, I’m riding my bike down the sidewalk, and I see Jack. I choose not to go around him, but just far enough to the right to not hit him. As I go by, Jack pushes me to the ground. He is responsible for pushing me. I am responsible for creating an opportunity for him to push me, since I knew that he likes to do it. I am responsible for protecting myself, but, that day, I failed. Oh well, lesson learned.

        I talk about men because very few people actually care and do things about how men are hurt in our society.

        Because feminists widely ignore how men are portrayed badly in the media while trumpeting to high heaven how women are. When’s the last time you heard a well known feminist denounce how men are seen as disposable in society as a whole? Instead, you see Anita Sarkeesian go on a rant about how women are portrayed as damsels in video games, completely ignoring positive female characters. She brings up princesses having to be rescued, but she doesn’t bring up Samus Aran?
        When was the last time you saw a well known feminist organization fight for something that was for men, just men, or against something that was just for women, such as primary aggressor laws? Or seriously talk about how the focus on girls in school harms boys, and how having female teachers is not a good thing for boys. And yes, I can back this claim up.

        Calling attention to and fixing the problems faced by one gender doesn’t magically make things better for the other.

        In a space devoted to feminism, I would expect to see one of two things. If feminism is about women, I would expect for women’s issues to be the focus a majority of the time if feminism was not about gender equality. If feminism was about gender equality, I would expect male issues to be discussed roughly half the time, without the minimizing of said issues that often happens in feminist spaces. Either this is a place for equality, or it is not, and, if it is, don’t get pissed when people don’t want to talk all about women.

    • Nea

      Bobby, you’re accused of denigrating the experiences of women because you keep mansplaining to us that what we think and feel isn’t valid!

      In this case, you handwave your own rape – which makes me think that you weren’t raped, or were calling something that isn’t rape “rape.” You were over it in a few hours? Really? You didn’t feel violated. You didn’t wonder if it would happen again. You didn’t wonder if you’d missed a cue that you were in danger. You didn’t get told by anyone else that it was YOUR fault for what you wore/did/said/were. The cops didn’t tell you that you should have been flattered that guys wanted you. The very next day everything was just the way it had been before?

      I call shennanigans.

      I also say that you are once again ignoring the actual experiences of women who tell you that they suffer all of these things and more in a rape. FAR more than in an assault. Women don’t be told they should be flattered by an assaulter’s attention. They don’t be told that they led assaulters on.

      And that’s before I address how you have not stopped to think that violent rape and violent assault are often the very same attack and thus you cannot put “broken bones, punctured organs, brain damage, and other things, including death” in the assault bin (which frightens you) and claim it has nothing to do with the rape bin, which is ‘merely’ “STDs or pregnancy” and is therefore not that big a deal… to you.

      I’m not going to address how in the fundamental religious culture this blog discusses, a raped woman is seen as being EXACTLY the same as a slut, so that someone who had her virginity brutalized from her is given the same shaming and “you’re broken and will never be fixed/you need God’s forgiveness but no man will want you” messages as someone who ‘gave her purity away.’

      Bobby, you are accused of denigrating women because you do not look at the big picture. Because you want to make thought experiments that quantify and categorize people’s actual experiences, thus dehumanizing them. Because you DO NOT LISTEN when women talk to you. All of this leads to you making dismissive, and yes, denigrating comments to women about their own experiences. Including this one: stop and THINK about what it says to an actual rape victim (which I still am not convinced you are) that you “got over it” in a few hours. Do you truly not see that you’re telling them that they should be “getting over” it before dinnertime as well? Do you truly not see how insulting and ridiculous that is?

      • Eristae

        I, personally, think that Bobby may be projecting some of the damage done by the rape onto the the damage done by the assault/robbery. When one has been severely harmed it can be incredibly difficult to tell where exactly the harm is. I know this personally from my childhood sexual abuse; because the abuse was so overwhelming and pervasively damaging to me, it was difficult to tell which of my father’s actions had harmed me and which actions had not. This caused issues when I was trying to explain my abuse because I might end up explaining something relatively normal instead of the clearly abusive behavior. Everything all got lumped into one giant category of “it hurts” rather than being neatly parceled out into “this hurt, this didn’t, this hurt, this didn’t.” And as Anat pointed out, it took a long time to realize the full extent of the damage.

      • Nea

        You’ve got a point there, Eristae.

      • Caravelle

        I call shenanigans on your calling of shenanigans. People experience and process things differently and “you have to be this traumatized to have been raped” is a perverse message.

        And for all the excellent reasons you gave why rape isn’t seen the same way as physical assault, in particular the way victims are often dismissed or not believed, dismissing anybody’s self-reported rape in a random comment thread should be a no-no by default.

        It might be something if the commenter in question had given lots of evidence why they might not “really” have been raped (I’m not going to use the word, I’m not going to use the word…), but in this case I see no such evidence. “The effects were gone after a few hours” certainly doesn’t qualify IMO. Especially since it’s followed by “after I went to the police“, which suggests that a) it was something serious enough to go to the police with and b) if Bobby had a good experience with the police taking care of things it might go a long way towards reducing mental trauma anyway.

      • Nea


        Were it anyone else I would believe them, but in context of all Bobby’s other comments on this post, I doubt I’d believe him if he told me the grass was green and the sky was blue. I accept that I could be wrong and far too harsh, but his story put me instantly in mind of the false “I know what it’s like, let me tell you about your reality” pitch that fundamentalists trying to bring me to Jesus use by saying they were once atheists too.

    • Michael Busch

      If I may make a general observation: Just because someone does not intend to be offensive does not magically make their words inoffensive. This an important lesson, and means that everyone should be aware of the effects of what they say on others. Making this more specific, as everyone above has explained, telling someone who has been traumatized “I was hurt too, and got over it in a few hours” _is not helping_.

      And at the risk of attempting air-chair psychology (which is something that should not be done), I have trouble accepting your statement that you were not affected by your experience. As Eristae said, the trauma from one event is often hard to separate from that from another.

    • Sophie

      Other people have explained this better than me but I’m going to add my own thoughts. Bobby, the reason you are so often accused of belittling or dismissing women’s experiences is because you are constantly swinging the conversation around to men’s experiences and how they are worse than women’s. So basically you are doing exactly what you are accused of.

      I am sorry that you were raped and assaulted, it’s a terrible thing to happen to anyone. I am sorry for anyone that it happens to. But just because it happened to you, it doesn’t make my rape or anyone else’s any less horrific. It’s great that you were over yours in a few hours, though like other commenters I am sceptical of that claim. I was raped 13 years ago and I still wake up screaming from the nightmares I have. It was 3 years after my rape that I was able to have sex again, and I mean physically have sex because before that I would get so scared that I would tighten up and penetration would be impossible without force. Speaking of penetration with force, have you any idea how much damage that can do to a vagina? I’d much rather have the broken bones you spoke of. Other lovely long lasting effects of my rape include panic attacks every time I have to have a smear test done (and having a mirena coil fitted was traumatic), not being able to be alone in a room with but a very few men (and that includes friends I’ve known for 10 years), uncontrollable shaking every time I’ve tried to have sex with someone new, I can’t be restrained during sex at all (a former partner once grabbed my wrists and I bit him in panic) and I was lucky enough not to deal with the inconsequential (in your view) side effects of STIs or pregnancy.

      So aside from the long lasting psychological trauma and the physical trauma, which a physical assault would also cause, what’s so bad about rape? Well like others have said there is the fear, the shame and the not being able to trust. Women are brought up instilled with the fear of rape, we are taught that it is the worse thing that can ever happen to us and we are taught that we will bring it on ourselves if we dress like that/drink alcohol/go out in the dark. And when it actually happens to you, and you were wearing jeans and t-shirt, sober and in your boyfriend’s house? Then you learn that nowhere is safe and that there is no behaviour that will protect you and that is terrifying. Our constant programming of how to avoid rape makes us feel like if it happens then it’s our fault. We did something to deserve this awful thing and that makes us feel shame, we must have done something to make this happen. We were too flirtatious, we shouldn’t have been alone with a boy, our jeans were too tight. And because for the majority of women our rapists are someone we know, how can you trust any other man? How can you know that this man will stop when you say no? As for the idea that rape carries worse penalties than assault, I’m just going to laugh at that because it’s blatantly untrue. The majority of rapes aren’t even reported never mind the rapist actually prosecuted.

  • Sophie

    Ick. Just ick. I actually felt dirty reading his comments. I cannot find the words to describe how offensive his “thought experiment” is. I am just disgusted that he has reduced rape to something so trivial. I do not care if I am missing the point of his little exercise, he is a misogynist rape apologising arse and I hope he is severely reprimanded.

  • Pam

    That piece of scum is a sociopath. Reading through all that, my mind seriously started wondering whether he’s raped anyone – personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had. He appears to be completely lacking in any moral or ethical dimension to his personhood.

  • Ae LaWe

    I’m embarrassed to share a gender with this stellar example of humanity. How did he not only see nothing wrong with his “thought experiment”, but somehow not expect major fallout? What, was he expecting academics and lawmakers to step back and go “Hm… You know, he’s right. Let’s stop getting so upset over this whole ‘rape’ thing.”