I watched the recent kerfluffel over at Skeptchick and Reddit/atheism with keen interest. Then I saw poor old Custador post in the shiny happy thread about the abuse he took over there. I have some odd thoughts, and some disturbing ones.
I don't have the source, but I can track it down if anyone requests it. It was a paper by some psychologists who claimed that everyone had dreams or fantasies about rape, murder an any number of atrocities. It seems that the ability to be cruel and demoralizing to our fellow humans is a permanent part of our psyche, and that we have to be trained to suppress it. I submit the Milgram and the Stanford Prison experiments as evidence. It doesn't seem to take much to turn the average soccer mom or dad into a cruel and violent person.
In turn men are, on average, physically larger and stronger than women. Of course, being powerful gives you confidence and the opposite makes you defensive.
If the above are all true about the human condition, could we assume that any time a population is largely anonymous, we will see the type of heavily sexualized violent display that is so prevalent on Reddit? Is this merely a part of the human condition?
Thinking these thoughts brings me back to a conversation I had years back about the Japanese and their culture. While physical attacks are low in that nation, they have a very large amount of rape and violence in their popular culture. Some of you might even recall the interactive video game sold there that allows the player to stalk and repeatedly rape a virtual victim. Talking about all this virtual violence and sex led us to start thinking about the new sex robots that are starting to come on the market.
Steven Pinker has recently put out a new book showing the decline of violence in our society. Today, we live in the most peaceful time our species has ever enjoyed. In ages past, parents willingly brought their children to public executions for entertainment, where today we watch Die Hard with our kids, or let them play Rainbow 6. It seems that some part of our brain needs to have it's blood lust satisfied, and if we satisfy it virtually that assuages our desire to commit the real acts of violence.
I guess my real uncomfortable question is, should we create a space for this kind of violence and simply accept it as part of our humanity? How far should we go? What if people started selling sex robots that looked like small children? What is a dominatrix's dungeon, if not a place to purge a desire for violent sex? Should the US have allowed the sale of the rape video game?
These questions make me real uncomfortable because I can't answer them. I'm all about punishing pedophiles are rapists and removing them from society. I find their desires disgusting. I'm just not sure that forcing them into hiding is the best way to treat them.