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Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? essay

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cab21 Posted: Wed, Nov 28 2012 11:30 PM

http://charleswjohnson.name/essays/libertarian-feminism/

what are your thoughts on this essay.

i think it makes some interesting comparisons.

here is the last paragraph of the article

Libertarianism and feminism are, then, two traditions—and, at their best, two radical traditions—with much in common, and much to offer one another. We applaud the efforts of those who have sought to bring them back together; but too often, in our judgment, such efforts have proceeded on the assumption that the libertarian tradition has everything to teach the feminist tradition and nothing to learn from it. Feminists have no reason to embrace a union on such unequal terms. Happily, they need not. If libertarian feminists have resisted some of the central insights of the feminist tradition, it is in large part because they have feared that acknowledging those insights would mean abandoning some of the central insights of the libertarian tradition. But what the example of the 19th century libertarian feminists should show us—and should help to illuminate (to both libertarians and feminists) in the history of Second Wave feminism—is that the libertarian critique of state power and the feminist critique of patriarchy are complementary, not contradictory. The desire to bring together libertarianism and feminism need not, and should not, involve calling on either movement to surrender its identity for the sake of decorum. This marriage can be saved: as it should be, a marriage of self-confident, strong-willed, compassionate equals.

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Jargon replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 11:42 PM

My thoughts (literally):

Give it up Chuck. Stop pandering the vote. Give them the right to abortion and quit it with this across-the-aisle 'radical tradition' garbage. The Left isn't fooled by it. We're not fooled by it. You sound like a marriage counsellor. It sounds thin.

If anything it's time to scale back women's 'rights' which have now become positive rights. Rights to the income, children and property of a separated spouse, to vacations of privilege off work, to affirmative action, to special histories of one's gender, to the income of taxpayers for one's abortions.

Libertarians ought not to pander, we ought not to squirm onto the mainstage in a pool of the placenta of victimology. We ought to win on our own messages: free markets, peace and individual liberty

Land & Liberty

The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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Individual liberty? PATRIOT Act took a dump all over that, what did the people do? Nothing. How about NDAA? Nothing.

Free market? Oh haven't you heard, the free market is the source of all evil, it's responsible for everything from the common cold to poor people.

 

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Jargon replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 12:31 AM

What's your point?

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cab21 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 1:13 AM

is there not victomology in talking about the abuse of power from the state and lack of consent of the governed?

compare and contrasting free market and individual liberty to alturnatives is a way to promote free market and individual liberty.

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Jargon replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 1:19 AM

Victimology as in, the pet causes of the left

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Jargon:

What's your point?

 

Most people don't care about individual liberty and the free market. Winning on those values is about as likely as snow in the Bahamas.

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Jargon replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 1:51 AM

So  you're proposing the adoption of other values because they're more likely to win?

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The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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cab21 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 1:53 AM

what in that article would be a pet cause of the left? i thought libertarian was a mix of right and left? both economic and social liberty.

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excel replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 2:25 AM

what in that article would be a pet cause of the left?

The lavishing upon certain classes (in the case of second wave feminism; women) of government privileges paid for by others. That's a pet cause of the left that libertarianism can never brook.

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cab21 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 2:46 AM

i did not get that he was recommending government privileges paid for by others in the article, can you quote where he makes such a recommendation?

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Anenome replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 2:57 AM

The left has corrupted the concept of rights into positive rights.

The feminists have done no different. They will have to give up some of their plums in a libertarian world, and are unlikely to be overly happy with this. But it would be consistent with their doctrine of equality. But equality they've corrupted into egalitarianism too, and historical egalitarianism at that, where some of them would say 50 centuries of patriarchy can only be cured by 50 centuries of matriarchy.

Libertarians do not accept this, do not accept tyranny as a cure for tyranny.

In a libertarian world, women would lose a few things. They'd lose an ally of great power in the state. Marriages would no longer be under state power. Marriages would become true contracts, without the masses voting as an ally to force contractual clauses on men women marry. There would be no automatic no-fault divorce, no automatic assumption of children going to the mother, no automatic splitting of finances, no forced child-support, etc., etc.

These things would have to be bargained for either before a marriage as part of the marriage contract, during the marriage as part of an amended contract, or during divorce proceedings. And in a libertarian world, men are likely to be better off in many of those clashes, because the current system is often biased against men.

A blind justice system would probably be truly unbiased towards women, unlike the current system. Or so many have said about our current system.

I sometimes wonder if men who currently have what they feel to be very unfair judgments against them might be very interested in escaping to a seastead and switching to bitcoin which would make it nigh impossible for authorities to take child-support from their paychecks.

I don't think that's necessarily honorable on the part of someone who would do that (women could do that too, it's just a rarer judgment), but it's something I imagine will indeed happen. It would be mitigated by the wives sending bounty-hunters in to collect moneys, or perhaps pursuing arbitrative judgments within a libertarian legal environ against that person, leading to a renegotiation perhaps.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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Bert replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 3:01 AM

Feminism is taking on the cultural aspect as libertarianism is taking on the political aspect.  Politics can be concrete, when you get into cultural aspects then it's different.  It can be hard to take on the cultural without getting into something subjective.  That being said I think one reason libertarianism hasn't gone forward into feminism is 1) white, male, Christian libertarians who can't even adopt abortion as a legitimate right - let alone understand patriarchy, and 2) those on the libertarian side have not actually dived into feminism - their understanding is from 3rd party sources, not direct, or that from other political spheres.

I think this also brings up why a majority of people into libertarianism are white males.  We can talk about econ theory all day on wage rates, but how (and why) should this appeal to a woman who's talking about wage inequality?  The aspects are different, cultural and political, but libertarianism somehow can't fuse them together on the side of feminism.

The views can be different, if the archetype of the patriarch is projected into the market (where a lot of sexism dwells) then the state will be used, if the archetype of the patriarch is projected to the state, then it'll change to an aspect of individual vs the state.  For that to happen there cannot be a dividing line between feminist and libertarian politics.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Anenome replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 4:06 AM
 
 

Libertarian demographics are still a problem though. White, male, and fairly upscale financially. Why should this be?

Can we ever be a mass movement--not if that trend still continues. Still, American democracy largely followed the same trend. As did, I'm sure, socialism's spread around the world.

Perhaps the movement is still young. We are, after all, only a decade or so out from Rothbard's death, and within his lifetime libertarianism had virtually died out, was refounded and began to grow at last. 1900's, the dark decades.

I think, given time, we may be able to convert large numbers of modern liberals to libertarianism. Many of them would be libertarians already except they haven't been exposed to libertarian ideas and ideals--but they would if and when they encounter them. I suspect this would be true for at least a good 15% of liberals. Probably the same or more of conservative republicans.

That's what makes the education solution so tantalizing, but the opportunity cost to reach these people would be enormous. And their personal cost to actually read and develop these ideas to turn themselves into libertarians would be pretty big too. These 15% are people who would change in time if they encountered the ideas, but that doesn't mean these people are the type likely to consume ideas in the first place.

Both left and right are rather intellectually insular in that way. Nary a word is ever mentioned about Rothbard, much less Mises, on the right. I know that for fact.

Even Larry Elder, who I've listened to for years, with a 3 hour radio show, himself an avowed libertarian, has never mentioned Rothbard in my hearing even once, neither Mises or other significant names. Not that I can recall anyway.

But, highly visible events that challenge these people's assumption could have the effect of forcing them to encounter libertarian ideas head-on without instant reactionary dismissal. Primarily by this I mean the establishment of a libertarian society running and proving libertarian ideas and ideals as workable and realistic solutions--seasteads and the like.

Too easily we're dismissed as naive, our ideas unworkable, impossible, utopian. If we can show in concrete terms a working and prosperous society--that will be a shock to the system heard round the world, and people -will- have that excuse ripped from their rationalization system, and will be left mouths-agape, wide-eyed, staring, and babbling, and that might cause a crisis of confidence in existing statist tyrannies.

Man, I can't wait to see the look on people's faces :)

 
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cab21 replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 5:13 AM

i think the government as patriarchy comparison comes in here.

 a couple scenarios for familie stucture

1.male (patirarchy) takes care of the family finance and give female allowence which rewards submission and punishes defiance, and does not want devorce

2. female and male ( legal equality) each have separate finance and pool some together as a team, and if they decide to break it off they they each retain automony

both those can be libertarian, but i think 2 represents something more feminist libertarian as each has kept more autonomy. someone with no finance will not have the same power at the bargaining table as someone independance. i think the patriarchy route of option one says that option 2 destroys the family and both male and female are worse off in number 2 and they ought to choose 1 for the good of both of them.

i do think the state wants to take controll of the finances , rewards submission, punishes defiance, and does not want sucession, with the statists saying the possibility for sucession is bad for the union and a relationship of citizen submision to the rule of the state is good for both.

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excel replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 6:13 AM

i did not get that he was recommending government privileges paid for by others in the article, can you quote where he makes such a recommendation?

The place where he suggested a 'marriage' between libertarianism and feminism? Now granted, he seems to be mostly talking about 19th century feminism (which was anti-state) but in your cutout of his article he seems to mention second-wave as a worthy ally as well. From which my objection follows.

 

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Torsten replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 7:04 AM

Give it up Chuck. Stop pandering the vote. Give them the right to abortion and quit it with this across-the-aisle 'radical tradition' garbage. The Left isn't fooled by it. We're not fooled by it. You sound like a marriage counsellor. It sounds thin.

Wouldn't that be a violation of the NAP principle?

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I think anybody whose sole interest is in the RESULT obtained by political action is going to have a hard time absorbing and appreciating libertarianism. 

My opinion about feminists is they are totally and 100% fine with getting equality in all areas via state action.  Even if this invites the government into every corner of their lives.  The extra privileges they can get out of the arrangement are welcome, too.

Women already have equality before the law.  What they want now is equality or supremacy in social settings and when faced with the choice of focusing on convincing others of their views or simply aggressing in order to get it done, they find the latter is easier.

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Bert replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 9:42 AM

It depends whether feminists want to use the state to get what they want.  At the same time the state's limiting what they can and cannot do (abortion), so democracy is a double edged sword, just point it out.  I know "anarchists" who voted for Obama because of free birth control (just typing that out made my head hurt), but I pointed out to my girlfriend "If they supply it, they choose it, and who it's coming from is lobbying for that, they don't care about the consumer or choice, just what they can make money off of, they are getting paid directly for supplying it" and it brings up another point.  Most people are skeptical of Big Pharma, and Big Pharma is lobbying for one thing or another, people get uneasy.

But my girlfriend doesn't use birth control anymore so whatever...

I've been following Association of Libertarian Feminists on Facebook for some time now and they post a lot of good stuff.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Charles Johnson:
...the libertarian critique of state power and the feminist critique of patriarchy are complementary, not contradictory.  The desire to bring together libertarianism and feminism need not, and should not, involve calling on either movement to surrender its identity for the sake of decorum.

Hans Hoppe:
Private property capitalism and egalitarian multiculturalism are as unlikely a combination as socialism and cultural conservatism. And in trying to combine what cannot be combined, much of the modern libertarian movement actually contributed to the further erosion of private property rights (just as much of contemporary conservatism contributed to the erosion of families and traditional morals). What the countercultural libertarians failed to recognize, and what true libertarians cannot emphasize enough, is that the restoration of private property rights and laissez-faire economics implies a sharp and drastic increase in social “discrimination” and will swiftly eliminate most if not all of the multicultural-egalitarian life style experiments so close to the heart of left libertarians. In other words, libertarians must be radical and uncompromising conservatives.

I find it ironic that libertarians are very quick to dismiss Johnson's analysis as "reaching across the aisle" yet are much more sympathetic towards Hoppe when he does the exact same thing in the opposite direction.  At the same time, if you visit left-libertarian blogs or forums, you will see quite the opposite - a knee jerk reaction against Hoppe and a thoughtful and civil treatment of Johnson.  If one is going to be suspicious of feminist values because of statist actions of many feminists, then one should be equally suspicious of conservative values because of the statist actions of many conservatives, and vice versa.

I believe both sides are fundamentally right:  there are various socio-cultural commitments that not only compliment the libertarian political philosophy, but which cannot be rejected without conflicting with the core libertarian beliefs.  The big question is the extent to which those values are traditionally conservative or traditionally liberal.  I personally think that Hoppe is right when it comes to the importance of the family unit vis a vis the state, but I think that the left is correct in recognizing the potential for abuse such that the family can often maintain the same sort of rights violations as  the state vis a vis the individual.

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I agree with this.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Clayton replied on Thu, Nov 29 2012 3:27 PM

a) Feminism in terms of the right of a woman to self-determine in every respect (and, to an extent, the cultural criticism that comes packaged with that) has always been a core component of libertarianism. This author conflates right-wing "small-government" "values voters" with libertarianism proper.

b) Every -ism or movement which is concerned with some aspect of human rights and which has become "politically correct" has been infiltrated by the State. Gay rights, women's rights, the rights of blacks and "Latinos", the right to peace (pacifism), etc.

This invariably manifests itself in the degeneration of the language and thought in the core movement. Where once feminists offered powerful, hard-hitting criticism of the status quo, today they have joined the boot-licking hierarchy in academia in their misguided pursuit to become the status quo.

c) In particular, mainline feminism has become infused with a bizarre kind of sexual Marxism. Feminism has become obsessed with gender-bending and blurring, as if somehow by dint of will they can manage to prove that "men and women are the same" - an obviously false proposition. But this is the same infantile error of reasoning by which many rights-movements that are infiltrated by the State go off the tracks - they confuse moral symmetry (Golden Rule, self-ownership, homesteading, etc.) with some kind of superficial "sameness of external attributes."

As Rothbard and Rockwell understood decades ago, libertarianism needs to bridge these divides created by the ideological infiltration of the State. Declaring something to be a social program or project is a way to control the discussion and, thus, limit it. "The rights of women" in the hands of the Establishment is not about women's rights at all... it's about containing the rights of women and everyone else. The same goes for gay rights or any of these fad-rights movements.

So, yes, this marriage can be saved. And I will even say that mainline libertarians have a lot to learn... especially the "NAP fundamentalist" types who think that the non-aggression principle is the magic answer to every ill. It turns out that the human condition is very complex and every level is entangled with every other to some extent. But clear thinking (reason, in the most general sense) is still the only way to change things purposively - this is true by definition. That means that the pacifist community, the gay rights community, the feminist community, etc. need to understand that 1) they need to go back to their roots and again begin to apply reason to making their case and 2) they need to also think about what they all have in common with one another: human rights and human dignity, aka the right of the individual to self-direct. The philosophical libertarians (Rothbard et. al.) have laid the groundwork for how self-direction is possible in the absence of a Universal Sky-Bully Who Clubs Bad People Over The Head (the State) - a point over which feminists, gay-rights activists, et. al. are perennially confused.

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Anenome replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 12:31 AM
 
 

Lady Saiga:

I think anybody whose sole interest is in the RESULT obtained by political action is going to have a hard time absorbing and appreciating libertarianism.

Yes. That's strongly what it comes down to.

Lady Saiga:

My opinion about feminists is they are totally and 100% fine with getting equality in all areas via state action.  Even if this invites the government into every corner of their lives.  The extra privileges they can get out of the arrangement are welcome, too.

Women already have equality before the law.  What they want now is equality or supremacy in social settings and when faced with the choice of focusing on convincing others of their views or simply aggressing in order to get it done, they find the latter is easier.

The sad thing about being repressed is that we have a tendency to become tyrants ourselves to end the oppression over ourselves. And don't immediately see that we've replaced one tyrant with another.

By this means, tyranny creates new tyrants even after the one has been overthrown. One look at Egypt's Mursi proves that to me daily lately :\

 
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Torsten replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 8:50 AM

a) Feminism in terms of the right of a woman to self-determine in every respect (and, to an extent, the cultural criticism that comes packaged with that) has always been a core component of libertarianism. This author conflates right-wing "small-government" "values voters" with libertarianism proper.

If you take a general "right to self-determination", what is the point of feminism then?

Feminism how I see it concluding from their literature and proponents is about making demands towards men, demanding from the state to interfere and act on behalf of women and demolishing female gender roles. 

There is of course some variety in those themes, but it short feminstist aim at getting the state to priviledge women over men and to act on their behalf coercively (with men still having to pay the state and to pay the women also after breaking up on marriage or other relational agreements). 

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Lady Saiga replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 10:17 AM

I'm aware of a feminist core (probably bigger in the 70's and maybe 80's, but still there) that believes that what they perceive as x number of years of patriarchal domination needs to be "balanced" by an equal number of years of matriarchal domination.  In that particular language, it's often acknowledged that there are negatives to the kind of world order they propose, but that the need for so-called balance requires it anyway.

Radical Dianic witchcraft pretty much accepts the above as a religious necessity too.  Down with the masculine supreme deity, up with the feminine alternative...eye for an eye in politics and religion. 

In such a language, there's no room for looking for a better alternative to either system.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:37 AM

Feminism how I see it concluding from their literature and proponents is about making demands towards men, demanding from the state to interfere and act on behalf of women and demolishing female gender roles.

It has become this but it was not always so. If you read the early 19th-century feminists, a lot of the things they were complaining about were a) genuine complaints when measured on the basis of NAP (i.e. on the basis of human rights) and b) a direct or indirect result of State meddling and favoritism towards men. However, the infiltration of the State into the feminist camp has completely distorted the movement. It's no longer about human rights and dignity, it's about some kind of "payback" (h/t Lady Saiga) and they are no longer interested in changing the laws that oppress women (sometimes through the agency of men, though often not); instead, their primary strategy is to pass laws to create new privileges for women. Note that the State remains the focal point of all power regardless of how it turns out, which was the purpose of the State's infiltration and "championing" of feminism.

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One of the more enlightening things libertarians could take from this article is its examination of consent.  Libertarians recognize that taxation is non-consensual because the practice ultimately rests upon the threat of force.  Yet if we were to examine people paying taxes, that threat is rarely present -- people simply pay there taxes without someone standing there with a gun to their head.  In fact, many people find a claim such as "taxation is theft" to be absurd because it seems as if people consent since they go ahead and pay.

Yet when it comes to something like intercourse and rape, it isn't nearly as clear as we think it is whether or not consent is given.  Just as I pay my taxes and still recognize that I'm being robbed, I could imagine how a woman could "say yes" and recognize her experience as rape.  Johnson's solution, I think, is illuminating:

There is nothing inconsistent or un-libertarian in holding that women’s choices under patriarchal social structures can be sufficiently “voluntary,” in the libertarian sense, to be entitled to immunity from coercive legislative interference, while at the same time being sufficiently “involuntary,” in a broader sense, to be recognized as morally problematic and as a legitimate target of social activism. Inferring broad voluntariness from strict voluntariness, as many libertarians seem tempted to do, is no obvious improvement over inferring strict involuntariness from broad involuntariness, as many feminists seem tempted to do; and libertarians are ill-placed to accuse feminists of blurring distinctions if they themselves are blurring the same distinctions, albeit in the opposite direction.

In other words, the strictly involuntary case of taxation is such because it rests on the legalization of illegitimate force, while the broadly involuntary case of "fuzzy" rape is such because despite rapes legal prohibition, it rests on the social structures which put men in a position of dominance over women, thus creating a constantly veiled threat of force (even when such a threat might not be present).

If nothing else, the fact that not all consent looks the same should be of interest to libertarians whose credo might be summed up as "so long as its voluntary."

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 1:27 PM

+1 mikachussetts...

Awesome analysis and I wholeheartedly agree. We must always be on the guard against trite dismissal of real violations of human rights through roundabout means - this is the whole foundation of State power but the State is hardly the only entity that is guilty of violating people's rights through roundabout means.

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 1:29 PM

mikachusetts:

One of the more enlightening things libertarians could take from this article is its examination of consent.  Libertarians recognize that taxation is non-consensual because the practice ultimately rests upon the threat of force.  Yet if we were to examine people paying taxes, that threat is rarely present -- people simply pay there taxes without someone standing there with a gun to their head.  In fact, many people find a claim such as "taxation is theft" to be absurd because it seems as if people consent since they go ahead and pay.

Yet when it comes to something like intercourse and rape, it isn't nearly as clear as we think it is whether or not consent is given.  Just as I pay my taxes and still recognize that I'm being robbed, I could imagine how a woman could "say yes" and recognize her experience as rape.  Johnson's solution, I think, is illuminating:

There is nothing inconsistent or un-libertarian in holding that women’s choices under patriarchal social structures can be sufficiently “voluntary,” in the libertarian sense, to be entitled to immunity from coercive legislative interference, while at the same time being sufficiently “involuntary,” in a broader sense, to be recognized as morally problematic and as a legitimate target of social activism. Inferring broad voluntariness from strict voluntariness, as many libertarians seem tempted to do, is no obvious improvement over inferring strict involuntariness from broad involuntariness, as many feminists seem tempted to do; and libertarians are ill-placed to accuse feminists of blurring distinctions if they themselves are blurring the same distinctions, albeit in the opposite direction.

In other words, the strictly involuntary case of taxation is such because it rests on the legalization of illegitimate force, while the broadly involuntary case of "fuzzy" rape is such because despite rapes legal prohibition, it rests on the social structures which put men in a position of dominance over women, thus creating a constantly veiled threat of force (even when such a threat might not be present).

If nothing else, the fact that not all consent looks the same should be of interest to libertarians whose credo might be summed up as "so long as its voluntary."

 

It's an interesting point. The point about the presence of threat regarding taxation is that there are certain relationships where this threat is present. The mailman doesn't threaten you if you don't pay your taxes. The clerk at the RMV does not threaten you if you don't pay your taxes. IRS agents do threaten you if you don't pay your taxes. The police the IRS calls threaten you. So the threat of force is only present in some relationships regarding agents of the state. The threat of force is not present in all relationships with agents of the state. The threat of force is present in taxation, or it wouldn't be taxation.

Regarding rape, there may be some relationships where the threat of force is present. Some women may be married to men who will beat them or kill them if they don't have sex with their husbands whenever he wants. Just as with taxation, the threat of force is not ever-present regarding all males (for sex) or all agents of the state (for taxation). Even if there is a social structure where men are dominant over women, this does not mean that each and every relationship between a man and woman have the threat of force if the woman does not have sex at the man's behest.

So it may be correct to accuse some feminists of blurring the distinction so long as they make sweeping generalizations. When libertarians accuse the state of theft, it is shorthand for the relevant agents of the state engaging in the theft. Not all libertarians are familiar with methodological individualism, but even so, I've never heard a libertarian accuse the mailman as one of these relevant agents. The accusation is about taxation itself, and the people accused as being thieves are typically the politicians, the IRS, and whatever goon the state sends after you should you not comply.

The consent has to be examined under each relevant relationship. If a feminist asserts that there is an ever-present threat of force (or constantly veiled threat of force) against women, then she is blurring the distinctions. If she asserts that there is an ever-present threat of force regarding a specific relationship (she can always list more than one relationship), then the claims can be examined to see whether or not the assertion is true for that particular relationship. She may be right. There may be certain relationships (and there certainly are such relationships) where there is a constantly veiled threat of force against women in certain relationships.

Not all agents of the state are guilty of aggression, and not all men are guilty of some constantly veiled threat of force against women. 

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cab21 replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 2:27 PM

reading  mens rights websites with comments filled with  misogyny and womens rights websites filled with misandry, perhaps egalitarianism can be a term with less of that hatred and prejudice.

 

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gotlucky,

I agree with what you're saying, but I think you're missing he fundamental issue.  When I pay my taxes, there is not a single person threatening me -- I don't have someone telling me that I better pay my taxes or else.  They are withheld from my income, and I file a tax return in the Spring.  However, I have no problem explaining that situation as one of coercion because I know that IF i refused to pay, the law would allow for my wages to be garnished, my possesions to be reposessed, or even to put me in jail.  Although the threat isn't imminent, it is visible to anyone who chooses to research the law.  Because of this, we can see that my paying taxes without protest doesn't count as consent.

With intercourse, however, the threat can be invisible.  If a woman believed (either correctly or mistakenly) that a man might "rough her up" if she doesn't say yes, she might very well agree to it.  Now, if it were really the case that he would have gotten violent with her if she didn't have sex, we could easily say that she didn't really consent, that rape had occured.  But since we don't know, then the way that we understand consent in such cases has to be different from the way we understand consent in traditional libertarian terms.

Although I'm not intimately familiar with feminist theory, I think its prima facie plausible that certain social structures reinforce  patterns of male dominance putting women in a submissive role such that it isn't clear if consent is given.  Insofar as this is the case, then libertarians ought to oppose these structures since they make what should be voluntary (sex) into something increasingly involuntary (rape).

The issue of whether any given man is raping any given woman is something, like you pointed out, we determine on a case by case basis.  But just as we are able to examine the entire institution of the state and recognize that it's aggressive on that level, regardless of whether or not certain state agents are committing agression -- I think we can also examine entire cultural norms and attitudes and recognize that they are oppressive (obviously in a much more nuanced way than the state), regardless of whether or not certain individuals practicing such norms are actually committing opression.

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 2:54 PM

mikachusetts:

I agree with what you're saying, but I think you're missing he fundamental issue.  When I pay my taxes, there is not a single person threatening me -- I don't have someone telling me that I better pay my taxes or else.  They are withheld from my income, and I file a tax return in the Spring.  However, I have no problem explaining that situation as one of coercion because I know that IF i refused to pay, the law would allow for my wages to be garnished, my possesions to be reposessed, or even to put me in jail.  Although the threat isn't imminent, it is visible to anyone who chooses to research the law.  Because of this, we can see that my paying taxes without protest doesn't count as consent.

It's not aggression because the law says so. The law says a lot of things that the state's agents don't pursue. When the mafia threatens you for protection money, just because this time they don't smash your shop's windows doesn't mean that the threat isn't there. The threats are implicit versus explicit. Whether one of the state's goons is at your doorstep or not is immaterial to the fact that there is an implied threat.

With intercourse, however, the threat can be invisible.  If a woman believed (either correctly or mistakenly) that a man might "rough her up" if she doesn't say yes, she might very well agree to it.  Now, if it were really the case that he would have gotten violent with her if she didn't have sex, we could easily say that she didn't really consent, that rape had occured.  But since we don't know, then the way that we understand consent in such cases has to be different from the way we understand consent in traditional libertarian terms.

Absolutely the threat can be implicit instead of explicit. For there to be rape, there must violence, the threat of violence, or both. If there was no violence, then there must have been a threat. The threat can be implicit or explicit. If neither occurred, then there was no rape. The woman may have thought it was the case, but that doesn't make it so. It would be an unfortunate situation.

Although I'm not intimately familiar with feminist theory, I think its prima facie plausible that certain social structures reinforce  patterns of male dominance putting women in a submissive role such that it isn't clear if consent is given.  Insofar as this is the case, then libertarians ought to oppose these structures since they make what should be voluntary (sex) into something increasingly involuntary (rape).

There may be certain social structures reinforcing patterns of male dominance in certain communities and societies, but ultimately what matters is the particular relationship between the man and woman involved. Social structures don't threaten people, implicitly or explicitly. People threaten people. It may be harder to discern if the man is threatening the woman depending upon the context, but ultimately the man must actually threaten the woman. He cannot considered guilty just because of the context he was born into or lives in.

The issue of whether any given man is raping any given woman is something, like you pointed out, we determine on a case by case basis.  But just as we are able to examine the entire institution of the state and recognize that it's aggressive on that level, regardless of whether or not certain state agents are committing agression -- I think we can also examine entire cultural norms and attitudes and recognize that they are oppressive (obviously in a much more nuanced way than the state), regardless of whether or not certain individuals practicing such norms are actually committing opression.

Agreed.

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If there was no violence, then there must have been a threat. The threat can be implicit or explicit. If neither occurred, then there was no rape.

You say this as if implicit threats are easily identifiable.  If a 200 lb man invites a woman home from the bar, and then proceeds to show her his gun collection and says something like "I always get what I want" -- its not at all clear that he is actually threatening her.  At the same time, if the two had sex, I wouldn't feel comfortable saying that there was no rape.  The line of consent just isn't clear.

There may be certain social structures reinforcing patterns of male dominance in certain communities and societies, but ultimately what matters is the particular relationship between the man and woman involved. Social structures don't threaten people, implicitly or explicitly. People threaten people.

We oppose coercive laws, even though we recognize that its not the laws themselves that are committing acts of agression.  I don't see how this is any different.  I mean, we don't just oppose the actions of government agents, we oppose the entire institution.  We recognize that the state distorts the market even in indirect ways -- and we don't say "oh man, shame on that businessman for hiring lobbyists to pass bills in favor of his company" -- we say "hey, this whole system of rent seeking is a natural result of the state."

It may be harder to discern if the man is threatening the woman depending upon the context, but ultimately the man must actually threaten the woman. He cannot considered guilty just because of the context he was born into or lives in.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not talking about this in a legal context.  Although I'm pointing out how hard it is to determine whether rape is really occuring or not, my intent isn't to come to some conclusion regarding guilt or how the law should be applied.  My point is that insofar as there are cultural norms and social structures which help to blur the lines of consent, we should oppose such things.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 3:42 PM

reading  mens rights websites with comments filled with  misogyny and womens rights websites filled with misandry, perhaps egalitarianism can be a term with less of that hatred and prejudice.

Actually, I think it means that egalitarianism is misanthropy.

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As a woman, and as a former victim of sexual abuse that falls under this category, my personal experience may be illuminating. 

In my case, I was young and trusting, and he was a supervisor.  I was outweighed and in a position of implied obligation to consent.

I was the victim of coercion.  I said no.  I did not take sufficiently strong action to avoid repeat encounters out of the social reasons above, and thus I to date blame myself for the ongoing situation I got into; but still, I said no.  That makes it a pretty clear cut situation.

If I had said "yes", even out of fear, I'm sorry but I would have been unable to claim victimhood.  How is the guy supposed to be able to interpret an answer like that?  How can he know he's in the wrong?

I don't believe it's possible to blame an individual for being in a position of authority like that.  You still have to assert yourself as a victim or potential victim if you want to be able to claim that you've been aggressed against.  You don't get to essentially lie about your consent and still consider yourself wronged.

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You don't get to essentially lie about your consent and still consider yourself wronged.

If a police officer attempted to arrest you for possesion of marijuana, and you did not resist arrest, does that mean you consented to being arrested?

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Yep.  It doesn't seem like rocket science.

I mean, if I can see this, so can other women.  If I’d had the least bit of gumption I’d have given the man a good scar, but I was idiotically meek as a teenager.  I was fully aware that I was not effectively standing up for myself in spite of the fact that I’d begged him to stop.

Although I blame myself for not resorting to violence for self defense, I have a definitive way to say I was the victim.  I said no; I appealed to his reason and he ignored the appeal.  Simple as that.  That’s assault.

You’re a fool if you’re too scared to say no.  It’s not going to go any easier on you by saying yes.  The society and the masculine gender as a whole shouldn’t be expected pay the price in freedom for the sake of a few women who are too stupid to realize that rape is still gonna suck even if he thinks you’re willing.

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Now, wait.  I don't think you understood me.  I don't suggest that resisting arrest (as in using violence or running away) is necessary.  I suggest that the verbal nonconsent is the important part.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:13 PM

In my case, I was young and trusting, and he was a supervisor.  I was outweighed and in a position of implied obligation to consent.

Condolences to you. Not to pry, but I'm curious on your thoughts of how common sexual favors are at the workplace (whether eagerly pursued or unwilling as in your case). I look around me and I see strangely unexplainable promotions of certain people and it makes a person think. Again, I don't want to pry for details you're uncomfortable divulging, but how does a supervisor create a "position of implied obligation to consent"? I don't need specific details, generalities will be good enough. I'm sure that managers/supervisors do this even at the company I work at... I just want to understand how prevalent it is and the basic psychology underlying it (in the general case, not necessarily your specific case). Is it driven solely by ego and the feeling of power or is it sometimes a two-way quid pro quo? How do people go about signalling their intentions (whether initiated by the junior or the senior person) without risking firing?

</questions>

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There's another element to situations like those.  Where the woman is overpowered and/or overawed she is usually there and pondering consent because she has something to gain from it.  Whether she says yes or no may not be related to whether she likes the idea, but rather whether she places great value on what she might get out of saying yes as opposed to maintaining her comfort/dignity.

In my case, the pressure to say yes involved the belief that I needed the job.  In other cases, it might be the desire for some other advantage, like access to money or priviledge. 

I think if a woman has trouble saying "no" she's a lot more likely to be conflicted about her eventual benefit than she is about her personal safety.

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