Via Amanda Marcotte at Slate, University of Rochester professor Steven Landsburg has written a blog post in which he tries to suss out morality arguments based on the Obvious Something Horrible that is rape and (as can be expected whenever men in ivory towers treat rape as a delightful thought experiment) fails badly:
C. I’m having trouble articulating any good reason why Question 3 [ana's note: should the rape of an unconscious person be illegal] is substantially different from Questions 1 and 2 [ana's note: should porn be made illegal based on one person's preference and should any form of environmental damage be made illegal based on one person's preference, respectively]. 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?
After Steven Landsburg was apparently roundly thrashed by his commenters for being a stupid mendacious fuckhead, he added the below disclaimer (and then later this one):
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.
I don't know how to adequately express my disdain for this false equivalence bullshit, as if anyone could reasonably make the case that a rapist might have the right to assert ownership over my body in the same way that a community might have the right to assert protective ownership over a national preserve, and as though ANY OF THE THINGS in those situations are somehow like any of the other things and as though Professor Steven Landsburg can just scrawl "Rapist : Rape Victim's Body = Community : Surrounding Natural Environment" on his university blackboard and have it make any kind of sense because he can't and that is some mendacious bullshit.
I have a lot of disdain for his little thought experiment, is what I am saying.
But I will say this: If Steubenville has shown us anything, it has shown us that huge swaths of the people in our country and culture don't think there's anything morally wrong with raping an unconscious woman. For university professor Steven Landsburg to claim that he co-opted her victimization solely because We All Agree that what happened to her is so unequivocally wrong that it can be used by him as convenient short-hand for Totes Wrong is so disingenuous it makes my head explode. And since university professor Steven Landsburg still claims to not understand how bodily autonomy works, either he hasn't learned the lessons of Steubenville or he doesn't care to.