Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 :::

I just tweeted
"Legality should imply morality and propriety" is annoying whether from a libertarian or a moralist.
Let me step in it a bit further here.

This was triggered by a facebook link to a page that used the term "slutshame" without irony.  This term is intended as a pejorative label for suggesting that people should dress decently in public; it often incorporates as well the act of asserting that women are less likely to raped, ceteris paribus, the more conservatively they are dressed.

Let me say, then, that I don't want to live in Saudi Arabia, and I'm inclined toward liberal public decency laws, especially at the state and national level.  I will also note that the way a woman is dressed does not excuse rape.  (This should, and typically does, go without saying, and is offered against the people who seek to misconstrue statements on this sort of topic.)  It is, however, the case that many people, for both ultimate and instrumental reasons, prefer that their communities, certainly in public, conform to certain standards of decency, and that those preferences are at least owed some respect and consideration.

As for the rape connection, it seems like a plausible hypothesis; I have no hard evidence for or against it.  "I don't believe that such a connection exists" is a reasonable response, even without evidence, though it would be better received if at least some broad explanation of human behavior consistent with it were offered, since most people, insofar as they try to get into the heads of rapists, will intuit that it is incorrect.  "That's offensive" is, even when true, typically not a satisfactory response to a plausible assertion of fact, and in a context in which these things come up is typically hypocritical, and not in a good way.

So this is where I stand.  I oppose slutshameshaming, as well as rape, and believe that people should be good and respectful to each other, and that small offenses don't justify large ones.  I would very much prefer that that all be mediated, with as high as plausible a degree of success, by informal social mechanisms, including well-intended and respectful correction in the case of possibly unwitting violations of local norms, and most of all by good behavior.  And the fact that I wish the law to stand only at the very outskirts of this is not an endorsement of all off-path behavior that takes place in the middle of it.

::: posted by dWj at 3:52 PM

In re the term "slutshameshaming", it's supposed to tweak what George Will once referred to as "the judgment that 'judgmentalism' is intolerant, hence intolerable." Not that I think it was unclear, but Will adds some extra clarity, I think.
Not unrelated are two closely related phenomena in American politics, one in which people instinctively support the politician with the R (resp D) after their name in any conflict with a politician with a D (resp R) after their name, and one a more general Manicheaism, in which there are only two sides to every conflict and one of them must be right. I'm thinking in particular of a case recently in which a Michigan legislator (D) made a gratuitous reference to her own genitals -- an act a lawyer has told me would probably be enough to beat back an "improper firing" suit for creating a "hostile workplace", even if no private sector employer would feel compelled to fire based on that alone -- and the presiding leadership of the legislative house (R) overreacted, prohibiting her from talking on the next item on the agenda. Liberals have since filled my facebook feed with propaganda to the effect that anyone who considers this to be impropriety is, at best, unsophisticated.
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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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