The ethical corollary of “sex is a basic human need” is that rape is justified.

(Trigger Warning: This post discusses rapist logic and rape.)

Some men argue that when women “withhold sex” from men, we are depriving men of their basic needs:

A sense of entitlement? That’s what you want to call the basic human need for love, companionship, approval, and sex? […] And then you wonder why guys perceive hostility from women. Gee, I wonder.

— unapproved comment from a Geek Feminism post

If a woman declines to have sex with a man, is she violating the man’s human rights, his alleged “right to sex”, or is the man’s experience of being deprived of his rights actually evidence of his sense of “entitlement” over women’s bodies?

Physiological - breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion. Safety - security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property. Love/belonging - friendship, family, sexual intimacy. Esteem - self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others. Self-actualization - morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts. This visual representation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts “sex” at the bottom base of the pyramid (falling under the category “Physiological” needs, which are the most basic needs), but “sexual intimacy” is also at the third rung from the bottom, falling under the category of “Love/belonging” needs. “Security of body” is at the at the second rung from the bottom of the pyramid, falling under the category of “Safety” needs, which is above “Physiological” needs but below “Love/belonging” needs.

If the “right to be not raped” falls under “Safety” and “security of body”, then is the alleged “right” to obtain sex a more basic need than the “right to be not raped”? Or does “Safety”/”security of body”/the “right to be not raped” have higher priority than fulfilling everyone’s alleged “need” for sex?

Of course, if one assumes that sex is a more basic need than security of body, then the ethical corollary would be that rape is justified. If you accept “rape is wrong” as an axiom, then you should agree that a person’s security of body/the right to be not raped has a higher priority than a person’s “need” for sex.

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The Ethics of Comment Moderation

Some people argue that bloggers have a responsibility to moderate hateful comments, but this abstraction often assumes that the blogger is an able-bodied, middle-to-upper-class, heterosexual, white, cis man who is not the target of the hateful comments. If the blogger is from a marginalized group, is she responsible for protecting her readers from hateful comments directed at her or her group?

When readers ask the blogger to moderate hateful comments, there seems to be an unquestioned assumption that if the hateful comments or trolls are not publicly visible, then these comments and trolls have ‘disappeared’. However, what usually happens for most blog setups is that the hateful comments go straight into the blogger’s Inbox and need to be processed along with other e-mails.

Comment moderation requires time and energy. When I have to read hateful comments closely to press the appropriate moderation button, it is more unpleasant and time-wasting than when I skim and mentally skip hateful comments.

Moreover, banning trolls often has the effect of increasing their bigotry and directing bigoted (e.g., racist, sexist) personal attacks towards the blogger herself. For example, the only commenter I have banned so far goes by the name of “goaler”, “Anonymous”, “brett weir”, or “jerky boy”, a White Canadian man living in Metropolitan Toronto, which is where I live as well. Before I banned him, he at least tried to pretend he wasn’t racist. Now that he is silenced on my blog, I get racist comments in my Inbox calling me a “racist chink”; other comments with the words “chink”, “sp**k”, and “sp*c”; and shameless declarations that white people are superior to people of other races. This White Canadian man also appears to have a predilection for fellatio, and said, more than once, that he would perform sexual acts upon me.

(Dear Journalists: This is why bloggers from marginalized groups want to use pseudonyms. If I blogged under my real name, I would probably quit blogging by now.)

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Considering intent to evaluate morality is an ancient Western tradition.

Contemporary Western intellectuals embrace secularism as ‘modern’, and they often perceive Eastern and African cultures as ‘traditional’ cultures that are steeped in ancient religious practices.

Many Westerners even describe Japan, an arguably more technologically advanced nation, as an interesting blend of the very old with the very new. A white man told me that he visited Japan to meet the parents of his Japanese wife. He said that Japan’s technology makes Canada look like a developing country. However, he insisted that Japan’s culture is very ancient in addition to being futuristic, because ancient cultural beliefs and practices are still part of contemporary Japanese culture.

I found it odd that Western culture is rarely perceived as ancient, even though so many of our beliefs and practices can be traced back to ancient traditions. It is difficult to look at Western culture directly, when we are so accustomed to looking through Western cultural frameworks.

An example of an ancient Western cultural artifact is the Christian tradition of considering intention when judging the morality of an action. This Christian concept is institutionalized in our legal systems as mens rea. For a very recent example of factoring in intent, Clay Shirky claimed that the filtering out of LGBT books from Amazon.com was only a “perceived injustice” and an “injustice that didn’t actually occur” since the delisting was done unintentionally.*

The overemphasis on intent is so pervasive that the effects of an entity’s actions is now considered less important or even unimportant. Furthermore, a culture that trivializes the importance of effect encourages people in power to prioritize image management over correcting bad behaviour. If intent is more important than action and effect, then showing that you had good intentions absolves you from your bad behaviour and your responsibility to correct your behaviour.


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* For the record, I was unaware of the #amazonfail twitterstorm until I read Shirky’s article, as I had Internet troubles during that time. Although he makes a good point about people’s tendency to rationalize their actions, because I wasn’t involved, I have no emotional investment in maintaining that an injustice did occur.