Friday, February 24, 2017

Sexual Libertinism Is All About The Exercise of Unequal Power*

Have I mentioned that I dislike Bill Maher, have always disliked him and consider his political orientation to be pseudo-liberalism?   The liberalish-libertarianism I've described a number of times? I mean have I said that in the past 24 hours?  His is a political orientation that champions such stuff as "free speech - free press" absolutism even if it ends up destroying the rights of other people and, as we see in the phenomenon of Trump, destroying the possibility of egalitarian democracy?   I have written about how the phenomenon has a long history, going back at least to the 18th century when some of its most troublesome ideas were written into our Constitution, which have been useful for giving us Trump and Republican-fascism, as well.

One of the most obvious ways this pseudo-liberalism surfaces is in the kinds of sexual relationships in which inequality is either asserted or built into the relationship through the facts of things like age, feelings of male entitlement, of the feeling that someone who can assert power over someone who they can oppress has a right to do that through anything from subtle manipulation to outright violence.  Or mental illness.  Or the mere refusal to acknowledge the rights of someone you are in a position to violate.  Such sexual relationships share a lot in common with the attitudes that those who are "naturally superior" have a right to exploit, use, damage and oppress those who are weaker, less intelligent, or merely poorer than those in an economic, social or intellectual position to do so.  What capitalism means in reality instead of idealized theory.

That both kinds of exploitation were championed in the so-called "enlightenment" and in what came to, so often, be called "liberalism" so as to confuse it with the older liberalism which was all about equal rights and the equally held moral obligation to respect those, is something that still burdens genuine liberalism.

I hold that the pseudo-liberalism of the 18th century really isn't much different from what is called and calls itself "conservatism" or "the right" in even its extreme forms.  I think that's how someone like Bill Maher can have on someone like Milo Yiannopoulos and find so much common ground with them, the two really aren't opposites, they are fraternal if not identical twins.  As it turns out, the issue of adults having sex with even quite young children is something Maher has waxed supportive of, on video.

But that same attention may now be coming to Maher, as a 19-year-old clip from his former ABC talk show, “Politically Incorrect,” resurfaced earlier this week. The clip features Maher defending Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher convicted of having sex with a 12-year-old male student. Letourneau and the student went on to have two children together while he was a teenager.

“She is in jail because she is in love. That’s how I view it,” Maher said in the clip. “Basically, they’re having a family and they’re keeping the mother in jail because she won’t conform to what society feels should be the perfect American family.”

When challenged on the topic by rock singer Henry Rollins and conservative activist Celeste Grieg, Maher continued on, adding, “How can a woman rape a man?”

He sounds like a pre-second wave feminist media figure of the kind used to be called a liberal.  It sounds like so many of the male "radicals" I knew who turned into a Hollywood concept of a cro-magnon alpha-male in communes and in political parties as the women-radicals began to have their consciousness of their own rights and worth raised and they started speaking up.  He sounds like your typical liberalish-libertarian when the topic is sex.  Really, Donald Trump, in those days, would have pretty well fit in in many ways.

Not all atheists who address these issues follow that line, a number of atheists who are feminists don't say that but some, such as de Beauvoir and "sex pos - so-called feminists" often do.  I hate to say it, but such people always seemed like traitors to me, theirs is a "feminism" which will change nothing and leave the boys in charge of sex.

And far worse is even more often found among gay men who espouse a horrible form of liberation which is, in reality, merely replacing oppression by straight men with that of sadistic, exploitative gay men of other gay men.   That "equality" is no kind of equality it's nothing worth struggling to establish.

Arguing against that is harder in atheism.  It is virtually impossible if not actually impossible  to come up with the arguments that you need to defeat that, to come up with an effective agrument that you are to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" as a non-negotiable standard of behavior without that being a commandment from God.  Just as any other assertion of equality will run into fatal difficulties when such egalitarian commandments are not the starting point of the discussion.  And that depends on belief, entirely and absolutely not a philosophical exposition.   Any liberalism that doesn't begin with that belief of that moral absolute will, eventually, corrode or melt away through the materialism that will always drift into a dune of self-interest, over time.

That's what happened to liberalism, in general when it became "secularized" and lost its political effectiveness.  It got conned into that through pseudo-science and the assertions that the thinking of the 18th century men who brought the American and French revolutions were a sufficient replacement for divine Law. I've shocked some such people in the past by saying I had a greater confidence in people who did believe the Golden Rule was an unchangable divine law to understand my equal rights as a gay man than people who believed in 18th century libertarianism.   It's no mere accident that Bill Maher's career got a big push when he marketed his act as a sci-guy atheist in the same vein as George Carlin.  It's also no mere accident that such a guy would get along with Milo Y and find common ground with him in something like adults having sex with children.  No one who advocates that is a liberal, they are a libertine.

Pseudo-liberalism is an amoral assertion of liberty without regard for the potential of it to turn into an unequal relationship, real liberalism, in the American sense of the word, is all about those who can or could exercise superior positions and power not doing so and, if they are unwilling to restrain themselves in respect to the rights and welfare of the less powerful, to be made to restrain themselves. Liberalism in that sense is bound to be less easy to articulate - and so disadvantaged in the stupider forms of media - and less popular as they include restraints on people doing what they want to do when they can get away with it.  But it is essential for egalitarian democracy and the possibility of a decent life for everyone.  That's as true when it comes to sex as it is in contract law.

* Or Yes, We Must Burn de Sade If We're Going To Have Real Equality - or The Tree of Democracy Needs To Be Fed With The Ashes of Inequality From Time To Time.

1 comment:

  1. Rape is, as ever, a question of consent.

    In popular (i.e., non-legal) discourse, rape is associated with violence: the "stranger in the bushes." And so sex between two people can never be rape, because there is no physical force involved. But rape is about consent, and society has decided that below a certain age, consent cannot be given. Period. Children (below that determined age) cannot consent to sex even if they are not physically coerced into sexual intercourse.

    That's precisely how a woman can rape a young boy (he was not a "man"). Maher was simply being too cute by half, and no doubt would have hidden behind his "comic" persona, the one that allows him to be "transgressive" without consequence. Or that's how it is supposed to work.

    I have no problem with people transgressing society's boundaries and taboos, especially in merely expressing ideas rather than, say, engaging in statutory rape. You can promote NAMBLA, if you want; but take responsibility for what you promote, don't say you were "Just sayin'!", or that you were a comic and therefore exempt for your statements.

    Maher wants to eat his cake and have it, too. He wants the authority without the responsibility. Nice work, if you can get it. But I don't think you can.