The Problem of Rape

Last week, Motherboard published the full email thread in which Stallman wrote that the “most plausible scenario” is that Epstein’s underage victims in his campaign of trafficking were “entirely willing.” Stallman also argued about the definition of “rape” and whether the term applies to the victims.

When someone else in the email thread pointed out that victim Virginia Giuffre, who was 17 when she was forced to have sex with AI pioneer Marvin Minsky, Stallman said “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

Richard Stallman resigned from several positions after these comments were surfaced.

The United States have a communication problem that transcends their petty polar politics, and this issue extends to the West.

The conversation around rape and Julian Assange became an issue based on Sweden’s characterisation of the crime as they see it, but this is different.

As with many jurisdictions, the United States creates age-based legal boundaries. This is expedient, to to sure, but we also know, rape aside, that people mature at different paces–not to mention the concept that the brain is not fully developed (whatever than means) until around age 30.

Age is used to delimit majority for contracts, marriage, sex (consent), alcohol, voting, military service, and so on, but it’s a weak tea proxy.

As a legal/social subject, rape is fairly categorically reviled, but it is hardly cut and dry, especially when one confounds the issue with the concept of statutory rape, which is where the systems strips the concept of consent from the equation, so that at 6,569 days a woman (because this is predominately applied to females over males) has no right to consent but at 6,570 does. This is further exacerbated because different jurisdictions have different ages of consent and loopholes, that are beyond the scope of my commentary and misses the point of communication.

Hot Button

Rape, race, and gender are hot button topics used to curtail and derail legitimate discourse and conversation. Whether Stallman’s comments exceeded the bounds of my argument does not invalidate the argument. Perhaps, he did overstep the bounds of civility, but that’s not my concern here.

To me, the question is, given I feel that the sole purpose of jurisprudence systems is to consolidate power to the status quo, how do we create a fair but ‘knowable’ boundary around things for which we currently rely on age, one where both sides of the consent equation understand the limit ex ante. But given legal systems are not designed for precision but for simplicity and expedience (albeit in a Rube Goldberg sort of way) and given that most people don’t question systems themselves, I don’t expect it change any time soon.

Neither do I expect the broader population not to be distracted by these same hot button topics. Distraction is a standard rhetorical device.

Neoclassical Morality


Episode 8 of The Moral Foundations of Politics with Ian Shapiro was another difficult lesson to watch—rather to listen to—the student responses. Evident is the degree of indoctrination or brainwashing these students have been through. I want to document some pieces I feel are relevant to my position.

  1. The fact that morality is perniciously imposed and infused on the unsuspecting
  2. The fact that property rights change over time
  3. The fact that legal interpretation changes over time

The responses were primarily knee-jerk responses anchored on institutional indoctrination. Whilst it makes sense to indoctrinate a group, I am opposed to imposing an obvious relative morality but passing it off as absolute.

Asking how prostitution could be illegal when sex and commerce are both legal, the responses—to be fair, only a couple people responded—were about how it might somehow ‘harms’ women or society as a sort of negative externality, be violent, have been coercive or a form of slavery, have involved a married or otherwise committed spouse, or have involved an under-aged person. These were poor man’s strawman arguments at best, each potentially with merit, but each a separate issue from the question.

In fact, we can likely find evidence of each of these in a ‘typical’ employment situation: coercion, under-age, a threat of violence, implied or expressed; the spousal issue doesn’t fit these situations, but even if we want to legislate keeping people safe from their own actions, it is as illegal for unmarried persons, so the rationale is insufficient.

The point I hold is that prostitution in and of itself is no more exploitative than any other source of employment, a source income. Given that Western society imposes income as the primary means to support one’s self, the wrong here is that artificial barrier. Were income not a veritable necessity, prostitution to earn money (or use as a barter) would also be unnecessary. This is not to say that the other aforementioned objections would be resolved; this because, as I mentioned, they are different issues.

Next, we are told that marital rape originally not considered a crime because a woman was considered to be chattel property transferred patriarchally from her father to her husband. As I’ve written previously, I do not subscribe to the notion of property in the first place, but taken that as given, it is obvious that property is determined through whimsy. Property rights change over time, whether receding as just noted or expanding to include intellectual property and the expanse of patentable ideas. It’s disconcerting that application of the law can be so arbitrary and, though perhaps not capricious, frivolous. And given it is all open to interpretation, the pendulum can swing in the other direction, as the women of Iran and other fundamentalist theocracies has experienced.

Apparently, I’m done ranting. Basic income has been mentioned as a solution to some prostitution, as some women participate out of desperation. Though I feel that this might kerb some prostitution, some women would still seek to supplement this base income, if only to advance their personal standard of living.