Sunday, March 15, 2009

Warning message for Harvard classes needed?

Here is a tasty bit of circular reasoning used by a feminist from Harvard’s law school, Diane Rosenfeld. Ms. Rosenfeld “teaches” a course on feminist theory. Rosenfeld went up against civil libertarian Nadine Strossen to “discuss” pornography.

She says that the students really want to discuss pornography but never “have the space to do it” except, apparently, in her alleged course. She claims, “There’s not a good way to talk about it, there’s not a forum in which to really talk back to pornography, to the extent that we consider pornography as speech.” Of course, this is rubbish. There have been endless discussions of pornography, endless conferences, forums and debates. There is no shortage of academic article, hysterical feminist diatribes, preachy sermons and energetic defenses of the material. What could Rosenfeld mean when she says no place exists to discuss the topic? In my experience what such comments tend to mean is that the other forums are not entirely controlled by feminist ideologues.

Right at the start Rosenfeld defined pornography as violence. She said: “Most pornography, as opposed to erotica, has an element of domination in it, or sexual coercion. And it usually, almost always, in studies that I’ve read, portrays women as always consenting to sex and if they didn’t consent initially coercion, or violence, or force is used.”

Her reasoning is that pornography depicts women as either willing to have sex of, if unwilling, that they are coerced into it. Considering that the depictions being discussed were, by definition, sexual then no other option was possible. If you depict sexual activity then that depiction must show either willing or “unwilling” (that is willing participants pretending they are unwilling) individuals. Nothing else is possible.

It worries me that someone is teaching law students with such bad reasoning. How can porn depict women “as always consenting” yet depict them as sometimes not consenting. Apparently “always” doesn’t actually mean “always”. It is equally bizarre that Rosenfeld thinks that her statement has any significant meaning. Since porn must depict either consenting or non-consenting individuals to state this adds nothing to the discussion. If I were to speak of a “towel that is either wet or dry” I have said nothing. I could say: “Ms. Rosenfeld is either in class or she isn’t.” That is verbiage, it conveys a thought of some kind, but it actually says nothing of importance or significance.

Rosenfeld also just lies about things. She said: “In the landscape of women’s legal rights to challenge male sexual violence we’re in really bad shape.” This is blatantly false unless one redefines “sexual violence” to mean something entirely different from what it actually means. But this is precisely what ideologues like Rosenfeld do. Because of this apparent cultural disregard for sexual violence she doesn’t think that complete bans on porn can be accomplished (oh, there is also that little matter of the First Amendment). Instead she says: “What I’m thinking we should do right now is have messages on pornographic websites that say, that are like warnings similar to warnings on cigarette packages… and have some kind of message that says this will perpetuate objectification of women and bad attitudes and might contribute to violence, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I’m working on the message right now.”

Somehow I don’t think a message about perpetuating the objectification of women will impact the desire to see sexual images. But I rest better knowing that Ms. Rosenfeld is ready to Nanny the rest of us with her silly message. I might be willing to swap with her, however. If she puts a warning message on her so-called courses then I won’t oppose her Nannyism. I’m working on the message right now. It should say something like this:

Warning this course is taught by an irrational profession, unable to follow logic or reasoning. It perpetuates a radical, feminist point of view disguised as social science cloaked in the law and surrounded by lies, falsehoods and gender stereotyping of men. It is dangerous to your civil liberties, First Amendment rights, and limited government. Consumption of the ideas in this course will not contribute to real life and are merely a propagandistic tool for the professor.

Rosenfeld says, “pornography eroticizes domination.” Alas, I fear evolution did that first. Humans evolved from species where domination and sexuality were intertwined. To a large degree humans have moved away from that form of sexuality. But pornography depicts domination, though not as persistently as Rosenfeld pretends, because humans already find it erotic. That is, people are not into domination because porn exists. The porn exists because people are already aroused by it. Rosenfeld has the cart before the horse.

She does admit “that message” is in music videos and popular culture as well. As she sees it, this message is pervasive through society. If its “all over”, why this obsession with pornography?

At another point Rosenfeld implies that erotic depictions are not “speech”. Yet she constantly harps about what she says is the “message” of pornography. While dismissing pornography as speech she is deriding the message it conveys. If it conveys a message then it is speech. For it to be “not speech” it must be void of any message. But that would give Rosenfeld nothing to say. At the core her problem is that she does believe it is speech but that it is speech that she wishes wasn’t speech.

A third bizarre statement made by Rosenfeld was that the “issue of pornography comes up in every class I teach”. The way it is worded she is saying that this is such an overriding concern of the students that they can’t wait to discuss the evils of porn. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that all her courses are in feminist ideology and nothing else. She leads a course pushing “Gender Violence, Law and Social Justice” as well as the panicky sounding “Child Exploitation, Pornography and the Internet” (a bugaboo that has been debunked by several major in-depth studies).

I won’t go into more of the discussion. If you are interested give it a listen. I will note that Nadine Strossen was excellent, and that she, unlike Rosenfeld, actually kept within the time limits given.

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