Exploitation, Liberty

Violating Our Principles

(Trigger warning: While this post does not discuss rapes and assaults in detail, the article linked in the first paragraph does.)

On Valentine’s Day, Rolling Stone published an article titled The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer. In meticulous and horrifying detail it traces the experiences of  Petty Officer 2nd Class Rebecca Blumer as she is drugged and raped, arrested, and given delayed and cursory medical attention. The article continues to follow Blumer’s story as she has her security clearance suspended, is repeatedly accused of making up her story, and is discharged from military service for the DUI caused by the date rape drugs she was given.

It is an infuriating story, and made all the more infuriating by being interposed with similar details from other cases of other military rape victims. It is infuriating, but it is not news.

What happened to Petty Officer Blumer is, quite simply, what we have seen happen over and over again to rape victims, particularly when they are part of a larger self-protective institution like a military, or a church, or a university. First, the rapist violates consent and then the institution protects itself by protecting the rapist.

This is why rape is not just an issue for women or for feminists or for victims. This is why rape is, or ought to become, an issue for libertarians to discuss with the same vigor and passion we bring to debates about taxation, the TSA, and government regulation.

Rape is a violation of everything that is most central to the libertarian philosophy. We believe that interactions should be peaceful exchanges between consenting parties. Rape brutally violates all three of those terms. It is not peaceful. It is not an exchange. And it is anything but consensual. We should be screaming about this. Why are we not screaming?

The further layer of violation that is added when institutions circle their wagons to protect themselves is an additional offense to the victims. It is also an additional reason for libertarians to care about rape and to speak out against it. Because we care enormously about growing institutions that function well, we are aware of the dangers that come into play in dysfunctional institutions. We know a few things about the political economy of bureaucracies, after all. We know that there are incentives that explain why the military would choose not to prosecute Blumer’s rapist. We know that there are incentives that explain why Penn State would elect to decline to deal with the “Sandusky problem.” We know that there are the incentives that explain why churches keep quiet about clergy who rape. We know that there are incentives that explain why campus rape is handled so ineptly so often. We should be talking about this. Why are we not talking?

Rape is private matter. It is an intimate crime, and the individual who is raped suffers horribly. But rape is also a crime against the beliefs that libertarians hold most deeply. We should be angrier. Why are we not angrier?

  • I confess I don’t really understand the question, “Why are we not angrier?” It’s plain as day that rape is a horrifying thing. No one takes it lightly. That is exactly why institutions try to cover it up; people don’t cover up mild offenses. Instead of asking society why we aren’t angrier about rape, activists should be suggesting specific systemic changes that can help victims. Where exactly do specifically libertarian principles come into play, here?

    • plutosdad

      Because when you say that, most men think of stranger rape, that involves physical violence and force to hold a women down who fights back.

      But once you get outside that, suddenly many if not most men don’t even consider it rape, or say it’s a “grey area”, or say there is guilt on both sides, etc.

      The rapes in the article, the military ones, are not “date rape” they usually involve drugs or overwhelming violence, but most rapes outside of the military don’t involve that. Most rapes are of a person who cannot consent due to inebriation, or is afraid to fight back, or resists at first then gives up, or was out late in a pickup bar by herself and had a few too many, but is not stumbling down drunk, or wearing skimpy clothes, and all manner of excuses men use.

      Those are the rapes that don’t make men angry, they make men make excuses, and fear, or say “that can’t be true because then i’d be a rapist” Because in fact they are rapists. And that is when libertarian men are particularly guilty, just as the conservative statist men, because often you hear things like it’s “too easy” to convict a rapist, that even the mere accusation ruins a man’s life, and that is why we had to fight against VAWA, to protect men.

      • John Brown

        Rape means non-consensual sex. If the sex was non-consensual, then it’s rape. There is no “grey area.”

        So, with that out of the way, is it non-consensual if a man and a woman have been out drinking and they later have sex?

        • alytron

          If they’re too drunk to consent, yes.

          • Sean II

            That actually poses a more serious problem than people realize.

            If we only ever charge men with rape in cases of impaired consent due to intoxication, we’ve got a problem with legal equality, because we end up saying men can consent while drunk but women cannot.

            If we start charging both men and women, then we’ve got a problem of selective prosecution, because binge drinking and sex under dubious consent happens so much that nearly every college student will be an un-indicted felon by the time they graduate. Only some 1/1000 people who commit the crime will ever be punished for it.

            It’s not so blindingly simple as you make it sound.

          • HBH

            Drunk sex shouldn’t be considered rape at all then, period. What you do when you are drunk should be your responsibility. You have sex while drunk, that is your decision to live with.

          • ben

            So who is raping whom then?

            Similarly, would that mean that two minors who are having sex are committing statutory rape?

          • HBH

            I guess DUI’s should be legal then, since you were too drunk to know any better.

        • TracyW

          And yet there are grey areas. To quote plutosdad, the person who is afraid to fight back, or resists at first then gives up. I can easily imagine a person (male or female) thinking that they didn’t rape in that situation while their victim thinks that they did.

          Also, I’ll add that people are very reluctant to say no explicitly and to keep on saying it. If you read advice columnists, a lot of people write in asking how to reject invitations, or what to do about a visitor who insists on finding out how much they spent on household items, or some other situation where the physical risks of saying no repeatedly are far more minor than they are in the case in which many rapes happen (particularly man on woman, as most men are physically much stronger than most women).

      • ben

        “that even the mere accusation ruins a man’s life”

        Do you deny this?

        • alytron

          I deny this. People accused of rape are still in their jobs, schools, fraternities, government positions, etc. they’re rarely even brought to trial, defended en masse , and all around us. Are some people penalized in their lives after a rape accusation? Yes. Just like with any other crime accusation, it happens. But it happens far far less often than not, and the narratives surrounding rape only support that. And the narrative of “rape accusations ruin peoples lives”is used to silence victims a lot.

          • Sean II

            This little exchange is a good example of where people go wrong talking about rape.

            It is completely obvious and banal and beyond dispute that some people get away with rape, while other people suffer horribly because of false accusations. And since both usually involve cases where the only revealing evidence is the testimony of accuser and accused, there is no way of knowing how often each of these things happens.

            As far as I’m concerned, anyone who tries to comment on the issue without first acknowledging all three of the points above is just full of shit.

            But, here’s what always happens. One side or the other decides that “this fact, while perfectly true, interferes with the message we should be sending.” Or they decide “these two facts have equal weight in evidence, but for moral and not logical reasons let’s all just agree to pretend one weighs more heavily than the other.”

            So on the one hand you get absurdities like this:

            B: “What about all the victims who never come forward, and all the assailants who get away with their crime?

            A: “Oh no, we’re not talking about that. I want to talk about the lives ruined by false accusations.”

            While on the other hand you get insanities like:

            A: “We mustn’t forget about those who are falsely accused…”

            B: “Oh, you would say that! How typical! It’s people like you who make it almost impossible for victims to come forward. Plus, I choose to believe that doesn’t happen very often, so I’m not even worried about it”

            In the first conversation, A was clearly obliged to to grant B’s point, but he refused out of sheer “you-can’t-make-me” childish stubbornness. He doesn’t just get to focus on one category of victims (the falsely accused) while ignoring the other side of that coin (the guilty at large).

            In the second conversation, it was clearly incumbent on B to admit 1) that false accusations happen, 2) that they happen at an unknown rate, and 3) that they are a serious injustice when they do happen.

            Instead, with the help of motivated reasoning and a conclusion that’s been tucked safely in his pocket since the discussion began, B refuses to acknowledge anything but 1), and that only grudgingly (notice the euphemistic phrasing “are some people penalized in their lives after a rape accusation?”).

            He does this, not because of any credible argument against the truth of 2) and 3), but simply because he finds those points inconvenient to his conclusion.

            Maybe, instead of urging people to “get angry”, we should urge them to “get logical”. The way people talk about rape already bears the stamp of too much emotion, not enough thought.

        • plutosdad

          The fact that THAT is the line out of everything that you picked only proves my point.

        • good_in_theory

          Accusing someone of rape usually ruins a woman’s life. But then there life is typically already ruined, because false rape accusations don’t happen very often – both because they ruin a woman’s life and because not many people go around accusing others of committing violent crimes for shits and giggles.

          • Sean II

            G.I.T – You have no way of knowing the rate of false reports, nor the rate of non-reports. No one can know those things, even though everyone pretends to for nakedly partisan reasons. One side claims to know the rate of non-reports is lower than X. The other side claims to know that rate of false reports cannot be higher than Y. Both are talking straight out of their ears.

            People do a lot of strange and terrible things to each other in this world. Spouses in the grip of an ugly divorce will wholly fabricate allegations of child abuse against each other. People invent fake illnesses, either for themselves or for their children, just to attract attention. People go treasure hunting with lawsuits, lie about how they hurt their backs to get work comp, etc. People steal things, and then stand idly by while someone else gets fired or arrested in punishment for their crime. You get the point.

            There is nothing in human nature that makes it implausible for one person to falsely (or just wrongly) accuse another person of rape, and thus there is no support for the presumption you make.

            Take the simplest case: A man believes he is having consensual sex with a woman. The woman believes she is being raped, and that the man will hurt her if she says “no” or resists in any way, so she does neither. When it’s over, he believes he has had an awkward sexual encounter, she believes she’s the victim of a crime. Both are perfectly sincere and perfectly justified in those beliefs.

            When the woman gets to the police station, a detective asks “Did you tell him no?” Knowing that a negative answer will cause the case to be dropped, she says “Yes. I told him ‘no’…three times.” She has changed just one very small detail in her story, with the sincere goal of making others understand what she believes to be the truth. But unfortunately for the point you’re trying to press, that absolutely counts as an example of a false rape report.

            No doubt this is one of the more common reasons why people lie. They lie, as it were, to produce the truth in the foreign world of another person’s mind. They lie by taking the intangible and making it tangible. They lie by placing a clear fact where a supposition should be. When the gun is cold on the ground and the suspect is 1000 yards away, they lie by “improving” the story so the gun is still smoking in the suspect’s hand.

            We know it happens, but we can’t know how much. Shits and giggles have nothing to do with it. The thing that makes people give false reports of crime, illness, injury, etc, is a thing to which none of us are immune.

          • good_in_theory

            Nice discourse on the impossibility of certain knowledge, which is largely irrelevant to the point.

            Whether making accusations of rape has negative consequences on the accuser is something that actually is amenable to study.

            But please, give me your priors, because even if it’s a probability we can know, it’s certainly one can we guess about. What perentage of rape accusations do you think are lies? 2%? 10%? 20%? One can have knowledge of the incentives and disincentives which someone confronts in making a claim of rape. One can know the proportion of investigated rape claims that prove to have been falsified. I’m sure there are other sources of information by which one might infer the rate of lying.

            Saying, “well people lie and who really can ever *really* know the truth, really,” is bullshit sophistry that can be used to argue anything.

          • Sean II

            You ask: “What perentage of rape accusations do you think are lies? 2%? 10%? 20%?”

            I don’t know. That’s the whole point. I asked a prosecutor that very thing yesterday and he said, “Hmm. Tough question. How would you count ex ante consensual sex acts between a prostitute and a john after which the john refuses to pay and the prostitute reports rape?”

            I said “I’m not sure, why?” He said “Because that happens all the time.” I asked him if those cases are ever prosecuted as rapes. He said “No”. In practice it seems they’re considered false reports.

            Do you see what I’m getting at here? A whole lot depends on the definition of rape, and there is still much disagreement about what that should be.

            For example, if you take seriously the idea that alcohol invalidates consent, then there are obviously millions of unreported rapes every day. Much of the sexual life of 13 – 35 year olds is closely tied up with drinking, so if drunk sex really is rape, then most of the population must be rapists.

            Do you accept that? Do you think it makes sense?

          • good_in_theory

            For any given definition of “rape,” there exists info to make a guess – like you just did, with alcohol as an impediment to consent. Having multiple possible definitions means multiple possible estimates conditional on which definition you use, it does not mean ‘oh well I guess we can’t say anything cause it’s just unknowable.’

            I mean, the chain of misdirection here is offensively ridiculous.

            1. Women get raped
            2. Women say they get raped
            3. But how can we *believe* what they say?
            4. Well, I guess you can never *really* know what’s true or what’s false when it comes to matters of intentional consent.5
            5. So, rape really isn’t a big deal because sometimes women might lie about whether or not they’re raped.


          • Sean II

            GIT, no one here ever said anything resembling this: “rape really isn’t a big deal”. It would be slander against all straw men to even call that a straw man.

            The awful thing is that I don’t know if you’re arguing in earnest or if you’re just trolling.

            I’ve seen you do both, but I’ve never seen you do either so badly.

          • No, rape is a big deal when it is real rape. It is not a big deal when it is imagined. What matters are actions, not intentions. Did someone force a woman to have sex or not? If the answer is yes, you have a case of rape. If the answer is no there is no rape.

          • good_in_theory

            You do realize you’re being internally incoherent, yes?

            1. intentions don’t matter
            2. what matters is if a woman forcibly had sex – e.g., what matters is her intention when she had sex.

            Try again.

          • “Do you see what I’m getting at here? A whole lot depends on the definition of rape, and there is still much disagreement about what that should be.”

            That is the problem. The definition is distorted and made so broad that it is far too easy to accuse someone of rape. The issue is one that is based on simple principle. Was someone forced to do something by the use of a threat or of violence? If the answer is no, there is no rape. And no, feeling threatened when no threat is made is not a valid excuse for an accusation.

          • You’ve done the research that false rape accusations don’t happen “very often”? Fascinating, do share.

      • But once you get outside that, suddenly many if not most men don’t even consider it rape, or say it’s a “grey area”, or say there is guilt on both sides, etc.

        I believe that you are confused about this. I do not accept the idea that most men would consider non-consensual sex where force or violence is involved to be a grey (gray for our American friends) area. There is no question of there being, ‘guilt on both sides’.

        Rape is rape. End of story. The problem that appears for some men (and women for that matter) is when you have consensual sex that is later redefined as rape retroactively. If a woman says yes and has sex she cannot later claim that she did not really mean it and that she was really raped. I assume that you are not talking about such cases, where many libertarians will side against the rape claim.

        • TracyW

          So a man puts a hand on a woman’s arm to stop her leaving, or blocks the door? He may truly believe, in his conscious mind, that if she really insisted, he’d let her go, but she’s not a mind-reader, she may well give in out of fear that he won’t stop anyway.

          I’ve recently given up on reading A Discovery of Witches, in which the romantic “hero” grabs hold of the “heroine” and refuses to let her go until she answers his questions, which she didn’t want to answer. Horrifying behaviour as the “hero”, but the author, who apparently is a woman herself, apparently doesn’t blink at this, as the “heroine” then just basically shrugs and answers his questions! (Thus my scare quotes around both “hero” and “heroine”, along with some other textual reasons).

          Or how many viewers of the Rocky Horror Show are horrified by the rapes in that show? I wasn’t when i first saw the show.

      • I assume you have personally done the research to show that “many” men don’t consider non-consensual sex rape? And I also assume that on your incredibly high horse there is no room for nuance in interpersonal sexual relationships? These are delicate issues, but you’ve slandered “most” of an entire gender, conflated that gender with “libertarians” and proceeded to use two fallacies to assert your conclusion.

  • Krinein_ev

    To answer the question at the end of your post… Most libertarians are males stuck in permanent adolescence and thus probably more aroused than outraged by stories such as these.

    • John Brown

      Sweeping generalizations and stereotyping entire groups of people are fun!

      • not that sweeping JB

        • John Brown

          TIL that one may label an generalize about an entire group of people by saying they are stuck in perpetual adolescence and claiming that their motivations are to be excited at the prospect of men raping women rather than revolted by it.


      • Audrey T Benjamin

        It’s completely okay when it’s against men (tumblr SJW logic).

    • j r

      After you wrote that, did you air high-five yourself, or did you just keep it to a simple self-congratulatory fist pump?

    • ..that’s been mostly my experience of liberatrian males, while there are rational guys, guys of reason, they seem far and few in libertarian group. You only need read comments here to see they have no concept of feminism, or what women deal with day to day, and often they try to pull it around with ‘what about me’.

      • John Brown

        So, you have no problem making sweeping generalizations in the negative about an entire group of people and then you’re pissed that that group of people are not understanding you?


        • …only where it happens, i too have been engaged in discussions of sheer misogyny and sexism by libertarian males blowing their hypermasculinity and disregard for feminism as if it something to be proud of, a cleverness, attempting to ridicule, disparage and demean. your slowclap is unappreciated, take the time to really listen, understand feminism, liberatrianism and see that it is not at expense of women and their rights.

          • you get a loud and fast applause for that BW, well said also.

          • another here beach, call it for what it is

          • John Brown

            The /slowclap wasn’t appreciated? Well, then. Have yourself an /eyeroll

          • Agreed.

          • When you make those kind of general accusations, (and I seem to see it a lot from certain groups) Then you should ask yourself why perhaps not so many people are down with your style of feminism.

            May I suggest to you and Cal a good book. – How to win friends and influence people, by Dale Carnegie.


          • good_in_theory

            ‘I generally accuse certain general groups of making general accusations!’

          • You know what I was saying, but if you need for me to be specific, then, ok, the group I was talking about was feminists who like to poke people in the eye and accuse them of all kinds of ill will. They are their own worst enemies.

          • Audrey T Benjamin

            Let me say it’s not just your straw-man “He-Man Woman Haters Club” who are displeased with the whiny, self indulgent turn feminism has taken in recent year. Even feminists like myself are getting tired of the constant assertions without any evidence, and the shrill butt-hurt when anybody tries to call you out on it.

    • Harriss B

      Why are you here then?

    • Audrey T Benjamin

      But disparaging millions of people based on nothing more then their gender and political affiliation is perfectly exceptable.

  • Steven Horwitz

    And this is an issue that libertarian men should be speaking out about as well. If we really believe everything we say
    about consent, exchange, and peace, then
    rape (which violates all of those), and the culture that too often
    dismisses it or finds it funny, ought to be near the top of our list of
    infringements on liberty. That we are men is all the more reason to
    speak to its importance and to call out other men who contribute to
    perpetuating that culture. It is libertarian men, more than libertarian women, who can help make this a libertarian issue and not (just) a “women’s issue.”

    • Rabbi’s Minion

      Yeah, I think it’s horrendous that rape is such a widely accepted social norm in the first world.

      • John Brown

        Well, it is in prison. But, that’s nothing to be too upset about because…you know…what about the menz?

      • Ray

        It Is?

    • Al Bundy

      At the risk of derailing the thread, just want to say that I 90% agree with Sarah’s post and with your point, but I’m not so sure about the “finds it funny” part.

      Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it reminds me of when people say things like “rape should never be joked about” (though dark humor about war, the holocaust, suicide, and other terrible things are OK?) and “saying ‘these ATM fees are totally raping me’ means rape is not taken seriously” (but “my foot is killing me” and “i’m starving” are fine?). In my opinion these are pretty dumb claims, and more importantly for this discussion, not related to libertarianism.

      In other words, I think we agree that rape victims shouldn’t be dismissed or bullied, that libertarianism has something to say about institutions allowing it, and that as libertarians we should discuss it more. But there can be much disagreement on the language and culture side of things, libertarian men and women shouldn’t have to come down on side or the other, and our common view on consent, exchange, and peace alone isn’t going to lead us to any answers.

      • what is funny about rape? why should it be joked about, seth macfarlane’s dumb attempt at humor was #hugefail. unless you are able to frame it, it is grossly unfunny. the atm raped me is nonsense language framing to trivialise rape.

        • Al Bundy

          I’m not saying there’s anything funny about rape, at all. And I’m not talking about laughing at a victim’s misery. I thought that was covered in the “dismissed or bullied” part. I’m saying I don’t think rape or any other subject should be placed into a special category of “things that can never be referenced in a joke or satire or mentioned in comedy by anyone ever.” Maybe you disagree, and that’s ok. My point is that nothing in libertarianism leads us one way or the other on this.

          The same goes with metaphorical and hyperbolic language, or as you refer to it “nonsense language.” If I say “boy I’m starving” am I framing my words to trivialize actual starvation? I can assure you I’m not but maybe you think I am. Once again I don’t think libertarianism will shed any light.

          Like Sarah and many of the commenters, I do believe libertarianism has something to say about institutions allowing and covering up rape. And I’d love to see this explored more without so much rage in some the comments, but maybe that’s impossible with such an emotionally charged issue.

    • jdkolassa

      Wait, who finds rape to be funny? Nobody that I talk to, and plenty of them are in the liberty movement.

      I can see the part about dismisses it, but again, nobody I know would dismiss a rape. Perhaps I just run in more ethical circles.

      • Sean II

        It’s doubtful your friends are above the moral mean, JD. I think a better explanation may be that these libertarian misogynists we’re always hearing about are not so abundant as we’ve been led to believe.

        The only libertarian woman-hater and rape apologist I can think of (off the top of my head) was a dude named Ayn Rand.

        If anyone else has evidence sufficient to accuse another libertarian of those sins, well…they sure haven’t produced it.

        • ben

          Ah, but the accusation of “woman-hating” is not being made!
          The accusation being thrown around, is that of “misogyny”.

          Now you might interject that that is exactly the same word (just in Latin) – and indeed, it is used with the same damning accusatory intensity.

          However, when it comes to justifying a particular accusation of this kind, the word misogyny always reliably changes its meaning to “doubting the empirical claims and/or disagreeing with the philosophical conclusions of statist feminism”.

        • jdkolassa

          Rand was a rape apologist?

          • Sean II

            Real answer: NO!

            Other answer: If we libertarians are gonna start mucking around with concepts like “rape culture” – as many here believe we should, but as I believe we definitely should not – then we must take the consequences, fair and square.

            That would mean throwing Rand under the bus for the Roark / Dominique scene, and for lines of narration like “the bracelet gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.”

            Just imagine the field day one could have with Rand’s writing in a Women’s Studies course. No doubt someone has already done this with the hilarious result that, when the semester was over, Rand ended up being declared worse for women than Larry Flynt multiplied by Uday Hussein.

            Of course that’s the whole point. Rape culture analysis is just like anti-racism in its decadent phase. However it starts, it always ends up obsessing over jargon, pronouns, hyphens, etc. and it always ends up with context-dropping as a primary intellectual tool.

            There is an in-group – the scholars or critics – and they get to spy on unwary people and catch them in the act of using clumsy, out of date phrases, or unguarded expressions.

            The tone is: “Oh my god! Oh my god! Did you hear that? Did he seriously just say ‘you guys’? What does he mean by THAT?”

            You know the folks who declared an anti-joke Jihad against the universe because of those “Save Justin Bieber from Prison” ads? I think we libertarians should steer clear of those people

            And by the way: What the @#$! do I mean by THOSE PEOPLE?

      • TracyW

        Attended a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show?

        I know I’m harping on this one, but that’s because it’s a famous show.

    • Thanks Steve, well said.

  • Aeon Skoble

    Regarding the penultimate paragraph, it’s precisely here we can do great good. CL/libertarianism offers particularly compelling insights into why institutions protect rapists and “circle the wagons.”

    • dylboz

      Yes, that is the uniquely libertarian critique I was alluding to. Statists wont go there, because those institutions -whether left or right- are where their bread is buttered.

      • Sean II

        I finally read the Rolling Stone article just now, and normally I’d say you’re right. Because libertarians are the only people offering a coherent general critique of the civilian government and the military (conservatives and progressives can each critique one but not the other), we usually would enjoy something like a monopoly on non-self-contradictory analysis.

        However, in this case it doesn’t take a public choice expert to explain what goes on in the aftermath and cover-up of such incidents. Here we’re just very close to the crushing obviousness of an Onion headline:

        “Newsblast…Global Killing Machine Staffed with Brutalized High School Drop-Outs & Jail-Diversion “Volunteers” Turns Out to be Surprisingly Awful when It Comes to Preventing or Investigating Crime, Promoting Gender Equality, & Providing Adequate Post-Traumatic Mental Health Services.”

        This is one thing I think we can make sense of, without the help of a professional philosopher. And I think Sarah errs rather badly, in trying to use this particular incident to provoke a general discussion of rape culture.

        Rolling Stone had it right: this case is about the sub-culture of the military.

        • Sean, I didn’t use the phrase rape culture. I am not talking about rape culture in this post. I am talking about rape, and I am talking about the institutions that create safe spaces and protection for rapists. While the post was inspired by the way this happens in the military, it happens the same way in churches, at universities, and in sports programs. It is a problem with the way institutions sacrifice individual liberty and dignity in order to protect the life of the institution. It is not just about the “global killing machine” or “brutalized high school dropouts”.

          • Sean II

            “I am talking about the institutions that create safe spaces and protection for rapists”

            That, right there, sounds like a pretty good definition of rape culture. If you prefer another shorthand, that’s fine with me. But whatever term or label we end up with, your post clearly did throw down a wider challenge, suggesting that we – including that part of “we” which is defined by libertarianism – have been too tolerant of, and not outraged enough by, the crime of rape.

            Again, that sounds like a decent definition of rape culture, and plenty of people down thread (including a few of those who most enthusiastically agree with you) seem to believe that’s what you meant. The phrase “rape culture” appears 24 times on this page, but I’ve only used it three times. I notice you haven’t corrected anyone else but me.

            But whatever you call it, I still disagree with you.

            Just look at the institutions you named – the army, sports programs, churches, universities. Do libertarians come close to controlling any of those? Hell no!

            Most libertarians I know are overtly hostile to both the military and organized religion, and since we’re almost all nerds, I very much doubt any of the men here have seen the inside of a team sports locker room since middle school. As for universities, I think you’d be hard put to name a less libertarian place in America than the average college campus.

          • Sean-

            You just happened to be the person who got my frustrated response…and a person who (as my experience has suggested) can be relied on to respond intelligently. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest you were the only person who took the post to be about rape culture writ large.

            Here’s the distinction that I would make, and that, it is increasingly clear, I will need to post about here in the near future. The phrase rape culture is something of a catch-all, depending on who’s using it. That means that some people may use it to mean “the ways in which the culture of a State or institution creates safe spaces and protection for rapists.” Others may, more dismissively, use it to mean “any portrayal of rape or abuse in written/filmed/photographed culture.” Others may mean it to use “any portrayal of rape or abuse or seduction.” Others may mean it to use “any inappropriate portrayal…” Others use it as a code for “Damn feminists want to close all the strip clubs and outlaw dirty jokes.” You see the problem. It’s a term with a VERY slippery definition that depends enormously on who is using the term and what they want the term to mean. So, if I misunderstood the way you were using it, and it seems that I probably have, you have my apologies.

          • Sean II

            No need for apologies, ’tis all in the game. You’re doing the hard part anyway, since it’s a whole lot easier to comment on a post that provokes commentary, than it is write one.

            I, for one, would love to see a follow-up, perhaps even two. One could explore the uses and limits of the rape culture concept (may I suggest: “Now that you’re angry, calm down.”) The other could discuss the things you think libertarians ought to say and do about rape (may I suggest: “Now that you’re both angry and calm, here’s the plan.”).

            Since yesterday I’ve thought a great deal about the subject, and I find myself troubled by the question: how much of what passes for consensual sex is really something a thick libertarian would or should endorse?

            Alcohol got a lot of attention in this thread as a factor casting doubt on consent, but let’s face it, that’s just one among many. If you go out and collect stories from 1,000 different women about their early sexual experiences, you will hear many disturbing tales of asymmetrical power, deceit, pressure, regret, etc. It seems we need to present an answer for those, beyond the not very helpful observation that they fall short of the legal threshold for rape.

          • good_in_theory

            You might want to look up the concept of “enthusiastic consent.”

          • Sean II

            Interesting at first glance, but I’m afraid that concept hinges on people behaving in a very implausible way.

            It probably would be a better world if people just went around openly declaring their intentions when it comes to sex, sending out clear and unambiguous signals, explicitly voicing consent, etc.

            But unfortunately they don’t, and probably won’t ever. Romantic life is one area where people seem disgusted by explicit transactions and where they insist on playing elaborate games. People mix signs of affection with arbitrary witholding, they conceal their feelings for fear of being first to declare, and they – male and female alike – really do seem to find it revolting when someone introduces candor or clarity into the process. When you’re young, at least, the surest way to destroy an attraction is to discuss the attraction.

            Against that background I don’t know how you can apply a concept like enthusiastic consent.

          • good_in_theory

            I don’t disagree that it’s hard to imagine it working, but it does rather fit the bill for rather strict theories of consent that will have no truck with ‘implied consent,’ ‘tacit consent,’ ‘retroactive consent,’ &etc, and favor clear, legible signs of voluntary interaction. Which is another way of saying it is, perhaps, oddly libertarian.

    • TracyW

      These compelling insights being?

  • Couldn’t agree more. Wonderfully said, Sarah!

  • mercrono

    So, it’s almost certainly the case that there are too many libertarian men who don’t take rape seriously enough, who are inclined to be overly skeptical of rape victims, who tend to use the issue of rape just to make a critique of feminism, etc. That’s a fair point, and wherever we see particular instances of that, it’s obviously something to correct, especially where there’s some systemic, institutional problem — like schools, or churches, or government departments protecting themselves in ways that further hurt rape victims. Totally on board with all that.

    But the whole “[r]ape is a violation of everything that is most central to the libertarian philosophy” point seems kind of bizarre. Like, yes, of course — obviously rape is counter to libertarian principles, as is any sort of nonconsensual act of violence. Does anyone anywhere doubt that at all? I mean, presumably even the boorish, obtuse guy who says “whatever, rape’s not that big a deal, it’s just feminazis hating on guys” isn’t saying that actual rape is totally okay; it’s probably more of a suggestion that rape isn’t as widespread as people think.

    And like Jameson, I’m also a little confused by the “why are we not screaming?” point. What would be the right amount of “screaming”? Are we just supposed to post about how terrible rape is once every week or so? How much should we “scream” about rape vs. say, abusive police raids, or violent muggings, or the torture of political dissidents in other countries? There are lots of terrible things that happen in the world that violate libertarian principles, and there’s just not time to properly mourn and scream about every one.

    Now, if the argument is something like, “these particular people and groups spend resources talking about issues A, B, and C, but really X percentage of that should go toward talking about rape; it should be a higher priority in this particular context; groups Y and Z were wrong not to discuss rape at this conference or in this article, etc.,” then those might be valid points. But the whole “get angrier!” imperative just seems too general and abstract to be useful. I’m not trying to say there isn’t an important point behind this post, but I don’t think it’s really concrete enough to come across yet.

    • “So, it’s almost certainly the case that there are too many libertarian
      men who don’t take rape seriously enough” Really? ,

      “who are inclined to be overly
      skeptical of rape victims,” do you have evidence of that?

      “who tend to use the issue of rape just to
      make a critique of feminism,” Who? When?

      • Sean II

        I second LKN’s motion here.

        If people are going to keep saying or even just implying that a bunch of libertarians are “soft on rape”, then someone has to come forward with at least a shred of evidence to back that up.

        • Sean II

          Ha! I guess that down-vote must have come from someone who believes a shred is an unreasonably large unit of evidence to ask for in this discussion.

          • Radical

            Vangel Vesovski is a great example of someone who is soft on rape. He said, “Was someone forced to do something by the use of a threat or of violence?” He seems to think that if you aren’t threatened with physical violence, then it’s not “real rape”. I mean, I can’t possibly imagine a situation where non-consensual sex might happen between individuals in the absence of the threat of violence.

            Also, I really like your response to the idea of enthusiastic consent. “It’s a cool idea, but totally implausible in today’s culture.”

            Sorta sounds like what a lot of people say about libertarian ideas.

            Why shouldn’t libertarians actively advocate for a culture of consent? Surely we are not a group to be dissuaded by the status quo.

  • I agree partly with other commenters: the issue is not necessarily that we should be “angrier,” I don’t think libertarians take rape lightly, but that we need to present to others that our ideas explain why it has become institutionalized. We need to provide to those who care deeply about fighting rape the understanding that rape is a violation of the NAP, of natural rights etc, and that the entire concept of respecting rights, such as property, is related.

  • J. Anderson

    Given the important points raised by Skwire, shouldn’t we also expect far more out of “libertarian” candidates than the pitifully mealy-mouthed position of Ron Paul on abortion in the case of rape?

  • Chris Ahlbrandt

    While it is not conducive to intelligent discussion to get “angry”, it is a way to capture people’s attention. While it has been noted that even those who cry “feminist!” aren’t really saying that rape isn’t horrible (they are skeptical of rape claims, etc.), I think that only buffers the point. We all KNOW that rape is horrible. The question becomes, why aren’t we doing more about it? It is a sad state of affairs, but more often than not, the truth is that in our culture, change often requires outrage. In the case of rape, getting “angry” and “screaming” is a function of necessity to create change, not necessarily functional to settling any actual debate.

    • the emotion of anger is fine, it can be a driving force for change, don’t let people tell you anger and angry feminism is not condicive, it can be often a great motivation to affect change. when anger is not utilised as a catalyst tool that can cause problems.

      • Michael Philip

        think your anger

  • John Brown

    I mean, why do you assume we aren’t angry about it? What level of anger would be acceptable? I’m pretty angry about any form of violence initiated upon anyone. Rape fits into that category.

    I understand advocating for a societal problem which you prefer to be most focused upon, but we all do that.

    I mean, why aren’t libertarians more angry about prison rape? Why aren’t they more angry about people being murdered from flying robots in the sky? Why aren’t they more angry about X,Y,Z?

    • you totally ignore the misogyny that exists very much alive and kicking within libertarian movement.

      • John Brown

        You assume way too much.

        • …and i’d say beach is the money with you given your track record here in replies [eye roll + slow clap while standing on one foot]

          • John Brown

            I tend to roll my eyes when people say things like “Most all libertarian men are like little boys who are more likely to get excited about reading about rape than being angered by it.”

            Cause, you know, if you say something like that and expect to be taken seriously, you deserve to be mocked.

            Now, if your delicate sensibilities and fee fees can get over the slow clap, perhaps you would care to enlighten the rest of us why such a statement does not deserve condemnation?

    • you are quibbling here, and in your other posts. because this post and essay was written about women and the challenges and violence AND lack of support they face. why don’t you go write a post or essay about male violence perpetrated against males? I will support you there.

    • Janet Neilson

      It pains me to have to point this out, but prison rape is rape.

  • Al Bundy

    It’s interesting that the institutions mentioned are all heavily subsidized by the government, granted special privileges by it, or simply part of it. I wonder if there is any connection between this and the institutions tolerating or dealing ineffectively with rape, and if more “free market” institutions are any better. Not making any claims just musing aloud.

    Another thing libertarians can do is make sure to talk about how laws against prostitution also hurt rape victims. We often argue for legalized sex work from an individual rights standpoint, but it is important remember that prostitutes are also among the most vulnerable to rape and have few places to turn since they themselves are considered criminals.

  • Coming from an observer’s point of view, I’d just like to add the following: In discussions of the causes of rape and potential solutions to those problems, I can’t think of a single libertarian position that has been advocated on either of the points. On the contrary, if a self-identified libertarian offers commentary, it’s generally on the side of the religious evangelicals (anti-choice, self-reliance, ignoring social power imbalances, etc).

    That isn’t to say that all libertarians are like that, but the participatory ones appear to be. If you are speaking out, it either isn’t getting though to the general population or the position appears to be a non-libertarian one.

    I think the point that Libertarian thought could go a long way to explaining the behavior of institutions in protecting themselves is a good one and worth exploring, but until libertarians can more effectively deal with the social aspects of misogyny, patriarchy, and the rape culture that allow individuals the cover they need to perpetrate their crimes under a cloak of deniability (against both woman AND men), then I’m not sure it’ll be productive.

    The voices need to be louder to get through.

    • excellent points B, well said

    • Sean II

      Besomyka – If you want a libertarian discussion about rape, here’s where I would begin:

      1) As long as men have a sheer physical advantage over women, and the will to use it for criminal purposes, there will be rape at some rate or frequency of occurrence. So unfortunately the first thing to say is that there are absolute limits to prevention. We can eliminate polio, we can eliminate poverty of the absolute kind, we may be able to eliminate war, but we will probably never eliminate rape.

      2) As long as rape exists, one of the most common defenses will be for the accused to claim consensual sex. Without a 1984-style surveillance state to give us video evidence of everything that happens, this means there will always be cases where courts or other third parties struggle to discover and disagree about the facts of particular cases. There will always remain a risk of both false positives and false negatives in rape reporting.

      3) It won’t do to say that being genuinely “anti-rape” means carrying a presumption of guilt into every alleged case. The presumption of innocence is a requirement both of logic and of justice, and it cannot be discarded just because of the problem described in point 2).

      4) As with every other issue where the state is called upon to remedy private crimes, libertarians must be extremely careful to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease. For example, we could no doubt prevent millions of rapes each year simply by re-segregating college campuses along sexual lines, but I certainly hope no one is willing to fight rape at that price.

      5) Non-libertarians who consider rape an important political issue do not share our view of either point 3) or point 4), and they are therefore not in any sense our potential allies. In fact, they are on this issue what they are on just about every other issue: our enemies.

      6) In so far as rape is connected with gender inequality and with the use of violence by human beings against each other, libertarians are already fully opposed to it, and indeed we are opposed to it on more fundamental level than anyone else.

      These points seem perfectly clear and non-controversial to me, but I’d love to know if anyone can find a way to disagree with any of them.

  • Zach

    I didn’t know libertarians weren’t angered by rape…

  • We libertarians share a skepticism of government intervention to address social problems, but too often fall short on the painful work of changing immoral social institutions.

    • Old OddJobs

      category error

  • dylboz

    “Why are we not screaming? Why are we not angrier?”

    Because libertarianism is a political philosophy, and rape is (as you noted) a private crime. Rape is considered wrong by every decent person across the entire spectrum of Western political ideology. It’s not really up for debate (not even for Republicans like Todd Akin). Indeed, the only issue in this horrific story that is genuinely “libertarian”qua libertarianism is the appallingly vile response of those in positions of political authority and the military chain of command. And we’re uniquely qualified to critique those institutional responses from a libertarian standpoint. Which is what we generally do. So, I’m not really sure more conspicuous emoting about an already volatile subject would help that analysis…

    • Some people are motivated by emotions though, temperament tells us that. Emotionally motivated people do not necessarily mean they disregard reason. Why not be angry about sexual violence against women, I don’t see how an exclusion is detrimental, are not men and women human? What’s not to get angry over misogyny, sexism, racism for that matter, homophobia. Having assault, particularly sexual assault be dismissed, trivialised, causing people to speak out. Sounds a plan to me.

  • j r

    Rape is private matter. It is an intimate crime, and the individual who is raped suffers horribly. But rape is also a crime against the beliefs that libertarians hold most deeply. We should be angrier. Why are we not angrier?

    Who says that we’re not angrier? Even the least feminist men that I know react quite strongly to individual instances of rape. Look at what happens to rapists and other sex offenders in prison.

    You must be asking why “we” are not angrier in a political sense. Why are libertarians not angrier about rape the way they are about taxes? That is an interesting question, but it probably has the most banal answer. Most libertarians likely see rape as an issue of crime and not of politics. You’re question is a little bit like asking “why don’t feminists get angrier about false rape claims?”

    Now, there’s certainly something to be gained from expanding the world view of libertarians, as with any political ideology. However, just asking why we’re not angrier doesn’t really do that. Make a suggestion. What would an angry libertarian do about rape?

    • j_m_h

      Very good point JR.

      I think there’s actually more at stake here and what libertarians would do about rape. The issues Sarah raised in the context of rape apply to other situations as well. Consider the policing behaviors reported on The Agitator and think about how the local police department react and the associated lack of public anger at the end of the day.

      I’m not sure what can really be done but maybe someone here will have some good idea.

    • you need to be spoon fed about understanding rape, rape culture, a patriarchial system within our society. c’mon. we only have to look around libertarianism and our fellow guy behaviour toward women, attitude toward rape, it’s real and sexist.

      • John Brown

        More sweeping generalizations based upon a priori verbal formulas. Apparently, all we need to do is “look around” and that will prove that patriarchy and rape culture exists. No evidence needed. Anecdotal statements and generalizations are good enough. Herp. Derp.

        • That’s an interesting world and culture you live in John Brown. How fuzzy and warm it must be.

      • j r

        Spoon fed is the appropriate term for those ideas.

    • good_in_theory

      The least feminist men I’ve been acquainted with question the veracity of claims of rape, excuse the incident, blame the victim, and in general support the status quo wherein nothing has to change in their personal relationships with the rapist.

  • Todd Seavey

    Leftist blogger Amanda Marcotte, for whom I have heard at least one BHL/”liberal-tarian” sympathizer express admiration, argued once that seasteading is the very essence of “rape culture,” since women’s rights will be more vulnerable so far from land-based rights structures.

    I think if libertarians are to reject the elements of “rape culture” within their own ranks, they must plainly begin by rejecting the idea of living in the ocean. It is brave of Skwire to begin that important dialogue, though it will mean beginning the difficult search for new, possibly less immediately-fruitful, strategies.

  • Rick

    After the Civil War a Lockean property right in one’s body (including the labor that proceeds from it) was supposed to be forthcoming, yet we’re still waiting for the U.S. legal system to recognize this kind of property right.

    My view is that right now most Americans, especially those profiting from the funny money issued by the Fed, still find it unacceptable that one’s body (and the wages that it produces) should be one’s personal property, not income, a tax on which supports the dubious legal tender privilege granted to the Fed by Congress in the New Deal era.

    But even this issue aside, rape should be viewed, not merely as a moral or criminal offense, but as a violation of the property right the victim had in his/her body.

    • …and run, encouraged by a patriarchial system that sees women’s value as less than man, she a sexual value, a breeding entity as an accompany to ‘man’. libertarians are not holier than thou or excluded from participating in rape culture and patriarchial framework.

      • Goody didn’t JB tell you it doesn’t exist in his world. 😉

  • Sarah raises a legitimate question. The quickness with which her point was put down is part of the problem she is alluding to—many male libertarians don’t think “women’s issues” are important enough to put front and center. Many libertarian men are quick to raise a hue and cry when it is an issue that *they* like, e.g., attacks by cops on innocent civilians, but rape—not so much.

    I have seen this pattern over and over again in my 49 years of libertarian activism. Many (though not all, let me be very clear on that) libertarian men have consistently ignored issues that most concern women, returning again and again to issues *they* prefer. Then they wonder why so few women are attracted to the libertarian movement.

    You can endlessly debate whether rape is “important” enough to dance on the head of a libertarian pin. But from a strategic perspective, if nothing else (and there is something else, as Sarah points out), it is foolish to shunt it aside. If more nonlibertarians saw that libertarians cared about such issues, if they saw that libertarians considered rape and other “women’s issues” as important as, say, drone attacks and shootings by cops, it would certainly put our ideas in a better light. Libertarians are, by and large, terrible strategists. They only talk about what *they* consider important, not what the nonlibertarian public thinks is important. Not a way to help the movement grow and spread the ideas.

    But returning to the issue of principle. Why is the recurring issue of large institutions, including the military, overlooking the most basic violations of human rights and integrity not important? Why shouldn’t we be talking about how the rights of half the human race are consistently violated and have been for centuries? The book “Sex and World Peace” provides evidence to show that the treatment of women is correlated with how authoritarian a country is and how aggressive it is. So yes, the treatment of women is an important issue, perhaps one of the most important ones to consider as we try to find ways to decrease war and increase peace. Besomyka makes some excellent point in this regard; we should be raising questions about rape culture and misogyny, about how institutions consistently put their self-interest above the rights and welfare of women. If violation of the rights of half the human race are not important enough to treat as a major issue, what does this say about libertarians and their much-vaunted concern for human rights? Why shouldn’t our hearts be bleeding for women?

    • John Brown

      I don’t see how Sarah’s point was “put down.” I see people engaging in a discussion and asking questions. Nobody has insulted her here or even told her that her point was invalid. They are mostly asking for clarification.

      I see the issue of rape talked about quite a bit in libertarian circles when it comes to institutionalized violence. Prison rape, rape in the Catholic church, and rape in the military have been talked about at length on various fora, webpages, social networks and meet-up groups.

      Or, are we just narrowing down the scope of the conversation to the instances when a man rapes a woman?

      It’s insulting to insist that “many (though not all, let me be very clear on that) libertarian men have
      consistently ignored issues that most concern women, returning again
      and again to issues *they* prefer.”

      Not to be pedantic here, but what number of people defines “many?” Are you saying that rape is an issue which does not (or cannot) concern men?

      I assure you, if you are receiving any general push-back on this issue, it is because of the way you are framing your argument. Rape is certainly a problem which needs to be addressed. It’s a horrible crime. Most rape in America seems to be institutionalized. We are all working to break down those institutions. You’re doing your argument no favors by pointing fingers at half the population (accepting your “not all guys” statement) and telling them they don’t care.

      When you make statements like that, anecdotal evidence is not sufficient enough to back up your claim.

      Now, if you really want a fair answer on the subject, I’ll give you one. I’m far more concerned with institutionalized violence (against either sex/gender) than I am with other forms of violence. It’s not that I don’t care about rape as a crime (non institutionalized). It’s just that I don’t know how to address it any differently than I would address any other violent crime, like murder or armed robbery. It has nothing to do with me “being a guy.”

      This is a big tent movement. There is plenty of room for everyone interested in freedom to focus on the issues which are most important to them. Division of labor and all that.

      • considering women and girls are the most likely murdered, sexually abused, discriminated against purely on gender purposes, yeah, it is an excllent place to start. what’s libertarian about that? i am not threatened by my sense of belief in liberatrianism to advocate for feminism and women in general. nor does it threaten my sense of masculinity. i am proud to speak out against sexual violence. we need to do more of it and support women more, libertarian or not.

        • John Brown

          Well, we are all very happy that your masculinity is not threatened. Thank God we all know that now.

          As for the rest of your paragraph: Citation needed.

        • ben

          “considering women and girls are the most likely murdered”
          I’m pretty sure this statistical claim is false.

          • good_in_theory

            One might parse the sentence, “murdered … purely on gender purposes.”

            In any case, of course men are victimized more, but much of that is no doubt due to the extent to which men dominate the world of professional and casual crime, and criminals tend also to be victims of crime.

            I wonder what things would look like controlling for participation in the criminal world.

            An evocative statistic is that women are victimized by relatives and close acquaintances much more frequently than men. Men are much more frequently victimized by strangers and casual acquaintances.

    • well said dr presley

    • Yes, so many levels. Thanks Dr Presley.

    • ben

      “If violation of the rights of half the human race are not important enough to treat as a major issue”

      Because it’s _not_ “half the human race” (a.k.a. some imagined collective comprising all women) whose rights are violated by rape, it’s those *individuals* (women and men) who are raped.

      This sort of divisive argumentative “collectivization” of the two sexes – all women in the “victim” collective, always threatened/hurt/violated as one unit, and on the other side all men in the “guilty until proven innocent” group – is probably one of the main reasons why average libertarians and other individualists are not very motivated to go “scream” side-by-side with the V-Day feminists.

    • Sarah raises a legitimate question. The quickness with which her point was put down is part of the problem she is alluding to—many male libertarians don’t think “women’s issues” are important enough to put front and center.

      I think that one of us has a clear reading comprehension problem because I did not see much evidence of Sarah’s point being put down. I would say that everyone here agrees that when a woman is forced to have sex against her will you have a clear case of rape that should not be covered up by any institution. What many have pointed out, however, is the fact that there are cases where no force or threat of force was used that are tried to be redefined as rape later in time. In such cases women who make false accusations are obviously the aggressors rather than the victims.

    • Being a civil libertarian means putting presumption of innocence front and center in your legal worldview. No one that I have seen has claimed that rape “isn’t a problem”. But I (I refuse to do what everyone else is doing here and ascribe my opinions to “many” or “most” of my own or other groups) think that civil rights, legal protections and presumption of innocence extends even to those accused of sex crimes. My heart doesn’t bleed for anyone, but I do sympathize, though I can never empathize with rape victims. But this whole argument seems to be that because I’m not doing (what exactly?) something, I must not care about rape victims. I’m a male libertarian and I can both support presumption of innocence and sympathize with crime victims at the same time. I’m just good like that.

  • I am as angry as hell, well written Sarah.

  • Thank you Sarah. We libertarians are not angrier because we think it won’t happen to us. Because we agree with the victim blamers. Because we participate in rape culture and dont even understand why that’s wrong. Keep fighting the good fight and calling us out on it.

    • AHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA. Yes, I did all that right before my breakfast of babies. But those bastards in the kitchen didn’t put enough Disadvantaged Minority Tears on my babies, so breakfast was ruined. Really, stuff some more straw into that “man”.

  • Excellent article Sarah, bring it right to front and centre.

  • Old OddJobs

    Because most people are not raped in their lifetimes? But they are taxed as soon as they start working? And these taxes fund “violations of our principles” far more than rape does e.g war. The law already punishes rape, but taxation is legal.

    What on earth is this article really about?

  • Sean II


    Of course I understand your question – “Why are we not angrier?” – is rhetorical and meant simply as a call to arms , but…I’m gonna pretend I don’t know that and try to answer anyway. There are several reasons why libertarians don’t feel or don’t express a lot of emotion on this issue.

    1) Libertarians like counter-programming. They like novel causes, things that don’t have established constituencies or advocates. They don’t like agreeing with things everybody already believes. As someone else already pointed out, rape has NO overt defenders in the Northern Hemisphere. Besides, established groups like statist feminists have already claimed the issue as their own, and libertarians never met a bandwagon they didn’t want to jump away from, nor a coalition they didn’t want to flee.

    2) Libertarianism is an intellectual hobby. Rape is simply not debatable in any way, so it doesn’t leave room for the kind of chattering parlor games that libertarians love. There are no arguments about rape, just concrete-bound questions about whether the concept does or does not apply to particular cases. This means no theorizing, and thus no mental exercise for libertarians.

    3) At some point, “getting angry” about rape means giving more power to police and prosecutors, and libertarians are naturally opposed to that. It doesn’t help that every other group who “gets angry”, including the law-n-order faction and the above mentioned feminist-statists, is using that “anger” to expand state power and to chisel away at the rights of the accused.

    Fair or not, the phrase “rape culture” triggers a sharp recoil in most libertarians. When we hear it, there’s about a 99% chance we’re listening to a sworn enemy on every issue from free speech to rules of evidence to nationalized babysitting.

    4) Libertarians can’t afford to get angry, except at each other. It does no good for a beating victim to become angry, when they have no means to fight back.

    It takes a ton of self-discipline to live in a world where 200,000 Iraqi civilians get killed to avenge the death of 3,500 Americans. It takes amazing self-control not to become a terrorist in a world where peaceful people can be imprisoned (and yes, even raped) for smoking weed. On a day to day basis, we all have to get by without shooting ourselves. If we “got angry” at everything that deserves our anger, we’d never be anything else.

    The burden is on you to say why rape shouldn’t just get in line with all the other evil things we force ourselves to be calm about: war, murder, mass incarceration, theft on a global scale, lies big and small, ignorance, moral panic, poverty by design, deadweight loss and value destruction equal to the GDP of whole countries, etc.

    It’s not the libertarians who need to wake up and get angry, Sarah, it’s everybody else.

  • j r

    After reading the Rolling Stone article and thinking about this a bit more, I have a few thoughts:

    – I still don’t really understand what it means to be “angrier.” More importantly, I don’t understand why being angry about something would lead us to taking the appropriate action. In general, I find the utility and efficacy of political outrage to be terribly overstated. More often than not it’s a signal for some group of people that I want nothing to do with.

    – After reading the Rolling Stone article, I have to say that I’m not all that outraged. There were certain parts that got me mad, like the General who claims that he can do whatever he wants. The main story, however, struck me more as advocacy than journalism. The woman claims to have been drugged, but they found no drugs in her system. She says that three marines drugged her, but what happened to those marines? The article says that most people on her base didn’t believe. Why not interview one of those people? Maybe everything she says is true, but that article doesn’t give the reader any basis on which to make a decision.

    – There are lots of people agreeing with Skwire in the comments, but none of them has really described what it means for libertarians to care more about rape. Further, one of the biggest insights into free market economics is that caring isn’t worth much. You can claim to care for the poor and take all sorts of action to help them, but that doesn’t mean your actions will work or even that they won’t end up doing more harm than good. If you’re going to make a case for a more feminist version of libertarianism, then start making the case in detail and let people decide on the merits of that case.

    – The heart of the problem is this: I don’t know how compatible libertarianism is with feminism, at least not with feminism as it exists right now. You can certainly work to make libertarians more aware of the ways in which women’s choices are constrained by more than laws and political factors. That is a worthy goal. However, contemporary feminism is something other than that. More importantly, feminism as it exists today is essentially a post-modern way of thinking. The ideas that construct modern feminst thought (the patriarchy, rape culture, victim blaming) are not meant to be debated; they’re simply mean to be accepted. In fact, the very act of arguing against the validity of any of those terms comes to itself be wrapped up in their justification (see mansplaning). With that in mind, it’s really difficult for me to see a path through which I can meaningfully engage with third-wave feminists.

  • Well, we can be as angry as we want to be but neither the military, the law enforcement, nor most large institutions are run by Libertarians, so we cannot really do too much about it but write articles and such.

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  • I don’t know if there is a lack of outrage. After all, many of the arguments that libertarians make in favor of gun ownership is based on rape prevention, as a dead would-be rapist is better than a raped and possibly beaten or murdered victim. As far as the stats go, according to the FBI, the forcible rape rate was 26.8 per 100,000 in 2011…26.8 too high, but down from over 42 per 100,000 twenty years ago. However bad it is, it is getting better for whatever reason. Contrast that against issues like taxation, high regulation and the drug war which, on net, affect far more people, though in a less severe and personal way in general. I think then that the perception is that rape, while tragic, is relatively isolated, whereas most government abuse is systemic. Given that, as Skwire says, rape is personal, it generally requires a personal, or at least local, solution. As such, there is no stock libertarian answer for rape…(even the most ardent, but honest, statist will acknowledge that stiffer penalties do not mean much to a person hell-bent on hurting a woman.) I think libertarians, as a matter of public discourse, tend to focus on more broad-stroke issues and as a matter of private discourse, focus on more personal issues, such as rape. As usual, the outrage (my perception of it anyway) is the same, it is just that libertarians have a fundamentally different approach than conservatives (more Jesus, less porn) and liberals (more laws, less porn).

    There is one other factor which comes to mind, and that is libertarians are wary of sounding like liberal feminists who often equate violent, forcible rape with the legally unclear he said/she said date rape, or those who jump to the conclusion that men are always guilty and women always the victim. (See the Duke Lacrosse scandal). The result of such accusations is a boy who cried wolf syndrome, in which when real cases of rape surface, people have grown cynical and uncaring because after a while, it just becomes noise. Libertarians do not want to be Gloria Allred. I think libertarian outrage toward rape is there, it just sounds different to what we usually hear on TV and on the Radio.

    • Hero

      I think a few things are off Kevin. Acquiring accurate rape statistics is extremely difficult. Definitions of rape differ and all types of rape not being recorded are two problems. An even bigger issue is the unreported rape cases. The numbers you have, though credible,definitely understate by a wide margin.

      One major reason why this issue isn’t generating more outrage is because of patriarchy. I would go even further and say the author hints at hegemonic structures, but that’s just me. Her point is needs to be seriously examined for validity after going through the comments. Many people, in my opinion, missed her point because of her point. Guys are going off on these “mangents” minimizing or out-right dismissing her appeal to our sense justice.

      Important point indeed the author has brought up…


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  • TracyW

    Firstly, institutions tend to protect their own in all sorts of ways against all sorts of crimes (eg, the trouble in getting convictions for corrupt cops, or what happens to whistleblowers: http://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/tech-careers/the-whistleblowers-dilemma). My scientist friends worry about suppression of intellectual debate and contrary evidence in small fields. In the UK, the Socialist Worker’s Party is in crisis because by all sounds of it the executive circled against a rape allegation.

    This is a fundamental problem with institutions, and I don’t think that screaming will help. People want to protect their friends, and people they identify with as a group. I once attended a fascinating speech by a financial fraud investigator, who said that quite often when he had identified an employee as a fraudster, their boss didn’t want to prosecute as the fraudster was someone they knew, even if their boss owned the company and thus had directly lost out from the employee’s fraud. If someone doesn’t want to see someone who directly stole money from them prosecuted, it’s not surprising that they’d be even more avoidant in situations where they weren’t the direct victim. You say that “we know there are incentives” for institutions to cover up, but you don’t say what we can do about them and I don’t know either. In fact, if there’s anyone who does, they’re keeping bloody quiet about it.

    Secondly, debates tend to be vigorous and passionate when there’s people debating on both sides. There are’t people openly defending rape, so that tends to take the passion out of the debate. As far as I can tell, date rapists convince themselves that what they are doing isn’t rape.

    So we have a situation where:

    – Everyone intellectually agrees that rape is horrible and that institutions covering it up is terrible.

    – No one is making constructive suggestions about what to do about the habit of institutions of covering up crimes committed by members in good standing of the institution.

    This is not a situation for a good conversation. Instead people tend to debate about what is controversial, eg the claims of “rape culture”, or what libertarians really think.

    In my experience, if someone says “we should be talking about this” or “we need to debate this”, this is a sign that talking or debate on the topic in question is not going to be informative or helpful. When talking and debate is useful, people don’t need to call for talking or debate, they state their position and then they get piled on. (Exception being straightforward teaching).

    • good_in_theory

      The SWP might be, in fact, something of a case study in what people can do. There have been a large amount of resignations and disaffiliations from the SWP, from what I understand.

      Another far-left group (the PLP) did something similar, and was the target of a campaign to exclude them from organizing spaces and out its members as apologists and protectors of rapists. That campaign was relatively successful, and now from what I’ve heard the PLP is in internal disarray and they are having some trouble operating as they used to

      So a way to stop institutions from covering things up may be to offer them strong disincentives to take such a course of action, by actively working to tear them apart when they do (e.g. refusing to participate with, and obstructing participation with, the organization).

      I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that the two cases mentioned (SWP and PLP) are left parties, likely to fraternize with or include individuals who practice strong (militant? radical? far-left? extreme? whatever adjective one prefers…) feminist politics.

      • TracyW

        Good point, and it ties into the liberty aspect. (Refusing to participate with the police is rather more problematic than refusing to participate with the SWP, both for private individuals and for the government which employs the police).

        And refusing to participate can only work when the cover-up has failed.

        • good_in_theory

          Well, ‘refusal to participate’ doesn’t really capture what I’m thinking of. Refusing to participate, publicizing/outing, and agitating over/scorning/heckling are a bit more like it.

          • TracyW

            All of which is a lot easier when senior members of the organisation in question has little power to retaliate. Which does not apply to the police, or any institution that has large amounts of resources to deal out and some discretion over how to do so.

            For some ways the police can retaliate, see http://www.theagitator.com/2012/11/12/it-isnt-a-crime-when-the-government-does-it/ (Or basically The Agitator’s entire blog)

            This is in part a coordination problem, like most dictatorships can be overthrown by mass protests, but if there are just a few protesters those few can be arrested and jailed or shot, so even if nearly everyone hates the dictator, if they’re not confident that hordes of other people will be out protesting then they won’t go out to protest out of fear that they’ll be just one of a few.

            Similarly, if everyone refuses to cooperate with the police, or the BBC (the Saville scandal) or some other institution, then that’s a different situation to just one person refusing to cooperate.

            And finally refusing to participate, etc, only works when the coverup has failed. If the cover-up works, hardly anyone knows that they should be refusing to participate, etc.


    Since this fire is still smoldering, I will throw a little gas on it. Of course rape is a horrible crime, and of course libertarians should be outraged by it, especially when it is aided and abetted by public institutions (like the military) over which we should (as a society) be able to exert control. But for all our flaws, we do not generally condone it. A convicted rapist faces years in prison, and a serial rapist is likely to spend decades, if not life, in prison under not very luxurious conditions.

    So, here is my question: where is the libertarian outrage against the treatment of women in other cultures, where women are harshly oppressed generally, in all aspects of their lives, i.e. where they can’t vote, drive a car without their male guardian, get a job; where they are subject to female genital mutilation, honor killings, deprived of an education and any chance of being much more than chattel? Why don’t I hear much more about this here at BHL, and on other libertarian sites? In your words, “[All of these things are]…a crime against the beliefs that libertarians hold most deeply. We should be angrier. Why are we not angrier?”

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  • HBH

    Here’s the thing with Rebecca Blumer’s story. There is zero proof to support it. There are no witnesses. It is just Rebecca’s word against what appears to be 3 non-existent army men. If she had taken a date rape drug, she wouldn’t have been able to get into her car to drive. She went to the doctor and they didn’t find any rape drug in her system. The military did not take this lightly and spent a year investigating her story to which not one bit of evidence was found in Rebecca’s favor. Her own family didn’t believe her, which makes me think that she has had a habit of lying.

    So what is more plausible? She was raped, despite no witnesses or date rape drug in her system and then the army covered it up for some reason? Or did she leave a bar drunk, get arrested for a DUI, and then use a rape story to save her career and avoid a criminal record?

    People who cry wolf ruin it for everyone else. People like Rebecca Bulmer and Crystal Mangum make it harder for people who were actually raped. Rape is a serious accusation and it makes me sick to see people throw it around for self interest.

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