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Rape

Thought experiment on the ethics of rape

Let’s suppose there were a nuclear holocaust, and the only two humans left alive on earth were you and a 13-year-old girl, so that the future of the human race depended on the two of you reproducing. And suppose, for whatever reason, she refused to have sex with you. Would you consider it ethical to rape her?

If it were me, I would say, yeah, it’s ethical. The reason we have ethics is to ensure there’s a framework for harmonious cooperation in a society. But if people refuse to cooperate, you have to do what you have to do, to ensure progress keeps moving forward.

What happens if the human race dies? Then the progress the animal kingdom made, through evolution, to get us to this point, is lost. There’s a lot of suffering and aggression in the animal kingdom; humans are the one of the kinder and most civilized species, that has found ways to live in greater comfort and peace than most. If our species dies, then it’s going to result in more problems than if we continued even by imperfect means.

But, I also just don’t view rape as even all that imperfect of a way to reproduce in that situation. I think men were meant to rule over women, since a family needs to stay together and have unified leadership for the good of the kids, and for that to happen, there needs to be one person in charge. And this has necessitated men making decisions that women didn’t agree with throughout human history, for the sake of avoiding the evils of both (1) divorce and (2) constant fighting.

Within a marriage, it’s not practicable to have a law against rape, since the result will probably be that as soon as the female gets disgruntled and wants to leave, there will be a false rape accusation, as a way by which she seeks to more easily loose herself from the marital knot. There’s typically a lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in such cases (often the alleged rape is not reported till long afterward, when any evidence has gone stale), so we either relax the usual burden of proof by taking her word, or we don’t. To prevent injustice, most societies simply didn’t criminalize marital rape.

Historically, marriage served as a way of divvying up females among the male population, so that men didn’t run into conflicts with other men over who had a right to a woman. By that logic, if you were the only man left in the world, then any female left in the world would belong to you, just like all the other resources in the world would be available for you to claim. If you don’t do that, then all you’re doing is leaving humanity to die, so that everything will just be claimed by whatever species comes after us; and if they in turn allow themselves to die, the cycle will just continue, with evolutionary progress getting set back each time and having to start from scratch. What’s the point?

Maybe we could have some species that doesn’t require rape in order to survive. Male house wrens, for instance, don’t seem to rape; they just build nests and wait to see if females will be attracted to them. But male wrens will try to attack each other and take over males’ nests, and then destroy any offspring in the nest and impregnate the female. So there’s still aggression.

Humans have built a civilization that features more voluntary cooperation than what any other species has accomplished. Knock on wood, we’ve even eliminated (perhaps by the threat of nuclear annihilation) world wars. But the female remains pretty recalcitrant, and unwilling to cooperate with keeping the fertility rate at an acceptable level unless she’s forced. When dealing with a recalcitrant population, whose stubborn attitude stands in the way of survival and progress, what does one one do?

Nature seems to have answered by giving man the strength needed to rape women. It’s kind of like how nature answered the question of what to do with Native Americans, by giving civilized man the ability to annihilate them and take their land away. They had to either become civilized, or make way for civilization; civilization is the higher state of man. It represents progress, an increase in our power over the natural world, including other men.

If it were nature’s law that women have equal rights, then nature would not have made the female so recalcitrant against willingly letting men use her body for enough reproduction to sustain the species. She doesn’t want to submit unless forced to; or if females do submit, it’s not consistently enough to produce enough children to keep the species going.

Even though in the modern world, a female can earn a bunch of money at some office job where her role is to apply the same kinds of skills (e.g. juggling 12 different tasks with 12 different deadlines, the same way her ancestors may have juggled 12 different kids) that mothers performed in ages past, the fact remains, she can’t do that while still providing adequate child care, unless that’s going to be outsourced. But to whom; a daycare? Or a cousin or sister, like in the Philippines, where the whole clan lives together?

The Filipino fertility rate is going down too (currently at 2.64 births per woman and falling); apparently that’s not working too well for them. Like other countries, they tend to send their daughters to school as they become wealthy enough to do so, which everywhere has caused fertility rate to fall below replacement. But, if you don’t educate women, how can they be empowered; and if they’re not empowered, once more, we’re back to a situation where they effectively don’t have a lot more rights than chattel.

Maybe someday, our species could evolve to where there could be some sort of matriarchal rather than patriarchal structure, but it’s unlikely that there would be an egalitarian structure, since equal partnerships tend to be unstable, and stability tends to be needed for the raising of quality children. We are social animals, and so two parents tend to do better than one, as they can cooperate to lend their unique strengths to the situation.

Some say marriage is obsolete; that in the future (or heck, to a growing degree, even in the present), maybe women will just collect child support from their kids’ fathers, or from society at large, or from subsequent lovers who want to have sex with them. I suppose it could be possible, but there might not be a lot of point in such men’s investing in the kids in non-monetary ways, when they lack a biological affinity with the child, didn’t get to bond with them when they were young, and could get dumped at any time in favor of some substitute dad, much as the original dad got dumped.

It’s kind of like, if there were a shipwreck, and you were stranded on a lifeboat with one other person, who happens to be the owner of the lifeboat. Suppose he were to say, “I think we should sail this way” and, based on your superior navigation skills, you were to say, “No, we should sail this other way.” And suppose he were to be obstinate and refuse to listen to reason.

If you were confident that your way was right, and would result in your survival, and that his way was wrong, and would result in your death, would it be acceptable to forcibly impose your will (e.g. by tying him up and doing the sailing yourself); or must you go with his decision, since he’s owner of the lifeboat?

I would say, you should go ahead and impose your will, because property rights exist for the sake of orderly cooperation in a society, and if people refuse to cooperate, and death is the looming outcome, you must do what’s necessary to avert death, so that cooperation will be possible in the future. When you’re back in civilization, he may thank you that you didn’t listen to him, but instead did what you needed to do, to save both of you.

Some strict libertarians might say, if you don’t agree with his decision, your only recourse is to jump out of the boat and drown. Remember what Thoreau said, “If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself.” Well, it really depends on the parameters of the situation; if you’re sure that no good will come from respecting someone’s rights, and that a lot of harm will come from it, then it seems pointless to respect their rights.

Another thought experiment libertarians will engage in, is asking, “If you fall off the roof of a tall building, and manage to grab a pole jutting out of the side of the building, to save yourself; and as you’re hanging there, the owner of the building puts his head out the window and demands that you let go, are you obligated to respect his property right?” I would say, maybe, but in that case, I’ll go ahead and disrespect his property right, and let him sue me for any damages later. I think that would serve the greater good.

It’s basically the necessity defense.

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