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Modes of Conservertarian Sexism


Corey Robin makes a nice point, linking up conservertarian defenses of the Virginia mandatory rape law with von Mises’s sexism.

Admittedly, McArdle and Cowen are making somewhat different arguments, and yet they’re both strongly rooted in this ignoble tradition. McArdle just straightforwardly thinks that this particular imposition of medieval sexual mores with the force of law is a good thing, and seems untroubled by the fact this 90-proof nanny statism contradicts arguments she’s used to oppose state regulation that actually addresses collective action problems or private power imbalances. The point of Cowen’s argument seems not so much to defend the reprehensible Virginia bill as to make a (really dumb) argument about how bad consumer regulation is. But the fact that he’s not necessarily supporting mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds with his howlingly inapposite analogy hardly gets Cowen of the hook. It takes a pretty striking and callous indifference to the dignity and security of women to equate requirements that the terms of loans be transparent to consumers with requirements that women be forcibly penetrated if they want to obtain an abortion.

In addition, Roy’s weekly roundup finds yet more evidence that a willful inability to understand the concept of consent is central to the contemporary Republican worldview.

Update [djw]: This seems as good a time as any to recall the a very special moment two years ago when libertarian blogger Bryan Caplan hilariously argued that a women in the United States were freer in 1880 than in 2010.

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  • c u n d gulag

    Well, if the woman has to get her vagina probed by the government before it lets her get a legal abortion, shouldn’t she also know with certainty whose child she’s aborting.

    And doesn’t the father have a right to know that she’s aborting his child?
    He should have some say in this, too!

    Every male who she says slept with her recently should be brought in, and at an adjacent table, be forced to get an intra-urethral catheter shoved up his johnson to verify his DNA, and determine whether or not he’s the father.

    What’s intra-vaginal sauce for the goose, should be intra-penile sauce for the gander.

    • Tybalt

      A stirring paean to equality, gulag. Brought a tear to my eye and a wince to my face.

      What I don’t understand, is why such proposals (there was one brought in response requiring men to have a prostate exam in order to obtain a Viagra scrip) are treated as jokes by their proposers. There’s clearly vastly more state interest in such a health measure than in the pre-abortion transvaginal sonogram.

      • c u n d gulag

        I think it’s because some Liberals/Progressives/Democrats think that by making light of it, that people will realize how irrational the Conservatives are being.


        What they don’t realize, is how cleverly the right makes things that are basically undemocratic, totalitarian, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic, sound like perfectly logical policy positions to people who are too dim, too un-or-mis-informed, or too religious, to tell the difference.

        And what a lot of people need to realize, is that the Conservative Christians in this country are using “The Handmaid’s Tale” as an instructional manual.

        Anyone who opposes the Christian Conservatives needs to use the same language that they use, when proposing counter-legislation.

        Take my intra-penile DNA test suggestion.

        The Conservatives would say that’s overkill – that there are easier, less invasive, ways to determine the paternity of a child than shoving a tube into a man’s penis.

        “Yes,” we should say, “But aren’t there easier, less invasive, ways to determine whether a woman’s pregnant, than shoving a camera up her vagina, and then proving it to her?”

        And go forward and keep making this argument seriously – over and over again.
        No more winking and nodding, hoping that people will “get it.”

        You need to shove peoples noses in sh*t like this, and hold it there.

    • UserGoogol

      A urethral probe seems like overkill even for the sake of being intentionally blustery rhetorical overkill. Putting something in the vagina without consent is basically rape, but putting something in the urethra even with consent is just plain creepy. (It’s done, both medically and recreationally, but just… I don’t want to think about it.) So it kind of distracts from what’s genuinely wrong with the bill when you add even more wrongness to it.

      Now, a good old fashioned anal probe might be the better way to illustrate your point.

      • c u n d gulag

        Ok, I have another alternative – how about we get to the scrotum through the nose?

        • c u n d gulag

          Let me try that again:


      • What? You’ve never had a cystoscopy?

        You will, my friend…you will.

        And then you’ll want to hurt people by making them get one.

        • rea

          What? You’ve never had a cystoscopy?

          I wanted one of those. The doctor at first refused, but I encysted . . .

          • shah8


          • Slocum

            Damn you.

      • thebewilderness

        You think that is rhetorical overkill because it squiks you out?
        How bad do you think it is going to squik out a girl who had her first experience of penetration be a rape and is now faced with a second penetration. You think it might squik her out a teensy bit? Five percent of rapes result in pregnancy. I assure you that the very idea of repeating the experience is horrifying to most women.

  • Will Finability

    It is every god-fearing christian man’s god given right to own something, ANYTHING!

    If a man does not, at the very end of it all, own his wife then what the fuck is all that “fear-o-god” shit about then?

    Is it really only about bilking as many non-true-believers out of their money?

  • TT

    “….a willful inability to understand the concept of consent is central to the contemporary Republican worldview.”

    Is it a willful inability to understand the concept of consent, or a refusal to just come out and say that consent is reserved for the wealthy and for those with control of and/or access to capital, whereas coercion is for the “lower orders” who naturally cannot be trusted with important things, such as control of their own bodies, etc.

    • Steve LaBonne

      This. Since you can bet your ass that THEIR daughters will always be able to get abortions, and without getting raped by an ultrasound probe.

      • proverbialleadballoon

        yeah, this is closer to the point. scott kinda hits all around it, namely: mcmegan and other conservative pundits don’t actually believe one word of what they say. it isn’t ‘willful ignorance’ so much as it is ‘complete bullshit i pull out of my ass in order for my side to win’.

    • Holden Pattern

      If you view contemporary American conservatism (and maybe all conservatism, as suggested by Corey Robin) as advocacy for and defense of feudal or neofeudal arrangements, the question of who has the privilege of consenting (and who doesn’t) answers itself: the privileged members of the kleptocracy / oligarchy have privileges and the rest of us have obligations.

    • Njorl

      “Freedom isn’t Free”.
      It’s a luxury item.

  • Shorter McArdle: You’re going to be economically free slaves if we have to ram government down your throat

    • rea

      Not the throat, alas.

  • R. Porrofatto

    If it weren’t for the fact that they really are batshit insane, you’d think these appalling laws that Gooper state legislatures come up with are more on the order of deliberate Overton window shifting. In this instance, say, should they eventually approve the amendment banning forced vaginal probe ultrasound, relieved sensible centrists will think “well, ordinary abdominal ultrasound isn’t so bed” and too many people won’t be appalled enough at the idea of government-forced testing of any kind as an impediment to legal abortion. Mission accomplished, and they get away with this way too often.

    • Bill Murray

      it can be both a floor wax and a dessert topping

  • kth

    It isn’t so much that McArdle is all about the transvag probes as the opportunistic and cynical manner in which she embraced them. With the economy improving, the Republicans have quite obviously settled on a coordinated strategy to reignite the culture wars. It seems like a disastrous decision to you and me, but perhaps it feels to them like it did in August 2008: short of some dramatic change of course, they feel they don’t have a chance.

    So probably McArdle is just being a team player here, and doesn’t have strong opinions one way or the other on making people jump through hoops to obtain abortions. What that proves, though (as though we needed further proof) is that her concerns about ‘liberty’ are nearly non-existent, and her dedication to the unimpeded accumulation of wealth (the one plank of libertarianism that will be alive and well in a Santorum presidency) pretty much total.

    • proverbialleadballoon

      this is closer to the point. mcmegan and other conservative pundits don’t actually believe one word of what they say. the rubes on the other hand, that’s where ‘willful ignorance’ comes in. they are complicit in getting conned; they _want_ to be conned.

  • Curmudgeon

    Republicans have a very clear idea about consent: anyone who chose not to be born rich automatically consents to be abused by those who were.

  • joe from Lowell

    During my years living like Jane Goodall among the libertarians, I learned this:

    Their definition of freedom has nothing to do with the amount of choice available to people, or their experiences, or the control they have over their lives.

    Equating mandatory vaginal probing with consumer transparency laws is the flip side of saying that being made to comply with your boss’s rules on pain of being fired, being made a pariah in your community, living in poverty, or being prevented from buying a home in a neighborhood by a conspiracy of racists are not reductions in human freedom.

    • Slocum

      Ah the equal libertarian freedom of all: the rich and the poor are equally free to sleep under a bridge in a refrigerator box.

      • Holden Pattern

        Libertarianism is the philosophy under which Anatole France’s sardonic attack on the class system is actually taken as approval and a foundational proverb.

  • Manju

    Why do I have a sudden need to watch Pulp Fiction?

    • Hogan

      I don’t know, Mr. Bones, why do you have a sudden need to watch Pulp Fiction?

  • Jon H

    It’s only a matter of time before McMegan argues that church-connected organizations have the right to subject unmarried female employees to intrusive ‘virginity checks’ . Wouldn’t want to be funding premarital sexytime!

  • thebewilderness

    Burning heretics is pretty high on little Ricky’s to do when I am POTUS list.

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