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Once More Back to the Well

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I was just about to write a post noting that virtually every commenter to this post ignored the actual point of the post and simply returned to argue again and again the peripheral question of whether the police had the formal legal authority to make the request, and noticed that aimai largely beat me to the punch:

This thread seems to me to be interestingly off point for scott’s actual post which was not a criticism of Craig’s arrest (or applause for it) but simply a straightforward amplification of something that female posters have been posting here which is that this kind of stuff happens to women *all the time* and we are not expected or encouraged to demand police protection from guys seeking consensual sex from us–even if the solicitation interferes with our use of public space. Its fascinating to me that the usual suspects (the very posters who got most hysterical about the “threat” to them personally of being solicited for sex by a gay man, mostly just skipped over Scott’s basic point to continue wrestling the sex-in-bathrooms-wrong point.

No one contends that private sex acts in shared public spaces is wrong, possibly uncomfortable, and kind of selfish–that’s what all privatization of public spaces is and it really doesn’t matter whether it is a single smoker taking over an entire restaurant with his cigar smoke or a sexually active couple taking over a library table in a public library. So much we can all agree on.

But the actual solicitation for sexual contact? That not only shouldn’t be illegal *its not illegal*. Things have to go way past “hey babe, wanna do it” before the police usually get involved. And men robustly defend their right to dominate public space with cat calls, winks, lears, and hey babe’s *when they imagine their own rights would be infringed by some other cultural/legal regime that would penalize that* and they routinely *call for more enforcement an dpunishment* when they imagine the women in their lives are subjected to the harrassment.

Its just a double or even quadruple standard in which the gender of the participants, the nature of the public space, the timing of the event, the desirability (race, gender, religion) of the harrasser *all* come into play.In fact its not possible to come up with a single acceptable “rule” about public solicitation fr sex and its badness. You would actually need some kind of spreadsheet which could be read up or down, across or sideways, to predict whether a given act would create discomfort in a given guy if it hypothetically happened.

This is correct. Two more points:

  • Nowhere have I said that I’m especially sorry about Craig’s political fate. To reiterate, the double standards that stigmatize homosexual set and make the constant sexualization of women irrespective of context are ones that Craig has largely devoted his political life to upholding. It is also true, however, that these double standards are wrong, and the vast majority of gay men subject to harassment and women subject to public harassment considerably worse than anything Craig did on a routine basis have nothing to do with creating these social norms. So I also don’t see much taking much pleasure in his downfall. So now Idaho will have a Senator probably without the double life and equally odious political positions. So now what? What are progressives supposed to be celebrating here?
  • The other major counter-argument of the thread was reliance on the frail tautology that Craig was possibly signaling a willingness to engage in illegal activity and hence violating the law that therefore all analogies with the treatment of women are null. Obviously, the idea that double standards should be beyond criticism as long as they’re reflected in the writing or application of laws is too silly to even merit a substantial rebuttal. But as for the idea that Craig was being treated equitably, two words: David Vitter. Moreover, it’s not just that he’s been permitted to remain in the Senate; he hasn’t been arrested although he’s guilty of criminal behavior that is usually a more serious offense on the books and at least arguably involves economic exploitation while Craig was engaged in purely consensual and non-commercial behavior. And it’s not as if Vitter’s exemption was the result of a de facto decriminalization, which would be fine with me; the people who provided him with the illegal sex work certainly aren’t exempted from punishment. The comparative political and legal treatment of Craig and Vitter makes the attempt to assess the former’s situation in an entirely decontextualized manner makes no sense.

See also Hilzoy.

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