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September 18th 2018 print

Peter West

‘Slut-Shamed’ Victimhood’s Loose Logic

Once upon a time, 'slut' conveyed opprobrium but is now held to reflect poorly on those who use the word to denigrate women engaging in what modern mores assert is perfectly acceptable behaviour. So why is 'slut-shaming' presented as an insult?  The concept is irredeemably incoherent

sh-yMen are mortal.
ScoMo is a man.
Therefore, ScoMo is mortal.

Is there anything wrong with the above argument?  A stickler for logical forms would insist that the first premise should be All men are mortal.  Fair enough.  But if you put the initial form of the argument to a large sample of Australian voters, how many would object?  A statement like men are mortal will generally be accepted as a class attribution.

Now try this one.

Men are rapists.
David Leyonhjelm is a man.
Therefore, David Leyonhjelm is a rapist.

How does that one hold up?  It depends whom you offer it to.  To my mind, if you’re talking to those who retain some grip on common sense they will become sticklers for form, and reject the argument.  While all can be implicitly added to men are mortal, the same cannot be done here.

On the other hand, there is an increasingly large group, almost exclusively university educated, who will accept the argument along these lines:  There are men who have committed rape, and are therefore unarguably rapists.  On the other hand, there are men who have not committed rape, per se, but who benefit from the intimidation of women by toxic masculinity and the rape culture, and who therefore are empowered by their male privilege. One has only to look at the purported ‘rape crisis’ at Australian universities. This dichotomy effectively partitions men as a whole. The first premise of the ‘rapists’ argument is implicitly All men are rapists (by virtue of being men.)  Those who believe this have lost their grip on reality. Sadly, there are plenty of them.

Which brings me to Sarah Hanson-Young, or SH-Y as the woman-child is ironically known.  Is there a group in Australian politics in which the “men are rapists” mantra will find more enthusiastic support than among Greens?  Admittedly, it’s a close-run thing, what with the Labor Party en masse, and lately the left-inclined women’s chorus of the parliamentary Liberal Party wailing about how beastly their male colleagues can be. Strangely, for a sorority so loud in its grievances, none of the put upon ladies have described what they perceive as bullying, the males allegedly responsible or, indeed, a definition of bullying itself.  Believe the women, we are told, up to and even when they provide no specifics of that which is to be accorded credence.

On Thursday, June 28, the Senate was debating a motion from Katterite Fraser Anning that the government allow citizens import Tasers, Mace and other pepper-extract sprays for self-defence. The motion was spurred by the raw memory of the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, and was directed mainly to the self-defence of women. The major parties and, of course, the Greens opposed the motion. It was lost 46 to 5, but all five supporters were men.

The argument against the motion picked up from earlier outrage that women walking alone at night be advised to exercise prudence.  To suggest that women take responsibility for their own safety, it went, was victim-blaming.  The problem, as Greens women loudly insisted, was men.  The rape and murder of women, an immemorial crime, can be eliminated by fixing men, the argument went.  The connotation is apt.  “The priority,” said Senator Janet Rice, “must be to eradicate men’s violence.” No quantifier or qualifier attached to the word men. Nor was this rancour towards men a novelty in the red chamber.

SH-Y barracked on the sidelines.  Peta Pan, the girl who never grew up, sprinkled pixie dust and flew off to Never Land.  Anchored nearby, though, was mean ol’ Cap’n Hjook.  Senator David Leyonhjelm, across the corridor and two seats away, says he heard from SH-Y the comment, “men should stop raping women.” In response to another display of toxic femininity, he offered the now infamous suggestion that she “stop shagging men.”

There’s logic in the riposte.  If specific crimes like the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon happen because of men, if men’s violence must be eradicated by governments, if men go about raping women, then shagging a plural subset of men is surely the worst kind of fraternisation and gross hypocrisy.  But the barb depends for its force on the facts of SH-Y’s behaviour.  Does she shag men?  The following Sunday, Leyonhjelm underlined his point by telling 3AW and Sky’s The Outsiders that around Parliament SH-Y was known to “like men.”

His attempt to buttress the logical structure of his comment just poured fuel onto the fire.  The story was all about a man’s callously bad manners and a woman’s offended feelings. Up to that point, though, no-one, least of all SH-Y, had argued that she was actually chaste, hence entitled to be deeply offended.  This may simply have been an economy: why address that point when Leyonhjelm was being attacked on all sides for daring to make his original comment?

Then, on Tuesday, the Senator from South Australia put the question beyond doubt.  She accused her fellow Senator of slut-shaming her.

Slut-shaming is an inherently absurd product of the femmunist word-mill. Once upon a time, slut conveyed severe opprobrium. It was the obverse of chaste, when a chaste woman was a pearl beyond price.  In these enlightened times, the values have been reversed.  Behaviour befitting a slut is now applauded and encouraged in girls and women.  They now wear their promiscuity as proudly as the temple prostitutes of Babylon displayed their sashes.  It’s the right thing to do, so there can be no shame in it.

Curiously, femmunists remain squeamish about the word, though not the behaviour.  Slut is one of those words which is held to reflect poorly on the one who utters it, rather than the one it is uttered about.  So what is slut-shaming?  It is drawing attention to perfectly acceptable and widely encouraged promiscuous behaviour of the kind that used to be called sluttish, in order to call down no-longer relevant opprobrium upon the woman so named.  The only way the term makes sense is as ridicule of the person attempting the shaming, and thereby humiliating, not the woman named, but him- or herself.  So why is it presented as something that causes humiliation to the slut-shamed woman?  The concept is irredeemably incoherent.

One salient fact pops out of this.  A woman bemoaning her slut-shaming is not complaining that she is accused of something she did not do.  SH-Y is not disputing the truth of the parliamentary scuttlebutt that she “likes men.”  If, in fact, she does “like men,” then her anti-male rhetoric, in Parliament and out, is hypocrisy, as Senator Leyonhjelm pointed out.

Whether Senator Hanson-Young can grasp this point is moot.

Peter West blogs intermittently at http://pbw.id.au/blog/.