One of my pet peeves involves people who use the cover of “freedom” to take away freedom. For years, the puritanical left has been claiming to support free and open human sexuality, while waging a not-so-covert war on sex. I’m not the only one to notice, and while it’s probably normal for libertarians to notice such things and kvetch about them, conservative Ken Masugi has noticed the left’s game of destruction in the name of liberation too:
…what defenders of free speech on campus, such as the estimable FIRE, among others, may miss is the contradictory place the university has become. Having embraced the sexual revolution and encouraged an atmosphere of promiscuity, much of higher education has now created a legalistic, centralized crackdown on talk about sex. We have become what Tocqueville implied our condition would be without the influence of mores: a bureaucratic nightmare. If we can’t rule ourselves, we will have rules, myriad of them, made for us.
Whether it involves sex, drugs, cell phones, pit bulls, or even food, those who can’t rule themselves always provide a convenient excuse for self-appointed rulers to take away freedom, and they often welcome their “help.”
I don’t think the goal of the left was ever to get rid of mores. Of course they wanted to destroy existing mores, but not to create a sexually free society. That was only what they wanted the clueless classes to think. The ultimate goal was a wholesale takeover, with new, stricter and far more puritanical mores than the old ones they claimed they were liberating us from. Moreover, they don’t want the new mores to remain as mores; they would like to see them enforced and backed with new laws.
A perfect example is the growing campaign to wage a new, all-out war on prostitution, by rebadging it as “sex trafficking.” The idea is to treat all women who sell their bodies as victims, and all men who buy them as criminals.
The idea is that because some prostitutes are victims of coercion and crime, all are. Prostitution is not seen by these people as an act between consenting individuals, but rather is analyzed in a communitarian manner, where individual freedom, choice and consent mean absolutely nothing.
If this nonsensical logic had remained in law review articles written by people like Catherine MacKinnon, that would be one thing, but these things have a way of first sneaking into the dialogue and then becoming law. Under the old (er, post-Victorian) mores, a woman had no right to sell sex. Under the new mores, a man has no right to buy it. MacKinnon herself claims that there is no such thing as consent to prostitution, and indeed, she has even claimed that consent should be irrelevant to a charge of rape:
MacKinnon thinks consent in rape cases should be irrelevant. Women are so unfree that even if a woman is shown to have given consent to sex, that should never be enough to secure an acquittal. Why? “My view is that when there is force or substantially coercive circumstances between the parties, individual consent is beside the point; that if someone is forced into sex, that ought to be enough. The British common law approach has tended to be that you need both force and absence of consent. If we didn’t have so much pornography in society and people actually believed women when they said they didn’t consent, that would be one thing. But that isn’t what we’ve got.”
These are the kind of crackpots who want to run our lives.
I think they are far more tyrannical than the old puritanical tyrants from whom they claim they claim they are liberating us.