Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sexual Correctness

I see that the noted rape apologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is being brought to my town next week, to speak at a Sex Salon hosted by a professor and sex researcher associated with the Kinsey Institute.  I wonder if her views on rape and consent will come up, so to speak.  I will be working that evening, so I can't pony up the $10 admission fee.  I'm asking some people I know with relevant interests and connections about it, though.

Something like this is a perfect opportunity to address "Political Correctness," I think.  I do not think that Westheimer should not be allowed to speak in Bloomington; quite the contrary.  I do think she should have to talk about and defend her absurd and indeed false statements about rape.  For those who don't know or have forgotten, about a year ago Westheimer told a TV interviewer:
I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman and a man—or two men or two women, but I talk right now about women and men—can be in bed together, Diane, and at one time, naked, and at one time he or she, most of the time they think she, can say “I changed my mind.”

No such thing is possible. In the Talmud, in the Jewish tradition, it says when that part of the male anatomy is aroused and there’s an erection, the brain flies out of that and we have to take that very seriously, so I don’t agree with that.
As I showed in the post I wrote about Westheimer at the time, she was alluding to a proverb that is not in the Talmud.  Some rabbis and scholars, whom I quoted, claimed that the Talmud's stance on consent was opposed to Westheimer's and agreed with modern feminism, but that wasn't true either.  Not that it matters, because neither folklore nor the Talmud has any authority on this subject, except for observant Jews who give them authority.  And perhaps not for them either, because the Talmud is an archive of debate and dissent and a springboard for more debate and dissent by experts in its tradition, not a final authority.  As another proverb says, Two Jews, three opinions.

Lest anyone suggest that this was a long time ago (over a year!) and who cares, it should be obvious that a lot of people do care; that rape, sexual assault, and consent are still hot issues; and that Westheimer did her best to bury the controversy when it first came up.  She should not be allowed to do so.  The Salon will take place off-campus, but it's connected to the University through the faculty who run it, and Westheimer specifically blamed colleges for fostering what she considered a bad, impossible point of view.  She's a doctor, a celebrity, and a public figure, so she really must be prepared to defend her position.  The attempt to shut down debate and silence disagreement (in this case, by an appeal to authority) is hers, not mine.  If she's changed her opinion since last year, that would be good to know too. 

In this I'm in complete agreement with the University of Chicago's official position, which I am sure Indiana University also holds.  Debating questions like this, rather than settling them by fiat, is (however ironically) what real Political Correctness is supposed to be about.  But if you want to talk about Political Correctness as it's universally caricatured, Westheimer's position is a paradigm case, which is all the more reason she needs to be challenged on it.