Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh For The Love of God...

Releasing someone's private dirty pictures to the public is not sexual assault:

  1. It's not necessarily the case that "[t]he motivation to do so is indistinguishable from that as a rapist---using sex as a tool to dominate and humiliate". As Amanda goes on to point out such releases can contribute pertinent information to the public discourse; in this case we learned that Carrie Prejean is a bleeding hypocrite. Carrie's boyfriend may well have released the video to demonstrate her hypocrisy, in which case any accompanying feelings of domination and humiliation which Carrie may feel are a by-product of the release rather than the motivating factor.
  2. If anything, Ms. Prejean may have had a legitimate expectation of privacy w.r.t. her video, in which case the release thereof may constitute may violate her right to privacy. At the same time she's voluntarily become a public figure, in which case such expectations as might have existed are somewhat diminished. In either case "violation of the right to privacy" != "sexual assault".
  3. Just because an act might share the same motive as a sexual assault doesn't make it a sexual assault. I may release scandalous photos of you with a sheep because I hate you and want you dead, but that doesn't mean I've committed the equivalent of murder.

As I've written numerous times before, most recently with respect to a proposed definition of rape, recklessly expanding the definition of terms such as "sexual assault" does more harm than good in the long run. Publishing someone's private pictures is a qualitatively different act from how the term "sexual assault" is typically understood. The latter usually entails a (greater or lesser) violation of someone's bodily autonomy while the former does not. I'd thus argue that a physical act is a significantly worse, from a moral standpoint, than the release of photos. Lumping both of them together under the rubric of "sexual assault" blurs this distinction, placing a serious act of violence in the same category as a non-violent act, diminishing the severity of the former by association with the latter.

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