The “Princeton Mom” & Sexual Assault

Princeton University

Princeton University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Susan Patton, better known as the “Princeton Mom”, has been making the rounds of the talk and news shows promoting her Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE book. This book presents the 18th century view that a woman should focus primarily on finding a husband and do so quickly—fertility diminishes with time.

Patton attracted more attention with her March 11, 2014 interview with the Daily Princetonian. In a letter to the editor written about a year before the interview, she had make a rather provocative remark: “Please spare me your ‘blaming the victim’ outrage” and claimed that a woman who is drunk and provocatively dressed “must bear accountability for what may happen.” When asked why the woman is responsible in the case of rape or sexual assault, she had the following to say:

 

 The reason is, she is the one most likely to be harmed, so she is the one that needs to take control of the situation. She is that one that needs to take responsibility for herself and for her own safety, and simply not allow herself to come to a point where she is no longer capable of protecting her physical self. The analogy that I would give you is: If you cross the street without looking both ways and a car jumps the light or isn’t paying attention, and you get hit by a car — as a woman or as anybody — and you say, ‘Well I had a green light,’ well yes you did have a green light but that wasn’t enough. So in the same way, a woman who is going to say, ‘Well the man should have recognized that I was drunk and not pushed me beyond the level at which I was happy to engage with him,’ well, you didn’t look both ways. I mean yes, you’re right, a man should act better, men should be more respectful of women, but in the absence of that, and regardless of whether they are or are not, women must take care of themselves.

 

As might be imagined, this view has generated some backlash from faculty at Princeton and other people. Given the old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity and such controversy can help sell books, it is not clear that the view expressed is one that Patton truly holds. However, when discussing the ethics of the content of her claims, her actual belief does not matter. As such, I will take her expressed view at face value.

Patton’s first claim is that since the woman is most likely to be harmed, she needs to be responsible for her safety. There are at least two ways to view this claim. One is the very reasonable claim that a person needs to be responsible for her own safety—that is, a person has an obligation to herself to make sure that she is not needlessly in danger. This view that self-preservation is rational and obligatory is nicely defended by thinkers like Hobbes and Locke. Another way to view the claim, which is that apparently taken by her critics, is that the burden falls completely on the woman. While this is certainly a prudent view, it does run afoul of the notion that the person who wrongfully inflicts harm on another should bear the majority of the responsibility for the harm inflicted (if not all of it).

Patton’s second claim is that a woman has an obligation to not allow herself to be incapable of self-defense. Presumably Patton means that a woman has an obligation to not become some drunk that she cannot defend herself from a man who means to assault or rape her. In defense of this claim, Patton offers her analogy: a woman who gets assaulted or raped when she is too drunk to defend herself is like someone who gets hit by a car because they did not look both ways before crossing the street—even though she had the light.

The analogy does have some merit—while drivers are obligated to take care not to hit people, a person should take due precautions to avoid being hit. To do otherwise is clearly foolish. However, there is a distinction between what is prudent and what is morally obligatory. While it makes perfect sense that a woman should not impair herself when she has reason to believe that she will be vulnerable to assault or rape, this is a different matter than her having a moral obligation to herself to avoid being vulnerable in this way. There is also a third matter, namely who is responsible when a drunk woman is raped or assaulted.

In regards to the second matter, this is essentially a question of whether there is a moral obligation for self-defense. It is generally accepted that people have a moral right to self-defense and for the sake of the discussion that will be assumed. This right gives a person the liberty to protect herself. If it is only a liberty, then the person has the right to not act in self-defense and thus be an easy victim. However, if there is an obligation of self-defense, then failing to act on this obligation would seem to be a moral failing. The obvious challenge is to show that there is such an obligation.

On the face of it, it would seem that self-defense is merely a liberty. However, some consideration of the matter will suggest that this is not so obvious.  In the Leviathan, Hobbes presents what he takes to be the Law of Nature (lex naturalis): “a precept or general rule, found by reason, that forbids a man to do what is destructive of his life or takes away the means of preserving it and to omit that by which he thinks it may be best preserved.” Hobbes goes on to note that “right consists in liberty to do or to forbear” and “law determines and binds.” If Hobbes is correct, then people would seem to have both a right and an obligation to self-defense.

John Locke and Thomas Aquinas also contend that life is to be preserved and if they are right, then this would seem to impose an obligation of self-defense. Of course, this notion could be countered by contending that all it requires is for a person to seek protection from possible threats and doing so could involve relying on the protection or restraint of others rather than one’s self. However, there are arguments against this.

I will start with a practical argument. While the modern Western state projects its coercive force and spying eyes into society, the state’s agents cannot (yet) observe all that occurs nor can they always be close at hand in times of danger. As such, relying solely on the state would seem to put a person at risk—after all, he would be helpless in the face of danger. If a person relies on other individuals, then unless she is guarded at all times, then she also faces the real risk of being a helpless victim. This would, at the very least, seem imprudent.

This argument can be used as the basis for a moral argument. If a person is morally obligated to preserve life (including his own) and others cannot be reliably depended on, then it would seem that she would have an obligation of self-defense and this would include not intentionally making herself vulnerable to well-known threats. These threats would, sadly, include those presented by bad men. As such, a woman would have a moral obligation to avoid being vulnerable. This seems reasonable.

The third matter is the question of moral responsibility when a drunk woman is assaulted or raped by a man who takes advantage of her vulnerability.  In the abstract, it could be argued that the woman does bear some of the responsibility—if a woman has an obligation to defend herself, she would have failed in her obligation by becoming vulnerable in this way. As with her analogy, someone who crosses the road without looking and gets hit has failed in a clear duty to herself. However, even if this point is granted, there is still the matter of who bears the majority of the responsibility.

On the face of it, it seems evident that the man who assaulted or raped the woman bears the overwhelming moral responsibility. After all, even if the woman should have avoided being vulnerable, the man has a far greater moral obligation to not harm her. There is also the matter of reasonable expectations. To be specific, while a person is obligated to protect herself, this does not obligate her to be hyper-vigilant against all possible dangers. To use an analogy, if woman does not buy body armor to wear on campus (after all, there have been campus shooting) and she is shot by a gunman, it would be absurd to blame her for her injury or death. The blame rests on the shooter—his obligation to not shoot her vastly outweighs the extent of her obligation to be prepared.

In the case of rape and sexual assault, while a woman should be prudent for the sake of self-protection, the overwhelming moral responsibility is on the man. That the woman makes herself vulnerable to rape or assault no more lessens the rapist’s responsibility than the fact that the woman was not wearing body armor lessens the responsibility of the shooter. The principle here is that vulnerability does not mitigate moral responsibility. This is intuitively plausible: just because a victimizer has an easier time with his victim, it hardly makes his misdeeds less bad.

Patton does acknowledge that men should act better, but she does insist that a woman must take care of herself. This could be seen as sensible advice: a woman should not count on the goodwill of others, but be on guard against reasonably foreseeable harm. This advice is, of course, consistent with the view that the rapist is the one truly responsible for the rape.

 

 

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43 Comments.

  1. s. wallerstein

    Pedestrians are responsible for looking both ways before crossing the street; drivers are responsible for driving defensively; and women are responsible for not getting too drunk when around men who may take advantage of her drunkenness to rape her.

    Pedestrians are not morally responsible for looking both ways; drivers are not morally responsible for driving defensively; and women are not morally responsible for getting too drunk.

    There are lots of kinds of responsibility and not all of them have to do with morality. I’m responsible for brushing my teeth and if I don’t, they will decay, but that has nothing to do with moral responsibility.

    Now, rapists are morally responsible for raping women.

    Let’s note that the word “responsible” isn’t even used in the same way in the phrases in question.

    1. I’m responsible for brushing my teeth.
    2. A woman is responsible for not getting too drunk when around possible rapists.
    3. A rapist is responsible for raping women.

    In the first two phrases, “responsible” refers to what I should do if I want to achieve a certain result: that is, I am responsible for brushing my teeth if I want to avoid tooth decay. A woman is responsible for not getting too drunk if she wants to avoid being raped.

    However, in the last phrase, “responsible” has nothing to do with what one should do to obtain a certain result, but what is wrong to do or what one should not do.

  2. Finally some sense and no bullshit of “triger warnings”. Thanks for your analysis and keeping no sacred cows. Often feminists forget to do this.

  3. I feel like s. wallerstein nailed it.

  4. There are, but not exclusively, two rules of life, they are 1. look after yourself at all times and 2. Do not get irresponsibly drunk. These I would say refer both to men and women.
    Getting people to abide by these rules seems to be an impossibility. It is suggested that women must bear some responsibility for getting raped if they dress in a provocative manner. Endeavouring to get women not to dress in a provocative manner goes against the course of nature, the instinct for reproduction is extremely strong, and is exhibited in the woman by a desire for attention of the male of the species. The more males she can attract, gives her the opportunity to select what she considers the fittest and strongest. That being the case however it is not her intention to get herself raped, were she one of the other species of animal that would be a natural outcome whether the female favoured the mail or not. So what we are trying to control here is one of the basic strongest instincts of the human being. So far as the male goes he to will attire himself so as to attract females but it seems to me this aspect of the instinct is much stronger in women.
    So far as drunkenness is concerned this does not seem to have an instinctive basis that is to say we are not born craving for alcohol, there are exceptions, but generally the desire is not genetic but memetic that is to say it is a habit acquired in the social aspect of life. That said the habit of drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication can become as strong an urge as any genetic urge.
    So we have two points here the urge to reproduce and the urge to drink alcohol. Experience does seem to indicate that getting people to control these urges has approved near on impossible especially when intoxication is in operation with the sexual urge. In my opinion it is near on impossible to get people to look after themselves all the time and not to poison themselves with alcohol. The article does seem to dwell on what a woman should do to look after herself but surely the same goes for the man if he drinks too much he becomes much freer with his sexual impulse and may well regret tomorrow what he did today. It is a problem with no solution so far as I can see.

  5. s. wallerstein

    Don Bird:

    I just want to point out that there’s a cultural element in women dressing “provocatively”, that there’s more than the reproductive instinct at work there, since in Islamic cultures women do not dress “provocatively” and to our surprise, many Muslim women, when given the option to dress otherwise in the West, insist that they prefer to dress in a “non-provocative” manner. 23% of the world’s population practice Islam and that’s a lot of women. Add Orthodox Jewish women, who also dress “non-provocatively” and the figure is even higher.

    So it’s hard to say how much the instinct of reproduction influences in how we dress and how much culture does.

  6. Jim P Houston

    Hi Amos (s.wallerstein)

    There’s certainly something to be gained from looking at how talk of ‘responsibility’ works in ordinary language, and noting that it can be used to different ends – doing so can help us avoid a lot of unnecessary confusion. I think it’s quite natural to read your 3 statements such that ‘responsible’ is doing quite different work (‘moral’ work) in 3 than it is in statements 1 and 2.

    But this doesn’t, of itself, preclude somebody from making the claim that agents have a *moral responsibility* to take ‘reasonable steps’ to minimise their risk of suffering from diseases of the mouth. I don’t find such a claim initially plausible but I don’t think such a claim has to rest on confusion or equivocation regarding the word ‘responsibility’.

    From an egoistic or utilitarian ethical perspective, for example, one might claim pedestrians *do* have a moral responsibility to look both ways (even if nobody else could be harmed by their failure to do so) and that drivers *do* have a moral responsibility to drive carefully (even if nobody else’s safety were put at risk by them doing otherwise).

    There’s also the point – and I find this more persuasive – that harms to the self typically impose costs on others. Be careless about your own safety on the road (as a pedestrian or a driver) and it is most unlikely any bad outcome will only affect you. I can see how this ‘cost-to-others’ point might lead some to think there *is* a moral obligation to look both ways, drive ‘defensively’ and, unless you are paying the full costs of your dentist’s bill and there’s no shortage of dentists, brush your own teeth.

  7. s. wallerstein

    Hello Jim,

    Almost everything has an ethical dimension.

    For example, I bought a newspaper this afternoon. That means some trees got cut down and deforestation is bad. Am I responsible for contributing to deforestation in some small way?

    Yes. I can’t even claim that I needed to inform myself of the news, since I had already read the news online. I just wanted something to read and a crossword puzzle to do, while I waited for the, yes, dentist.

    What’s more the dollar I spent on the newspaper could have gone to helping the homeless or famine relief in Africa.

    Ok, my dollar doesn’t help much and the amount of wood pulp in any given tabloid newspaper does not do serious damage to the environment.

    But what if everybody stopped buying newspapers and gave all those dollars saved to help the homeless? Let’s assume that online news sources began to charge a small fee so that journalists, etc., did not lose their jobs.

    What if everyone brushed their teeth efficiently? Wouldn’t that have a moral effect? Probably, since the dentists could be easily retrained to deal with oral cancer, etc., instead of cavities and gum rot, which are easily avoidable with efficient brushing.

    I’m going to take one more step that I don’t want to take. What if women in general collectively decided to not drink in excess when around potential rapists (who at times are “friends”) and not to wear what some call “provocative”
    clothing?

    Would that have positive ethical effects? Yes.

    Do women have a responsibility to take the above mentioned actions? If they have that responsibility, is that an ethical responsibility?

    I’m not sure.

  8. Jim P Houston

    Hi Amos,

    I don’t think there’s usually much point in asking “what if everyone did x” questions. It’s usually correct and, it seems to me, morally pertinent to point out that we know everyone won’t e.g. you don’t want the park lawn ruined, but because you know fine well that pretty much everybody will respect the ‘keep off the grass’ sign you needn’t worry about taking shortcuts across it when nobody’s looking.

    As I said I don’t find the idea that you have a moral obligation to brush your teeth initially plausible. But if dentistry is covered by a social programme, especially if there’s a shortage of dentists or resources, I can see how one might think there’s a moral responsibility to look after your teeth because it involves little effort or cost and failing to do otherwise will very likely mean there will be real costs passed onto others (regardless of what everybody else might or might not do in terms of dental hygiene). I’m not saying there is any such obligation, just that I can see how one might – without being wildly unreasonable – think that there is one (without any Kantian ‘what if everybody did x’ type thinking).

    This type of reasoning suggests that people have a moral responsibility to take reasonable steps to avoid putting themselves in danger without reasonable cause. I don’t think it suggests people have to stop enjoying themselves or shun all avoidable risks. Certain sports increase the chance of injury without giving health benefits over and above those available from less risky pursuits. If Mike lived under the NHS and wasn’t a net contributor when it comes to paying into the system via taxes (and couldn’t afford private health insurance), I shouldn’t – supposing I endorsed the type pf reasoning mentioned – think he morally ought to refrain from long-distance running just because it’s not the safest of things to engage in. It’s not like going mountain climbing without the right gear – it’s not wildly reckless. Similarly, even if this type of reasoning works, I don’t think it means Mike would be under any moral obligation not to have a few more drinks than health authorities recommend and dance around in nothing but hot pants in gay bars if such were his ‘thing’. Perhaps it might increase his chances of being raped, but it’s not wildly reckless and it seems a perfectly legitimate way to spend one’s free time to me.

  9. s. wallerstein

    Jim;

    Is moral obligation the same thing as ethical responsibility?

    I myself never use the phrase “moral obligation”, because I don’t understand it. Maybe you mean the same thing by “moral obligation” as I do by “ethical responsibility”.

    For example, today the dentist arrived very late, as usual and for the first time, I expressed annoyance. Instead of
    apologizing, giving a plausible excuse or telling me to go dance naked in a gay bar, she blamed her nurse and criticized her in a humiliating way, taking advantage of the nurse’s relative powerlessness. I felt I had an ethical responsibility to stand up for the nurse and I did, until I realized that I might be making things worse for the nurse. For myself, I was willing to argue with the dentist about her blaming the nurse (not about her being late), even if the result was ending what has been a long and complicated dental treatment half-done.

    I didn’t feel that I was obliged to stand up for the nurse, but that I had a responsibility to do it. Whether I choose that responsibility or whether that responsibility comes from who I am, my education, whatever political and philosophical viewpoints I have is not the issue here.

    So as to dancing in hot pants in a gay bar, I feel no responsibility, ethical or otherwise (note that I’ve given up separating ethical and non-ethical responsibilities for the moment) not to do so, but I do feel a responsibility to assume the consequences of my action: that is, given my age and experience, I feel responsible for understanding that if I habitually dance drunkenly in gay bars in hot pants, sooner or late, I may be the object of unwanted sexual attentions, possibly forcible ones.

    Since knowing full well that I may the object of unwanted forcible sexual attention, I think it would be in bad faith (to use Sartre’s term) to claim to be an “innocent” victim if those unwanted sexual attentions do occur.

  10. ‘Is moral obligation the same thing as ethical responsibility?’

    Hey Amos,

    I think ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ can be usefully distinguished but are usually used in such a way as to be pretty much synonymous – so ‘ethical responsibility’ and ‘moral responsibility’ would typically mean the same thing, as would ‘ethical obligation’ and ‘moral obligation’.

    You mentioned a rapist being ‘morally responsible’ for raping somebody. I’d assume you could be ‘morally responsible’ for a ‘good thing’ but here you’re talking about being responsible for a ‘bad thing’. And you said this was a matter of “what is wrong to do or what one should not do” simpliciter (rather than “what I should [not] do if I want to achieve a certain result”). I’d suggest that if something is wrong to do, is something one should not do simplicter then it is something one is – and should feel – morally obliged not to do. And if something were ‘what is right to do or what one should do’ simplicter then it is something one is – and should feel – morally obliged to do.

    That doesn’t quite fit with what you said about feeling an ethical responsibility to defend the unfairly treated nurse, absent of any sense of obligation. What I’d say regarding that is that there can be a useful distinction drawn between ‘the ethical’ and ‘the moral’. The moral, to my mind, is much more closely associated with the idea of law-following. The ethical is more associated with living ‘the good life’. The ethical seems more about good and bad than good and evil, and sometimes has a wider remit (such that one might say that prudence, moderation, friendship are ‘ethically’ good). Perhaps your defence of the nurse, feeling ethically responsible to do so but not ‘obliged’ makes more sense in that type of framework.

    I’d assume if you went dancing in skimpy clothes in a gay bar then – along with hypothetical ‘Hot Pants’ Mike – you wouldn’t dislike receiving male sexual attention or be offended by sexual advances from men (even if you happen not to be available generally or interested in engaging with a particular advance). Some advances may take an unwelcome nature, and it would be prudent to be aware of the dangers out there but if something forcible occurred I’d maintain you were an entirely innocent victim – I don’t quite get why it might be bad faith on your part to think you weren’t.

  11. Re S. wallerstein april 1st
    Many thanks for your reply yes you are quite right. I spoke from my own personal experience in the light of my cultural background without realising that what I said was particular and extremely difficult to generalise. I obviously had not thought the matter through completely. That said I think, for want of a better expression, in the culture in which I function, what I said is correct. I have had little or no first-hand experience of Muslim culture or Jewish culture, all I know is what I have read and I hesitate here to enlarge upon the cultural functions of these two cultures, but it does appear so far as I can see, that cultural requirements are highly enforceable, and at times can well swamp instinctive responses which are innate rather than cultural, for instance, curiosity, assertion (self display) and the sexual instinct.
    I hope the recent earthquake and tsunami has left you and your dear ones unscathed.

  12. s. wallerstein

    Don Bird:

    Thank you for your concern. I live in Santiago and the earthquake occurred near Iquique, almost 1500 kilometers to the north.

  13. s. wallerstein

    Jim:

    Thank you for the explanation of the difference between moral obligation and ethical responsibility. There is a moral obligation not to rape.

    I probably contradict myself at times, but I’m trying to learn from this conversation and I don’t have a secretary or nurse to blame my frequent mistakes on.

    I have no experience with drunken parties at Princeton and I have little experience with gay bars, but I did visit two gay bars with a gay friend many years ago.

    In the first one I perceived an atmosphere of males looking for rapid sex with other males, without much preliminary conversation or getting to know one another. I felt uncomfortable and we left. My friend confirmed my impression of what went on in that bar.

    Then we went to another gay bar which as far as I could see, was full of males who happened to be gay conversing with one another just as males who do not happen to be gay do in bars.
    I felt ok there and we stayed for a while.

    So from now on I’m speaking of a gay bar like the first one.

    Let’s say that I go to that bar in hot pants and dance drunkenly. Let’s say people have warned me what kind of bar it is and that I perceive that, but I tell myself that if I dance drunkenly in hot pants, people will admire my dancing ability and that I’ll make new friends who are interested in discussing Wittgenstein. Let’s say that I find that I am the object of unwanted forcible sexual attention and that as a result, I am shocked, simply shocked by what occurs.

    Don’t have I a responsibility, be it ethical or not, to be more honest with myself and to take people’s good advice and my own perception into account about what well might occur in that bar? Aren’t I in bad faith, that is, lying to myself, when I tell myself that I am an “innocent” victim?
    After all, I put myself in harms way. I should have known what well might occur, even if I somehow convinced myself against all the evidence that people really were going to admire my (nonexistent) dancing ability and then discuss Wittgenstein with me.

    “Innocent” has two meanings. One is “not guilty”. The other is “not knowing”. There are times when one should know what might occur and thus, innocence is not very convincing. As to guilt, well, I prefer to speak of responsibility rather than guilt except in a legal context where “guilt” is the preferred concept.

  14. Dennis Sceviour

    jim houston,
    Morality is a specific case of the general theory of ethics. Morality is used for inter-personal and intrinsic decisions. For example, a moral question might be “How many children should parents have?”

    “What are the environmental hazards of mining to a fish species?” is not a moral question. That is an ethical problem. Each question requires a different method of approach to finding an answer.

  15. Hi Amos,

    To knowingly go to a gay ‘pick-up joint’ (somewhere people go mainly to find a casual sexual partner) hoping for aesthetic appreciation of your dancing skills or discussions about Wittgenstein would indeed seem somewhat foolish. Suppose somebody made a very direct sudden advance –grabbing your crotch, say, and telling you what he wants to do to you. In other contexts such an act might be seen as an assault and a deliberately intimidating act. But it in this particular club it might fall within the generally understood norms of the club – if you’re shocked by it, you were just being naïve and your would-be sexual partner hasn’t wronged you.

    If however somebody forced themselves upon you in the bathroom, not stopping when you made it clear it wasn’t what you wanted that would seem a rather different matter. In such a case you have very clearly and very seriously been wronged. I wouldn’t say you shared any moral responsibility for being raped – I think that falls exclusively and exhaustively with the perpetrator.

    If [edit: you’d been warned that such serious assaults are known to occur at the club and] you’d only luckily avoided such a very bad outcome, I think it would be fair of your friends to rebuke you for being so willfully reckless. But if the worst did happen, I think there would be something wrong if you weren’t treated with non-judgmental sympathy. ‘Ethically’ there should be no room for compassionate folk to think (never mind say) that you have fallen short ‘ethically’ in terms of prudence (even though ‘in the abstract’ it could be judged that you did). I don’t think it would be psychologically constructive for you to think of yourself as blameworthy for your recklessness after such an event, but I doubt you’d be able to escape from feeling that you were.

  16. Hi Dennis,

    I could see how somebody might view morality as a narrower field within the wider domain of ethics if that’s what you mean sure. One could think there was a core area of things that are right or wrong intrinsically or on account of how the omissions/commissions harm others and that beyond that there it is wider ‘ethical’ domain that concerns how it is best to live, develop one’s character and so on.

  17. (Amos, I’d meant to include the idea that you’d been warned that such serious assaults are known to occur at the club – thus making going there reckless).

  18. s. wallerstein

    Jim,

    That a person may have been the victim of a rape through their disregard of good advice about how to avoid rape or their denial of or dishonesty about the potential sexual violence they perceive in the atmosphere does not make the rapist any less morally responsible for his crime nor does it make the victim morally responsible for being a victim.

    However, there does seem to be a bit of non-moral responsibility on the part of the victim.

    I agree that I have a responsibility of compassion towards the victims of violence, regardless of the circumstances that led to their being victims. In fact, I feel that I have a responsibility to be on the side of the victim in all circumstances.

    I agree that basic psychic first aid is to show compassion towards the victim, regardless of the circumstances.

    However, there seem to be good reasons to get the victim to see if they may have some non-moral responsibility in their being victimized. First of all, if I understand what, if any, psychological mechanisms led me to not see the dangers involved, I have a much better chance of avoiding repeating the same unfortunate situation. For example, perhaps if I really imagine that a gay pick-up bar is good place to make new friends and to meet people who will really value me for what I know about Wittgenstein, I need to first examine if I have an unconscious urge for gay sex and if that is not the case, to examine my illusions about the interest others have about my intellectual pursuits: I need to learn that people, in general, do not have much interest in my ideas or ideas in general.

    Second, I have a friend who was brutally tortured with electricity and other methods during the Pinochet government in Villa Grimaldi, the principle torture center. Generally, people who were tortured see themselves as passive victims, but R. insists that he had an opportunity to leave Chile after the coup and did not take it because he wanted to stay and to fight the dictatorship, knowing full well that he had a good chance of being tortured or killed.

    Thus, he claims, he is not a victim, but a revolutionary who paid the costs of his political commitment with his eyes wide open.

    There’s a dignity in his attitude which I admire. It’s not that he doesn’t blame the torturers or that he blames himself, but that he assumes responsibility for his actions.

    While I’ve never danced in a gay bar in hot pants and been raped, I have been the “victim” of a robbery due to my own lack of honesty about or blindness about the motives of others.

    On one level, I should have known that the fellow who invited me to smoke a joint off the main street would have a friend waiting to rob me as soon as no one else was around, but then again, perhaps my open-ness to meeting others, my lack of prejudices about who I socialize with has some very positive aspects and that I should celebrate them.

    As long as one is a passive victim of life, without taking responsibility for all one’s actions, even those which end badly and which normal prudence would dictate avoiding, one cannot truly celebrate oneself.

  19. Jim,

    Your system of moral logic shares remarkable similarities with that of the Mullahs of Iran.

    In Iran, where women could only be described as scantily clad or provocatively dressed by Saudi Arabian standards, victim blaming is enshrined in law. If an Iranian woman is raped, the court sees it that she bears a degree of responsibility for the rape. The perpetrator is seen as responsible too, but if they can argue in court that they were led into the act by their victim, not only can they walk free with sympathy for their good name being dragged through the mud, but their victim may face the death penalty for adultery.

    Moral relativism is much misunderstood (especially by people working in philosophy – the soi dissant philosophers). It’s not that in individual frames of reference there can be systems of morality that are in themselves coherent and harmonious, but radically different to the logic of other systems; again having their own harmonious congruity – determined by the constitution of the subject; individual, gender, community, country, time and place. This is the common, to the point of being the universal, misunderstanding.

    It is in fact the relative positions of the observer and the subject that causes the misapprehension. This being very functional in the instance of the Orientalist and neo-Orientalist framing the Arab and the Persian of being in need of paternal assistance. On closer examination, where the observer moves their position of observation closer to the subject – what is revealed is a moral objectivity, universal in its’ structures, but the differences being in the how the structures function or dysfunction.

    America is not Iran, but Susan Patton puts the rape victim on trial and exonerates the rapist. She cannot have the rape victim put to death (that would be barbaric; it is not like the young woman has been a young black man playing rap music), but it is her opinion that young woman has behaved in such a way as to be deserving of her punishment, that of being raped. Patton is not really any different from an Iranian cleric.

    Patton and the cleric are moral idiots. They reach an absurd conclusion through a sequence of discrete arguments that are logically self-consistent, but the result can only be equivocated by “well, she shouldn’t have drank and dressed like that” in the American instance, to “well, she shouldn’t have left the house and dressed like that” in the Iranian instance. And in both instances Patton and the Cleric give permission and even encouragement to the rapist to rape.

  20. JMRC,

    I’m not sure quite why you would think my “moral logic shares remarkable similarities with that of the Mullahs of Iran”.

    Perhaps you might point out the remarks I have made that have caused you to see such a similarity?

  21. Jim, you’re right.

    I was confusing some of Don Bird’s statements with yours. Don is probably just a beard and turban short of being a full blown Iranian cleric, issuing fatwas.

    But there is a flaw in all the arguments or in what is being argued. If someone is burgled, they’re not accused of filling their house with lots of nice things that are tempting to a burglar. Their moral responsibility is simply not questioned. In Iran, women can neither drink nor dress provocatively, so the clerics simply move the goal posts. The woman is being placed in a situation where she is made culpable.

    Sorry for confusing you with Don.

  22. s. wallerstein

    JMRC:

    We all in this dicussion, as far as I can see, distinguish between moral responsibility and non-moral responsibility.

    Among those I know, if someone’s home is burgled, no one blames them in moral terms, but if they have no locks on their doors/windows and these days no alarm system, most will say that they had been irresponsible, not morally irresponsible of course, but irresponsible in prudential terms. Most people whom have something worth burgling in their homes take certain prudential steps to avoid being burgled.

  23. s. wallerstein,

    “We all in this dicussion, as far as I can see, distinguish between moral responsibility and non-moral responsibility.”

    Yes, but this involves stating situations where the logic is consistent. And limiting the situations through narrative.

    “Most people whom have something worth burgling in their homes take certain prudential steps to avoid being burgled.”

    Burglars are prudent too; at least the more professional ones. Where they learn how to break all the locks and disarm all the alarm systems. And rapists are also prudent in selecting their victims and the situations they find their victims in.

    Any discussion of morality or culpability involves a subject and a situation. In law there is an important concept; mens rea. Guilty mind. This is the disposition of a person in a given situation. If someone consciously sets out to kill someone, then they have an immoral disposition and a guilty mind. If they honestly mistook a pack of skittles and a can of iced tea for deadly weapons, and felt they were in imminent danger of being killed, then if they killed the unarmed black teenager, they could be forgiven in court of law. They were a good person, who found themselves in a bad situation, which could happen to any good person. And good people should not be punished.

    In an event. Judging the morality of actor’s actions is based on judging or assuming the disposition of the actors, and the nature of situation. Getting the elements wrong is described in social psychology as fundamental attribution error. The Wikipedia page on this is well worth reading, because it covers a cluster of related phenomena. For given situations, people tend to attribute more to the disposition of an actor than the situation.

    What we have with Susan Patton is an attribution error. Though she won’t come out and say it, she believes the college girls who get raped are the bad girls. They’re the dirty little sluts who lack personal responsibility. They go to college events, in slutty clothes, they tease boys and get irresponsibly drunk. They get so drunk, and the way they’ve been behaving all night, that boy can’t really tell if they haven’t been invited. The girl wakes up the next morning, and cries rape. As far as Susan is concerned the bad girl got what a bad girl had coming to her.

    But the event that is closer to reality. A typical college girl, neither good nor bad. They’re at a college event, there are really nice guys there, they’ve never drank much before but a real nice guy is encouraging her to drink more and more. He has a great sense of humour, seems sensitive and she feels safe around him – a good guy is going to look out for a girl, isn’t he? The alcohol really kicks in, and the girl is very drunk. The nice guy offers her to sleep it off back in his room. She goes back, thinking she’ll have a chance to sleep it off. But when they get there, he starts taking her clothes off and she’s too drunk to resist. He rapes her, but he doesn’t consider it to be rape, because his mom had warned him of all the bad girls he might meet at college, how they get drunk, and deserve all the get.

  24. “Though she won’t come out and say it, she believes…”

    I don’t know what Patton believes but won’t come out and say. And neither do you.

    There are plenty of things this woman has actually said that one might, quite reasonably, take very serious issue with. If you’re interested in what she has actually said in her book, you can read the relevant (short) section titled ‘Behaving Badly’ here.

  25. Jim Houston

    Jim sorry to read that some ill mannered person attributed the drivel I write to yourself. I have not dealt as thoroughly as I would wish in this matter as it does not quite catch my imagination. However in what I have said I endeavoured to indicate that certain innate inner drives, and drives which we have acquired, not genetically, but from cultural pressures, that is to say, the moral stance adopted by our parents, and all the friends and acquaintance, we have met in life, these can at times prove almost uncontrollably persuading. The sex drive operating in conjunction with overindulgence in alcohol can often cause behaviour which one or more people later regret. I have no issue with women dressing provocatively it seems a natural thing to do, but when it is associated with overindulgence in alcohol, unpleasant results can occur. Often people know in their hearts, that they should not be doing something, but the urge so to do at times overwhelms common sense. I seem to remember Aristotle called this Akrasia and Socrates also had his version of the matter. This as I said before,  It is a problem with no solution so far as I can see.

  26. Jim,

    I’m sorry for hanging the woman before giving her a fair trial. So, let’s see what she can do with her own rope.

    From Marry Smart! – behaving badly

    But beyond the medical risks associated with regular drunkeness, it’s an invitation to be taken advantage of – especially for women.

    It’s not rape if you have a invitation. You know it’s only in this kind of instance, where a certain kind of person believes that if someone is weaker or disadvantaged then doing something bad to them is okay. Under the same logic you’d have to say it’s okay to rob a confused old lady, or a blind person.

    If you are too drunk to then you may be incapable of saying no or warding off unwanted advances. And then it’s all on you.

    A complete exoneration of the rapist. He’s not even committing rape, he’s just advancing, and though his advances are unwanted he can overcome the girls objections…..And in that instance it is all her fault….if only she was sober and had a gun, so she could stand her ground.

    Please spare me your “blaming the victim” outrage. If you are provocatively dressed, drink too much, and knowingly (or unknowingly) wander into an eager young man’s room, then you have displaying screamingly bad judgement and must bear accountability for what may happen next.

    Spoke like an Iranian cleric.

    What word does she have for the young men?

    And young men also have to be smarter about how much they drink and how it affects them. The difference between a drunken hook-up and a sexual assault is very thin,

    But young men are very smart, especially the young rapists. They know the difference.

    but the charge of rape, regardless of circumstances, is substantial.

    Very hard to make the charge stick if the event bears all the hallmarks of a drunken hook-up. A fact not lost on a young man engineering a situation and keen to stay out of jail.

    What advice does she have for a girl who may have been raped while intoxicated.

    Attempting to hide behind drunkenness is never believable – it’s delusional. You are adding insult to injury feebly trying to eradicate the reality of your actions by lying about them. Nobody will believe you, and your unwillingness to accept responsibility for your own actions makes you look even worse than a trollop – it makes you look like an untruthful trollop.

    So, if you’re raped, keep your mouth shut, no one will believe you. You’ll just look like an untruthful trollop. This is nearly word for word the speech rapists and paedophiles often give to their victims to scare them into silence.

    I’m sorry Jim, this woman is guilty as charged – even worse than I imagined. And her book is some general crime against literature. Please do not make me read any more of it.

    Jim, I find the mentality of this woman genuinely distressing. I have heard it all before. She is the kind of woman who assisted Catholic clerics in covering up horrendous sexual abuse of children. Though it sounds staggeringly insane, the Catholic hierarchy and their lay helpers believed the children had drawn the innocent priests into sin.

  27. s. wallerstein

    It’s unfeeling on her part, isn’t it?

    I said above that I feel a responsibility to be on the side of the victim, even if the victim has been a fool or unwise or lacks prudence.

    Those who take the victimizer’s side, as is her case, have a circle reserved for them in hell, regardless of their superior prudence or income.

  28. Jim P Houston

    Don,

    I didn’t take you to have a moral issue with women dressing ‘provocatively’. I just took you to be making remarks about what you thought was prudent.

    Obviously how a woman is dressed will impact on the sexual interest she will arouse and the manner in which that interest is expressed and, regrettably, how she is judged in terms of her sexual ‘availability’ and norms.

    That granted, I’m personally very dubious about the idea that how a woman is dressed will significantly increase the risks of her being sexually assaulted (drunk or not). This, however, is an empirical question connected to the issue of what it might be prudent to do. I don’t think a charitable reading of your comments supports an accusation of victim-blaming. And in this regard I note that you were the one who pointed out that the article dwelled on what a woman should do without raising concerns about whether men ought not to drink too much on account of what they might be more likely to do whilst in that condition

  29. Jim P Houston

    “I’m sorry Jim, this woman is guilty as charged”

    JMRC,

    There seems no reason to apologise to me of all people.

    I never attempted to argue that you were wrong about what Ms Patton believes; I just attempted to make the point that you don’t know what she believes but won’t say.

    You didn’t and still don’t.

  30. Jim P Houston

    Hi Amos,

    Sorry I haven’t got round to replying to your comments of April 2nd before now.

    Your admiration for your friend R. seems well-placed. To his great credit, he chose, with eyes open to the risks, to stand up for what he believed in. And having paid the price of his convictions, he has adopted an attitude towards his past sufferings that seems entirely laudable.

    I agree there can be dignity in taking due accountability for the misfortunes that arise partly on account of the choices one makes. This seems, to me, to apply not just to cases where such misfortune has arisen on account of one pursuing a noble or otherwise worthwhile end but also in cases where people have indulged a bad habit they knew to carry serious risks. Thus in the case of a terminal cancer patient who had has found himself in this situation on account of his decision to smoke all his life, there would seem more dignity in his accepting due accountability for his condition rather than railing against the unfairness of life.

    In so far as a victim of sexual assault might fail to recognise what, if any, reasonable steps she could have taken to avoid the bad outcome that befell her or what, if any, delusions or naivety contributed to its occurrence, for the sake of her future safety, one might quite reasonably want to get her to see things as they are. I think in most circumstances there will be little the individual could have reasonably done to avoid what occurred. I also think that, in most circumstances, victims will learn what lessons there are to be learnt about the realities of life from such an experience. Usually, it seems to me, the assistance a victim requires is to learn, in so far as it is possible, not to take too much responsibility for their misfortune rather than too little. And, it seems to me, the help they will most likely need is help in rebuilding some ability to trust rather than help in removing any residing naivety. But I don’t think we are in any real disagreement on matters of principle or fact (and on the relevant matters of fact I’m woefully uninformed).

    Obviously your robbery experience has taught you certain things about the realities of life. Unfortunately it seems one often needs such experiences in order to learn such lessons. They can’t be reliably imparted through advice. Charting a course between the horns of naivety and cynicism is tricky, you strike me as someone who has sailed as well as could be hoped.

    I should think I would probably want to leave discussions on this topic there and move onto other subjects. Its a tricky set of issues to say anything useful about, though I should think there are more useful things one might say about such emotive and serious matters than Ms Patton has chosen to say.

  31. s. wallerstein

    Jim,

    Fine. Let’s move on

    It’s been great conversing. This afternoon I explained the distinction which you make above to my son (he’s 35) between morals and ethics, and that made for a fruitful discussion.

  32. Jim P Houston

    In the entry on ‘Morality’ in his Dictionary of Philosophy Simon Blackurn put it like this:

    “Although the morality of people and their ethics amounts to the same thing, there is a usage that restricts morality to systems such as that of Kant, based on notions such as duty, obligation, and principles of conduct, reserving ethics for the more Aristotelian approach to practical reasoning, based on the notion of a virtue, and generally avoiding the separation of ‘moral’ considerations from other practical considerations. The scholarly issues are complex, with some writers seeing Kant as more Aristotelian,and Aristotle as more involved with a separate sphere of responsibility and duty, than the simple contrast suggests.”

    I gather there are other ways of drawing a distinction between morality and ethics but this seems along the lines of what I had in mind. Indeed given that I’ve owned a now battered copy of this book for 20 years its most likely where I got it from.

  33. s. wallerstein

    Jim,

    Thanks. We took “morality” to have to do with obligations that everyone should do or not do: for example, don’t rape or don’t torture or save the drowning child or keep promises.

    We took “ethics” to be a question of choice, how one decides to live, after the basis (morality) is already in place. That includes prudential aspects and responsibilities that one takes upon oneself, without expecting that others take them upon theirselves. So while “don’t rape” is a basic moral rule, my ethical sense tells me that Ms. Patton’s stance on rape is unfeeling, lacking in empathy with and compassion for the victims, implicitly machista, but isn’t immoral.

  34. Amos,

    Following a comment Dennis made it occurred to me that one might think along those lines but I got distracted by other matters.

    It seems like it might be a useful way of thinking – something worth returning to in future discussions.

  35. s. wallerstein

    Jim,

    Right. It was your exchange with Dennis that set me thinking that way.

  36. Hi Amos,

    Actually, thinking about it, I have a feeling that the idea of there being a distinction between morality and ethics is something that we have touched on in conversation before. I seem to recall suggesting, with something like the distinction Blackburn notes in mind (or perhaps just the slightly different connotations I find ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’ to have) that Nietzsche had stuck me as being more ‘about’ the latter than the former (and you rightly pointing out that it wasn’t a distinction he drew himself). Perhaps this prior conversation isn’t unrelated to me suggesting earlier that morality might seem to be more about ‘good and evil’ and ethics more about ‘good and bad’.

    In any case, the idea that, rather than seeing ‘ethics’ and ‘morality’ as denoting (or connoting) different systems – virtue ethics versus the ‘moralities’ of Kantianism or consequentialism say – but marking out neighbouring territories of concern (where such systems might have more of less applicability or usefulness) isn’t something I believe we have discussed before (or at least not at any length).

    It occurred to me to wonder whether other thinkers have thought of things in this way and, Ronald Dworkin came to mind. James Garvey invited questions for an interview he conducted with him and I recalled raising a (I should think misguided) question about whether, in his view, Gauguin might have acted in such a way as to be “ethically right” but morally wrong.

    Looking that up I found an article I linked to in which Dworkin suggested (though he noted that it might seem he was using “ethical” and “moral” in a special way) that: “Moral standards prescribe how we ought to treat others; ethical standards, how we ought to live ourselves.”

    I don’t know that how he fleshed that out exactly ties in with what we had in mind but he seemed interested to explore the question of whether the ‘ethical desire to lead good lives for ourselves provides a justifying moral reason for our concern with what we owe to others’.

    In any case, it does seem like a conversation about the distinctions and relations between ‘the ethical’ and ‘the moral’ might be something we might fruitfully enjoy.

    I shall have to think and read a bit more about it.

  37. s. wallerstein (aka amos)

    Jim,

    I don’t think that the distinction between ethics (how we ought to live ourselves) and morality (how we treat others)
    stands up. We live in an interconnected world. If I flush the toilet every time I piss, I use a lot of water and water is a scarce resource, affecting others. Still, I wouldn’t call those who flush the toilet every time they piss “immoral”.

    Society today is very diverse. So we need a set of moral principles that everyone from religious conservatives to left libertarians to Wall Street traders can respect. Because if people lose respect for our moral code, we have a problem. Besides, if we have one moral code that everyone respects, we avoid all those stupid cultural wars. A moral code everyone would respect (in theory at least) would include: don’t rape, don’t torture, save the drowning child in the pond, etc.

    Now I have my own ethical code. For example, I try to be polite to everyone in public. Lots of people are ill-mannered, but I would not call them “immoral”, just “ill-mannered”. I expect people to be ill-mannered: I don’t blame them, although I do avoid them.

    Here’s another example. My conversation about ethics and morals with my son began when I spoke of an ex-friend who after a very idealistic, socially concerned youth, dedicated his life to making as much money as possible. Being a lawyer, he probably did nothing illegal, since his game was to find loop-holes in the law.

    My son asked me if I felt that what the lawyer did was wrong and I said “no”, but for ethical reasons I would not live like that myself. I have certain standards that I hold myself to that I don’t hold others to.

    As for an ethical code leading to immoral results, I don’t think that Gauguin is the best example, since after all, he did not abandon his family in the midst of the desert without water, but in Paris where his wife could find a job. I don’t find Gauguin “immoral” at all.

    Here’s an example, my son brought up: Michael Corleone in the movie Godfather 2 kills his brother because his brother has betrayed the mafia, the ethical code of the mafia dictating death for traitors.

  38. Jim P Houston

    Hi Amos,

    I didn’t re-read Dworkin’s essay as carefully as I’d meant to, but I don’t think that he means to say the ‘ethical’ is limited to what only affects oneself. It seems he wants the ethical goal of living well to justify moral duties, and for the moral to inform us when it comes to knowing what it is to live well. I’m not at all sure how that would all work but perhaps there might be better starting points for a discussion in any case.

    I didn’t mean to raise the ‘Gauguin Problem’ as something central to our concerns (there wasn’t really any good reason to link to my comments about it). It does depend on a simplistic telling of his life and its relation to his art and in a way it needn’t be accurate given its use as a thought-experiment. I’m in no position to judge the real man myself.

    As for poor dim-witted Fredo, well, he didn’t just betray the mafia he betrayed his brother. Obviously I wouldn’t say it was morally right for Michael to order Fredo’s death. But I do sort of wonder whether a group of people can choose a form of life such that particular acts that occur within it aren’t easy for an outsider to make moral judgments about though one finds the whole form of life damnable. I don’t know how much sense any of that makes.

    I have certain standards that I hold myself to that I don’t hold others to myself. This does seem to me to be better spoken of as a matter of what is ‘ethical’ rather than what is ‘moral’ yes.

  39. s. wallerstein (aka amos)

    Jim,

    I have no doubt that your memory of Godfather 2 is better than ours.

    One of the chief insights of this conversation is that most or many of us have standards that we hold ourselves to and that we don’t hold others to. If one keeps that in mind, one avoids a lot of disagreeable moralizing, that kind that keeps daily gossip flowing and that fuels the culture wars. Lots of unpleasantness in life arises because people want to feel morally superior to others and so imagine that their own personal ethical standards or those of their own subculture should be universal moral norms, thus allowing them to criticize others from a viewpoint of self-righteousness indignation.

    I am a vegetarian. Actually, I chose that diet because I like it and because I feel comfortable with it in ethical terms, but I will not convert it into a moral crusade which allows me to pontificate about how righteous my diet is and how sinful is that of meat-eaters. I don’t even feel morally superior to those who pontificate about how righteous their diet is.

    Can there be acts that occur within a damnable group which are difficult (or almost impossible, I add) for an outsider to make moral judgments about, you ask. I’m sure that there are. For example, I have almost no understanding of or empathy for Al Qaida, but there undoubtedly can be noble actions within the context of a terrorist group. However, I’m not sure that I would always be able to recognize noble action within a fundamentalist terrorist group.

  40. Jim P Houston

    A narrative that might be a more simple ‘fit’ for your point might be one in which, contrary to the in-group norms, a mafia member was caught ‘snitching’ on his associates and, in line with the in-group norms, was assassinated. A scenario that might better fit what I had in mind might involve a case where, say, a Columbian drug baron orders a ‘hit’ on an equally murderous competitor to gain territory.

    In the latter case it seems (to me) that whilst it is easy to condemn the whole form of life each had chosen (and the acts of each against the innocent) it’s harder to take a moral position on them murdering each other. It’s a risk they both ‘signed up’ for and isn’t something that goes against any code either subscribes to. Perhaps I’m just being indifferent about murderers murdering murderers, but intuitively it seems to me as if judging the killing as immoral somehow seems inapt. As I say, I don’t know that this really makes sense though.

    There are different ways in which we might have standards that we hold ourselves to but don’t hold others to. One way is to see something as not seeming in ethical accord with the life one wants to lead but being open to the idea that others might live as well with different standards. Another is to view something as morally wrong but to understand how others might fail to see that or otherwise fail to be able to live up to it without being damnable individuals. Another related way is to have some humility when it comes to some of one’s moral views – to recognise the possibility of being wrong or at least reasonably disagreed with.

    All seem to warn against the self-righteous moralising we share a distaste for.

  41. s. wallerstein

    I agree that if people have “signed up” for a homicidal game, there is no reason to become morally indignant if one kills the other, as long as no innocent bystanders are harmed.

    Another example is British Intelligence, as depicted by John Le Carré in The Spy who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. There’s no reason to get indignant when Bill Haydon is mysteriously murdered at the end of Tinker, Tailor and while Liz Gold is an innocent victim of
    the Intelligence Services in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Fiedler and Leamus know or should know the rules that they signed up for and their fate does not produce indignation.

    Still another example might be Wall Street traders. When one destroys the fortune of another, they are playing a game that they all signed up for and unless innocent workers lose their jobs as a result, which probably will not occur if they are speculating on options on options on options, once again I see no reason for indignation.

  42. This discussion seems to hinge on when or not we should use the words ethical, moral, non-ethical, and immoral. All of these embrace codes of conduct to which people adhere as a rule of life. Codes of conduct of which we do not approve are called non-ethical or immoral. The fact that we may not approve of a code of conduct does not invalidate that code amongst those who do follow it. The very words ethics and morality are emotive words generating positive or negative feelings in those using them depending on their own ethical and moral stances. The Nazi party ethical standards were to eliminate those who threatened the Aryan race. This was a moral code for the betterment of what was considered a worthy race of people.
    So far as the Mafia are concerned they rather like the Nazi party, endeavour to foist their views on those outside of the party and also persecute non-party members in order to profit thereby. Another example in this connection is the Taliban whose basic desire is that everybody should become converted to their viewpoint. It seems to me that you can have any moral code you desire provided it does not result in the persecution or disadvantage of others outside of that moral code. Or for that matter for those who have been inducted into the code, and find themselves unable to break therefrom. The suffering of the innocent seems to be a key phrase here, and what suits one may not suit another and I think it may well be found in all codes of conduct that these two points are often overlooked whereby a great misery may be inflicted on many.
    The Nazi party the Mafia and the Taliban all embrace codes of conduct which are extremely harmful to the innocent. It is for this reason we do have to indulge in self righteous moralising when the occasion demands.

  43. Jim P Houston,

    “I never attempted to argue that you were wrong about what Ms Patton believes; I just attempted to make the point that you don’t know what she believes but won’t say.”

    In the absolute sense I can not know what she believes, just as in the absolute sense I can’t even know what I believe. Susan Patton could be any number of things. Her book could be her heartfelt and to her best intentions; truthful view of the world. But on the other hand, she could be that absolute opposite of the character she projects through the text, and instead be a very cynical woman, manufacturing a text, for a genre of literature, that might sell very well to a certain kind of curtain twitching grandmother.

    “You didn’t and still don’t.”

    Is this anything to do with some colourful tales that have been appearing in the yellow press of late, painting the woman a feverish crimson; scarlet even.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2595345/Homewrecker-Princeton-Mom-dishes-advice-girls-marriage-stole-ex-husband-woman.html

    She’s a bad girl. A very bad girl. The sequel to her current bestseller should be a manual for young brides on how to secure their big “catch”, against the advances of a woman like Susan. A warm water shark, relentlessly swimming through the water, following the fishing boat all the way home. The Young Girl and the Sea.

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