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Getting an argument out of my head...

This past Tuesday, on RPI Lily in the -psychos discussion, one of my friends posted a link to a Blogspot post in which a self-professed "anti-feminist" equated affirmative action with rape.  His argument boiled down to this: since employment gives men money and power, and affirmative action takes employment from men and gives it to women, the only way to provide comparable equality to men is to forcibly give men the resource that women have.  That resource is sex and he proposes rape as the method of equalization equivalent to affirmative action.

When I first read the page, it disturbed me greatly, and I wasn't able to read more than a couple comments in.  His argument disturbed me on a deep emotional level, and I wasn't able to think about it very clearly.  This morning, however, I woke up and found myself thinking about it again, and it occurred to me that there was another reason why I was disturbed by this person's argument: it's logically flawed.

Assuming we grant the premises that money and sex are scarce resources and that affirmative action seeks to remove gender discrimination in the distribution of scarce resources, there is a major flaw in the argument that because affirmative action takes money (employment) from men and gives it to women that it's morally equivalent for men to rape women in order to get sex: it makes the incorrect assumption that the money (employment) comes from men.

It doesn't.  It comes from employers.

Employers are entities that have some amount of work to be done.  In order to get that work done, they hire employees to perform that work. In order to compensate those employees for performing that work, they provide them with money.  In addition, employees, because the become part of the employer and are able to make decisions on behalf of that employer, are afforded some measure of power.  Low-level employees have very little power; high-level employees have great amounts of power.  But in either case, this power comes not from "men", but from the employing entity itself.

Affirmative action seeks to level the playing field in regards to employers allocating jobs (through which they deliver money and power) between people on the basis of gender (amongst other factors, but let's simplify the argument by leaving it at gender).  Jobs, if they are available, must be allocated between men and women in an equitable fashion, not preferentially to one gender over the other.  It does not empower potential employees to approach potential employers and demand work.

If rape were equivalent to affirmative action, then a woman would be able to walk up to an employer who's barely scraping by in this horrible economy and say, "I want a job, and you're going to give it to me."  The employer, of course, would respond with the age-old tired line, "Not tonight, honey, I have a declining customer base and a tough credit market."  The woman would then respond, "Sucks to be you, then.  I want a executive level position and a company car.  Now be a good little employer: lie down, look at the ceiling and think of  Warren Buffet."

Ok, I've gone a bit absurd here, but you can see my point: women can no more approach employers and demand work than men can.  What affirmative action enables them to do is approach employers who have work and employers have to ignore the fact that they don't have penises to wave around when considering which candidates they're going to hire.  Although, that's not precisely true.  Sometimes employers, in the desire to reach certain affirmative action goals, will decide to hire a woman instead of a man so their company's gender ratio somewhat resembles that of the population at large.  This is the only time that affirmative action could conceivably be construed as "taking employment away from a man and giving it to a woman", since affirmative action has never required employers to fire men and hire women in their stead.  It has always been about ensuring that women and men have equal opportunity to get the available work, and that women and men are equally compensated for comparable work.

We could get bogged down at this point, arguing that requiring women to be paid comparably to men for comparable work is forcibly taking money from men and giving it to women, but what I'd really like to do is look at the other side of this argument: that sex is the resource that women have and there needs to be some kind of affirmative action to ensure that men are allocated this resource equitably.

If we're going to look at this equation, we need to normalize the terms: in affirmative action, the resource being allocated is "employment", the entity allocating the resource is "the employer", and those receiving the resource are "employees".  Therefore, if we're going to examine affirmative action with regards to sex as a resource, then we need to see women as the employers and men as the employees (yes, yes, I know this oversimplifies things, what with the plethora of sexual orientations there are, but for the sake of simplifying the argument, I'm only going to look at the general case).  If women are the employers, then it follows that they can only provide employment (sex) when they have work to be done.  Just as with employers having jobs to fill, there are innumerable factors that come into play when determining if women have sex that can be made available.  Just as employers can't create employee positions to fill if they don't have sufficient work for those employees to do, women can't just create sex out of thin air.

Now, the BIG question left to be answered in this argument is what level sex is to be conflated with employment.  Is each sexual act to be considered a job to be allocated to a different employee (man), or is sex more like "work", a quantity of which is done by a given employee.  If we're saying it's the former, then this anti-feminist should be arguing against monogamy instead, since this practice is what allocates more sex to certain men and leaves others waiting for a hand-out (ahem).  If we're saying it's the latter (which I'd prefer), then sex is work that women have that needs to be done, and men are the employees that do it.  Just like not all employers have the same amount of work to be done, not all women have the same amount of sex that needs to be fulfilled.  Some women are like Fortune 500 companies, with lots and lots of work, and they need as many employees as they can afford to fulfill it all.  Other women are like startups, where a small number of employees work long hours, but they do it because they love the challenges and they believe in the future of the company.  Others are like consultants, where the employer themselves performs all the work.  And, sadly, some women are like bankrupt or defunct companies where there is no work at all to be done and all that's left is to divvy up the remaining resources amongst the creditors.

Looking at sex this way is informative in many ways, and it jives with much of what we already know.  When men are on a date, they're on a job interview.  They're trying to prove to a prospective employer that they're a better choice to perform the work that this employer needs done than the other candidates the employer has seen.  Some employers are less picky about their employees than others, but just because an employer hires employees indiscriminately doesn't give anyone the right to walk in and force an employer to hire them.  Walmart is one of the largest employers there is, and they don't have a lot of employment standards (as long as you're not a union organizer, they'll probably hire you), but just because Walmart is a slutty employer doesn't mean anybody can walk in off the street, grab a blue apron, man a cash register for a few hours and expect to get a paycheck at the end of it.  Walmart has to agree to the arrangement first.  Similarly, just because a particular woman has a need for a lot of sex, and has many partners fulfilling that need, it doesn't mean that some guy who flunked the two-question employment exam can demand that she give him sex just because he applied for it.  Of course, that's not to say that women who need a lot of sex have lots of partners--some are like startups, and they have just one employee who works long hours doing all that work.  However, just as startups are extremely picky about who they hire (because there's a lot of complex work to be done by a small number of extremely skilled employees), these women have a right to be picky about the man they hire to perform the sex they need completed.  Affirmative action would merely require that women don't discriminate against applicants based on factors that have nothing to do with their ability to perform the job necessary.  I could see it being used as an argument that women who are looking for a man should be required to look at the resumes (online dating profiles?) of as many men as possible, and some women might decide to hire (sleep with) someone from a less desirable group of men (geeks?  accountants?) over an equally qualified guy from a more desirable group (say, sports stars or doctors).

I could go on with this argument, but I think I've gotten enough of this out of my head to show that Eivind (the author of the blogspot post that started this insanity) is making his argument based on faulty presumptions.  I think he needs to re-examine his logic.

And, with that, I'm signing off.  My wife wants me to come help her do some work. :)



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
Wow. This guy's picture ought to be next to the entry for "sociopath" in the DSM. I'm tempted to send his picture to the in-laws in Norway so that if they see him, they can run the other way.
May. 31st, 2010 05:10 am (UTC)
Heh. You're up late. :)
May. 31st, 2010 05:44 am (UTC)
I was avoiding weekly grades, the bane of my existence. But they are done now, and I will go fall over and sleep.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )