Raped, or business deal gone bad?

Repairmanjack's picture
Submitted by Repairmanjack on Mon, 2006-03-27 14:25

Greetings, all.

I'm jumping right in here with a question. A friend of mine just sent me an email about an exotic dancer that claims she was raped by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. She was hired to dance (naked?) at a party.

Assuming this woman is telling the truth and was indeed raped, my friend does not equate this rape with the rape of a woman who is NOT engaged in this type of thing. He then goes on to say, "Now I'm sure whores do get raped but isn't that actually a dispute over payment (or lack therof) rather than a sexual assault?"

What I am trying to do is uncover the fundamental principle behind his thinking. I always seem to have trouble doing this, even after listening to Dr Peikoff's lectures. I came up with 'Take what you want', but that seems too broad. Could anyone here come up with a principle that applies?


( categories: )

Ayn said

eg's picture

Ayn Rand said that if in a lifeboat with her husband she would be ruthless in protecting his life (but she didn't say that in a lifeboat sans husband she would waste someone else).

I'm sorry that I can't give a reference, but I think it was a Ford Hall Forum Q&A.


More on ethics

Repairmanjack's picture

Duncan, you say that "..regardless of which option I or my companion chose, one thing would be clear: that choice would be outside the realm of ethics."

I'm not so sure about that, if we are talking about you and another person and air is running out - no initiation of force by a third party.

You said it at the start of your post: "..an external threat of death doesn't excuse initiation of force that cannot be later made good."

Just a couple other thoughts. 'The Ethics of Emergencies' is mainly about helping strangers as it relates to altruism, not about scenerios like running out of air, or initiation of force. (Just wanted to throw that in, it's been on my mind.)

And, if you think about it, it really is hard to come up with an example (like running out of air) that works in reality. Leaving aside that people very rarely get into this situation, how do they know when the air will run out? How do they know when they will be rescued? Are they sure escape is impossible?

You're correct - an external

Duncan Bayne's picture

You're correct - an external threat of death doesn't excuse initiation of force that cannot be later made good.

While it may be acceptable to steal in emergencies if you promptly repay the victim, as in the pharmacy example cited by Rand, just plain murdering someone is inexcusable, because you can't make good the IOF later on. Breaking into a pharmacy is one thing; killing someone to steal his medicine is a different thing entirely.

However, the scenerio I raised is, I think, an exception - because any action except prompt suicide will lead to the death of the other actor. So, by choosing to continue his life for any significant period, either actor is dooming the other.

As for my personal response to this scenario? I really don't know how I would respond; obviously it would depend largely upon the identity of my companion. But regardless of which option I or my companion chose, one thing would be clear: that choice would be outside the realm of ethics.

read on.....

Repairmanjack's picture


"Norman Fox:
Miss Rand, I think I see a distinction here that would be very important because there may be some doubt in the mind of a listener. A distinction between a situation (in which a person*) in which the force is initiated, or a person who is in an unfortunate circumstance. To go back to the original example, if a man were merely in an unfortunate circumstance, he has no right, as far as I can see, to take something from another man just because he's in an unfortunate circumstance.

Ayn Rand:
No (agreeing with Norman Fox)."

* - I think this should be removed, a mistype or speak perhaps?

I may be wrong, but I read this to mean that Person A is out of the picture and the 'breathable air' scenerio rears it's ugly head.

Also, think about your example of running out of breathable air. Could you really, unprevoked, kill the other person? Let me make it more interesting. What if it was an 8 year old little girl?

The argument being that, by

Duncan Bayne's picture

The argument being that, by choosing to continue to live in the short term, my companion is dooming both of us? Sure, but exactly the same argument applies to me in that case also.

Here, I'm inclined to agree with Rand:

In a case of that kind, you cannot morally judge the action of Man B. Since he is under the threat of death, whatever he decides to do is right, because this is not the kind of moral situation in which men could exist.

She was talking of a situation where Man A was ordering Man B to initiate force against Man C, on pain of death. I suspect this case falls under the same category, with Man A replaced with the crisis in question (i.e., running out of breathable air).


Jody Gomez's picture

I would think at that point it becomes nothing more than a matter of self defense. It's unfortunate circumstances, but still self-defense.

A more interesting exercise

Duncan Bayne's picture

A more interesting exercise in emergency ethics is to focus on the self. Consider this not-so-hypothetical scenario (it has happened many times throughout history in various guises):

You, along with one other person, are trapped somewhere (let's say, a submarine).

Rescuers are coming, but they will not be able to reach you until a short while after your air supply runs out. Let's further simplify things by saying your companion is incapacitated; he is incapable of significant physical exertion until medial assistance arrives.

If you were to murder your companion, you would certainly live. If you were to commit suicide, your companion would certainly live. Your companion however has clearly expressed his desire to not be murdered, and to not commit suicide.

What do you do? To be clear: your survival depends entirely upon the initiation of lethal force against your companion, and your companions survival depends entirely upon your decision to commit suicide. If you decide to initiate force in this case, there can be no reparations payed later, as in the desert-island or pharmacy examples cited by Rand - because your companion is *dead*.

Perhaps this would make an interesting SOLO poll?

the terrorist version worked better

Landon Erp's picture

Then the infected would be indirrectly iniating force by potentially infecting others... thus retalitory force applies(the terrorist version worked better).


It all basically comes back to fight or flight.


Utility Belt's picture

Sighing already, are we? Deary me.

To make matters less taxing, let's say the outbreak isn't a terrorist attack - it's naturally occuring. What then?

collateral damage

Landon Erp's picture


But are the emergencies people are talking about "collateral damage" issues like the one just listed.


It all basically comes back to fight or flight.


Duncan Bayne's picture

So you don't think that the people knowingly spreading the biowarfare agent would be the initiators in this case?

How about

Utility Belt's picture

Terrorists release a biological agent in a small town. If the infection spreads, it would cause a worldwide disaster. You're in charge of the emergency response. Do you forcibly quarantine the town, shooting anyone who tries to leave? If not, how are you going to prevent possibly infected people from leaving?

I can't think of any

Landon Erp's picture

I can't think of any emergency where it would be proper to start the use of force. Retalitory force is a given but initiation is straight out.


It all basically comes back to fight or flight.


eg's picture

What are your ethics of emergencies? Do you have any? AR did.


I am

eg's picture

I am glad you quoted AR. It sounds like Galt's speech. But please, give the actual reference next time, including page number. Note the anti-intellectual, dogmatic, religious aspect of the quotation in conflict with things she said subsequently.

And in Atlas itself, Hank slaps Frisco. Not even an emergency.

What is revealed in the quotation is AR trying to MAKE A POINT to a world completely antagonistic intellectually to individual rights and she wasn't going to get involved with nuances with such an audience. But that was the mid 50s. Not 2006.


Doesn't matter

Repairmanjack's picture

Let me quote Ayn Rand:
"Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate -- do you hear me? no man may start -- the use of physical force against others."

No mention of emergencies is necessary. Emergency or not, the principle is valid although the application could change.

Ah, Jody!

eg's picture

That's right. I made two posts for that reason. The use of "always" is what I was trying to refute. "Except for emergencies" lets the exception makers drive a truck through the formulation eventually destroying it. Emergencies should be a carefully considered, thought-out almost autonomous sub-category of human action.

The use of "always" wipes out emergencies. It can be wrong not to do a wrong. I admit Repairman's formulation can be defended as no more incorrect than what I put out, that the difference may be more semantical than real. But I am always looking for more elegant--more bulletproof--formulations.



Jody Gomez's picture

I did not see an "except in emergencies" clause in your tidy little formula...you've refuted your own premises.


Fraser Stephen-Smith's picture

Incidentally, please avoid using the term 'whore', if you would avoid using the term 'nigger'.

Throw money.

Prima Donna's picture

Thanks. I'm here all week, and am available for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Feel free to leave cash in the large brandy snifter.

-- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

Incidentally, Repairmanjack,

Utility Belt's picture

Incidentally, Repairmanjack, might you be related to Utility Belt? If not, you'd likely make a great couple.

Wow! Objectivist in "Mildly funny comment" shocker! I'm impressed...

Would you care to elaborate, or are you too busy working on your new comedy routine? Wink


eg's picture

You have worn me out.


I don't see where one of my

Repairmanjack's picture

I don't see where one of my premises is wrong.

My principle: 'Initiation of physical force is always wrong.'

Your principle: 'Rape is the initiation of physical force.
Initiation of physical force violates rights.
Violating rights is wrong.
Rape is wrong.'

Principle: a fundamental truth on which other truths depend
And, from 'Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal', "Thus a principle is an abstraction which subsumes a great number of concretes."

One point...I don't think rape should be singled out.

You said: "Sometimes in emergencies it would be wrong not to initiate force."

Could you explain this, please?

And this

eg's picture

Sometimes in emergencies it would be wrong not to initiate force. In such cases you don't do anything like that you don't have to and do what you can afterwards to make things right.


Try this

eg's picture

Rape is the initiation of physical force.
Initiation of physical force violates rights.
Violating rights is wrong.
Rape is wrong.

Think again

eg's picture

One of your premises is wrong.


I think I have it

Repairmanjack's picture

But what am I missing?

Rape is initiation of physical force.
Initiation of physical force is always wrong.

It seems that simple to me (principles usually are once you figure them out.)

I'd appreciate your correction....

You have it?

eg's picture

"Think Twice."


I think I have it

Repairmanjack's picture

OK, I think I've got my principle!

'Initiation of physical force is always wrong.'

This dismisses the rationalization of enticement, which I decided wasn't a fundamental after all.

I'm sorry, I do not know Utility Belt! You gave me a good chuckle!

Tim, thank you for your input about the point of no return.

On payments

Prima Donna's picture

A dispute over payment? Wow, I think that may be some of the best rationalization I've ever seen. I wonder how he'd feel if he bought dinner, too.

Incidentally, Repairmanjack, might you be related to Utility Belt? If not, you'd likely make a great couple. Smiling

-- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

The mythical point of no return

Tim S's picture

But let me ask the men here - is there any point of no return...when there is, for the man, no turning back.

No. There is no such point.

Diana, I agree with your

Repairmanjack's picture

Diana, I agree with your conclusion, however my friend's contention is that dancing naked, etc, in front of men has to be considered in the charge of 'rape'. I'm not sure your first two examples apply and is why I thought my 'take what you want' principle was too broad. The pharmacist is not doing anything to entice the theft, nor is the boxer enticing you to punch him.

If I am trying to come up with a principle here, wouldn't enticement have to be part of it? (and I am willing to be wrong about this!)

"And when you force another person to have sex with you that's rape -- period."

As a woman, I agree. But let me ask the men here - is there any point of no return...when there is, for the man, no turning back. I think there was a law proposed or passed saying that if, during the act, a woman demanded a man stop...he had to stop or it was rape. That's quite a distance from having a nude dancer on your lap...or is it? Guys, is there a point of no return when volition is gone?

I appreciate the replies. I have argued this issue with my friend but do not think I have identified a clear principle yet.

I remember listening to a lecture by Dr Peikoff and he gave an example:
When you are in NYC and have an appointment at 3pm with a dentist across town and you have to take a subway to get there, leave 30 minutes early. He asked what the principle would be.

The principle would be 'Plan for Contingencies".

I'm thinking that perhaps my example is too narrow for a principle like this?

A more accurate description

Landon Erp's picture

A more accurate description would be not always or not most of the time... there is some crossover but it is by no means a hard and fast rule.


It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

Stripper = Prostitute?

Dan Edge's picture

I think not...

Job Hazard, but still evil

Landon Erp's picture

I was interviewing strippers over the course of the last few years. You'd be suprised how often situations which would normally constitute rape happen on a nightly basis (ie unwelcome penetrations durring a dance).

But just because it happens to be an occupational hazard doesn't make it right and doesn't make it any less of a crime. Diana was right on the money with that.


It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

Diana is right

Kenny's picture

I am amazed that any Objectivist could disagree with Diana's post. Rape is a nasty, aggressive violent crime that denigrates and traumatises the victim. The victim's profession is not relevant. All rapists should be punished accordingly.


Duncan Bayne's picture

Even if a prostitute agrees to have sex for money and then backs out at the last second, that leaves her open to a civil suit, presumably to recoup the charge plus perhaps damages.

It does not excuse rape.

Please don't!

eg's picture

Diana, please don't punch a boxer in a bar!


I want to rape too

eg's picture

Sounds like your friend was sorry he didn't get any. This isn't even Objectivism 101, more like Objectivism with a negative number.


deleted--double post

eg's picture



DianaHsieh's picture

By your friend's principle, if I break into a local pharmacy to steal some drugs, I haven't engaged in theft, the pharmacist and I just have a "dispute over payment." If I punch a boxer in a bar, I'm not guilty of battery, we just have a "dispute over payment." BULLSHIT.

A person has a right to engage in their chosen profession with whomever they damn well please -- or not. And when you force another person to have sex with you that's rape -- period.

As for "Take what you want and pay for it," the payment required in this case will be jail time for rape. The more relevant principle is that of individual rights.

Oh, and your friend is a thug -- of the spirit, if not of the body. That he could even make such an argument is reason enough for every woman to avoid him like the plague.

-- Diana Hsieh

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