Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Trump and the *Insufficiently Attractive to Molest* Defense

   Trump's catching hell for this, and rightly so, I think.
   But is it because that defense is never any good, or because of contingent facts about Trump etc.?
   I mean, I agree that making fun of people's looks is a shitty thing to do in general. (Though I do worry that it's also bad to slip toward moral fanaticism about such things... ("Lookism," believe it or not, was the paleo-PC term for this sin.))
   I know this is probably a particularly pointless philosopher's puzzle, but aren't there some cases in which Smith might plausibly defend himself against accusations of sexual assault leveled by Jones against him by indicating that he is not attracted to Jones?
   I don't think that this defense is plausible in Trump's cases. He seems to be basically arguing "I am not attracted to these women now, therefore I would not have been attracted to them when they were in their 20's." The very fact that he's using such an implausible type of argument may be telling. Also--and I'm sure there are many people who would put me in the same category as Trump for even mentioning this--his accusers actually seem to be unusually attractive. So I'm not buying it.
   (Also incidentally: the very fact that I might be crucified if the wrong group of people--and here I mean: liberals and/or PCs, not Trump supporters--read that previous paragraph shows how irrational many on the left have become about such issues. Says me, anyway.)
   Also: even if we were to grant that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"...
...which, incidentally, we shouldn't do...because it isn't... Not entirely, anyway. Beauty seems to be to some extent in the eye of the beholder, but that's different.
   Anyway, even if we did grant that, we could also point out that the following is a true empirical generalization: most men would find Trump's accusers attractive. Ergo it is unlikely that Trump did not. It's unlikely that his eyes behold things so atypically.
   (Another observation I'd probably get in trouble for: Trump's accusers mostly have the same "look". They are, for example, mostly blondes. Not much evidence...but perhaps some.)

   But back to the argument that would get me in trouble were anyone ever to read it other than the weird denizens of this place...
   Suppose that Smith is a celebrity with droves of attractive fans constantly clamoring to have sex with him. There is copious evidence that he avails himself of these opportunities, and that he has fairly normal standards of beauty. Suppose Smith is accused of sexual harassment by Jones. Suppose also that Jones is extremely unattractive by anyone's lights. It might be mean for Smith to point this out, but meanness can't be a consideration in the face of such a serious accusation--unless we're presupposing that Smith is guilty. If Smith is guilty, then pointing out Jones's unattractiveness is just another shitty thing about Smith. But if we don't presuppose Smith's guilt, then surely it's permissible for him to say--if it's true--that he is not attracted to Jones. Uh...right? I mean, imagine a case in which Jones is terribly deformed, has leprosy, whatever. This can't always be completely irrelevant, can it?
   Of course Trump's case is different. He's obviously lying, and he's obviously an unusually mean, vicious jackass. He revels in trying to harm anyone who runs afoul of him. And that's pretty clearly part of what he's doing in this case. But we can imagine that in Smith's case, he's not. It genuinely and obviously pains him to say it--but suppose he's actually repulsed by Jones (and actually innocent). Surely he's permitted to say so.
   What if Smith is heterosexual and Jones is male? Is Smith permitted to use that in his defense? Isn't that just an instance of Smith not finding Jones attractive?
   Perhaps feminists who still believe that such crimes are entirely crimes of violence with no sexual motive will object--but they're wrong, so that objection is unsound. So I wouldn't put any stock in that objection. Rape and sexual assault are primarily about, y'know, sex.
   So, anyway, Trump is lying and he's aiming to score emotional points against people who he's already assaulted... But I don't think that this general type of defense is always weightless, and I don't think that it is always reprehensible.

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Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

weird denizens

Well. Thank you very much, Winston. Way to alienate your base!

But seriously...

I think you're technically basically right about this. But as with a number of other things you've said about T**p, I'm left with a thought along these lines: thinking it's worth pointing out that there an incredibly distant possible world in which something T**p said wouldn't count as hideously depraved clearly isn't as puzzling as actually defending Trump... but it is a bit puzzling. Perhaps I should put it down to (i) your increasing disaffection with the 'lamestream media' and (ii) the typical philosopher's fascination with outlandish thought-experiments.

The main point here seems to be the relevance to our evaluation of the pretty obvious fact that T**p is lying through his teeth about the whole thing, so he's quite liderally adding insult to injury.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, but I thought I made that clear--I don't think my attempted defense of the defense is relevant to Trump. He's lying about everything and just trying to be as hurtful as possible to his victims.

I'd say that I'm interested in this not because of either (i) OR (ii), but, rather, because it just seems true to me. As usual, nobody in actual discussions on th' teevee and internet and suchlike distinguishes between (a) this defense does not work in this case for contingent reasons and (b) this defense is inherently invalid. And it seems to me that many complains against Trump on this score come pretty close to (b). But I don't think (b) is true.

You know--just doin' the philosophy thing. But not, I'd say, the (ii) philosophy thing. Because I don't think really have to talk about evil genius worlds or any such thing in order to defend the defense in question.

4:41 PM  

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