Knee-Jerk Morality

It’s been a while since something provoked such a moral reaction so quickly.The class was discussing the possible functions of prostitution. “Create jobs,” said one person. “Do sexual things a spouse won’t,” said another. “So that people will have sex with a prostitute instead of raping someone,” said a third.

The red haze came over my eyes. To the prof’s credit, she redirected things quickly, before I was unstunned enough to start ranting (and thereby violate all the “safe place” rules we’d already established in the class).

In one sense, the third answer wasn’t that different from the second. It wasn’t the dehumanizing nature of the answer either – the rest of the answers ignored that as well (which, by the by, is appropriate for a strictly functionalist approach). It was the implied threat.

There were no conditionals attached to the statement. It was presented as a simple either/or choice: Guys get some, or they take some.

And that threat – though I only sensed it as such, and couldn’t analyze why until much later – immediately had me wanting to castrate somebody.

We can invoke all kinds of sociobiological rationales for this: I am very definitely a beta male, such a framework would threaten my line’s persistence, etc. But really, that’s not what I’m thinking about when that kind of statement makes me instantly furious.

I’m thinking that I don’t want to be the kind of person who is described by that statement. I don’t want to be the kind of person who supports that statement. I don’t want to be the kind of person who allows that statement to go unchallenged.

Perhaps that is driven by a basic evolutionary drive – that somewhere the motive force is biological.

But threats like that isn’t me, and that is what matters.