Pressekonferenz_Rathaus_Köln_zu_den_Vorgängen_in_der_Silvesternacht_2015-16-5798

Taharrush jamai in Cologne

During the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne (Köln), more than 300 women were sexually assaulted by groups of men in the city centre. The perpetrators were not German, and were specifically described as young men of North African / Arab appearance. The story went viral a few days later, mainly because of its implications for Germany’s refugee policy. Public opinion, and most of the media, linked the incidents to the admission of one million refugees to Germany in 2015, predominantly from Syria. Subsequently, similar incidents were reported from other cities.

This type of group sexual assault has a name, originally in Egypt: Taharrush jamai. However, in Egypt the context was political: it was used to harass women demonstrators specifically, and may have originated as a tactic of the security forces.

Reactions to the Cologne incidents have been predictable. The authorities state that they are investigating the matter. Feminists condemn sexism. Anti-racists denounce racism. Anti-immigration groups call for refugees to be refused entry, and/or deported. Some individuals on social media advocated violent retribution against refugees, even extermination.

This post tries to go beyond the predictable responses. I will start with the German Constitution, not because constitutions say everything about a society, but as a good starting point.

Article 1 of the constitution, the Basic Law, states that: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” That article was not intended to refer to sexual assault: when speaking of the ‘violation of human dignity’, the authors had Auschwitz in mind, and other horrors of the Nazi period.

Now the women who were sexually assaulted in Cologne would generally feel that their human dignity has been violated. The constitution has failed them, and the explanation is obvious: Article 1 does not mention women. Human dignity itself is too vague, to serve as a guideline for state policy toward specific groups.

It is true that Article 1 binds the German state, and would prevent that state from exterminating the refugees. That prohibition is close to its original intention. Nevertheless, among the hundreds of women who were assaulted in Cologne, there may be some who would prefer to see their assailants sent to the gas chamber. The constitution does not take account of that preference. The political elite may find it distasteful, but suggestions to kill all refugees / immigrants /muslims are a recurrent feature of social media response, to outrages committed by members of these groups. My estimate is, that about 1% to 3% of the population in western Europe, do indeed wish to see minorities killed by the state. Certainly such people exist: not talking about them, will not make them disappear.

Now the issue can be formulated as two options. Suppose the only choice is between these outcomes:

  1. Germany does not send refugees to the gas chambers, and Angela Merkel is sexually assaulted by a group of refugees.
  2. Angela Merkel is not sexually assaulted by refugees, because Germany has killed all the refugees in gas chambers.

If you asked Angela Merkel, she would choose option 1. Her abhorrence of a repetition of Nazi mass murders, outweighs her fear of being sexually assaulted. However, she cannot make that choice for other women, since that would override their moral autonomy. In a more generalised form, the two options might look like this:

  1. Germany is a democratic state under the rule of law, and it respects human rights and human dignity, and Angela Merkel is sexually assaulted.
  2. Germany is an undemocratic state, it abuses human rights, it rejects the rule of law, and violates human dignity, but Angela Merkel is not sexually assaulted.

Again Angela Merkel would choose the rule of law, democracy human rights, and human dignity, and accept sexual assault. And again, she should only make that decision for herself. But of course in reality, as Chancellor, she does make that decision on behalf of others.

Article 1 of the Basic law expresses an underlying principle, that if the state can only prevent harm to an individual by violating human dignity, then the state should not prevent that harm.

That is essentially a value preference, and it almost inevitably results in violation of human dignity by non-state actors. The German state, and its political elite, should therefore recognise that apparently sacred values such as the ‘inviolability of human dignity’ must be subject to freedom of conscience, and that it can be rational to reject them, on the grounds of their imperfections and ambiguities. Similar considerations apply to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and other ‘sacred’ principles, which in reality are no more than a personal value preference.

I am not saying that these are empty formulas. Reactions on right-wing blogs and forums, and even the comments on ordinary commercial news sites, include many shocking proposals for dealing with refugees and migrants in Europe: imprisonment, the death penalty, castration of male refugees, bombing refugee boats, the return of the gas chambers, and so on. Abandonment of constitutional formula’s such as ‘human dignity’ would open the door to such practices.

Nevertheless, some people do want the refugees killed. Germany must recognise conscientious objection to its ‘sacred’ values, purely on the grounds of moral autonomy. That raises another issue: if human dignity is a German value, are those who reject it still German? Increasingly, European governments are moving to a value-based definition of national identity, initially for those with double nationality. The implication is that those who do not endorse and support the national values, cease to be members of the nation. That is a significant break with long-standing ethnic definitions of national belonging. At present, however no European nation-state has any formal mechanism, to deal with those who are of national descent, but do not adhere to national values. Logically, they would be stripped of their citizenship and deported, but to where?

A related issue is the state monopoly of force, which is not a constitutional norm, but a descriptive formula. According to the sociologist Max Weber, the claimed monopoly of force is a defining characteristic of the state. Nobody told states to claim it, before they first emerged several thousand years ago, but when they did emerge, then apparently all states claimed this monopoly of force. The term has taken on a normative significance, certainly in Germany.

As with human dignity, the state monopoly of force is unequally implemented. The women who were assaulted in Cologne were also subjected to force. On the other hand, the state places limits on what they may do to defend themselves: they may not carry or use a gun, let alone form a women’s militia. Just as the inviolability of human dignity leads to violations of human dignity, the state monopoly of force leads to widespread use of non-state force, usually by the strong against the weak.

With this background it is evident, that the German government is directly responsible for the sexual assaults in Cologne and other German cities. The state took a conscious decision not to prevent them. That will be clearer if you look at the countermeasures proposed below.

In general we can recognise that a liberal-democratic government is ultimately responsible for most social actions, at least inside the state. The principles of a liberal society state that the social process should run its course, with only a few exceptions. Specifically, the German government has access to powers and instruments of repression, and choose not to use them in this case. What’s more, it won’t use them at the next New Year’s celebrations either, or at any other high-risk event, so the sexual assaults will predictably recur.

Countermeasures and the constitution

So what can be done to respond to the group sexual assaults, and to the underlying constitutional and moral issues?

Preferably Article 1 of the Basic Law should be scrapped, since it is too vague. If it is retained, it should be qualified to indicate that the state does not only protect ‘humans’, but also women. Men, and transgenders, should also be named explicitly. The protection of the state should also be extended to Muslims, since their claim to protection is disputed by some opponents of Islam. In fairness, Article 1 should also specifically name Christians, Jews (adherents of Judaism), and atheists, as subject to the protection of the state.

To more specifically protect women, the constitution should recognise the existence of sexual assault, and specifically group sexual assault (taharrush jamai). The constitution should also specifically recognise conscientious objections to all forms of sexual assault. That will prevent the government from telling women, that they must accept sexual assault in some circumstances.

The constitution should recognise conscientious objections to the admission of refugees to Germany, and more generally to the admission of immigrants. To make this recognition explicit, the state should hold a referendum on these controversial issues. It will not result in an acceptable compromise, but it will allow voters to express their opinion, clearly and undeniably. The probable result of a referendum on refugees, is that Germany would cease to accept any more, and would close its borders to future arrivals. It is also quite possible, that voters would approve the expulsion of most of the refugees already inside Germany. On immigration generally, a referendum would probably approve a moratorium, meaning that no more migrants would be admitted, even from the EU. A minority of German voters, possibly about 10% to 15%, would support the expulsion of all migrants currently in Germany. The re-institution of border controls would probably be approved, leading inevitably to the collapse of the Schengen zone. It is also possible, that a majority of German voters might approve a border wall, at least on the southern and eastern borders.

A more rigorous option is that any German citizen should be allowed to veto the admission of refugees to Germany. Of course, some Germans do want to admit refugees, and it would be oppressive to subject them to this veto. They should therefore be allowed to veto the decision not to admit refugees. Both veto actions are legitimate and moral, yet they are contradictory, incompatible, and irreconcilable. There can be no resolution of this incompatibility by democratic process, and the double veto should therefore trigger an automatic partition Germany into two states. One Germany would admit refugees, and the other would not. This partition will additionally provide women with full and complete protection against group sexual assault by refugees, since by definition this cannot happen if there are no refugees.

If there is no partition, then women should be allowed to form armed women’s militias, to defend themselves against sexual assault. Some of the militias will be feminist in nature. Others will probably be under nationalist influence, and form a threat to refugees. The refugees should therefore be allowed to form refugee militias, to defend themselves against the women’s militias.

Of course this contravenes the quasi-constitutional principle of the rule of law. (Germans would speak of the Rechtsstaat which is not a direct translation of ‘rule of law’, but I treat them as roughly equivalent here). It also contradicts the principle of the state monopoly of force.

However, these are merely foundational principles of the liberal state, and there are many types of state. They indicate the political value preference first formulated by Thomas Hobbes: ‘subordinate individual defence against harm, to public and civic order’. It works in practice: liberal societies are generally peacefully, and the strong prosper. However, the weak suffer, because they cannot defend themselves. There are simple alternatives, and one of them is institutionalised group self-defence. A proliferation of armed militias will lead to less harm in a society, since the weak can defend themselves. More bloodshed means less injustice.

Value preferences differ, however. The German constitution should therefore define the national values, and establish a procedure for denaturalisation of ethnic Germans who do not support those values. The national values must then be explicit. For instance the constitution could say explicitly, that if the state can only prevent harm to an individual by violating human dignity, then the state should not prevent that harm. Once the principle is explicitly stated, it can be explicitly rejected. German women who were victims of sexual assaults, and sought protection against such assaults by violations of human dignity, would then lose their citizenship. Logically they would have a separate state, which again would amount to a re-partition of Germany, although the issue is more appropriately addressed at European level. Alternatively, the constitution could say, that human dignity can be violated to prevent harm to an individual. In that case, the supporters of the inviolability of human dignity would lose their citizenship, and be obliged to form a new state.

In fact, the German constitution should state that sexual assault is the supreme evil, and that all other evils are permitted to end it. That sounds extreme, but it is merely logical. The idea is to give the authorities no room for evasion, when dealing with sexual assault. At present they can argue that sexual assault is the lesser evil, when compared to some specific alternatives, and therefore justifiable. This reasoning in practice obliges women to submit to sexual assault. The German constitution should also state explicitly that prevention of sexual assault overrides democracy, the rule of law, human dignity, international treaties, resolutions of the Security Council, peace in Europe, national security, the Atlantic alliance, and all other provisions of the constitution. This is necessary to stop an unwilling government, from using these principles to justify inaction against sexual assault.

Similar considerations apply to any harm. It is in the nature of the liberal state, not to intervene against harm to the weak. If weak individuals are harmed, then the liberal state will generally abandon them. To counteract this culture of abandonment – which was illustrated by the passivity of the police during group sexual assaults in German cities – the constitution must be rigorously re-formulated.

Of course many Germans would be deeply shocked, if their constitution suddenly abandoned democracy, the rule of law, human dignity, international treaties, the United Nations, the commitment to peace in Europe, and national security. The Constitution must therefore recognise conscientious objections to the Constitution. It should allow dissenters to leave the German people and the German nation, to renounce their German citizenship, and to become stateless. In practice, again, that would amount to a re-partition of Germany. There would be one German state, where the prevention of sexual assault was subject to democracy, human dignity, the rule of law, and so on. It would resemble the present Germany. There would be another German state, where the prevention of sexual assault was the sole guiding principle and duty of the state: that state provide a safe haven for women who feared sexual assault.

As so often with controversial issues, secession, partition, and separation offer the only policy option in the face of irreconcilable principles. I avoid the term ‘solution’ – there is no solution. Nevertheless, there may be some benefit in applying these principles at sub-state level.

Germany should therefore create refugee-free zones, for people who fear refugees. Since these individuals often fear other migrants as well, in practice the refugee-free zones could be combined with migrant-free zones. Migrants would not be allowed to enter these zones.

This principle should be extended to all those who fear specific groups. As a general principle, the state should treat the fears of any group as valid, regardless of whether they are grounded in reality. The state should then protect individuals against those groups which they fear. So for instance, if women fear being groped by men on public transport, then there should be separate public transport for women. It is irrelevant whether all men do this. The state should not test the validity of individual fears, no matter how absurd or paranoid they are.

If some German women think that all male refugees will sexually harass them, then these women should be protected against all male refugees. Equally, if refugees in Germany fear attacks by nationalists, then the state should protect them again all nationalists, even if only a small minority actually attack refugees. Separation would in practice be the primary form of protection. It is more effective than the criminal law, which generally applies only after a harm has been done.

Obviously these policies would have dramatic consequences for Germany’s neighbours, for the quality of life in Germany itself, and for the character of German society. Nevertheless many people want this kind of Germany, and it is better for the state to recognise their wishes. Those who don’t want to live in this kind of Germany, can leave. If large numbers renounce their nation and their citizenship, then once again, re-partition is the most logical option.

Such options are also possible in decentralised form, at local and regional level. Following a local referendum, individual local government units (Stadt, Gemeinde, Kreis) could become a refugee-free zone, or more generally a foreigner-free zone. Many people find this type of policy objectionable, since it reminds them of the Nazi policy of creating Jew-free (Judenrein) villages and towns. However it has the advantage of allowing both sides to create a local environment that corresponds to their values and hopes. Women who fear refugees could live in a refugee-free town, while others could live in a multi-ethnic town that welcomed refugees.

Flashmob_gegen_Männergewalt,_Köln-5824

Demonstration against the assaults, Cologne cathedral.

Image and header image © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

The position of women

The German state should also respond to the specific disadvantage of women. Since the existing police forces clearly fail to protect women, there should be a separate women’s police, composed entirely of women. Since the existing judicial system clearly fails to protect women, there should be separate women’s courts, to try criminal offences against women, and offences committed by women. The legislature should also be improved in this respect. At present, women sit in the German parliament (Bundestag), but not as representatives of women. To ensure that women are in fact represented as such, 50% of the seats in the Bundestag should be reserved for women. Political parties would not be allowed to select or promote candidates, for those reserved seats.

Local governments in Germany should also be obliged to create separate women’s zones on their territory, if requested by 1% of their adult female population. Males over the age of 15 years would not be allowed to enter these zones. Obviously a similar requirement would apply to men, but there is probably no real demand for ‘men’s zones’. The requirement to segregate by gender should also apply to state-provided and state-funded facilities such as schools and universities, libraries, health care, and sports facilities. Separate women’s facilities should be available to any woman in the region where she lives, although not necessarily on the territory of every local government unit. Separate women’s spaces would facilitate, although not necessarily create, a parallel women’s society.

New Years Eve in Cologne

With such principles in mind, it is easy to see how a repetition of last years incidents can be avoided. The City of Cologne should designate a separate women’s zone for the celebrations, for instance in the Rheinpark, which is on the riverside and has no through roads. The perimeter of the zone would be guarded by a large force of police and security guards, with female security guards inside. To allow women to reach this zone safely, the city should establish collection points in each residential area, so that women would not have to walk more than a few streets. From there they would be taken in women-only buses, escorted by police and security guards, to the women’s zone. Without 500 m of the women’s zone, there should be a curfew: residents would have to stay indoors until the next morning.

The women’s zone would be voluntary. However, to prevent sexual assaults outside the women’s zone, there should be additional measures. All public and private events, shows, and parties should be prohibited. The sale of alcohol should be banned on the 31 of December, and until noon on 1 January – not only in shops, but also in bars, clubs and restaurants. All places of work, except essential services, should close at noon on 31 December. Public transport should shut down at about 18:00. At that time, the inner ring road would be sealed off, and only residents would be allowed to enter the central area. The Rhine bridges would also be closed to traffic, except for residents who need to reach homes on the other side. All vehicular traffic inside the motorway ring would be prohibited after 21:00. Except for the women going to the women’s zone, all residents of the city would be advised to stay at home, and not go further than 100 m from their front door. These measures would not prevent people celebrating with family or neighbours, but will impede the formation of large hostile or malicious groups.

Needless to say, such measures are a blow to German traditions of alcohol-fuelled New Year’s Eve celebrations. They would be hugely unpopular. In reality, authorities in Cologne would refuse to do anything like this. They would say it is ‘discriminatory’, that it ‘contravenes human rights’, that it is ‘undemocratic’, and so on. That merely illustrates the need to override such principles – because if German cities don’t do something like this, then women will be sexually assaulted again, on 31 December 2016.

Segregation is the answer to racism

I pointed out earlier that segregation is a necessary and moral response to xenophobic populism in Europe. Now that more is clear about the motives of the Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, we can see clear parallels with ‘racist’ attitudes in Europe.

‘Racist’ is in quotes, because it is a disputed and confusing term. Dylann Roof is a racist in the classic sense: he believes that Africans are inherently inferior.

Negroes have lower Iqs, lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels in generals. These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior.
Last Rhodesian

The right-wing ‘Council of Conservative Citizens’, which influenced Roof, also promotes classic racist theories, accompanied by the claim of imminent threat. Roof allegedly said to his victims “You rape our women”. Anders Behring Breivik said the same in more detail: over 100 pages of his manifesto talk of immigrant / Muslim rape. Strictly speaking, however, hostility to Muslims is not ‘racism’, because Islam is not a race. And Breivik choose to attack the government and ‘the left’ – rather than a mosque, an Islamic school, or a place where immigrants gather. There are similarities and differences, and ‘racism’ as an umbrella term is insufficient at best.

The mainstream responses to violent incidents of this kind are also similar, in Europe and the United States – calls for social unity, tolerance, and the defeat or elimination of racism. It is time to move on from this approach, which clearly does not work.

Whatever the appropriate terminology, it is clear that some individuals hold negative and hostile attitudes, to groups within the population. One platitude which surfaced in the wake of the Charleston shootings is that “no-one is born a racist”. Now quite probably most ‘racists’ are indeed born that way, with innate hostility to people outside their own group. Biological explanations for xenophobia are also disputed. However it does not really matter, in terms of public and state response to violent incidents targeting minorities.

The important thing is that neither the government nor civil society can ‘unmake racism’. There is no tolerance pill, which can cure an individual’s negative and hostile attitudes to specific groups. Anders Breivik and Dylann Roof are here to stay. So is hostility to specific minorities, and aggressive expression of that hostility. So are the fanboys: some people will continue to admire Breivik and Roof, and to see their actions as justified.

We can not make people be nice to each other. Despite all its surveillance powers, the United States government can’t stop them killing each other either. Nor can European governments, even though the killing may be less frequent, and take a different form.

People hate other people. People want to kill other people. They say so openly. Social media made it possible for each individual to broadcast their attitudes to the world, and the result was a flood of hate and death threats.

What the state can do, is keep them apart. Paradoxically, the fact that individuals hate groups more than other single individuals, makes it easier to separate them. If a white person hates blacks, the state can keep that person away from blacks. If a Christian hates gays, the state can keep that person away from gays. If a feminist hates men, the state can keep her away from men. And it works both ways: if a gay man hates homophobes, the state can keep that person away from homophobes.

Widespread segregation is not a panacea. Some racist and/or xenophobic individuals will reject it on grounds of scale, as Dylann Roof rejected the idea of a white nationalist homeland in the United States:

Here I would also like to touch on the idea of a Norhtwest Front. I think this idea is beyond stupid. Why should I for example, give up the beauty and history of my state to go to the Norhthwest?
Last Rhodesian

More to the point, the political elite and the media abhor the idea of segregation, in both Europe and the United States. For legal reasons, I can not make any policy proposals here for the United States, and I don’t want to. The United States must solve its own problems, and preferably also the problems it brings to the rest of the world. This blog is about what happens in Europe, and any state policy advocated here is intended for, at most, the territory of the European Union.

However, I see in American reactions to the Charleston shootings, a mirror of Europe’s own inability to confront the issue of hatred and hostility. I see platitude after platitude, but a general unwillingness to analyse society and politics. I see millions of reactions, but apparently none of them innovative. Everyone says roughly what you would expect them to say, and they will say it again, after the next racially motivated mass shooting. Americans are walking in circles around the elephant in the room, and in that they are just like Europeans.

Consent is not required for sex

I pointed out earlier that consent to sexual activity with a partner can never be perfect. That is a good reason to abandon the separate criminal offence of rape, which in effect prohibits non-consensual sex. Other criminal offences – assault, threat, abduction – are sufficient.

Where force and coercion are absent, is consent required anyway? That issue is relevant in ‘date rape’ cases and rape within a relationship, where sexual activity is not in dispute, but consent is.

Take a case where a man has sexual intercourse with a woman he has just met. The woman goes to the man’s house, and they have sex. Both are adults. The man does not threaten, coerce, or assault the women in any way. Both partners are healthy, neither fears infection, there is no risk of pregnancy, nor does the woman fear pregnancy. The man does not ask the woman for consent. The woman indicates neither consent nor non-consent: she simply has sex with the man. Nevertheless, she would have preferred not to have had sex.

So why did she not just leave? In real life, there are many explanations: peer pressure, the expectation of some advantage or benefit, insecurity, lack of self-confidence, inexperience, feeling overwhelmed, and not least, alcohol-impaired judgment.

Many people will think that in such circumstances, the woman has been harmed. The general insistence on consent to sex seems to be grounded in the idea that sex is harmful. Certainly, the feminist position is that there can be no sex between a man and a woman, without full and perfect consent by the woman. Many feminists do explicitly claim that women are harmed by sex, especially penetrative sex. There are real and well-established risks: pregnancy, medical complications in childbirth, and sexual diseases.

But what if those risks are absent or controlled? Mainstream (second-wave) feminism would still see sex as harmful, because it reduces the woman to an inferior status, and can only occur under conditions of oppression and hatred. It is not necessary to go into the details of feminist theory here, but there is an implicit assumption that in a state of full freedom (including freedom from any biological need to reproduce), women would not have sex with men.

That is no foundation for sexual morality, since it is an unfalsifiable hypothesis. It would be easy to derive a prohibition of sex from some kind of Rawlsian ‘original position’ where the participants neither need nor want sex. Those participants would not however be a good approximation of human beings. You could just as easily derive a prohibition of any other activity, by assuming that those in a Rawlsian original position neither need nor want it.

But if we abandon both of these feminist positions, what reason is there to insist on consent to sex? An analogy with medical treatment might clarify the issues. We let the dentist drill holes in our teeth even though it hurts, and we let surgeons cut our body open. We do that in the expectation of better health, or at least avoiding worse health. We don’t allow random people in the street to drill holes in our teeth. If we meet someone in a club, we don’t go to their place to have them remove our vital organs. The law prohibits assault, and often specifically criminalises unauthorised medical treatment. However, in this case the harm is clear and indisputable. That is not the case with sex. If it always hurt, if it always did permanent damage to our body, then few adults would ever consent to it.

It is not possible to simply classify male-female sex as an inherent harm, because so many people like sex. Consent standards, comparable to those for medical treatment, are therefore not justifiable.

It seems to come down to this: if sex is inherently harmful, then so no-one should ever do it. If however, sex is not harmful, then there is no general requirement to consent. (That does not exclude specific prohibitions, for instance on having sex in the street, or on sex for persons under a certain age).

If the law abandoned the general consent requirement, then non-coercive non-consensual sex would be legal. What would that look like in practice? In the example already given, if the woman went to the police, they would ask: “Did he hit you? Did he threaten you? Did he prevent you leaving?” If the man had exercised no force, nor violence, nor threat, nor coercion, nor abused any authority, then he could not be prosecuted, even though the woman did not want to have sex.

It would be possible to modify that principle to allow for explicit verbal refusal of sex, but that has little relevance in practice. A man who has sex with a woman in the face of explicit refusal, probably used some form of coercion anyway. And if there was absolutely no coercion, and the women was determined not to have sex, then she would leave anyway.

Legalisation of non-coercive non-consensual sex would cover the many cases, where consent is ambiguous or half-hearted – where the woman is not really happy about having sex, but decides not to act on that preference. For feminists, of course, such cases are rape, plain and simple. However, there is no obligation on the state to adopt feminist principles. There are also other options available, which in practice come down to some form of segregation. A woman who lives in a women-only apartment block, travels by women’s taxis, and uses women-only schools, facilities and businesses, can effectively avoid contact with men, and therefore sex with men. When the state facilitates such segregation, it has already made sufficient concession to feminist political demands, concerning consent to sex.

Trans in the toilet: the ethics of women’s spaces

There is a political controversy in the United States about use of toilets by transgenders, primarily trans women. It has reached the stage that some states are considering legislation, regulating who uses which toilet. The controversy is illustrative of what present-day feminism is about, and how it differs from older forms of feminism. That is far from trivial: feminism is returning to a biological definition of women, which it previously rejected as ‘essentialist’, and that will have significant consequences for its political aims. Since European feminism always follows the theoretical orientation of American feminism, that has consequences here too: reason enough to consider the ethics.

The controversy itself is specifically American – laws are different there, culture is different, and there is a more active ‘trans movement’. This recent post on GenderTrender, a radical feminist blog, is a response to a specific case, but the issue is recurrent. Although the blog is in English, there is a language difference too. Americans are apparently embarrassed by the word ‘toilet’, and use euphemisms such as ‘restroom’, or ‘bathroom’ or ‘women’s room’ and ‘men’s room’. The blog post speaks of a ‘locker room’ at a gym (fitness centre): that might be another such euphemism, or it might indeed be a locker room. These euphemisms are not relevant for the controversy, but it is relevant that they refer to specific spaces inside a building. The feminist position, as set out in the blog post and comments, is simple. Firstly, trans women are men. Feminists ridicule their claims to be women:

EVERY trans thinks they are the beyond-reproach, passing, real women. But they never are. They obviously think there is something profoundly wrong with being a male femulator, so they have to obscure it with, “trans women are female!” when that’s patently false.

The cringeworthy part was where he said he was a woman and had a vagina because, you know, vaginas are made in operating rooms these days /sarcasm.

There’s one dude on twitter who loves to crow about his “womanly” penis and figures one can have a penis/testicles/beard and still be a woman.

Of course he’s a woman! He has a vagina! And I have an imaginary pet unicorn, named Fluffernutter, who’s a professor of antiquities at Oxford.

I started questioning the whole trans business when I noticed even the least obnoxious MtF transitioners focused on hair, makeup, and wardrobe, and had no more sense of what it was like to be a woman than the average four-year-old girl.

If deep down inside they were truly women, then they wouldn’t have to work so damn hard to pass as one. If they were truly female, womanhood would come to them naturally. Instead, they just get cosmetic surgery…instead of their fairy godmother waving a magic wand, their well paid surgeon waves a knife. And just like that, all their dreams come true and they live happily ever after.

None of you ‘pass’ at all because none of you are women. The anatomical differences between the sexes are such that with just a careful look over a fully clothed person their sex is still determinable. There’s no surgery to change you skeletal structure and certain anatomical landmarks that make you easily identifiable as a man–even if you do have moobs and a peengina

The rejection of ‘transwomen’ by feminists is absolute: most feminists clearly despise them. However, feminists also give reasoned arguments to support their position, which are credible, and well-founded in biology. Transitioning males can get surgery and hormone treatment, but as one comment notes, they cannot get “… a uterus, fallopian tubes, vulva, contralto/mezzo/soprano voice, female-typical skeletal structure and height, etc.” They don’t menstruate or lactate or experience clitoral orgasms. They don’t get, and they don’t want, “UTIs, cystitis, endometriosis, periods, cellulite, pregnancy scares etc….”

Second-wave feminism defined biological sex in a simple way: men have a penis, women have a vagina. Almost every other difference was “gender” — a social construct. As a direct result of conflict with transgender activists, feminists made the list of biological defining marks longer, and the gender list shorter. Inevitably, that will lead feminists to abandon ‘gender’ entirely — and ‘gender-critical feminism’ is doing exactly that. Gender was a central concept for second-wave feminist theory, but it is not essential to that theory. After the abandonment of gender, feminism would retain a theory of patriarchal oppression, of one biologically defined group by another. A patriarchy theory can, for instance, be founded on the claim that males and females constitute separate species.

The feminists second point is that women have a right to separate spaces, free of men — and therefore to some extent free of oppression. Although women’s toilets are not themselves a feminist institution, they are regarded as a relatively safe space. Feminists see the intrusion of men in that small space as a threat — even if the rest of the building is shared with men. Since feminists see transgender women (‘transwomen’) as men, feminists fear their presence too.

In fact, feminists are often more frightened by ‘transwomen’, since they do intend to enter women’s spaces. Feminists describe transwomen as ‘perverts’, and fear rape, assault, and harassment by them. Some react with threats of violence: one commenter on the GenderTrender blog threatened to shoot any transgender she met in a women’s toilet, and that is not an isolated opinion.

There are a lot of states with open carry, carry anywhere and Stand Your Ground laws on the books. I know in my state you only have to “feel” threatened and you have the right to kill. I don’t know about you, but seeing the likes of “Carlotta” in my bathroom would make me feel threatened as all fuck, and if I still carried I probably wouldn’t hesitate to shoot. I know a lot of women who carry and feel the same way. And don’t even get me started on the men. I really don’t know what TeamTrans endgame is, but as I’ve said before, it’s interesting watching it play out, and I hope no one has to die for this fucknuttery, but I fear that’s what’s coming. And despite all their outcry about TWOC the first time some black guy walks up on a white woman in the toilet he’s going to be deader than hell. It’s incredibly irresponsible of them, but then again when have they ever acted responsibly?

Roslyn Holcomb

These two points convey the feminist position on this issue. Transwomen are men, and they should be kept out of the women’s toilets, because they are a threat. That’s it. In this case, at least, no further knowledge of feminist theory is required.

Right to spaces

The ethics are equally simple. I don’t need to consider whether transwomen are real women, since I can start with plain ordinary un-transitioned heterosexual men. Do women have a right to a toilet which is not used by men? The clear answer is no. Separate toilets are not a question of rights, but a question of custom, culture, and economics. In western countries, toilets on aircraft and trains are routinely used by all passengers, and small premises, for instance a small restaurant, might have only one toilet available. Where separate male and female toilets are required by law, that simply reflects culture.

So a feminist who uses a commercial facility, such as a fitness centre or restaurant, has no ethical claim on the manager of that facility to provide a man-free toilet. Equally, there is no moral basis for a law compelling gyms, health clubs, hotels, restaurants or schools, to provide man-free toilets.

That does not however invalidate the fears of feminists, or their political claims to separate space for women. Such claims would be politically valid, when made by any group or category.

The problem is that the feminist claims have been made at the wrong scale. The radical feminist who wants the local gym or restaurant to keep transgenders out of the women’s toilet, is insisting that its managers act as if they are radical feminists. There is no reasonable ground for that claim. The manager runs a specific facility, in some building or a specific part of some building, and the feminist is demanding a separate space within that facility. The feminist does not own the facility, nor manage it, nor is she a representatives of its users, nor a legislator. The claims can also be rejected on simple consequentialist grounds: many such claims are possible, and even a stadium is too small to accommodate them all.

If feminists want space for women, then they can create space for women. Certainly in western countries, cost is not the main barrier. Women are half the population, so even if only a minority want to use women-only facilities, there will generally be sufficient commercial demand. State-funded facilities such as schools can also be women-only, if there is sufficient demand. So the simple solution, for women who don’t want to share a locker room with men, is to open their own fitness centre, just for women.

Legal obstacles

The real barrier to rapid expansion of separate facilities is anti-discrimination law, which is standard in all western countries, often in compliance with international treaties. It is clear by now that anti-discrimination law is outdated, and in retrospect founded on false assumptions. It was intended to result in a society of equal citizens, with standardised behaviour toward other citizens. It did not allow for difference, relegating it to the private sphere.

The emotional controversy over trans women illustrates the persistence of difference. Even as some minorities disappear through integration and assimilation, new minorities will appear, with new claims to presence in the public sphere, and new resistance to that presence. Human beings will never get along with each other, because they have the capacity to be different from each other, and the capacity to hate each other.

Instead of trying to make us all respect each other, the state should simply facilitate voluntary segregation — not just for women, but for all other groups. Of course, segregation will sometimes be distasteful: there will be whites-only bars, and Jew-free neo-Nazi clubs, and taxis that refuse disabled people. However, so long as no-one is harmed, that is not a moral issue. A Jew is not harmed by being refused admission to a neo-Nazi club, no more than a neo-Nazi is harmed if a Jewish club won’t let them in. By facilitating segregation, the state is not ‘facilitating bigotry’ — it is simply recognising that the population is divided, and will remain divided.

Under a regime of voluntary segregation, no feminist will need to complain about men in the women’s toilets. The law would not need to set definitions either, and certainly not on the controversial issue of who is a woman. Women would make the definitions themselves. If they don’t agree, then that simply results in two definitions, and two groups of adherents, and two types of facility.

Feminist women would be entirely free to define ‘woman’ in biological terms, and to run bars, festivals, theatres, art galleries, gyms, health centres, schools, shops, and day care centres, for women so defined. If they wished, they could require medical examination to determine admission to these facilities. They could adopt a name for this group, such as ‘biological women’, or ‘biological females’ or ‘uterine females’, or they could use euphemisms such as “shared girlhood”. So long as the criteria are transparent, however, no specific name is needed to implement any form of segregation.

I proposed here earlier, that feminism is so incompatible with non-feminism, that a separate state for women is a political necessity. That would solve the transgender issue entirely — the new state would set its own citizenship criteria. However, feminist objections to transgender women do not in themselves require such drastic segregation. So far as I know, even the most radical western feminists do not want to exclude transgenders from public space. It is primarily a question of keeping them out of certain spaces, and that type of claim can be implemented, at a lower level than the state itself.

Why we should give in to terrorism

European politicians often react to terrorist incidents, by proclaiming that they will not give in to terrorism. They also tell the public that “we” should not give in either. However, ‘not giving in to terrorists’ is not a moral principle, and cannot be.

Firstly, it is often not clear what these politicians mean. The phrase implies that terrorists have made a clear demand, and that the state is considering whether to concede it or not. Sometimes terrorists do make concrete demands — the release of a named prisoner, for example. Usually they do not: they simply circulate propaganda. The propaganda sometime states their ideology, but even that can be more implicit than explicit.

Typically, western politicians also state that certain terrorists are a threat to the West, to our values, to our society, to democracy, to the rule of law. They imply that the terrorists have demanded the abolition of these things, and that their demands have been rejected. In reality, very few terrorists ever make such demands, and certainly not with any expectation of success. Restructuring the constitution and government in European states, has effectively zero priority for ISIS, for instance.

No non-western terrorist group is capable of ‘defeating the West’ anyway. They simply do not have the power to replace western democracy with, for instance, an Islamic state. The most prominent Islamist groups, the alleged existential threat to the West, are generally incapable of large-scale direct actions there. The September 11 attacks in the United States were a rare exception, but even then, there was no question of overthrowing the US government. In Europe no attack has been comparable in terms of casualties. Major attacks are very rare, and terrorism is an insignificant cause of death in Europe, even in relation to violent deaths in general.

Rejection of demands which were never made in the first place, can certainly not serve as a moral principle. But politics is about who exercises power, and that raises another issue: who decides what a ‘terrorist demand’ is?

If we accept ‘not giving in’ as a guiding principle for state policy, then we grant political power to those who decide exactly what the ‘terrorist demands’ are. A realistic example here is the abortion issue: conservative Christian politicians could claim that ‘terrorists are demanding abortion’, and use that as an excuse to prohibit it. If the state automatically rejects all terrorist demands, then it is politically advantageous to present the position of your opponents as a terrorist demand. In effect an arbitrary veto right is created. Since anyone can use this trick, contradictory claims would be made. Pro-abortion campaigners could equally claim, that some Christian terrorists demand a ban on abortion (which is in fact true).

So, someone would decide which claims are ‘the real terrorist demands’, and that someone is then in a position to decide the policy of the state. That not only lacks transparency, it also lacks logic. That is not the way to run a country — first hold a competition to invent terrorist demands, and then let an arbitrary person arbitrarily select the winner.

In the real world, terrorist groups do indeed make contradictory demands. A classic example is the war in French colonial Algeria. An anti-colonial insurrection among the ethnic Algerians, led by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) demanded independence. The substantial ethnic French minority in Algeria, and dissident army officers, formed the right-wing Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) to oppose it. France at first violently suppressed the insurrection in Algeria. When General De Gaulle later realised that independence was inevitable, and negotiated with the FLN, the OAS tried to kill him. It would have been impossible to decide the issue of Algerian independence, solely on the principle that ‘all terrorist demands must be resisted’.

So ‘not giving in to terrorism’ is a slogan, and not a workable or desirable principle. Slogans are a political fact in themselves, but they are primarily an expression of emotion. Calls to ‘stand up to terrorism’ tell us that the speaker is angry — about ISIS, for instance. They do not, however, offer any moral guidance on how to react to ISIS, or anything else. Such decisions should be made on the basis of other, better, principles.

Bimboid utopia: what do men want?

Porn does not distort reality, it reveals it. In western countries it is no longer possible to claim that pornography reflects the attitudes of a small minority of dirty old men. Digitalisation and the internet made porn pervasive, at the same time destroying feminist hopes of getting it banned. Porn is not only here to stay, its pervasiveness says something about society, and above all about men, and their attitudes to women.

A simple thought experiment will clarify this. Suppose a fleet of alien spacecraft appears in the skies – just as in earth-invasion films, only this time the aliens are benevolent. They offer a spectacular gift: a free grand tour of the galaxy, for all women and children on the planet, and for all gay and bisexual men as well. The grand tour will last three years, and everyone accepts the offer. That means that all adult heterosexual men will be left behind for three years, without actual or potential sexual partners.

However, the aliens have thought about that, and they have a solution. With their advanced bio-robotic technology, they can supply artificial sex partners which are indistinguishable from human women. The aliens will provide each male with one or more of these sexoids, designed to individual specifications, and maintain and replace them as necessary. If requested they will provide a clone of an existing partner, but it could be something else entirely.

Now I know this has no logic: there is no reason why aliens would come here to do that. It is just a thought experiment, although it does resemble the base scenario of some alternate-universe erotic fiction. In any case, it allows us to think about what would happen, if male sexual preference was not restricted by any practical considerations.

So would men choose a partner based on respect for admirable personal qualities rather than appearance, to engage in a loving relationship founded on reciprocal trust and mutual consent? Would they behave as feminists would wish that men behave in such circumstances?

Aletta Ocean. Copyright Pressplay Entertainment Ltd., claimed fair use (illustrative citation).

Aletta Ocean. Copyright Pressplay Entertainment Ltd., claimed fair use (illustrative citation).

The fuck they would. They would, for instance, order an airhead silicon bimboid obsessed with serving them sexually, or perhaps a skinnier anal-addicted Ukrainian model. Some might order a compliant partner from another ethic group – but that’s only a minor deviation from mainstream tastes. Some of the specifications would certainly be much nastier: babies for repeated rape, for instance, and snuff robots which scream and bleed realistically when their arms are sawn off.

Even if we disregard those extremes, we would expect most heterosexual men to choose artificial sexual partners which resemble the hyper-sexualised, sex-addicted, compliant and accessible women shown in porn. They would prefer these women to be ‘actively submissive’, seeking coercion and responding to it sexually.

What’s the evidence for this claim? Porn is the evidence. Pervasive porn, accessed by almost all men, in societies where it is available. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we must assume that the women depicted in heterosexual porn are in fact the preferred female sexual partners of heterosexual men. We must assume that the activities depicted, are in fact their preferred sexual activities. Porn is supplied solely on a free market-basis, and is highly responsive to demand. Porn shows us what men would prefer to have, instead of real women.

In other words, we must assume that if moral and practical restraints were absent, men would behave just as radical feminists think they all want to behave. They would treat women as objects to be judged on their sexualised appearance, to be used solely for sexual gratification, to be sexually available and sexually compliant, and passive when coerced.

Feminists call this ‘objectification’. The idea of alien-supplied sexoids is interesting because they are in fact objects. They are just things, designed to be used. Objectification seems a good term for what men want: if male sexual preferences are explicitised, then those preferences will correspond to an object to use sexually. That’s not because an age-old patriarchal conspiracy has trained men to act that way, it’s simply how male sexuality works. Men don’t get sexually aroused by mutual respect and moral autonomy, and on evolutionary grounds we should not expect them to.

What porn has done is to clarify things. Radical feminists have gone some way to evaluate the consequences, but most feminists still waste time on discussing if and how porn can be banned, or if men can be educated to adopt non-sexist attitudes to women. Neither will work.

What I propose is that the state steps in, and attempts to fulfil the role played by the aliens in the sexoid scenario. Although the technology is not there yet, if research is sufficiently funded, a prototype bimboid is probably feasible within a generation. Within three generations, it should be possible to make high-quality sexoids generally available, to replace women as sexual partners.

If feminists can overcome their distaste for ‘objectification’, they would see here the possibility of liberation from male sexual desire, which they find so oppressive. If sexually ultra-desirable surrogate women are freely available, then there is no need for men to chase the less attractive real women. That is comparable to a traditional argument for prostitution – that the availability of whores protected virtuous wives and mothers from carnal lust. Feminism rightly rejects this argument, since it would benefit some women at the expense of others. However, robots are not women, and their use as a mere object of male sexuality is ethically unproblematic.

True, that does not solve the issue of reproduction, which some radical feminists see as the real underlying motive of patriarchy. Nevertheless, a commitment by state and society to develop an alternative for women, is not simply a tax-funded gift for the over-sexed. It entails a recognition that genetically embedded male attitudes to women constitute a burden for women, and a strategy to remove that burden.

The solution advocated by feminists themselves – that men turn off or fundamentally modify their sexual drive – is not at present feasible. Nor is there any justification for it: women are not morally entitled to demand, that men cease to be men. However it is true, that if the future state can somehow breed, print, or manufacture bimboids for male pleasure, then it can in theory also breed, print, or manufacture feminist men, to provide companions for women. There is no moral objection to that: the feministoids would be just as much an object as the bimboids, and their treatment not subject to moral constraints either.

What won’t work is, for instance, women insisting that men should never look sexually at a woman, or men insisting that all women provide sexual gratification on demand. Neither is possible in the real world. Instead we should recognise that if men would prefer sex robots to real women, and if women would prefer genetically modified men, that both groups are better off without each other. As so often with fundamental value conflicts, segregation is the logical response.

In the alien sexoid scenario, what would happen when the women came back? Would men voluntarily abandon their ideal sexual partners for real women – who don’t look like pornstars and don’t want to be, for instance, anally penetrated all day? If porn represents underlying male preferences, then the answer is no: men would prefer to keep the sexoids. If the aliens then offer to bring women to a habitable and comfortable earth-like planet, leaving the men on earth with their new sexual partners, would that not be a logical choice for women?

To summarise the logic: porn shows that heterosexual men are not in fact attracted to women, but to sexual objects with female sexual characteristics. The general refusal of women to act as full-time sexual objects in a porn universe, indicates that women have also no preference for sexual relationships with men, as men actually exist. Men would prefer to have something else rather than women, and women would prefer to have something else rather than men. Attempts at mutually satisfactory relationships between men and women are therefore generally misdirected, and attempted sexual contact causes stress to both. Segregation would benefit both parties, and gender segregation is feasible to a very high degree, without apocalyptic economic consequences. The state should therefore adopt gender segregation as a strategy, in response to increasing dissatisfaction among women about sexist culture and attitudes.