Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Inanity Defense

There's a simple way to get people to admit to failings that they otherwise wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. Attach them to a "get out of jail free" card.

This past weekend, the SlutWalk came to Seattle, and generated some news. And some commentary. And, of course, some of this commentary was critical of the women and their activism, falling back on the old trope of "if a woman dresses a certain way, they should expect to get harassed." I've become impressed that any man would actually stand up and say that he has so little self-control. The idea that one loses all sense of propriety and boundaries when confronted with a little female flesh seems a bit over the top. But when one considers that it's basically a way of saying "my heinous criminal behavior isn't my fault," I guess it follows a certain logic.

In a very real sense, it strikes me as being similar to an insanity plea. While being in a rubber room might be preferable to being behind bars, having to claim that you're simply unable to comply with the rules seems to be workable only because of our intense focus on personal culpability in humans. If you're a dog, the outcome of an "insanity defense," or something like it, is that you're put to sleep.

In the end, I guess that any time you fall back on "provocation" as a defense, you're basically claiming that you've lost control of your faculties, something that we normally consider a pretty serious defect. Not as serious, of course, as the idea that you've done something wrong while in full possession of your faculties. But even given that, I'm be hard-pressed to claim a lack of control as the reason why I do things, even when people offer it to me. I'd rather confess to simply not caring about what the law was, rather than claim to be unable to live within it. Of course, neither of those options are particularly appealing, so I'd just as soon stay out of trouble. I'm sure I have enough self-control to manage it.

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