Force That Isn’t Force

 Posted by on 14 October 2008 at 11:23 pm  Epistemology, Love/Sex
Oct 142008

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has written an interesting post about a recent survey which purports to show that, “Approximately 18% of women aged 18-24 report having experienced forced sexual intercourse at least once in their lives”.

He notes that the types of “force” reported include “Told Relationship Would End” and “Pressured by Words/Actions Without Threats”. Of the women who said they were subject to force, 12% said they experienced the first and 61% said they experienced the second. (Respondents could select more than one category of force in the survey.)

As Professor Volokh notes:

This is just ridiculous. It’s true that the word “force” has many possible meanings: Some people, for instance, feel they’re “forced” “against [their] will” to work in certain jobs — or are doing those jobs not “of their own free will” — because that’s the only way they can enjoy the standard of living they want. But these are radically different kinds of force from being forced to do something by physical force, or threat of physical injury. And mixing the two yields results that are useless at best and misleading and dangerous at worst.

The survey did note that some women reported being subjected to genuine force, such as “Physically Hurt Or Injured” or “Threatened With Physical Hurt”. And of course, these sort of forced sexual intercourse should be condemned and/or prosecuted as criminal violation of individual rights.

But to lump into the same conceptual category of “Force” both “Pressured by Words/Actions Without Threats” and “Physically Hurt Or Injured” is a prime example of what Ayn Rand called the fallacy of package dealing:

“Package-dealing” is the fallacy of failing to discriminate crucial differences. It consists of treating together, as parts of a single conceptual whole or “package,” elements which differ essentially in nature, truth-status, importance or value.

This sort of intellectual package dealing destroys actual concepts (in this case of “force”) in people’s minds and makes rational analysis of the ideas impossible.

Fortunately, there are still people like Professor Volokh who recognize this as a dangerous fallacy and are willing to point it out.

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