On Leonard Peikoff’s brief podcast discussion of the Kobe Bryant case

I have shown the following to Leonard Peikoff, who encouraged me to make it public. He plans to discuss this issue in his next unfilled podcast, which will be the first Monday in March (March 4).

(SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t read The Fountainhead)

Many of you have already heard Leonard Peikoff’s recent podcast segment about obtaining sex through fraudulent means:

Few who have discussed the podcast have focused on Peikoff’s answer to the main question. I assume that is because they agree with the answer he gave and find it uncontroversial, or without any interesting implications? As has been true with other issues, some people seem to find it more interesting to focus on their disagreements with Leonard Peikoff. (Probably generates more web traffic.) With respect to this podcast, many have chosen to focus on Peikoff’s brief aside about the Kobe Bryant alleged rape case. In fact, someone (I don’t know who) went to the trouble of transcribing that portion of the podcast, probably within hours of the podcast being published (it was sent to me on Monday, February 6):

A woman can give her consent by her presence, in certain contexts, and that frees the man to have sex regardless of what she then says. I’m thinking of that case of Kobe Bryant, where the woman came up sometime in the middle of the night, after some drinking, to his bedroom, and then when he purported to do something, she said, ‘No, I don’t consent.’ You cannot do that. You have given every evidence that that is what you are going to do, and it’s too late at that point to say, “Sorry but no.”

In my view (and, I gather, that of many others), the above, as stated, is wrong. If the woman goes to his room, after he’s been drinking, etc., etc., then, yes, she should probably expect to have sex. But there are a number of reasons — some legitimate, some not — that might cause a woman to change her mind. And, whatever the reason, if she expresses her unwillingness to have sex, in a case in which there’s not enough established context to know it’s a feigned protest (i.e., in a case unlike that of Dominique/Roark in The Fountainhead), then the man should not force sex on her, simply because she had earlier given her consent. Think, e.g., of countless young girls who believe they’re ready for sex, but then decide they’re not ready quite yet, etc. No matter what the man may be justified in thinking of the woman if she changes her mind, he is not justified in forcing sex on her. And why would he want to, if he knew the woman had actually changed her mind?

Of course whether the accuser in the Kobe Bryant case actually did change her mind or put up any kind of protest is another question. But given my limited knowledge of the case, and given the way the case was presented very briefly in the podcast, I disagree with Leonard Peikoff’s analysis of it.

(Please note that I did not find it necessary to use any of the following adjectives or phrases in expressing the above disagreement: “disgraceful,” “disgusting,” “anyone of good moral character or intelligence…” etc.)

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “On Leonard Peikoff’s brief podcast discussion of the Kobe Bryant case

  1. I really hope Mr. Peikoff can find his way to changing his mind on this one. It is only one issue, but I don’t see him as being on the right side of this one.

    • Ryan Jamieson

      Why can’t a listener just disagree with Dr. Peikoff, if he actually does disagree with him, without making a huge deal of out it and specifically calling him out and demanding a formal and explicit recantation? It’s as if people wait for Peikoff to speak, listen for any possibility of even the subtlest disagreement, and then pounce on it to show that he is wrong. (Do these people have lives outside of Peikoff’s podcasts?) If one is that right about everything, and that interested and keen on philosophy, he should go out and write his own book instead of perpetually waiting for Peikoff to make an error so that he can call him out on it and show how wonderful his correction is and how much superior to Peikoff he is. Are Peikoff’s critics this adamant and ready to “correct” other people in the society with whom they deal? I’d really like to see how courageously they deal with non-Objectivists, because I don’t believe it. If so, we have a lot more correcting to do. If people out there were even semi-conceptual, let alone got the vast majority of what Peikoff gets right, we’d be living in a utopia. I really don’t get this internal focus on what other Objectivist authorities say. If you are so focused on correcting people, and you know more than Peikoff, become a teacher to the vast majority of people outside of your Objectivist circle who haven’t the faintest clue as to what Objectivism is. The payoff would be so much better. The future looks to you.

  2. This is an interesting issue in that Dr. Peikoff does not think that a woman can change her mind at the last moment if she has given every indication that she is there to have sex. Due to the vagaries of the law, and possible claims of rape, I would back down, though I am not sure she would have *moral* standing. In other words, at least to some degree, agreeing to something means that you intend to go through with it, and I think the person you made the agreement with can morally hold you accountable for following through with it. Let’s say you agree to a contract, sign it, and then realize you didn’t quite accept it or didn’t fully understand the terms (i.e. if you back out you must pay a penalty of $125 for breaking the contract) . After you sign the contract, it is too late to back out on your terms, one must go by the terms of the contract or the agreement. In a real contract situation, one can be held legally responsible for backing out of the agreement, and Dr. Peikoff seems to be saying the same thing is involved regarding a woman showing up for sex, quite explicitly at times, and then wanting to back out after making this (implicit or explicit) agreement.

    However, I think one would have to be very careful about this sort of application of an agreement; as in, how clear was it, was it explicit, did she give all indications that this is what she wanted (took off her clothes, took on a sexual pose, etc.). I’d still back down if she said no, unless we had some sort of explicit contract (which would be bizarre in this context anyhow); however, I do think it is the prerogative of a man to press the issue (without force) to get her to submit to sex. But I do think the “rape scene” in The Fountainhead can be very misleading. Personally, I can’t tell if a woman wants to have sex with me simply by looking at her standing in front of me, so maybe it is a matter of context of knowledge of the opposite sex 🙂

  3. brian0918

    The fact that LP has read AP’s note, and requested for her to make it public, implies to me that he agrees with her analysis, and that he will in a future podcast explain that he had assumed a certain context which was not apparent in the brief comment.

  4. I think that the context of Leonard Peikoff’s discussion may have been legal rather than moral. In other words, what can one derive from the provable facts and how does one protect the rights of all involved based on what can be known. It is important to protect the rights of the man as well as the woman. For instance, someone with money and fame such as Kobe Bryant could be victimized by a woman who willingly sleeps with him and then accuses him of rape after the fact in the hopes of eventually securing a large monetary settlement in a subsequent civil suit. I don’t know the Bryant case well enough to say that that is what happened in that instance, but regardless it is a possible scenario if entering the man’s hotel room late at night after drinking and flirting is not interpreted as consent in the absence of solid evidence to the contrary (like a credible witness who was in the room with them and observed her saying no and struggling to leave the room). If this is what Leonard Peikoff meant then I agree with him.

    The moral question is different: If he meant that the woman literally does not have the moral right to say no upon entering the room, then I disagree. But I do not think that this is what Dr. Peikoff meant. If at any point a woman wants the man to stop and allow her to leave, and she communicates this clearly — like by screaming “No! I really mean it: Stop!” while struggling frantically to escape and get out of the room — and the man continues, he is initiating force against her and thereby violating her rights. But one can only act based on what one actually knows. The woman does need to be clear and she needs to *get out of the room* if she changes her mind about sleeping with him. If she feels uncomfortable but does not say anything and does not try to leave, that is not sufficient to clearly communicate her intent, and the man might take it as some kind of flirtatious game. How could he know what she wants if she doesn’t communicate it? So maybe her continued presence in the room, if voluntary, is a communication of consent. If I were in a room with a man I did not want to sleep with and he kept making advances, I would leave. I think it comes down to a question of how a man can know that a woman has or has not consented to sleeping with him.

    I will be interested to hear Dr. Peikoff’s further discussion of this issue.

  5. In the animal world, where instinct rules, one would expect the male to continue to mount regardless of the female’s change of intent in the context of sex. However, since Man is a rational being, for whom sex and mind are entwined, then a change of intent on the female’s part ought be enough reason to stop a male from continuing to mount lest his action be construed as wilful force–hence, criminal. As a human, the desire to sate one’s lust is always under rational control and does not give one license to force others to partake in it (or to complete it once the satiation process has begun); in other words, when a woman says “No!” in the context of sex, it means “No!” regardless of the man’s emotions that’re mere effects, not causes, of his behavior (behavior that ought exclude force in human-relationships if he selfishly values his own rights). Therefore, I agree with Mrs. Peikoff on this issue.

  6. Dr. Peikoff gave his apology for being wrong on the issue, in part, and for making a misleading statement.
    [audio src="http://media.blubrry.com/peikoff/www.peikoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/2012-03-05.206_A.mp3" /]

    However, he also explained his position more thoroughly and blasted his internet critics who went around claiming that he was endorsing actual rape. Again, I agree with him about the moral issue — that, yes, a woman has the right to say “No” even up to the last point of no return, but he emphasizes that the saying of “No” is not always a moral stance in favor of the woman. I also agree with him regarding who would want to have sex with a woman who would back out like that and who would want a complete list of things permissible before submitting to her man. This doesn’t mean anything goes, I mean she can set limits, but not an itemized list of do’s and don’t’s or she can call it rape — that is ridiculous.

    • ND

      At what point did Peikoff “blast his internet critics”?

      Peikoff is still claiming that at a certain point the woman may no longer say ‘no’ or ‘stop’. The man has discretion to decide whether a given ‘no’ is valid, in Peikoff’s revised view. Do you dispute this? Do you agree with that position?

      • His internet critics were claiming that LP was endorsing rape, which was certainly NOT the case even in his original statements that he corrected. His elaboration went on to conclude that the woman is being ridiculous to specify a list of do’s and don’t’s regarding sex that he would have to agree to ahead of time or else she can call it rape.

        As I pointed out on my FaceBook page regarding this issue, it is not as if the man is proposing to cut off her right arm. Sex is a very enjoyable activity for both them man and the woman, and to have all sorts of things specified ahead of time kills the exploration of each other’s bodies during sex.

        I will also note that none of Ayn Rand’s heroic female characters had this sort of problem with regard to sex. In fact, Dominique loved Roark for the way he took her without explicit permission, and Dagny loved Fransisco for not asking her ahead of time.

        • ND

          You claimed that Peikoff “blasted his critics”. He didn’t say a single thing critical of his many critics on this issue. He praised one critic, Ms. Peikoff. He completely retracted his previous statement. Granted, he didn’t go so far as to acknowledge that his earlier statement amounted to license to commit rape, he merely stated that he was wrong. Why you would carry on defending his earlier statement is beyond me. The rest of your points strike me as utterly irrelevant.

          • I didn’t defend his earlier statement, I said he was NOT endorsing rape in his earlier statement. And, no, the rest of my reply to you was not irrelevant. A proper attitude regarding sex is to be found in Miss Rand’s novels, which is not irrelevant to the issue. Yes, she can back out, which was LP’s point of clarification of his earlier statement; but context is very important in morally evaluating her withdrawal from the previous agreement.

  7. Cando

    Miovas is fudging. Peikoff did not “blast his critics.”

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