Rape is horrific. Rape can be accurately described as the most evil act one can commit and the most evil event one can experience. Its effects, both in the moment and in the long term, can be detrimental to every aspect of the victim’s lives. Downplaying the experience of a rape victim or treating their rape offhandedly is a nasty thing to do.
What makes rape so evil? It is not the sexual act the parties engage in. The exact same sex act can be ethical in one scenario and unethical in another. The sexual nature of rape defines the crime as a rape, but has nothing to do with why rape is so evil. The problem with rape is not that sex occurred, but that nonconsensual sex occurred. Rape is the worst mistreatment a person can experience because it involves coercion and is the worst way to act upon another person for the same reason.
Coercion is acting upon the property of others against their consent. In the case of rape, the victim has ownership, or rightful jurisdiction, of their body, but the perpetrator exercises jurisdiction against the will of the victim. The specific methods the perpetrator uses to coerce are rather irrelevant. Whether he holds a gun to the head of the victim, holds them down, or drugs them so they cannot consent makes little difference to the victim and does not change the reprehensible nature of the crime. The use of coercion to violate the consent of the individual is the worst way to treat another person, regardless of method.
Murder is another example of the use of coercion to violate a person. Rape and murder fit into the same category of violation. The component which makes each wrongdoing so unethical is the victimizer’s exercise of ownership over the property of the victim, in this case their body, without the victim’s consent.
Which is worse, rape or murder? Most people would rather be raped than murdered because it is far more difficult to recover from death. However, rape is not inherently more ethical than murder simply because most people, if given the choice between being raped and being murdered, would choose rape.
Imagine a would be rapist hold a gun to his victims head and says, “have sex with me or I’ll kill you.” The victim declines sex and is murdered. Or picture yourself in a conversation with someone telling you the story of their rape who goes on to say they would have rather died than to have ever experienced such a painful degradation. In either scenario, who is any third party to claim rape was more ethical than murder?
In some situations and with some individuals, based upon their personal preferences, it is more ethical to kill them than to rape them. Each is unethical because the perpetrator uses coercion to violate the rights of the victim, exercising ownership over their property against their will. Both are an example of the most evil way to treat another person. If we are going to determine which specific type of violation is worse, then the most reasonable and compassionate way to do so is to defer to the subjective preferences of the victim.
MOTIVES ARE IRRELEVANT
It is possible to rape someone with good motives. Maybe an individual wants deeply to experience sex. There’s nothing wrong with desiring sex. Sex is a beautiful part of the human experience. The person has a desire to experience something which is good, what a beautiful motivation! Perhaps they have powerful emotions of love for their victim and they want to express their love. The desire to express love is another good desire.
These reasons don’t amount to any sort of moral justification for rape or in any way mitigate the terrible evil of the act. The pursuit of a positive end does not make the use of degrading and dehumanizing means just. Perhaps the motivations of the victimizer have an impact on their own present and future emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being. Good intentions might leave the perpetrator better off, but they matter little when evaluating how ethical one’s violation of another person is. What matters most is how the victim is treated.
When discussing ethics as they pertain to human relationships, the primary focus should be on the well-being of the victim rather than the perpetrator. From the perspective of the victim, in most cases the underlying motivations of the perpetrator are irrelevant. Whether they were raped because the rapist desired to feel powerful or was madly in love, the fundamental issue of the victim’s treatment remains the same. Their property was used against their will in a humiliating, demeaning, and painful way.
For most violations of others, this goes without saying. Few people exist who would attempt justify rape or otherwise downplay its significance to the victim by appealing to the purity or innocence of the intentions of the perpetrator. However, there are still some relationships where vast swaths of people center their attention on the intentions of the violator and flippantly dismiss the violently coercive act against the victim.
WHAT IS TAXATION?
Taxation is a pleasant euphemism to describe murder-backed theft by the State. While the “murder-backed” part is not immediately evident to some, one need only analyze the response should an individual choose not to comply with the State’s wishes for their property. First, the group of people who call themselves the government will declare the individual owes them late fees and fines for nonpayment. Then the State will take them to a State owned and operated court. There they will determine the individual owes the State and the money must be confiscated. If the individual avoids confiscation, and continues to exercise ownership over their own property, the State will eventually send its thugs to lock them in a cage, then will take their property by force. At this point, most of the individuals will choose to be locked in a cage. The reason most do not simply say “no” or choose to fight off the thugs coming to take them by force is simple – if they defend themselves they will be killed.
So, why do individuals who do not consent to the confiscation of their income choose to go along with it? Murder-backed coercion. If these people could choose noncompliance without losing their lives, most would. Taxation is little different than armed robbery writ large – obscured by paperwork, time delays, and a pretense of legitimacy. Taxation is the State saying to the individual, “give me your money, or die.”
Just as an individual has moral jurisdiction over their body, they also own other forms of created or voluntarily acquired property. Property outside one’s body is an extension of themselves into the physical world – and thus as much theirs as the body itself. A person uses their brain, emotions, will body, relationships, energy, and time to act upon land in order to acquire what they need to fulfill their needs and desires. These preciously scarce resources of each individual cannot be said to rightfully belong to any other individual. If these resources only rightfully belong to the individual, then the property they cause to come by acting upon land cannot magically rightfully belong to someone else. Legitimate transference of ownership requires explicit consent. For more on the logical contradictions and absurdity inherent in alternate property theories, see The Ethics and Economics of Private Property.
To take someone’s money is to exercise ownership over them. It is to exercise ownership over the body, mind, heart, soul, and time the individual used to cause the product of their labor to come into being. It is the same as exercising ownership over the person themselves. It is, essentially, an enslavement of the victim’s past self whose labor created the wealth. Any nonconsensual claim of moral jurisdiction over the product of another’s labor is a claim of moral jurisdiction over the body they used to create it.
Government theft (taxation) is the use of murder-backed coercion to exercise ownership over others against their will. Categorically, then, taxation belongs alongside rape and murder as among the worst ways a person can be treated. In all cases, the fundamental violation of others is the same: the use of coercion to exercise ownership over what rightfully belongs to someone else.
Just as it is likely true most people would prefer to be raped than murdered, it is also likely true most people would rather be taxed than raped. However, if we choose an empathetic, victim focused approach to evaluating ethics, we find taxing those who do not consent is not inherently more ethical than having sex with those who do not consent. Each is simply a specific variant of the same horrific mistreatment, having one’s ownership of themselves forcefully stripped away.
We will likely never know 100% whether or not people exist who would rather be raped than taxed. The only way to know would be for the State to increase the freedom of those it rules by providing rape as an alternative to extortion. For many self-interested reasons, the State will not benevolently offer this option. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that there are some for whom having their financial resources stripped from them against their will is a worse violation than having their body used sexually against their will.
Many individuals choose to have sex to which they would not normally consent when they are paid to do so. The money they receive is deemed more desirable than the undesirability of the sex act they choose to do. They would rather receive the money than avoid having a sexual relationship with someone whom they wouldn’t choose to have sex with absent payment. When presented with the option, they choose to receive money in exchange for sex.
It’s not a stretch to say it is perfectly possible, even likely, that some of these individuals would make a parallel choice when under coercion. When presented the options of theft and rape, they may choose the undesired sex to keep the money. If an individual values keeping their money more than avoiding sexual activity to which they do not consent, then they would rather be raped than taxed. In this case, it would be more ethical for a perpetrator to rape them than to tax them.
It is also possible there are people for whom personal ethics are so important they would rather be raped than pay taxes. The lifeblood of the State is initiatory violence. Without this, it would cease to exist or cease to be what it is. All of its power is seized from the people. Most of State actions use coercion to interfere with and limit the peaceful, voluntary, and mutually beneficial relationships between persons. These actions are a great impediment to human flourishing for both individuals and humanity as a whole. Peaceful people who do happen to disobey some arbitrary will of their political masters are regularly locked in a cage like animals. Given the evil inherent in the nature of the State, it’s plausible some who do not want to contribute to such an evil organization would, were it an option, choose to be raped instead.
Personally, while I do not accept any moral responsibility for what the murderous thieves in government do with the money they steal from me, as I believe the guilt lies with the coercers rather than the coerced, were there a realistic option to avoid funding them through my labor, even if that option required I was raped, I would have to at least consider choosing it. I am confident others feel the same. For any self-sacrificial individuals who would prefer to be raped than to further resource evil, rape is more ethical than taxation.
Rape is not inherently more evil than taxation. The biggest difference between the advocate of nonconsensual taxation and the advocate of rape then, is not how ethical they are – each advocates the same nonconsensual exercising of ownership over others. They are distinct from another only in the ends desired. The rape advocate wants A. The taxation advocate wants B. Both support the use of the same type of disgusting, anti-human means to fulfill those desires.
– Jeremiah Mitchell