Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Sex

The Republicans are Sticking with Kavanaugh for Purely Political Reasons

Remember when Antonin Scalia died and Barack Obama tried to replace him? I remember because on that occasion I wrote one of the most mistaken pieces I’ve ever published on this site: “How Obama Can Replace Scalia“. In that piece, I argued that because previous Supreme Court justices had been replaced in time periods much shorter than the remainder of Obama’s term, Obama would surely also be able to replace Scalia before leaving office. After all, if Republicans attempted to block him for almost a full year, the public would be furious with them for playing politics with the court, and would play a price at the 2016 election. I even had a nice chart:

Scalia Replacement

I was completely wrong about this because I underestimated the degree to which the Supreme Court has become transparently political, even in the eyes of ordinary Americans. Our political parties hardly even have to excuse politicising the court (though they try to do so anyway). We all know that some of the justices are conservative and some are liberal, even if they couch their political ideology behind legal theories like “originalism” and “textualism”. We recognise that there is no such thing as an apolitical judge, that when judges claim to be politically neutral they are being disingenuous. So we now treat Supreme Court nominations like any other political issue and fight tooth and nail to ensure that the next judge is someone we can ideologically live with. And we may have to live with their ideology a long time–between presidents picking younger judges and judges living longer, the average bench time for a Supreme Court justice has quietly increased by around a decade. Having learnt from my mistakes, I now look at the fight to replace Anthony Kennedy quite differently.

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#MeToo Needs to be about Principles, Not Celebrity Shaming

One of the inherent difficulties the #MeToo movement faces is the strong incentives the media has to ruin the whole thing. The initial incidents–the abuses of power by people like Trump, Weinstein, and C.K.–are useful insofar as they start a conversation about policy and principles. But the risk is that #MeToo will be reduced to the little more than the quest for more high-profile allegations, because nothing sells ads like celebrity gossip. And in that quest for more exciting allegations principles are lost in a sea of particularities–we forget about the forest and gaze longingly into the trees. And so we’ve come to the Aziz Ansari moment, a moment which was inevitable–some media outlet publishes some allegations which seem to some people to be much less serious than the allegations that have gone before, and yet seem to another group of people to warrant the same response those previously accused received. We’re reduced to a debate over whether our response to the specific Ansari allegation is reasonable, and then that debate is projected onto everything else. If Ansari is the victim of a witch hunt, is the whole thing a witch hunt? The appropriate response is to refuse to play this game in the first place–#MeToo isn’t really about exposing guilty people and publicly shaming them. It has, to this point, often been conducted in that way. But it’s really about getting people to treat each other better. To do that, we have to know what “better” involves. We have to talk about principles, not people.

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To Stop Sexual Misconduct, We Must Put An End to “Bros Before Hoes”

I’ve been thinking about the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal for a while. It just keeps getting worse. Apparently former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak helped Weinstein cover his tracks by putting him in touch with ex-Mossad agents. Those agents manipulated, intimidated, and lied to Weinstein’s victims in a bid to shut them up or discredit them. In the meantime, more famous people are facing multiple accusations. Some of them are people I liked–I enjoyed Kevin Spacey. I enjoyed Louis CK. But when there’s this much smoke, there’s fire.

I haven’t written on this yet, because it’s so hard to deal with politically. We can’t just lower the standards of evidence for these cases. We can’t presume guilt in the absence of evidence. And yet, when it comes to most forms of sexual misconduct, there can never be enough physical evidence for a conviction. We just have the things that people say. When lots of people are saying the same things, we can be pretty sure something bad happened. But it’s not enough to put people in prison. Usually when I write about a social issue, I have some positive proposal. It feels wasteful to write when I don’t. But today I finally had a thought I think is worth sharing. Here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Hillary Clinton Isn’t Particularly Good for Feminism

In reply to my post from the other day about the differences in economic ideology between Bernie Sanders (the Keynesian egalitarian) and Hillary Clinton (the neoliberal), some are replying that Hillary is still worth supporting because a Hillary presidency would be an important victory for feminism. Indeed, there are prominent women accusing female Bernie supporters of being traitors to feminism. Madeleine Albright says that women who don’t support Hillary are “going to hell”. Gloria Steinem says that female Bernie supporters are doing it to chase boys (she has since apologized for that remark). Yet in some places, Bernie continues to enjoy the support of the majority of women under 45–winning as much as 64% of that demographic. These women are making the right choice. Hillary’s feminist credentials are much weaker than is popularly believed, and if elected there are strong reasons to think that she would do little for the feminist political cause.

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Dying Civilizations: The Threat Posed by Plummeting Birth Rates

Today I ran across a piece in The Guardian about Japan’s demographic crisis. The piece, entitled “Why Have Young People in Japan Stopped Having Sex?” explores an interesting phenomenon unique to modern developed states–the tendency for birth rates to collapse as a civilization reaches higher levels of economic output. This is not a Children of Men scenario–affluent peoples are not becoming biologically infertile. Instead, we see a decreased desire on the part of citizens to have children or even to get involved in romantic relationships of any kind. What’s driving falling birth rates, and to how are they a problem? That’s my subject today.

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