David Bruce (born 1954): Is Rape Ethical?

Mama Bruce’s Ethical Rules

The rules of ethics are T-shirt simple, and chances are, your mother is an expert in ethics. I know that my mother was. Here are Mama Bruce’s T-shirt simple ethical rules:

  • If you are allowed to do it, everyone (in a similar position to yours) should be allowed to do it.
  • Treat other people the way that you want to be treated.
  • Do actions that have good consequences.

Mama Bruce’s Ethical Questions

Along with the ethical rules go ethical questions. These are questions that a person can ask when determining whether an action that person is thinking of doing is moral:

  • What would happen if everyone were to do what you are thinking of doing?
  • Would you want done to you what you are thinking of doing to other people?
  • What are the consequences of the action you are thinking about doing?

An Example of Mama Bruce’s Ethical Questions In Action

Of course, ethics systems should give the correct answer to the easy questions. For example, is rape moral? All would agree that rape is immoral, but let’s see how we can use Mama Bruce’s ethical questions to determine whether rape is moral. Let’s say that a man is wondering whether it is morally permissible to rape a woman.

  • What would happen if everyone were to do what you are thinking of doing?

Suppose every man became a rapist. What would happen? At first, of course, many more rapes would happen, but it is plausible that once women catch on to what is happening, soon a handgun will be in every handbag, self-defense classes for women will be widely available, and women will not travel alone. In other words, heavily armed women will be travelling in packs. (This could make a good science-fiction novel.) There is a contradiction here. A man makes the rule “I will rape women” so he can rape women, but if every man follows the rule, soon it will be very difficult — and dangerous — to attempt to rape women.

  • Would you want done to you what you are thinking of doing to other people?

Some men may say, “I would be very happy if a woman were to rape me,” but of course that would not be rape. Rape is unwanted, forced sex, and if a man wants a woman to rape him, that is not rape. The proper way to answer this question is to think of an example of unwanted, forced sex. For example, the man is in a locker room shower, he drops his soap, he bends over — and the guy in back of him gives him an unwanted, forced surprise. In this case, few if any men would want done to them what they are thinking of doing to women. (And if they do want it done to them, once again it is not rape.)

  • What are the consequences of the action you are thinking about doing?

Some men may point out that some women who have been raped go on to become rape counselors for other women, and/or become experts in self-defense and teach self-defense to other women, and/or volunteer at a 24-hour crisis hotline, etc. These things are good, and they probably would not have happened if the woman were not raped, so aren’t at least some of the effects of rape is this case good? Of course, that is a faulty way of looking at the situation. There are two sets of consequences here, resulting from two different actions. The first action is the rape itself, and the consequences of rape are bad. The rapist commits the rape, the consequences of the rape are bad, and the rapist is responsible for doing the bad action. The second action is the woman’s response to rape. Some women do become experts in self-defense and teach self-defense to other women, and/or volunteer at a 24-hour crisis hotline, etc. They do the action, the consequences of the action are good, and they deserve the credit for doing the good action.

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NOTE: David Bruce (born 1954): Is Rape Ethical? is PUBLIC DOMAIN. Feel free to repost, copy and paste, etc.

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