Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kickstarter Sexual Assault Guides and Free Speech

I was absolutely disgusted to see that a Kickstarter campaign for a "pick up" guide on how to get women to date men received $16,000 (8 times the requested $2000) despite the fact that the author of said work advocates sexual assault as a tactic for "dates."

Ken Hoinsky promises that his book will be "an extension of articles [he's] posted online over the past three years." So, since this is the internet, someone took the time to go see just what it is he's been posting. It includes gems like this (warning, these are pretty disturbing, and could be triggering):
Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.
And this:
Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.
What Hoinsky is suggesting is not just sleazy, not just creepy, but a crime. You cannot physically grab someone's hand and place it on your genitals without consent. That is assault.

And handcuffs aren't just for the [consensually-managed] bedroom. 
Which brings me to a little rant. This story is getting some social media and news attention as people petition the funding of the project and take to publicly shaming the would-be author on Twitter, with some even tweeting his employer in the hopes of getting him fired. 

Predictably, commenters in the articles covering this story have started crying that this is an assault to Hoinsky's "free speech." 

Look, I'm no free speech scholar, but it doesn't take an expert to understand two things that apply to this case:

1) Free speech protects you from government penalties to your expression. It does nothing to protect from private individual's reactions to your speech. In fact, if free speech did tell other people what they could say in response to your speech, it would be a limit to their free speech. People are free to dissent, boycott, and yell to their heart's content. Rush Limbaugh's racist, sexist rants cannot be taken off the air for being abhorrent, but people most certainly can (and did) contact the advertisers on his show and tell them that they would exercise their freedom to not buy their product if they didn't pull their financial support. It might end up silencing Rush, but it's not a violation of his rights. 

2) Even the government can interfere with speech that promotes a crime. In 1997, a U.S. appeals court held that the publisher of Hit Man, a fictional book labeled a "manual" for would-be hit men, could be held liable for a triple murder committed by a reader. They settled out of court and agreed to destroy remaining copies of the book. 

There is a First Amendment exception for speech that promotes "imminent lawless action." Obviously, charges would have to be brought to show that someone did indeed read Hoinsky's criminal suggestions and then act upon them, but it definitely seems like his how-to manual that speaks directly to readers and tells them "GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick" would constitute a specific and direct incitement to commit a crime. (And it certainly seems much more direct and specific than a case like, say, Hess v. Indiana where the speech was ruled protected.)

But the real problem, I think, is that too many of the people reading Hoinsky's words don't realize that what he is suggesting is a crime. In fact, Hoinsky himself might not realize it because we live in a culture where sexual assault is normalized. 

I've written about rape culture before, and--whether they realize it or not--the people standing up for Hoinsky's "free speech" rights are perpetuating it. 

Picture: The Comedian

No comments:

Post a Comment