by Jason Stotts
It’s easy enough to make mistakes. It is not so easy, however, to admit it when you do so and act to correct your mistake. Admirably, Leonard Peikoff has done just that, recanting his earlier position on rape, saying:
I want to correct a significant error I have made in an earlier podcast. […] It pertains to the Kobe Bryant case and I said, in effect that given the context the woman implied consent to a sexual and therefore she had no right to say no and expect him to act accordingly, and therefore I concluded he can morally go ahead and have sex with her regardless of her change of mind. […] Some changes of mind are perfectly moral and some are not. Nevertheless, they all have the right to refuse and when they do, the man has no right to assert himself forcibly. […] So, I’m really wrong on this issue, or I was in what I said.
Whenever you make a mistake, you identify what is the basic error you committed, so you don’t commit it again in some other form. I would say my error was to confuse the moral and the legal. […] It was an example of going by emotion and not clearly understanding what the issue is.
So it seems like Leonard Peikoff has completely recanted and changed his position on rape. But then he says this:
You know, the way some of these people on the internet talk, if “N-O” comes out of the woman’s mouth, then it’s a monstrous evil is positively ridiculous. I think that the rational line should be genital connection. If there is relationship involving the genitals by choice, that is the point at which the woman can no longer say yes [sic – meant to say “no”], I mean otherwise it amounts to in the midst of penile penetration and before the climax she says “no, I don’t want this, I’ve changed my mind.” I do not regard that “no” as valid. So in this sense I do not agree that every time a woman says no, in any context, no matter with her husband, no matter what the mind or nature of the change, that must be respected, that is simply ridiculous and can’t be enforced.
So, I guess Leonard Peikoff in fact didn’t learn from his mistake at all. He is still equivocating over the moral and the legal. Or, perhaps he’s not, he was rambling at the end and it’s not entirely clear what his point is. Nevertheless, even if his point is that once a woman consents to penetration and it begins, then there is no unconsenting from a legal perspective, we must conclude that this is both right and wrong. Wrong, because a woman can withdraw consent from the sexual act at any time, making further sex moral rape. Right, because the legal system is not omniscient and must draw a bright line somewhere. Even so, whether it should be legally enforceable rape is a different question from whether it is moral rape: it most certainly is.
I also want to agree with Leonard Peikoff that sometimes women are irresponsible in getting themselves in to certain situations. We might even regard this irresponsibility as a moral failing. The point at which we might disagree is that I don’t think, even if a woman makes a serious error getting into sexual intercourse, that this justifies the degradation of their person through rape. The only moral position for the man to take is to stop sex, even once it has begun, if the woman explicitly withdraws consent. To do otherwise is rape.
Lastly, I thought it was interesting that Peikoff said “The very fact that they [a hypothetical couple] are married means that she [the hypothetical wife] has made a commitment to sleep with him and no one else for the rest of her life. That is, until she gets divorced.” I wonder whether he would say that Ayn Rand was not married to Frank O’Connor? If marriage means monogamy, then being non-monogamous means that you’re not actually married. But Ayn Rand herself slept with another man while she thought she was married to her husband. Perhaps Leonard Peikoff has surpassed his master on this issue. I would really like to see his response to this question. Someone should submit this as a question to him:
Dr. Peikoff, you said on a recent podcast, the one where you apologized for advocating rape, that being married means that the partners in the marriage will not sleep with anyone else. Did you not think that Ayn Rand was married to Frank O’Connor after her affair with Branden?