Not Excusing Rape: Silencing, Rationality, and Blame

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (2):390-404 (2023)
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Abstract

Anti-pornography feminists have famously argued that pornography silences women: specifically, pornography causes women to be illocutionarily disabled in some real-life sexual contexts so that they are unable to refuse sex by saying ‘no’. Call this view Silencing. Some philosophers object to Silencing because it seems to entail that, in some cases, a rapist’s blameworthiness is significantly diminished. If the woman cannot refuse sex by saying ‘no’, and this allows the man’s belief, that she consents, to be rational, then the man’s blameworthiness for rape is significantly diminished. The objection is that something must be wrong with a view like Silencing that allows rapists to escape the moral hook when, intuitively, they should not. In this paper, I defend Silencing from this objection by appealing to insights from the literature on moral encroachment in order to argue that it is not rational for the rapist to believe (or accept) that the woman consents.

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Anna Brinkerhoff
Concordia University

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