Punched by a Feminist

By Martinez, Raul | The Humanist, September-October 2010 | Go to article overview

Punched by a Feminist


Martinez, Raul, The Humanist


IT'S NOT always easy to maintain a consensus in a freethinking, democratic organization where the positions on issues aren't set in stone. Allowing positions to evolve is an arduous and sometimes painful process that involves many hours of careful study and discussion among group members. Success in this area is directly related to the ability to empathize, compromise, and remain focused on shared goals.

Two topics that generate a high degree of controversy among humanists are pornography and prostitution. Without going into detail, and at the risk of over-simplifying the issues, allow me to provide a summary of both sides of the debate:

Even though we all know that a small percentage of women do enjoy the glamour and financial benefits of such professions, we must not forget that many women suffer from different types of abuse around the globe. The profitable nature of the business makes it attractive to the criminal element. This carries extreme and disturbing consequences like kidnapping, torture, and coercion into different levels of sexual slavery or servitude. In many cases, the criminal nature of the business forces it to exist underground, outside of the eyes of the public and the law. Even the law is unequal when it punishes the prostitute and not the john.

What is the solution then? Should we blame these industries for the tragic human abuses connected to them? Should we ban all forms of pornography and prostitution to prevent the current state of sexual slavery in which many women live? Is this solution as naive and unrealistic as providing abstinence-only sex education for our children?

Maybe we can solve this with decriminalization and regulation. But are pornography and prostitution industries that can be monitored and controlled? Are we ready as a society to admit that sex is just another commodity?

I recently attended a humanist conference that started off quite fruitfully in regards to discussion of these topics. I even agreed to collaborate with a feminist group on a women's issues resolution. Sadly, it ended with me getting punched--that's right, punched in the face--by an angry woman who didn't care for my contributions to a discussion session on pornography and prostitution. Think this isn't a contentious issue for humanists? Think again.

The next day, whenever someone heard "Raul got punched by a feminist" the most commonly asked question was: "What did he say?" The truth is I made some arguably over-generalized comments about the differences between men and women. I was responding to someone else's comment that our culture forces women to dress like prostitutes and wear five-inch heels. In response, I wondered if the peacock ever complained about having to carry around such plumage and noted that females and males attract the opposite sex in different ways. Now, I'm not going to pretend that I'm not a troublemaker. If I wasn't, I probably wouldn't be an atheist. I would just be a Catholic who never goes to church. So, even though I'm a person who knows how to press others' buttons, did I deserve to be punched? I guess my answer is: no more than a woman wearing five-inch heels and a short skirt deserves to be harassed. …

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