Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humor, and like enough to consent. – William Shakespeare, As You Like It (IV:i)
One year ago today I published my first column on the subject of BDSM, in which I stated:
Like prostitution, BDSM activities are illegal in many jurisdictions despite being practiced by consenting adults…ignorance of both…is epidemic among the general public, and the media delights in perpetuating insulting and ridiculous stereotypes of both which tend to reinforce both public prejudice and official persecution. And neofeminists intentionally mischaracterize both as “abuse” or “violations of women’s rights” and deny that adult women have the right to choose either. But BDSM is abuse, isn’t it? For a man to beat a woman or tie her up or force her to have sex is wrong and illegal, isn’t it? Of course, unless that’s what she wants! Pushing a person out of an airplane constitutes murder, yet many people jump out of airplanes of their own free will every day.
The magic wand which transforms abuse into rough sex is consent, and thereby hangs the tale; if there are no witnesses or documentation to the consent, it can later be revoked by an emotionally unstable woman (as described in my columns of October 27th, 2010 and March 4th, 2011), with dire consequences for the hapless dominant. Furthermore, radical feminists claim that consent given while impaired or under duress isn’t valid consent, and that it’s the man’s responsibility to divine (with the super powers of his “male gaze”, no doubt) whether she is competent or be instantly transformed into a “rapist” even if his judgment is equally impaired. Neofeminists infantilize women still further by claiming that because of “patriarchal hegemonic norms”, women are not truly able to give consent to any kind of sex of which neofeminists disapprove, such as BDSM or prostitution or, in the case of rabid lunatics like Sheila Jeffreys, any heterosexual activity at all. This is the “philosophical” basis of both the Swedish Model and neofeminist opposition to porn.
There are, however, cases in which the inability of someone to give consent should be apparent to any reasonable person, and judging only by the statements in this September 9th Huffington Post article, this would at first seem like one of them:
[On August 27th] a northeast Alabama couple [was] arrested for allegedly torturing and sexually abusing a mentally disabled woman who was…found naked and handcuffed to a bed. Maurice Rex Johnson, 52, and Toni Renea Johnson, 40, have been charged with sodomy, sexual torture and unlawful imprisonment…[for] abusing a 23-year-old woman with profound mental disabilities inside their Attalla home for months, according to police…”[The victim’s] boyfriend, who is somewhat mentally challenged himself, found her,” Gadsden Police Capt. Regina May told The Huffington Post. “She was laying on the floor nude. They had shaved her head and handcuffed her to a bedframe and left her.” The young woman’s boyfriend was unable to free her, so he ran for help. Neighbors who responded contacted police, and members of the Gadsden Fire Department were called in to cut the woman free of the handcuffs.
Investigators have not yet said how the Johnsons may have come to know the victim. “When she was rescued, she made a statement to the officers that she had been cuffed to the bed like that because she had been bad,” May said. “She had suffered episodes of abuse, episodes of sodomy and sexual torture.” The Johnsons also allegedly put hot sauce on the victim’s genitals and prevented her from using a shower to alleviate the pain, police said…”She wasn’t being held captive all the time,” May said. “She functions on about the level of a 10-year-old. She has no family, no guardian. She was just kind of taken in by these people.” Investigators contacted the Alabama Department of Human Resources and discovered the victim had been in the DHR system for the majority of her life. She was released from the department’s care when she turned 21.
After rescuing the victim from the Johnson residence, police located the couple nearby and questioned them…Maurice Johnson was then arrested for possession of marijuana, and his wife was held on an outstanding warrant for resisting arrest and obstructing governmental operations in an unrelated case. While investigators worked to obtain arrest warrants against the couple for…[the abuse], Maurice Johnson posted bail for the drug charge and fled the area…On Wednesday, he was captured…at the home of his father…The victim…has since been placed with temporary caregivers. “It’s a horrible case,” May said. “Hopefully she’ll get back in the DHR system, and they’ll appoint a permanent guardian to look out for her best interests.”
The problem, of course, is that because of anti-BDSM bias in the police and media we can’t be sure how much of this is true. Police also described the woman in the Bagley case as “mentally deficient” despite witness claims to the contrary, and a follow-up article on the Hopkins case revealed a number of salient facts which were completely omitted in the original story. If the woman is as retarded as this article claims, it should have been readily apparent to the Johnsons and their actions thus did constitute abuse. However, I won’t be at all surprised if a DHR report declaring her competent surfaces. If she’s competent to live on her own she’s competent to consent to sex, and if she’s not competent why did DHR emancipate her at 21? The state cannot have its cake and eat it, too; if the Johnsons are found guilty the DHR is also culpable for abandoning its duty to someone who cannot care for herself, and if state doctors considered her competent how are non-psychologists supposed to tell she isn’t?
There’s a postscript to the story; take a look at the comments which follow it on Huffington Post. In a case like this, one expects the mob to believe whatever they read and react like villagers with torches, and there’s certainly a great deal of that there. But it goes far beyond that; a plethora of ugly Yankee stereotypes about Southerners are trotted out, plus dozens of childish comments about the mug shots making them look “inbred” or “genetically defective” (actually, they look like typical mugshots of fairly typical middle-aged people). And though as you can see the story is apolitical, that doesn’t stop dozens of soi-disant “liberals” from making moronic “red state” comments and, most astonishing of all, not one but several blaming the “Tea Party” for the incident. I am not making this up; I only wish I were. The alleged victim in the story is said to be unable to give consent due to “profound mental disabilities”, but it’s clear that many of those who commented on the story, and are no doubt presumed legally competent, could be described in exactly the same way.