The “redistribution of sex” is rape

Evan Rachel Woods as Dolores Abernathy in Westworld, holding a gun on an aggressor offscreen

“Someone said something about a rebellion?”


The redistribution of sex is rape.

That’s because sex isn’t a commodity. Even commercial sex isn’t a commodity. Sex, of both the amateur and the professional variety, is an activity performed by people, and the only way to “redistribute” it is to compel someone to perform it when they otherwise wouldn’t. And compelling a person to perform sex when they don’t want to is…

If you’re thinking, “Wow, what an obvious point. We shouldn’t even have to talk about this,” you’re right. It’s ludicrous. The thought that, say, it should be presented as a harmless but intriguing thought experiment by a George Mason University economist and a New York Times op-ed columnist is absurd.

And yet.

Two weeks ago in Toronto, Alek Minassian drove a rental van into a crowd of people, killing 10 and injuring 14 others. He’d written on Facebook, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Some might read that and think, “Wow, that is some fucked up shit, and maybe we need to be paying more attention to this group of people who believe they’re entitled to sex from the women of their choosing.”

But if you’re GMU economist Robin Hanson, you read it and think, “Sounds valid. Since being involuntarily celibate is essentially like being impoverished, the obvious answer is to get these guys the sex they want. How can we get women to fuck them, so they won’t kill again?” And if you’re NYT columnist Ross Douthat, you read that and think, “Sounds legit. Definitely worthy of consideration.”

The problem is that no, being “involuntarily celibate” — “unable to get laid,” for the rest of us — isn’t the same as living in poverty, and “redistributing sex” isn’t worthy of consideration because it’s rape.

I want to make the distinction between sex and sexual gratification, because they are distinct. The former requires two (or more) willing participants, and the latter can be a solo affair. Redistributing sexual gratification is no problem — universal healthcare and subsidized pocket tooties should take care of it. And you know what? I’m all for it. Checkups and sex toys for all! (Caperton for President 2020.)

But sexual gratification isn’t what the incels are on about. They aren’t complaining because they can’t get off — they’re complaining because they can’t get it on. And specifically, they’re complaining because they can’t get it on with the women with whom they want to do so. They want to fuck “Stacys” — hot chicks — and are horribly, unfairly put-upon because said Stacys want to sleep with “Chads” instead. The only sexual partners they want are the status symbols.

And that’s just one reason that sex workers or Douthat’s proposed sex robots aren’t an answer to the problem. A sex robot is just a super-advanced, interactive version of a Fleshlight (or, of course, the classic dominant-hand-and-a-bottle-of-lotion). If all a guy wants is a woman-shaped figure to make ecstatic noises as he pounds away at it, even though he couldn’t find the clitoris if it lit up and played music (note: On the LS-model ‘bots, it lights up and plays music), a sexbot would be fine. But that’s not what these guys want. They don’t just want the sexual gratification — they want status. Neither a paid sex worker nor a non-sentient sex robot carries the prestige of an honest-to-God Stacy, and if Stacys are who the Chads are fucking, then nothing short of a Stacy will do.

Discussing redistribution of sex as a thought experiment is tricky enough because it validates the idea that sex is something that can be considered separate from the people who are having it. Discussing it in this context is straight-up gross because it validates the idea that “incels” really are being moved to violence because they’re pathetic, lonely figures longing for a woman’s touch and not creepy, dangerous fonts of toxic masculinity who feel entitled to the vagina of their choice presented without complaint. A man murders people with a van, while celebrating a man who murdered people with knives and guns, and the discussion immediately goes to, “How can we get women to have sex with guys like this?” Because instead of working these men through their dangerous sexual entitlement, it’s better just to indulge them in it, as if throwing women under the bus is better than letting them be mowed down with a van. (Required reading: Vivian Kane at The Mary Sue discussing the “Incel Rebellion” as misogynist terrorism.)

To be clear: Plenty of people go without sex for long periods of time, voluntarily or involuntarily, without turning to resentment and/or violence. Plenty of people long for sex with someone they can’t have sex with, say gosh what a pity, and go have sex with someone else. Plenty of people have friends-with-benefits hookups to take the edge off. Plenty of people make eye contact with the only other person in the bar right before the lights go up at two in the morning and think, “Eh, I guess you’ll do.” Only incels turn it into a movement laced with hatred and violence. And then, somehow, the Robin Hansons and Ross Douthats of the world are, like, “We shall be their champions,” even as the bodies of their victims aren’t yet in the ground.

Sex can’t be “redistributed” without coercion because at some point, the person on the other end is going to say no. The government can hand out money-and-plastic-surgery grants until every incel in the country is basically a slightly richer Hemsworth brother, and there will be women — paid and unpaid — who will not want to fuck them. And it is their right to not fuck them. Because for all that incels believe women are only motivated by money and looks, there’s also a thing called personal agency that can’t be legislated.

Sex is not a commodity. Women are not a commodity. Sex workers are not a commodity. Women’s agency is not a commodity. And if Robin Hanson and Ross Douthat want to pretend it is, they can go fuck themselves. That is a redistribution of sex I can get behind.

6 comments for “The “redistribution of sex” is rape

  1. Angie unduplicated
    May 5, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Question that nobody is asking: Whothehell would even want to fuck a hostile, resentful, entitled terrorist wannabe?

    Sex is only a commodity to sex workers and their clients. Commercials insist that status can be bought with the right commodity, but commodities cannot convey status. Films sell the idea that the low-status man gets the high-status woman and they live happily ever after.

    These guys are brainwashed: no different from the members of that tiny church on Mowbray Mountain who pray for the souls of soap opera characters. Deprogramming has a bad rep in some circles, but these dudes definitely would benefit from it.

    Douthat and Hanson should know better. That 1700s dictionary may have defined “commodity” as the female organ(s) but this applies only to the sex trade. GMU is a conservative institution; conservative economics seeks to commodify everything.

    Incels are out of touch with reality. Conservative economists should NOT be advocating subsidy of this mindset and NYT editors and columnists should know better. This is a backlash against women’s liberty and to hell with all of them.

    • James Silverstein
      May 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      Would you mind if I quoted you on this elsewhere? I think you make some really good points, and I’d like to share them, but only with attribution.

  2. Angie unduplicated
    May 5, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Secondly, just imagine the completely different response if a bunch of us old ladies got together and wrote a manifesto demanding unfettered access to all of the hot young studs. At best, we would receive bags of paper chads from the voters’ registration offices; at worst, ridicule and/or euthanasia.

    Further, imagine black males asserting their “right” to all of the white women. This would not end well.

    This is pure white male entitlement, attended by a female fool.

    Sorry for the verbosity. I am truly pissed off.

  3. Heather Hooper
    May 6, 2018 at 12:07 am

    Reading the original article, I had 2 thoughts.
    a) Seriously? I assumed that most people had heard about incels. They’ve certainly been well-known on feminist sites, for years.
    b) Like most women: redistributing sex? No, what they’re talking about is redistributing *people*, which is essentially slavery.

    Given that all the incels I’ve read appear to be fairly phobic about gay, bisexual, trans and genderqueer people, I assume that the incels would be wanting a hot woman to arrive in their bedroom, primed for sex and up for anything. Maybe they could even keep her for a couple of days, providing she was given a small room, food, and water? This whole concept assumes a straight male viewpoint, and relegates women to sex-object status.

    If this became a thing, though, I’m sure that there would be quite a few people (women, gay men, etc.) who would put in a request for a hot guy to show up at their door. Maybe a Dom would order up a sub. Would you get a buy-1-get-1-free deal for threesomes? A buy-3-and-the-4th-is-free for orgies?

  4. Someone
    May 8, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Obviously, sex cannot be redistributed by forcing someone to have sex with someone else.

    But I’m a little surprised that feminists don’t see the meta argument – the one that Amia Srinivasan made in her essay for the LRB: that desire has a political component. For her, even all desire is political. I don’t think that it’s all political, but a certain part of it clearly is. That’s been a part of the feminist message for a long time: Male gaze informed by male institutions leading to a specfic kind of male preferences in women that are harmful to women. It has long been a feminist demand that heterosexual men examine their desire, and should at least be aware of that component, if not act against it (thus redistributing their male desire for women)

    Now if you believe that, you should also believe that there are sociological and political aspects present in heterosexual female desire for men. And to the extent that awareness has the potential to change attraction, this may, just as in the feminist demand for men to find non-conventionally beautiful women desirable as sexual partners, lead to a redistribution of sex, entirely without disregarding the consent of anyone involved.

    • May 9, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Srinivasan makes the (not uncommon) mistake of conflating “incels” with anyone who can’t get laid. (“The term can, in theory, be applied to both men and women, but in practice it picks out not sexless men in general but a certain kind of sexless man” — nope, it can exclusively be applied to men who self-identify as incels, and I’d say it’s cruel and inappropriate to apply it to people who aren’t that kind of asshole.)

      Men’s preferences for certain kinds of women aren’t the issue here, because it’s not about them being attracted to conventionally beautiful women — it’s about them feeling entitled to them. Even if we redirected incels’ preference to a different kind of woman, they’d still be stabbing people and shooting people and running people over, because they feel entitled to sexual access to the specific woman they want and are going to take out their hatred on women if she isn’t interested in them.

      There are plenty of men and women who frequently fall outside of society’s thin-cis-able bodied-white conventional beauty standards (overweight people, trans people, people with disabilities, POC, etc.) and don’t always have access to sex when they want to and don’t go around murdering people. Expanding beauty standards for their sake would be helpful. Expanding beauty for the sake of incels would just give them someone else to hate when they still can’t have sex with the women they want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *