In a recent Orthosphere post entitled “The Sexual Left Devours Itself” contributor Kristor commented on the recent rash of sexual harassment charges being lobbed at public figures. He begins his piece by writing,
The Great Sex Harassment Witch Hunt of 2017 is mostly hitting liberals. It is leaving conservatives largely unscathed (at least so far). Why should this be?
My first reaction after reading this assertion was to think of two prominent examples of sexual harassment charges hitting conservatives. The first is conservative Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who has been accused by numerous women of sexually assaulting them when they were minors. The second is the Republican and self described conservative President of the United States, Donald Trump who’s own voice was recorded describing his penchant for grabbing women by their genitals. Despite these two rather glaring counter-examples, I must admit that there is nothing factually incorrect about his statement that most of the the accusations seem to be directed towards liberals when viewed generally.
The real problem is in trying to know what definition of liberalism Mr. Kristor is using. This is actually a common problem on the Orthosphere. It is very clear that the contributors and most commentators on the Orthosphere are anti-liberal in their political philosophy. But it is most decidedly unclear whether they are all using a common definition of liberalism. In some cases it is clear they are not.
For example, contributor Alan Roebuck wrote in his post “A Basic Guide to Liberalism and Conservatism, Part I“:
There is no need here to give a full definition of liberalism. Like the famous quip about pornography, we know it when we see it. We know liberalism because its message is everywhere.
Obviously, leaving liberalism undefined as such makes it a convenient punching bag because it can mean anything a person wants it to mean. But not defining liberalism also makes it very difficult to have a meaningful conversation about liberalism because although there might be a meeting of the minds in terms of one’s dislike for liberalism, it is unclear whether there is a meeting of the minds as to the reason for this dislike.
Another Orthosphere commentator and blog writer in his own right Zippy Catholic provides a more concrete definition of liberalism on his blog. In a post entitled, “Definition of Liberalism,” Zippy defines liberalism as:
…the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is a primary legitimate purpose of government.
Zippy’s definition seems to be a reasonable one in that it is not inflammatory on its face, nor is it vague. It also largely accords with the standard definition of liberalism one might find in a typical dictionary. For this reason I will proceed with my analysis of Kristor’s post with this definition of liberalism in mind even though I do not know if this is the definition he is using.
After making his original assertion, Kristor went on to say:
Conservatives typically and generally labor under and prosper by a strong sense of traditional morality, under which it is not just perverse, but wicked, horrifying, repellent, and so rather inconceivable, to behave ignobly or impolitely toward women or other lessers. Most conservatives, I think it fair to say, would never even think of groping a woman or boy, any more than they would think of torturing a cat. They’d rather rip out their own guts.
At this point it is conceivable that Kristor believes a correlation exists between a belief that government should secure the freedom and equal rights of its citizens with a belief in sexual depravity. I suppose an argument could be made that if a person believed in freedom as a general political proposition that this belief in freedom would naturally translate into a free sexuality. I have no doubt it can be true that political freedom and sexual freedom correlate to a certain extent. But this certainly does not hold true for everyone. Take myself as an example. I consider myself to be a liberal according to Zippy’s definition but I have also been married and faithful to my wife for almost 20 years. I certainly have not sexually assaulted a woman during this time period. All this is to demonstrate that it is possible for a political liberal to not also be a sexual liberal. I am not sure that Kristor makes this distinction.
But Mr. K might not really be referring to political liberalism at all as it relates to sexuality. When he uses the term “liberalism” in his piece he might just be referring to sexual liberalism and nothing else. The point is that I am not sure as to this point and I question whether his is sure as to this point as well.
Almost all the pathetic gropers who have been brought to shame in the last few weeks, on the other hand, are liberals, who have long loudly proclaimed their allegiance to liberal moral nostrums. As liberals, they think there is nothing inherently, absolutely wrong. They think that what we construe as wrong is – like everything else in human life whatsoever – no more than a social construct; which is to say, a pure fiction.
Here we see the author painting all liberals with a rather broad brush, asserting they all must hold (perhaps by definition) a belief in moral relativism. Again, for myself I have to point out that I am a political liberal but also believe in absolute right and wrong. Although I have no doubt that some liberals believe in moral relativism this is certainly not the case for all. So to say that moral liberalism (or relativism) and sexual liberalism are the same is questionable in my mind. However, I am not at all sure this is what Mr. K is saying, because I do not know what definition of liberalism he is using. You might say he is being liberal in his use of language.
Insofar then as the scandal truly attaches to some putative conservative, he must be conservative in name only. He must, i.e., be at heart a liberal. He must not at bottom really believe in the traditional morality he publicly espouses, or therefore form his acts according thereto.
Acts betray convictions.
Here, I think we see that in the eyes of Mr. K a conservative is by definition a person who acts sexually according to a conservative morality and a liberal is a person who acts sexually according to a liberal morality. This seems to be true to him regardless of whatever political philosophy the conservative or liberal might also hold.
But again, the problem here is that I have no idea whether Kristor makes any distinction between the terms political liberalism, sexual liberalism or moral liberalism. If he is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time. If he is speaking only of sexual liberalism then it seems like he is attempting to make a point that is obvious on its face. That is, sexual liberals are sexual liberals. If he is talking about moral liberalism it is unclear whether Kristor can see the possibility of a person acting morally in one situation (like speaking the truth) and acting immorally in another such as groping a woman against her will. Non moral relativists can differ in terms of what they believe morality to be. Would a person be considered to be moral if he acted morally but believed in divorce? Reasonable, moral people can differ as to this point. And just because a person is a moral relativist does not mean that they would go about committing murder and rape. Again, I doubt Kristor is making this distinction.
Liberal “morality” leads logically, and so inevitably, to boundless wickedness. It removes the ontological (and therefore ineluctable) limit of right action, that cannot be swayed by any means whatever; so then any act that can be rationalized… The result is not limited to a parade of petty personal pecadilli [leading to] things like the Katyn Forest Massacre, or the Holodomor. Or, indeed, Lidice, the Holocaust, the Terror, the Purge.
There is a certain logic to the notion that if political liberalism leads to moral liberalism then atrocities are a possible or perhaps probable outcome. However, the examples of the massacres in the Katyn Forest, Holodomor, Lidice and the Holocaust all occurred in un-free police states and as such, arguably illiberal regimes. If free societies lead to massacres the same argument could be made against hierarchical police states as well and if both arguments can be made then it is hard to make the case that liberalism has anything to do with it.
I have made this argument before and it does not seem to make any impact on a person who has committed himself to believing that the political philosophy which holds that the freedom and equal rights of citizens can actually be the exact opposite. Anti-liberals by definition are against liberalism. This sentiment is only reinforced by having no clear definition of liberalism because it creates a boogeyman that can then be blamed for anything one finds disagreeable.
Kristor concluded his opinion piece by stating:
If sexual predation is wrong, it is *wrong,* period full stop. And in that case, the moral relativism of liberalism, and with it the sexual libertinism of liberalism, is … absolutely wrong. In which case, feminism is dead.
To this I would clarify that the objectionable portion of the term “sexual assault” is that an “assault” (or predation if you prefer) occurs against the will of the other. I believe this is what the feminists primarily take issue with and not so much the sexual aspect of it except to the extent that a sexual assault is generally considered to be a higher degree of assault. Accordingly I think Kristor has exaggerated his report as to the death of feminism. I also think his anti-liberal tirade would be made stronger by clearly defining the term.