A Disgusting, Horrifying Thought-Experiment for Ethics Students and Chainsaw Aficionados

Trigger Warning

The following is a disgusting, horrifying thought experiment with great potential value for the advancement of ethical philosophy, in my opinion (at least for now, and until I encounter the sort of evidence that could change my mind) that far outweighs the discomfort of the fear and nausea it may well induce. Be that as it may, read the following at your own risk.

Seriously, This Is About Gang-Rape.

Look, this is about gang-rape. The scary clown picture above and the reference in the title to chainsaw owners was merely meant to be suggestive. Still, gang-rape is nasty business. If you continue reading beyond this point, please don’t say I didn’t warn you. This will get gross.

Still with me? OK, here goes:

A Kinder, Gentler Gang-Rape

The basic idea here is that gang-rape needn’t be violent. It might indeed be gentle — very, very gentle. As a thought-experiment, suppose a high school football team ODs on testosterone, loses its collective mind, and decides to teach a little lesson in “manliness” to the only male cheerleader on the cheer leading squad. Suppose they get all chummy with him after Friday night’s game, invite him to join them for a just-the-guys party out by the lake, get him drunk till he passes out and then take turns raping him in the anus, one by one.

Only suppose they do it very, very gently and politely, so as not to cause any injury, or to give the guy any diseases, and of course because he’s a guy, pregnancy is impossible. Maybe they all wear sterile, heavily lubricated gloves — the non-latex kind in case the guy is allergic (hey, these rapists have manners) — and suppose they each use only a well-lubricated pinky finger, inserted ever so smoothly and gently into the guy’s anus, over and over, one after the other, till everybody’s had the opportunity to get his hands dirty (so to speak), all of them grinning and snickering the whole time because, well, boys will be boys and all that.

Also, suppose they make a video of the whole thing, and after they have carefully cleaned up the cheerleader, and he wakens, they show him the video so that he knows that he just got gang-raped by an entire football team, and then they delete the video, so that there is no publicly verifiable physical evidence that any of it happened.

Now, of course it goes without asking, but for the sake of completion I’m going to ask it any way: even though such a gang-rape is physically harmless, is there any doubt in your mind that it wasn’t really a gang-rape?

I’ll assume you are human and that you gave the correct answer, which is “no, I have no doubt whatsoever, gentle or not, such an event is every bit as much a gang-rape as it would be if they put him in the hospital, gave him HIV, and somehow managed to get him pregnant with baby ducks.”

Rape is Rape, Gentle or Not

The point I’m trying to establish here is that gang-rape is still gang-rape, even if it causes no physical injury, disease, or pregnancy. And of course, the same goes for any kind of rape. Rape is rape, gentle or not.

Autistic Meltdown Is Not Really Where I Lose Control, But Where I Seize It

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For me, autistic meltdown feels like seizing the steering wheel from someone who is about to drive us head-on into a truck. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Despite how it might seem to others, and speaking only for myself, autistic meltdown is not really where I lose control, but where I seize it — wrest it like a steering wheel from the hands of anyone who seems to be driving us head-on into a truck.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, it’s perfectly okay if you disagree with me on this point. To be clear: I am only speaking for myself in explaining autistic meltdown in this way. Of course, if you do disagree with me, I invite you to tell me so either in the comments below or privately via my contact page. I really would like to know how my own use of this term compares to that of others. To clarify, I’m using the term autistic meltdown most generally to mean,

“…not as wilful displays of bad behaviour but as intense responses to overwhelming situations.”[1]

The steering wheel analogy illustrates the basic idea. Whenever I meltdown it basically feels like I’m a passenger trapped in a car with some fool driver who has steered us into on-coming traffic. I feel overwhelmed by this situation, especially the tractor trailer that is about to pulverize us, so I seize the wheel and turn us out of the path of sure annihilation.

See, for me, meltdown is a survival thing.

Now, if at the moment I seize the wheel you happen to be the fool driving the car, or perhaps another passenger in the car, you will surely feel like control has been lost, and strictly speaking you are correct. But in that moment it is definitely not me who has lost said control, but you.

And you did so because your driving is dangerous, in my opinion. You want to be in control when I’m a passenger? Fine, then don’t drive like a dangerous maniac.

Now, you may have noticed the “…in my opinion” qualification. That needs some explaining. It’s a bit of an understatement, really. See, the idea here is that I’m a passenger in your car, you’re the driver, and at some point you and I have a difference of opinion. On the one hand, you are of a mind that driving us head-on into a truck is a good idea, and I lean in the other direction — toward the position that driving us head-on into a truck is a bad idea.

See what I mean by “understatement”? Because for me it’s really not just a “difference of opinion” — definitely not the sort of situation where we can just “agree to disagree”, as they say. No, from where I’m sitting in this scenario the stakes are way too high. Like I said, for me, meltdown is about survival, and there is definitely a right and a wrong thing to do, and sitting quietly in my seat while you destroy us is the wrong thing — absolutely not an option. That is just not going to happen. Nope. Not on my watch.

Rest assured: you try to drive us head-on into a truck, and I’m going to seize control of the fucking car.


[1] Sara Ryan, Health Place. 2010 Sep; 16(5): 868–875. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2010.04.012, last accessed Jan. 28, 2018

Image Credit (blaze): Shutterstock