I couldn’t help but take interest when I saw a blog post by Pamela J. Stubbart called Why I’m Leaving Young Voices being circulated and debated on social networking. Young Voices is essentially a prime example of a kind of libertarian youth-outreach program that’s geared toward grooming young people as professional pundits and giving them access to bigger media connections, which is something I take some serious issue with in principle. Conventional media and think tanks are rife with problems, especially when so many of the think tanks that associate with libertarianism are some mix of conservative and capitalist in orientation. In my view, being a young pundit for such organizations makes you a tool, not an honorable intellectual with well deserved status.
But putting that aside, Pamela expresses that she is leaving the organization because the infamous press-generating “Duke Porn Star” Miriam Weeks A.K.A. “Belle Knox” was recruited to join the organization (a blatant opportunistic publicity/marketing move), and she is of the opinion that since then the media bomb around Belle Knox has damaged its intellectual credibility and threatens to damage her own reputation by association.
To this I say, Bravo!
Pamela then goes on to politely and articulately disagree with the mantra of sex-positive-feminism-fused-with-libertarianism, a mantra which is very heavily promoted by the libertarian pundit and Young Voices associate Cathy Reisenwitz, and it is a perspective I have criticized at various points on this blog. The way that people who hold to such a perspective tend to frame the debate, it seems like one is presented with a false dichotomy between traditional conservatism and complete sexual amoralism, while being encouraged to adopt or spread so-called sex-positivity as a cultural norm. They might hate slut-shaming, but they sure are quick to project motive and ideology onto to those who disagree with them and proceed to engage in shaming on that basis.
Pamela more or less expresses a position of moderation and points out in general that a culture of sexual permissivity can perhaps have its downsides, as much as people might have benefited in some ways from the initial “sexual revolution”. It’s left pretty vague, but she signals issues with “the hook-up culture”. She emphasizes that even while one may abstain from supporting the illegalization of porn and prostitution, that doesn’t mean one should be uncritical about it from a moral or cultural perspective. Because what happens when you fetishize “voluntary choice” or “market activity” as if it overshadows or subsumes all moral perspective is an erasure of the negative and external consequences of actions, and the moral cunundrums that come up in life.
I would therefore put it this way: insofar as “sex positive feminist libertarians” continually fall back on the notion of individual choice to make their arguments, they are actually functioning as “thin libertarians”. It is easy to ignore the moral and psychological conundrums around things like porn and prostitution when you’re only focusing on “choice on the market” and “non-aggression” in reference to only the most obvious, direct or commonly recognized forms of aggression. In another sense, the “sex positive libertarians” become a (wrong-headed) kind of “thick libertarian” insofar as they push the idea of sexual permissiveness as a cultural norm.
And Ms. Weeks is quite obviously being used as a pundit to advance that kind of perspective. That doesn’t mean I necessarily question her own sincerity in that perspective. Rather, she comes off as latching onto it as a rationalization, while being snagged up by libertarian organizations for publicity. I highly doubt that a 19 year old who’s done little more than cite a Sheldon Richman article once has more intellectual clout as a libertarian than your average libertarian nerd who’s been following and participating in the online dialogue for some years and obcessively read a bunch of canonical libertarian books. The likelyhood is that she’s less qualified than those people.
Pamela therefore wisely questions the character of an organization that would shamelessly milk a controversial porn star (who is also a relative political virgin) to generate publicity for a morally/culturally blind position on social issues. She has my respect for striking out as an individual in this way.