A professor at the University of Rochester who asked why an attacker shouldn’t “reap the benefits” of an unconscious woman is now the target of a campaign to get him fired.
In a March 20 blog post, economics professor Steven Landsburg questioned why raping someone who was unconscious should be illegal if the act caused no direct physical harm. The question was posed along with two other hypothetical questions about pornography and environmentalism.
Landsburg noted the Steubenville rape victim “was not even aware that she’d been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later,” and added that as long as someone was unaware of the assault, “why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?”
The group Women Organized to Resist and Defend has launched an online campaign to get Landsburg fired for his comments. The group describes his blog post as a “shocking” attempt “to normalize and minimize the effects of rape.”
In a follow-up post published on Wednesday, Landsburg insisted his question was merely a hypothetical thought experiment, which was meant to provoke discussion about what sort of “psychic harm” should be acknowledged in policy. He described his question as “more idle noodling than anything else, with no good arguments and no conclusions.”
Landsburg found himself facing another backlash last year for comments directed at Georgetown student Sandra Fluke. After conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut,” the professor wrote that a “far better word might have been ‘prostitute.'”
“She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not,” Landsburg added. “Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to ‘extortionist’.”