Friday, 28 August 2015


In the BBC’s new programme cycle – The Big Blue- four male dolphins pursue a female in oestrus across the ocean floor. Then, acting together, they pin her to the sand to verify that she is receptive and prepare to copulate with her. Such behaviour in human society would, generally, be condemned, but dolphins are animals and, so, we observe it and allow it as normal on the grounds of the animal nature of the creature we are studying. We do not hear calls for the setting up of a rape crisis force for dolphins. And this is in sharp opposition to the fact that dolphins are often held up as creatures whose intelligence rivals ours and whose proximity to us is frequently hymned.

Some might say that one of the most important markers of human civilization is the way in which the female of our species is treated. Human females are just as vulnerable to the kind of treatment meted out to the female dolphin in the Big Blue, but, on the whole, society militates against such treatment. The fact that our females are protected against it is a major plank in what we consider to be our civilization. Dolphin-like behaviour lurks beneath the surface at all times. Every young woman needs to be aware of the danger of rape and, in regions where the rule of law has broken down, such as war zones, rape is widespread; the animal prevails, male strength and concupiscence imposes itself unrestrainedly and the first to suffer is the female.

So, a mark of civilization, is the respect of womankind. In civilised societies woman’s humanity – her ability to think and make rational choices, are placed on a pedestal above her merely animal nature. She is not just a sex object and there is no such thing as open season on her body. These things are institutionalized with laws and marital arrangements, all of which protect women from abuse (this is not to say that other kinds of abuse cannot take place within such institutions or that women cannot be forced, abusively, into them, against their wills at times – but this is another issue). A woman makes her choice regarding with whom she will mate and that choice is respected and protected by society. Thus we have set up a form of civilisation.

Twitter is based, in corporeal form, in California in the United States. Where, however, is the Twittersphere located? In a sense it is nowhere being a virtual creation that obtains in the nowhere world of the Internet. I say nowhere because it is under no one state’s jurisdiction. What does this mean in terms of civilization? It means that, when a female ventures into the Twittersphere, she is, effectively entering the lawless and dangerous bar in Star Wars where renegades, mutants, uncivilized halflings, trolls and the most gross male brute force rule the roost. There is no law there and no civilisation. Only a foolish female would go there.

Immediately many modern women will protest that such a situation is outrageous. This is because they are accustomed to the protections of civilisation and find it hard to imagine not being under such protections. Indeed, all civilisations worth their salt agree with her protest because they want a situation where women participate in society as equals whose opinions and choices are respected – where women are not reduced to be no more than their sexual identity. Such civilisations can, thus, accord proper executive power to women who are able to assert their personalities without fear of assault on their gendered person. Thus we see a female German President and a female Attorney General in the United States – two examples of women benefitting from the protective institutions which they visibly and actively sustain and promote. Such women would not tolerate the Star Wars bar on their turf and rightly so –such places are intolerable.

When women protest about the appalling treatment of them in the Twittersphere where they are regularly abused and threatened with rape, what they are really asking is for the Twittersphere to be civilised and regulated. In a way they are right. The behaviour is egregious and one solution would be to bring the Twittersphere under the rule of law and civilise it. The problem is that the virtue – if you want to call it that – of Twitter is its legal anonymity, its lawlessness. Humankind goes on Twitter precisely because it is not under anyone’s jurisdiction, precisely because it is stateless and allows a kind of freedom. Unfortunately that freedom includes a freedom from civilisation. If this “freedom” were not there it would not be what it is nor as successful as it is. Therefore, to ask for the regulation of Twitter is to ask for its execution – something which many might applaud. However, as long as it continues to exist, the best advice I’d give to my daughter or my wife is the same advice I’d give them about the Star Wars bar – don’t even go there; it’s dangerous, especially to women.

This occasions one of the paradoxes of modern society. Some business, of a kind, is transacted via the medium of Twitter, usually in terms of marketing. A woman may contest my view by demanding the right to go on Twitter to conduct her business without fear of abuse or virtual molestation. The problem is that Twitter is, as I have stated above, by definition unregulated. Thus, the unfortunate choice presented to a woman is stay away or risk the virtual abuse. It is an unfortunate fact of modern life, but, perhaps not that different from the choice presented to women in other primitive market places. Some women choose to stay away in more pleasant climes and some decide to get tough and risk the abuse and succeed in spite of it. My view is 'good luck to them'. They won’t survive or succeed without a carapace of toughness, though, because that is the nature of the place they are choosing to frequent. They have to know that they will be like those female Victorian explorers who went into Darkest Africa in long skirts.

The mistake is to take civilisation for granted.

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