by Richard Dawkins
Let me add just one afterthought to my article Are there emotional no-go areas where logic dare not show its face? I’ll use the example of pedophilia, but an exactly parallel point could be made for adult rape. It’s about alleged “belittling”.
I have briefly explained (it’s in An Appetite for Wonder) that, as a small boy, I was the victim of a pedophile teacher in the school squash court. He pulled me on his knee, put his hand inside my shorts and fiddled for about half a minute. It was very unpleasant, but it didn’t ruin my life and I had the temerity to say so in my memoir and elsewhere. I had the effrontery to downplay my experience and imply that it could have been worse. The teacher could, for example, have . . . well, I didn’t specify details, but anyone can fill in some of the appalling things that have happened to other children of both sexes.
Pandemonium in the Pigeon-lofts. Freethought Feeding Frenzy. “Dawkins actually said – I kid you not – that his experience in the squash court wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. Wow, just wow. Where has he been these past few years? Doesn’t everyone nowadays know there are NO gradations? All cases are exactly equally bad. How dare Dawkins BELITTLE the horrors of pedophiliac assault?”
But let’s think about it. Who exactly is doing the belittling here? Suppose I had said what my critics apparently wanted me to say, namely that my experience in the squash court was among the worst things that ever happened to me? I could imagine the following explosive retort from another pedophile victim: “WHAT? You cannot be SERIOUS. When I was a child, I was painfully raped by my father, week after week for years and I was too terrified to tell anyone. How DARE you go on about your 30 seconds of discomfort and momentary embarrassment with a teacher who, unlike my father, meant nothing to you. How DARE you big up your paltry 30 seconds, thereby BELITTLING my five years of painful misery and betrayal? Check your privilege, Dawkins, and take a look at what REAL child abuse looks like.”
Well, I hope nobody would actually say that. There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison. But maybe you get the point? If we wish to insist (in the face of judicial practice everywhere) that all examples of a sexual crime are exactly equally bad, perhaps we need to look more carefully at exactly who is belittling what.