Where does the concept of rights come from? It comes from the medieval concept of the divine rights of kings. The divine rights of kings claimed that a king (or queen) is pre-selected prior to their birth to be the king or queen by God. Of course in modern times we dismiss this as some nonsense used to justify one group being more powerful than another group. In that case, can we not also dismiss modern human rights as a moral justification for one group having more power than another?
The title of this blog post comes from a youtube comment left by a woman on a church confession style video of a spectacled former incel admitting to his sin of misogyny to a priestly faced podcast host. Another comment which I also considered using as the title for this blog post read “Girls don’t owe anybody sex or affection. Ever.” Another comment, “This is why women are afraid to bluntly reject men. So many women are injured and killed for saying no.” And the final comment I will quote read “Entitlement is a hell of a drug.”
I will leave this clip of George Carlin to deliver the coup de grâce on the concept of human rights.
To put it bluntly, the term “rights” when invoked is obscurantist in the sense that it hides the difference in power which caused the disagreement in the first place with a pretty word. I would like to take this opportunity to tap my hammer on another idol and see if it is hollow too. The idol of “negative liberty” by contrasting it with the much villainized “freedom as a first principle” (positive liberty).
As Karl Marx rightly noted, “No man fights freedom; he fights at most the freedom of others.” This criticism is against “positive” liberty which is “liberty to” as in power to do x or y. In this definition, liberty/freedom is power. If you don’t have the power to do something then you don’t have the liberty to do it either because power and freedom/liberty are the same thing. This concept of freedom/liberty is obviously incompatible with equal rights because the same rights invariably benefit one group over another and some individuals over others.
As for “negative liberty” this is the libertarian view that liberty consists of the absence of outside forceful compulsion except when you breach a contract you entered into “voluntarily.” If all you care for is productivity then this view of liberty is suitable. The problem with “voluntary contracts” is that some groups of people will be able to enter contracts that are beneficial for them over other groups of people. Groups of people who entered worse contracts may have entered them ‘voluntarily’ but only because others have power over them.
Negative liberty is meaningless to those without positive liberty. If you do not have the power to do something then it is meaningless that you have the freedom to do it. Some of the women in the comments were quick to point out that incels viewed relationships in terms of power (just like feminists and other leftwing academics do I might add) but to this, I would say that it is quite easy not to view it in terms of power when you are the party which is in power. For those power, in the advantageous position, it is much easier to view the current social contract in terms of ideals like freedom, equal rights or the divine rights of kings for that matter.
In summary, you can have equal rights without any actual equality. This appears to be the relationship between incels and young women.