Libertarianism is Not Libertinism, Part the Googolplexth

In case you haven’t heard, libertarians on the ‘Net have been having another one of those more-heating-than-enlightening internecine debates, this one sparked by a video by Julie Borowski on why there aren’t more libertarian women. Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz responded on Bleeding Heart Libertarians, accusing Ms. Borowski of “slut shaming” and generally denigrating women by assailing the consumerism and sex obsessions of certain women’s magazines. Tom Woods slapped back in defense of the original video, and Cathy Reisenwitz made a video response celebrating “sex, butts, and orgasms” as part and parcel of libertarianism (HT: Spatial Orientation).

When will libertarians learn that “libertinism” (do whatever you want so long as you don’t hurt anyone else, whether shooting up heroin or engaging in casual sex) is not in any way logically implied by “libertarianism,” a political theory of robust individual rights and a limited state? Supporting adults’ right to engage in casual, recreational, voluntary sex has precisely nothing to do with judging that behavior to be wise or even morally justified. Libertinism implies sexual libertarianism, but the converse is false.

In addition, castigating supporters of traditional sexual mores as “slut shamers” (whatever that means) seems no more likely to win converts to libertarianism than was Ms. Borowski’s generalization that women are captives to popular culture.

Libertarians, just like everyone else, can and should debate the ethics and prudential value of sexual relationships of various kinds — and for what it’s worth, my views are probably more liberal than Ms. Borowski’s on those questions — but they must not denigrate those who disagree as themselves morally suspect.

18 thoughts on “Libertarianism is Not Libertinism, Part the Googolplexth

  1. Thanks for the hat tip, Jason, and I essentially agree with your post too. Sometimes it strikes a chord with me when liberal gets thrown around as a dirty word amongst certain libertarians when we should be celebrating its classical roots. Oh well. Here’s to more enlightening debates (that means me too!).

    1. Yes, I agree on that. And with modern liberals increasingly moving toward “progressive” (having apparently befouled “liberal”), perhaps we can reclaim it soon. Thanks for the comment.

      1. I like libgressive myself since it is so darn annoying for them to claim the mantle of progress when in many ways modern liberals are a conservative force and anti-progress (in the Postrelian sense that they are anti-dynamism and oppose creative destruction).

  2. Jason: “slut shaming” is essentially holding females to a standard whereby a woman having the same sexual lifestyle of a man or even one just slightly less staid than a puritanical standard makes her a “slut” or some other derogatory name that is meant to demean them into conforming to the hypocritical social standard or dehumanize to the point of ostracisation.

    It’s basically a form of social control thru shaming.

      1. “shaming”? yes, as I can’t think of a situation where it doesn’t come off as nasty collectivist group think using outdated or nonsensical social mores IMO.

        but ostracisation for clear wrong-doing like rape, theft, or murder? absolutely endorse that.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. But in that case, what Julie B. did was definitely not “slut shaming,” because she didn’t use any derogatory terms for women who engage in casual sex, and didn’t set forth different standards for men and women. I agree that “slut shaming,” as you have defined it, is disrespectful and wrong, but I am quite concerned that Skwire & Horwitz (& others) are now claiming traditional views on sexual mores to be inherently sexist and illegitimate.

      1. right, agreed. I believe they said Borowski was heading toward that territory, which would make sense from our [theirs and my own] perspective, but in reality it wasn’t explicit or even implied. I just find the video sloppy and too conservative populist for my own tastes, especially the part blasting inanimate objects for molding us poor poor defenseless humans lol

  3. Is it possible to be a “libertarian conservative”? Even a “conservative anarchist”? Whatever the answer to those questions is, it seems to me that this entire blog is premised on the idea that one can endorse a roughly libertarian political position, while, at the same time, upholding a conception of a virtuous life—understood, at least in part, as entailing limits on one’s own liberty—as what one should strive to achieve.

    1. I think it is entirely possible and exists with regularity, at least here in Nashville, TN.

      The folly of Julie’s video, as I see it, is the rapid, irrelevant digression into an acrimonious tangential rant that seeks to pass judgment on and levy repudiations against certain lifestyles and choices that, while might not be choices she would make herself, are entirely voluntary, consensual, and nonviolent. This stands in clear contrast to her own self-description as a “believer in capitalism and individual liberty,” per her blog. Moreover, all of this occurs during an attempt to answer the very broad question of why there aren’t more female libertarians. If the topic of her video was addressing personal choices she views as morally questionable and magazine content she finds repellant, that’s a different story altogether. I suppose it’s the premise of the video versus the content of the video that sparked the backlash.

      But even her subsequent video, and many of her videos preceding this whole dust-up, carries thinly veiled condescension towards libertarians she considers to be of a more liberal persuasion, and liberalism in general. Being one of those liberaltarians, BHLs, neoclassical liberals, or whatever the term of the day is (Julie would probably consider me to be a libertine), I find it unsettling and misleading. Libertarian outreach needs to be about casting as wide a net as possible in order to attract those from all across the spectrum that, as you aptly put it, “can endorse a roughly libertarian political position, while, at the same time, upholding a conception of a virtuous life—understood, at least in part, as entailing limits on one’s own liberty—as what one should strive to achieve.” Julie’s efforts, while well intended, seem to undermine that notion.

      And as a side note, I thoroughly enjoy your LearnLiberty videos!

      1. completely agree. the use of “liberal” as somehow a pejorative that needs no explaining as to how horrible it is, is puzzling to me.

        I can understand libertarians eschewing both terms of “liberal” and “conservative” as outdated and nonsensical, but to lean to one with a wink and a grin, and a scowl and an eye roll to the other makes me think conservative-libertarian or libertarian-conservative would be a better (and more accurate) for Miss Borowski to utilize.

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