MacKinnon’s argument.

When a Dodgers fan goes to a Dodger’s game, we assume this fan acted freely because the action is consistent with the fan’s identity.

It’s what a Dodgers fan fan does.

This doesn’t seem controversial, but this type of reasoning can make people vulnerable to coercion.

Here’s how:

If we want someone who is not a Dodger’s fan to go to a Dodger’s game, we don’t have to kidnap them – we just need to make them into a Dodger’s fan. If you succeed in imposing an identity, then you make identity-based actions appear to be freely chosen. They appear to be freely chosen because the coercive force conditions their WANTS.

This is an (awkward) analogy to MacKinnon’s reasoning about prostitution.

She argues that “Sex in general, particularly sex for survival, is so pervasively merged with the meaning of being a woman that whenever sex occurs, under whatever conditions, the woman tends to be defined as freely acting.”

In other words, it only appears that women in sex work are acting freely because their choices are consistent with an identity. In a sexist system, what it means to be a woman is to be sexually disposable. As we saw in the Dodger’s example, forcefully imposing an identity can make identity-based actions appear free.

This allows MacKinnon to claim that “All prostitution is ringed with force.”

She supports this with both of the senses of coercion we have covered, but these are not enough to support the ALL in her conclusion.

So, she also refers to another kind of force. This other force does not act at the level of WANTING (or NOT WANTING).

It operates earlier than that.

Before we have wants, we have an identity.

MacKinnon introduces a THIRD sense of coercion that works at the level of identity.

This third sense is a THEORETICAL definition that goes deeper than the legal definition in the Penal Code.

Assignment:

In a full 3-page essay, typed in 12-point font and double spaced, please think critically about MacKinnon’s argument.

QUESTION: Does MacKinnon’s example of coercion at the level of identity persuade you that “All prostitution is ringed with force?”

Your thinking about this question should be focused on deeper questions such as:

Is it true that coercion can exist at the level of identity?

How does that happen? Has MacKinnon established that it does happen?

Is it true that women have been coerced into an identity as sexually disposable beings?

What are examples of this? Has MacKinnon established the truth of these examples?

Is it true that an oppressed identity makes the choice to engage in sex work only appear to be free because it conditions what people WANT?

Sample Solution

ACED ESSAYS