Richard Dawkins On Mild Pedophilia And Mild Rape


A rational mind might suspect that demonstrating logical fallacy with pedophilia and rape examples might cause a twitter frenzy.

Not Richard Dawkins, who’s clarification on both tweets he has entitled:

Response to a bizarre twitter storm

Bizarre? Well with “mild paedophilia” we mentioned the problem with such a term back in September 2013. Yet he used it again. But also went on to tweet later “mild rape”.


The clarification for that tweet:

I should of course have said RELATIVELY mild. Obviously I don’t think any pedophilia is mild in an absolute sense. But I presume most victims would agree that being touched by an adult hand (though very unpleasant, as I know from my own childhood experience) is RELATIVELY speaking not SO unpleasant as being violently penetrated by an adult penis. But the logical point is, or should be, uncontroversial: no endorsement of the less bad option is implied.

Best not to say “mild pedophilia” ever then. As British Law stands the punishment is automatically more severe for rape compared to assault of a minor:

5. Rape of a child under 13

(1)A person commits an offence if—
(a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with his penis, and
(b)the other person is under 13.
(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.


7. Sexual assault of a child under 13

(1)A person commits an offence if—

(a)he intentionally touches another person,

(b)the touching is sexual, and

(c)the other person is under 13.

(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years. [Sexual Offences Act 2003]

If Dawkins had said “the sexual assault of a child is bad, the rape of a child is worse” it would have made more sense.

There is a clear distinction to be made in law, despite Dawkins poor insensitive phrasing in his tweet regarding relative impact on child victims of such sexual offenses. “Obviously I don’t think any pedophilia is mild in an absolute sense” hopefully Richard realises not to use “mild pedophilia” as an expression.

Date Rape versus Stranger Rape

This is where the wheels properly came off for Dawkins, compared to the previous tweet:


You might notice Dawkins does not in his clarification refer to that tweet but this original one:

His clarification suggests he is not ranking rapes, which the “mild rape” twitter conversation above clearly shows he is. It also misses that rape is by nature a violent crime of itself.

In both my hypothetical examples, I made the mistake of forgetting to put quotation marks around the hypothetical quotations. The second one, for instance, should be amended to

“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse.” If you think anybody who said that would thereby be endorsing date rape, go away and learn how to think.

Actually, it’s rather plausible that some people might find date rape WORSE than being raped by a stranger (let’s leave the “at knifepoint” out of it). Think of the disillusionment, the betrayal of trust in someone you thought was a friend. But my logical point remains unchanged. It applies to any hypothetical X and Y, which could be reversed. Thus:-

“Being raped by a stranger is bad. Being raped by a formerly trusted friend is worse.” If you think that hypothetical quotation is an endorsement of rape by strangers, go away and learn how to think.

I wasn’t even saying it is RIGHT to rank one kind of rape as worse than another (that caused an immense amount of agony and a scarcely creditable level of vitriolic abuse in the Twittosphere). You may be one of those who thinks all forms of rape are EQUALLY bad, and should not, in principle be ranked at all, ever. In that case my logical point won’t be relevant to you and you don’t need to take offence (although you might have trouble being a judge who is expected to give heavier sentences for worse versions of the same crime). All I was saying is that IF you are one of those who is prepared to say that one kind of rape is worse than another (whichever particular kinds those might be), this doesn’t imply that you approve of the less bad one. It is still bad. Just not AS bad.


Rape is rape - feminism Photo

If we go by British Law – rape is rape. What the knife does is clearly prove lack of consent. Rape by definition is violent, a forceful act. A huge issue here is suggesting that date rape is not as bad as rape generally. Placing Richard Dawkins in rather bad company when it comes to describing rape.

Dawkins was inviting us to rank different forms of rape. Unless using an imaginary scale for the pain and trauma of a rape victim is an academic exercise. Point is “mild rape” does not exist. It feels in his clarification, Dawkins is ignoring what he did actually say and discuss.

Which is disingenuous because most of the press and a lot of people on twitter were complaining about him saying “mild rape.” He ignores ever having said that. The quotation marks do not help in the tweet.

The concern is when it comes to sensitivity on two of the worst crimes against adults and children imaginable, Dawkins does not live in the real world. Assault and rape are different sexual offenses. Try not to trivialize  the real pain and suffering people go through, as being mild.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog


Filed under British Society, Richard Dawkins

2 responses to “Richard Dawkins On Mild Pedophilia And Mild Rape

  1. jumpedupchimpanzee

    I assume Dawkins used rape and pedophilia as examples to illustrate his point because it SHOULD have gone without saying that any kind of rape or pedophilia was a serious offence. IE it should have been a perfect way to demonstrate that saying x is bad but y is worse is CLEARLY not an endorsement of x. He should not have had to clarify what he meant because it should have been intuitively understood why he used those examples.

    • The problem is using the word mild in both cases, and saying rape is relative, as outlined above. Plus people do think they are mild (date rape, child abuse) – so it does not go without saying.

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