Time to rehabilitate honour and integrity

Time to rehabilitate honour and integrity U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh
The View


Last Saturday, Brett Kavanaugh took up a lifetime appointment as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Under the US Constitution, the President gets to nominate federal judges, but the nominations are subject to approval by the Senate, in which the President’s Republican party has a narrow majority. The story of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has gripped America and the world.

For anyone who did not follow the drama, Kavanaugh, 53, has for the last 12 years served as a federal circuit judge on the Washington DC circuit.

As Republican picks for the highest court go, he was decidedly middle-of-the-road: an establishment conservative. In a different era, his nomination would probably have been approved by an overwhelming majority, but Kavanaugh was nominated to take the seat of the retiring Anthony Kennedy, the ‘swing vote’ on the court. Kennedy, although a Republican nominee, voted in favour of abortion and same-sex-marriage rights and – for that reason – was a darling of the left.


The prospect of Trump getting to put his man on the court and changing its composition from liberal to conservative is terrifying for Democrats. Their big fear is that Roe vs Wade, the 1973 case that created a constitutional right to abortion, might be overruled.

So when Kavanaugh – a man of previously unquestioned qualifications and character – was named as Kennedy’s successor, the Democrats tried their best to stop his appointment. Senator Diane Feinstein of California received an allegation from Prof. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her some 36 years beforehand, while they were both in high school.

The allegation was not revealed until after the hearings had concluded. After they were reopened to deal with it, two other women made accusations against Kavanaugh, the more outlandish alleging that, as a student, he was linked with a gang-rape ring.

Kavanaugh consistently denied all the claims. Despite the seriousness of the accusations, no complaint had ever been made in the past about him. As for Ford, no other person could vouch for her claims, not even the people she claimed were present at the party in which Kavanaugh was alleged to have assaulted her in the presence of another man.

Yet it did not matter to the Democrats that a man with a previously unblemished record protested his innocence. It did not matter that none of the allegations was corroborated. It did not matter what toll this was taking on a man’s wife and children, now thrust into the media spotlight. They had made their decision: they believed “her”.

The clarion call, #BelieveHer, asks us to believe people purely on the basis of their identity – as women – rather than on evidence.

But what is to happen and who is to be believed when one woman makes an allegation against another woman? What if a woman makes an allegation against a trans woman? Which “her” ought we believe?

On what basis ought we judge a person and their behaviour? Although those on the left or “liberal” side consider being judgmental a cardinal sin, they had no problem judging a man on the basis of his colour, socio-economic background and education. They were content to pin a crime on him without reliable evidence on the basis that he was white, male, educated and hence “privileged”.

This meant that he was fair game – whether or not they could find adequate evidence to support the accusation.

As one commentator said, this is end-of-civilisation stuff. The idea that someone (not just a man, by the way) can be accused of something with no reliable evidence and in effect have a mock trial carried out in public, in the glare of the international media, without the protection of the fair procedures or due process that one would find in court, ought to terrify decent people.

Before anyone shouts, “Consent classes!”, the ‘consent’ phenomenon as a panacea to sexual impropriety is doomed to failure.

First, consent is a pretty low level at which to set the bar, being basically the threshold of criminality. Is this what we want to hold out to young people as the ideal sexual interaction, that it ought not to constitute a crime?

Second, consent alone is a flimsy basis for a sexual liaison. When two people are alone in a room, there are no other witnesses and so, even where consent is present, or claimed to be present, the entire event is nonetheless subject to the ‘he-said- she-said”’ difficulty we saw play out in the Kavanaugh hearings.

The third issue is that the validity of a “consent” can sometimes be difficult to judge. If a woman consents to sex while under the influence of alcohol, has she truly given her consent? There is no universal answer to this question. Some women will say yes, others no, others that it depends on the situation. There is no clear rule that men can follow and know in advance whether this is acceptable or not. And while the implicit suggestion is that all men are potential sexual predators, the corollary – which will not be lost on brighter young men – is that all women are potential accusers.

This is an impoverished and reductionist view of the sexes and is a recipe for disaster on a personal level for individuals.

One of the stranger effects may be that the left/liberal establishment, with the #BelieveHer movement, might just be more successful in promoting chastity than the Catholic Church.

Are we to return to a time where dating couples must have a third-party witness present at all times (formerly known as a chaperone)?

Feminists need to think carefully about this, because that is where we are heading. It is increasingly dangerous for a young man with prospects to be alone with a woman.

Post Kavanaugh, the landscape has changed utterly. What good is a defence of consent to a young man, if he can be accused of sexual impropriety – or even a serious sexual crime – and have his reputation dragged through the mud, with absolutely no reliable evidence?

These are questions we need to grapple with for the benefit of the next generation of men and women, if we are not to witness what has been called a “sexodus” – people walking away from sex and marriage.

Rather than setting the bar at the absolute lowest standard, being consent, and allowing the publication and politicisation of uncorroborated claims of serious sexual misconduct, perhaps what is required is a rehabilitation of the idea that, when it comes to sex, men – and women – should act with honour, integrity and personal responsibility.