by Furry Girl
If there's one thing the Occupy movement has taught us, it's that lots of people have a very poor grasp of logic. For example, the most common rebuttal to my disagreement with Occupy is something like, "Oh, so you love fascist police states?" or "Why do you hate the poor?" This one is called false dichotomy - creating two fake "sides" and painting your opponent as having only two choices. (Another example: people who claim you're either a feminist or a misogynist, and that there is no other option.)
To help my readers better understand common fallacies of logic so they can be better debaters and thinkers, I figured I should illustrate them using arguments we commonly field as sex workers. Hat tip to The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe and Michael C. Labossiere at Nizkor.
Argument from ignorance: claiming that something must be true because it can't be proved to be false.
"There are no good studies on how many child sex slaves are being tortured by pimps and traffickers in our city, so we can only assume it must be in the tens of thousands."
Appeal to belief/popularity: arguing that if a belief is common, it must be true.
"Everyone knows that the watching porn turns men into rapists and abusers."
Related: Appeal to common practice.
"Okay, maybe our numbers aren't perfect on how many men rape their wives after seeing pornography, but sociology isn't a perfect science."
Argument from personal incredulity: if someone can't understand an issue, it is impossible for anyone to understand it.
"I would find it extremely degrading and oppressive to show a stranger my body for money, therefor you couldn't possibly not feel degraded and oppressed by your work."
Begging the question: asking a fake question that can only result in answers that make your opponent look bad.
"Have you always believed that raping people for money is acceptable?"
Argument from authority: a supposed authority believes something, so it must be true.
"Many professional feminists with PhDs believe that all sex work is sexual slavery, so that must be the correct position."
Purposefully confusing correlation and causation: two factors occurring at the same time does not mean that one factor is the cause of the other.
"Ted Bundy admitted that he loved pornography, therefor, pornography caused him to murder people."
Guilt by association: discounting a position because it is has something in common with beliefs held by "bad" people.
"Sexual predators and pimps wish there were fewer laws regulating the sex industry, why are you on their side?"
Red herring: introduction of an irrelevant issue to distract from topic at hand.
"Sure, you say you're in favor of adults having the right to perform in porn if they choose, but what about the helpless children who are raped in abused in the production of child pornography?"
False continuum: claimed inability to see any difference between two concepts, such as consent and non-consent.
"When money is involved, there's no such thing as true consent, so no one is actually consenting to sex work and it's all rape."
Over generalization: declaring a position based on very little or select information.
"The only prostitutes I've ever noticed in my city are the drug addicts turning tricks on skid row, so all sex workers must be transient drug addicts."
Appeal to consequences of a belief: something must be true because a person doesn't like what it would mean if it weren't.
"Decriminalizing prostitution must be bad for society, because I would hate to live in a world where sexuality is accepted as a commodity."
False dichotomy: reducing a complex issue to only two black-and-white positions.
"You say you're against shutting down Backpage.com. How can you think it's acceptable for pimps to be trafficking in child sex slaves?"
No true Scotsman: dismissing evidence you don't like as not real.
"Sex workers are oppressed and beaten by their pimps on the street, so you must not be a real sex worker. You are not representative."
Appeal to emotion: making an argument based on feelings.
"Would you want your own little girl being sold by a pimp on the internet? Unless we stop the traffickers, your family could be next!"
Non-sequitur: an argument that doesn't make sense at all.
"This strip club must be shut down because here is a school several blocks away."
Misleading vividness: appealing to an especially dramatic example.
"A 13-year-old girl was rescued by police after she was kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to sexually service hundreds of men to earn money for her captor, who regularly raped and beat her. Therefor, any scenario that involves selling sex is inherently exploitative."
Slippery slope: claiming if you accept idea A, you must also accept idea B.
"If we decriminalize sex work and accept the practice as normal, then we'll have to do so with other forms of sexual deviance, like pedophilia and bestiality."
Straw man: rebutting an imaginary position that is easier to debate than the real issue.
"These pro-trafficking activists think that sexual slavery is a choice, but we believe in human rights and human dignity."
Middle ground: the belief that the truth must be somewhere in the middle.
"Some people say that watching adult pornography causes men to rape children, and some people say that's not true at all, so the truth is obviously that watching porn only causes men to rape children half of the time."
Tautology: restating your premise as its own evidence.
"Sex work is degrading and wrong because getting paid to have sex is immoral."
Ad hominem: attack the person, not their argument.
"And what would you know about anything? You're just some stupid whore."
The moving goalpost: continuing to change the way you qualify proof or correctness as an opponent chips away at your argument.
"Okay, so there may not be 300,000 child sex slaves in America like we've been claiming in all of our fundraising materials, but even if there are only 3, it's still a massive problem that warrants just as many donations and grants."
[Update: If you're a fallacy nerd, check out this lovely infographic on Information is Beautiful.]
Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Vaguely similar blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Women Against Feminism