Prof suspended for using rape metaphor - Macleans.ca
 

Prof suspended for using rape metaphor

Lecture on Machiavelli leads to accusations of rape advocacy


 

A United States Naval War College professor was placed on paid leave after he used a rape metaphor in a lecture given in May. A portion of the talk was posted on You Tube, under the heading, “US Naval War College Professor Advocates Rape.” The 3:40 min clip shows Karl Walling, at one point, adopting Machiavelli’s voice to describe how the 16th Century philosopher argued that political leaders with courage and cunning, or virtu (personified as male) should force the unpredictability of life, or Fortuna (personified as female) to their will.

Here’s the part that likely led to Walling’s suspension:

“What does a leader do when the b**** won’t put out? I do not mean to be vulgar, but rather to get to the heart of the matter from Machiavelli. If Fortuna will not cooperate, then make her do so. Real men, real leaders do not take no for an answer. Fortuna, said Machiavelli, is a woman, and when it is necessary if one wants to hold her down, to beat her down, moreover, she will like it.”

Walling, who was forced to apologize for the comments that form part of a 17 page essay says that the clip was taken out of context. For instance, towards the end of the paper, Walling criticizes colleagues who have been seduced by Machiavelli’s realpolitik approach to government: “Blinded by the Jedi master’s insights into the necessities of power, far too many members of my own union have failed to see the obvious: Machiavelli’s political logic was the logic of gangsters, the logic of Don Corleone.”

In a statement released to Inside Higher Ed, on online magazine, the College defended the suspension:

“The president of the college determined that portions of the lecture, which included degrading language about women, were inappropriate and entirely unacceptable . . . The college has policies in place prohibiting the use of inappropriate language, viewed this as a serious matter and took appropriate corrective action. The professor apologized to the college community, was placed on administrative leave, and removed from the lecture schedule for the remainder of the academic year. He also received a letter of caution, which he has publicly made known. College leadership met with students and faculty to reiterate that the language was inappropriate. The Naval War College, like the Navy, values the contributions of its diverse community and expects all members of our organization to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism.”

However, as Inside Higher Ed helpfully points out, even the more controversial comments in the essay, the ones posted on You Tube, represent a pretty standard interpretation of The Prince. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Machiavelli reinforces the association of Fortuna with the blind strength of nature by explaining that political success depends upon appreciation of the operational principles of Fortuna. His own experience has taught him that ‘it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortuna is a woman and it is necessary, in order to keep her under, to beat and maul her.’ In other words, Fortuna demands a violent response of those who would control her. ‘She more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly,’ Machiavelli continues, ‘therefore always, like a woman, she is the friend of young men, because they are less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her.’ The wanton behavior of Fortuna demands an aggressive, even violent response, lest she take advantage of those men who are too retiring or ‘effeminate’ to dominate her.”

Walling did not fabricate the rape metaphor. Machiavelli did. Still, Walling’s use of the B-word, at least from the College’s perspective, might have been pushing it.


 

Prof suspended for using rape metaphor

  1. I would say the prof is right that this has been taken out of context. Here’s the passage from the essay:

    “Behind every successful man is a supporting woman, but what if opportunity will not knock? What does a leader do then, when Fortuna, the woman he has been pursuing all his life, will not come to him and refuses him her favors? What does a leader do when the bitch won’t put out?

    I do not mean to be vulgar, but rather to get to the heart of the matter for Machiavelli. If Fortuna will not cooperate, then make her do so. Real men, real leaders, do not take no for an answer. Fortuna is a woman and it is necessary, “if one wants to hold her down, to beat her down.” Moreover, she will like it, because “she lets herself be won more by the impetuous than by those who proceed coldly. And so always,” said Old Nick, “like a woman she is a friend of the young, because they are less cautious, more ferocious, and command her with more audacity.” (Prince, chap 25)

    In case you did not notice, Machiavelli’s penultimate comments in his most famous work, The Prince, are about the rape of female Fortuna by manly virtu. That there is nothing productive unless male and female get together cannot be denied, but Machiavelli went too far. What kind of child will arise from this affair? Will manly virtue stick around to nurture it? Will female Fortuna want manly virtu around the house? If not, what kind of house will this child grow up in? Will the bitch wait quietly for her revenge upon the bastard who raped her? What will the child think of it all? Could anyone, male, female, or child, be happy in such a relationship?

    The apologists for Machiavelli tend to ignore his penultimate advice, which is a pornographic incitement to rape, if not of a woman, then at least of conquered countries and subjugated peoples.” pp 17-18.

  2. Shame on the College for hiding behind the word “inappropriate” without explaining what was inappropriate about it.

    Shame on Walling for apologizing to these philistines. Sorry, I mean heroes.