When Rebecca discussed a range of topics from being bothered by clueless gents to sexual abuse to rape, some of her critics scolded her for linking these different things together, and insisted that when she mentioned something about a guy asking her over at 4 AM for coffee being clueless that she was accusing him of rape. Even Richard Dawkins got that wrong and he is known for being smart and stuff.
This is one of those things where WikiThinking can muddy the waters. There are two named fallacies of argument discussed in The Wikipedia that people will refer to when someone discusses a range, or spectrum, of behaviors. One is the Slippery Slope argument. The other is the Godwin Principle. The former is only sometimes a fallacy … there are slippery slopes and there are times when people worry about slippery slopes that are not real. Either way, it does not matter. The spectrum of behavior exists, and it is a matter of discussion as to whether being fast and lose at one end of the spectrum makes it harder for society or individuals or whomever to deal with the other end of the spectrum. It is worth discussing. Presuming that because one senses that there is a slope that therefore there must be a slippery slope fallacy is sloppy thinking.
And you know what sloppy thinking can lead to if you are not careful. It can lead to a very slippery slope indeed! Down which we will surely slip!
The second WikiThink, the Godwin Effect, is, first of all, a joke and not a fallacy. I think it is very funny that many people don’t get that. But even if we want to take seriously for a moment that a discussion can be derailed by comparing your interlocutor to Hitler or comparing some bad thing or another to The Holocaust, I still don’t think this applies here. Rebecca Watson, Richard Dawkins, and a lot of other people including me and I’m guessing you are concerned about female genital mutilation, wartime rape cultures, and we are also concerned about lower level forms of misogyny and sexism. Is distraction by first world problems counterproductive? Is being dickish towards each other desensitizing and thus counterproductive?
The point is this: When we discuss the kinds of problems that range across spectra of severity (or likelihood or any other measure) it probably is a good idea to be sensitive to the effects of pooling different things together or even just mentioning them all in the same talk, and it is very important to keep track of what people are actually saying about which parts of the spectrum. Rebecca Watson said “guys, don’t do that” in a fairly off the cuff informal way about being clueless, not about wartime rape or female genital mutilation. I believe she speaks more severely about the latter. As we all do. It is respectful of the seriousness of some of these issues to keep that straight, and it is offensive and counterproductive to accidentally or, worse, willfully confound and conflate these things.
You must have seen both the slippery slope argument and the concern over Godwining used in inappropriate ways. Perhaps contributing, in the comments, an example or two will be helpful.
And now on to the next topic: Sex!