Sarah Ditum’s well-aimed barb, ‘Three reasons why a vagina is not like a laptop’ (The Guardian, 26th May, 2013), should have made for tough reading, especially for Nick Ross, whose argument from his new book, Crime, had already been reduced to an extract published in The Daily Mail before Ms Ditum then reduced it to an edited selection and further cut it down for her eye-catching title. But she has to be praised for approaching his argument via a classic example of reductio ad absurdum, even if, for some readers, the result was in itself so very absurd.
As men know all too well, knee jerk reactions can be very painful, and this is especially true if, like Nick Ross, you’re the man standing with your crotch at full stretch over the rapidly rising knee. The Guardian piece was definitely a forceful knee and Nick Ross’s testicles took the impact like a Honda Civic dropped from the top of the Top Gear crane. Yet to compare Nick Ross’s testicles to a Honda Civic is itself to trivialise the pain that a man feels when kicked in that most sensitive of places. I shouldn’t have done it but, then, drawing analogies is always a business fraught with difficulty.
Analogies can be made between any two things and it was right that Sarah Ditum pointed out the weakness of the analogy Ross’s drew between a laptop left on show to a woman enjoying the freedom to express her own sexuality. His analogy carried with it all manner of overtone from the sin of objectifying women to that of comparing rape to theft. The issue then became a matter of deciding if those overtones were deliberate, accidental, or, as some would have it, inadvertently revealed some deeper truth about the way that some men think about rape as a ‘taking’ rather than an act of violence.
Yet if it’s always easy to play mischief and point out the problems with an analogy, as the novelist Samuel Butler once said, ‘though analogy is often misleading, it is the least misleading thing we have.’ Analogies simplify in order to advance an argument but they should not be confused with the actual argument itself. Attacking Nick Ross’s analogy is like destabilising a building by criticising the colour of the curtains. This is itself a pretty strong analogy but even that could be made weak, if, for example, you knew a building owner pathologically sensitive to criticism about her soft furnishings and had a way with dynamite.
That’s the problem with analogies: they always contain inherent differences, points of difficulty, and easy corridors of attack. A robin can be compared to a sparrow but it’s also very different. If there were no difference, a robin would be a sparrow.
I drew my own analogy between Nick Ross’s poor battered testicles and a Honda Civic because it seemed to me that some arguments are very vulnerable to attack. It has become somewhat fashionable for female writers to author articles that mock men, masculinity, and male culture. Rape rightly remains the most sensitive subject about which any person can write, so it seemed perverse that when a man did attempt to address the matter in an appropriately sincere way, based upon what he felt were ‘facts’, that he became subject to selective quotation and ridicule. Is Nick Ross an easy target or was he simply naïve for attempting to discuss an issue that polarises opinion so strongly? Was it right to humiliate him with a sharp knee to the groin? Did Nick Ross’s arguments really have all the structural integrity of a Honda Civic’s crumple zone?
I am in no position to judge but I hope my own argument doesn’t rest on the strength of my chosen analogy. Frankly, I know very little about cars but a little research now tells me that the Honda Civic has the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. If Nick Ross’s testicles were as strong as a Honda Civic, then any knee would shatter upon impact and my argument would be doomed. And that, really, is my point. Arguments rarely rest of the strength or weakness of their analogies but on facts, reason, and the force of what we might intuit as ‘truth’. We can question his analogies but surely Nick Ross’s points still need addressing in a proper way. From this Crimewatch viewer, the greatest indiscretion the suspect has committed thus far is that of drawing a woefully bad analogy, as, indeed, I drew a bad analogy at the start of this piece.
Mock him, certainly, but then address his argument. But in the meantime, in the name of fairness, consider another ten important ways that Nick Ross’s testicles are nothing like a Honda Civic.
- The ability to handle Nick Ross’s testicles in wet conditions is not something Jeremy Clarkson is likely to be found boasting about.
- You can’t wrap Nick Ross’s testicles around a lamp post though some might like to try
- You can’t jump-start a bus from Nick Ross’s testicles
- You can’t carry four Royal Marines in the back of Nick Ross’s testicles
- A Honda Civic has never bulged in blue polyester trousers on an edition of Crimewatch
- You can’t scratch a Honda Civic from your trouser pocket
- You can’t pick up a week’s groceries with Nick Ross’s testicles
- You rarely need to dig Nick Ross’s testicles out of deep snow
- It’s not obscene to ask an mechanic to give a Honda Civic a 10,000 mile tune up
- Kicking a Honda Civic in its front fender wouldn’t make a feminist happy. You really do need Nick Ross's testicles for that.