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In “Sexual Morality and the Concept of Using Another Person”, Thomas Mappes distinguishes between threats and offers. The main difference being, a threat has an undesirable consequence that would leave you worse off than you were in the first place, as opposed to an offer which would present a desirable consequence and leave you better off. Mappes gives a examples of threats in cases one and two. First case: Mr. Supervisor makes sexual advances towards Ms. Employee, which are firmly rejected.
Eventually, Mr. Supervisor makes it clear in order for her to keep her job, she must submit sexual favors. This is a threat because if she doesn’t agree to perform sexual favors for Mr. Supervisor, she is out of her means to an income, while the only thing she would gain would be something she already had in the first place, her job. Second case: Mr. Creditor loaned Ms. Debtor a large amount of money, to be paid off in a year.
Ms. Debtor is sexually attracted to Mr.
Creditor, but he doesn’t share her interest. When the end of the year comes, Ms. Debtor says she will only pay if he consents to sex. This is a threat because if Mr. Creditor doesn’t consent to sex, then he will not get the payment owed to him, so he could only get what was rightfully his in the first place if he consented to being used for sex. So we must come to the conclusion that most offers are instead threats that are veiled to greater or lesser degrees.
Of course offers are generally more welcomed, so if someone were to make a threat disguised as an offer, they’d want it to be to such a degree that it generally looked like the person receiving the “offer” was leaving the table better off, when in fact they were just being manipulated. Or if someone were being rather blunt, they could offer a thinly guised “offer” like Mappes mentions, where a criminal says, “If you give me your money, I will let you live”, whereas in fact he is saying if you don’t give him your money, he will kill you.
He put it a bit more nicely so it can be categorized as thinly veiled, but it is still excruciatingly clear that the criminal is threatening the victim. Mappes says that something is an offer instead of a threat if you leave the scenario better off; but who’s to say what’s better off? With his Ms. Starlet and Mr. Moviemogul example, Mr. Moviemogul offers to make Ms. Starlet a real star if she will sleep with him, and she agrees. According to Mappes, this would be an offer, because she would be “better off”. But who’s to say that the ordeal wouldn’t emotionally damaged Ms. Starlet?
Or the if she did in fact become a star, if he really could make her one in the first place, what if that ruined her life and she got hooked on drugs and died at a young age, whereas she would not have if she had rejected Mr. Moviemogul’s initial offer? Mappes might respond that the situation would be a coercive offer, but an offer nonetheless, and she was not entitled to Mr. Moviemogul’s “help” in the first place, so it couldn’t be a threat. He might also say that Mr. Moviemogul would put his time and effort into making Ms. Starlet a star, so he wasn’t necessarily wrong in wanting some compensation for his efforts.
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