The Turkish government recently announced that it intended to make adultery a criminal offence. This was not altogether surprising, since the Turkish government adheres to the principles of Islam, under whose laws adultery is a crime punishable by flogging or execution. Nevertheless, it caused such uproar among more progressive Turks, not to mention horrifying the EU, which threatened to tear up Turkey’s membership application as a result, that the Turkish government has now binned the proposal (perversely, along with a raft of reforms designed to impress the jittery Europeans; but let that pass).
So far, so relatively unexceptional. What was far less predictable, at least to me, was the reaction of the editor of The Spectator, who invited me to write an article which would not only support Turkey’s modest but now defunct proposal but recommend that Britain should follow this inspiring example and ban adultery, too.
In vain did I protest that banning adultery was a seriously bad idea, that I would never for a moment entertain such a proposition and was startled that he should imagine that I would. The more I said how baffled I was that he should think such a thing, the more baffled he became by my bafflement. ‘But I thought you’d think banning adultery was a jolly good idea,’ he said feebly.
It reminded me of the time I was invited to take part in a radio discussion about feminism in which, after I ventured that I thought feminism had gone too far because not every single disadvantage suffered by women was automatically the fault of a patriarchal society, my male interrogator inquired whether I would therefore prefer to live in Saudi Arabia.
Huh? What is it that makes people imagine that if you think that not all men are rapists, wife-beaters and child-abusers, you must therefore want women to be relegated to mediaeval serfdom? Or, if you are worried that the institution of marriage is going down the tubes and with it the life chances of rather a lot of children, you clearly want to start stoning people to death in Trafalgar Square?
But then, if you’re me, people assume that you are an intolerant authoritarian who would stamp on human rights with all the sensitivity of a Savonarola on speed.