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regret the error

Author Disputes Slate’s Assertion That He Patronized Enslaved Prostitutes

Richard Bernstein.

On June 29, Slate's Johann Hari harshly reviewed Richard Bernstein's new book, The East, the West, and Sex, a history of the fetishization of Eastern women. Then today, over a month later, they appended this glorious correction:

This review originally included two phrases that could have given the incorrect impression that Richard Bernstein has attended, or approves of, brothels where women are coerced. (The piece called a brothel in Bangladesh "one of the harems Bernstein gets moist and sweaty over" and suggested that Bernstein seemed to have written the book to "stem a guilty conscience about his own past.") This was not Johann Hari's intention, or Slate's. We have amended these sentences to clarify that Bernstein does not approve of forced prostitution.


Oops! Typically when authors get crappy reviews, their only recourse is firing off a few angry tweets or leaving incensed comments on their critics' personal blogs. But today, since Slate likely felt bad about the whole "approve of forced prostitution" thing, they gave Bernstein 1,300 words to defend himself (a Slate spokesperson tells us no lawsuit was threatened and Slate editor David Plotz says, "like most magazines, we offer people who feel wronged by one of our pieces the chance to respond").

And he has certainly responded! Hari, says Bernstein, has not produced one shred of evidence that proves he has ever visited a brothel in which women are enslaved:

"Moist and sweaty": more overwrought language on our reviewer's part, the slanderous meaning of which is that I get off on the sexual enslavement of women, and that's why I fail to understand the moral horror of my own subject. This demagogic bit of character assassination, and one other false statement by Hari (according to him, I wrote the book because I have a "guilty conscience" about my own past!), is to be deleted by Slate from Hari's review, since he is unable to point to any evidence to justify his claims.


But, as you're likely wondering, does Bernstein ejaculate over others' patronage of brothels?

Do I ejaculate approvingly over the Western men who engage their services? I do not.


So, all cleared up, then.

The Birth, and Death, of the Asian Babe [Slate]
Defending My Book [Slate]

Photo: Courtesy of Random House