Sure you can have empathy and do bad things to people — but not without further reasons. People simply do not just go around hurting each other — not even when there’s no consequence.
So when people hurt each other, you’d typically see one of the following cases:
- “Yes, it would hurt her, and I want to hurt her”
- “I had not considered that it might hurt her — I’ll never do it again”
- “Yes it would hurt her, but that doesn’t matter compared to my desires”
Or, and this is where Johnson falls — the failure to recognize at all the other persons perspective. Seriously, empathy is completely absent from the piece. At no point does it factor into his considerations of his actions.
Consider his piece from this point of view: given what Johnson makes clear of his own considerations, do you think he’d think he had done something wrong if he had committed rape but gotten away with it? If there would be a feeling of guilt, where would that come from?
So no, empathy is not a red herring.