Changing Systems is Different than Running Controlled Experiments - Don’t Choose How to Run Your Country That Way!

post by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T05:37:49.980Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 260 comments

Contents

  Example 1:
    Summary:
  Example 2:
    Summary:
  Overall Summary:
None
260 comments

Trigger warning: Discussion of rape.

Example 1:

Say that each morning you tell yourself that you are lazy for not wanting to get out of bed to go to work, as a way to convince yourself to get up. Perhaps if the only variable you changed was to lower your level of guilt, you might not get out of bed to go to work, and would instead take the day off. So if you are running a motivation system that uses guilt, feeling guilt may well be something you do not want to get rid of. If you got rid of the guilt but stopped going to work, that would likely be a net negative for your life.

To contrast, with animal training, you reinforce behavior you want in the animal, and interrupt, redirect, or completely ignore (ie: no shaming or guilting) behavior you don't want. It's also a similar methodology that meditation uses. When you meditate, you are told to focus on a meditative object such as the breath. When your mind wanders from the meditative object, you are instructed to just return your attention to the meditative object, and to not in any way punish yourself for having wandered. Also, you are instructed to not punish yourself for punishing yourself for having your mind wander. Meditation does not use reward during the meditative process, although it's common to sound a beautiful chime which will give hedons at the end of a session, and people often perform a pleasant ritual before and/or after meditation that builds positive association with the activity of meditating. Example page of meditation instructions.

So, if you switch to a positive reinforcement motivational system, such as that which animal trainers use to train dogs, then guilt is counter-productive for motivation, because it is a form of punishment.

Example Summary:

If you only change one variable from a motivation system that uses guilt, then it may break the system, and be a net negative. However, there is likely a way to get a net utility gain by changing several variables of the system, such as by switching to a positive reinforcement based system where you add instant rewards that increase hedons and remove guilt and other punishments.

Example 2:

As it stands, there are many unreported rapes in American society. This excellent article debunks many myths about rape, including the classic myth that rapes are generally done by strangers using force:

A huge proportion of the women I know enough to talk with about it have survived an attempted or completed rape. None of them was raped by a stranger who attacked them from behind a bush, hid in the back of her car or any of the other scenarios that fit the social script of stranger rape. Anyone reading this post, in fact, is likely to know that six out of seven rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.

The author goes on to explain how most rapes are from repeat offenders who by a median age of 26.5, on average rape around 5-6 women each, and that it is almost always someone who was part of the woman's social circle, and intoxicants are usually used.

The suggestion of change of system that I got from this post is actually in the title of the blog: "Yes Means Yes."

If the social rules for consent are changed from "if a woman does not say no, then it may or may not be okay" to "it is only okay if a woman says yes," then the boundary becomes a lot more clear to both parties. It would be a pretty radical system change, that would make a lot of people uncomfortable.

To be more clear - with a "Yes Means Yes" system, you don't need to have "No Means No", because sex is only had when there is a Yes. If a woman is too drunk to say or enforce no, then she is also too drunk to say yes, and sex is not had unless there is explicit consent. Having a Yes Means Yes social policy would change the onus of responsibility for making sure that sex is consensual from the woman - who is obligated to say no if she doesn't want to - to both parties who must say yes to proceed. This would not stop all rape by any means, but if implemented in a system where people were taught good communication and assertiveness, it would cut down on it. For example, instead of feeling that it was her fault because she got drunk and didn't say no aggressively enough, a woman would realize quickly, "hey, I didn't say yes!" and a predatorial guy who was one of the small percentage of men who rape women would also realize that the woman would be less likely to just feel ashamed and keep quiet and would be more likely to take action to defend herself.

Perhaps some people would be afraid that they'd remain virgins for life in this system - some men might be afraid that they'd be too shy to ever ask, some women might not feel comfortable actually admitting that they want sex. And therefore, people of both genders might be resistant to switching systems because they would imagine the switch without a complete social system switch or training. And as it stands, perhaps a lot less sex would happen at first. A system like that would require retraining a lot of society to be more assertive.

Example Summary:

Just shifting one variable and telling men to say "I only have sex when women say yes" would be very weird. If a guy tried to implement that in the current system, some people might look at him like he was crazy or even get offended.

I think the "Yes Means Yes" system would work beautifully in a society that functioned based on a different system - where the social norm, which people were trained in, was to identify and state one's desires, and to not proceed without clarity. I do think it would cut down on rape, and unreported rape.

Overall Summary:

I've discovered that when talking to people about potential novel systems, that the most common response I get is for them to say why the alternative system won't work, based on what would happen if you changed one variable of the current system to be more like the novel system. Examples: "If I didn't feel guilty, I'd never get anything done," or "In a system where you always had to have a clear yes before having sex, people would feel really awkward and uncomfortable and opt out." (Alternatively I will often hear people justify alternative systems using similar arguments about single-variable changes.)

The examples above are a couple of the more simple examples of this general principle I've been observing quite a lot lately.

Consider how this applies to government systems, and other social systems. There are so many parts dependent on each other, that it is very hard to shift any single one without creating a domino effect of other shifts. So making any argument about how changing a single variable would fix or destroy a complex system like government is usually a huge oversimplification.

To quote Einstein:

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

My thoughts on making large-scale change, are that you need to be thinking large scale. If you want to be a change maker, it is best to start small in your actions, study and experiment a lot. Focus your studies on success and failure scenarios as close as possible to what it is you want to effect, while as diverse as possible from each other.

Running single-variable experiments is important - it is just that it is only how you understand a little corner of the problem to be solved - that's not how you find the solution itself to a problem involving a complex system.

To give a biological analogy: Cancer is what happens when a single type of cell tries to become the whole system. Running a single-variable controlled experiment to determine what type of complex system you want to choose is like trying to determine the optimal form of cancer, as opposed to looking at an entire entity. Life is complicated.

260 comments

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comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-11T08:12:03.138Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a strong but not particularly sensible aversion to LW posts with weird formatting. Could you strip the font tags out of this post?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T19:57:46.802Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, I wrote it in Google Docs and then copy/pasted - my guess is that stripping the formatting while maintaining structure would be a significant endeavor at this point - Google adds a lot of tags.

comment by arundelo · 2013-06-11T22:12:07.896Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I put a reformatted version on Pastebin. If you want to use this, press the "HTML" button in the LW post editor and paste into the window that appears. (I also made a handful of small punctuation tweaks.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T23:07:21.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Done, thank you!

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-11T20:34:14.951Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Try copy/pasting it again, but using Ctrl+Shift+V instead of Ctrl+V; this removes formatting. (It probably also removes links, though. Hmm.)

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-10T20:20:17.941Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like your examples, and recognize the problem you point out, but I don't agree with your conclusion.

The problem with counter-arguments of the form "Well, if we changed this one variable of a social system to a very different value, X would break!" is that variables like that usually change slowly, with only a small number of people fully and quickly adopting any change, and the rest moving along with the gradually shifting Overton window.

Additionally, having a proposed solution that involves changing a large number of things should probably set off warning alarms in your head: such solutions are more difficult to implement and have a greater number of working parts.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-10T22:51:25.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the thoughtful response. I want to note that my solution is not to change many variables simultaneously and casually - to the contrary, I'm saying that I want to avoid oversimplification. I'm thinking more multi-variable experiments are probably good, and more thought experiments, when changing large systems. But in general, its just really hard.

As one example of how I see things going wrong: I think a lot of really good changes end up failing/getting rejected because people actually have thoughts correct about changing one variable, but because they only change that variable and have it fail in the current system, they discard the idea. This actually ends up slowing down good change a lot, since people are inaccurately thinking that they are proving good ideas false.

I'm a proponent of more careful thought and being slow to think one has the right solution to complex problems, even when one has something that appears to be an answer.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-11T15:18:51.548Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Um...maybe I'm misreading, but I think you're agreeing.

OP:

If you want to be a change maker, it is best to start small in your actions, study and experiment a lot.

vs

variables like that usually change slowly, with only a small number of people fully and quickly adopting any change, and the rest moving along with the gradually shifting Overton window.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T00:36:12.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just shifting one variable and telling men to say “I only have sex when women say yes” would be very weird. If a guy tried to implement that in the current system, some people might look at him like he was crazy or even get offended.

Luckily, there's actually a culture striving towards this. My favorite framing of the desired behavior is "Enthusiastic consent".

Reinforcing the idea that consent should be enthusiastic - and that enthusiastic consent is desirable and sexy - will go a long way towards quickly shifting the system.

I'm going to talk in gender-normative terms now, since a good deal of the problem exists within those gender-normative spaces.

For men, "enthusiastic consent" isn't merely a behavioral shift; it's a values shift. It's the recognition that they actually kinda WANT enthusiastic consent from their potential partners. A lot of the current language still carries so-called "slut-shaming" baggage - "I kinda like a girl who's a whore in bed", etc. - so there's work that needs to be done to either find better terms, or 're-claim' the terms that are being used. But I think the principle is there and rooted deeply enough in the current culture that it shouldn't be too difficult to get men behind the idea that a girl who is blatantly "into it" is a preferable partner to a girl who is unsure, ambivalent, or even directly hostile to the idea.

For women, "enthusiastic consent" seems much more like a simple behavioral shift than like a values shift, but I may be mistaken there due to a lack of personal perspective. Any values shift that occurs, it seems to me, would be one towards self-esteem and away from seeing themselves as a prize to be competed for and won, and seeing men as merely competitors for the prize of their affection.

Aha, no; I was mistaken - I think it is a values shift on both sides. And I think the deeper value shift that would need to occur on the woman's side is to stop treating pick-up technique as a tool in the intragender competition for status. Adopting 'enthusiastic consent' means abandoning the idea that a woman's worth is based on the quality of man she can acquire, and treating the negotiation of sexual encounters as desirable for their own sake instead of merely as a signal. Luckily, culture is already shifting in that direction rather rapidly, so there isn't nearly as much work to be done there as with men.

Maybe the whole thing could be framed in marketing terms - women's liberation could be framed as much more appealing to the sort of men who typically denigrate it, if the idea of freer, easier, and more enthusiastic sexual encounters was added as a deal-sweetener. There would still be some hold-outs among men who "prefer to be the pursuer", of course, but those hold-outs will narrow as the underbelly of those processes get exposed via contrast with their alternatives.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-06-12T08:57:18.920Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My favorite framing of the desired behavior is "Enthusiastic consent".

What about those of us who aren't interested in doing "enthusiasm". Are we perpetually banned from the ability to consent to sex?

The concept of "enthusiastic consent" seems to me to devalue the importance of consent by itself. I want my "yes" to mean "yes", I don't want to have to shout "Yes, oh god yippee yes!". Why can't the former be respected and accepted by itself, without the need for "enthusiasm"?

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-12T08:59:24.141Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Enthusiasm" doesn't mean exuberance. It means unequivocal agreement. You don't need to jump up and down, but you at least need to give unambiguous signals. Does that make sense?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-06-12T09:26:00.015Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Enthusiasm" doesn't mean exuberance.

Yes, yes it does.

It means unequivocal agreement

Where did you get that definition from? No, "enthusiasm" doesn't mean "unequivocal" in English, it means excitement and exuberance.

You don't need to jump up and down, but you at least need to give unambiguous signals. Does that make sense?

Then "clear consent" or "unambiguous consent" or "loud consent" would have been the term used. "Enthusiastic consent" clearly means that unless you are excited over something, you can't consent. That if you are hesitant or bored or "whatever" but agreeable you can't consent

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-12T10:50:14.887Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please don't dispute definitions. Your interlocutor has clarified what they meant by the term.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-06-12T13:04:09.832Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, ialdabaoth has clarified what ialdabaoth means, that doesn't necessitate that it's the same thing the words are intended to mean when communicated by the majority of people using them, nor does it necessitate that it's the same thing that is understood by the majority of people hearing it.

I believe that ialdabaoth has misunderstood the concept in its intended meaning by the people who invented the concept, and I believe ialdabaoth is wrong about what the word "enthusiastic" communicates to pretty much everyone.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T21:18:00.460Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, prior to reading this thread my understanding of what advocates of "enthusiastic consent" are talking about was much closer to ialdabaoth's meaning than to yours.

To be more specific, I have always understood it as attempting to contrast with grudging consent, and as having nothing at all to do with exuberance or excitement.

That being said, I agree that understanding how an audience will interpret my phrasing is critically important if I want to communicate to that audience. If you understand "enthusiastic consent" to mean that excitement and exuberance must be expressed, then it's a really bad phrase to use when trying to communicate with you and those like you.

And if you're correct that pretty much everyone shares your linguistic intuitions here (and ialdabaoth and I are aberrant outliers), then it's a bad phrase to use when trying to communicate with pretty much everyone.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T21:18:42.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, I also interpreted it as you and ialdabaoth.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:02:00.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To be more specific, I have always understood it as attempting to contrast with grudging consent, and as having nothing at all to do with exuberance or excitement.

Ok. The thing is that grudging consent is still consent. If you grudgingly buy something you can't sue to get your money back.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-15T03:07:52.806Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that grudging consent is still consent. My understanding of what advocates of "enthusiastic consent" are talking about includes the idea that mere consent is insufficient for sex... e.g that sex is held to a different standard than marketplace purchases. (Lemon laws similarly establish an alternate threshold for car purchases.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T04:04:40.232Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My understanding of what advocates of "enthusiastic consent" are talking about includes the idea that mere consent is insufficient for sex... e.g that sex is held to a different standard than marketplace purchases.

I don't think most feminists would say that explicitly, because that immediately raises the question of why should the standards be different and why that particular standard. Incidentally, I've been involved in at least one argument with a feminist where "my side's" goal was for or less to get him to admit that the above was a consequence of his position.

(Lemon laws similarly establish an alternate threshold for car purchases.)

Lemon laws are different, they're about the buyer being misinformed.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-15T04:41:04.481Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I expect that most of the feminists I know would agree with my statement.

In general, my country's laws don't treat sex as equivalent to marketplace purchases, so the question of why the standard should be different for the two doesn't seem terribly important to avoid... we run into analogous questions all the time without fleeing from them.

The question of why that particular standard might be worth avoiding; I'm unsure.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T05:16:07.120Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I expect that most of the feminists I know would agree with my statement.

Come to think of it, the feminist in question was on the extreme sex-positive end.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T21:27:36.730Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but I still think it's a bad thing when people are talked into begrudgingly buy stuff they don't actually want, and I would be in favour of changing social norms so that that happens less often... if only I had any idea how to do that without also disapproving of bargaining.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-16T03:39:20.689Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

if only I had any idea how to do that without also disapproving of bargaining.

This was going to be my reply to you comment. Basically, this is why people doing things "begrudgingly" is not necessarily a bad thing.

comment by khafra · 2013-06-12T13:02:43.564Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ArisKatsaris is not arguing that ialdabaoth is wrong, based on the definition of a word. He's arguing that evangelizing people using a particular word is going to have a different effect than the evangelist has predicted; which seems completely reasonable. Whatever ialdabaoth means by "enthusiastic," if he's telling other people to look for enthusiasm, those other people are going to use their own definition.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T23:44:56.850Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And I think the deeper value shift that would need to occur on the woman's side is to stop treating pick-up technique as a tool in the intragender competition for status. Adopting 'enthusiastic consent' means abandoning the idea that a woman's worth is based on the quality of man she can acquire, and treating the negotiation of sexual encounters as desirable for their own sake instead of merely as a signal. Luckily, culture is already shifting in that direction rather rapidly, so there isn't nearly as much work to be done there as with men.

This is more or less one of the way the PUA/Game crowd model women's behavior except that as they will tell you it is not in fact declining.

Maybe the whole thing could be framed in marketing terms

You seriously think that what is likely a deeply embedded aspect of human nature can be changed with a little marketing?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T01:27:49.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You seriously think that what is likely a deeply embedded aspect of human nature can be changed with a little marketing?

Hmm ... consider the change in popular perceptions of homosexuality over the past fifty to seventy-five years. Or, for that matter, women's economic role.

Things that people have in the past thought are "human nature" (or, more broadly, matters of "natural" and "unnatural") turn out to be quite socially malleable over just a few generations.

We shouldn't expect ourselves to be all that unusual in the course of human history; therefore, we should conclude that things that seem to us to be "human nature" — especially ones that inspire controversy and defensiveness — are likely to turn out to be socially malleable, too.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-13T10:17:01.220Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

... I'd be VERY interested to hear the rationale behind voting this comment down.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:07:52.391Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You seriously think that what is likely a deeply embedded aspect of human nature can be changed with a little marketing?

Hmm ... consider the change in popular perceptions of homosexuality over the past fifty to seventy-five years.

I don't see who this is at all analogous. What's the perceived embedded aspect of human nature you claim changed in your example?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-15T04:39:35.631Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There once was a popular perception that homosexuality was against human nature.

Quaint, ain't it?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T05:14:02.247Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There once was a popular perception that homosexuality was against human nature.

There are two ways to ways to interpret the italicized statement:

1) most humans do not want to engage in homosexual behavior.

2) people who want to engage in homosexual behavior are "deviant" and likely to exhibit other "deviant" behaviors.

Note that neither of these versions were falsified by "the change in popular perceptions of homosexuality over the past fifty to seventy-five years".

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-15T06:12:18.737Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are lots of other ways to interpret it! Forget not the words of the saints, that whenever you think there are two ways something could be, you should look for at least five ways. I'll name one, and let you think of the other two:

3. People who exhibit homosexual behavior do so out of a choice to rebel self-destructively against what would be good for them.

(This is a somewhat secularized version of what I take to be the Catholic Church's position on that particular matter.)

However, I think you mistook my point, which was a sort of self-sampling argument and not an argument about that particular topic. We shouldn't take our own perceptions of what's normal or natural very seriously on topics where we observe that there has been a lot of wibbly-wobbly change in perceptions of what's normal or natural ... because those topics are unusually likely to be ones where we've come to believe an unlikely local myth of normality or naturalness.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-16T03:16:34.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People who exhibit homosexual behavior do so out of a choice to rebel self-destructively against what would be good for them.

Which hasn't been falsified either.

However, I think you mistook my point, which was a sort of self-sampling argument and not an argument about that particular topic. We shouldn't take our own perceptions of what's normal or natural very seriously on topics where we observe that there has been a lot of wibbly-wobbly change in perceptions of what's normal or natural ... because those topics are unusually likely to be ones where we've come to believe an unlikely local myth of normality or naturalness.

So are you claiming there are many societies out there where women don't treat the dating game partially as a competition intragender status? Or is your idea of "avoiding self-sampling" limited to looking at the past 50 years of western culture and extrapolating?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T23:41:38.005Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My favorite framing of the desired behavior is "Enthusiastic consent".

Taboo: "Enthusiastic consent". Once you've done that you might want to ask: How likely is it for there to be a misunderstanding about whether something constituted "enthusiastic consent" or not? How easy would it be for a woman who did give "enthusiastic consent" to deny having done so after the fact because she doesn't what the stigma of having cheated on her boyfriend/having slept with a low status guy/etc.?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T01:39:26.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How likely is it for there to be a misunderstanding about whether something constituted "enthusiastic consent" or not?

Pretty unlikely. Being self-consciously dishonest is unpleasant and worth avoiding. People like to think of themselves as being good and honest. Most social dishonesty is less conscious and explicit than that, and hinges on maintaining ambiguity and deniability to oneself as well as to others.

However, we're disproportionately likely to hear of situations like that, because of narrative bias: that sort of thing, while rare, creates dramatic stories which people are unusually likely to repeat to each other and get each other emotionally involved in. Moreover, since we acquire a lot of our beliefs about society from fiction, if we haven't done careful sociological research, our models of social behavior are likely to be riven with narrative bias: ideas that tell us that the social world acts like movies, dramas, sitcoms, and soap operas much more than it actually does.

(Put another way: People have to be pretty honest much of the time, otherwise we wouldn't have a society that made any kind of sense. But good fiction about social interactions is more engaging if it's got as many levels of deceit as our little brains can handle. Since we acquire a lot of our model of society — especially parts of society that we're not personally familiar with — from fiction, we're likely to think of them as being more dramatic and deceptive than they really are.)

How easy would it be for a woman who did give "enthusiastic consent" to deny having done so after the fact because she doesn't what the stigma of having cheated on her boyfriend/having slept with a low status guy/etc.?

It seems to me that it would be a very curious theory of human sexual interaction which modeled women as scheming Machiavellian agents and men as disarmingly forthright chumps.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T02:21:17.640Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pretty unlikely. Being self-consciously dishonest is unpleasant and worth avoiding. People like to think of themselves as being good and honest. Most social dishonesty is less conscious and explicit than that, and hinges on maintaining ambiguity and deniability to oneself as well as to others.

Precisely, and retroactively rationalizing that you did not give "enthusiastic consent" strikes me as a decent example of such ambiguity.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2013-06-13T05:17:48.545Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Somewhat ironic given the original meaning of "enthusiastic": possessed by a god.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T05:20:11.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whereas I think the way that I and ialdabaoth are using the idea of "enthusiastic consent", it is (in part) about being unambiguous. So I think we are using terms differently here.

I'm curious if you have a substantive response to the rest of that comment, by the way.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T05:57:06.366Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whereas I think the way that I and ialdabaoth are using the idea of "enthusiastic consent", it is (in part) about being unambiguous.

The problem is that you haven't actually defined standards for "enthusiastic consent" and near as I can tell neither have any of the other people arguing for it. It's not enough to simply assert that something should be unambiguous. Since the property of being unambiguous is itself ambiguous.

I'm curious if you have a substantive response to the rest of that comment, by the way.

As for your accusations of narrative bias, the same could be said about the existence of this supposed "rape culture".

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-12T03:36:06.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Having a Yes Means Yes social policy would change the onus of responsibility for making sure that sex is consensual from the woman - who is obligated to say no if she doesn't want to - to both parties who must say yes to proceed.

I'm in my late 40s, and in my experience women of my generation generally do not want the onus put on them in sexual or romantic matters, and prefer the onus to be on the man to make overtures. It's for the man to pursue, and the woman to say no. If a man doesn't pursue, and soon enough, the woman loses interests and will often attribute the lack of pursuit to a character flaw in the man. I don't know that she's wrong.

When I was younger I used to spin webs of "wouldn't it be better if people did X instead". Maybe it would be. Maybe it would be better if people were unicorns instead of people. But they aren't. At least most of them aren't. Things are the way they are for reasons, not magic.

comment by savageorange · 2013-06-12T06:33:56.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They don't want to take responsibility? Then they can join the club consisting of everybody else. That just makes them wrong, not justified. Responsibility is absolutely needed, for everyone, all the time. Being born bad at it, or being excused from it, being ridiculed when you do take it, whatever.., makes no change to what your responsibilities are as a person.

(IOW your argument seems to be about 'how things are', with no actual serious consideration of how they can realistically be improved; it seems to be entirely orthogonal to the main post.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T06:16:48.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To be clear, I agree with you that a lot of women don't want the onus put on them, I was trying to make that point in what I wrote, although I obviously did not make it directly enough.

I do think that with a cultural shift, this is changeable. I don't think making that cultural shift would be easy, although I do think its possible and that some liberal culture is moving that direction. Also, I know culture around sex is very different in other countries, and I have no idea how this all plays out elsewhere.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-12T11:06:08.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find attitudes around mating rituals surprisingly traditional even among people otherwise ideologically opposed to anything traditional, and supposedly beyond old fashioned gender roles.

I find it puzzling and extremely alien the way many women who I find quite reasonable otherwise rather unreasonably, in my mind, refuse to make a move, instead hoping that their desired man will. But that's the way it is. This rule has barely budged compared to other sexual rules, which have changed enormously in the last 40 years.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T03:50:23.666Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, thank you for the example about how multiple variables would need to be changed for this system to work, and how ideas get dismissed on the basis that they can only be implemented in the current system without looking at the other variables.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-12T09:23:36.768Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We should consider separately whether a situation A could be improved by changing into a situation B (by changing multiple variables), and how to realistically get from A to B.

Because, I can talk about all the variables that should be changed... but the only variable I can change is my own behavior. (Technically, my own behavior is also a set of variables, but that is important for different kind of decisions.) So we sometimes get into a multi-player Prisonners' Dilemma. (For example, I can wait until women start showing their interest in me first, but... some other guy may just move faster; and the punchline is that at the end most of those women will appreciate that he did.)

There is also a technical risk in changing multiple variables. What if we succeed in changing some of them, but fail in changing others of them, and end up with a situation C which may be even worse than A? And that's actually pretty likely, because you often can't change many variables at the same time, and when you change only half of them, you may get a worse situation, which may make people say: "OK, this is just getting worse, let's stop."

Also, the more variables we change, the harder it is to predict the consequences. There is a big chance that something unexpected happens, and the reality will look differently than the B we predicted. And if it happens to be worse than A, now what? Change all the variables back? How politically likely is that?

Uhm... it's complicated. I don't want to make it a fully general counterargument against multi-variable changes, but it should increase the burden of proof significantly.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T09:58:15.584Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great point. It is definitely much harder to change many variables than one.

I think that what is the correct thing to do depends lot on context and importance.

For example, picking the right government system, or preventing rape, are worth a lot of effort in my book. And worth some seriously challenging systemic changes. In other cases, it may be best to only consider what can be accomplished with single variable shifts, and to throw out more complex possibilities.

Also, I think a lot of things you simply can't shift by only changing one thing at a time, so in those cases, it is many or nothing.

One thing that helps is to do a lot of study before making changes. If you can run models ahead of time, that is awesome. Then the cost of looking at many variables is greatly reduced, because its not a big deal if a model fails.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T20:54:24.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If having to say “yes” or “no” in response to an offer counts as having an onus put on you... Then I'd prefer one of the few women who aren't like that.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-16T06:08:18.832Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sure that's what you'd prefer, all other things being equal. And if you could order up women from Dell, custom designed to your specs, you'd check that box.

But in practice, the very nice gal you've taken an interest in turns out not to be like that. And the next one. And the next after that. Is this single feature so important that you'd rather be alone than consider a woman not "up to spec"?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-16T07:21:52.980Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But in practice, the very nice gal you've taken an interest in turns out not to be like that. And the next one. And the next after that.

Then there's probably something wrong with the way I decide which people to meet in the first place.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-13T19:27:35.874Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(I suspected that there was some inferential distance due to cultural/pondian differences, but I recently spent a week and a half in a country overseas where (according to Wikipedia at least) there are even fewer atheists than in the US, and ISTM that women willing to own up to wanting sex exist there too. So, if you're having trouble finding such people, unless you're in an Islamic theocracy or something I have to guess you're just looking in the wrong places.)

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-07-13T22:25:42.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All sorts of people exist everywhere. I intended only a valid observation on the general population, not a rule without exceptions.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T14:12:59.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Things are the way they are for reasons, not magic.

Who is claiming magical or otherwise non-sensical causes?

comment by cimon_alexander · 2013-06-10T20:48:47.772Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Slightly OT, but I always wonder that people presume that men will be in full cognitive control to do something difficult (act out novel behaviors against prevailing norms) when women are "too drunk to consent". This seems to be bad social engineering driven by ideology. On the other hand, attempts to prevent situations where rape occurs (e.g. when drunk and horny people of the opposite sex congregate) is viewed as "blaming the victim". I believe this to be an unfortunate side-effect of feminism emerging from left-wing philosophies (edit: which support "sexual liberation").

On your larger point, I agree. The scientific method is used to hone in on a local optimum. It is slow and incremental. In messy, complex social phenomena we are likely nowhere near a global optimum so there is room for large-scale experimentation and intuition.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-10T23:30:34.675Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, this is not to say that you are not correct about some cases - I'm sure there are many cases where two horny people have sex and were not in control then the woman later calls it rape. Its just that given things such as the article listed and my own observations in the world, I'm inclined to believe that it is not what is happening in the majority of cases.

This is one of those complex things getting oversimplified. Perhaps part of the problem is indeed related to over-eager feminists over-simplifying the problem, and thus turning off men who can empathize with the notion of acting overly aggressively when drunk and causing them to over-simplify the problem in return.

I just saw this post going around Facebook, and I've actually heard some really sadistic things from women who have confided to me in person things that rapists will say during or afterward. It is my belief that there are both mistakes of the sort you are talking about, and and actual sick sadistic bastards out there who intentionally use alcohol to make it easier for them to have power over someone else and violate them. And many other scenarios as well.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-11T08:52:01.924Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seems to me there is a lot of confusion and/or miscommunication about this topic (and the manner this topic is typically discussed, is also not helpful).

From the links at your article and this comment, I get an idea that there are many violent rapes done by relatively few men, repeatedly. From a typical online discussion with a feminist, I get an idea that every man is a rapist, and that men constructed the whole society to help each other get away with their crimes. -- These two ideas seem rather contradictory. Or at least have opposite connotations.

I suspect that what really happened is this: There are some horrible crimes that almost everyone (except the offenders) would like to prevent, or at least punish. But we fail to do that, and that makes us feel frustrated. So in the absence of a proper solution, we want to find at least something, anything, to make us feel that we did something useful, that we are not completely helpless. Which invites all kinds of irrationality.

As an analogy, imagine that we live in a large village with wooden houses, and once in a few months, a house is set on fire. It is obviously caused by a human, but it has been happening for years, and we never succeeded to catch anyone. We can't watch everything and everyone all the time, so the arsonist has all the opportunity they need. (We are not even sure it was the same arsonist all the time, but the experience from other villages suggests that it is usually only a person or two per village.) We are desperate, and we are helpless.

In the absence of a proper solution, random pseudosolutions appear naturally. For example, whenever someone shows some anger (whether justified by circumstances, or not), people start saying that this is the kind of personality that could make one become an arsonist. Or when someone lights a cigarette, they are accused of "enjoying fire".

Sometimes political coalitions are built on common interests. For example an organization against smoking adopted the "smokers enjoy fire, which makes them dangerous to their neighbors" as their slogan, first because it instrumentally helped their goals, but gradually the slogan attracted new members who sincerely believed it. A huge theory about a "fire culture" is developed, theorizing that the ancient arsonists invented bonfires to make burning down of their neighbors' houses more socially acceptable; some people make a tenure studying this.

A few years later, smoking is banned, people are taught never to display anger in public, etc. Yet, the arsonist remains uncaught, and once in a few months, another house is set on fire. Which is seen as a proof that we have to be more tough on fire, perhaps remove all positive mentions of fire from books, or something. Because obviously, having a house set on fire every few months, is not how we imagine a decent society where we want to live.

EDIT: I also agree with ialdabaoth's analysis.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-12T02:55:39.641Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the links at your article and this comment, I get an idea that there are many violent rapes done by relatively few men, repeatedly. From a typical online discussion with a feminist, I get an idea that every man is a rapist, and that men constructed the whole society to help each other get away with their crimes. -- These two ideas seem rather contradictory. Or at least have opposite connotations.

I suspect that what really happened is this: There are some horrible crimes that almost everyone (except the offenders) would like to prevent, or at least punish. But we fail to do that, and that makes us feel frustrated. So in the absence of a proper solution, we want to find at least something, anything, to make us feel that we did something useful, that we are not completely helpless. Which invites all kinds of irrationality.

Alternative hypothesis: there are different phenomena that all get grouped into the category 'rape', even though they happen in different ways and for different reasons. Because the outcomes are the same (severe emotional trauma, socially stigmatizing positive feedback loops, and horrific displays of power disparity), it makes sense to group all these phenomena together, and in fact failure to do so can sometimes appear to be legitimizing certain behaviors or downplaying certain experiences (the old "it wasn't RAPE-rape" schtick).

But if our goal is prevention, we actually do need to examine the different ways in which different rapes occur.

My limited observations:

There's a very small number of men who commit multiple violent rapes due to sociopathic tendencies (biologically impaired empathy and impulse control). In a prior post, I called these men 'desperados'.

There's a larger number of men who commit multiple coercive rapes due to access and reinforcement (socially impaired empathy and easily exploitable power disparities). In that same post, I called these men 'predators'.

There's a much, much larger number of men who help out the 'predator' group by maintaining their power disparity and maintaining the environment that impairs their empathy. A small number of these men also attempt to mimic the predators as a status signal. In the previous post, I called these mimickers 'schlubs'. I have also heard them called 'dudebros'.

But the point is, they each are doing very different things, and the way to prevent them from inflicting harm on society is different.

The first group are easily combatted by law enforcement, and in fact the current methodology of law enforcement is designed to do exactly that. They are outlaws, and thus they almost always get caught.

The third group can only be combatted by social pressure, because there's just too damn many of them. Their behavior has to be de-normalized so that they no longer wish to emulate the predators.

The second group are the hardest ones to catch, because most often they are closer to the people in charge of the catching than we are. When a US president, or a prominent lawyer, or a police chief, or a movie mogul, or a sports superstar sexually assaults a woman, what the hell are you supposed to do about that? Because the people who are supposed to arrest them are likely to just give them a free pass due to their social status, as are the people who are supposed to condemn them, as are the people who are supposed to teach them better.

So, since group 2 are out of reach, the people who REALLY WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS start focusing their rage on group 3, and on random parts of the system that they perceive group 3 supporting. Sometimes they're actually right, but sometimes they aren't.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-12T08:54:13.839Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

socially impaired empathy

These are well-chosen words.

Once I had a short experience of teaching in a private school for high-status children, and the environment felt like a training room for sociopaths. The children were reinforced, every day, for years, that no rules apply to them, their actions have no consequences, and everything is someone else's fault and someone else's problem. (The only rule was to never cross a path of someone even more powerful than you.) Any kind of problem can be fixed, first by parents, and later I assume by powerful friends; which is why it is critical to know a lot of people in the same social class, and be ready to offer the same kind of help to them.

Approximating on what I saw there, I can well imagine that if they would later rape someone and face a trial, their sincere thoughts would be: "Why are these people making such a big deal out of nothing? Are they insane, or what? I should call my parents/friends to get me rid of this stupidity." And after the problem would be fixed, their only emotion would be an indignation about how some stupid person had the audacity to bother them over nothing; and their friends would completely agree with them.

(I wish I had a statistics about how many of them, 10 or 20 years later, end in jail, and how many in parliament or similar. I guess, some of them could really end in jail, not because of the justice system per se, because they will overestimate their power and contacts in some specific situation, or unknowingly cross the path of someone more powerful. But maybe this is just a wishful thinking.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T10:23:13.327Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fascinating.

I will meditate on this more, it relates to many things I'm processing right now and makes a lot of sense.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-13T10:51:38.127Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please come back with your thoughts once they're ready; this is the most productive and nuanced conversation I've managed to have on this topic in quite some time.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T16:52:51.121Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unfortunately I can't talk about these thoughts, since they're mostly mapping what he's describing in people to my personal experience and analysis of that.

If you have public digital record of other productive and nuanced conversation on this topic, I'd love if you'd link.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T03:40:46.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The power disparity point for group 2 is important. My understanding and observation is that its not about sex for them, hence why the term predator is very appropriate. As the article I cited reports, there is an overlap between those who rape and those who abuse children. Its not about sex for this group, its about power and having someone helpless under your control who can do nothing to stop you while you violate them. To these people, that is hot.

That's not something most people get, so that's part of the confusion - normal people assume that rapists are a single consistent population that do things like get drunk and lose control while wanting sex, and that's how they normal people empathize with the behavior.

The rapists that are in this group 2 are very mentally differently motivated than most people. Its a little easier to understand when you look at the things some of them say. And they really do say these things - I've heard things as sadistic or worse than what is posted on these signs, both from women who have been raped and people of both genders who were abused as children.

It is very unfortunate that there is so much confusion about how it is just a few specific men (and women when we add in child abuse) who act this way, and neither "no men" nor "all men." It is also frustrating how they can blend so well, and how since very few people want to talk or think about this topic or consider that they could possibly know someone in this category, the guys who do this sort of thing generally just get away with it so long as they are not stupid enough to do anything like videotape their actions. Few are that stupid.

Its also worth pointing out that I think there are many more groups. For example, there probably actually are occasions where a guy does drugs or gets drunk and gets out of control and it is not motivated by a more systemic lack of empathy or darker problems.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-12T07:53:49.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The power disparity point for group 2 is important. My understanding and observation is that its not about sex for them, hence why the term predator is very appropriate. As the article I cited reports, there is an overlap between those who rape and those who abuse children. Its not about sex for this group, its about power and having someone helpless under your control who can do nothing to stop you while you violate them. To these people, that is hot.

Yes! And it's not just rape.

There's a certain kind of man who has a lot of power, and who really, really enjoys overt displays of his power over anyone he perceives as weak. Luckily, he's pretty rare. Unfortunately, there's another kind of man who isn't very powerful, but who sees the first man as a role-model, and who will march to that first man's drum.

In a lot of cases, actually, the choice of women as the target is just a Schelling point - women are perceived as weak, so they're seen as easy prey, so they get preyed on more, so society normalizes the preying, so they're perceived as weak.

EDIT: A trivial and somewhat pathetic example of this - there is someone on this site that, every time they log in, every one of my posts that I've made since the last time they logged in gets voted down. If I email them to ask about it, someone new registers to the site, and then every post that I've made for the last few months gets voted down again.

Some people treat everything as a chance to inflict power.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-12T11:52:21.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know if it makes sense to complain, but the first linked article starts by this:

The week started with the arrests of two Steubenville girls ... The 16-year-old is charged with one misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing for threatening the life of the victim on Twitter. The 15-year-old is charged with one misdemeanor count of menacing for threatening bodily harm to the victim on Facebook.

and concludes this:

In a world where thousands of anonymous men can instantly gather to deliver swift retribution against any perceived threat, it’s easy to understand why more women don’t speak out.

Am I just oversensitive or did someone write their bottom line first, and then collected links to anything related to create an impression of research?

(Also, in the second linked article, author complains about being asked to leave a mailinglist 'because of her language' when she complained about a sexist joke. Without any more information, this is outrageous. But there is no link to or quote of the specific complaint she used, so all we have is a report about a conflict, from one of the participants, providing no data. If we had the same kind of report about some other topic, how much credibility would we assign to it?)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T15:59:59.627Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, it is frustrating that documentation by activists is not better, and that they often exaggerate or distort to get seen, and that this ends up getting them discredited, even when they are actually making good points.

This is a classic stereotypical masculine/stereotypical feminine battle - many women and intuitive men are prone to emoting (and losing the rational tools) when upset, and in masculine/non-emotive culture, this gets them instantly discredited and discounted, regardless of content.

Personally, I've learned how to be level under stress and to look for more concrete facts and to keep my head in most cases, and I do find that I am taken much more seriously, but doing this has taken a lot of work and discipline to learn, and I think is something that a lot of people who are more intuitive simply cannot do. Where I have screwed up and gotten emotional, even after building a lot of credit about having real content in what I say, in more logic oriented circles, I have gotten instantly discredited and shunned.

In well functioning feminine/empathetic circles, the response to strong emotion is usually to pay more attention and take the topic seriously and get curious. When this happens the person calms down and the issue is addressed sanely. So I think the problem you're looking at is a result of two different evolutionary strategies clashing.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-13T10:57:59.372Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Where I have screwed up and gotten emotional, even after building a lot of credit about having real content in what I say, in more logic oriented circles, I have gotten instantly discredited and shunned.

In well functioning feminine/empathetic circles, the response to strong emotion is usually to pay more attention and take the topic seriously and get curious. When this happens the person calms down and the issue is addressed sanely. So I think the problem you're looking at is a result of two different evolutionary strategies clashing.

This post is an expression of acknowledgement and deep dismay that "logic-oriented circles" and "empathetic circles" are considered mutually exclusive, and that they often attempt to deliberately shun and discredit each other.

I have yet to understand why, when someone is experiencing an overload of emotion, the logical response is not to listen to them until they calm down, and therefore increase the level of logic in the discussion.

I have yet to understand why, when someone is expressing a rational attempt to solve someone else's emotional problem, the reaction is almost invariably hostility rather than appreciation for the attempt.

A proper rationalist recognizes that people are not always rational, and that tending to their emotional needs will lead to a more rational outcome in the long run.

A proper empath recognizes that emotions have consequences, and that these consequences need to be weighed rationally to the best of everyone's rational capacity.

Keep honing your capacity to express your empathic understanding through logic, because it's a sorely needed skill in these kinds of communities.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-14T09:03:42.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have yet to understand why, when someone is experiencing an overload of emotion, the logical response is not to listen to them until they calm down, and therefore increase the level of logic in the discussion.

Actually, after discussions in this thread, I realized that this is a skill I should develop. (I don't want to react like this all the time, just to be able to do this when I decide to; and to be aware of the situations where doing this might be the right choice.)

But whether it is the right choice or not, depends on circumstances. For this method to work well, there are a few conditions:

  • the person will eventually calm down and be able to communicate logically, because the person is not insane;
  • your listening will make the person calm down, because there are no other people interfering with the process and keeping the person emotionally overloaded (either by opposing the person, or by socially validating their emotional overload);
  • the person will be there to communicate with after they calm down, they will not go away (in an internet discussion, this is often unpredictable and likely);
  • you have enough time to be there when the person calms down (also, your patience could be depleted);
  • the person will not cause significant preventable damage during the emotional overload, in which case your priority could be to prevent or reduce the damage (the damage can include emotional damage for wittnesses of the emotional overload, damage to your reputation, etc.).

The situation is different in real life and on internet, whether you know the person or not, how much and how specifically do other people interfere. (Best circumstances: you know the person, you trust the person to be sane, there is no damage done, it's just two of you together, and you both have enough time.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T15:42:33.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have yet to understand why, when someone is experiencing an overload of emotion, the logical response is not to listen to them until they calm down, and therefore increase the level of logic in the discussion. I have yet to understand why, when someone is expressing a rational attempt to solve someone else's emotional problem, the reaction is almost invariably hostility rather than appreciation for the attempt.

Well, let's back up a little.

Do you understand why, when I point a gun at your head and tell you to give me your wallet, the rational response is not necessarily to give me your wallet? More generally: do you understand why, when I threaten you, the rational response is not necessarily to accede to the threat?

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-13T16:04:29.628Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not really, no - but I may have an impairment in this regard. Can you walk me through it?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T16:20:22.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Compare the following two scenarios.

Scenario A: There are a thousand people, P1-P1000, and one mugger M. M threatens P1, P1 gives M their wallet. The next day, M threatens P2 and the same thing happens. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually other people become muggers, since it's a lucrative line of work. Eventually everyone's wallet is stolen.

Scenario B: As above, but P1 does not give M their wallet, and M shoots P1 and flees walletless. The next day, M threatens P2 and the same thing happens. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually M gives up mugging because it's not a lucrative line of work.

I don't mean to suggest that either of these scenarios are realistic; they aren't. But given a choice between A and B, however unrealistic that choice, do you understand how a rational agent might prefer B? (EDIT: Or how a society of rational agents might want to create a framework of enforceable precommitments that incentivizes B to a point such that P1, when being mugged, will prefer B?)

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-16T10:19:52.672Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, a rational agent with majority-human goals would prefer for others to do B, while itself doing A. At least if it cares about its life more than about the collective wallets of the others, modulo the impact that getting shot might conceivably have on the mugger's future behavior.

Even using TDT makes no difference unless the agents valued a potential muggerless society over its own life. And the muggerless society would still be assuming that other agents are similar enough to use TDT as well as share the martyr trait, and don't defect to save their own lives. It's still "life or 1 wallet" for each individual. Not that TDT mandates valuing the collective wallets of arbitrarily many others over your own life.

Not to get sidetracked though, I take issue with taking rational as also implying "caring about the welfare of society" over "caring about whether I live or die". A rational agent doesn't need to be that altruistic, it can just be rational about how to keep alive (if that's high on its priority list) effectively (the effectively captures the 'instrumentally rational' part), which would lead to giving up the wallet.

You can think of perfectly rational agents who crave nothing more than being shot the first chance they get (orthogonality thesis), so a "rational agent might prefer B" just comes down "an agent might prefer B", which is obviously true since there can be agents preferring anything over anything.

IOW: "Do you understand how a rational agent might prefer B" is actually asking "Are you certain there can be no agents who prefer B", for which the answer is a blanket "no" regardless of the B, so it's not really pertinent to what y'all discussing, bless your hearts.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-16T13:45:35.432Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Certainly, given a third choice C in which others don't give up their wallets and P1 does, P1 chooses C. Agreed.

I take issue with taking rational as also implying "caring about the welfare of society" over "caring about whether I live or die".

I agree.
I take issue with you describing the question I asked in those terms, as opposed to "preferring a small chance of dying and a large chance of keeping my wallet over a large chance of losing my wallet."

Not that TDT mandates valuing the collective wallets of arbitrarily many others over your own life.

True, it doesn't.

there can be agents preferring anything over anything.

Sure. Not what I meant, but certainly true.

Anyway, if the only way you can imagine a rational agent choosing B over A is to posit it has radically different values from yours, then I suspect that I am unable to explain the thing you initially said you didn't understand. Tapping out now.

[EDIT: I just realized that the original question I was trying to answer wasn't your question to begin with, it was someone else's. Sorry; my error. Nevertheless tapping out here.]

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-16T15:04:55.544Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a matter of whose perspective you take:

P1: That of the whole system, which -- if seen as a distributed agent -- may indeed sacrifice a few of its sub-agents to get rid of mugging

or

P2: that of the individual agent getting mugged, who has to make a choice: Give up my wallet (including the impact that action will have on society on a whole) or give up my life.

The problem with how you'd like the probabilities to be presented is that you get "preferring a small chance of dying and a large chance of keeping my wallet over a large chance of losing my wallet" only when taking perspective P1.

Reason: An agent who has to actually make the choice is already being mugged and doesn't get to say "a small chance of getting mugged", because he is already getting mugged, no need for a counterfactual. So each agent who's actually faced with the choice of whether to make the ultimate sacrifice only has a binary choice to make, with no probabilities other than 1 and 0 attached to it:

P(agent lives | gives up wallet) = 1. P (agent lives | doesn't give up wallet) = 0.

I.e. no individual agent who has to immediately make that choice ever gets to include the "low probability of getting mugged" part, if he has to make the choice, then that case has already occurred, and it will always be its own life in exchange for saving the wallets of others.

Only "the society" in an agent-perspective would in that situation want to give up its sub-part (much to gain, not much to lose), not individual agents who value their lives a lot. They could do a precommitment ("If any of us get mugged, we promise each other to die for the cause of a crimeless future society"), but once it comes down to their lives, unless those are quite un-human agents (value-wise, instrumental-rationality-wise we posited for them to be rational), wouldn't they just back out of it?

Compare it to defecting in a 1-iteration PD in which the payoff matrix is massively skewed in favor of defecting and you can control your opponent's behavior.

(Most acts of standing up to a mugger and then getting shot probably have more to do with bravado and spur of the moment fight-choosing in the fight-or-flight situation, not with "I'll die so that society may be muggerless". Also, unlike in the scenario we're discussing, those resisting the mugger in real-world scenarios have a significant chance of not dying to him, or even defeating him. I'd reckon that also plays a major role in choosing when to fight; it's not strictly a self-sacrifice. Not even with religious martyrs, since they have that imaginary heaven concept to weigh the scales. An agent who deems self-sacrifice for a potential positive impact on society as the most effective way of accomplishing its goals (which would necessary be the case for a rational agent to choose so) doesn't share many of its values with an overwhelming majority of humans. Intuitions about "standing up to muggers" muddle the assessment, I guess if we transformed the situation into an equivalent formulation with the mugger being exchanged by an all-powerful agent with a killing booth and a thing for wallets giving you a choice (with the same payoff matrix for the others in society), my estimation would be less controversial.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-16T15:29:22.502Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They could do a precommitment [..] but [..] wouldn't they just back out of it?

So, first, I completely agree that precommitment is a key issue here. "An agent who has to actually make the choice is already being mugged," as you say, is reliably true only if precommitment is impossible; if precommitment is possible then it's potentially false.

And perhaps you're right that humans are incapable of reliable precommitment in these sorts of contexts... that, as you suggest, whatever commitments a rational human agent makes, they'll just back out of it once it comes down to their lives. If that's true, then scenario B is highly unlikely, and a rational human agent doesn't choose it.

I agree that real-world acts of mugger-defiance are not the result of a conscious choice to die so society will go muggerless.

I agree that an agent who deems self-sacrifice for a collective impact as the most effective way of accomplishing its goals in a broad range of contexts doesn't share many of its values with an overwhelming majority of humans.

I am not as confident as you sound that an agent who deems self-sacrifice for a collective impact as the most effective way of accomplishing its goals in no contexts at all doesn't share many of its values with an overwhelming majority of humans.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-16T16:17:39.995Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Short tangent:)

Well, whenever I think of e.g, some historical human figure, and imagine what an instrumentally-rational version of that figure would look like, I feel like there is a certain tension: Would a really, really effective (human) plundering Hun still value plundering? Would an instrumentally-superpowered patriot still value some country-concept (say, Estonia) over his own life? I'm not questioning the general orthogonality thesis with this, just its applicability to humans.

Are there any historical examples you think of where humans die for a cause, and where we'd expect (albeit all speculation) an instrumentally empowered human to still die for that cause? Still value that Estonian flag and the fuzzy feelings it brings over his own life, even when understanding that it was just some brainwashing, starting at his infant stage?

Regarding the precommitment: The problem is that an agent can always still change its mind when it's at that "life or wallet" junction. The reason being a bit tricky: If there is a credible precommitment with outside enforcement (say you need to present your wallet daily to the authorities), then the agent will never get to the "life or wallet" junction, it'll be a "life and the severe repercussions of breaking your precommitment or wallet and the possible benefits from the precommitment of sacrificing yourself, say a stipend for some family members" (which depressingly is how terrorist organisations sweeten the deal).

So whenever it's actually just a "life or wallet" decision, any prior decision can be changed at a moment's notice, being in the absence of real-world and hard-to-avoid consequences from precommitment-defecting. And a rational agent which can change its action and evaluates the current circumstances as warranting a change, should change. I.e. it's hard for any rational agent to precommit and stay true to that precommitment if it's not forced to. And the presence of such force would alter the "life or wallet" hypothetical.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-16T17:40:57.606Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that a "life and the severe repercussions of breaking your precommitment or wallet and the possible benefits from the precommitment of sacrificing yourself" decision, as opposed to a "life or wallet" decision with no possible benefits from such precommitments, is one way a human agent might end up choosing scenario B over scenario A even when mugged. (It's not the only one, but as you say, it's a typical one in the real world.)

If you let me know how I could have worded my original hypothetical to not exclude options like that, I would appreciate the guidance. I certainly didn't mean to exclude them (or the other possibilities).

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-16T18:19:12.949Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe change

do you understand how a rational agent might prefer B?

to

do you understand how a society of rational agents might want to create a framework of enforceable precommitments that incentivizes B to a point such that P1, when being mugged, will prefer B?

For example, if anyone who gave up a wallet later received a death sentence for doing so, the loss of life would be factored out -- in effect, being mugged would become a death sentence regardless of your choice, in which case it'd be much easier hanging on to your purse for the good of the many. (Even if society killing you otherwise could be construed as having a slightly alienating effect.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-16T19:28:54.438Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Edited accordingly. Thanks.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-13T17:36:38.894Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is your analogy between the mugger and the inconveniently emotional or inconveniently logical person?

http://acestoohigh.com/2012/04/23/lincoln-high-school-in-walla-walla-wa-tries-new-approach-to-school-discipline-expulsions-drop-85/

Effective program which is based on the premise that a lot of bad behavior is the result of stress, and adding stress to ill-behaved people doesn't work. I'd been meaning to post it here anyway because it's a change in a high school discipline which requires changing a number of factors at the same time.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T17:58:14.001Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That analogy is too convoluted to be worth unpacking.

But some people react with hostility to A's "rational problem solving" in the face of B's "emotional problems" because they see A as a threat. Which A might well be; this sort of framing can be a significant challenge to B's credibility. (More generally, it's a status challenge.) Similarly, some people react with hostility to B's "overload of emotion" because they see that as a threat.

So understanding why acceding to a perceived threat isn't necessarily the only rational response seems important if I want to understand the thing ialdabaoth has yet to understand.

As for stress-reduction as a behavior-manipulation tool... I'm all in favor of it when the power differential is sufficiently high in my favor. When the differential favors the ill-behaved person, though... well, I'm less sanguine. For example: yes, I understand being X in public frequently causes anxiety in non-Xes, which can sometimes lead them to bad behavior, but for many Xes the (oft suggested) response of not being X in public so as to reduce the incidence of that bad behavior seems importantly unjust.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T00:56:31.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Non-Violent Communication is a system for lowering anxiety in confrontations without giving in.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T01:01:28.403Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(nods) Fair enough. In cases where the underpowered person happens to know techniques for lowering the anxiety of the overpowered person without suffering additional penalties by so doing (e.g., has been trained in NVC), I'm more inclined to endorse them doing so.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T08:38:10.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I came up with a disturbing hypothesis after reading that article talking about the overlap with rape and child abuse. I know rape drops off when men are around 24-26, and the theory I'd heard for it was that it was because of the drop in testosterone.

Given what I have learned about how predatory behavior is about a very small subset of men who repeatedly violate and appear to be motivated by desire for power over others more so than horniness, I now think its quite possible that getting more easy targets around that age when more people have kids could potentially be a significant contributing factor to the drop off.

Given how much I have heard about unreported child abuse at this point, I think that abuse of children is a lot more common than rape. Kids really don't report - they don't have the context to know that what they're experiencing isn't normal.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-12T11:53:28.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, the cost of reporting is potentially much higher for children. They risk being left with an angrier abuser, or losing their home.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T15:42:41.281Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, true. There was one case that I recall when I was in elementary school myself - a boy mentioned to another girl and I that a parent had beaten him. He came back a week later and was enraged at the other girl - apparently she had reported it, and it had landed him in a foster home, which he considered much worse.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T23:27:12.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There was one case that I recall when I was in elementary school myself - a boy mentioned to another girl and I that a parent had beaten him.

By the way, depending on the circumstances being beaten by parent =/= child abuse.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T23:28:55.035Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. Under what circumstances do you consider beating children to be reasonable?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T00:05:06.872Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Spanking, i.e., punishing the child for particularly egregious behavior.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T01:48:47.650Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read many arguments in favor of spanking, and they tend to go out of their way to distinguish spanking from beating; for instance by admonishing parents not to administer corporal punishment while angry with the child; and distinguishing measured spanking from lashing out physically at a child.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T02:23:38.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How did we go from "beating" to "lashing out physically"?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T05:18:14.878Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the folks I'm thinking of make a distinction between physical punishment enacted with forethought, and physical violence enacted out of anger, rage, or the like; and draw a distinction between spanking and beating.

I'm not much convinced, myself.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T06:12:05.980Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In Shannon's example it's not clear that "beating" was being used in the technical sense you mean as opposed in its more general sense.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T09:23:02.395Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because the outcomes are the same (severe emotional trauma, socially stigmatizing positive feedback loops, and horrific displays of power disparity),

Except the outcomes are not the same, certainly not for everything feminists have been trying to get away with calling "rape" recently.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-12T09:30:42.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As an aside: Is there ANYTHING I could do to get you to stop this absurd retributive downvoting? It's become tiring, and it's making it difficult for me to tell whether I actually said something dumb, or whether I'm just paying my weekly "I once disagreed with Eugine Nier" tax.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T14:04:50.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From a typical online discussion with a feminist, I get an idea that every man is a rapist, and that men constructed the whole society to help each other get away with their crimes.

This strikes me as being a strawman, or as an indication that the feminists you have been talking to are either poor communicators or make very different statements than I am used to from feminist discussions online. (To be clear: Both of these are intended as serious possibilities, not as snark. Or as they say in Lojban: zo'onai )

Discussing each part individually:

[...] every man is a rapist [...]

I think this is denotationally wrong. The assertion is not that all men are rapists, but that all men are potentially rapists. This is because men tend to learn, culturally, a set of socially acceptable actions that intersects with the set of rape actions. That does not mean that every man's actions actually cross into the latter set.

[...] men constructed the whole society to help each other get away with their crimes [...]

This language, e.g. the phrase "constructed [...] to help each other", implies a deliberate act of planned societal design. That is not an assertion I tend to hear from feminists; rather, they say that male privilege does makes it easier for rapists to escape consequences, but do not claim an intentional or conspiratorial source for that privilege.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-13T15:32:05.102Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The assertion is not that all men are rapists, but that all men are potentially rapists.

Of course, one needs a definition of "potentially" crafted specifically for the purpose of this specific claim. Otherwise, it could be argued that all women are potentially rapists, too.

I agree that the parts of culture teaching (anyone) that rape is a socially acceptable action should be removed.

(By which I mean, if it is shown that they really teach that, not just that someone is able to find an analogy between something and something else.)

they say that male privilege does makes it easier for rapists to escape consequences

Yes, it does.

And I think female rapists have it even easier in our society. Don't they?

By the way, I also think islam makes it even easier for the male rapists. (Technically, islam could be considered a part of the male privilege, but I mean the safety bonus a male rapist gets in a Western society merely for being male, is smaller than the additional safety bonus he gets for being a muslim in a muslim community.) I am not aware of mainstream feminists saying that loudly. (Which could be a statement about my ignorance.)

To say it explicitly, I think that different kinds of people have different kinds of privileges. Which does not mean that all privileges are equal or symmetrical. It just means privileges are not black-and-white; that if a group has a specific privilege, it does not prove that people outside of that group don't have another specific privilege.

As far as I know, feminists partially acknowledge that recently, by using the word "kyriarchy". Kyriarchy means that not all privilege is male privilege; you can also have white privilege, rich privilege, majority religion privilege, etc. But it does not seem to mean yet that you can have a female privilege, a minority privilege, an atheist privilege, etc. Instead of one black-and-white view we have multiple overlaping black-and-white views along different axes. (From the simplistic "women good, men bad", we have progressed to a more nuanced perception of society "women good, men bad, but rich white women also a little bad, etc.".)

According to this model, it would be acceptable to speak about "male privilege" or "rich privilege", and illustrate them with examples of rapists, but speaking about "female privilege" or "muslim privilege" and illustrating them with examples of rapists, is not acceptable, because it goes against the official black-to-white gradient. Seems to me that the map does not match the territory here.

Again, I agree that all unfairness in the society should be removed. I just don't trust people starting with the bottom line already written to remove all the unfairness, especially if they believe that some of it does not exist.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T18:36:52.512Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course, one needs a definition of "potentially" crafted specifically for the purpose of this specific claim.

Yes, good point: perhaps "socially permitted to be" is better than "potentially".

I agree that the parts of culture teaching (anyone) that rape is a socially acceptable action should be removed.

To be clear, the assertion is that some rape is taught to be socially acceptable. Violent rape and rape using illegal drugs is right out; we are talking about cases closer to the edge than the center, but which are still significantly harmful.

For example, it's part of the standard cultural romantic script that women put up a token resistance to advances, which men then overcome by being insistent and stubborn. This is social acceptance of rape to the degree that it instructs men to ignore non-consent unless it's sufficiently emphasized, or to put it another way, to the degree that it makes it more difficult for women who are non-confrontational to effectively deny consent.

From the simplistic "women good, men bad", we have progressed to a more nuanced perception of society "women good, men bad, but rich white women also a little bad, etc.".

I think this is also a strawman, at least of feminism as I've interacted with/participated in online. Privilege is an epistemological failure, not an ethical failure. To be privileged is not to be a bad person, it's to have incorrect or biased information-gathering skills regarding the experiences of various social groups compared to one's own.

I am not aware of mainstream feminists saying that [islam grants males rapists a safety bonus against consequences] loudly.

This isn't quite an isomorphic case: male privilege helping males abuse non-males isn't parallel to Islamic privilege helping Muslims abuse Muslims. However, if you're looking for general recognition among online feminists that Islamic countries have a lot of problems with gender inequality stemming from religious sources, then I'm very surprised to hear you say that.

And I think female rapists have it even easier in our society. Don't they?

Agreed.

According to this model, it would be acceptable to speak about "male privilege" or "rich privilege", and illustrate them with examples of rapists, but speaking about "female privilege" or "muslim privilege" and illustrating them with examples of rapists, is not acceptable, because it goes against the official black-to-white gradient.

This is a very good point, I agree. I have heard feminists address this by attempting to coin new terms, but I don't think it's working very well.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T01:02:42.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Privilege is an epistemological failure, not an ethical failure. To be privileged is not to be a bad person, it's to have incorrect or biased information-gathering skills regarding the experiences of various social groups compared to one's own.

The problem there is that frequently privilege is taken to mean, not just ignorance, but that pain which a non-privileged person causes a privileged person should be treated as irrelevant.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-14T14:14:46.343Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that this is a failure, though I do not think the problem is with the definition of privilege itself. As a parallel example: Social Darwinism (in some forms) assigns moral value to the utility function of evolution, and this is a pretty silly thing to do, but it doesn't reduce the explanatory usefulness of evolution.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-13T17:43:35.510Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I know, the current idea is that women don't know which men are rapists, and shouldn't be resented for being cautious around men.

Prototype: woman who crosses the street at night to avoid a man she doesn't know. The man shouldn't feel slighted just because he knows he isn't a rapist, or at least he shouldn't talk about feeling unfairly treated.

I'm just describing the starting point for those discussions. I don't have strong feelings about it, though I'll note that crossing the street at night to avoid strange men doesn't seem to add a lot to women's safety.

I agree that female rapists are more likely to get away with it, and I'm expecting that sexually abusive women (of boys as well as men) are probably going to become a public issue in the forseeable future.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-14T01:05:26.558Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I know, the current idea is that women don't know which men are rapists, and shouldn't be resented for being cautious around men.

Of course, this is exactly analogous to the idea that people do not know which blacks are criminals, and shouldn't be resented for being cautious around blacks, with only a separation of degree.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T17:33:33.424Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many of the feminists/social justice activists I know seem to use "privilege" to refer to something which can be aggregated across multiple specific privilege-demonstrating scenarios (much like many utilitarians I know treat "utility"), and to use "X privilege" to refer, not to the aggregate over privileges X has that nonX doesn't have, but rather to the net of the aggregates for X and non-X.

That is, they seem to use "white privilege" to refer to the difference between the aggregated privilege whites have and the aggregated privilege nonwhites have, "male privilege" to the difference between aggregated male privilege and aggregated non-male privilege, etc.

This is further confounded because it's rare for anyone to think clearly about non-X cases. IME people are more likely to pick a specific salient non-X, Y, and substitute "Y" for "non-X" in their heads throughout. E.g., when white Americans talk about non-whites they typically are either thinking of blacks or Hispanics, depending on the topic and the geographic region.

If I adopt that unpacking, I still end up with statements like "there is no female privilege", but what it means is not "there are no scenarios under which females have benefits over non-females" but rather "aggregating across all scenarios, males have a higher privilege score than females".

Again, I agree that all unfairness in the society should be removed. I just don't trust people starting with the bottom line already written to remove all the unfairness, especially if they believe that some of it does not exist.

I suspect that every social justice proponent pretty much ever would agree with this sentence without reservation. I also suspect they would mostly deny that it applies to them.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-13T18:03:56.679Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I adopt that unpacking, I still end up with statements like "there is no female privilege", but what it means is not "there are no scenarios under which females have benefits over non-females" but rather "aggregating across all scenarios, males have a higher privilege score than females".

Well, it's called social justice, not social rationality.

There are only two sides, and every point scored against one side, is a point in favor of the other. Everyone in the audience keeps a mental running count of how many points each speaker scores against the other. At the end of the debate, the speaker who has scored more points is, obviously, the winner; so everything he says must be true, and everything the loser says must be wrong. ... This means getting the wrong answer to physical questions with definite factual answers, because you have mixed up logically distinct questions—treated facts like human soldiers on different sides of a war, thinking that any soldier on one side can be used to fight any soldier on the other side.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T18:06:40.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ayup. Still, I find I do better when I correctly understand what other people are saying, even if I'd prefer them to be saying something different.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-13T18:25:58.918Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not sure how many of them really use "there is no Y" to mean "Y is smaller than X", and how many of them simply use it to mean that, literally, "there is no Y". (In other words, I am not sure what part of this really is understanding, and what part is wishful thinking.)

But either way, steelmanning their arguments is a good thing, because there is a hope than one day the steelmanned version will be accepted as the "true essence" of what they meant all the time.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T01:06:07.126Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

http://cos.livejournal.com/108721.html

An approach which includes assuming that people of good will can make mistakes, and working with them on that basis.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-14T10:35:33.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the link! As if you read my thoughts, because I was actually thinking "seems like I am only familiar with irrational feminists, but some people here seem to know rational ones, perhaps I should ask about some good links", so I open LW... and it's already here.

Okay, some things became clear now, some questions remain.

In my social circle, there actually are a lot of people thinking like the linked person. Actually, I do, at least approximately. But none of these people self-identifies as a "feminist". Why? Well, because the people who do self-identify as feminists here, are usually the ones whom when I describe on LW, I get a "that was a strawman" reaction. So the people who are reasonable about human relationships self-identify as "not a feminist" here.

One possible explanation is that this is just my weird perception or my weird social circle; there is always this possibility. But maybe this is a cultural difference. -- In former Czechoslovakia, women were able to vote since the country started existing in 1918. So one important feminist topic simple never existed here; women here never had to fight for vote. Women going to work? Of course, when you need more money to feed your family, you do. There is nothing "feminist" about that; that's simply life as usual. People who agree with that, they don't feel a need to use a special label. A decade or two ago, you didn't have to be a feminist to care about domestic violence, although I guess today the organizations self-identifying as feminist took over that agenda.

So I guess that people having what you would probably call "rational feminist" or "moderate feminist" opinions here, did not need a special label. I am not saying everyone was like that, or even that most people were like that, just that it was mainstream enough; you didn't perceive yourself as doing something "against the system". So naturally the label was used by people who had more extreme positions... and of course the people having the moderate positions refused to use the label, to express that their positions are not extreme. (It's like: "Women should have a right to vote, should be treated fairly, should not be abused or raped; that's what I expect from a civilized country. But I'm not a feminist -- I don't hate men, I don't think all men are evil, I also know some bad women, and I'm not crazy.") If a women self-identifies as a feminist, it often means that she is a heavily mindkilled university student, or that she is a politician and wants to use this to get some important "gender" position to decide about the "gender" money (and it's a patriarchal opression if you don't let her).

I personally started being opposed to "feminism" (to what the word means here) when I was on the university and I chose "gender studies" as a voluntary subject. Until that moment, I was curious and sympathetic (that's why I chose the subject; I was the only guy there). After spending a semester listening to women who self-identified as feminists, and hearing about the problems they were trying to fix, I decided that this stuff is insane. And some of the girls in the class came to the same conclusion. -- An example I remember after all those years: We spent a lesson analysing some unknown poem from some nobody I never heard about; the poem was about numbers 1 and 0, and how they have a marriage and together they become a number 10. Now of course this is sexist, because the number 1 represents the male, the number 0 represents the female, and the number 10 is sexist because the male goes first, which reflects a power imbalance in a patriarchal household. I felt like: WTF?! and who cares?! I mean, we live on a planet where Chinese women had their feet broken, some African tribes mutilate little girls' genitals, muslim women have no rights... and perhaps to include some first-world problems, girls in my country are less enthusiastic about maths and computer science than boys (seriously, this is a topic I cared about, as a teacher)... but no, those are not the important problems for our academic feminists, this poem is.

So... uhm... I have some material to think about; probably should make a reality check with more people from my culture whether they also have similar experience. Perhaps the answer is that crazy people self-identifying as feminists are everywhere, but the difference is that in some cultures there are also many sane people using the same label. Maybe it's a question of how long the label is used, because the new labels attract extreme people.

For now, the main lesson for me is that when people on LW speak positively about feminists, they probably mean the kind of people who in my social circle would self-identify as "not a feminist".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T12:10:47.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I decided I wasn't going to identify as a feminist back in the 80s when I read some Mary Daly. She isn't a totally useless writer [1], but the only way I could get some good out of her writing was to steelman it to an extraordinary extent. Her material in favor of the high-gusto life made sense if I read her "women" to mean "people" and her "men" to mean "some sort of boring monsters". Her hatred of men revolted me. I wasn't going to identify with a movement that accepted someone like her.

Fast forward to more recently, and there were feminists who hated her, but it wasn't about the misandry, it was about the transphobia (which I hadn't noticed). When she died, the eulogies split between people who thought she was wonderful and people who were angry about transphobia. If anyone beside me noticed the misandry, I didn't find them.

It might be relevant that she probably never did any damage to men, but there are transgendered people who died because they couldn't get into women's shelters. (A claim that I don't have details for, but seems plausible.)

Anyway, it's possibly amusing that I identify as a libertarian, and if someone (or a lot of them) who I disagree with strongly identifies as a libertarian, I assume they're getting libertarianism wrong, but I gave up on feminism because it includes people I don't want to be associated with. Maybe I only have room for one really difficult identity.

Another possible reason for why things are different in your country-- I think the US (and possibly some other anglophone countries) are still recovering from Victorian ideas about women. The Victorians had a dream of the ideal woman who was physically, intellectually, and financially helpless. It wasn't quite true at the time (only feasible for upper class women, and I think they were expected to be in charge of their households), but it had a strong grip on both men's and women's imaginations. [2]

For the physical side, see The Frailty Myth -- Victorian upper class girls were permitted so little movement that they were having trouble (when somewhat older) giving birth, so lady-like low intensity exercises were invented.

Anyway, a lot of earlier feminism was directed to the idea that women should be able to be independent from men, and be able to do work, and especially to do interesting work in the public sphere.

Eventually, there's been a split in the US, with womanism [3] intended to address issues specific to black women (and possibly also poc women). For example, there was never an issue with black women working for money outside the home, as there was for middle to upper class white women. Instead, black women were pushed toward menial work for little money.

[1] She's the one who pointed out to me that "fix" can mean repair, immobilize, or punish. And that there's a difference between search and research..

[2] There's a destructive streak in the human race of trying to turn women into supernormal stimuli.

[3] I've only poked around the edges of this. I'm sure I'm missing a lot.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-14T14:24:24.981Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. If the feminism is supposedly about the equality of sexes, why is hatred against men so tolerated?

Ironically, feminism is good at describing the problems of such behavior when men do it. Like: it's not enough if you don't tell rape jokes, you also shouldn't be a friend with people who do, or at least you should tell them to shut up; otherwise it seems like you give them a silent support. Yes, and for pretty much the same reason, you should also say something when people from your movement preach hatred against men; just not doing it with them is not enough.

More meta: All ethical commandments that feminism currently proposes for men should be symetrical. If it's bad when men do it, then it is also bad when women do it. Perhaps today mostly men do it, so the efficient use of resources is to focus on stopping men from doing it; but the rule should be gender-neutral anyway, even if the current policy isn't. (Violence against people is bad. Hating people because of their gender is wrong.) Otherwise some people will intrepret it like an asymetrical moral rule, and the rest will seem like giving them a silent support.

there are transgendered people who died because they couldn't get into women's shelters.

How about having also some shelters for men? By the way, Erin Pizzey, the person who started women's shelters in Europe didn't have a problem with that: she also had a shelter for men. Guess what happened? Feminists started sending her death threats, scared her enough to make her leave the country, then took over her shelter network, and removed her name. I am not making this up! (But I am sure they don't teach this in Feminism 101.)

The Victorians had a dream of the ideal woman who was physically, intellectually, and financially helpless.

Reminds me of a discussion with my girlfriend. She said that society puts pressure to both men and women to fit their gender roles, but the difference is that the actions expected from men are intrinsically useful, while the actions expected from women are useless. For example, men are pressed into making a lot of money, and while the pressure itself can be bad, having money is good, per se. So a man who makes a lot of money fulfills the social expectations and has the advantage of being rich, at the same time. (Then we had some problems making specific examples about what the society actually wants from women. Perhaps there are multiple, sometimes contradictory social pressures today.)

But I guess we didn't have this Victorian ideal in this part of the world. Or, more likely, the nobility had it, but for some reasons it never spread to lower classes. Or perhaps the communism eradicated such mannerisms. Don't know; should ask someone better in history. (EDIT: After some research, it seems the communists removed all the upper-class manners.)

For example, there was never an issue with black women working for money outside the home, as there was for middle to upper class white women.

Maybe the situation of an average Eastern European woman is in some aspects more similar to the situation of an average black woman in USA, than of the Victorian lady.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T16:41:50.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. If the feminism is supposedly about the equality of sexes, why is hatred against men so tolerated?

That was probably a rhetorical question, but I think the answer is that it's easier to recruit people for a fight than for making things better for people in general.

Yes, and for pretty much the same reason, you should also say something when people from your movement preach hatred against men; just not doing it with them is not enough.

Indeed, but it's hard work, and can be emotionally damaging.

From what I can tell, Erin Pizzey was attacked for saying that a majority of the women in domestic violence shelters were violent themselves.

Until I looked for details, I didn't know she was involved with shelters for men, and I think her early career was about shelters for women.

She said that society puts pressure to both men and women to fit their gender roles, but the difference is that the actions expected from men are intrinsically useful, while the actions expected from women are useless.

Bearing and raising children is useless?

The Feminine Mystique was about the situation of middle to upper class women in the US in the 50s and 60s-- they'd been educated, but then they were expected to limit their ambition to taking care of suburban households, and it was making them crazy. This was a toned-down version of the situation of Victorian upper class women.

Are Eastern European women expected to work for money, but very hard for very little money?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:27:17.745Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Feminine Mystique was about the situation of middle to upper class women in the US in the 50s and 60s-- they'd been educated, but then they were expected to limit their ambition to taking care of suburban households, and it was making them crazy. This was a toned-down version of the situation of Victorian upper class women.

It also didn't help that advances in technology had made taking care of the household a lot more boring.

comment by satt · 2013-06-15T14:29:37.040Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It also didn't help that advances in technology had made taking care of the household a lot more boring.

They did? Spending 4 hours cleaning clothes with a washboard sounds more boring than spending 40 minutes loading & running a washing machine (for example).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-16T03:44:06.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They did? Spending 4 hours cleaning clothes with a washboard sounds more boring than spending 40 minutes loading & running a washing machine (for example).

Well the Victorian upper class women Nancy referred to wouldn't be doing that, they'd be managing their servants cleaning the clothes with a washboard.

comment by satt · 2013-06-16T11:21:00.662Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Quite true, but given your reference to "advances in technology" I thought you were talking about "middle to upper class women in the US in the 50s and 60s".

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-18T00:38:36.350Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was comparing the Victorian upper class women with middle to upper class women in the US in the 50s and 60s.

comment by bogus · 2013-06-14T12:41:57.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Now of course this is sexist, because the number 1 represents the male, the number 0 represents the female, and the number 10 is sexist because the male goes first, which reflects a power imbalance in a patriarchal household.

It's nice to see that numerology has progressed so much since the time of the Pythagoreans and Chinese antiquity - it used to be that zero wasn't even considered a number, because it doesn't "count" anything. Now imagine how sexist that would be.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T01:46:56.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I remember, when cos first posted this, thinking "yup, the fundamental attribution fallacy sucks."

It seemed rather a lot of words for that insight, but I could sort of imagine how someone for whom understanding the fundamental attribution fallacy and how it applies to the difference between "Sam is a sexual predator" and "Sam performed this act of sexual predation"; "Sam is the sort of person who respects consent" and "Sam noteworthily respected consent the other night", etc. etc. in the abstract was challenging, it might be valuable to be walked through it more carefully. And the comment thread seemed to suggest that were many such people, which, OK, cool.

Rereading it now, I'm left with the same reaction.

Have I missed anything key about the post, on your view?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T02:10:01.722Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the post is also a meditation on the SNAFU principle (communication is impossible in a hierarchy-- specifically, fear of punishment inhibits communication).

Cos's approach involves actually lowering the punishment level, not just claiming that whatever people who have the moral edge do mustn't be counted as punishment.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T02:30:11.323Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh. Interesting.
Sure, I can see that if I focus solely on the fear-of-punishment aspect of hierarchy.

I certainly endorse defining punishment by its effects independent of the moral edge of its initiators, and I endorse factoring in the knock-on effects of punishment (including but hardly limited to inhibition of communication) when deciding whether to engage in it. (Relatedly, I try to remember that punishment is often reinforcing for the punisher.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T00:59:08.657Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I get the impression they use "there is no Y" to mean "Y is so much smaller than X that no decent person should bother with Y".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T20:45:19.988Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

WRT understanding vs wishful thinking... fair enough.

As I said initially, I'm talking primarily about the feminists/social justice activists I know; I'm pretty confident that I understand what they mean, having discussed the issue at some length with many of them, but of course that's no reason for you to be confident, especially if you don't consider me a source of reliable reports. There's also no particular reason, even if you do consider me reliable, for you to consider them representative of other communities.

WRT steelmanning... I'm not sure I follow.

Are you suggesting that, supposing hypothetically that what is meant by "there is no female privilege" really is "aggregating across all scenarios, males have a higher privilege score than females", it is nevertheless a good thing to behave as though what was meant was "there are no scenarios under which females have benefits over non-females"?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-14T10:49:04.065Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I meant: If a person says , and you say "oh, you probably meant ", you gave them an opportunity to save face. When you do this to a group of people, you give them an opportunity to switch to the smart opinion without feeling like betraying their tribe. And if only a part of the group changes their mind, without this option they would probably leave the group, but with this option they can stay and perhaps the smart opinion will some day really become the official version.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T16:37:14.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, I understand the general case. It's the specific case I'm being confused by. What is the stupid statement being made, and what is the similar-sounding smart statement you're endorsing using instead?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:35:00.421Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The stupid thing is "there is no female privilege". The smart thing is your steelman of it, "aggregating across all scenarios, males have a higher privilege score than females".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-15T03:55:01.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be surprised if that's what ViliamBur meant, but I have no objection to the statement, modulo emotional connotations.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-16T08:22:19.134Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, I did mean exactly that.

The difference between "men have more advantages than women" which I guess is true, and "women have absolutely no advantage, ever" which seems to me obviously false, but is how I would naturally unpack "there is no female privilege".

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-16T13:46:42.914Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, OK. (I am, in fact, surprised.) Thanks for clarifying.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T23:07:30.131Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course, one needs a definition of "potentially" crafted specifically for the purpose of this specific claim.

Non-negligible prior probability.

(See this.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-16T03:36:35.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find the 1 in 6 statistic you site highly dubious. Eric Raymond has a decent explanation here of what's wrong with it.

Frankly, even the people who claim to believe it don't act like they do, as demonstrated by the fact that they are organizing "slut walks" rather than advising women to use make up to make themselves look uglier (which is what women frequently do in times and places where the rape rate is really that high) or even advising them to avoid the parties where this rape allegedly happens. Seriously imagine if the prevalence of some other serious crime (such as burglary, mugging, or murder) were that high, people would be investing in body guards and improved security not demonstrating for their right to walk alone at night down dark alleys wearing expansive jewelery.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-13T19:37:11.526Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

advising women to use make up to make themselves look uglier

That sounds like it would make it harder for them to get consensual sex either. The analogue of that wouldn't be just wearing ostensibly cheap clothes so that muggers, pickpockets, etc. won't target you, it would be leaving your wallet at home so that you can't even spend money if you do want to.

And if victims of thieves were customarily asked why they were carrying money in the first place if they were going to keep it for themselves (as if the askers didn't realize that someone could be willing to potentially give money to people but not to anyone who asks, or more realistically as if they were envious that they're not the ones being given the money) and accused of being prodigal, they'd be probably eventually be quite rightly pissed off by that.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-07-14T18:18:31.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That sounds like it would make it harder for them to get consensual sex either.

So you admit that these alleged "rapes" are some combination of sufficiently rare and/or insufficiently bad, that the expected utility loss from them is less than the expected utility gain from the increased amount of consensual sex?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T20:00:38.103Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I dunno, having no first-hand experience.

It also matters how much rarer rapes are given modest clothes than given sexy clothes, to which question I've heard that the answer is “not so much as one would expect”.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-16T08:36:15.726Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From that article:

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the most recently available rape victimization rate is 0.4 per 1000 people. Applying the 0.91 percentage of female rape victims corrects this to 0.364 per 1000,

0.364 female rape victims per 1000 people total, or 0.364 female rape victims per 508 women. If he's going to say stuff like ‘1/7 isn't compatible with 1/6’ (seriously -- are we talking about watchmaking?), he shouldn't be making factor-of-two mistakes himself.

EDIT, 21 Sep 2013: And of course 0.4 x 0.91 = 0.364 is most likely false precision.

Seriously imagine if the prevalence of some other serious crime (such as burglary, mugging, or murder)

Murder obviously doesn't sound comparable, and ISTM it's not like people living where the rate of mugging is of the order of 0.1 per person per lifetime are that terrorized. (Sicilians do rally against the mafia once in a while.)

EDIT: I've started to read the comments to the article you linked to and... Wow. Suffice it to say that I am appalled that the same person as the editor of the Jargon File would be that bad at middle-school maths.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T21:11:29.902Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, thank you for stating this clearly.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-10T23:00:31.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Check out the article I linked - it is very insightful. I would agree with what you are saying if most rapes were single instances. However, most rapes are committed by a very small percentage of guys, who on average rape or attempt to rape half a dozen women each. That it is the same guys doing it repeatedly implies that it is not a mistake.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T00:54:44.197Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That it is the same guys doing it repeatedly implies that it is not a mistake.

nod one problem that occurs, though, is that the 'false positive' problem can be REALLY nasty for the people who DON'T fit the actual behavioral pattern, but who wind up in a situation or have an aspect of their personality that trips the sensors anyways.

It is true that the vast majority of rapes are committed by a small group of high-status predators who have a very effective schtick which is supported by our culture, and a smaller minority of rapes are committed as blatant predatory acts by low-status desperados, and an even SMALLER minority of rapes are actually committed due to a non-deliberate breakdown of communication by median-to-low status schlubs.

The thing is, the high-status predators are VERY GOOD at using culture to hide their predations, and to shift blame onto the desperados. This is why "stranger danger" is so much more engrained in the narrative than the actual statistics should bear out. And as the feminist community begins recognizing how rare the desperado is and shifting their focus to the predator, note that the next trick in the predator's arsenal is to shift focus onto the schlub.

Schlub-shaming (i.e., constructing a narrative about Nice Guys and focussing more on Nice Guy shaming than you do on fighting frat boy dickishness) helps support the predators. The schlubs need education, not shaming. I've seen far too many social networks where the fight is between the schlubs and the feminists, because the predators are REALLY GOOD at telling the schlubs that the feminists are out to get them, and egging the schlubs into making themselves obvious targets (i.e.: the PUA community).

Instead of treating the schlubs as "easy targets" to vent their rage against the socially untouchable predators, a lot of positive gain could be made if the feminist community instead explained to the schlubs that the main thing keeping them from getting laid is the predators running around making the entire environment too dangerous and hostile, and hiding behind the schlubs to do it. (EDIT: I acknowledge that this will be hard to do in practice, because the predators are so much higher-status and more powerful than the schlubs, and our social instincts say to always attack the socially weakest targets.)

Does this make sense?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T01:05:42.199Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, thanks for the insights. I posted something on Facebook related to this awhile back which was a precursor to thoughts above. As discussed in the comments, I completely agree with you that there are male victims of false rape accusations as well as victims of rape, and I would really love to see a system that does not harm one group of innocents as a way to protect another.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T01:14:37.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As discussed in the comments, I completely agree with you that there are male victims of false rape accusations as well as victims of rape, and I would really love to see a system that does not harm one group of innocents as a way to protect another.

Well, I think part of that is a higher reliance on personal responsibility - i.e., prevention techniques need to be discussed without an accusation of "victim blaming".

This can be done better if the culture's default attitude isn't victim-blaming, of course, so now the whole damn thing looks fractal.

To make the recursion explicit: most men who try to offer advice on how not to get raped are not intending to blame the victim, but a certain subset of men are very good at creating an environment of victim-blaming that causes legitimate advice to get swallowed in the 'victim-blaming' filter. (These tend to be the same kinds of men who rape.) The biggest problem is that they have a VERY successful game rigged - the behaviors that enable their raping and shaming are all seen as high-status behaviors. If we want to build a new system, the first thing we need to do is to stop worshipping men as success-objects, in the same way that we reduce women to sex-objects.

A properly 'feminist' approach would reject the whole masculine idea of adversarial dominance-hierarchies - at core, "victim-blaming" relies on the underlying assumption that there's always a Right Argument/Perspective and a Wrong Argument/Perspective and they fight like little soldiers.

A LOT of work needs to be done on all sides, to learn to respect narratives and come to understanding rather than play out dominance games with people's lived experiences.

(That is not to say that there aren't "more right" and "less wrong" perspectives to have! Just that trying to educate people that there are better perspectives adversarially is a really dumb way of going about it, and we should stop.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T01:37:00.745Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup. As you say, this takes very careful thought. As the article linked above describes, those who enjoy partaking in predatory acts are not easy to identify, most likely have the average distribution and range of IQ including very smart ones, and are integrated into society. Some of them are also very personally interested in these topics and influencing policy. That makes changing policy well especially difficult - you have to really consider what is being said and not take anything at face value in public discussion about rape and other such topics. I'm glad that there is a growing movement working on these problems.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T01:43:31.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That makes changing policy well especially difficult - you have to really consider what is being said and not take anything at face value in public discussion about rape and other such topics.

One quick objection here: I think we absolutely have to take everything that is said at face value, AND ALSO examine the underlying subtext. This is part of what makes it so tricky.

Example: When someone says "but I respect women!", take that at face value, and assume that they actually DO have a legitimate desire to respect women; they are just confused as to how. Use that to adjust your tactic when dealing with this person, and frame your debate with them in terms of "this is how to show your respect; the way you're doing it now isn't working" rather than "you are bad and you don't actually respect women at all". If you take that at face value and they don't act in accordance with it, of course, call them on it.

Example: When someone says, "but she was asking for it!", take that at face value, and assume that in their warped narrative they actually DO believe that consent was given, if not implied. Use that to adjust your tactic when dealing with this person, and frame your debate with them in terms of "this is why consent needs to be enthusiastic, and these are the failure modes of your approach" rather than "you are a filthy rapist!". If you take that at face value and they don't act in accordance with it, of course, call them on it.

Example: When someone says, "bros before hoes", take that at face value, and assume that they are explicitly identifying who they wish to ally with. Use that to focus your hostility here, at the root of the issue, rather than attacking the epiphenomena "but she was asking for it!" and "but I respect women!" Because in the first two cases, taking them at face value (at least at first) gives you an opportunity to identify potential allies who are stuck behind enemy lines, AND gives you an opportunity to call people out on their bullshit far better than going in guns blazing.

That's... about as much insight as I have, and it's of course subject to all the usual disclaimers; we're all stuck in this together and we're all seeing it from different perspectives.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T01:52:22.938Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fair point, thanks.

comment by bogus · 2013-06-12T17:40:38.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

the predators are REALLY GOOD at telling the schlubs that the feminists are out to get them, and egging the schlubs into making themselves obvious targets (i.e.: the PUA community).

The notion that "the PUA community" has anything predatory about it is a persistent misconception. On the contrary, widespread adoption of the kind of sexual scripts PUA has pioneered is the only way I can see of making enthusiastic consent into a sustainable social norm. Otherwise males will gradually erode the norm as a way of asserting/signaling dominance in a cheap, straightforward way - and many women might go along with the erosion for the most part, simply due to being attracted to a dominant attitude. Note that aspiring PUAs would not do this, because they have superior alternatives. (It would also be a huge strategic liability, when one considers the way PUA works overall)

comment by cimon_alexander · 2013-06-13T01:38:46.517Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

PUAs do teach aggressive touch escalation, less talking more body language. Don't ask to kiss her, kiss her. That kind of thing.

An important part of PUA teaching is getting over feelings of guilt for your sexual feelings, which alphas and guys that are confident with women don't display.

comment by bogus · 2013-06-14T10:28:56.437Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

PUAs do teach aggressive touch escalation, less talking more body language. Don't ask to kiss her, kiss her. That kind of thing.

To the extent that this happens, it is an efficient adaptation to prevailing norms: the escalation is not "spontaneous" at all - although that's obviously a desired effect - but is carefully calibrated to minimize 'regret' (to the extent that this is possible based on prevailing signals). PUA also teaches other techniques that balance out active escalation ("push-pull", "freeze-out"). We're talking about a very broad toolkit which can adapt to a variety of scenarios.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T20:03:42.035Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Non-verbal communication is still communication.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T18:25:03.508Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do agree that on net, guys into PUA are decent well meaning human beings. When I think about it from "what would I do if I were a predator" perspective, I do get the answer that learning from and trying to influence the PUA community would be a fabulous idea with many potential upsides.

I would guess that unless there is a lot of active effort to keep guys who enjoy partaking in predatory behavior out, if we assume that such men exist, I would think that there would be some active ones in the PUA community.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T01:52:01.761Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would guess that unless there is a lot of active effort to keep guys who enjoy partaking in predatory behavior out, if we assume that such men exist, I would think that there would be some active ones in the PUA community.

Sure. If 6% of men are rapists in the general population, then I would expect 6% of PUA men to be rapists too, unless there was something actively selecting for or against rapists in the PUA set. That's just the base rate; it's no different from expecting 6% of men named "John" to be rapists.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-11T09:46:51.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that the serial rapists are high-status. I get the impression that they're mostly medium status (typical for the bars they frequent).

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T10:24:46.732Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that the serial rapists are high-status. I get the impression that they're mostly medium status (typical for the bars they frequent).

The lower-end ones are, but those are the ones that tend to get caught. The recent Steubenville case seems more common to me - people who are protected at every step, who are at the pinnacle of their social group, and who are taught over and over that they are untouchable and can do no wrong.

In a certain sense, we are looking at a Pareto power distribution, due to a combination of mechanisms - at higher levels of social power, you both have more opportunity and access, and more immunity to prosecution and even suspicion.

Remember, most rapes go unreported. Similarly, many rapists go uncaught their entire lives. The demographics may seem skewed low due to the fact that higher-status rapists are far less likely to get reported against or noticed as suspects, let alone caught and convicted.

comment by Document · 2013-06-11T16:48:31.757Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

lower-status rapists are far less likely to get reported against or noticed as suspects, let alone caught and convicted.

Did you accidentally reverse something there?

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T21:17:57.978Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! corrected.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-12T11:48:49.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Second thought here: has anyone read enough accounts by women who've been raped to have at least a preliminary opinion about whether rapists tend to be high status?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T16:54:30.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is some data that I think would be interesting - the study above listed 4 different categories that they asked guys to self report for that are rape without using the "r" word. I'd love to know how many answered yes to this particular one:

2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?

The silencing is a big deal. Most don't fight back, and even for those who talk, it is very common for women to get court ordered to shut up. The notion that a woman might falsely accuse a man is something that is societally much more upsetting than the notion that she might be telling the truth and he might be getting away with it, and societally most people just want to avoid thinking about these topics and don't feel personal responsibility to investigate what is actually true.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-12T17:27:30.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

trigger warning: rape discussion

Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?

I wonder if anyone else thinks that calling a non-violent sexual encounter with a person who is too intoxicated to properly consent a "rape" is a non-central fallacy?

When I think of rape, the images I get is a stalker in a dark alley, a lot of violence, lasting physical and/or emotional damage to the victim, etc. Or maybe someone using a date rape drug on you. Or maybe an abusive boyfriend or a husband using violence and intimidation to get sex from an unwilling partner. Bad things like that.

The image I don't get is a girl knowingly having too much too drink in a sexually charged setting and then someone not properly obtaining consent, so she later has misgivings about the whole thing. Or, to a ridiculous degree, the Julian Assange case. To be sure, the "taking advantage of impaired faculties" case is still clearly a bad thing and ought to be punished, but it is also clearly (to me) not in the same class as a violent sexual assault, in terms of consequences for the victim.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T18:18:02.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed that there are many different shades of grey here both in severity and how the cases should be treated. That is a good point.

Generally, if a guy intentionally has sex with a woman who is too intoxicated to stop him, he does not suffer any negative consequence at all. I don't think these sorts of cases are often brought to court - way too much ambiguity to prove anything.

It would be interesting to get more data about the different ways in which this plays out. My guess is that as you imply, there are cases where women intentionally lose their ability to say no. My guess is that also, there are many cases where guys capitalize on this ambiguity with quite a lot of intention.

More plus points in my book toward a cultural shift to where saying yes before sex is the norm. If there are such groups, I'd rather have women who want to be manipulated into sex lose their ability to have this happen than to have someone be forced into a physical act against their will.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-12T18:38:48.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Generally, if a guy intentionally has sex with a woman who is too intoxicated to stop him, he does not suffer any negative consequence at all. I don't think these sorts of cases are often brought to court - way too much ambiguity to prove anything.

This is plausible. According to wikipedia, about 8% of all rape allegation are later deemed false. I did not see any stats on false positives (where an alleged rapist was prosecuted while being innocent). What is obvious from a cursory online search is that the consequences for falsely accused and convicted tend to be as bad as or worse than for real survivers of violent rape.

But this was not my point, I simply asked if what is being discussed as "rape" here is a non-central case.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T19:09:27.480Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, thanks for persisting on your point - please let me know if I appropriately address it, I think I understand now but am not entirely certain.

I think that there are many types of rape. Many many ways in which it happens, and differences in motives and premeditation and other such things.

My understanding is that using alcohol or other drugs as an aid to rape a woman is far more common than what you described as your expectation. While I do not place confidence behind these numbers as there is very little actual data, my best guess is maybe something like there is a 10:1 of rapes where alcohol is used with someone the woman knows v.s. a man jumping out and attacking her from behind a bush.

My understanding is that most rapes are from men that the woman knows, often family members and/or family friends, although I am even less sure about the percentages on that and won't bother trying to make a numeric guess.

So, if alcohol with someone the woman knows is actually one of the more frequent scenarios, then I would say that the non-central case does not apply if I understand it correctly?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T19:18:42.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What you are pointing to is an important problem and an element in why this is so damn complex. I do think that cases that are not extremely horrendous happen. Unfortunately, the actual horrendous ones easily get dismissed because of this.

Also, it is very traumatic for most people to have someone stick something inside of you against your will. So even if we suppose it was fairly innocent on the guy's side of the fence, that can have severe emotional consequences. Often the most traumatic thing for a lot of people who are violated is just to have their experience be completely invalidated by their friends and family.

Social ignorance propagates this particular cycle. The difficulty of and lack of interest in discussing these topics by a lot of the population propagates it.

False accusations would probably get debunked more as well as true ones being brought to justice with far fewer incidents of occurrence if as a society people really tried to find out what was true with this difficult and complex issue.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-12T20:39:57.835Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would decide on whether a scenario is central or not based on the expected punishment.

Let's suppose, hypothetically, that there were no violent cases ever, that all rape cases were of the 90% variety you describe: a victim in a potentially sexually suggestive setting like a bar gets too much to drink, possibly due to some generous verbal coercion by the perpetrator, who is, rather overtly, looking for a sexual encounter. No illicit drugs were slipped in, though the lady probably overestimated her drinking capacity. She was severely impaired, but not drunk unconscious and unmoving, she was not gang-raped with pictures posted online and further bullying or blackmail followed, etc. She was not at a higher risk of pregnancy or an STD compared to if she consented. She would not have consented if she had the capacity to.

Does this describe what you think is the prevalent situation? If so, this would be a central case in that hypothetical case of what would be generally understood as "rape". Would it be punished by hard time and a ruinous life-long sex offender label? Or would an educational campaign of the sort you are describing, "only yes means yes" be a more appropriate way to deal with this case, with significant legal repercussions for the offender, but not nearly as severe as for a premeditated violent physical sexual assault?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T21:49:31.658Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What you describe is not what I think the prevalent situation is.

When men answer yes to the question:

"Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?"

  1. They are not specifying whether or not force was used.
  2. They are not specifying whether or not the victim was drunk to the point of being unable to move.
  3. They are not specifying whether the victim actively and forcefully said no and tried to push them away or if they just mumbled no, or did not say anything.
  4. They are not specifying whether they slipped anything additional into the woman's drink or not
  5. They are not specifying whether the encounter with the woman getting drunk was something that happened by accident or if they went through significant lengths to persuade her.
  6. They are not specifying whether or not protection was used - my impression is that it almost never is during rape.

Given the way that the question is phrased, my guess is that in the cases of men answering yes to this question, most men answering believe that the woman actually did not want to have sex when he proceeded to penetrate her, and chose to do it anyway. Beyond that, I have little data.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-12T22:25:07.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given so many unknowns, it's hard to tell from this study alone what the spectrum of non-consensual sex was, and so it's hard to draw any useful conclusions. It is quite possible that the blog post author is correct and there is a minority of recidivists who account for the large chunk of non-consensual sex acts. Regardless, the explicit consent approach is certainly an excellent idea, as well as working on changing the cultural norms to make it more acceptable for women to initiate the expression of interest.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T22:39:53.525Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I draw the conclusions:

  • the amount of non-consensual sex attempts and successes reported in the study, which I found surprisingly and disturbingly high, is likely accurate or under-reported - I'm very surprised that so many guys answered yes, and would think that given our culture, its more likely that more thought yes but did not mark it than that they gave false positives.

  • the offenders are mostly repeat offenders, who are having or attempting to have non-consensual sex with about a half dozen women per guy. That seems meaningful to me! It means that the behavior is indeed intentional among this group.

  • if you read the whole article, they talk about how they interviewed the guys and some of what they learned from that, and their findings with the interviews were consistent with the check boxes.

Thanks for expressing agreement on the explicit consent. Its the thing that makes the most sense to me as to something that is likely to improve the situation at this point in time, when we still know so little and have such a hard time dialoging about this in an open manner as a society.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-06-12T22:53:35.811Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It means that the behavior is indeed intentional among this group.

Now, I am currently reviewing reflexes like this to see if they are actually good, so I'm not going to endorse this statement as true or useful or even relevant. But this was my immediate reaction to your statement:

Humans are uniquely good at concluding the Bad Guys are evil mutants. We demonize, exaggerate, caricature. In almost every instance - possibly every instance that does not concern a specific individual with an identifiable neurological difference - it is factually wrong. This instinctive reaction serves not as an epistemic tool - "He's a pedophile/nazi/liberal/fundie, now we know he's a demon in a fleshuit! Fire at will." - bt as a political rallying cry. In short, this is something a rationalist should probably never say. If you find yourself claiming your enemies are innately evil, you have gone wrong. Retrace your footsteps and try to find where.


Normally this would be a tad more diplomatic and probabilistic, but that stage in my thought process has been replace with noticing the reflex, so...

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T23:00:31.802Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note that I did not use the words good or bad. I used the word intentional.

What caused you to think I was needing this advice?

[edit]

Okay, I see that you say the statement might not be relevant, and that it is your reflex.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T23:04:47.060Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On my end, I am trying very hard to avoid making the mistake you are describing, despite that this is a very emotionally salient topic for me.

Because this topic is so emotionally salient for so many people, it is almost never discussed in an even manner. I have been very pleased with the comments on this post for so many people making nuanced points on a topic that would normally get shut down very quickly in a manner similar to what you describe in a context such as this where there is not a more uniform perspective among the discussion participants.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T14:10:33.442Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could the person who voted down the parent comment please explain their reasoning? I am genuinely curious.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-13T15:35:45.826Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I notice that after the first few most recent of her comments, which have not yet received any votes either way, almost all the rest of the first page of her comments have received exactly one downvote, but varying numbers of upvotes. I suspect the downvotes are all due to one person, who has decided to object to whatever she posts. Perhaps the same person who has been downvoting everything that ialdabaoth posts.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-16T03:53:59.984Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In addition to whatever other voting is going on, my guess is that there is either one person doing this with multiple accounts, or several who have been going down the line and down voting the majority of my comments.

During the day that I was watching the patterns frequently, my karma would stay relatively stable with slow fluctuations most of the time, and the maybe around 5 times would quickly drop 10-20 or so points. I haven't been writing much lately and am pretty sure I was at 0 for monthly karma before this post, so my current score reflects specifically these ups and downs. For anyone who wants to do math, he post was on main for about half a day before it was moved, and I believe it was at -2 when it was transferred. (up from hovering around -4 most of the day)

Speaking of the math, would you mind giving the formula you used to calculate the range of +/-'s?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-16T11:52:39.112Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Speaking of the math, would you mind giving the formula you used to calculate the range of +/-'s?

Here's the MATLAB code I wrote, although for looking at your recent posts, the numbers were small enough that it wasn't necessary to run this, e.g. +1 and 67% has to be +2-1.

For those who know programming but not MATLAB, the code should mostly be clear. The line "a = (ceil(a2):floor(a1))';" sets a to a column vector of every integer between the two bounds, and all subsequent lines are operations on entire vectors at once. "[b,a,a+b]" is a matrix of three columns: b, a, and a+b.

function v = lwvotes( net, frac )
%v = lwvotes( net, frac )
%   Calculate votes for and against, given upvotes as both
%   net difference and fraction positive.  frac can be expressed
%   as a proportion or a percentage.

    if frac > 1
        frac = frac/100;
    end
    neg = net < 0;
    if neg
        net = -net;
        frac = 1-frac;
    end
    frac1 = frac-0.005;
    frac2 = frac+0.005;
    a1 = net/(2-1/frac1);
    a2 = net/(2-1/frac2);
    a = (ceil(a2):floor(a1))';
    b = a-net;
    if neg
        v = [b,a,a+b];
    else
        v = [a,b,a+b];
    end
end
comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-17T05:16:15.098Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just re-read this and realized the important information I completely glossed over, and that this totally changes my analysis.

That said, I recall thinking that the comments had gone up and down many times when showing 50%, and that perhaps either it was a case that numbers were just more even since they were smaller, or that the calculation was done differently with the comments than the post. I don't feel up for doing the math to check this with so many comments, but if I had infinite time and energy it would be interesting.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T21:54:36.446Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Re: appropriate thing to do as punishment/response - I would really like to have a lot more data before having to come up with an answer to that which would actually be implemented.

I am a proponent of a healthy and prospering society, and do not value making people feel bad for bad things they have done. So ideally I would want a solution that would heal all parties involved. The possibility space in terms of social context is too large to give a meaningful answer regarding what to do in a situation where I was given the choice.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T23:58:28.960Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My understanding is that using alcohol or other drugs as an aid to rape a woman is far more common than what you described as your expectation.

What do you mean by "using alcohol or other drugs as an aid to rape"? Do you mean the woman is tricked and/or forced to take the drug against her will, or that the woman voluntarily takes the drug and then does something she wouldn't if she were sober? Because these are are very different situations and I would argue only the first constitutes rape.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T00:33:54.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your logic implies that if a woman chooses to drink, she is volunteering to have sex with any man present and should not complain if a man chooses to take her up on this offer. Is this what you believe?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T02:27:17.783Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, what I'm saying is that if a woman chooses to drink she is responsible for her actions while drunk as she would be while sober. This is the same standard society applies to drunk drivers and the same standard you seek to apply to men who get drunk.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T03:02:08.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, I can see where the confusion came in since the context I was assuming is pretty far back in the thread. Here it is again. Men answering yes to the question:

"Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?"

If a woman and a man have sex in this situation, where the man believes that she doesn't want to but proceeds, and the woman is unable to stop him for the reason of being intoxicated despite that it is apparent to the man that she does not wish to proceed, what are your thoughts on this situation?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T06:08:00.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a woman and a man have sex in this situation, where the man believes that she doesn't want to but proceeds,

Do you mean believes she doesn't want to at the moment, or believes she wouldn't want to if she were sober?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T06:44:23.189Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To reflect the way in which the question is asked, the assumption I would like to make is that the man believes that the woman does not want to have sex with him at the point in time when he has sexual intercourse with her.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T04:14:05.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have a link to the exact survey? If another survey question was "have you ever raped a woman?" I could imagine my interpretation seeming like the obvious one.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-15T15:49:34.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The exact questions they used were in the article linked in the post body. There were four different ones, the one of which I'm asking about is #2. My understanding is that someone could check as many or few of the four questions as they wanted, and that several checked the box for #2. The word rape was not used in any question.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T20:42:30.881Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But still, if I take your wallet when you're too drunk to even notice, I've still stolen it, rather than being given it as a present. Given the wording of the question in that survey, I guess the respondents were thinking of a situation more analogous to the former than to the latter.

OTOH, there are certain people who argue for the analogous of arguing that accepting a present from you would constitute theft if you were drunk, which unfortunately can lead to confusion as to what a particular person mean when talking about such stuff.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T20:43:51.133Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with that, but see my other reply downthread. Being penetrated while passed out or nearly so hardly counts as “doing something”, IMO.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T23:22:16.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if anyone else thinks that calling a non-violent sexual encounter with a person who is too intoxicated to properly consent a "rape" is a non-central fallacy?

Yep.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-13T10:46:55.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a pretty valid point - as I mentioned earlier, there are multiple ways that consent can be violated, and lumping them all under the rubrick of "rape" makes it very difficult to discuss their causal makeup, or their actual utilitarian impact.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T16:37:38.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wish I knew of more such data that was well compiled.

Keep in mind, that if a woman reports about a high status man raping her, he will immediately take action to silence the report and will typically have much more power to do so than she will have to get the word out.

Especially since rape tends to go together with alcohol, its hard to make a powerful and persuasive argument. "I got drunk and he had sex with me against my consent" does not hold up well in court. The woman gets accused of not being in control and "defaming" the guy, and and is quickly silenced, typically without investigation regarding the accuracy of her claim.

That's part of why the study of rape self report that I quoted is so beautiful - its the first I've seen of uncontested accounts of rape, and a set of guys actually admitting that they used alcohol intentionally for the purpose of being able to have sex with a woman even if she protests.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-12T11:56:29.508Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That would be the ideal hard-data to collect. Right now my conjectures are still at the "stuff I've noticed repeatedly" phase, as opposed to the "backed up by repeated peer-reviewed studies" phase.

comment by cimon_alexander · 2013-06-13T01:33:10.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the information, I appreciate more statistics on it.

Lately I've been calling for a right-wing neovictorian form of feminism. The party culture that I witnessed at college seemed designed to put women in a compromising position: black out drunk, scantily clad, in a fraternity house. The sole attempt at sexual assault prevention is shaming sober males. Questioning the whole culture is never done, since "sexual liberation" is also part of feminism. But it really doesn't seem in women's interest.

I read a rape confession thread on reddit once and I was struck by how most of the men deeply regretted their actions and how some had even had their lives destroyed by it. Many of them got into bed drunk and horny with a woman in the same state before she withdrew consent. Few were without remorse.

Following up on your article, I think we should tell girls that 2/3rds of women are raped while they are intoxicated. But feminists would never stand for it. They believe that they have the right to make themselves drunk and vulnerable without being raped. And of course they do - but rights are flimsy things when you're counting on them for protection.

I also have the right to leave an iPad out on my carseat in downtown SF without having my car broken into. But I don't insist on my right the way feminists do.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T01:54:08.689Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for sharing this, that is an interesting data point.

A question that immediately pops to mind which cannot be answered with current information as I know it, is are these men who confessed representative of the majority of men who rape, or one subset? For example, in the study cited, while most rapes were done by repeat rapists, there were still many who did only do it once - this scenario seems most likely to me coming from that population.

On the other hand, I've been a domestic violence counselor, and I know "the cycle of violence," where an apologetic phase is part of a cycle that happens over and over. http://www.domesticviolence.org/cycle-of-violence/. From my training, we were told that men who do this almost never change, and that while they will go through this phase of remorse, that counseling almost never works to get them to stop cycling back to the behavior considered abusive. I don't know if any advancements have been made on that front since my training, which was several years ago. So anyway, if the cycle of violence which goes on in domestic violence between couples applies to the repeat rapists, then it would make sense that they would express remorse.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-06-17T20:24:47.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Making a separate reply so you get an orange envelope. I just reread this, and it isn't really conducive to summarization. I'd read the whole thing, it's worth it. It's what got me to really start noticing subtle rationalizations and subtle avoidant behaviors in myself and others. http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/06/amy_schumer_offers_you_a_look.html

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-06-14T09:15:38.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Placeholder, cant post efficiently from phone. A fascinating foray into the apology phase by The Last Psychiatrist, I'll post a link and summary later when able.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-12T19:13:28.970Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Slightly OT, but I always wonder that people presume that men will be in full cognitive control to do something difficult (act out novel behaviors against prevailing norms) when women are "too drunk to consent"

I'm not sure this is based on ideology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol_content seems to suggest that if a Man and a Woman both have the same number of drinks, the Woman is likely to be more intoxicated, even if the Man and the Woman both have the same weight. Since an Average Man is also heavier than an Average Woman per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_weight , that makes it even more likely that the woman is more intoxicated.

The exception to the general Man/Woman presumption you mention even seems to have its own stereotype that gets used in various media: A man wakes up in bed with a particularly heavy woman, is ashamed, and has no idea how that happened.

And this even plays into the predatory dynamic: If you're a Heavier Male and you're purposely consuming intoxicants with a Lighter woman, any suggestion that you and she have the same number of intoxicants so you're both comparably intoxicated is the kind of thing that may sound fair to some people(particularly if those people are intoxicated!), but really isn't.

Honestly, the more I consider those tables, the more it is shocking. Given a significant enough weight difference and any familiarity with alcohol, a man can be sober enough to drive when a woman is in a stupor even though both had the same number of drinks.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T21:10:12.495Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People already take into account how much they weigh, how familiar they are with alcohol, etc. when deciding what and how much to drink.

If I'm with someone who weighs about half as much as me and they drink three half pints while I drink three pints, I wouldn't treat them as though they were much more sober than me or expect them to treat me as though I was much more drunk than them.

The exception to the general Man/Woman presumption you mention even seems to have its own stereotype that gets used in various media: A man wakes up in bed with a particularly heavy woman, is ashamed, and has no idea how that happened.

That's probably more because “heavy” is what the “various media” usually use to signify something like ‘as sexually undesirable to the median man as the median man is to the median woman’.

comment by TrE · 2013-06-11T15:39:26.432Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To connect this to the problem of (cost) function minimization, which is important e.g. in machine learning, changing a single variable at a time is even worse than gradient descent, which is a common method there. Not only do you only look in the immediate neighborhood, you also only look along a single axis at a time. It's no wonder that you don't find a local minimum this way!

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-11T11:45:48.606Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cancer is what happens when a single type of cell tries to become the whole system.

?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-11T18:18:45.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unpacking a bit, what I get is:

Cancer is what happens when a cell line goes into a failure mode where it consumes increased resources, and reproduces itself, without regard for the signals that would normally rein in those tendencies for the benefit of the whole organism.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-11T18:29:06.718Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What you're unpacking seems to be your own understanding of cancer (which is fine, other than the "cell line"), for I have no clue how you get that from "tries to become the whole system". Then again, I also feel like I'm only guessing at what "trying to determine the optimal form of cancer, as opposed to looking at an entire entity" means, so it may be me.

comment by Baughn · 2013-06-11T20:48:40.515Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, it's an analogy. A perfectly sensible explanation is not required.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-11T18:12:28.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The general idea sounds right, but I think this article would benefit if the "overall summary" paragraph was put first - the examples would be easier to read if one already knew what they were going to be examples of.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T19:59:23.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually did this based on writing advice from Eliezer - he talks about putting examples before summary.

I do agree that a short intro would be an improvement - I had one written that my proofreader didn't like so I ended up just posting without since my title is already a bit of a summary.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-11T21:17:52.764Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In general, "start with examples" is often good advice, and I sometimes do it myself. But I think that it's somewhat problematic here, since the examples are somewhat long and, furthermore, the way they're structured makes it somewhat unclear what the reader should be focusing on.

Actually, "these examples could be clarified" is probably more useful advice for me to give than "put a summary first", given that they'd feel a little confusing even if you did have the summary first. I'll elaborate.

(Obvious caveat: the follow is just my impression, other people may have found this clearer.)

The first example is clear enough until the end of the first paragraph. Then the second paragraph starts with

To contrast, with animal training, you reinforce behavior you want in the animal, and interrupt, redirect, or completely ignore (ie: no shaming or guilting) behavior you don’t want.

We start out with "to contrast", but for me at least, it wasn't clear what the two things that were being contrasted were. Now that I know the right interpretation, I think the intended contrast was something like "eliminating guilt when you're running a guilt-based system hurts, versus, eliminating guilt while also providing an alternative positive motivator helps".

But notice that as written, the second paragraph doesn't actually talk about systems that also eliminate guilt, but rather about systems which don't increase guilt (ie. systems that do not include a guilt-increasing component). And on top of that, there is the mention of "[m]editation does not use reward during the meditative process", which makes it sound like meditation also didn't have any particular positive motivators either. You do mention that people often do add extra positive rituals to meditation, but it currently sounds like a sidenote that admits the existence of an exception to the general rule, rather than the general rule itself.

So, at least to me, by the second paragraph my idea of the contrast you were trying to make was something like "eliminating guilt when you're running a guilt-based system hurts, versus, there exist systems that don't care about guilt" - which isn't really a clear contrast, and it felt obvious that I was missing something.

The next paragraph helped a little, though again its connection to the previous paragraph felt unclear - "So, if you..." sounded like it would be a straight follow-up to what had been just said, but it was referring to animal training, which had only been discussed for one sentence a while back, with the (seemingly unrelated, since it didn't seem to talk about rewards or positive reinforcement) meditation discussion in between.

Then there came the example summary, which made me go, "oh, okay", but it still felt confusing since the summary of the example didn't seem to be talking about the same thing as the actual text of the example.

Then we got to example two. It was still unclear to me what the most important gist of the first example had been, and now we seemed to jump to an entirely different subject. It was also structured differently from the first example - unlike the first example, it didn't start by giving a single paragraph's worth of description of a system that failed when a single variable was changed. Instead, the first four paragraphs were basically an introduction, then it suggested changing a single variable in the fifth, and aside for a brief "that would make a lot people comfortable", it didn't even say anything about the negative effect of only having a single-variable change until we were already in the seventh paragraph. And unlike in the first example, where we contrasted two different techniques (one guilt-based vs. one reward-based), this example contrasted a partial and full technique (only switch to "yes means yes" vs. switch to "yes means yes" and also make people more assertive), again making the structure of the example more dissimilar to the previous one.

If you have two examples from very different domains, it helps a lot to have them follow a similar structure - that way, the reader can at least pick up on the structure and let that guide their interpretation of what the relevant similarities and dissimilarities in the examples are. The more different the structure, the larger the risk that the reader gets confused about what they're expected to pay attention to - like happened to me.

I don't know how common my reaction was, but on my part the problem was also exacerbated by the fact that "let's switch to yes means yes" didn't seem like a particularly obvious example of something where you'd need to change several variables in order to make it work well. I first ran into the idea that we should rather be promoting a norm of "yes means yes" rather than "no means no" some months back, and then it seemed to me like a clear and obvious improvement. It didn't occur to me before reading your post that such a change would also require any major adjustments to people's assertiveness - and in fact this still doesn't feel particularly clear to me, and feels more like the kind of minor change that would occur automatically and which would be just a minor hassle at most. So that also made it harder to intuitively grasp what the example was trying to say.

If you want to start with two examples, by the time the reader has read them, that person should already have at least a vague idea of what those examples were about. For me that didn't happen, and the examples actually felt disconnected with the overall thesis even after the thesis had been presented in the "overall summary" paragraph.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T01:04:52.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for taking the time and energy to explain all of this. Agreed that my writing could have been much more cohesive and better structured, and I appreciate the explanation of why, where, and how. I will take this into account fo the next thing I write.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-12T07:02:05.970Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm glad you found it useful. :)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-12T03:52:50.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone gave an example re: the needing change in assertiveness/attiude:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/hj6/changing_systems_is_different_than_running/9547

If you're mostly only interacting with the type of women who are part of the LW community, you probably have an unusual view on female assertiveness among (American) women - most of us are much more assertive than average when it comes to sexuality.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-12T07:05:31.209Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's probably a cultural difference. I've also frequently heard people on this site mention that "men are expected to make the first move", but that doesn't seem to be true in Finland either, at least based on my experience.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-11T20:35:32.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But the examples are long, and with no introduction whatsoever, I can't tell what they're examples of, so I don't know what to do as I'm reading the examples. (I confess I didn't read this post, and this is the other reason why aside from the formatting.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T20:44:17.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Lol, so if I take the time to reformat, you'll read it? :) The title is actually the summary. Its long for a title and short for a summary, but was the best I was able to come up with as a non-professional writer having already spent a fair bit of time editing and not wanting to spend more on that particular nuance.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-11T15:20:15.218Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems like a good article - could any downvoters post their rationale? (at time of posting, article is at -3)

Edit: There's also some really insightful and interesting discussion going on and a remarkable lack of flame - I'd hate to see it hidden.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-11T20:02:02.149Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. I'm rather disappointed that someone demoted my post from main to to discussion last night - whoever did this did not identify themselves to me, and I am curious as to why. I have not yet gotten feedback regarding this or the down votes.

There have been a lot of up/down votes, which I find quite interesting, and as with yourself, would be curious to know more about. Unfortunately I didn't take tallies while watching it jiggle yesterday and I don't know of a place to access actual numbers, but I believe that it was up/down voted somewhere around a 7-15 times each direction before getting to its current state of 0.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-11T23:10:39.579Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The article is currently at 52% positive, with one upvote showing. I think the smallest number of votes which could produce that exact result is 51 positive, 50 negative.

There has to be rounding, but (looking for vaguely plausible numbers), it has to be between 67 positive, 66 negative and possibly as low as 41 positive, 40 negative, depending on how the rounding is done.

Given my druthers, I'd like to see a graph showing the votes over time.

comment by elharo · 2013-06-12T10:18:49.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A post that achieves a high number of votes in both directions strikes me as a very interesting post that should be called to attention. In other words, a post that is at +/- 1 because of 50 or so votes each way, is much more interesting than a post that is at +/-1 because of one or two votes.

I would recommend rather than showing just the sum, show the total of both +1's and -1's separately. It's strictly more information than just the sum.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T14:20:07.374Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded. StackOverflow shows this information, and it's frequently interesting.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T21:04:50.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you mind pasting a link for this? I'd love to know exact numbers.

comment by DSimon · 2013-06-13T21:20:35.294Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. Here's the most-viewed question on SO: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/11227809/why-is-processing-a-sorted-array-faster-than-an-unsorted-array

If you click the score on the left, it splits into green and red, showing up and down votes respectively.

Interestingly, there are very few down-votes for such a popular question! But then again, it's an awfully interesting question, and in SO it costs you one karma point to downvote someone else.

comment by hylleddin · 2013-06-14T23:47:55.847Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree. Reddit has a "controversial" sorting that favors posts with lots of up and down votes, and I prefer to use it for finding interesting discussions.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-12T13:21:02.973Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My calculation gives possibilities of anything from +11-10 (52.38%) to +17-16 (51.52%), assuming the displayed % is rounded to the nearest whole. It now stands at 4 and 56%, implying +18-14, +19-15, or +20-16.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-12T14:36:29.153Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. I wasn't sure I had the math right.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-13T17:48:21.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

More exactly, it's been a long time since I've done much algebra, and it was a fight to get any sense out of problem. I had a feeling there was something I didn't understand, but I had no idea the weak spot was that the rounding off range didn't include the exact percentage.

Finding out how much a single vote changes the percentage of up or down votes gives a lot of information, and this can be learned by giving a vote and withdrawing it quickly.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-12T23:51:58.392Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It violates the politics is the mind-killer rule, i.e., don't use examples from contemporary politics for an apolitical point.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T01:20:23.533Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if that's why there's so much downvoting in the comments here?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T06:13:18.321Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be surprised if that were the case. Non-passionate annoyance about people discussing politics doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would inspire around 30 down votes of the post and multiple people going and down voting 10-20 of my comments at a time.

Rape is a topic that people care a lot about for a number of different reasons, with very different desired outcomes regarding wanting discussion and lack thereof.

The comments up until recent have actually been surprisingly chill and non-flaming.

When I try to talk to people about hot topics like rape or child abuse in person, the most common response I get is people really not wanting to talk about it. "Sorry, I can't handle that right now" type responses. My experience is that most people really don't want to think about it and feel somewhat violated even at bringing the topic up. My guess is that most of those people glossed over the post, and neither up nor down voted, although they may have down voted.

People who have experience with rape and other forms of being violated often really want to have discussion about it, especially sane and level discussion when in the context of Less Wrong, which I think is why the up voting. I have many potential theories about why the down voting. There are probably several different sets who are doing it.

One obvious candidate would be anyone who has caused someone to have sex with them that was non-consensual. If we assume that Less Wrong even roughly reflects the general population, and that the article I cited above even roughly reflects the general population, and note that there are thousands of readers, it is safe to assume that some of those people are readers, and they probably have very strong opinions on this topic.

Another category of down voters could be people who didn't like my formatting initially, I was amused by what a strong objection there was to that.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T16:00:38.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My guess would be that the "I don't want to talk about this" reaction accounts for most of the downvotes.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T16:43:17.186Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have personal observations or other data that you are basing this guess on, or is it based primarily on your interpretation when you read what I wrote?

If you have information, I would love to hear.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T17:01:20.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing novel.

I mean, I've been around this community for a while and seen how it handles discussions of emotionally charged topics in general, and gender-related emotionally charged topics in somewhat-less-general, and those observations are certainly relevant, but I don't think it's likely to be radically different than what you've seen when talking to people more generally.

I can expand further if you like, but I don't anticipate the result being terribly interesting.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T17:17:15.774Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be curious for more expansion - have you seen other posts that are similar in these ways and have had in the neighborhood of 30 down votes, and did more people identify why they were down voting?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T17:44:02.691Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can't speak to karma totals; I tend not to pay attention.
Nor is there a lot of "I'm downvoting because of X" kinds of commenting, so I can't speak to that, either.

What there is, in other such discussions, is a lot of commenting I tend to classify as "why do we have to keep talking about all of this gender stuff? why can't we just treat people as people without reference to gender? why does everyone get so mad when I say that? yeah, sure there's a broader cultural and historical pattern of bad stuff happening to women, but you know, bad stuff happens to men too, and why isn't it OK to talk about that, huh? etc etc etc etc"

Much as there is outside of LW.

Of course, that I have no direct evidence that what underlies the latter also underlies the downvotes under discussion. It seems plausible to me, though... certainly more plausible than attributing it to how your post was formatted, for example. (Though there's a complicated interaction here between what creates the impulse to downvote and what creates the sense that downvoting is permissible, and poor formatting may well provide the latter in a significant way.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T18:54:22.151Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I do believe it is quite likely that some people who did not want to discuss the topic of rape down voted.

I mentioned the formatting thing more as a joke as well as an acknowledgement about many different factors going into how people feel about the post and reasons to up/down vote. I would hope that few of the people who didn't like the formatting down voted specifically because of that, but I was surprised by how many cared enough to up vote the comment speaking to this point.

Of the people I have personally spoken to who did not want to discuss the topic of rape, most seemed to have an aversion reaction. They will often literally physically flinch away as they say it. From the things they say, my impression is that they find the topic painful, and don't want to believe that rape actually happens, especially unreported rape to someone they might know, or that they could have at some point in their lives had a friendly conversation with someone who beat and verbally degraded his child. My guess is that these people would have a very strong aversion response to what I just wrote.

It is my belief, that while these people really don't want to talk or think about these things, they also don't have a strong incentive to stop other people from having such conversations. People who are feeling avoidant generally just flinch away and go do something else.

As an example of a group of down voters who are probably not being avoidant, there were several instances (probably about 5?) where my karma very quickly dropped by 10-20 points over the past day or so after my post was moved to discussion, which was reflected by 10-20 of my comments being downvoted - given the time frame and speed at which down voting typically happens and at which this particular down voting happened, I'm inclined to think that this was probably one person who just went down the line and down voted everything I wrote with only skimming if they read at all.

Since people who are being avoidant generally want to avoid, while I could potentially see them down voting the main post, going and down voting several comments in a row does not seem like the behavior of someone who is flinching away. To me, this is the behavior of someone who cares a lot about something related to the post, and is actively trying to accomplish something. I don't know how much the psychology of the people who down voted groups of comments reflects the down voting of the post itself. I would be surprised if this group of people did not also down vote the post, but I don't know how many people felt similarly to them and down voted only the post.

Lastly, think about this from a numbers perspective. The article I cited said that in a college study of 1882 college students, 120 admitted to having attempted or succeeded in having non-consensual sex - roughly 6%.

If you were one of those men, wouldn't you have a strong opinion on this matter? Do you think you'd feel inclined to down vote this article if you were one of them?

Here are some of the arguments I can think of to assume that men who have attempted to have non-consensual sex (and especially the ones who do it repeatedly) are not a significant part of the anonymous voting population:

  • Less Wrong, unlike college, is a collection of exceptionally enlightened individuals, and of the thousands of people who read this blog, they are specifically filtered to not be the sorts of people who would do such a thing.

  • People who have had non-consensual sex don't care enough to down vote. They care much less than people who want to avoid the topic.

  • The article is flawed - non-consensual sex doesn't actually happen anywhere nearly as much as these supposed self reports suggest.

Do you have a better one?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-14T01:13:30.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe there's another category-- men who believe that if it's made easier for women to accuse men of rape, then their risk of being falsely accused goes up. Some of them are at least pushing the limits of consent, and some of them are frightened of blatantly false accusation.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-14T01:47:48.379Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, agreed.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-14T13:40:12.553Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How about this: If you want to discuss a topic (systems that require changing multiple variables to improve), don't choose a sensitive example, if other examples are available, because it is distracting from the original topic.

In other words, the downvote means: The article used an inappropriate example, which ruined the chance of having a reasonable discussion about the original topic.

(Uhm, I am guilty about sidetracking the discussion below this article, but I guess that also kind of proves the point. My reactions were not about "changing multiple variables", but related to the example in the article.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-14T13:55:06.952Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, yes, I can believe that some people may have down voted for this reason.

Personally I think the side track has been very interesting and am glad it has happened. While it was not my intent to talk about rape as more than a removed example of a complex issue, I think it is a very important topic where most people are ignorant even regarding what is known, and that there is a lot unknown about, where really awful things happen to many people in the present. What the study I linked reports fits with my personal observations as I have learned more and more about what goes on behind closed doors from being part of the psych world. I've been pretty blown away as I've come to realize the scope of what is going on, how it is silenced, in this present day and age, etc.

Getting it actually discussed in nuance with multiple viewpoints present has been awesome, and I would not object to my posts continuing to go off topic so productively. 1 I would expect this group you describe of people who don't like going off-topic to be one of many voting blocks.

Do you have any idea of how much people usually down vote when a post goes off topic in a similar way, especially any examples that are not emotionally charged?

I suppose I have just pointed at another potential group, which is one that just hates emotional charge and down votes anything that is likely to become heated for the sake of not liking emotion regardless of topic. I can certainly believe that this group exists and may account for enough to be a voting population as well - despite the impressive low volume of flame on this post, this group may even stop reading and click the down button at my first line giving the warning.

1 The discussion can also be tied back into the initial point I was trying to make although I hadn't done this yet - now that the nuances on this topic are starting to get unpacked in the comments, think about how changing any single variable would create an uproar in current culture. With so many strong and conflicting opinions, you've got to address the overall culture before you can do anything and not have it result in a lot of grief - even if your proposed change is one that would be an improvement if other variables shift.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T22:49:31.152Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would hope that few of the people who didn't like the formatting down voted specifically because of that,

I see comments of people stating that they did that all the time on Discussion.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-13T20:30:41.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that the "I don't want to talk about this" reaction can be further decomposed into people who don't want to talk about it primarily because they are themselves rapists and people who don't want to talk about it for other reasons.

I agree that people who have what you're calling "aversive" reactions to the topic might potentially downvote the main post; indeed, I expect many of them actually have done so. (I'd be inclined to also call the reaction of people who don't want to talk about it primarily because they are themselves rapists "aversive", for what that's worth.)

I agree that there's an important distinction between those who downvote the post and move on, and those who engage in the kind of retaliatory downvoting you describe (sometimes referred to here as "karmassassination").
I generally assume that retaliatory downvoting (which, incidentally, I disapprove of) is an expression of hostility.
We could have a whole psychoanalytic armchair discussion here about whether that hostility in this case is more likely to be a function of what you're calling "aversion" here, or of being oneself a rapist, or of various other things, but I don't have strong opinions about that.

You may be right that the hostility gender-related discussions generally elicit is not sufficient to explain the reaction to your post; you may additionally be right in your (implicit) suggestion that the reactions of LW rapists specifically account for the difference. I don't have a strong opinion about this over and above my general skepticism about privileged hypotheses.

I find it likely that the percentage of rapists on LessWrong is roughly comparable to the percentage of rapists in U.S. colleges. Maybe a little lower, maybe a little higher, but not significantly different. In general, I expect that rapists (as we're using the term here) are present in any large group, and that I have no way of distinguishing them from non-rapists.

I find it likely that flaws in the article do very little to motivate the downvoting in and of themselves (that is, I expect that an equally flawed article about a less emotionally charged topic would receive far fewer downvotes) but much as with formatting, they might do a lot to make downvoting permissible.

If you were one of those men, wouldn't you have a strong opinion on this matter? Do you think you'd feel inclined to down vote this article if you were one of them?

Incidentally: do you assume I'm not one of those men? If so, on what basis?
In any case: were I one of those men, I suspect my inclination to downvote the article would be greater than if I weren't.

Does that answer your questions (both explicit and implicit)?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-14T03:22:52.216Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find it likely that the percentage of rapists on LessWrong is roughly comparable to the percentage of rapists in U.S. colleges. Maybe a little lower, maybe a little higher, but not significantly different.

Given a base rate of 6%, I'd be astounded if the rate among male Less Wrong commenters were lower than 3% or higher than 8%; and I would dismiss out of hand a claim that it was lower than 1% or higher than 10%.

In general, I expect that rapists (as we're using the term here) are present in any large group, and that I have no way of distinguishing them from non-rapists.

It's to the benefit of women and normal men to develop accurate heuristics to distinguish rapist men from normal men. The "Schrödinger's Rapist" situation results from such heuristics being absent, or unavailable due to lack of information.

(Yes, I feel okay saying that the 94% of men who are not rapists are "normal men" … and that rapists are not.)

One of the bigger heuristics suggested by the Lisak & Miller study is that repeat rapists commit (on average) about ten times as many non-rape violent crimes as normal men do.

Some other studies suggest other heuristics: rapists have more anger and hostility toward women than normal men do, and rapists have less empathy toward women who have been sexually assaulted than normal men do.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-14T16:30:16.924Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Basically agreed with all of this, though I consider non-male-on-female rape more important than you seem to, which may simply reflect the greater saliency of non-heterosexual relationships to my life more generally.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:46:51.926Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One of the bigger heuristics suggested by the Lisak & Miller study is that repeat rapists commit (on average) about ten times as many non-rape violent crimes as normal men do.

Which definition of "rapist" was the study using?

Edit: also that reminds me of the argument against acceptance of gays based on statistics showing male homosexuals being ten times more to engage in pedophilia than male heterosexuals.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-15T04:31:35.478Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which definition of "rapist" was the study using?

Here it is. The interesting part is that they ask men whether they have committed particular acts (see the study for which) that legally constitute rape; they don't ask whether the men think of themselves as rapists.

Edit: also that reminds me of the argument against acceptance of gays based on statistics showing male homosexuals being ten times more to engage in pedophilia than male heterosexuals.

I doubt that claim — and I'm assuming you're using a folk sense of "pedophilia", since clinically that term refers to a predilection rather than an act that a person can engage in.

It seems more likely to me that gay sexual relationships which straddle the legal age of consent (in some states, this can mean an 18-year-old boy with a 17-year-old boyfriend) are many, many times more likely to be treated as a criminal issue than straight sexual relationships with the same age gap.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-16T03:54:47.966Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here it is.

I notice they didn't bother separating out their data by which of the "rape" questions they answered yes to.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-16T07:03:01.016Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I notice they didn't bother separating out their data by which of the "rape" questions they answered yes to.

Including the 'statutory' kind? If so the study is approximately worthless. (ie. Whatever potential benefit it could have is likely offset by the equivocation it encourages.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T05:34:11.445Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I doubt that claim

This is by far not the only example of a trait correlated with crime that I suspect you'd rather not act on. I chose homosexuality as the closest analogy since both can be interpreted either as an act or as a predilection and thus a property of the person.

It seems more likely to me that gay sexual relationships which straddle the legal age of consent (in some states, this can mean an 18-year-old boy with a 17-year-old boyfriend) are many, many times more likely to be treated as a criminal issue than straight sexual relationships with the same age gap.

I'm not convinced that's actually true these days.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-15T05:57:38.052Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not convinced that's actually true these days.

Anecdotes! I have contrary ones.

But what did you think of the Lisak & Miller study, and their definition of rape that you asked about?

comment by shminux · 2013-06-15T07:53:38.496Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

based on statistics showing male homosexuals being ten times more to engage in pedophilia than male heterosexuals.

That "statistics" is unlikely to be unbiased.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-16T03:52:38.868Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the statistic in question is based on data I heard from gay rights advocates. They were saying that only 30% of pedophilia cases are committed by gays and counting on their audience not being Bayesians.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T23:03:34.067Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find it likely that the percentage of rapists on LessWrong is roughly comparable to the percentage of rapists in U.S. colleges. Maybe a little lower, maybe a little higher, but not significantly different. In general, I expect that rapists (as we're using the term here) are present in any large group, and that I have no way of distinguishing them from non-rapists.

Why? The demographics of LW are unusual in all kinds of way. e.g., a sex ratio of about 9 males per female (and males tend to rape more), average IQ probably in the 130s (and high-IQ people are less likely to have any sex, let alone non-consensual one), etc. OTOH, given that there are effects with different signs, I'm not sure what the sign of the total effect would be.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-16T00:45:58.286Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing brilliant: given no reason to systematically shift my local expectation in one direction or another, my local expectation defaults to my global expectation.

Would you expect something different?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-16T07:41:38.586Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For me, it's more like “the overall evidence probably strongly points some way, but I can't be bothered to do the maths and figure out which way it points”.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2013-06-13T20:38:48.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does that answer your questions (both explicit and implicit)?

Yes, thank you.

Incidentally: do you assume I'm not one of those men? If so, on what basis?

I assume you are most likely not one of those men based on the assumption that they are only somewhere around 6% of the population. I'd put the odds slightly higher since you are interested enough in the topic to write in the comments and initially said something dismissive, but not a whole lot higher. Most likely you're a nice and respectful guy in control of your impulses in as much as the rest of the population, and I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T23:04:44.086Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

in control of your impulses

For certain people, being in control of one's impulses may be easier in writing than in meatspace.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:18:40.699Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

why do we have to keep talking about all of this gender stuff? why can't we just treat people as people without reference to gender?

Because a person's gender is correlated with a lot of other properties of the person that are harder to observe directly, and we as Bayesians are obligated to condition on all the evidence we have available.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-15T03:25:19.062Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You understand I was quoting that question, rather than asking it, right?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-13T02:29:35.496Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure LW is using a consistent definition of 'political', but possibly I'm misremembering what I've seen.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T05:33:58.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My impression was that the sense in which "political" was previously used here had more to do with rival identity groups whose claims on power were disputed — "Blues and Greens"; Republicans and Democrats; socialists and libertarians; and so on.

More recently, however, it seems to be used to excuse bad epistemic behavior — responding to straw men or stereotypes; mere contradiction; attacking noncentral points; etc. — on any topic pertaining to contemporary human society or social organization.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-13T05:53:25.216Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Blues and Greens"; Republicans and Democrats; socialists and libertarians;

feminists vs. PUA/MRA

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-13T17:58:17.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Avoiding the tribalism doesn't mean avoiding all the object-level bits of reality the tribes are interested in.

It seems...broken if I can get together a group of people and say "we have strong opinions about X and we call ourselves Xians" and then LessWrong doesn't discuss X anymore.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-06-15T03:11:03.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems...broken if I can get together a group of people and say "we have strong opinions about X and we call ourselves Xians" and then LessWrong doesn't discuss X anymore.

I never said we couldn't have political discussions about X. What I said was don't use X as an example when making a non-political point.

comment by GDC3 · 2013-06-15T06:04:36.678Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted without reading for the trigger warning. Maybe I'll read it later: I suppose if it hate the article I might change my vote, but probably not. Sometimes it's in one's best interests to be a single issue voter.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-11T00:08:44.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe "Only Yes Means Yes"? Otherwise the statement is open to misinterpretation.

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-06-11T06:03:51.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's deliberately constructed to imply both "Only Yes Means Yes" and "Yes Definitely Means Yes, no strings attached" - because both are needed for the system to function. After all, we don't want people to just say "Yes" after mistakenly perceiving this as just the new standard of acting nice/"political correctness", and then try to manipulate their partner into not going through with the sex.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T10:49:21.086Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Although the phrase "no strings attached" might not have quite the connotations you want.

I think a better phrasing would be "yes definitely means yes, within the boundaries explicitly negotiated".

I'm coming from the BDSM community, where explicit negotiations of consent and boundaries are kind of a Big Deal - maybe this is something that the mainstream sexual community could adopt with minor modification. (We've been beta testing it for them for at least three decades, after all)

comment by Multiheaded · 2013-06-11T12:41:01.434Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, yes, that's what I should've said.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-11T11:00:32.636Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Although the phrase "no strings attached" might not have quite the connotations you want.

...making it hard to consent to bondage play for example?

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T11:02:58.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...making it hard to consent to bondage play for example?

What you did there.

But in all seriousness, yes. A more 'vanilla' example might be: "I enthusiastically consent to sex, but only if you wear a condom."

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-11T10:58:55.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's deliberately constructed to imply both "Only Yes Means Yes" and "Yes Definitely Means Yes, no strings attached" - because both are needed for the system to function.

But... there are strings attached. Yes doesn't definitely mean yes. It means yes most of the time but if the earth hasn't gone around the sun many times since the speaker was born it can mean nothing, it can likewise not mean anything if certain other formal power differences exist. What 'Yes' means in cases when prompted by various kinds of coercion or in response to certain kinds of favours (but not others) depends on the environment and the subtlety of the participants.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2013-06-11T21:26:16.154Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ohh yes indeed. Which is why there are courts, and laws, and social mores. Sex isn't a perfect libertarian utopia of mutual contract negotiation and enforcement, even in the world we're imagining in this thread.

it can likewise not mean anything if certain other formal power differences exist.

Incidentally, as an aside into VERY dangerous waters, I think this is the actual important distinction. Enthusiastic consent is only possible between equals or near-equals. When any formal power differences exist, it muddies the waters too much for society to trust that consent was enthusiastically given.

Which, interestingly enough, makes pedophilia a problem of power-disparity interfering with the consent mechanism, instead of a mere social 'ugh field', which is deeply satisfying as a rationalist. (It also means that these problems can be corrected for, but discussing that might drift too far into taboo even for this site).