Sayeth the Girl

post by Alicorn · 2009-07-19T22:24:32.947Z · score: 52 (150 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 503 comments

Disclaimer: If you are prone to dismissing women's complaints of gender-related problems as the women being whiny, emotionally unstable girls who see sexism where there is none, this post is unlikely to interest you.

For your convenience, links to followup posts: Roko says; orthonormal says; Eliezer says; Yvain says; Wei_Dai says

As far as I can tell, I am the most active female poster on Less Wrong.  (AnnaSalamon has higher karma than I, but she hasn't commented on anything for two months now.)  There are not many of us.  This is usually immaterial.  Heck, sometimes people don't even notice in spite of my girly username, my self-introduction, and the fact that I'm now apparently the feminism police of Less Wrong.

My life is not about being a girl.  In fact, I'm less preoccupied with feminism and women's special interest issues than most of the women I know, and some of the men.  It's not my pet topic.  I do not focus on feminist philosophy in school.  I took an "Early Modern Women Philosophers" course because I needed the history credit, had room for a suitable class in a semester when one was offered, and heard the teacher was nice, and I was pretty bored.  I wound up doing my midterm paper on Malebranche in that class because we'd covered him to give context to Mary Astell, and he was more interesting than she was.  I didn't vote for Hilary Clinton in the primary.  Given the choice, I have lots of things I'd rather be doing than ferreting out hidden or less-than-hidden sexism on one of my favorite websites.

Unfortunately, nobody else seems to want to do it either, and I'm not content to leave it undone.  I suppose I could abandon the site and leave it even more masculine so the guys could all talk in their own language, unimpeded by stupid chicks being stupidly offended by completely unproblematic things like objectification and just plain jerkitude.  I would almost certainly have vacated the site already if feminism were my pet issue, or if I were more easily offended.  (In general, I'm very hard to offend.  The fact that people here have succeeded in doing so anyway without even, apparently, going out of their way to do it should be a great big red flag that something's up.)  If you're wondering why half of the potential audience of the site seems to be conspicuously not here, this may have something to do with it.

So can I get some help?  Some lovely people have thrown in their support, but usually after I or, more rarely, someone else sounds the alarm, and usually without much persistence or apparent investment.  There is still conspicuous karmic support for some comments that perpetuate the problems, which does nothing to disincentivize being piggish around here - some people seem to earnestly care about the problem, but this isn't enforced by the community at large, it's just a preexisting disposition (near as I can tell).

I would like help reducing the incidence of:

We could use more of the following:

Thank you for your attention and, hopefully, your assistance.

503 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by knb · 2009-07-20T02:26:43.622Z · score: 51 (59 votes) · LW · GW

If you're wondering why half of the potential audience of the site seems to be conspicuously not here, this may have something to do with it.

I sincerely doubt it. This site is hugely less sexist than society at large. The comments at very high traffic sites are regularly flamed by many, many trolls who are explicitly, obnoxiously sexist, and yet these sites have a much larger percentage of women. As far as I can tell, the "misogynisitic comments" here are sincere, if somewhat indelicate questions or statements of opinion.

In fact "Roissy in DC" (a blog written by an openly misogynistic male "pick-up artist") has a much larger percentage of female commenters than Less Wrong. If you are looking for a culprit for why there are more men than women here, I suggest you start here.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

Its just a start, (and the poll is sort of old) but twice as many men believed in evolution without divine intervention. Combine that with the fact that less women spend less time on the internet and I think we have a good start when it comes to explaining the dearth of female commenters.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-20T06:51:15.198Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

In fact "Roissy in DC" (a blog written by an openly misogynistic male "pick-up artist") has a much larger percentage of female commenters than Less Wrong

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this is principally defensive or similarly self-interested. Women interested in not being duped by jackasses will benefit little from understanding why they should one-box Newcomb's problem, compared to the benefit of understanding how to spot guys like Roissy.

Not that I'm implying every single woman who follows him has that motivation; his topic is admittedly much simpler and has virtually universal appeal than most LW content, at least to single people (not his take on the topic, just the topic generally).

comment by knb · 2009-07-20T07:08:42.189Z · score: 22 (28 votes) · LW · GW

I think my point still stands. The women aren't always posting supportively, but they are posting. They post because they are interested in the subject matter: dating relationships, sex, etc. These are topics of broad appeal.

This site, however appeals to a group of self-identified rationalists who are interested in obscure topics like Newcomb's problem and the possibility of strong AI. This mindspace cluster is small and overwhelmingly male. Obviously, this is not a criticism of women. Enjoying these topics (or not) is merely a matter of preference.

Women aren't avoiding this site because of occasional comments alluding to the fact that men like having sex with attractive women.

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-20T07:49:12.060Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

This is what I'm talking about in my other comment. "Women" are interested in "dating, relationships, sex" and "self-identified rationalists" are interested in "newcomb's problem, and the possibility of strong AI". Do you know what most men are doing tonight? Not hanging out here.

I'm interested in the possibility of strong AI and am slowly but surely obtaining and reading the necessary foundational material (starting off with SIAI core reading). I'm perfectly able to love and understand Newcomb's problem and similar. Whether you meant "the average woman" or what, it's careless of you to say this.

Though I agree with you that it is unlikely that women are not participating because of perceived sexism.

Edit: I'd like to mention that I've tried my hardest to get my boyfriend to read this site more often, but he refuses, because he thinks some of the stuff we talk about is ridiculous and irrelevant to life.

Edit: deleted female anecdote, but leaving male anecdote, because it is still necessary to provide support for my point.

comment by knb · 2009-07-20T17:10:08.340Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

This is what I'm talking about in my other comment. "Women" are interested in "dating, relationships, sex" and "self-identified rationalists" are interested in "newcomb's problem, and the possibility of strong AI". Do you know what most men are doing tonight? Not hanging out here.

What part of my comment are you disagreeing with? You seem to think I was claiming "men like rationality topics" and "women like dating/relationship topics". This is not at all what I was claiming.

I was stating that almost everyone, male and female, is interested in dating/relationship topics and there is only a tiny set of people interested in LW-style rationality topics. For whatever reason, this set is mostly male. I don't know what your anecdote is supposed to demonstrate, except that there are some men who aren't interested in LW and some women who are (which is totally compatible with my comment).

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-20T18:28:21.264Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

With the new information from your second comment, I read your original comment in a different way. We have no disagreements.

comment by taryneast · 2011-03-20T10:26:22.949Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I know I'm late to this party but... I totally agree that mostly it's the case that there is an initial low volume of women coming to this site.

However... given that there is already a low volume arriving at the site we should therefore be extra careful not to scare any away through total insensitivity.

I don't mean we should be afraid to utter words that may be taken the wrong way, but that PUA is really a very hot topic... one that is not appreciated by a very large proportion of women (myself included).

It goes a little beyond "occasional comments alluding to the fact that men like having sex with attractive women." - which I definitely have no problem with. PUA is about manipulation - specifically, manipulation of the kinds of automatic processes that a woman can normally rely on to benefit her own safety and enjoyment - a manipulation of these processes that does not, in fact, benefit the woman, but the man doing the PU. This is why it's a Dark Art.

I personally feel uncomfortable supporting a site that support the lesser forms of evil. I would be equally pissed off if we talked supportively about the more manipulative advertising and marketing techniques...

I think that we should avoid these topics, because it scares people away - men as well as women, but the PUA one specifically scares women away... and given that there's so few of us here already, we should try especially hard to not do that.

comment by Roko · 2009-07-20T06:40:50.934Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

In fact "Roissy in DC" (a blog written by an openly misogynistic male "pick-up artist") has a much larger percentage of female commenters than Less Wrong

Yes but they're probably not the kind of intelligent women we are after.

There obviously are lots of very intelligent women in the world who could be great rationalists. But I don't think that the strategy of censoring certain forms of speech every time the gender issue comes up would necessarily help to attract them. Many intelligent women would probably be rather pissed off with what Alicorn is saying and consider censoring uses of language that are perfectly standard within the world at large, and censoring forms of thought that produce accurate models because they hurt people's feelings to be a mockery of rationality. Rationality is basically the art of not censoring thought because it hurts your feelings.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2009-07-20T09:03:30.663Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

"Rationality is basically the art of not censoring thought because it hurts your feelings."

And driving is basically the art of turning a wheel back and forth.

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-20T08:26:18.235Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Roko, I've read through a lot of your comments and we agree on a lot. I think you're bringing very important ideas to the table, including your politics comment down the page, which I upvoted.

I would never advocate the censorship of language, but I think that a lot of what is potentially offensive to females results from careless thinking about gender that could be corrected with the appropriate information. I don't care about my feelings being hurt, I care because I think that their current perceptions about females that are showing through in the posts result from a lack of information which I have, and that they would probably appreciate receiving.

Anyways... no one is actually censoring anyone because no one is keeping anyone from saying anything, right? Someone is just calling to attention what I think most gender sensitive people (which would probably be the majority of the people here!) would avoid anyway if they considered it for a moment.

I would like to say again, that I can see why you would be concerned. We should continue to promote things based on scientific or rational merit and not take the easy way out using political-like appeals.

comment by Rachael · 2009-07-21T06:52:56.482Z · score: 41 (51 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is real. I am a 21 year old woman and an aspiring rationalist, and my friends are mostly women and some are also aspiring rationalists. We find much of the conversation about women on this site so off-putting that I for one have never commented before. I read Eliezer's work and enjoy it very much indeed, which is why I stick around at all.

I am simply astounded at the men here confidently asserting that they aren't alienating women when they talk about "getting" "attractive women" and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male. This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house, and I feel humiliated when I read it.

I am fully aware that some men think this way, and that in certain social scenes almost all the "players" in the social "game" see it this way. If getting ahead in a social game like that gives you loads of utility then thinking of women in this way might be rational. But if you would derive more utility from having long and close relationships with female rationalists, you might like to know that female rationalists will be less likely to seek out your company and attention if you persist in that attitude.

comment by Raw_Power · 2010-10-09T13:29:48.066Z · score: 8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Female rationalists are rare enough that I for one think we should proactively endeavour to attract them here, rather than thoughtlessly alienating them and then being baffled by the backlash of those who are interested enough in this blog to even care.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-22T14:35:04.574Z · score: 6 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I am simply astounded at the men here confidently asserting that they aren't alienating women when they talk about "getting" "attractive women" and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male. This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house, and I feel humiliated when I read it.

If a woman publicly asserts that she wants to "get" an "attractive man", would you also think that she is being alienating?

Most people, regardless of whether they are men or women, want attractive partners, and yet, in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial or even sexist when they are honest about their desires.

In addition, insofar as successful men are significantly more likely than not-so-successful men to attract women whom they find attractive, having an attractive girlfriend does signal that you are successful.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-02-22T18:44:30.203Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, I find individuals who talk about men as high-status possessions rather offputting as well, regardless of their gender.
That said, I've never tried to participate in a community I considered defined by such individuals.

comment by Nornagest · 2013-02-26T06:08:25.646Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Most people, regardless of whether they are men or women, want attractive partners, and yet, in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial or even sexist when they are honest about their desires.

I've seen "superficial". As to the other two, I believe the party line is that sexism requires both prejudice and institutionalized power in order to function, that males are uniformly more socially powerful, and thus that male-directed sexism is impossible. In itself that's little more than a definitional quibble, but in practice this shakes out to a belief that otherwise identical behaviors are less alienating when directed at men.

How seriously you take that probably depends more on your politics than on your observed experiences. That being said, I imagine I'd feel pretty alienated if I'd wandered into a 90%-female community that frequently discussed men in terms of status potential, and I further imagine that that sort of thought experiment should screen off most of the information we'd get from discussing which accusations are more common.

comment by taelor · 2013-03-03T10:09:12.232Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, I think it's generally much easier to convince a group to stop doing something because it's bad than to convince them that its okay when others do it, but only bad when they do it.

As to the other two, I believe the party line is that sexism requires both prejudice and institutionalized power in order to function, that males are uniformly more socially powerful, and thus that male-directed sexism is impossible. In itself that's little more than a definitional quibble, but in practice this shakes out to a belief that otherwise identical behaviors are less alienating when directed at men.

Would this imply that, in a truly sexually egalitarian society where niether side posses any systematic power disparities over the other, and both would be free to objectify the other without being sexist?

comment by hairyfigment · 2013-02-23T07:40:35.895Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If a woman publicly asserts that she wants to "get" an "attractive man", would you also think that she is being alienating?

Sure. I usually wouldn't care enough to object, but it would seem faintly wrong in a way that 'I want to have sex with an attractive guy,' or a concrete statement of any other desire, would not.

And I most certainly would not expect most heterosexual guys to participate in a web-community that often talked about how to "get an attractive man".

in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial...when they are honest about their desires.

If you really meant that, then your experience seems weirdly limited. Or are we just talking about sexual desires? I think the statement still fails in that case, but not as soundly.

comment by J_Taylor · 2013-02-26T04:24:59.036Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Most people, regardless of whether they are men or women, want attractive partners, and yet, in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial or even sexist when they are honest about their desires.

As a general rule, everyone is constantly accusing everyone else of everything.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-26T10:53:01.275Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

As a general rule, everyone is constantly accusing everyone else of everything.

This seems deep, open minded, egalitarian and... blatantly false. People aren't constantly accusing everyone else of everything. Moreover some people do more accusing than others, some people receive more accusations than others and some kinds of accusations are received more positively by observers than others. Anyone who believed (or, rather, anyone who alieved) your theory would make poor predictions of human behavior and make correspondingly bad social decisions.

comment by J_Taylor · 2013-02-27T03:22:37.888Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This seems deep, open minded, egalitarian and... blatantly false.

I was honestly going more for silly, cynical, misanthropic and... obviously hyperbole.

If you do not mind me quoting a different part of this thread momentarily:

To the extent that it is a joke it is a bad joke, inappropriate to the context, with an undesirable expected influence, encouraging flawed patterns of thought.

I do not understand what flawed patterns of thought I am encouraging. Could you elaborate a bit?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-02-27T04:50:56.305Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I do not understand what flawed patterns of thought I am encouraging. Could you elaborate a bit?

It's related to the fallacy of gray.

comment by Gastogh · 2013-02-26T11:32:08.628Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To me it seems like a joke.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-26T11:41:11.324Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To me it seems like a joke.

To the extent that it is a joke it is a bad joke, inappropriate to the context, with an undesirable expected influence, encouraging flawed patterns of thought. ie. The feature of humor that allows it to bypass critical facilities would makes the joke interpretation worse than a more direct interpretation.

Something being a 'joke' does not make it immune from criticism. Or, rather, it often does make it immune from criticism but this is unfortunate. This comment in response to the text that it quotes being overwhelmingly positively received is a negative sign. I speculate (or perhaps merely hope) that in a different thread it may not have been given as much leeway.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-02-23T02:29:05.125Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If a woman publicly asserts that she wants to "get" an "attractive man", would you also think that she is being alienating?

Logical fallacy ad hominem tu quoque?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-23T07:45:18.421Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I was not trying to disprove Rachael. I was merely trying to point out the potential use of double standards.

comment by Rukifellth · 2013-02-15T18:21:36.297Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male.

This piques a nerve of mine. Thinking about others in terms of evolutionary psychology/ladder theory alone is a pretty huge screw-up, and I'm surprised that it happens frequently enough on this website that this has gotten so many upvotes. Then again, I'm fairly new. When did this happen?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-02-15T14:41:25.337Z · score: 1 (19 votes) · LW · GW

This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house,

Women reduce men to a fancy car and a big house all the time. I used to find it rather insulting. I'd rather be reduced to a sex object. The grass is always greener.

Both men and women get reduced to status symbols for their mates. That's the way it is. I don't get much heartburn over it anymore.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-15T18:00:27.267Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

The whole point of this website is that we can do something about big problems. Like dying!

I feel like not treating each other like crap should be a much easier problem to tackle than dying. Your comment smacks of System Justification.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-02-19T13:27:47.652Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

While it's worth noting that men can also be objectified, I don't see how it follows that this isn't a Bad Thing.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-21T19:22:04.767Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

While the statement "unfortunately people from group A undergo experience X" doesn't logically entail anything about people outside group A, it often does pragmatically implicate that the speaker doesn't think that people outside group A experiencing X constitute a problem to be worried about at the moment (otherwise, the speaker would likely not have mentioned group A in the first place: when did you last hear anyone lamenting that so many right-handed people die in car accidents?); therefore, the fact that both people within and outside A experience X is a reason to ADBOC with such a statement.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-02-25T19:19:06.203Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

An excellent point, if perhaps a little strong, (objectifying men could simply be less of an issue,) but dan is saying that "That's the way it is. I don't get much heartburn over it anymore."

It is absolutely worth pointing out that neither sex is immune to objectification. Objectification is still bad. Just because I've been forced to put up with something doesn't mean everyone should just suck it up.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-27T12:54:29.948Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Another interpretation of his point: “It's hypocritical for women to complain about being objectified by men, because they also objectify men themselves.” That's only a valid point if the women who resent being objectified are the same women who objectify men, which is probably not the case.

Other examples of this failure mode are “Jerusalemites hailed Jesus as a deity when he came back, but five days later they were shouting for Pontius Pilate to crucify him” (maybe he had both supporters and opposers, who weren't the same people?) and “people are always protesting about that politician, but he keeps on being re-elected” (maybe young people protest and old people vote for him, or something like that).

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-03-04T20:19:44.637Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's an inference drawn from a mixture of fallacies of composition and division and the availability heuristic.

"I notice Jerusalemites supporting Jesus, therefore Jerusalem supports Jesus. I notice Jerusalemites opposing Jesus, therefore Jerusalem opposing Jesus. Jerusalem both supports and opposes Jesus; therefore Jerusalem is fickle; therefore Jerusalemites are individually fickle ... and should feel bad about their fickleness."

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-26T11:46:12.459Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Objectification is still bad.

Or awesome, depending on your preference in the specific instance.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-03-04T19:53:47.164Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For most meanings of "objectification", I figured this possibility is so unusual as to be irrelevant. Am I missing something?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-25T21:27:14.085Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

but dan is saying that "That's the way it is. I don't get much heartburn over it anymore."

Ah, that part I had glanced over. Well, that's a case of Generalizing from One Example: ‘[I don't mind {noise, clutter, being objectified}, therefore it's not a big deal and] if you complain about it you're oversensitive.’

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-03-04T21:43:23.312Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could be a bit of both. "It happens to everyone [therefore] it doesn't matter to me [therefore] you can get over it."

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-05T20:43:03.196Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It happens to everyone [therefore] it doesn't matter to me

It could, but OTOH a person's level of annoyance for something isn't always a monotonically decreasing function of how frequent that is: for example, the more often people post something I'm not interested in (e.g. gossip about celebrities, rooting for football teams, pictures of attractive people in underwear of the gender other than the one I'm attracted to) on Facebook, the more annoyed I am by seeing that particular kind of thing (ceteris paribus).

BTW, I've recently noticed a couple examples the reverse phenomenon of "it doesn't matter to me [therefore] you can get over it", namely "it annoys me [therefore] you should be outraged". For example, last night Bob introduced me to Alice; I don't remember exactly what Alice told me, except that I thought it was supposed to be playful banter; this morning Bob apologized to me on Facebook for introducing “that boorish blonde”, because Carol had told him that Alice had been rude to me. I'm guessing that Carol would be annoyed by... whatever it was that Alice told me, so she assumed that I would be annoyed too. (I have asked Carol herself for clarifications on Facebook.) This has raised my estimate of how much the typical person is annoyed by what would sound to me like playful banter, incidentally making me take PUA critics' concerns about “negging” more seriously.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-03-06T10:09:09.949Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good point.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-02-25T23:59:45.578Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Objectification is still bad.

What do we mean by "objectification"? I would argue that the Baysianism-utilitarianism epistemology cloud around here objectifies all people and all subsets of people by reducing them to the status of tools or victory points, and no one seems particularly concerned about this until the subset being objectified becomes that set of all females.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-02-26T00:58:46.834Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What do we mean by "objectification"?

From Rachael's comment:

I am simply astounded at the men here confidently asserting that they aren't alienating women when they talk about "getting" "attractive women" and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male. This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house, and I feel humiliated when I read it.

Or ... look it up. The top three or four results for "objectification of women" on your favorite search engine may be enlightening.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-27T13:13:38.319Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

EY is opposed to not-caring-about-whether-your-sexual-partner-is-sentient (which is my understanding of the top Google hit for that phrase), FWIW.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-02-28T05:57:44.808Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to be a bit more than that. Sometimes sexual objectification seems to include wishing a potential sexual partner were nonsentient — treating people as if they ought to be automata to serve your wishes, and that it's an outrage that they don't act like it.

It's one thing to say, "I wish I had a sexbot." It's another thing to say, "You shouldn't exist; instead there should exist a sexbot in your image, for me."

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T07:07:04.574Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to chime in and say that if this seems absurd and incredible and who does that ... Uhh. That's happened to me. It's not fun. Maybe a bit more tangled up, but almost exactly that.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-28T08:53:38.226Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Which one were you, the one who wished your partner were nonsentient or the one whom your partner wished were nonsentient?

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T09:09:46.013Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I was the annoyingly sentient one. The conversation went something like

I want you to do [thing].

Okay, but you know me. That's really not part of my personality.

But you're my girlfriend.

In that context, if you solve for the taboo meaning of the word "girlfriend", it basically comes out to nonsentient sexbot. But he wasn't trying to be evil, he was just quite innocently incredulous and couldn't figure out what was wrong with the world.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-02-28T20:36:47.580Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Were you a mono couple? Members of mono couples sometimes have ideas about an obligation to fulfill all the other person's sexual and romantic needs since the partner can't go anywhere else. Perhaps he had asymmetrical ideas about this and would not have obliged if you'd made a similar request, but if the notions were symmetrical then it's not a sexbot thing. One reason I'm careful not to date women who aren't dating any other men is that my life is full of other and overriding demands, and I don't want to be someone's only boyfriendly recourse.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T20:58:00.249Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I agree that there are circumstances in which this works out. But we were mono and he was very asymmetrical and he had no idea that he was asymmetrical. (There was stuff to which I told him to find another girl, but he'd get mad if I was talking to another guy.) Like the thought that he was asking me for way more stuff than he would be willing to do (and that there's anything wrong with that) just never crossed his mind. So he was innocently confused and frustrated about why things weren't going his way.

This also gets into the issue of manipulating language to sneak in blind spots into the meanings of words. "A girlfriend is someone who should make me happy, and not doing [thing] makes me unhappy, so it's your fault I'm unhappy." But again, the scariest part was that he wasn't trying to be evil! He just did all of his reasoning in that kind of spotty language that was skewed in his favor. And then constantly couldn't figure out why the territory ... wasn't.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-03-01T18:54:56.211Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But we were mono and he was very asymmetrical and he had no idea that he was asymmetrical. (There was stuff to which I told him to find another girl, but he'd get mad if I was talking to another guy.)

We can't quite yet conclude he was evil until you further inform us that he thought he was allowed to talk to other girls without asking you (I naturally presume that no asymmetry of this sort was ever explicitly negotiated). If he carefully refrained from talking to other girls, then we have a big mismatch in expectations about how a relationship should work and a probable breakup recommendation, but not an asymmetric non-negotiated demand.

Sorry for being pedantic in my definitions, but while this sort of thing may not in fact be relevant to your case, the general rule may prove important to others.

comment by jooyous · 2013-03-01T23:48:24.305Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think I'm going to have to drop this particular example. I kind of rushed into it blindly because I thought it was really important to point out that the thinking from the original comment wasn't a straw man. And I do think it's important to fill in this other information, but unfortunately it's making me remember a bunch of stuff in more detail that I'd like, oops. (He did think he was allowed to talk to other girls. Also a lot of his behavior was characterized by this type of surprised frustration at very predictable things.)

Being pedantic in definitions is awesome! I think that failure is what gets people into this mess in the first place. If we were really thinking "I'd like you to put away your personal preferences whenever I find them inconvenient," we wouldn't have too much trouble realizing our thoughts were evil. But I also think that a non-evil

big mismatch in expectations about how a relationship should work

can be really damaging anyway and I think it's easier and more productive to identify the potential for damage rather than establishing watertight evilness after the fact. Which is what I think the people that get mad at that "get a girl" type of rhetoric try to do.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-02T12:38:32.512Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

We can't quite yet conclude he was evil until you further inform us that he thought he was allowed to talk to other girls without asking you (I naturally presume that no asymmetry of this sort was ever explicitly negotiated).

Even without an asymmetry, the idea that when one is in a relationship one should refrain from talking to about 50% of the population sounds so preposterous to me that it's not even funny. (Or is “talking” in this context a euphemism for something else?)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-03T10:24:20.732Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that the parent and this comment were both downvoted makes me guess that such a position is not as indefensible as it naively sounds; but... Why? What am I missing?

comment by shminux · 2013-02-28T21:03:45.281Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A girlfriend is someone who should make me happy, and not doing [thing] makes me unhappy, so it's your fault I'm unhappy.

Sounds pretty narcissistic of him. And narcissism is basically incurable, so hopefully you moved on.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T21:26:23.685Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yes and yes. But my whole point is that I don't want to say that he was an Evil Incurable Narcissist Demon! He was just a misguided kid with some questionable thought patterns. Like any of us!

Objectification is a cached thought and a weasel word away from anyone. So when someone gets offended about objectification, they're not saying you're an Evil Objectifying Narcissist Demon. It's more like stepping on someone's foot! It can happen to anyone! Accidentally! And you'd just say "oh, sorry about your foot," and they'll say "thanks for understanding."

comment by shminux · 2013-02-28T21:54:26.138Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want to say that he was an Evil Incurable Narcissist Demon!

I was merely referring to the medical definition of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which your ex may or may not have had. And NPD people are notoriously hard to treat, precisely because not alieving that they are the problem is one of the main symptoms, and not just your garden-variety denial.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T22:23:48.273Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, I understand and I actually think you may be right.

I was saying that using a word, any word, that you wouldn't use to describe yourself is dangerous for thinking about stuff properly. That's why I'm still waving this flag around! Sorry to be repetitive. I just don't want people reading this and caching "Oh, I'm not one of those Nar-whatever people; that means I don't objectify anyone."

Tapping out now! Or I might feel compelled to continue flag-waving at a dead horse. =]

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-01T13:40:01.797Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But we were mono and he was very asymmetrical and he had no idea that he was asymmetrical. (There was stuff to which I told him to find another girl, but he'd get mad if I was talking to another guy.)

That doesn't constitute asymmetry of the kind I think Eliezer was talking about. It would be asymmetric if he took you up on your invitation to look for other girls while expecting you not to do the same.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-01T13:45:00.727Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It might not be the same sort of asymmetry Eliezer was talking about, but do you really think it's not a significant sort of asymmetry?

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-01T13:50:22.404Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That would depend very much on what the terms of the relationship were, and to what extent asymmetry of the kind Eliezer was talking about was really present. One has to be careful about this, because if A allows her partner B to look for other girls to fulfill some desires of his that she won't, it's not clear that this creates an obligation for B to mirror that offer. Saying that there is "significant asymmetry" is language that sort of suggests that obligation is there.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-01T14:32:22.526Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think obligation is a very good way of framing the issue. Indeed, by far the most satisfying relationship I've been in was one where we both took the view "being in a relationship doesn't obligate us to shit."

The issue is not whether one person is imposing rules that they don't want to follow themself, but whether one person has significantly more consideration for the other's desires and is willing to go to greater efforts to accommodate them.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-03T14:17:18.897Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd appreciate it if the people downvoting this would offer an explanation.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-03T14:32:34.960Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't downvote, but maybe it would be helpful to taboo "obligation": recently I've had a feeling that in discussions like this (not just on LW) both parties are thinking something kind-of sort-of reasonable but each thinks the other isn't because they are using that word with slightly different meanings and each is misunderstanding what exactly the other means by it.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-01T12:40:35.984Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

he'd get mad if I was talking to another guy

Are there still people like that? o.O

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-28T10:20:18.549Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In that context, if you solve for the taboo meaning of the word "girlfriend", it basically comes out to nonsentient sexbot.

Would he agree with that description? Maybe he would, or perhaps there are other things that he said or did that make your attribution of meaning valid. However in themselves the words quoted are just as compatible with the taboo meaning being "someone who executes a set of behaviors that happen to include X, Y and also [thing]". That is a matter of someone having incompatible romantic preferences and who has made incorrect assumptions about your conformance to a particular social contract.

Again, I'm not saying the description is incompatible with him wishing you were a non-sentient sexbot. Rather, that this particular story doesn't come anywhere near making that interpretation the most plausible.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T18:15:12.392Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well no, it specifically comes out to "someone who executes a set of behaviors that happens to include [thing] even when those behaviors go against their personality". So it's someone that puts aside their personality and does things that feels weird and uncomfortable that they wouldn't do otherwise because their "boyfriend" wants them to.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-03-01T01:55:08.400Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's closer to "someone who likes me enough that she's willing to do things that (possibly mildly) go against their personality for me". I don't no what [thing] was so I don't know how reasonable or unreasonable the request was.

It might also help if you tabooed "go against one's personality".

comment by jooyous · 2013-03-01T02:24:04.833Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have a definition, but I have an example. Suppose you decide to start dating a really quiet person and you know that they're really quiet before you ask them out, and they're consistently really quiet throughout the time that you're dating, and then you start bringing them to loud social functions. You wouldn't expect them to suddenly turn extroverted and gregarious, just because they're dating you, right? (So I guess one stab at a working definition is a very low-probability change in behavior given your evidence from all your previous interaction with them, usually low-probability due to difficult-to-change psychological states.)

What you're describing is more like "Will you please go with me to these events? They're really important to me." The person might like you enough to do it, even if they're a bit uncomfortable. The important thing is that the question acknowledges that you know what they're like and you understand they have a choice and it doesn't expect them to suddenly deviate massively from their usual behavior.

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-01T13:45:13.618Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What would you say about the following discourse?

A: I want to you come to this party with me.

B: Okay, but you know me, that's really not part of my personality.

A: But you're my boyfriend!

I personally don't think it's particularly offensive. You can be as introverted as you like - as someone's partner in a monogamous relationship, you are expected to at least not always let them go out alone, and A is just expressing his/her displeasure at having that expectation consistently flaunted.

I also suspect you overestimate how serious people will take the "it's not part of my personality" objection. It'll mostly be taken as a cheap excuse unless you make very clear how much it would upset you. Yvain has an insightful post on his blog about this kind of thing, though since he has expressed some worries about having people he doesn't know link to it, I don't.

Edit: I realize that this was ridiculously unhelpful. In order to avoid linking directly, I should have pointed out that the blog post I had in mind can be found by googling for the string upset "theory of drama".

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-01T14:15:20.345Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I personally don't think it's particularly offensive.

This is why I ended my first relationship.

Of course there's going to be some give and take, but it involved exactly the sort of asymmetry jooyous described, where I was being expected to do things I didn't really like, because that was my "role," while I wasn't trying to force her into doing things she didn't like, because I don't like doing that to people.

If filling a prescribed role is exactly what you want out of your partner, that might feel like a satisfactory relationship, but to a person who doesn't, it's going to feel like their partner isn't really acknowledging them as a person.

comment by shminux · 2013-03-01T18:04:01.240Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If filling a proscribed role

prescribed?

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-01T22:56:42.994Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, edited.

comment by jooyous · 2013-03-01T18:16:26.512Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think the conversation itself is particularly offensive, but it would be offensive if all conversations on the subject of going to parties followed this particular template and showed no evidence of converging at an understanding or compromise.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-28T19:20:26.587Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(Now I'm reminded of someone in the Italian edition of Loveline asking a question starting with “I've been with my girlfriend for a year, but we haven't had sex yet” and being answered with something starting more-or-less with “first of all, if you aren't having sex with her, then by definition she's not your girlfriend; she's just a friend”.)

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T20:04:46.429Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What'd you think when you heard it?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-01T10:09:01.631Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I can remember, something like “well, I can kind-of sort-of see her point, but on the other hand I don't (say) kiss my friends on the mouth in public on a routine basis or implicitly promise each other to not hook up with anyone else, so assuming the caller does, I wouldn't say that she's not his girlfriend but just a friend”. But now that I think about that, that definition is broken, too (e.g. it doesn't encircle open/poly relationships).

comment by shminux · 2013-02-28T20:56:42.190Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like a total misreading of the situation to me. You understood "But you're my girlfriend" to mean "you ought to behave like my sex slave", whereas he meant "I expect you to consider my request as seriously as a GGG person would". Unless, of course, you two already had this discussion and he is just being a jerk to revisit a settled issue.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-28T08:56:02.178Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

First thought was, “WTH? If all those people want is to masturbate using someone else's body, why don't they just pay for a prostitute?”, then I remembered that prostitution is illegal in plenty of places. (Now I'm curious whether stuff like date rape drug use is more prevalent in places where prostitution is illegal than where it isn't.)

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-28T10:39:58.802Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

First thought was, “WTH? If all those people want is to masturbate using someone else's body, why don't they just pay for a prostitute?”, then I remembered that prostitution is illegal in plenty of places.

Possible reasons:

  • Illegality (as you mention).
  • Perceived (and as far as I know actual) greater risk of STDs than with their likely alternative partner.
  • Price. (ie. "I wish I owned a house" is a plausible wish even if only because then they would not have to rent.)
  • Different expected behavior from a sexbot than a prostitute. The "masturbation" experience is presumably enhanced by various behaviors and expression of the sex toy (be it human or robotic). Related to the price reasoning in as much as the price of a "Full Girlfriend Experience" encounter with a prostitute is likely to be far greater than an encounter with someone who puts less effort into acting out an engaged experience.
  • Pride, conquest and ego. People like to be achieve and be validated. There are few things that are more validating for humans than to have mates of a suitable level of attractiveness desire your sexual attention.
  • Robots are cool. Sexbots are sometimes hilarious.
  • Hygene is much easier to manage with sexbots. Not only can you control access to the bot and so prevent exposure to the bodily fluids of unknown strangers, a sexbot can outright detach the relevant robo-parts and wash them in the sink.
  • Sexbots can (presumably) be more easily customized to have specific combinations of traits and easily switch between diverse roles or fetishes.
comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-28T13:22:04.381Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not always sure which instances of “sexbot” in your comment are supposed to be literal and which are supposed to be metaphorical. Anyway...

Pride, conquest and ego. People like to be achieve and be validated. There are few things that are more validating for humans than to have mates of a suitable level of attractiveness desire your sexual attention.

That would require your partner to be sentient, wouldn't it?

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T20:08:16.200Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Haha, not quite. I think you'd want it to be sentient just enough to provide a challenge but turn off its sentience whenever it becomes unpleasant or inconvenient.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-03-01T01:46:55.445Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That would require your partner to be sentient, wouldn't it?

Or to have been sentient.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2013-05-05T17:10:46.808Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The squick has been doubled!

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-28T15:20:31.285Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not always sure which instances of “sexbot” in your comment are supposed to be literal and which are supposed to be metaphorical.

Whichever works (which in some cases means both).

That would require your partner to be sentient, wouldn't it?

Yes, quite right. My mental cache evidently used too much compression and the reconstruction thereof failed to include the necessary explanation. The ego related possible answer that I originally intended was of course that factors of pride and validation of sexual appeal may be absent in both cases and so "just pay a prostitute" would not help them.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-03-04T19:46:12.170Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily. It would require your partner to be difficult to acquire, probably based on their own selectivity and probably based on traits considered high-status, which is why literally buying a sexbot might not be enough for some people - unless it requires wealth, which is usually high-status. Prostitutes are likewise undesirable, unless they are expensive/choosy high-class prostitutes. It implies that they are more likely to be sentient in that they may be choosing based on their own goals, but that's a rather fragile implication.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-03-04T19:39:04.350Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to have multiple meanings and connotations all blurring into each other. Possible meaning include:

  • "Treating someone as a means rather than an end." I'm generally OK with treating people as means, as are most LWers AFAICT, but relationships (and to a lesser extent morality) is expected to include having their desires as part of your goal structure.
  • "Treating someone as not having goals of their own." Objectively wrong, obviously, and if you genuinely believe or alieve this you're likely to run into some problems, I guess.
  • "Treating someone as only existing only to serve as a status symbol, "sex object" or housekeeper." More subtle than the second one, as it relates to goals rather than beliefs, but ultimately has the same problems if you're a neurotypical human or similar.
  • "Focusing on the utility someone's body provides, rather than their mind/personality." Depends on your goals, I guess, but probably not conductive to healthy relationships and many would argue it causes all sorts of subtle societal problems.

Most people mean many or all of these when they say "objectifying" due to connotations and sloppy terminology. A few also include "Treating someone as governed by instinct rather than as a sentient being", especially when discussing PUA.

Does that answer your question?

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-26T01:05:11.443Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's no problem with seeing women as status tools or victory points if you explicitly state that what you're playing is a woman-collecting game, or a lay-collecting game, number-close game, etc. Some people might frown at your choice of game for moral reasons, but they'll admit that you're doing the strategically correct thing with respect to your game's objective.

The problem arises when you say that you're winning at "relationships" or you claim your game is what "everyone knows" to be how relationships work or that's how "the" game is played. That is when "everyone" gets pissed. We don't want to be lumped into that group.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-02-26T01:11:02.081Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The problem arises when you say that you're winning at "relationships" or you claim your game is what "everyone knows" to be how relationships work or that's how "the" game is played.

That's not the claim. The claim is that everyone does this, but most people prefer to believe they're doing something else.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-26T01:19:19.267Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I think I agree in that case. Objectifying people is okay because people are really complicated and sometimes you only need to consider one property of a person in order to compute your goals if you're maximizing utility along some one axis. Sure!

Objectifying people is bad when it hurts them.

no one seems particularly concerned about this until the subset being objectified becomes that set of all females.

When people are concerned about it, it's probably because it hurts them.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-26T15:39:30.973Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

When people are concerned about it, it's probably because it hurts them.

Or because they expect to gain from indicating concern.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T02:39:29.448Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Few things:

  • Hurt people expect to gain compassion, understanding and future not-hurtfulness from indicating concern. I don't understand why you have the "or" there. (I'm also constantly confused how "or" usually means "xor" in English.)
  • Why do you say gain like it's a bad thing? Don't people expect to gain something from doing anything?
comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-03T11:06:04.980Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(I'm also constantly confused how "or" usually means "xor" in English.)

Not quite. The denotation of “A or B” is normally “A or B”, though it often has the connotation “but not both”. “A and/or B” has the same denotation but lacks that connotation. See the first sentence of the fifth paragraph of this.

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-03T12:44:30.009Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The term connotation is usually used for what distinguishes the meanings of "dog" and "cur". The exclusivity of "or" seems to be a rather different thing and is commonly regarded as a conversational implicature (which explains why it disappears under negation, for instance). Whether that's really correct is somewhat debatable, especially because nobody really knows what the denotation of "or" actually is; but calling it connotation strikes me as misleading.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-03T14:26:30.529Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, "conversational implicature" is the more precise term for that, but I used "connotation" instead because I thought it was close enough and it is more widely known among LW readers. (I thought that the main difference was that the latter is usually applied to words and the former to sentences; is there another important one?)

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-03T16:13:19.752Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's at least one that cannot be considered a consequence of implicatures attaching to sentences (or maybe phrases): You can cancel implicatures ("you can do this or that - in fact, you can do both"), but not connotations.

It's instructive to ask the reverse question: Is there any important commonality between implicatures and connotations other than that neither is part of the literal meaning? I think the answer is no.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-09T13:28:10.489Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had been primed by this post when choosing the word connotation, but I didn't remember Footnote 0.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-28T02:51:43.527Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hurt people expect to gain compassion, understanding and future not-hurtfulness from indicating concern that they are hurt. I don't understand why you have the "or" there.

'And' would be unambiguously incorrect. 'Or' is correct, obviously doesn't exclude the possibility that the gain could be of the kind your mentioned and also allows for the other possibilities.

Why do you say gain like it's a bad thing? Don't people expect to gain something from doing anything?

Why do you read gain like it's a bad thing? I have no objection to gain. I'm not judging the expression of concern one way or another, merely commenting on which situations concern is expressed. It is worth making such a comment because the quoted prediction was misleadingly simple.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-28T03:06:26.149Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, but if you're saying gain isn't a bad thing, then you're not really saying anything. Maybe it would help if you name these other things that can be gained by expressing concern?

I'm [...] merely commenting on which situations concern is expressed

But you're not, because you didn't name any situations.

I can't quite explain why it feels trivial to read gain as a good thing, but I have an example. Positive version:

When someone goes to a job interview, it's probably because they want the job.

Or because they expect to gain from the interview.

It's kind of confusing, right? It's like "Err, yes. That's what I said." Compared to:

When someone starts a soup kitchen, it's probably because they want to help starving people.

Or because they expect to gain from the soup kitchen.

That's why I read it as the second one.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-27T13:07:39.010Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Prior discussion about that

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-02-28T02:01:28.602Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I made the same point there as well.

comment by V_V · 2013-02-19T14:28:51.219Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you suggest that people should select their mates randomly?

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-02-19T14:44:06.264Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Him:

Both men and women get reduced to status symbols for their mates.

Me:

I don't see how it follows that this isn't a Bad Thing.

So no, no I don't.

comment by V_V · 2013-02-20T00:58:02.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that you implied that it was a Bad Thing, while you were just objecting the logic of the argument. Thanks for the clarification.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-02-20T09:56:02.488Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I was implying that it's a Bad Thing (or at least, I see no reason to discount the evidence that it is based on how common it is.) But "selecting mates based on various criteria" and "reducing mates to status symbols" are different things, and I was only objecting to the latter.

comment by V_V · 2013-02-20T13:37:55.890Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So you think that taking into account the status signalling value of a partner, either direct ("Look at my supermodel wife!") or indirect ("Look at the fancy car my rich husband bought me!") is a Bad Thing?

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-21T20:08:49.456Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's perfectly okay to choose partners based on their status signalling value, as long as both parties know that it's happening and are happy with the arrangement. I'm sure there are a number of stable and perfectly functional rich husband/trophy wife relationships out there in the world, or maybe even rich wife/trophy husband ones. It is, however, a Bad Thing to say "Yes honey, I adore your personality" when you, in fact, don't. If you are using someone as a status symbol and find yourself saying things like that, it means know that's not what they want. You should instead find a willing status symbol.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-22T06:03:27.781Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's perfectly okay to choose partners based on their status signalling value, as long as both parties know that it's happening and are happy with the arrangement.

That morality is unfortunate. In the typical case both partners are choosing mates based significantly on their status signalling value and neither are aware of it.

I am highly suspicious of all morals that punish self-awareness and reward hypocrisy.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-22T06:08:09.425Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused, how does being honest about a trophy spouse arrangement in which both parties are satisfied punish self-awareness and reward hypocrisy?

comment by Larks · 2013-02-22T10:55:20.562Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If I have a trophy husband but don't know it, I'm judged morally kosher. But if I realize this, and change nothing else, the arrangement becomes sin - I'm punished for my introspection.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-22T14:00:47.410Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I may or may not get this, so let me try giving an exaggerated for clarity example of what I think you mean.

You're a billionaire author.

You marry an aspiring trophy poet, not because you like their poetry or dislike their poetry, but because they are utterly gorgeous. But you didn't realize this when you married.

You then introspectively realize "Wait, I only married this person because they are utterly gorgeous! In all other ways I have no real feelings for anything they do one way or the other."

You then hear them say "Oh, my love, it's so nice to have someone who appreciates my poetry." and you realize they think that you selected them as a spouse because you love their poetry.

If you had not introspected that earlier, you might have said something like "Yes, such sweet poetry, written by a sweet author." and not thought about it.

But now you KNOW you don't care about the poetry, so if you say that, you feel like you are lying. but if you tell your spouse the truth, you feel like you are smashing apart the (now apparently fictional) basis of your marriage.

So it might be the fact that the introspection can put you in a position where it may be to your advantage if you make a choice to not tell your spouse the truth, and that is an uncomfortable position to be in.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-22T18:33:38.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But where would your spouse get the idea that you appreciate their poetry? If you told them that you did when you really didn't, they'd notice by your actions that you didn't really mean it and react accordingly. Meaning, they'd either not care and you could keep on being married or they'd be really upset and confront you, in which case, you're better off just telling the truth and letting them sort out reality for themselves. Meanwhile, if you never mentioned why you married them and you never asked to read their poetry, they'd be pretty delusional to randomly ascribe motivations to you that don't explain your actions.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-02-23T06:17:24.655Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But where would your spouse get the idea that you appreciate their poetry? If you told them that you did when you really didn't, they'd notice by your actions that you didn't really mean it and react accordingly.

You believed you appreciated their poetry but on introspection, you realize that was just halo effect.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-23T06:43:35.665Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But why do they think you appreciate their poetry? Is it because the halo effect was so strong, you used to talk about how awesome their poetry is all the time?

comment by Larks · 2013-02-22T19:30:11.099Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is what I mean, yes; your billionaire would probably prefer not to have realized.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-02-22T13:49:58.752Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I share jooyous' confusion. How does it follow from "it's OK to choose partners based on signalling value as long as we both know it" that "I'm judged morally kosher if I have a trophy husband but don't know it"?

To say that it's OK to do X given Y is not to say that it's OK to do X in the absence of Y.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-22T09:40:45.442Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"It's okay as long as both parties know it's happening" pragmatically implicates "it's not okay if..." Oh, wait. You're right. Something had flipped a bit in my brain. Never mind.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-23T20:24:41.203Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am still super-confused. I was going for a morality that has a penalty for hurting people. So that if you're doing something that makes someone else unhappy, you have an incentive to figure out what you're doing that has that effect and then take steps accordingly. Meanwhile, if you're lying about something or you're clueless about something and no one notices or cares, that's fine.

comment by CCC · 2013-02-22T07:20:13.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that it's rewarding hypocrisy. I think that this moral stance is about punishing deliberate liars. If you are more self-aware, then yes, you would have more opportunities to deliberately lie (about, for example, what attracts you to a given partner); but this is not, to my mind, a reason to avoid self-awareness. Similarly, if you understand more science, then this gives you the option of creating better, more believable lies; but this is not a reason to reject the study of science.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-02-22T07:58:25.044Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that it's rewarding hypocrisy. I think that this moral stance is about punishing deliberate liars. If you are more self-aware, then yes, you would have more opportunities to deliberately lie (about, for example, what attracts you to a given partner);

Self awareness successfully penalized.

but this is not, to my mind, a reason to avoid self-awareness.

I often ignore punishment too. After all, punishment of me isn't something I want to reward! But when I refuse to respond to an incentive I do not try claim that the incentive does not exist.

Similarly, if you understand more science, then this gives you the option of creating better, more believable lies; but this is not a reason to reject the study of science.

Not the same. (Unless you want to also declare that the social environment is one in which people often say that the world is flat and that people declining to say the world is flat are at a disadvantage.)

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-22T08:14:14.431Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, so the idea is that if you're really clueless, then you're not lying to your partner? You just feel compelled to bring them to fancy dinner parties but never spend one-on-one time with them and you don't know why? Sorry, I'm still having trouble understanding. =/

I wasn't quite going for a moral stance that punishes deliberate liars, but I was going for one where the people cooperate to maximize ... combined utility, I guess? If both people are happy, it's better than an arrangement where one person is making the other unhappy. Which sort of requires honesty, because if you don't tell the other person your real utility function, they won't be able to help with it. And if you act according to a different utility function than you tell them about, that will reflect in your actions and they'll be able to tell something's up.

comment by Larks · 2013-02-22T10:53:53.483Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

maximize ... combined utility, I guess? If both people are happy, it's better than an arrangement where one person is making the other unhappy.

I agree that both being happy is better than one making the other unhappy, but it's important to note that

  • The two are not mutually exclusive: I could reduce your happiness, but be unable to overcome your naturally sunny disposition.
  • One happy one unhappy might have a higher "combined utility" than both happy, if one is a sadistic utility monster.

if you don't tell the other person your real utility function, they won't be able to help with it.

No-one's ever told me their utility function, but I still think I've helped them. When I hold a door open for someone, I help them, but they didn't tell me any coefficients.

if you act according to a different utility function than you tell them about, that will reflect in your actions and they'll be able to tell something's up.

If people could always tell something was up there'd be no unknowing trophy spouses and hence no problem.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-22T18:40:54.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That just works because most people appreciate you opening doors. If you met someone that hated having their door opened, you'd stop! right? And you wouldn't really know they hate it unless they tell you honestly! Or maybe you'd be able to tell because they cringe and grimace every time you do it, which is what I mean by actions reflecting happiness. Maybe they wouldn't even know why they cringe and grimace, but you could experiment and tell it was door-related.

comment by Larks · 2013-02-22T19:28:04.550Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes there are scenarios where you need to ask in order to help people. But there are also scenarios where you don't, and in the comment I was replying to you suggested that one had to ask to help.

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-22T19:35:05.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I think I meant that communication happens somehow, either explicitly or through cringing-like behavior. But you're right, I didn't combine utility properly in my earlier comment. I wanted a way to penalize unhappiness more. Like if something makes me reeeally happy and the other person a bit unhappy, it should be up to the other person to decide if I get to do it. In the sense that unhappiness is unpleasantness and not quite the same as absence of happiness. Arr, complicated.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-22T09:27:01.152Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(Unless you want to also declare that the social environment is one in which people often say that the world is flat and that people declining to say the world is flat are at a disadvantage.)

Not sure how much of this is true, but I hear rumours about that being the case (if you replace "the world is flat" with something like "humans were intelligently designed") in certain geographical locales. (I do hope that Conservapedia is eventually revealed to be just a parody, though.)

EDIT: To avoid appearing to be one-sided, I'll point out that the equivalent of that at the other end of the political spectrum is something like "all races have the same average intelligence".

comment by CCC · 2013-02-22T09:17:28.416Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that it's rewarding hypocrisy. I think that this moral stance is about punishing deliberate liars. If you are more self-aware, then yes, you would have more opportunities to deliberately lie (about, for example, what attracts you to a given partner);

Self awareness successfully penalized.

I disagree. Greater self-awareness creates greater opportunity to lie, but it does not compel the person to lie. Where is the penalty in that?

Similarly, if you understand more science, then this gives you the option of creating better, more believable lies; but this is not a reason to reject the study of science.

Not the same. (Unless you want to also declare that the social environment is one in which people often say that the world is flat and that people declining to say the world is flat are at a disadvantage.)

I don't understand your point. Given what little I do understand, I suspect that it may be related to my generally poor awareness of social environments. What social environment are you assuming?

comment by Creutzer · 2013-02-22T13:55:25.021Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree. Greater self-awareness creates greater opportunity to lie, but it does not compel the person to lie. Where is the penalty in that?

The person who sincerely, but falsely believes p is not lying when they assert p. Someone who has greater awareness and knows that p is false has one fewer option to chose from morally: he can't say p, because that would be lying. This becomes a problem especially when there is a social cost attached to not saying p, in which case the person with greater knowledge is effectively penalized: they have to either do something immoral (lying) or incur the costs of failing to say p (or, God forbid, saying ~p!).

comment by CCC · 2013-03-05T12:04:05.315Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The person who sincerely, but falsely believes p is not lying when they assert p. Someone who has greater awareness and knows that p is false has one fewer option to chose from morally: he can't say p, because that would be lying.

True, and true.

This becomes a problem especially when there is a social cost attached to not saying p, in which case the person with greater knowledge is effectively penalized: they have to either do something immoral (lying) or incur the costs of failing to say p (or, God forbid, saying ~p!).

Yes; but why should there be a penalty for not saying p? Surely it is just as likely, on average, that there will be a penalty for not saying the inverse of p (in which case greater self-awareness rewards instead of penalizes).

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-05T13:25:51.295Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes; but why should there be a penalty for not saying p? Surely it is just as likely, on average, that there will be a penalty for not saying the inverse of p (in which case greater self-awareness rewards instead of penalizes).

In the case that was the starting point of this dicussion, there surely is a penalty for saying ~p, but quite possibly also one for failing to say p: your partner might complain if they never hear nice things about themselves from you (or at least not nice things of the kind they want to hear).

On average, I would expect it to be more likely that there is a social penalty for failing to say something that only a very self-aware person would not believe (i.e. for failing to go along with the "official narrative") than that there is a social penalty for not saying something that only a very self-aware person would know (thereby forcing non-self-aware people to lie).

comment by CCC · 2013-03-05T18:50:32.147Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the case that was the starting point of this dicussion, there surely is a penalty for saying ~p, but quite possibly also one for failing to say p: your partner might complain if they never hear nice things about themselves from you (or at least not nice things of the kind they want to hear).

Ah; so you're not arguing that there's a moral penalty for self-awareness in all situations, you're saying that there's a moral penalty for self-awareness in a specific situation! (Apologies; I was trying to consider the rule as applied in general).

Thank you, that helped to clear things up.

And, just to make sure that there's no more assumption traps (i.e. where we each assume that something mutually exclusive is obvious) I will describe my understanding of that situation (correct me if I'm wrong):

A person finds a romantic partner to which they are attracted. He (or she) compliments said partner on some aspect which he (or she) finds attractive only due to the halo effect; on the basis of these compliments, both partners enter a long-term romantic relationship. The person later improves their self-awareness, and realises that the earlier compliments were only due to the halo effect; admitting so then carries a social penalty.

In that case, I would agree; however, improved self-knowledge earlier in the process can head off the problem entirely. So it's not penalizing self-knowledge; it's rather penalizing the earlier lack of self-knowledge.

comment by Creutzer · 2013-03-08T05:32:42.032Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah; so you're not arguing that there's a moral penalty for self-awareness in all situations, you're saying that there's a moral penalty for self-awareness in a specific situation!

Yes, exactly. Sorry, I didn't quite catch that you thought we were talking about a general rule or I would have cleared this up earlier.

In that case, I would agree; however, improved self-knowledge earlier in the process can head off the problem entirely. So it's not penalizing self-knowledge; it's rather penalizing the earlier lack of self-knowledge.

I don't think so. It's penalizing becoming self-aware. After all, if the person never became self-aware, she would never incur the penalty.

comment by CCC · 2013-03-13T07:30:02.261Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think so. It's penalizing becoming self-aware. After all, if the person never became self-aware, she would never incur the penalty.

And, similarly, if a person never hits the ground, he never incurs any injury from falling. If he becomes self-aware quickly enough, then he takes comparatively minor social damage - as a man who falls and quickly hits the ground may only twist an ankle. If he becomes self-aware only after twenty years of marriage, then he potentially takes severe social damage; as a man who falls from a skyscraper, take severe damage when he hits the ground.

So, yes, I can see why you make that statement; it is a reasonable statement, but I think it places the emphasis on the wrong part of the fall.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-02-21T17:34:02.752Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No. "Reducing" implies that you aren't taking other factors into account, like, y'know, the actual person.

(It wouldn't be all that hard to argue that ignoring the status signalling value is a good idea, though. And ideally, you shouldn't have to, I should think.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-02-21T23:44:27.093Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Taboo "actual person".

Isn't reductionism fun. ;)

comment by jooyous · 2013-02-22T00:00:08.212Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A person is reduced to their status when if they were to no longer signal status, they would become of no interest to you.

An "actual person" typically has other qualities in addition to those that make them a status symbol. An actual person is also frequently aware of these qualities and therefore often doesn't appreciate being just a status symbol.

comment by MugaSofer · 2013-02-25T18:23:47.346Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Everything they should be taking into account besides status :P

comment by DaFranker · 2013-02-19T15:08:25.094Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The multiple negation might be confusing, but basically:

"It's not just A that has horrible things happen to them, A^C also do!" does not imply "It is good/okay that A and A^C have horrible things happen to them".

comment by Rings_of_Saturn · 2009-07-20T18:24:56.557Z · score: 38 (54 votes) · LW · GW

My main problem with this post is that it attempts to impose social norms based on nothing more than your personal feelings, Alicorn.

I found your "Disclaimer" very off-putting. Though I'm sure you will say that you were either trying to be as straight-forward as possible or that you are just being cute and charming (taking these assumptions from comments you have already posted), I immediately read this disclaimer as saying: "Anyone who disagrees in the comments with what I have to say in this post is almost certainly going to be labelled as sexist." This casts a pallor over the entire discussion.

Imagine if I wanted to post something controversial on AI, something that I knew from past experience with the community was going to get me a lot of challenges in the comments, and I prefaced it with "If you are a stupid person who doesn't really understand AI the way I do, and who can't really do math as well as I can, this post is unlikely to interest you." I'd be laughed off the board, and rightly so.

In fact, one might consider it an excellent piece of evidence of one's own yet-unseen bias if one feels the need to preface a discussion with all-purpose disagreement-deflectors of this kind!

My other objection to the way you have framed this issue is to your twin assertions that you (A) are not interested in feminist stuff per se, and (B) are not easily offended. I believe you on both counts, of course, though I have nothing to go on except your own assertion. Nevertheless, it is my observation that on the particular issues you raise in this post (and many, many times before in the comments of other posts), you are easily offended. To my mind, almost comically so.

But, to follow your rhetorical maneuver here: You (A) aren't particularly a "feminist" and (B) aren't particularly sensitive, therefore (C) you aren't being overly-sensitive on this issue. Well, even granting (A) and (B) on very little evidence, I still reject (C).

However, from where I sit, you have raised some legitimate concerns, and for that reason I upvoted this post. But I want to register that I strongly disapprove of the borderline-coercive way in which you do it in this post and have done it in the past in the comments. This post feels creepily thought-police-y to me, which I am sure is not your intent.

To respond to your specific suggestions, I'd like to register that ....

I agree with #1 in principle but it's clear to me that I have a very different definition of what constitutes an unethical level of "objectification" and therefore this one may calculate out to disagreement on my part.

I agree with #2, though it seems like a rather tiny issue. I know, I know... Male advantage #46, right? Nevertheless, having duly considered my Male Advantages, I still think this is a negligible issue, one that you have every right to try and change if you please, but which I emphatically reject as a norm to be placed on others in this community.

I strongly agree with #3, because those kinds of unfounded generalizations are both unfair to women (or whatever subgroup), and bad-faith argument, and sloppy thinking.

I strongly agree with #4, mainly because I don't see what PUA discussion adds to Less Wrong. I'm actually fascinated with PUA theory and practice, but it's rife with pseudo-science and discussed in such detail on so many other blogs that I'd prefer to see Less Wrong steer relatively clear of it as a serious topic.

Your suggestions for what we can "use more of:"

Number 1: I agree most strongly with this suggestion, both on gender issues specifically and on all topics in general. Thoughtful qualifiers are always a good idea. I actually think these are part of the secret to the power and popularity of Eliezer's writing and Yvain's too.

Number 2: is a useless catch-all that, again, makes me feel creepy. What do you mean "attention"? Should we all post one comment a week that deplores male privilege? I know you are not advocating anything mandatory, and my question is tongue-in-cheek. But do you see how this kind of talk (along with your first disclaimer) casts a gauzy shroud of "guilty of sexism until proven innocent" over the place?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-21T05:06:46.935Z · score: 16 (30 votes) · LW · GW

My main problem with this post is that it attempts to impose social norms based on nothing more than your personal feelings, Alicorn.

If the evidence linked to in the post didn't persuade you that I'm not alone in those feelings, I'm afraid I don't have any more handy to offer, especially since as I write this comment the site is down and I can't do searches.

I found your "Disclaimer" very off-putting. Though I'm sure you will say that you were either trying to be as straight-forward as possible or that you are just being cute and charming ... I immediately read this disclaimer as saying: "Anyone who disagrees in the comments with what I have to say in this post is almost certainly going to be labelled as sexist." This casts a pallor over the entire discussion.

When I try to be cute, I usually do a better job. There exist people who assume that if there were sexism around, their keen sexism senses would have detected it; therefore, in the minds of these people, anyone who points out sexism they didn't notice is making it up. Mockery of the "whiny girls" typically follows. The existence of those people and the fact that they are idiots does not mean that I am automatically right when I say there is a problem in this community. However, anyone who, upon reading any statement of sexism that they hadn't already observed, would dismiss it without further thought, would have found the post wasted on them. As you might have suspected, I think I'm right and that people who think that the problems I point out aren't problems are mistaken. That doesn't mean I think every person who disagrees with me about this falls into the category of person targeted by my disclaimer.

Imagine if I wanted to post something controversial on AI, something that I knew from past experience with the community was going to get me a lot of challenges in the comments, and I prefaced it with "If you are a stupid person who doesn't really understand AI the way I do, and who can't really do math as well as I can, this post is unlikely to interest you." I'd be laughed off the board, and rightly so.

That would be quite unlike what my disclaimer said.

In fact, one might consider it an excellent piece of evidence of one's own yet-unseen bias if one feels the need to preface a discussion with all-purpose disagreement-deflectors of this kind!

This is an interesting claim, and I would like to hear more about why you think it seems likely.

My other objection to the way you have framed this issue is to your twin assertions that you (A) are not interested in feminist stuff per se, and (B) are not easily offended. I believe you on both counts, of course, though I have nothing to go on except your own assertion. Nevertheless, it is my observation that on the particular issues you raise in this post (and many, many times before in the comments of other posts), you are easily offended. To my mind, almost comically so.

The fact that I am more offended than you by a certain class of things - specifically, by things that have to do with a group I belong to and you do not - does not make me easily offended, any more than the fact that Superman can be quickly brought to his knees by Kryptonite while ordinary humans walk around unaffected means that Superman is easily weakened.

But, to follow your rhetorical maneuver here: You (A) aren't particularly a "feminist" and (B) aren't particularly sensitive, therefore (C) you aren't being overly-sensitive on this issue. Well, even granting (A) and (B) on very little evidence, I still reject (C).

Okay. It's not like I've got an airtight, formally valid proof backing me up there, so you can certainly do that.

However, from where I sit, you have raised some legitimate concerns, and for that reason I upvoted this post. But I want to register that I strongly disapprove of the borderline-coercive way in which you do it in this post and have done it in the past in the comments. This post feels creepily thought-police-y to me, which I am sure is not your intent.

Thank you for the vote. I'm not sure what you mean by coercion. I don't really have the power to (going by Wikipedia) threaten, intimidate, trick, or otherwise exercise pressure or force on anyone here - I mean, I have the power to downvote, and the power to type sternly. But I had that before, and I've made my wishes about gendered language known before. I also would make a terrible officer of the thought police: I can't read minds, can't enforce my rules about the contents of minds, and don't know anybody who can do either of those things and is disposed to do so according to my wishes. My only powers are to read what people type, and vote, and type sternly.

I agree with #1 in principle but it's clear to me that I have a very different definition of what constitutes an unethical level of "objectification" and therefore this one may calculate out to disagreement on my part.

Okay. People are certain to draw the line in different places with objectification, just as we already do with things like lying and violence and other wrong things. My job is mostly done if you think objectification exists and that this isn't cause for confetti.

I agree with #2, though it seems like a rather tiny issue. I know, I know... Male advantage #46, right? Nevertheless, having duly considered my Male Advantages, I still think this is a negligible issue, one that you have every right to try and change if you please, but which I emphatically reject as a norm to be placed on others in this community.

If it's so tiny, it shouldn't be such a struggle to get people to accommodate the wish. I have less trouble getting my roommate to drive me to another city an hour away and back.

[various statements of agreement]

Great :)

Number 2: is a useless catch-all that, again, makes me feel creepy. What do you mean "attention"? Should we all post one comment a week that deplores male privilege? I know you are not advocating anything mandatory, and my question is tongue-in-cheek. But do you see how this kind of talk (along with your first disclaimer) casts a gauzy shroud of "guilty of sexism until proven innocent" over the place?

I'm sorry you feel creepy. It would be nice if it were possible to confront privilege without feeling creepy. I think it's worth it anyway. By "attention", I mean thought, care, consideration - not necessarily copious chat. As for "guilty of sexism until proven innocent", I don't see it. I'm not descending on a fledgling community in which no one has ever used the words "women" or "female" or even so much as a gendered pronoun and screaming, "You're all male chauvinist pigs and you must obey my law!" I'm pointing out a problem that a handful of posters have perpetuated. I have been and remain surprised by, not resigned to or broodingly resentful of, the fact that these few posters have not been as widely repudiated for these actions as I would have thought.

comment by Rings_of_Saturn · 2009-07-21T06:50:29.958Z · score: 11 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for this lengthy and thoughtful reply. I, too, am encouraged to notice the points on which we agree or are not that far off.

I don't really think you are the "thought police," and I didn't mean to imply that. But I do stand by my assessment of your post as vaguely coercive. There is such a thing as coercion by public shaming. I think this is what Roko might have been getting at in his recent post. If you do not see how this is a legitimate concern, then perhaps I can pull an "Alicorn" and just insist that if you were a man, you would know what this feels like. And if you think I am being overly sensitive, well you are just swimming like a fish in a sea: a world that favors your right to say anything you damn please about any gender without automatically questioning your self-awareness, your motives, the amount of serious thought you have put into the issue, and your fish-not-knowing-water-tude.

"I'm sorry you feel creepy. It would be nice if it were possible to confront privilege without feeling creepy." Obviously I'm not saying it feels creepy to confront privilege. That seems like an almost deliberately obtuse statement on your part... though taken in context of your otherwise respectful comments, I'll assume it's meant sincerely.

What feels creepy is the notion that there is some vaguely defined "offensiveness" out there that I — as a person with great affection for and deference to my mother, my three sisters, my wonderful female friends, my respected female co-workers and my stupendous female lovers — cannot sense, and that I must take another's word for it that I am wrong and the other is right. I can perceive most sexism, but there is a special class of sexism lurking everywhere that I am blind to, even though I've thought seriously about these matters. The evidence you link to, incidentally, is rather weak — it is all internal comments, and one might just as easily point to the comments you object to as counter-evidence as each instance is by definition an example of yet another person who feels differently than you on this topic, hence raising your hackles.


Incidentally, Alicorn, for the record (and my apologies to all if this comment is out of place here... I can edit it out if need be...), I actually used to think much closer to the way you do on these topics. I am by no means "blind" to the things you point out, and in fact I used to have a highly developed radar for them. I still pick them out all the time. I just think it is a particular form of contemporary ideology that teaches many people (men and women) that these things are hurtful and must be banished from all hearts and minds, when no one perceived them that way in the past. They are supposed to be inidicative of a disdainful attitude towards women even when, as I assure you is the case with me, no such attitude exists. Or, if the complainant grants that there was no harmful intent, she can still gain traction with the argument that "Well, no, you didn't mean to insult me, but these kinds of so-called innocuous comments are the stuff with which the patriarchy keeps women down and belittles them etc and is therefore unethical. I am insulted, therefore you are the one who did the insulting." This is supposedly what makes gender non-neutral statements about women unacceptable while gender non-neutral statements about men are considered by the same people to be regrettable (or occasionally a laff-riot!), but par for the course. When men point out that people make casual blanket generalizations about men all the time and that men rarely complain and usually just chuckle along, they are told that they can't possibly understand what it feels like from the woman's point of view, and may also be accused of "calling all girls whiney," a specter you raise in your disclaimer.

You come very close to this realization when you say to me "I am more offended than you by a certain class of things - specifically, by things that have to do with a group I belong to and you do not". You see, I'm essentially saying the same thing. Yes, you are more offended than I am, and that's your problem and not mine. As you say in your rejoinder to my "coercion" comment, no one here is trying to "threaten, intimidate, trick, or otherwise exercise pressure or force on" you.

If, in the absence of threats, intimidation, tricks, pressure, or force —that is: in the absence of any actual harm done to you or anyone else— you persist in feeling offended, that is your business. As I said in my earlier comment, that is every bit your right and I would never want to mock or belittle someone for feeling set-upon as you quite apparently do. It's a very unpleasant feeling, I know, and I am in no way trying to say that you are imagining your own feelings. But I feel that it is precisely that: your business, and not that of the community.

So what that means for me is that while, naturally, you have every right to say whatever you want on this topic, I remain unconvinced. Perhaps you never intended for me specifically to change anything, as I note that I personally am not linked to in your catalog of offenders. If that's the case, then bully for both of us, as I have no plans to alter my manner of talking or writing.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-21T16:20:28.334Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you never intended for me specifically to change anything

My memory informs me of no instances in which you've said anything that tripped my "gah sexism" switch.

comment by rela · 2010-09-13T02:20:57.979Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

You (A) aren't particularly a "feminist"

I feel this might be the right time to re-state the definition of feminism: "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." (Websters)

Why isn't everyone a feminist?

No offense meant, rela

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-13T02:24:15.541Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" is not the sort of thing that I feel should have a word for it. So I prefer not to identify as "a feminist" on those grounds.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-13T22:44:32.408Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" is not the sort of thing that I feel should have a word for it. So I prefer not to identify as "a feminist" on those grounds.

I am perplexed by this statement. Do you mean that discrimination is always wrong, and so we don't need words for persons who are against particular types of discrimination? Would you therefore also object to the word "abolitionist," for example, if slavery were still a current issue? Or "suffragist"? I'm really just speculating here; maybe you mean something completely different.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-09-13T23:37:43.932Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

"Abolitionist" and "suffragist" referred to groups who advocated specific well-defined policy changes. "Feminist" does not so refer.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-13T02:36:52.611Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why is the above downvoted below 0? It is the only post by Alicorn on these issues that seems to warrant upvoting!

I stopped identifying myself as a feminist some years ago, following the same reasoning. (With the added observation that feminism isn't about equality as my naive assumptions had led me to believe.)

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T05:33:51.100Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

If it's so tiny, it shouldn't be such a struggle to get people to accommodate the wish. I have less trouble getting my roommate to drive me to another city an hour away and back.

You probably don't ask your roommate in such a way as to imply that it's his or her fault that you have no way to get to the city, and that their failure to comply will be considered unethical and/or harm-causing by you. Nor, I presume, have you called upon other residents of your building or block to denounce any other incidents of non-ride-offering, and professed surprise that they have not already repudiated such incidents.

Many people, including myself, do not object to what you're asking nearly so much as to the way in which you asked it. By depersonalizing the issue from being about you and your hurt feelings to some sort of ethical issue, you created a perceived requirement for people to start taking sides -- i.e., signaling their ethical position.

But if you look back to previous calls for inclusive language on LessWrong, I didn't object to them; in fact, I argued in favor of one of them. (I remember it because some of my comments in that thread brought rather large doses of karma.) I believe in being reasonably considerate to people who reasonably request it.

Thus, I find myself in the bizarre-to-me position of being grouped with "masculinists", as though I'm somehow against politeness or in favor of sexist language. This is not the case, and framing my disagreement with your flawed logic (or with your inconsistent and terminally vague definitions) as being something to do with sexism is behavior unbecoming a professed rationalist.

That having been said, I will certainly say that there are plenty of other people in these threads who've said what I was thinking, much better than I was able to say it, and have been able to bring up some of the same points I made with more tact and less directness. I hope that continues.

However, had you said to Roko, "I was put off by this statement, did you mean to imply that I'm an interchangeable commodity? No? Oh, what did you mean then? Ah, I see. Would you mind phrasing it like that in future then? Thanks."... Then I never would've opened my trap in the first place, and everybody would've been much happier. (And yes, I do see the irony in my jumping on you for you jumping on Roko. At least, I do now, and will try to follow my own advice on this point in future.)

comment by Tom_Talbot · 2009-07-20T20:43:39.168Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly agree with #4, mainly because I don't see what PUA discussion adds to Less Wrong. I'm actually fascinated with PUA theory and practice, but it's rife with pseudo-science and discussed in such detail on so many other blogs that I'd prefer to see Less Wrong steer relatively clear of it as a serious topic.

Agreed. I'm not really convinced that PUAs teach us anything about rationalism. What do we really learn from them? They didn't learn their methods by applying ours. They're empiricists sure, but that's kindergarten stuff to us. In the PUA-related threads I sometimes get the sense that LWers are treating rationality like being on a football team or playing guitar ("If only I was as rational as those guys, chicks would think I'm SO AWESOME.")

This is clearly just fantasising, and a waste of everyone's time.

comment by RobinHanson · 2009-07-20T00:27:25.032Z · score: 33 (51 votes) · LW · GW

To prohibit generalizations about gender without overwhelming hard data is usually to in effect silence the topic. We are all very interested in gender, and many of us have made interesting and relevant observations about the gender we see around us, but few of us have much in the way of overwhelming hard data. This post seems to be making generalizations about gender aspects of LW posts and comments without itself offering overwhelming hard data - why hold this meta gender discussion to a lower standard?

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-20T01:31:02.142Z · score: 22 (32 votes) · LW · GW

Gender bias is not some objective feature of writing; it is determined and defined by our perceptions. Men seem extremely likely to perceive it differently from women (see almost every sexual harassment lawsuit). Alicorn has never been super outspoken on this issue and has never been confrontational about it. As one of the most active female readers of this site, if she perceives a gender bias in many posts/comments here that she believes warrants a top-level post, that seems to me to be very strong evidence that something is wrong. That fact combined with the data she did provide seem to me quite convincing that this issue is at least worth thinking about.

Also, if I understand her correctly, her objection is not to making generalizations without overwhelming hard data, it is to making generalizations without the humility appropriate to generalizations not supported by overwhelmingly hard data. If some little study fits a pre-existing belief about ev-psych and how the genders work, posters shouldn't be super-certain that it's correct simply because it conforms to their pre-existing beliefs. After all, being human, they may well dismiss a similar study showing the exact opposite effect without second thought.

comment by gwern · 2009-07-20T02:59:51.143Z · score: 18 (26 votes) · LW · GW

We already hold discussions of politics to a higher standard - I see the reproof 'politics is the mind-killer' relatively often. And this without any particular post arguing that we're so hideously biased about politics that we need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard than on just about any other topic. And given that the long and very well-documented history of sexism and discrimination against women suggests that enormous masses can be completely wrong for long periods of time (both us and the ancients can't be right about women), we already have arguments that we specifically are massively biased about gender issues and should hold ourselves to unusually high standards.

Or, if the relevant comments Alicorn cited were about blacks, I don't think anyone here would even question the need for a higher standard. We all understand intuitively the appeal of racism, its long, hateful, and entrenched history, and that if we're going to make arguments like blacks are stupider, we'd better have damn good evidence - and merely anecdotal evidence like we see in the cited comments, which boil down to 'in my experience' and 'according to my armchair theorizing', will cut absolutely no mustard.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T03:06:04.935Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. I, for one, found myself genuinely surprised by the last word of RobinZ's introduction and had a reaction similar to that of Hofstadter upon finding the answer to the surgeon riddle.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T15:21:14.342Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Hah! I almost didn't include that word - now I'm glad I did.

comment by gwern · 2009-07-20T04:53:59.632Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

RobinZ illustrates a good point about race-consciousness, though. I was in the Boy Scouts myself, worked at 2 camps, and have seen some demographic data, and the simple fact is: the Boy Scouts are as white as sour cream. It's not just that there are/were more white Americans than blacks, it's that whites participate at a vastly higher rate. From a Bayesian perspective, shouldn't we be surprised to learn that RobinZ is both black and a Boy Scout?

(The Hofstadter example isn't good for this point; Bayesianly, I think there are many more female surgeons than there are reincarnated-train-wreck-victim-surgeons, so thinking about the latter before the former is just biased and stupid.)

comment by CronoDAS · 2009-07-20T05:32:43.678Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I hate to confess this, but I got stuck on a similar problem, in which the solution was "The secretary is the boy's father." (I kept thinking of divorces and such.)

So yeah.

comment by RobinHanson · 2009-07-20T15:20:02.478Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would question imposing a much higher standard of evidence, e.g. overwhelming hard evidence, for discussions about blacks; that would also basically prohibit discussing such topics.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T15:24:18.560Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But arguments that aren't merely about, but which run down the well-worn grooves of racist quack science, those would need overwhelming hard evidence.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T01:24:30.324Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

many of us have made interesting and relevant observations about the gender we see around us,

...observations of a sort which are, in my experience, quite likely to be extemely inaccurate. Since we're doing anecdotal observations, I've observed that people's thoughts on gender differences, when not backed up with hard data, are maybe 90% likely to be seriously off base. For whatever reason, these sorts of perceptions seem to be subject to extreme effect from all the usual biases to the extent that I don't even trust people around here to have reasonable intuitions on the matter.

Also, I'd like to note that the post here included nigh-Yudkowskian levels of cross-linking to other material on LW. When we're talking about "conversation norms on LW", how is that not solid data?

comment by marks · 2009-07-20T02:11:43.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, I'd like to note that the post here included nigh-Yudkowskian levels of cross-linking to other material on LW. When we're talking about "conversation norms on LW", how is that not solid data?

The evidence presented is a number of anecdotes from LW conversation. A fully analysis of LW would need to categorize different types of offending comments, discuss their frequency and what role they play in LW discussion. Even better would be to identify who does them, etc.

Although I do find it plausible that LW should enact a policy of altering present discussions of gender seems I certainly will not say the evidence presented is "overwhelming".

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T02:22:13.498Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I said "solid data" in this case, not "overwhelming evidence". Alicorn was probably being a bit overly strong in phrasing; even a modest amount of evidence would go a long way.

Robin is, of course, being disingenuous here, because even that is more evidence than many of his observations carry.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T15:10:42.530Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding SoullessAutomaton's reply. Also making an analogy to discussions of race.

In addition: "overwhelming hard data" isn't too high a standard when prejudice and other cultural factors cloud the picture. I don't think it's too big a stretch to suppose that such factors are present in this case.

(Finally: a stronger emphasis on hard data in the meta-gender discussion might not be a bad thing, but remaining silent when a problem of this kind exists is a decidedly bad thing.)

comment by Peter_Twieg · 2009-07-20T01:29:05.475Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To prohibit generalizations about gender without overwhelming hard data is usually to in effect silence the topic.

I think the concern is that a lot of these generalizations aren't being made through a good-faith attempt to unbiasedly order one's observations about the world. A lot of people see these arguments and have an (arguably often justified) prior that the individuals who make them are biased and/or bigoted. I realize that it can be frustrating to be told that you're being criticized because your arguments resemble those made by morally-reprehensible people, but.... it's often not unjustified for people to come to the table with those assumptions.

You also have the less-defensible argument sometimes being made that we shouldn't make these theories lightly because they often lead to cryptosexism. That probably won't fly in a rationalist discussion community, but it does in many other communities where the "social consequences" of one's speech are supposed to be a serious factor in its moral evaluation.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T01:36:12.956Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You also have the less-defensible argument sometimes being made that we shouldn't make these theories lightly because they often lead to cryptosexism. That probably won't fly in a rationalist discussion community, but it does in many other communities where the "social consequences" of one's speech are supposed to be a serious factor in its moral evaluation.

Why is it necessarily more rational to disregard "social consequences"? There's plenty of objective evidence that calling attention to such issues can in fact be self-fulfilling prophecies, cf. cognitive priming, stereotype threat, &c.

It is of course valuable to be able to discuss ideas freely, but my patience wears thin very quickly when the evidence for such theories is far weaker than the evidence that the theories are harmful.

comment by Peter_Twieg · 2009-07-20T01:59:46.008Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why is it necessarily more rational to disregard "social consequences"?

I think it's not irrational per se, just that it probably wouldn't fly in this community as a substantive consideration in whether an argument should or should be presented here. Usually it's considered eminently rude (but not strictly false) to say that the members of your own ingroup are too dumb/biased to discuss a given topic fairly.

I suppose I could also try to bootstrap this into an argument for a strong presumption against restricting speech due to its expected "social consequences" in general, but I think my original points suffice.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T02:12:10.560Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Usually it's considered eminently rude (but not strictly false) to say that the members of your own ingroup are too dumb/biased to discuss a given topic fairly.

Isn't social acceptance of saying rude but not false things exactly what you're arguing in favor of?

In general I do carry a strong presumption against restricting speech. But I have a lot of prior experience that, for "gender difference observations not backed by data", the value of the speech approaches nil in the average case, and is only marginally better on LW, so counterarguments carry a lot more relative weight.

comment by Peter_Twieg · 2009-07-20T02:26:14.812Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't social acceptance of saying rude but not false things exactly what you're arguing in favor of?

I don't think so, unless you're implying that the armchair theorizing in this community is always rude. I'd prefer to presume that not to be the case unless there's evidence otherwise... and I conceded in my top-level reply to this thread that there sometimes is (in my view.)

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T02:30:48.168Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, all else equal, speculations about other people based on their intrinsic demographics seems fairly rude to me; your mileage may vary.

I am, as I said, willing to accept rudeness when stating facts, though tact is always appreciated.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T02:14:52.001Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To add to SoullessAutomaton's response, the accusation is that the topic is already not being discussed fairly. And I think one could follow the spirit of this post without actually leaving out any ideas, but merely employing some considerate phrasing.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T01:36:51.454Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

To start with, generalizations about what sort of gender? Chromosomal? Developmental? Self-identified? Cultural by nurture? Cultural by presentation?

Mostly we only see the latter and assume all the rest.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-03-01T16:17:08.973Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If people are going to make generalizations about the gender they see around them, I'm not going to insist on hard data, but I want to see the soft data. What did you actually see? Was your sample limited to a particular culture? How many instances are you basing your generalization on? Do you notice data which points away from your generalization? How large do you think the effects are?

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-20T01:26:26.066Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If men and women have different perceptions of gender bias in writing, which seems overwhelmingly likely, the fact that a woman (who is by no means confrontational or overly outspoken on this topic) feels this issue is worth a top-level post seems like strong evidence that e should worry about it.

comment by Peter_Twieg · 2009-07-20T00:58:32.783Z · score: 22 (32 votes) · LW · GW

I have to concur with the overall sentiment of this post. It bothers me more than a bit that sweeping generalizations about gender behaviors are made using armchair "just-so" evopsych stories. I even consider myself a relatively ardent supporter of evopsych in general, but a lot of the discussions of gender relationships seem to be motivated by an undercurrent of bitterness rather than an objective desire to understand the reality of gender differences. I realize that this is a vague ad hominem critique, and I could probably attempt to back this up by specific examples and analysis, but.... I think it's just more imperative to call this stuff out as it arises.

I remember Razib on GNXP making fun of the demographic poll done here, that this is a community of young white male nerds. Oftentimes it shows... I often wonder what would happen if a Jezebel blogger stumbled upon this place.

comment by bloch · 2009-07-20T15:07:25.247Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"I often wonder what would happen if a Jezebel blogger stumbled upon this place."

What would happen and why should we care?

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T04:34:18.803Z · score: 21 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Alicorn, perhaps you've changed the wording on this post since I originally read it, because though my initial reaction was negative, upon writing a reply I have very little disagreement with your actual prescriptions in this post. I do have some disagreements with your framing of the discourse on LessWrong.

Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. "Objectification" is what happens when a person is treated or discussed as an object, not as an autonomous being. (Non-women can also be objectified, and that too should be stopped.)

"Objectification" can be a difficult term due to people defining it in different ways. Yet given the way you define it here, I agree with advocating against talking about or treating people in a way that denies their autonomy or depersonalizes them.

Whether particular examples exhibit objectification is another question. I don't think that phrases such as "getting women" necessarily implies objectification, but since it is often used in that way, I think it's worthwhile to expend a little bit more effort to avoid it.

I agree on the issue of pronouns. "They" isn't really that bad.

As for generalizations: if data is not provided, then whatever evidence (e.g. anecdotes) leads to that notion should be presented, and/or the speculative nature of the claim should be acknowledged.

Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women.

"Manipulation" is not rigorously defined in this discussion, and people use it to mean different things. Some people use it mean any form of social influence/persuasion (and may defend "manipulation"). Other people use it mean unethical social influence; I think we both share this usage.

I also disagree with fawning admiration of pickup artists who gain their fame by forms of unethical social influence. It's not clear whether you are suggesting that all pickup artists engage in unethical social influence, or just some.

If it is necessary to refer admiringly to a pickup artist or pickup strategy (I'm not sure why it would be, but if), care should be taken to choose one whose methods are explicitly non-depersonalizing, and disclaim that specifically in the comment.

I would also advocate studying the methods of pickup artists who's methods are non-depersonalizing. Or if depersonalizing methods are studied due to some relevance to rationality, I would prefer to see the depersonalizing aspect critiqued.

Attention to the privileges of masculinity and attempts to reduce that disparity. (Note that of course there are also female privileges, but until Less Wrong hosts custody battles or we start suspecting that some of us might be violent criminals, they are unlikely to come into play nearly so much in this location.)

I agree with attention to unjust advantages based on gender ("privilege" is another non-rigorous term that shouldn't be used without a definition), as long as it runs both ways. I would caution you against assuming that the only systematic disadvantages men experience in society are in the legal system (but kudos for acknowledging the existence of some male disadvantages).

In Love in America, feminist sociologist Francesca Cancian argues that the conceptualization and discourse over love in Western is biased towards feminine expressions of love, and marginalizes masculine expressions of love. She calls this phenomenon the feminization of love.

While I mainly agree with your prescriptions, I disagree with your framing of the content of the discussions on less wrong that relate to gender. You say:

I suppose I could abandon the site and leave it even more masculine so the guys could all talk in their own language, unimpeded by stupid chicks being stupidly offended by completely unproblematic things like objectification and just plain jerkitude

You make the male discourse on the site sound a lot more unified than it actually is. In all objections you've made to certain discourse here, you have received substantial support by males (some of which you acknowledge, which makes me confused by your "masculine guys vs offended women" dichotomy in portraying LessWrong). In the example of "jerkitude" you cite, pjeby took the person involved to task and leveled multiple criticisms, such as a view of "entitlement." So did ciphergoth.

Someone made arguments that came of as overgeneralized and sexist; others came and critiqued him vocally. Sounds like the working of a healthy rationalist community to me, not of a locker room full of uncritical fawning over PUAs.

Finally, your post might give the idea (which I don't know whether you intend or not), that typical discussions on LessWrong that turn the subject of pickup are of a fawning nature. I think that this idea is false.

Personally, while I've always emphasized that pickup is relevant to rationality, I've included multiple criticisms of the community.

In this post, I accuse the seduction community of naive realism, and committing the availability heuristic in their model of women leading to oversimplification. In this post, I mention that some practices in the seduction community are unethical, and discuss my use of moral constraints on pickup techniques. In this post, I argue that some attitudes in the seduction community are overly cynical towards women, and detrimental to success in long-term relationships. In this post, I express skepticism that certain pickup theories are true even if they lead to success, and I suggest that the community falls prey to ideological thinking and that some of its techniques are morally questionable.

I actually have the creds to back up these criticisms. Btw, could you briefly list the pickup materials you have been exposed to so far so I can better qualify your claims about it?

Some of these posts attracted upvotes, but none attracted long threads. Maybe few people read them because I wasn't controversial enough. What I think this shows is that the subject of pickup and seduction can be discussed in a manner that is both complimentary and critical (an example I've attempted to show with my past posts on the subject), yet other threads suggest that people are more interested in participating in polarizing discussions of the subject.

While this may simply be an oversight, your post fails to acknowledge more reasoned and less sexist discussion of pickup on LessWrong that is critical of it (like mine, at least in my hopes), and critiques of pickup ideology when it has been presented (e.g. pjeby's critique of Sirducer's posts), presented by some of the very people who think there is value in the community and discussing it on LessWrong. While I support your requests for non-sexist and gender neutral language, I think your portrayal of the discussions of pickup on LessWrong is skewed due to these omissions.

P.S. I am planning on getting back to you in the name thread... I've been enjoying that discussion.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T04:49:27.542Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you've changed the wording on this post since I originally read it, because I have very little disagreement with your actual prescriptions in this post.

I haven't, or if I have I am suffering from amnesia.

It's not clear whether you are suggesting that all pickup artists engage in unethical social influence, or just some.

I have acknowledged that there are some tactics described by pickup artists that seem to me perfectly aboveboard ethics-wise. It is possible that some pickup artists use those tactics exclusively. I would not object to uncritical discussions of such artists, and do not object to uncritical discussions of such techniques.

would caution you against assuming that the only systematic disadvantages men experience in society are in the legal system

I don't assume that; people who are not affiliated with the legal system can suspect others of being violent criminals and act accordingly in discriminatory ways.

You make the male discourse on the site sound a lot more unified than it actually is. In all objections you've made to certain discourse here, you have received substantial support by males (some of which you acknowledge, which makes me confused by your "masculine guys vs offended women" dichotomy in portraying LessWrong). In the example of "jerkitude" you cite, pjeby took the person involved to task and leveled multiple criticisms, such as a view of "entitlement." So did ciphergoth.

The paragraph in question was a caricature. I did not intend that part to be an unaltered representation; people can read the original comments in their original contexts quite easily. I apologize if this was unclear.

Btw, could you briefly list the pickup materials you have been exposed to so far so I can better qualify your claims about it?

I read this blog and usually follow links people post in discussions on the subject here.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T05:25:01.286Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Before seeing your reply, I added this paragraph to the end of my post:

While this may simply be an oversight, your post fails to acknowledge more reasoned and less sexist discussion of pickup on LessWrong that is critical of it (like mine, at least in my hopes), and critiques of pickup ideology when it has been presented (e.g. pjeby's critique of Sirducer's posts), presented by some of the very people who think there is value in the community and discussing it on LessWrong. While I support your requests for non-sexist and gender neutral language, I think your portrayal of the discussions of pickup on LessWrong is skewed due to these omissions.

Continuing on:

I have acknowledged that there are some tactics described by pickup artists that seem to me perfectly aboveboard ethics-wise. It is possible that some pickup artists use those tactics exclusively. I would not object to uncritical discussions of such artists, and do not object to uncritical discussions of such techniques.

I acknowledge that you have acknowledged that some pickup tactics are ethics. Given that you wouldn't object to discussions of such techniques, where why you suggesting a moratorium on discussion pickup in the other thread?

I don't assume that; people who are not affiliated with the legal system can suspect others of being violent criminals and act accordingly in discriminatory ways.

Ok. When you said this:

Note that of course there are also female privileges, but until Less Wrong hosts custody battles or we start suspecting that some of us might be violent criminals, they are unlikely to come into play nearly so much in this location.

It sounded like you were saying that female advantages weren't much of a concern other than particular legal advantages women may have over men. I was pointing out that there are other female advantages in society that may be more relevant to LessWrong, such as the tendency for female perspectives to be seen as the default in discussions about sexuality and romance (see Cancian work I cited on the "feminization of love").

The paragraph in question was a caricature. I did not intend that part to be an unaltered representation; people can read the original comments in their original contexts quite easily. I apologize if this was unclear.

Thanks for clarifying. Still, I think your post in general gives a skewed account of the discussions on pickup on LessWrong; see the paragraph I added into my previous post and quote at the beginning of this one. Consequently, it bothers me that people are considering a moratorium on discussion of pickup partly due to a skewed idea they might have gotten from reading your original post.

I read this blog and usually follow links people post in discussions on the subject here.

I suspect that these materials are insufficient to get an idea of the breadth of the views in the seduction community. For instance, in How to be a Pickup Artist, Juggler argues that pickup:

also takes honesty. You probably didn't expect to see that word in a book on picking up women. Surprise. A true pick-up artist is not a player. While a player schemes and hides and sneaks around to get in an extra bit on his girlfriend or wife, the pick-up artist has neither the inkling nor time to do that. He seeks to be straight with the women who are involved with him. He has contempt for dishonesty and considers the player an unskilled opportunist. (p. 2)

Here's another couple links for you here and here, demonstrating the extreme "inner game" approach. The Authentic Man Program wouldn't consider themselves part of the pickup community, yet many of the guys who do AMP's programs are into pickup, they advertise in the community, and I see them as basically involved in the same kind of self-improvement project with a different focus.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T05:32:11.402Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think your portrayal of the discussions of pickup on LessWrong is skewed due to these omissions.

I wasn't trying to represent the entirety of the discussion on Less Wrong. I was pointing out a problem, and some examples of what might resemble a solution. Your comments don't strike me as problematic enough to call out or solution-esque enough to laud.

Given that you wouldn't object to discussions of such techniques, where why you suggesting a moratorium on discussion pickup in the other thread?

Because, as I said, I don't think it's likely that a less clear-cut, brightly-outlined policy will have an adequate effect.

I appreciate the links, but pickup is not a special interest of mine. It is not obvious to me that spending additional time immersing myself in the many and varied types of pickup is something I should do. I've acknowledged that it is a mixed bag; the kinds that are mentioned in the posts I point out as problems may or may not be fully representative, but those posts are still problems.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T05:42:54.459Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't trying to represent the entirety of the discussion on Less Wrong. I was pointing out a problem, and some examples of what might resemble a solution. Your comments don't strike me as problematic enough to call out or solution-esque enough to laud.

You may not have intended to represent the entirety of the discussion of pickup on LessWrong, but it seems that others may read your post this way leading to a moral panic.

I appreciate the links, but pickup is not a special interest of mine. It is not obvious to me that spending additional time immersing myself in the many and varied types of pickup is something I should do. I've acknowledged that it is a mixed bag; the kinds that are mentioned in the posts I point out as problems may or may not be fully representative, but those posts are still problems.

Right, I agree that those posts exhibit problems. And those posts were roundly criticized. Why is a dogpile of critical comments not enough of a solution? I'll address your other comment you linked to separately.

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm not the one downvoting your last couple comments.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T05:44:50.449Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Why is a dogpile of critical comments not enough of a solution?

I guess I don't see it as quite the "dogpile" you do, especially since I feel the need to chime in about it very frequently and (as I said in the toplevel post) this isn't my hobby or anything. I do not want the job; I'd rather hang back, sling votes occasionally, maybe identify simple flaws like misquotes.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T05:46:43.084Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm thinking of the example with Sirducer, specifically. You, pjeby, and ciphergoth jumped on him. Sounds like a dogpile to me.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T05:49:57.155Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

ciphergoth's comment was appreciated. As for pjeby, I have (apparently) misunderstood him on such a regular basis that I'm not confident in identifying him as being on any particular side of any particular disagreement. Three people, one of whom is arguably ambiguous and at least one of whom doesn't want to be there, is a fairly pathetic dogpile.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T07:02:06.555Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

How many dogs it takes to make a dogpile, and how enthusiastic those dogs must be, is really a side question.

The point is that Sirducer encountered significant and vigorous disagreement, disagreement that I think would have been worth mentioning in your original post. And it was from one the people interested in discussing pickup on LessWrong, a category that you seem to think is unreliable for having valuable discussions on this subject. See some highlights from the rather harsh comment by pjeby:

Honestly, though, based on the entitlement attitude you've been showing, I suspect the reason your "honest" approach flopped was a function of your inner game, not of the women.[...]

To me, that says it's not the women. It's you.[...]

So frankly, you sound like you don't like women or yourself very much. That, IMO, is the "something wrong with this".[...]

Regardless of whether pjeby is generally on your "side," he sounds like he is in that post. Also, in terms of debunking a problematic post by a PUA, someone with insider knowledge can supply a lot more credibility, and the PUA will be less able to object that his interlocutor doesn't get it or lacks field experience.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T18:06:19.851Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And it was from one the people interested in discussing pickup on LessWrong

Denotationally, the statement above is true, but connotationally, it's false. My only "interest" in this area is correcting misconceptions and answering questions. If there are no questions to answer and no attacks or mistakes to correct, I am perfectly fine with never bringing the subject up myself. To the extent that PUA overlaps with topics of my interest, those topics also apply to marketing, and other less-controversial subjects.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T18:36:48.404Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for clarifying. The point I was using you to try to make was that people motivated to discuss this topic (for whatever reason) and who have some level of insider creds (which I accord to you because you actually know what you are talking about on this subject and have experience) already police each other in ways not acknowledged by the original post, which also contradicts the panic about LessWrong threads turning into locker rooms.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T18:41:38.164Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I understand that, but I also don't really want to be the PUA police any more than (I understand) Alicorn wants to be the feminism police.

(Also, it's inaccurate to describe me as having PUA experience. I simply have some experiences that support the usefulness of certain ideas proposed by PUAs. Amongst actual PUA's I would be considered a "keyboard jockey" or "rAFC" at best.)

comment by Rakel · 2009-07-20T08:17:10.288Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW · GW

This post (and the comments on it) made me finally to register in here, partly because I had few discussions about similar topics just a few days ago.

As knb said: "This site is hugely less sexist than society at large." While this might be true, it only means that most people in here are "less wrong" than society at large. This does not mean that they are right. It also has the same ring to my ears as "Some of my friends are black/jewish/".

Gender bias is rampant even in the internet where it should hold no sway (there are no visual clues, no pheromones etc.), and denying its excistence only enforces it. If you want to see it, just try using feminine nickname for few weeks.

On the topic of objectification and PUA, I have decided to read "The Book" because I know that I hold a bias against it.

Heteronormative examples actually bother me more than masculine ones, and this might be because there are no gender specific pronomins in my native language. My brain just seems to skip over the usual "he/his/him" and interpret it as a gender neutral version.

Generalizations of certain type of either sex are very annoying. By this I refer to things like "men don't cry" and "women are such gossips". My annoyance with things like these most likely stems form two points. First, I don't recognize myself or anyone I know in them (I know, anecdotal evidence and all that). Second, they put up a framework according which one should behave.

As Alicorn says, costs of this type of thinking can be very high. For excample, because of "women are the weaker sex" they were effectively shut out of the intellectual community until about 100 years ago. Because of "men are not caring" they still lose custodity battles more often than not, and end up being deprived of their children.

Basically, assigning certain attributes to either sex effectively prohibits those attributes in the other sex. That is not useful or rational, that is just limiting the potential.

comment by Tom_Talbot · 2009-07-20T20:05:47.531Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Basically, assigning certain attributes to either sex effectively prohibits those attributes in the other sex. That is not useful or rational, that is just limiting the potential.

Upvoted for this but... in a way this reminds me of the Tversky and Edwards experiment mentioned in the Technical Explanation where participants are shown a sequence of red and blue cards and asked to guess the next in the sequence. Since 70% of the cards are blue the best strategy is to always guess blue, but participants irrationally guess a mixture of blue and red as if they could predict the sequence.

So, if you are confident that a group exists (confident that you are 'carving reality at its joints'), are confident that an individual is a member of that group, have good evidence that more than half of the members of the group have Trait X, and no further information about a member-of-the-group and you must make a decision based on available information with no opportunity to gather more information (or it is prohibitively expensive to gather information), you should assume that member-of-the-group has Trait X. In all other cases it is not rational to operate under the assumption that the individual has Trait X.

(Reading back through that my point seems kind of pedantic. But that's what we do here, right? Anyway.)

Using gendered language or (much worse) thought experiments in a discussion that has nothing to do with gender adds noise and impedes understanding. This is the danger of using PUAs as examples of winners in "rationalists should win"* discussions. It brings in irrelevant assumptions and excludes women by using an example most of them can't relate to (technical details about picking up women in bars or bookstores or the singularity summit or whatever.) So what I'm saying is discussions about sex (in both senses of the word) should be deliberately kept seperate from other discussions of rationalism, and that allowing irrelevant sex talk to bleed into our discussions distorts them and our conclusions.

*This phrase bugs me so much!

comment by Rakel · 2009-07-21T05:45:06.814Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You raise a good point. There are certain statistically proven differences between sexes and making generalizations based on these statistics is a good strategy for example under the conditions you specified. Differencies of this kind include things like "men on average are taller than women" and "women on average have higher percantage of body fat than men". I don't think anyone in here has a problem with generalizations like these.

My point was that there is a different class of generalizations which is problematic. One of the examples I used above was "men don't cry". This implies that if you don't adhere to the norm described, you don't fit in. Showing emotions is "unmanly" and and boys are actually told this when growing up (using a masculine example purely intentional). While the claim "men don't cry" might have some statistical support, we should think about the causal relations between the claim and the reality. The fact that the claim exists and is used bringing up boys will establish a situation where it becomes a norm. Men will not cry because they are told not to, not because that is inherently built in the Y chromosome. With generalizations like this everyone in here should have a problem.

On your comment about excluding discussions about sex from other discussions about rationalism: I think this would generate a unneccessary blind spot. Rationalism should be applied whenever possible, and I find discussions about sex in no way an exception to this "rule". The area is difficult because humans are so interested in it and it affects us in many ways, most of which are hard to see. This is why there might be a lot to gain.

comment by Raw_Power · 2010-10-09T15:35:41.520Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is simply a case of confusing normative statements with descriptive ones. If we raise the sanity line enough, such misconceptions should vanish spontaneously.

comment by Relsqui · 2010-10-09T20:23:21.535Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's a two-way process as well. One of the ways we can raise the sanity line is to clearly demonstrate an understanding of the difference between those statements.

comment by Roko · 2009-07-20T04:05:16.262Z · score: 20 (29 votes) · LW · GW

"I would like help reducing the incidence of:.. "

"There is still conspicuous karmic support for some comments ... "

"Fawning admiration of pickup artists ... "

So, this seems to be the start of a dangerous politicization of Less Wrong. Politics is the mind killer.

People go funny in the head when talking about politics. The evolutionary reasons for this are so obvious as to be worth belaboring: In the ancestral environment, politics was a matter of life and death. And sex, and wealth, and allies, and reputation... When, today, you get into an argument about whether "we" ought to raise the minimum wage, you're executing adaptations for an ancestral environment where being on the wrong side of the argument could get you killed. Being on the right side of the argument could let you kill your hated rival!

I am sympathetic to your concerns about women feeling unwelcome, but it seems that LessWrong is a place for rationality, not for arguing about object-level ethical statements. I think that the group rationality of the community might be increased if we had a few rational racists, rational deep-green environmentalists, rational sexists, rational communists, rational libertarians etc, as long as everyone agreed not to argue object-level ethical statements.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T02:52:50.363Z · score: 18 (48 votes) · LW · GW

Despite being female, I generally find I could not give a damn about alleged 'social' pressures on women, since people who get all weepy because everyone doesn't treat them nice are (in my opinion) laughable, regardless of their sex.

"Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. " Human beings ARE objects. All of them. Whatever an 'autonomous being is', if it exists it is still an object in both the grammatical and ontological sense. I objectify everyone, and it seems absurd not to.

"If you need to use an example with a gender, there's no reason to consider male the default - consider choosing randomly," This just seems silly to me. A total waste of effort. I can't imagine being bothered by the gender of hypothetical people, and especially not by casual use of words which are unisex anyways (such as 'man' for 'human').

"Sweeping generalizations about women" Most sweeping generalizations are flawed, but the amount of stupid things people believe about women is far less ridiculous than the stuff they believe about people they have literally no experience with - such as the Japanese, or Mormons.

"Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women." 'Manipulation'? I though these were 'autonomous' beings? People who can't look after their own social well-being get what coming to them.

"Attention to the privileges of masculinity and attempts to reduce that disparity." The law favors women just as often as it doesn't, especially in various legal disputes. As far as the 'privileges' of men - insofar as they aren't legally enforced, I couldn't give a damn. No one owes you anything.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T03:10:15.737Z · score: 24 (26 votes) · LW · GW

While I appreciate and share your brash disregard for social pressures, I don't think it's inappropriate to expect a modicum of politeness and tact in how people present ideas. Not everyone is immune to such pressure and I don't think saying what amounts to "HTFU, noobcake" is a reasonable way to improve the level of discourse.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T03:48:48.385Z · score: 4 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I don't very much care about those sorts of people. It's not that I have any desire to aggravate them, but they're usually useless to me as anything but vending machines.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T03:53:06.860Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Resistance to social pressure is, within reason, largely orthogonal to the ability to contribute useful information to an informed discussion, or cooperate with others on productive tasks.

If you really want to limit the set of people you can usefully interact with, be my guest, but it seems a tad suboptimal.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T04:00:38.738Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

'Suboptimal' for what? There is no such thing as 'general efficiency', success and failure (and their degress) are meaningless without an actual framework of goals and preference. I simply do not enjoy socially interacting with people like that. I am aware that this includes most of the human race. I happen to find most of the human race useless beyond the buy-sell relationship.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T22:46:47.503Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There are a variety of social interactions from which one can derive value outside the context of a simple economic transaction. Discussing intellectual topics, like on LW or in an academic environment is one example; professional networking to gain connections for career advancement is another. Excluding people for reasons unrelated to these goals, such as susceptibility to social pressure, is suboptimal because potential gains scale with the number of people you interact with.

Who you choose to socially interact with is otherwise pretty much arbitrary. Personally, I generally like your attitude and think the world could use more people who share it--but I don't feel justified to demand that they do.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T23:20:20.306Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"Excluding people for reasons unrelated to these goals, such as susceptibility to social pressure, is suboptimal because potential gains scale with the number of people you interact with." It's quite the other way around - people who strongly conform to social pressure tend to be people who I will disagree with so much in theory and practice that I have no desire to attempt any sort of relationship. I find people who get 'offended', or care about 'animal rights', are far more likely to make me want to punch them than to contribute anything I have any interest in hearing.

"I don't feel justified to demand that they do." Justification is phantom. I just couldn't give a damn what they like or not. Why should I automatically have sympathy for these primates just because they happen to be related to me? I don't 'demand' anything of them, but I owe them nothing, either. I give them no more leave than I would a dog.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T04:07:06.700Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why are you interacting with an un-filtered human? Your professed chances of a hit are far lower than a miss, unless you go someplace where the culture ups the odds.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T04:16:51.634Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Because it's easy enough to ignore people who bore me, and there are a handful of you on here who are worth interacting with. What's more, sometimes 'normal' people do produce something worth reading, I just wouldn't want to share an apartment with them.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-04-15T09:21:17.827Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

People who can't look after their own social well-being get what coming to them.

How the heat of discussion can numb our basic sensibilities. I'm 90% sure that this wasn't intended in a "leave the weak to die" way, and yet, if I were to take this phrase on its face, this is the attitude that I'd infer.

EDIT: nope, I'm only 50% sure. The lady has been quite frank; I'd be best off staying away from her and people like her, lest I can't resist starting shit with her.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T03:01:25.723Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Looks like someone didn't read the disclaimer.

ETA: I seem to be in 'peanut gallery' mode. Maybe I should call it a night.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T03:55:51.121Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Not at all, as this isn't something specific to women. I think most people are 'whiners' who complain as though somebody owed them something. They do not. Not appreciation, not respect, not deference, not friendship, not the time of day. People who get 'offended' because someone didn't say what THEY wanted, or because someone doesn't care about their feelings just annoy me.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T04:04:55.697Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

What are you, a Randian?

You should meet some new people. Perhaps move. In my experience, most people aren't' 'whiners', though that might be subjective.

As for the advice in TFA, it isn't primarily about anyone owing anything. Rather, we'd like to have the best community we can, and it's pretty well-established that we're in favor of community norms that serve that end.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T04:21:15.273Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

"What are you, a Randian?" Certainly not. I'm just amoral and not very keen on some of the typical elements of our primate tribalisms. On top of that, I think most people's social 'problems' are self-inflicted.

"In my experience, most people aren't' 'whiners', though that might be subjective." By 'whiner' I mean simply what I said above. It's not someone else's fault you get offended or otherwise react emotionally, that's your deal. If you can do something about it, do so. If not - what of it? Obviously if the other person thought they had a reason to treat you differently they would, and if they don't - well, there is no higher authority of values or norms.

"Rather, we'd like to have the best community we can, and it's pretty well-established that we're in favor of community norms that serve that end." I'd just rather not deal with people who suffer from the sort of self-inflicted 'problems' outlined above, and do not sympathise with their 'plight'.

comment by Furcas · 2009-07-19T23:22:31.194Z · score: 18 (28 votes) · LW · GW

I don't understand what "objectification" means. Even pickup artists can't think of women as objects, since the only way they can be successful is by interacting with women in accordance with a certain model of the female psyche. Objects don't have psyches.

If the pickup artist somehow deceives a woman to achieve his goal, then what is morally wrong is the deception. How does objectification fit into this?

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-19T23:59:45.565Z · score: 17 (23 votes) · LW · GW

The more significant issue is the lack of respect for autonomy and the other individual's goals. It is, shall we say, "unFriendly".

It's perfectly possible to have excellent models of other people's psyches but no respect for their autonomy; in fact it's a useful skill in sales and marketing. In the pathological extreme, it's popularly called "sociopathy".

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T00:34:00.667Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I suggest that unFriendly is a hugely more useful general concept than "objectifying". I often find myself frustrated I can't use it in conversation with strangers.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T00:37:01.809Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The more I think about it the more I suspect that it's actually the best description yet of the underlying complaint, at least from my perspective.

The term "objectifying" has a lot of additional implications and connotations that distract, cf. the "I objectify supermarket cashiers all the time" type remarks with the "yes but that's not really wrong" replies.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T00:41:30.048Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say it's entire denotation is useless. Which explains the problems: we're fighting over denotation when all the data is in the connotation (and ought to be extracted to stand alone).

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T14:49:19.447Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"unFriendly" is the more general concept, but I think "objectifying" is still an important special case.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T14:52:56.732Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Also, 'unFriendly' is supposed to be a technical term involving AI 'behavior', and as Eliezer points out, it's hard to see how it applies to human behavior.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T15:30:59.727Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right - the human concept is good ol' "unfriendly", no CamelCase.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-07-20T01:44:45.205Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"UnFriendly" is supposed to be a technical term covering a tremendous range of AIs. What do you mean by it in this context? Flawed fun theory? Disregard for volition?

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T02:51:29.906Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

In this specific case, the disregard for volition. In the more general sense, stretching the term by analogy to describe any behavior from an agent with a significant power advantage that wouldn't be called "Friendly" if done by an AI with a power advantage over humans.

The implicit step here, I think, is that whatever value system an FAI would have would also make a pretty good value system for any agent in a position of power, allowing for limitations of cognitive potential.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T01:53:18.130Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly disregard for volition, but also satisficing too early on fun.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-20T20:38:43.352Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think the idea of objectification has more to do with considering instances to be fungible. The typical PUA thinking about how to "bang the next hot chick" (which he phrases as "get a woman") is considering a small subset of women as completely interchangeable for his purposes, as if they were completely fungible entities like dollar bills or bars of gold-pressed latinum.

But as has been talked about recently, it's not the objectification alone that makes it icky, because we probably agree that there's nothing wrong with "we need to get a gardener". What makes the latter okay is why you want to get one: for a mutually beneficial business relationship. When we hear people talk about "getting a woman", it is usually not in the sense of entering into a mutually beneficial relationship, but rather in the sense of deceiving the woman into believing what they think will make her more likely to sleep with them (and then discarding them).

So to summarize, bad objectification is objectification for malevolent ends (simple test: does the object object to the objectification? In the case of the gardener or cook, probably not; in the case of a woman, almost certainly yes).

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T00:59:22.610Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The typical PUA thinking about how to "bang the next hot chick" (which he phrases as "get a woman") is considering a small subset of women as completely interchangeable for his purposes, as if they were completely fungible entities like dollar bills or bars of gold-pressed latinum.

I can't speak about the "typical" PUA, but I will note that there are a fair number of PUG's (pickup gurus) who speak in the opposite way: that every woman is unique, and they love each and every one as a unique individual. Daniel Rose, Johnny Soporno, and Juggler are a few that come to mind right off. I was also under the impression that this is the attitude of many "naturals" as well.

My point about all this is that if you're going to complain about people speaking of general characteristics of a group that don't apply to all of that group, it'd be a good idea not to try to justify it by speaking in generalities about another group, when those generalities also don't apply to all its members. It sort of undermines your point.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T01:15:37.898Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for calling me out. What I should have said, and what I meant, instead of PUA is the womanizers that I've known in real life who value sleeping with as many different conventionally attractive women as possible and who have no scruples about how they do so and no concern for the women they sleep with that extend past sleeping with them once. They would say that every woman is unique, but words are cheap, and actions speak louder. In terms of behavior, what I've observed is that when they are in a large crowded bar, any of many, many different women is interchangeable to them. If it doesn't work out with woman#7, they just go immediately to #8 or #17 without missing a beat. Such is not the behavior of someone who thinks every woman is unique. Maybe I'm completely mistaken by believing that this sort of attitude is common in the PU community? [And to say it is common is not of course to say that is everywhere present and that there aren't exceptions.]

comment by orthonormal · 2009-07-21T01:37:47.266Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea about the PUA community; but from my own experience of times when I was single, there were moments when my desire for a relationship was a 2-place function (i.e. I was pining for this particular woman) and times when it was a 1-place function (i.e. I wanted to have a relationship with some desirable woman). Of course, I'd probably bomb with any girl if I'd admitted to being in the latter state, so there was some level of repressing my awareness of this.

I think that the things pick-up artists convince themselves they believe are kind of irrelevant to actual male psychology; to the extent that my experience is typical and honestly perceived, there are times and places when actual male desire is quite depersonalized, along with times and places when one can be more proud of what one feels.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T01:52:41.001Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can identify too with the 1-place versus 2-place function analogy. Where I part company from the womanizers I've known though and that I had in mind with my comment is that even if I think of a generic "desirable woman", that's just a placeholder for a real, living, breathing autonomous agent. The womanizers, or the more sociopathic ones, at least, think of it as a placeholder for something to have sex with, which brings us back to the question of objectification and not respecting the agency of other people. I won't say that I don't sometimes succumb to what I'm deploring, but I try to catch myself and to do it less frequently.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T03:00:54.800Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Such is not the behavior of someone who thinks every woman is unique.

Huh? Of course it is. If every one is unique, then surely you'd want to meet them all. Otherwise, you'd almost certainly be missing out on something.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T03:22:37.778Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In a trivial sense of unique, of course every person -- woman or not -- is unique because they do not occupy the same location in time-space. Just as obviously, we are not talking about uniqueness in that sense.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T03:51:48.070Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Just as obviously, we are not talking about uniqueness in that sense.

We seem to be talking past each other. I am saying that each person offers a unique experience of interaction. Some more preferable than others, of course.

Thus, the PUGs who profess to "love all women" state that they wish to have as many of those experiences as possible, and extend their contact with the women who their lifestyle is compatible with.

And AFAICT, their behavior is consistent with this. Soporno claims to have around 30 girlfriends at any one time -- all of whom are required to know and accept this fact, or else aren't allowed to be his girlfriend in the first place.

Rose states that so-called PUAs who only do one-night stands are depriving themselves of the depth and intensity of sexual and emotional intimacy possible in a longer-term relationship... and he also has been involved in "multi LTRs", though not to the same extent as Soporno.

There's a British PUG who talks about having dozens of female friends he doesn't sleep with, but goes clubbing with.. and they help him "chat up" the women he does intend to sleep with. Many other PUGs lecture guys on the importance of genuinely being interested in women and wanting to spend time on them, because if you don't , then it's sort of a waste to spend time learning how to talk to them.

Meanwhile, PUG Eben Pagan (stage name "David DeAngelo", author of the "Double Your Dating" product line) has spoken in his marketing classes about his typical customer really just wanting to know how to talk to a woman and ask her out without being embarrassed... and since his is probably the largest internet dating advice business out there (at $20million annual gross), I would guess that means that most guys buying "pickup" training just want to learn how to talk to someone they're attracted to without feeling like an idiot... not how to say some magic words and get laid. Other gurus have also noted that most of the men in their classes are looking for "the one" -- they just want to know what to say when they meet her, and they know they're not going to meet her by sitting at home and not talking to anybody.

So, all of this strikes me as a considerable amount of evidence in favor of the proposition that there are a significant number of men who actually do believe each woman is unique, are not primarily interested in one-night stands, and yet also believe in knowing what they're doing, and/or meeting more than one woman.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T05:03:29.280Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're completely changing the topic.

I said that womanizers I have known consider women interchangeable, because in their plot to sleep with as many women as possible, they ever so easily substitute one for another when their moves fail on the current target. I said that is not the behavior of someone who thinks every woman is unique.

You said of course they consider all women to be unique, because "If every one is unique, then surely you'd want to meet them all. "

I pointed out that you're equivocating on unique, and now you're changing the topic again.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T05:06:13.693Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You said of course they consider all women to be unique

No, I said that the behavior you described is consistent with considering all women to be unique. And it is. It just also happens to be consistent with the behavior of a jerk.

How is that changing topic?

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T15:34:55.702Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The topic change is that when I made the uniqueness comment, I was talking about womanizers I've known, not PUA or famous PUA gurus. Secondly, you keep equivocating on unique. Of course every person offers a unique experience of interaction. They are also all made out of utterly unique particles in utterly different configurations and no two of them have ever precisely occupied the same locations in time-space. That's all irrelevant for the sense of uniqueness I explained, which has do with behavior and interchangeability.

The way in which I've said that womanizers I've known do not behave as if women are unique is that when they go out clubbing, if they're with a bunch of friends, they're quite willing to draw straws to see which of the potential women they get to chat up, and they hardly care which of many attractive women they get to go home with, as long as they go home with one of them, for they consider them not to be unique in the requisite sense of being attractive and willing to sleep with them. Sure they're all different, but the differences are irrelevant to them, except possibly as a strategy to use for seducing the woman in question.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T19:07:41.148Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's all irrelevant for the sense of uniqueness I explained, which has do with behavior and interchangeability.

And you're still missing my point: the behavior you describe can be generated by many different beliefs or perceptions internal to the person generating the behavior, and you cannot know (unless you ask, or at least perform a more detailed test than the one you've desribed) whether the person is willing to meet many different women because he does -- or does not -- consider them unique.

That is, until you ask, you can't know whether his thought process is, "Every woman is unique, so no matter who I meet it will be a fun and interesting experience to discover what she's like," or else something so crude I won't render it into actual words here.

What I have been pointing out is that there are people who state, teach, and promote the mindset I have spelled out here. Certainly, there are people of the other mindset, and disagreeable as it might be, I don't argue with the fact that mindset also exists. You seem to be denying, however, that the more enlightened mindset also exists.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T20:04:00.457Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My original point was about particular individuals, womanizers that I've had conversations with and one of whom I knew very well.

I'll agree that womanizing might arise out of thinking every woman is unique in a non-trivial (albeit not necessarily benign) sense, as you have suggested, but my point was that there is a tension between maintaining uniqueness and considering them fungible (even if they're not totally incompatible). I'm not in the slightest interested in PUA and dating/seduction techniques and related topics, so I don't have anything more to say on this topic.

comment by Roko · 2009-07-21T01:18:20.284Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I'm completely mistaken by believing that this sort of attitude is common in the PU community?

No you are not mistaken, but there are good, empirical reasons for this attitude.

So, this comment got downvoted, why? I provided a piece of valuable empirical data which constrains our model of reality to the group mind, and then I got punished for doing so. Maybe I should stop optimizing my comments for informativeness, and start trying to just optimize for whatever people vote up?

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T03:09:36.225Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No you are not mistaken, but there are good, empirical reasons for this attitude.

I don't think so. The behavior of "if at first you don't succeed" has obvious empirical backing, but there is more than one attitude that can generate that same behavior.

Some of those attitudes (like, "I'm a fun person and I like to meet a lot of new and interesting people", or "women are fascinating and I want to meet them all") have MUCH better effects on the person holding them, as well as better effects on the people they come into contact with.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-21T02:52:26.825Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I provided a piece of valuable empirical data

You provided no empirical data. You made a rather vague claim about some supposed empirical data, and its reason-providing nature. Did you have, say, a study or something to back you up?

comment by anonym · 2009-07-21T01:47:29.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't vote you down, but I did just vote up to correct what I think was an inappropriate downvote, but perhaps the person downvoted for alluding to "good, empirical" reasons but not spelling them out. I've noticed comments that allude to things without elaborating giving any detail whatsoever often get voted down.

comment by bogus · 2009-07-20T00:55:50.077Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Even pickup artists can't think of women as objects, since the only way they can be successful is by interacting with women in accordance with a certain model of the female psyche.

I would also hazard a guess that people who are "naturally good with women" objectify women more than people who use PUA techniques. Without the benefit of careful analysis, respect for the "goals or interests or personhood" of the picked-up turns out to be detrimental: many "naturals" flounder when they have to abandon their "tried and tested" rules-of-thumb and seek an intimate relationship.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-19T23:29:37.358Z · score: 1 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Deception is wrong too. It's certainly possible to do things that are morally wrong without objectifying anyone. However, "modeling the female psyche" does not mean that no objectification is going on. That modeling is a prerequisite for achieving the goals of the pickup artist, which don't typically seem to include respect for the goals or interests or personhood of the picked-up (except inasmuch as knowledge of these things serves the success of the pickup attempt). It's no more personalizing than modeling the behavior of an AI opponent in a video game, who must be defeated to win the game.

comment by Furcas · 2009-07-19T23:53:40.761Z · score: 17 (21 votes) · LW · GW

So to objectify someone is to think of him in a way that doesn't include respect for his goals, interests, or personhood?

According to this definition, I objectify the bus driver, the cashier at the local Walmart, and just about everybody I interact with on an average day.

comment by Neil · 2009-07-20T01:26:42.395Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

To that degree, yes, just as they objectify you as 'passenger', or 'customer'.

But even as we interact as 'passenger' and 'bus driver', and probably don't have any desire but to do what we have to do as efficiently as possible, we do generally keep in mind that we are both people with concerns about our respect and we don't casually devalue each other for playing out the roles we have. There's still an assumption of basic personhood going on.

But I think that when people start talking about getting sex from a woman with the same degree of respect and mutuality as is required when getting a can of cola from a vending machine, then they've gone an extra step on the road to objectification. And adding on a "well that's what women want too" as an afterthought when questioned about it doesn't really convince.

I'll concede that the "pick up artist" is to some extent a role that is played by guys who aren't necessarily so entirely cynical in reality, but I'm not sure that means it's non-issue.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-19T23:57:04.264Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you probably do.

comment by RobinHanson · 2009-07-20T00:22:29.807Z · score: 29 (31 votes) · LW · GW

OK, well given this clarification, it seems to me just fine to objectify people, and in fact I recommend doing so when what one is trying to do is neutral analysis about the facts of some matter. Objectify your teacher when deciding if school is worth the effort, and objectify your doctor when deciding if medicine is worth the cost.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T00:27:15.336Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's important to note that neither of those scenarios include interacting with the person being so objectified. Also note the point about the ethical considerations being different in economic transactions, e.g. thomblake's comment.

comment by astray · 2009-07-20T18:01:33.273Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What about objectifying a job candidate in an interview? Do you choose the candidate with experience, who will feel dead-ended but perform a better job? You might interpret this as a deliberate stunting of their volition (the sense of objectification I'm using), interfering with their actual goals despite their outward actions.

Any overqualified candidate that gets hired is objectified in an arguably worse way than the target of a PUA, despite the potential mitigations the economic transaction may bring about.

(Edit: Rereading this, I'm worried that I sound confrontational; I don't mean to be, but I'm not sure how else to edit without becoming too prolix.)

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T22:05:23.513Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I actually do find this sort of thing ethically objectionable to some level, but defensible on consequentialist grounds because of the social benefits of economic efficiency. So I don't know that I can give you a satisfying answer.

For what it's worth, I hold a lot of sales and marketing in even lower regard than PUA silliness.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2009-07-20T04:55:11.669Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe this definition is more isomorphic to the "objectification of women" than it first appears. For example, the other day my family was going to get our photograph taken. After about seven pictures were taken, we were lead to another room where a man showed us our photographs in turn so we could decide on the one we liked. It occurred to me that we probably could have operated the computer that did this ourselves, in which case he would have been out of a job. I objectified him, and I'm quite certain he would have been offended if I'd said my thoughts aloud.

So. Objectification is a good thing for the person who does it, but it's quite normal for the person on the receiving end to be offended.

comment by Furcas · 2009-07-19T23:59:53.466Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

...

Are you saying that you don't? Or that you do, but that this kind of objectification is somehow different from the kind you condemn? If so, what's the difference?

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T00:09:39.359Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The major difference is that it's more socially acceptable. Yes, I realize this is a non-answer. The answer you probably want is "they're getting paid for it". There's no expectation of social relationship between peers.

Furthermore, as I said elsewhere, wanton disregard for the autonomy of such people is still frowned upon in the extreme cases. Noone likes the boss who treats employees like cogs, or the demanding customer who pushes around customer service staff because they know they can.

comment by Furcas · 2009-07-20T00:28:45.373Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The answer you probably want is "they're getting paid for it".

Well, no. I happened to pick a bus driver and cashier as my examples, but I could just as easily have picked my next door neighbor. I don't dislike him, but I couldn't care less about his goals or interests or personality.

Furthermore, as I said elsewhere, wanton disregard for the autonomy of such people is still frowned upon in the extreme cases. Noone likes the boss who treats employees like cogs, or the demanding customer who pushes around customer service staff because they know they can.

Treating people in a certain way goes beyond mere objectification as Alicorn has defined it: "Thinking of a person in a way that doesn't include respect for his goals, interests, or personhood."

I'm still trying to obtain a coherent definition of "objectification" that is both morally reprehensible and independent from any harmful action, such as deceiving a woman to get her into bed or treating one's employees like cogs.

comment by conchis · 2009-07-24T14:42:59.947Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that it needs to be independent of harmful action. The way I tend to think about it is that thinking of others as tools to one's own ends, with no regard for their ends, is something that increases the risk of harmful action, which is bad.

The thing is, this risk also depends crucially on context, so on this theory, we would expect the social acceptability of objectification to increase where the risk of leading to harm is lowest. This seems to roughly fit my intuitions at least: objectifying teachers when deciding on what school to attend seems ok (there's little risk of harm to them, and whatever harm there is seems justified on efficiency grounds); but treating other parties to intimate relationships as simply means to your own ends is bad (because it's much more likely to end up hurting someone); meanwhile, treating, say waitstaff as simply a means to getting a meal is probably somewhere in between (it increases the chance that you might be a complete ass in the course of your personal interactions, but this may only manifest itself if something goes wrong).

ETA: as additional examples, we could also consider: treating consumers as people whose needs you are trying to fulfil vs. people you just want to get money out of, whether they really want what you're selling or not; and treating staff as engines to pump out products, vs. actual human beings.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T00:35:47.153Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If it helps any, instances of 'thinking' that don't go beyond that will probably not appear on this website. They at least need to go as far as 'writing'.

comment by wuwei · 2009-07-20T00:40:14.664Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

disregard for the autonomy of people =/= thinking of someone in a way that doesn't include respect for his goals, interests, or personhood

I am reading the latter rather literally in much the same way RobinHanson seems to and as I think the author intended.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T00:48:26.700Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

disregard for the autonomy of people =/= thinking of someone in a way that doesn't include respect for his goals, interests, or personhood

Sorry, I thought it clear I meant some flavor of "all of the above", shortened for readability.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T00:12:03.264Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

See SoullessAutomaton's comment; he has it right.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T00:02:34.155Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

See this comment - there are some contexts where treating people as objects is at least socially expected, and arguably fine, and economic transactions are one of them.

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-20T02:08:07.114Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Am I right in thinking you don't respect the goals, interests, or personhood of the pickup artist? Consider a scenario in which there is a PUA who desires sex and a woman who does not. Which outcome do you prefer, one where the PUA changes her mind and they engage in consensual sex, or the woman turns him down and he goes home alone? If you think the first outcome is negative, why? Would your answer be the same if it was a woman trying to pick up a man? Is it morally objectionable to change someone's mind? Is it only so if manipulative techniques are used? Is it possible to change most people's minds without using manipulative techniques to some degree? If you asked someone to help you move a sofa, would you do so in a monotone voice or would you do so cheerfully with a smile? If these questions seem unnecessarily antagonistic, I apologize. I simply want to understand your position.

For the record, I have a deep personal dislike of pickup artists, especially those who employ NLP. I do not, however, find their methods morally questionable.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T02:22:40.568Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Am I right in thinking you don't respect the goals, interests, or personhood of the pickup artist?

We are in grave danger of equivocating the word "respect" here, so let me clarify: when I define objectification, the kind of "respect" I mean is an acknowledgment of those things and recognition of commensurability with one's own corresponding goals, interests, and personhood, not an approval. I acknowledge the goals, interests, and personhood of pickup artists, and recognize them as similar to my own in many ways (in structure, not content). I don't approve of the goals and interests they seem to share as a group (although I do approve of their personhood).

Your question is vastly too broad for me to say which outcome I prefer. If you made it more specific - if I knew something about the method of the PUA, the reasons behind the woman's initial reluctance, her typical dispositions with regards to casual sex, etc., then I might be able to answer you. The same goes for the situation where the woman is attempting to pick up the man.

Is it morally objectionable to change someone's mind? Is it only so if manipulative techniques are used? Is it possible to change most people's minds without using manipulative techniques to some degree?

There are ways to change people's minds without doing anything morally objectionable. My favored method is usually just transparent, bald-faced announcement of all my intentions. I actually go about saying things like "I did work today and seek praise!" or "I have the inexplicable urge to make you jealous, so I'm probably going to talk about my ex in a minute" or "I don't like your friend and you should probably take anything bad I say about her with a grain of salt" or "I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long". Of course I accompany these things with either actual smiles or emoticons because I like to project an air of adorable friendliness, but of course I'm actually adorable and friendly so that's okay ;)

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-20T02:47:35.161Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I don't approve of the goals and interests they seem to share as a group (although I do approve of their personhood).

Isn't it actually their methods you disapprove of? Disapproving of a pretty innate male desire to engage in frequent intercourse seems unfair at best and Puritan at worst. Their goals do not involve manipulating women any more than my goal of driving to the store is also a goal to drive my car. If a man can pick up a woman simply by talking honestly to her about his romantic feelings, do you still disapprove of his actions because he may share the same goal as the pickup artist?

My favored outcome is usually just transparent, bald-faced announcement of all my intentions. I actually go about saying things like "I did work today and seek praise!" or "I have the inexplicable urge to make you jealous, so I'm probably going to talk about my ex in a minute" or "I don't like your friend and you should probably take anything bad I say about her with a grain of salt" or "I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long". Of course I accompany these things with either actual smiles or emoticons because I like to project an air of adorable friendliness, but of course I'm actually adorable and friendly so that's okay ;)

Why is this less morally objectionable than the manipulative NLP of a pickup artist? "I did work today and seek praise" is an extraordinarily manipulative (and clever) statement. It, and the others, are obviously intended to subvert cached thought, catching off guard the recipient who may not rise to the bait of responding positively to the more common, "Today was a tough day" or "I hope I did okay, what do you think?" By using unusual and unexpectedly honest phrasing and presenting yourself as "adorable and friendly", are you really being transparent, or are you actually employing a manipulative method of your own? After all, if it never worked, surely you would self-update to a better technique. And wouldn't claiming you are actually being transparent be a defense against your own cached representation of in order to preserve your internal belief that you are not being manipulative?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T03:02:45.360Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't it actually their methods you disapprove of?

I guess in addition to defining "respect" I should have defined "goal". In attempting to fully describe a goal, I'd usually be inclined to include caveats about what methods wouldn't be okay for me to use to achieve that goal. For instance, it's my goal to watch the entirety of Stargate SG-1, but not if I have to steal the DVDs from WalMart to do it.

Why is this less morally objectionable than the manipulative NLP of a pickup artist? "I did work today and seek praise" is an extraordinarily manipulative (and clever) statement.

I'm... sorry you feel that way? I am genuinely going for "clear and honest", not "manipulative and clever".

After all, if it never worked, surely you would self-update to a better technique.

If saying "I did work today and request praise" (an example of something I actually said today) doesn't promptly yield praise, I (actually did) follow up with "You are not fulfilling my request. You should fix that." If that hadn't "worked", I probably would have gone and talked to somebody else, and refrained from seeking praise from that person in the future, on the assumption that they had no interest in praising me for doing work. I wouldn't have moved to a less clear and honest strategy to get the uncooperative individual to give me what I wanted.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-20T04:06:06.025Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

If saying "I did work today and request praise" (an example of something I actually said today) doesn't promptly yield praise, I (actually did) follow up with "You are not fulfilling my request. You should fix that." If that hadn't "worked", I probably would have gone and talked to somebody else, and refrained from seeking praise from that person in the future, on the assumption that they had no interest in praising me for doing work.

Did you offer your conversation partner anything of value, other than an implied threat of disapproval if they failed to accede to your demand? Were you thinking about their goals, other than how they related to your desire to receive praise?

It seems to me that, by your definitions, one can objectify, or manipulate, but not both. If you took your conversant's goals into consideration and offered something for what you wanted, then you manipulated. If you didn't take them into account, then you objectified.

Or do you claim that there is a third category, in which you thought about their goals, but didn't allow this to affect your choices in any way? Then this seems like even worse objectification, since you knew they had other goals and nonetheless chose not to act accordingly.

Or perhaps the loophole is that if you just state what you want, then other people simply "should" give it to you, and that therefore this isn't manipulation? Is it only manipulation if you offer to give someone something they actually want, and offering veiled threats instead is just "honest" communication?

Now, let's contrast your strategy with a pickup-artist strategy, known as the Apocalypse Opener. Like your approach, it's based on blunt honesty and an open statement of intention. But there are a couple of key differences.

First, the PUA waits until the third sentence of the conversation (not counting "hello" or "hey") to state his intention, treating the other person with conventional courtesy first, rather than simply stating a demand.

Second, the request is not even a request, let alone a demand. It's framed as an invitation, an offering of something valuable.

Third, if the invitation is declined, the PUA neither pressures the other person with a threat of disapproval, nor departs the conversation. He simply continues treating them in a friendly way, leaving the invitation open and giving them time to consider it.

By your definitions, which is more manipulative? Which more objectifying? To whom?

At a first glance, yours strikes me as both more manipulative and more objectifying, since you don't offer your conversant anything of value to them (i.e. ignoring their goals and objectifying), and you include a veiled threat (using their goals to get what you want, i.e. manipulation). In contrast, the PUA does nothing but offer things of potential value to his conversant, and does not offer even the minor threat of withholding his approval or company.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T04:28:52.383Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Did you offer your conversation partner anything of value, other than an implied threat of disapproval if they failed to accede to your demand? Were you thinking about their goals, other than how they related to your desire to receive praise?

This is the beginning of the conversation in question:

Alicorn: I did work and request praise!

Alicorn: You are not fulfilling my request.

Alicorn: You should fix that.

Interlocutor Mine, Name Redacted: *praise*

Alicorn: :D

Interlocutor Mine, Name Redacted: Good job, keep up the good work

Alicorn: *is pleased with self*

Prior context in an earlier conversation included an exchange about how I've been having trouble getting work done lately, and should be chided if I didn't do any today. So... I guess I offered my charming company and a smiley? IMNR is my friend, we talk frequently, I usually operate under the assumption that IMNR has some desire to interact with me in a friendly manner. IMNR is free to disabuse me of this notion at any time and I will leave him alone.

If you took your conversant's goals into consideration and offered something for what you wanted, then you manipulated. If you didn't take them into account, then you objectified.

Explicit trades of services do not have to be objectifying. I exchange Christmas gifts with various relatives, and if I stopped giving people Christmas presents, I'd probably stop getting them; that doesn't mean anybody is being objectified.

Or do you claim that there is a third category, in which you thought about their goals, but didn't allow this to affect your choices in any way?

Something can be an influencing factor without being a controlling factor. For instance, when I make curry, the cayenne pepper contributes to the curry being spicy. If I left out the cayenne, it would still be spicy, because there are a half a dozen other spicy things in it.

Or perhaps the loophole is that if you just state what you want, then other people simply "should" give it to you, and that therefore this isn't manipulation?

No, not really. Certain desires ought to be accommodated (e.g. I just asked my roommate if it'd bother her for me to have music on in a particular room when she went to bed; she said yes, so I moved to a different room). Certain desires don't have to (I doubt I would have harbored resentment if IMNR had refrained from supplying desired praise) and satisfying them is super-erogatory.

Now, let's contrast your strategy with a pickup-artist strategy, known as the Apocalypse Opener.

Meh. It looks honest enough; some phatic introduction and a question. There doesn't seem anything wrong with this strategy in particular to me. It surprises me that it works, but that's purely empirical.

If people want things of value from me, they can ask me for them. If I want things from other people, I ask for them. If I have something I think someone else would like and I like them and want them to have it, I offer it to them. People who like me and have things they think I would like and want me to have them offer them to me. These events don't always occur simultaneously, but over the course of a friendship or other extended interpersonal association, it works well enough to suit me.

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-20T03:51:00.453Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

For instance, it's my goal to watch the entirety of Stargate SG-1, but not if I have to steal the DVDs from WalMart to do it.

So to dig up an old chestnut, the ends do not justify the means. What I am still unsure about is whether or not you disapprove of the ends. Does this mean you are okay with the goal of picking up women, as long as you do not use particular techniques to do so? The stumbling block I run into on this is that there are no male-female sexual interactions entirely free of psychological modeling, signaling or predictive behaviour on both sides -- or if there are, they certainly don't exist in the human population at large. It seems to me that pickup artists are merely trying to compete with men who are naturally charismatic and charming. Is the real solution to actually handicap such men so that manipulative techniques are not necessary for competition?

By the way, I consider watching the entirety of Stargate SG-1 morally questionable, but this argument is subjective enough as it is...

I'm... sorry you feel that way? I am genuinely going for "clear and honest", not "manipulative and clever".

As you have pointed out, your intentions should not be confused with your methods.

You seem to think that adopting a baseline, rational approach to something like requesting praise for your work is maximally non-manipulative and honest. It certainly could be, if you were speaking to a Turing-incomplete chatbot. Unfortunately, people don't operate that way. If you formally ask for praise and object when none is forthcoming, are you respecting the "goals, interests and personhood" of the recipient as much as you would be if you asked nothing of them? And can such a non-standard method of human communication possibly be as "clear and honest" as a standard method? Put another way, does your employment of open honesty contain other signals i.e. does it carry the signal "You should give my request for praise more weight because I am visibly being honest and not trying to bait you into it"?

Be wary of saying things that are the equivalent of "I'm not going to say 'trust me', because that doesn't mean anything, but a is b." Such a statement actually indicates that the speaker is doubly untrustworthy.

Now, I don't believe you are being intentionally manipulative and clever, or that you are definitely being so unintentionally. This is not an argument I'm trying to win against you. I'm just asking you to consider the chance that you unaware of the possibility of it.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T04:07:27.389Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Does this mean you are okay with the goal of picking up women, as long as you do not use particular techniques to do so?

I have no ethical problems with the desire to have no-strings-attached sex with people of any description. I simply require that this be pursued honestly and non-coercively.

It seems to me that pickup artists are merely trying to compete with men who are naturally charismatic and charming.

I also have no ethical problem with people trying to become more charismatic and charming.

does your employment of open honesty contain other signals i.e. does it carry the signal "You should give my request for praise more weight because I am visibly being honest and not trying to bait you into it"?

No, not really. Or if it does, that's an accident. I started doing my intention-announcement when I decided that if I was going to get annoyed at other people wanting me to read their minds, I'd better provide the courtesy I wanted to them. I did not wish to become one of the people whose interpersonal relationships were plagued with arguments that wind up culminating in "Well, why didn't you just say so?" If I seek praise, I announce it. Other people may or may not care about my seeking, and may or may not indulge my desire. This gives me information about their dispositions towards me, instead of confused feedback that might reflect on either that or their level of telepathic ability.

It's possible that I'm being unintentionally manipulative, and if that is the case, I would like to stop. If you have suggestions about how I can signify all and only the things I think I'm signifying in my sample statements and statements like them, I'd welcome the input.

comment by Dustin · 2009-07-20T22:31:09.958Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For reference, I would find your method to be manipulative. I also don't think you're being manipulative on purpose (or at least I don't have any data to think you are or aren't).

I don't think there is a fully general way to request praise without manipulation. It's going to depend on each person's life experiences and how they view you.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T04:11:53.509Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For reference, I didn't find it particularly manipulative, though I also don't appreciate attempts at telepathy.

comment by wuwei · 2009-07-20T03:30:51.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Under what conditions do you normally find it necessary to attempt to fully describe a goal?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T03:33:28.089Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Usually when I'm very, very bored.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2009-07-22T17:47:45.603Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My favored method is usually just transparent, bald-faced announcement of all my intentions. I actually go about saying things like "I did work today and seek praise!" or "I have the inexplicable urge to make you jealous, so I'm probably going to talk about my ex in a minute" or "I don't like your friend and you should probably take anything bad I say about her with a grain of salt" or "I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long".

That's awesome.

I have to start doing that, myself.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2009-07-20T06:49:26.764Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I actually go about saying things like "I did work today and seek praise!" or "I have the inexplicable urge to make you jealous, so I'm probably going to talk about my ex in a minute" or "I don't like your friend and you should probably take anything bad I say about her with a grain of salt" or "I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long".

I like your style.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2009-07-20T19:54:57.011Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At the risk of making people of all genders feel uncomfortable, I'll add that this is also a fantasy of mine.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T20:00:31.061Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You mean talking like that is something you fantasize about doing, or fantasize about other people doing?

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2009-07-21T01:24:22.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, it's hardly fair of me to want it of others if I can't deliver it myself. I was thinking only of the many times the desire of it in others has served as an excuse for my lack of perception.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T02:56:06.662Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long"

Haha, I would set my watch beeper for nine minutes, and read a book until it went off, then say "you have sixty seconds, go".

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-07-19T23:51:08.248Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of masculine privilege is appearing on LW that isn't covered by the sort of blundering myopic obliviousness already mentioned in the lines above that? The notion of "privilege" is one that I regard as dangerously general (and generally dangerous), so a bit more narrow advice might be helpful here.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T00:06:15.304Z · score: 4 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I guess the most salient one is the privilege to ignore male privilege (#46 on the list I linked). Numbers 6, 19, and 32 are also important, plus the fact that the local "role models" (everybody on the Top Contributors list except me and AnnaSalamon, plus Robin Hanson and most of the mathematicians / psychologists / economists / bloggers / philosophers etc. cited by people here) are all male.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T01:26:52.828Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Also #23, #30 and #33.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-20T20:22:49.205Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

\6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

Why do you think that applies here?

At least 20% of the "Top Contributors" are female, which is far higher than expected given LW demographics. How does that fit with point 6?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T20:31:39.255Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think that applies here?

As an immediately obvious example, the grandparent, my comment answering Eliezer's question about which privileges I thought relevant, is at 0 and has been negative. Julian Morrison's reply, which does just about exactly the same thing, is at 2 points. Not that his comment was not helpful and doesn't deserve two points, but it seems roughly similar to its parent in content. This could be personal, instead of related to my gender, or I might have actually put something badly whereas his very concise comment avoided such issues - or it could be #6. I have no way of knowing.

At least 20% of the "Top Contributors" are female, which is far higher than expected given LW demographics. How does that fit with point 6?

AnnaSalamon is still there, but she has not posted anything in two months and it's not obvious that she'll be back in the forseeable future. She's slipping down the list, and unless she returns to regular activity and gets new karma, I will be the only female there after a while.

Also, mere overwhelming male prevalence on the site is a form of privilege in itself.

Edit: After my third instance of suspiciously rapid karma drop, I'm no longer one of the top ten highest-karma'ed posters - as soon as the list refreshes I will be off it unless I get upvoted enough before then. I guess that solves the representative demographics problem.

Edit 2: Now it's back...

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T21:45:03.399Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I voted you up. Your post seems to have been downvoted for pure disagreement. I voted to correct that.

Mine was just additive with no substantive argument, so it got props for info without drawing partisan fire. I think. I doubt it's that you're female - it's that you were the enemy. Very bad rationalist behavior, but I'm not sure it's sexist.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-20T21:22:41.207Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The "evidence" you've given to support 6 is extremely weak. I'm not saying that such bias does not exist -- I absolutely do not know -- but your response doesn't convince me in the slightest.

It is obvious that some people with very strong feelings (or who are especially angry, etc.) might be voting you anomalously at the moment. I think the drive-by voting that seems to go on here for many different reasons is deplorable, but your single anecdote is not evidence of a pervasive long-standing trend.

And the fact that AnnaSalamon is not active at the moment but is still on the leader board is irrelevant to my point that there are currently more women on the board than expected, not fewer, which would be the case if your point held.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T21:25:33.369Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How could there be fewer women on the list than expected? We are 3% of the LW population according to Yvain's survey - even if we're underreported and are really twice that, it wouldn't be statistically odd for there to be no women on the top list.

Also, I don't doubt that the recent odd voting is because of the storm I've stirred up here - but it happened twice before I'd even considered putting up this post. It's happened to other people too.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-20T21:39:46.965Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It has happened (and continues to happen) to a lot of other people and doesn't seem to be related to gender, which was my point.

comment by anonym · 2009-07-20T21:36:44.543Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There could be fewer if there were 0 out of 10 for a long period of time. Which is not what we observe.

Likewise, if we extended the list to 100 top contributors, we would expect there to be no more women added to the leader board and for it to remain just you and AnnaSalamon on the list. Do you expect that would happen? And if not, how is it compatible with women's contributions being voted up significantly less than men's?

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-07-20T20:39:12.105Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I actually perceive this kind of comments as haggling, a form of noise that annoys me and that I expect has at least as strong negative effect on some people as the topic of this post has on you, probably stronger.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T20:41:58.911Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sorry you don't approve. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but I was asked a question.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T00:09:05.309Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

#46 is the one I was going to point to as well, though it seems to make little sense by itself.

If you put spaces around your slashes above, it will improve the comment's layout.

comment by Raw_Power · 2010-10-09T17:58:54.321Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't seen the link to that list. Care to repost it?

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-19T22:37:30.508Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Attention to the privileges of masculinity

For a balancing perspective, female privilege checklist.

comment by MichaelBishop · 2009-07-20T00:10:39.099Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Robin Hanson said:

The next obvious step is to assign point values to such privileges, so we can add them up and compare totals.

Of course there would be many ways to disagree about such point values, including how they should account for differing abilities and preferences. You’d open yourself up more to ridicule by posting a calculation, as folks could trumpet your most vulnerable estimate as evidence of your insincerity. And you wouldn’t show your impressiveness nearly as much as you could via a fancy math model, statistical data analysis, or semiotic text analysis.

But the essence of analysis is to "break it down", to take apart vague wholes into clearer parts. For the same reasons we make point lists to help us make tough job decisions, or ask people who sue for damages to name an amount and break it into components, we should try to break down these important social claims via simple calculations. And the absense of attempts at this is a sad commentary on something.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T00:17:08.409Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

It's not at all obvious to me why this might need doing. Inequalities aren't, say, good, so as long as the goal is "make people aware of X" and not "allocate money to alleviating X" (for instance) why have a stupid contest about who is less privileged than whom in numerical fashion?

comment by MichaelBishop · 2009-07-20T00:37:56.428Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that Robin's suggestion is somewhat beside the point. Regardless of how male and female privilege tallies up, I want to know about what I can do to make people, including women, feel fairly treated and respected, and to encourage them to participate on LW.

I hope including Robin's comments won't detract from those goals. That said, I do think this sort of accounting is useful for helping me set priorities. i.e. Which groups and issues are most deserving of more of my finite time and resources.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2009-07-20T00:52:26.610Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that it would be nice to level advantages from sex wherever feasible.

In evaluating your request that we pay extra "attention to the privileges of masculinity" and "attempt to reduce that disparity", I would definitely want to weigh the overall balance before deciding which wrongs to crusade against.

If you're talking about a disparity in participation (and not privilege) here, then sure, I'd like to see more quality female contribution.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T00:14:58.090Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Laughed out loud at the clause "this is a sad commentary on something".

It would be an interesting question whether men are more privileged than women, and I'm skeptical that there's a clear way to measure these things. But I also think it's largely irrelevant to the question at hand; that there is a discrepancy in expectations is enough to keep in mind.

comment by taw · 2009-07-19T23:59:11.351Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the entries of masculine privilege checklist are either very weakly supported by data (everything about job discrimination) or purely subjective and not too serious (nobody will think X about me if ..., most of those are untrue too).

A list proven of serious and genuine gender "advantages" would be interesting, but these two lists are worthless.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2009-07-20T14:08:25.911Z · score: 13 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I have the same problem with this post that I would have with a member of an ethnic minority speaking "for" their group here. the type of person who posts on less wrong is a statistical oddity, belief and action wise.

I think what the original poster is really saying: I am made uncomfortable by certain types of recurring posts. Since an individual has little leverage, I will borrow the theoretical support of others.

Note: not trying to completely dismiss the concerns noted in the original post, just my initial reaction to it.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2009-07-20T10:13:58.424Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Is it me, or was this post a little heavy on the other-optimizing? Yes, there's been a bit of talk about wanting more female posters here, but I haven't even seen an agreement that that's a priority, much less a request for advice on the topic. (Did I miss one? I'll admit I haven't been following the comments that closely recently.)

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T14:59:04.129Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there's been nothing like a vote on it. But I've definitely gotten the impression that we're doing community-building here, and attracting potential rationalists was one of Eliezer's stated goals. So it seems that a community norm against repelling potential rationalists would be a good one.

comment by woozle · 2009-07-22T01:40:32.646Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in an interesting/weird(?) position with regard to the problem pointed out in this post in that I have (self-diagnosed, peer-confirmed) gender dysphoria, and in a number of ways do not think "like a guy".

For example: Without going all TMI, I'll just say that I don't relate to the whole heroin analogy, despite having (as far as I can tell) more-or-less normal levels of male hormones running around in my brain (not something I'm at all happy about, mind you, but nonetheless it doesn't seem to compel me that way). I'm not completely unsympathetic; I just don't experience it.

Furthermore, my own observations of more-or-less-normal men suggest that they do not universally see things this way. It is quite possible to be normally-male and heterosexual and yet still be more interested in building a solid relationship (of which sex might become a part) with a person who is a woman than with arbitrarily seeking out women solely for the purpose of obtaining sex as if it were some sort of commodity. (Not that I know how this is done, because I'm not normal.)

On the other hand, while I don't make such remarks myself (because it isn't how I think), I tend to be somewhat oblivious to male-sexist remarks made by others. I'm guessing this is due to socialization as a male: being trained to think that such remarks are normal, so if they bother me I should just keep quiet. (There are a large number of areas in which I have been implicitly trained to just keep quiet, especially with regard to gender. I'm not happy about this either.) I do find it off-putting, but generally the "keep quiet" kicks in and I just move on to the next comment.

It seems to me that framing this as a choice between providing "safe space" and "being able to speak openly" -- an argument from consequences, even, and therefore "not rational" -- is a false dilemma. Claiming that Alicorn's objection is solely based on her "feelings" (or the feelings of women, even) is just as inaccurate, and rather manipulative at that.

What's irrational, I should think, is speaking as if "getting" women were a rational goal -- shared by all men and understood by all women to be part of How Things Are. It is one possible means of achieving a goal which I am willing to term "rational" (if we allow rational goals to be based on hard-wired non-rational needs), i.e. getting one's "heroin fix" -- but pursuing that particular strategy is not intrinsically rational (since there are other techniques which lead to longer-lasting relationships, thus providing more reliable sex if that's all that matters to you, while also not ignoring the value of women as sentient individuals).

Speaking of something in admiring terms when it is arguably harmful to some is not sympathy-inspiring; speaking in a way that is likely to lower one's social standing, if you don't have a compelling reason for doing so, is also not rational.

It seems to me that it should be fine to talk about the need that many men apparently have for regular sex, and various ways of satisfying that need, but talk about the subject rather than framing the discussion in terms which suggest that a particular group's main social function is to meet that need.

In the earlier comment which sparked Alicorn's post, for example, this statement:

most people here don't value social status enough and (especially the men) don't value having sex with extremely attractive women that money and status would get them.

is a problem because, as phrased, it implicitly dismisses the harm done by the attitude he is admiring and promoting. It's a little like saying (although milder) that we won't ever really succeed because we don't have sufficient callousness to steal from others when we know we can get away with it.

What he might have said -- if I'm not re-interpreting it too much -- is that we are too little motivated by material pleasures to devote much of our energy towards achieving them, and therefore we are less likely to achieve the influence necessary to obtain such pleasures -- even though this influence would be far more helpful in achieving our goals than are the means by which we more commonly pursue those goals. (sentence fatigue, whew.)

That is a legitimate suggestion, whether or not you agree with it. Implying that it's necessary to exploit women in order to do so, however, is unnecessary and runs against the goals I hope we all share.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T01:53:33.467Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

here are a large number of areas in which I have been implicitly trained to just keep quiet, especially with regard to gender. I'm not happy about this either.

My advice: Fight this. Concentrate on it, and fight it tooth and nail. Life's too short.

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-20T04:22:39.733Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I concur. I agree with a lot of what you say... I get upset frequently because of things said about women, many just offhandedly.

I am here, I've been reading for over a year and am a huge advocate of this site, but was not counted in the survey. But I'm 20 years old and rarely feel like I have anything valuable to offer the community... and because of that actually feel hesitation to respond to these kind of things. I also don't live a life about feminism or being a girl and would hate to be perceived that way.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T16:25:03.857Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I also don't live a life about feminism or being a girl and would hate to be perceived that way.

I know what you mean - I don't live a life about affirmative action or being black, and I hate playing the role of "black".

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T15:29:53.039Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But I'm 20 years old

If you think you will be in a better position to contribute in 10 years, that is a positive fact about your current self, not a negative one. Note that I am 30 and I'm convinced that my contributions would be more valuable in 10 years as well, but that doesn't seem to be a reason not to contribute now.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T04:32:41.840Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm twenty years old, too - so?

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-20T07:18:33.547Z · score: 37 (37 votes) · LW · GW

Ah. Interesting... I guess I should stop making excuses then... I have occasionally felt like posting things but... I'm so nervous! Everyone here impresses me so much generally.

User Chronophasiac lives near me, and I've talked to him about some of my concerns about the conversations about gender we have on lesswrong/OB. My concern is that because of the lack of female presence in rationality forums, that perhaps males have to generalize on a small sample. Rationalist males are noticeably different from the average male, and rationalist females are probably comparably different from average females. I guess I often have a bit of a negative response to how rationalist males talk about females... because even though they might be making correct decisions about most females, they're certainly not right about me. It's possibly irrational- but I guess I have a strange worry that they don't know that. Ah, I remember that these feelings were triggered when they were discussing why there aren't more women here. But I have no reason to think they haven't considered it, in fact, I remember Eliezer mentioning that... I should link but I'm lazy.

I'm not mad at the males here for trying to figure out why females aren't here, and trying their hardest. But... I'm female and I'm here... and all the proposed ideas sounded so off to me. I've been trying to think of better ideas though and failing... since I like it here. I guess my best hypothesis is that there are still less women in the topics related to Less Wrong and Overcoming bias, due to the kinds of reasons they've proposed for that (past inequality, culture, etc...). But I digressed.

I guess the best thing I can do is just contribute to the site more. In the meantime, just consider what it would possibly be like if lesswrong was ran by women, and we were trying to figure out how to bring in more males, and we wondered if we should consider how males liked hunting, and let that inform our decisions. I mean, you'd know we were trying our best, but those of you who don't really care for hunting would be like "we really have to let them know we aren't all like that, and we wouldn't appreciate it as much as they think".

I suspect this might have drifted off-topic, but my large ego won't let me transmit it elsewhere.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-20T17:45:58.118Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

In the meantime, just consider what it would possibly be like if lesswrong was ran by women, and we were trying to figure out how to bring in more males, and we wondered if we should consider how males liked hunting, and let that inform our decisions. I mean, you'd know we were trying our best, but those of you who don't really care for hunting would be like "we really have to let them know we aren't all like that, and we wouldn't appreciate it as much as they think".

LOL'd and upvoted. I will be tempted to cite this comment every time I see a discussion anywhere by a bunch of men trying to figure out "how to bring in more women" to some group, without actually asking any women.

This is a pet peeve of mine in IT forums, where guys often have no idea how offensive their special treatment proposals are to precisely the sort of women that they'd want to have participate, and are bemoaning that no women apply for IT jobs, when I managed to run a gender-balanced IT department for over five years without any "affirmative action" hiring. (i.e., it fell naturally out of our choosing to evaluate based on group fit and potential, rather than out of any need to have a gender balance.)

comment by stuffimnotproudof · 2009-07-19T22:55:59.163Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I would like help reducing the incidence of:

  • Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. "Objectification" is what happens when a person is treated or discussed as an object, not as an autonomous being.

I believe that, to a first approximation, one factor of my utility function can be represented without a token for the woman's autonomy. Or, if this cannot accurately be said of my utility function, it can be said about world states of high instrumental value.

I believe it's in my best interest to fuck.

comment by dclayh · 2009-07-19T23:09:06.944Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Related: I'm glad that Alicorn included the word "casually". I myself object strongly to the idea that objectification is an evil per se, but the idea is common one, going back through Kant, the Scholastics etc. etc., and deserving (I think) of at least a second thought's worth of respect.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-19T23:11:08.135Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Do you object when other people use manipulative or coercive techniques on you, to maximize their own utility function without regard for your autonomy?

comment by stuffimnotproudof · 2009-07-19T23:26:10.431Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

My objection would be to making a decision that I wouldn't make if I had better information. It's not about the fact that their utility function doesn't have a token for my autonomy.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-19T23:52:42.505Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

And if you spend a lot of time being influenced by intelligent people who don't have a token for your autonomy, you'll be making a lot of decisions you wouldn't have made with better information and objectivity.

"Not causing people to make choices they will regret" is a pretty simple ethical principle.

comment by stuffimnotproudof · 2009-07-20T00:13:38.085Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

intelligent people who don't have a token for your autonomy

Actually, I originally just said that one term of my utility function can be represented without a token for women's autonomy. The utility function as a whole definitely includes terms for the concerns of every human being.

But I hope you understand why, in some conversations, it would be natural for me to objectify women.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T00:44:50.048Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I hope you understand that the issue is not what is natural, but what is ethical.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-20T21:53:29.468Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But in comment xxx, you said that an important attribute in distinguishing examples was that "it's more socially acceptable," which I read as pretty close to "natural." Not the same "natural" as above, but deriving ought from is.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T21:59:58.450Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Social acceptability means roughly "adhering to commonly accepted ethical norms". A statement of what is about people's opinions about oughts, in other words.

There are plenty of natural behaviors and impulses, in the sense of expected based on human psychology, that are nevertheless not socially acceptable in many contexts; casual violence in most civilized societies, for instance.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-20T22:14:53.362Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you're saying that ethics is the conventional wisdom about true morality, then (1) it could be wrong and (2) even if it's right, we have the right to ask for more detail: an appeal to authority can answer "what?" but not "why?"

Alternatively, you might be distinguishing between "morality" meaning indivisible goodness and "ethics" meaning the accepted rules of society, which we hope promote morality.

If so, are you saying that all these examples are immoral, but some are ethical? and we shouldn't worry about the harm we do by objectifying the bus driver because he knows its coming and has accepted it? (that the means justify the ends)

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T22:33:08.888Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As a quick aside, avoid relying on any distinction between the terms "morality" and "ethics". I don't think there is any coherent, universally agreed-upon difference and inventing one tends to lead to confusion.

Community norms are inherently an appeal to (diffuse) authority, yes, and have little explanatory power; hence my noting it as a non-answer in the comment you linked to. Nevertheless, the norms objectively exist even if their foundations may be arbitrary.

The "real" answer, from my perspective, is that it's still a (mildly) inethical way to interact with people, but some combination of your "its part of his job" and a more general argument for impersonal economic transactions providing social benefits in the big picture outweighs it in many cases. On this basis, I accept the status quo of the afforementioned social norms.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-20T23:08:34.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for that clarification!

morals/ethics: I probably read your definition of social acceptability in terms of ethics backwards.

I think that you're too trusting of society's verbalization of morality and that this is rather different from what people actually accept. This is similar to the discussion of lying. It also reminds me of Michael Vassar's comment about homosexuality. Even if generally accepted ethics deviate from generally verbalized ethics, it's not clear what to choose.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T23:12:34.668Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that you're too trusting of society's verbalization of morality and that this is rather different from what people actually accept.

My metric is actually closer to "what are people embarrassed to admit" or "what will cause others to impose a social censure". This seems to best fit the concept of community norms. What people say, and what people do when they don't expect to get caught, may of course diverge (usually in opposing directions).

ETA: In case it wasn't clear, I'm not advocating social norms in the general case, just noting their existence and arguing for the reasonability of a specific norm.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-20T23:32:47.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not talking about what people do when they don't expect to get caught. I think people blatantly lie and objectify all the time with no social sanction. Maybe they'd be in trouble if you called them on it, but so would you, for bringing it to the verbal sphere.

No, being normal is not inherently moral, but it suggests that there are other factors to weigh against the lying and the objectification, like with the bus driver. (It suggests it to me, but I feel like there's a missing step I can't verbalize here.)

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T23:40:28.567Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think people blatantly lie and objectify all the time with no social sanction.

Yes, these are both examples where the social norm is more lax than what people tend to say. Advocating certain kinds of stricter ethical standards than are actually enforced is mainly social signalling of the sort that Robin Hanson likes to discuss.

As a side note, one of the common "geek" social failings is to take stated ethical standards at face value, especially with regard to lying.

I'm not sure what you're getting at otherwise. As I've stated elsewhere, objectifying people in economic contexts is socially permitted (except in extreme cases), while objectifying in "social peer" contexts is of borderline status, depending on (class/region/&c.) fluctuations in norms.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-21T05:20:09.901Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with most of what you say here. Probably I shouldn't have brought up divergence from verbalized rules; that's a different conversation.

comment by noahbody · 2009-07-20T01:54:09.437Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"Not causing people to make choices they will regret" is a pretty simple ethical principle.

Actually, it's contradictory. If they actually have autonomy, then you can't truly "cause" them to make a particular choice. So choosing to "not cause" them to make a choice is actually admitting they're not autonomous.

Ergo, given the definition of "objectifying" in use here, you are objectifying someone merely by trying not to influence them.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T02:11:42.630Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If they actually have autonomy, then you can't truly "cause" them to make a particular choice.

Are you seriously assuming incompatibilist free will? If we've got (roughly speaking) a deterministic universe, and no Kantian nonsense about noumena, then everybody can be caused to do things, even though they're autonomous.

Unless you're assuming incompatibilism in absence of free will... in which case, it seems like you should have a more basic disagreement with the objection of not treating people as though they are autonomous.

comment by topynate · 2009-07-20T02:08:10.462Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Autonomy isn't a binary thing; neither do human beings have full knowledge of precisely what they are and aren't in conscious control of.

comment by freyley · 2009-07-20T02:18:59.631Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

False dichotomy. Autonomy isn't absolute, nor is "causing" someone to make choices.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T02:38:17.889Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For this, we will have sexbots.

comment by nawitus · 2009-07-20T14:48:53.002Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sexbots will be like bots in a computer game. They will be fun, sure, but real players will be even more fun. I don't really see the relevance of 'disapproving bots', some people will prefer them (or maybe be their only choice), and some will choose real players. If someone even enjoys playing with bots more than with real players, let them, it's what they want to do.

comment by stuffimnotproudof · 2009-07-20T08:01:59.524Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Honestly, I'd like to practice on one.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-07-20T03:31:32.650Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, but I disapprove of sexbots.

comment by spriteless · 2009-07-20T05:32:37.029Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We already have sexbots that are the size of genitalia, and even people who like them prefer other people as well.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T03:46:21.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't. I'd classify sexbots into two types. Ones that aren't people, so they won't be emotionally sufficient to compete much with real women, but exploiting them is fine. Ones that have been improved until they are people, in which case why not love them? Human diversity makes a species-wide rejection of human-human relationships unlikely.

comment by wedrifid · 2009-07-24T23:27:52.274Z · score: 10 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Robin is not right.

On the other hand, Robin is right. This post is not about gender inequality.

comment by topynate · 2009-07-20T00:18:48.795Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women.

There's a distinction I draw between objectifying a particular person and a class of people. I think what drew you (Alicorn) into the argument which sparked this post is the idea of "getting attractive women". Women should not, conceptually, be "got", you say. Well, if you mean a particular woman, who one sees in a club or on the street, then I agree with you. If you mean that a man should not talk about the modal preferences and cognitive styles of attractive women, so that when he meets one that he likes, he knows how to convey his own value in a way that isn't self defeating, then I disagree, and I guess that calling it "objectification" isn't going to change my mind. To use the distinction in a different context: I claim that there's a difference between standing in front of someone and thinking about "what you're going to do to their body", and lying in bed thinking about what you might like to do to some body, sometime.

Casual use of masculine and/or heteronormative examples in posts and comments that aren't explicitly about gender.

Yeah, that sucks.

Sweeping generalizations about women, if they are not backed up by overwhelming hard data

Such generalizations are generally - not always - lazy and demeaning, so I do support your proposal, but in reality the argument normally centres on whether a particular statement is a generalization, whether it's a sweeping generalization, and whether the data in its favour are overwhelming or not. Good luck not getting bogged down in that. Really a small moderation team that explicitly deals with such matters would be a good idea. Metafilter has one and benefits from it.

Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women.

Again, I agree with the literal meaning of your words, but I wager that you will find most of the people you have in mind very resistant to being characterized as "fawning" over anyone. In any case, comment after comment of "I don't admire this technique, but I've verified (400 cold approaches) that negging in the opener is a very effective tool for SNLs" wouldn't be made very satisfactory by the addition of "don't" in the previous sentence.

Also, it would be a good idea to immerse yourself in PUA blogs and forums for a while, if you want to get a good idea of what motivates people to do this stuff. I think I first became aware of the subculture in 2007, and thought it propagated immature and offensive nonsense. Its natural growth eventually forced it back into my consciousness earlier this year, and I have refined my view: it naturally attracts a number of immature or offensive people, but I like to think of it as fundamentally an applied sociology club for boys.

I did smile at your request for more qualifiers and disclaimers. In your article, I saw several qualifiers and one bolded disclaimer, but none that could actually weaken your arguments. Rather, you prefer to express absolute moral judgements. There's a touch of hypocrisy in that.

comment by Raw_Power · 2010-10-09T18:11:40.862Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Only a Sith deals in absolutes!

... Sorry...

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T00:31:35.470Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I mostly agree with your comment, but:

There's a touch of hypocrisy in that.

I'm not seeing it. There doesn't seem to be any contradiction between "expressing absolute moral judgements" and "adding qualifiers and disclaimers". Perhaps you can point it out more clearly?

comment by topynate · 2009-07-20T01:42:14.100Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It was specifically the idea that generalisations of women are bad and shouldn't be used without overwhelming evidence, because they're very harmful, that got me. There are exceptions. Robin expresses well what I think about this.

The hypocrisy lies in the lack of what I consider adequate qualification of this statement, and maybe the "fawning admiration" one too, in an article that requests qualification of "opposing" statements, i.e. ones that could be construed as anti-feminist. Phrasing things in an absolute, i.e. unqualified, fashion is just an extension of that argumentative style. An apologia for the PUA community or for some sort of "men's rights" position would have to be written in a much softer manner than this article, in order to satisfy this article's requests.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-20T20:49:46.889Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, demands for qualifications and disclaimers are almost always a way to hold different sides to different standards (not that this is hypocrisy, per se).

comment by dclayh · 2009-07-19T23:15:34.462Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I trace the treating of women as status objects to be acquired to the recent surge in popularity of Ev. Bio.. In particular, proponents of PUA and allied schools of thought tend to draw direct lines from lower-primate societies to ours. (They also assume that if a technique works, it must be okay to use, but that's a somewhat different issue.)

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-19T23:33:21.803Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I've also seen a tendency to miss the difference between adaptation execution and fitness maximization. Of course, that's an easy mistake to slip into, but still.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2009-07-20T10:37:17.996Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

When Alicorn wrote, "some people seem to earnestly care about the problem", she accompanied it with a link to a comment made by me, in which I said that "I want to increase the female: male ratio [here]. So if you ever see me using language that objectifies women or that alienates you, please let me know."

Let me clarify that although I want to hear Alicorn's objections to my statements about women (especially since she is better than most feminists at explaining the grounds for her objections) I might not be able to cater to all her objections.

For example, most existential-risks activists (scientists doing networking and research about risks like unFriendly AI) are male, and I plan a top-level post to assert that not having reliable access to sex with the kind of sexual partners who can most improve the life of an existential-risks activist should be considered a large disability in a male prospective existential-risks activist -- in the same way that, e.g., an inability to stop rationalizing one's own personal agenda should be considered a large disability.

Note that recruiting existential-risks activists (though he did not use that exact phrase) is one of the stated goals in Eliezer's creating this web site.

Since a large fraction of the young men who have many of the other qualifications for existential-risks activism (such as extremely good mastery of math) do not currently have the knowledge necessary to obtain reliable access to sex with the kind of partners who can most improve their lives, I have a strong interest in trying to convey knowledge about it to them (because doing so decreases existential risk according to my current models of male psychology) and it is possible that despite persistent strenuous effort on my part, I will not be able to do a lot of that without alienating Alicorn and other feminists.

Maybe the correct course is for me to start another site where male prospective existential-risks activists can acquire this sort of knowledge, but sex is such a large part of life that it seems overly limiting for the 90 or 95% or so of the participants on this site who are heterosexual men to refrain from discussing how to identify the prospective sexual partners who can most improve their lives and how to increase one's sexual chances with those prospective partners.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T14:44:29.095Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't get the impression that there was proposed any sort of prohibition on ideas that can be discussed. Rather, just perform a quick 'sanity check' against the criteria and make sure you're not needlessly alienating vast numbers of potential members of the community.

I don't think anyone is even going so far as advocating 'political correctness', and I laughed out loud at calling Alicorn a 'feminist' (reluctantly pushed into that role as she is).

comment by nerzhin · 2009-07-20T18:09:02.018Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Since a large fraction of the young men who have many of the other qualifications for existential-risks activism [...] do not currently have the knowledge necessary to obtain reliable access to sex [...], I have a strong interest in trying to convey knowledge about it to them

You may think this is a great contribution you can make, but it's probably simpler and more effective to donate money.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2009-07-20T21:33:09.039Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Since a large fraction of the young men who have many of the other qualifications for existential-risks activism [...] do not currently have the knowledge necessary to obtain reliable access to sex [...], I have a strong interest in trying to convey knowledge about it to them

You may think this is a great contribution you can make, but it's probably simpler and more effective to donate money.

OK, nerzhin, I'll bite: donate money to whom?

comment by nerzhin · 2009-07-20T22:00:38.185Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If your goal is to deal with existential risks, maybe the Lifeboat Foundation or, of course, the Singularity Institute. It just seems to me that handing out sex advice to potential existential-risk activists is a pretty indirect way to help.

Of course, I'm not helping either, so I should probably just be quiet.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-07-20T18:27:39.030Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I feel some skepticism that you possess special knowledge on this topic. The language above seems objectifying even to me. Do you have a record of success here?

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2009-07-21T00:28:21.152Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I feel some skepticism that you possess special knowledge on this topic.

I certainly do possess special knowledge on this topic. I have had a loving relationship with a woman for only 8 of the 32 years since I left home for college, so I am qualified to write about the negative psychological effects of girlfriendlessness.

The language above seems objectifying even to me.

Although I tried to avoid objectifying language, I am not surprised to learn that I failed because I have always been bad at predicting what language other people will find objectifying. Clearly I am missing some cognitive capacity that helps other people to make such predictions with much less effort than I can! I requested feedback from Alicorn because it is unusual for me to encounter someone who can describe the cognitive process by which their hearing or reading objectifying language produces aversion as well as she can, but candidly even if she provides the requested feedback, I will probably still be considerably worse than the average 16-year-old at making such predictions. But I keep on trying because even a small improvement in my predictive ability here would pay off big in making me a better communicator.

Parenthetically, since I lack the cognitive capacity to make these kinds of social judgements with little or no conscious effort, I have had to rely on (effortful) deliberative reasoning and my general capacity for mental modeling for what meagre skill I do have. It is my tentative hypothesis that skill that flows from deliberation and mental modeling is easier to transmit than skill that flows from the cognitive capacity I am lacking. That does not mean that I can teach others to predict what language the people around them will find objectify. (I already said that I do not myself have that skill.) But it does mean that perhaps there are some social skills I can transmit more readily than those who are "naturals" in those skills.

Do you have a record of success here?

If you mean, Do I have a record of success in teaching social skills that might help men enter into or stay in loving relationships with women? no I do not. I will run my posts past Hugh Ristik and hopefully a former pickup/ seduction trainer to make up for my lack of experience.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-20T10:40:49.180Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

If Alicorn goes beyond discouraging certain modes of expression and starts discouraging certain ideas from being expressed at all, that's beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned. Hope she thinks so too.

comment by yeynfv · 2009-07-20T21:46:10.279Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I find this a very disturbing comment.

Why do you invoke Alicorn? Why not just "that's beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned"?

This is by far the strongest one of a very few comments on this thread (and no prior threads) that make me think Roko is right about cliques.

comment by teageegeepea · 2009-07-20T20:28:19.740Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wouldn't that just eat up a lot of their valuable existential-risk minimizing time? I might be stealing an idea from Hopefully Anonymous, but I'd ideally like to clone large numbers of the most effective minimizers and devote every waking hour of theirs to minimizing our existential risk (really, maximizing my odds of persistence, but that goal won't get as many other cloners to buy in). In the absence of that kind of control, convincing them that they can never obtain partners and should just give up would be second-best. I believe Narses put so much effort into living on through his accomplishments precisely because, as a eunuch, he could have no progeny.

On a related note, I've got a post saying we should be grateful for diversity-induced anomie. Bryan Caplan & Mencius Moldbug have both had interesting things to say on the virtues of abject surrender.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T10:44:15.183Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe the solution is for me to start another site where male prospective existential-risks activists can acquire this sort of knowledge.

I support this solution.

Edit: although I'd extend it. Not all males prefer women, not all women prefer males, some women will also want to learn seduction of their preferred sex, and there are a bunch of gender categories in the middle (trans, queer, intersex, etc) who can be either the source or object of sexual interest. I have never heard that seduction is much studied outside male-wants-female.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-20T13:35:51.539Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I have never heard that seduction is much studied outside male-wants-female.

What? Clothing lipstick fingernails haircut tan waxing liposuction diet aerobics... Women strive to improve their seduction abilities much more than men.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-21T05:23:40.273Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. It is more socially acceptable for women to improve their attractiveness to the opposite sex than it is for men. Women can also get more improvement of their attractiveness through these methods. Additionally, it's considered acceptable for women to use various forms of psychological influence over men; see this NYT article I critiqued on my blog advocating training men like animals. When men do this, it's evil.

Hair and clothes are very important for men, though, not just because of physical looks, but because of the status and sexuality that they do (or don't) convey.

comment by PeterS · 2009-07-20T20:27:02.060Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Clothing, haircut, diet and aerobics apply equally to men as well, and waxing has shaving as a counterpart.

Also, do you have figures on what percentage of women undergo liposuction? Or tan regularly?

Seems to me that all you've done is generalized from a couple cliches.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T04:04:37.574Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The amount of rationalization in this thread is disturbing me. Seriously... apply equally? How many dresses do you have? How many shoes? How many shampoos? Skin care products? Do you regularly shave your arms and legs? Did you ever try to wax any part of your body, and do you have any idea how it feels? Were you ever seriously concerned that the tips of your hair were splitting ever-so-slightly and you must do something about that? Do you want me to go on?

comment by PeterS · 2009-07-21T20:17:44.328Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The amount of rationalization in this thread is disturbing me.

What do you think I'm rationalizing?

How many dresses do you have? How many shampoos? Skin care products? Do you regularly shave your arms and legs? Did you ever try to wax any part of your body, and do you have any idea how it feels? Were you ever seriously concerned that the tips of your hair were splitting ever-so-slightly and you must do something about that?

You've displayed a severe lack of synthesis here. What you should have been thinking about were analogous items that a male would possess for sex appeal. You're seriously trying to make a point by asking me how many dresses I own? Obviously I own none, and obviously that does not speak at all to the amount of effort I exert trying to impress women. I also own precisely zero skirts, zero bras, and zero tampons!

To my knowledge, a male's sex appeal is not significantly improved by most of the items you've gone to the trouble of listing. I've never felt that I would be more sexy if my legs, armpits, etc. were waxed (although I have plucked my unibrow a few times). Nor, with the exception of acne control, do I think skin care products would increase the average man's sex appeal.

You've apparently failed to accurately conceptualize the idea of sex appeal. When I brought this up, rather than ask for apparently relevant or informative information (how much money will I spend on a date? how nice is my watch, jacket, car, apartment, etc? how much effort will I actually go to in order to seduce a woman or get laid? do i wear deodorant/cologne? do i use contact lenses? how often do i shave? how much do i care about hygiene? what kinds of clothes do i wear? what is my job?), you came asking about how many dresses I own and whether I regularly shave my legs, etc.

Seriously... apply equally?

Male sex appeal is quite different than female sex appeal, but there is a common ground. Clothing, hair (dye, rogaine, plugs, transplant, cutting and grooming), diet and exercise fall inside that common ground.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T20:31:14.346Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In a vacuous sense of the word, all organs are reproductive organs and you can feasibly claim that your job and apartment are part of your seduction routine, just like Bill Clinton's job and apartment were. But can you somehow delineate "seduction-related" activities from "other" activities and somehow make men and women spend the same amount of effort on "seduction-related", without making "other" an empty set? Try it! I don't think you will succeed. For example, any reasonable delineation would classify work time as non-seduction-related, which instantly skews the ratio towards women.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-07-21T21:27:45.592Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to mistreat the Evolutionary-Cognitive Boundary.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T21:35:36.007Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, you're right. Good catch. The whole discussion is off track.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-21T04:14:47.044Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How many dresses do you have?

My figure's no good for a dress, but I do have more than one good-sized closet full of clothes.

How many shoes?

Due to a condition, I mostly just wear sneakers. However, I do have a couple of other pairs of shoes for when it's really important to look good or match an outfit.

How many shampoos?

I have one, which is as many as my wife has. How many do you need? I did an evaluation of which shampoo works best with my hair several years ago, and technology really hasn't advanced enough in the past decade and a half to bother re-evaluating Pantene Pro-V (though knock-off brands do perform just about as well). I also use the same brand of conditioner, and a couple different kinds of hair product.

Do you regularly shave your arms and legs?

Not anymore. Cutting oneself shaving is an avenue for infection, and I've had problems with skin infection in my legs. Also, my hair grows too quickly so I have serious stubble just a couple hours after shaving. Armpits, though, are a must.

Did you ever try to wax any part of your body, and do you have any idea how it feels?

Yes. Really not impressed with the performance as compared to depilatory creams, which are much less painful.

Did you ever dye your hair?

No way. That's terrible for your hair. I have tried colored gels, but haven't found any that really work with my color.

Were you ever seriously concerned that the tips of your hair were splitting ever-so-slightly and you must do something about that?

Yes, but it's always a cost-benefit analysis, as I don't want to cut my hair shorter than I have to, and Pantene does a decent job of 'repairing' those sorts of problems, to some extent.

Was there a point to these questions?

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T09:20:18.898Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Drawing any statistical conclusions from your answer would be invalid because you have self-selected to reply to me. A reply from PeterS, or lack thereof, would be more meaningful, but it still wouldn't outweigh the data about men I know personally.

comment by bogus · 2009-07-20T13:46:29.540Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What? Clothing lipstick fingernails haircut tan waxing liposuction diet aerobics...

Most of this is part of some silly game which women play amongst themselves: some of it may be male-directed, but it's definitely a minor portion. Overall, F2M seduction and "focused self-improvement" are still woefully underexplored.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-21T07:45:07.077Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Overall, F2M seduction and "focused self-improvement" are still woefully underexplored.

Great point. Since women have an easier time finding partners than men due to greater female selectiveness (at least when perceived choice is high, which is the norm for typical dating), women may more easily reach a basic level of satisfaction with their abilities to attract and relate to the opposite sex. Or conversely, women may be less likely to reach a level of dissatisfaction that they are motivated to engage in systematic programs to improve their attractiveness and relational abilities, other than in societally typical ways such as improving physical attractiveness.

Yet I do think women would benefit from improving their ability to attract and relate to men, analogous to what pickup artists are doing. Pickup artists often study men who are "naturals" with women. Likewise, I think there are female "naturals." I've known some women who do very well with men, both in the sense of attracting men, and in fulfilling their goals (typically, long-term romantic relationships). These women take care of themselves physically without being incredibly high maintenance, they are intelligent and accomplished, they are a joy to be around, they like men and understand them relatively well, a large percentage of males who come in contact with them get crushes on them. They don't have the common complaint of trying to date guys who only want their bodies, and they are in multi-year relationships.

Clearly, there is something that these women are doing right, or something about their attitudes, personalities, and/or upbringings which is leading to across the board positive results with men, while other women of equal or greater physical attractiveness constantly experience difficulties with men. Whatever it is, it can be broken down empirically and other women can learn from it, similar to how pickup artists are breaking down the behavior and mindsets of men who are successful with women.

In fact, I would argue that a lot of the difficulties some women may experience in their interactions with any attractive men with options (including many pickup artists) is due to their lack of corresponding sexual and relational skills. To explain why this is, I'll back up and use an analogy.

Many men who aren't very good at interacting with women complain of various difficulties around women. A particular complaint is only being seen as a friend, rather than as a romantic prospective, and may feel that females "lead them on" and then only want friendship. Yet for men who have significant skill at attracting and relating to women, these kinds of problems simply go away, or reduce in frequency. I'm less likely to receive this response nowadays. Often I will see the "let's just be friends" situation coming from a mile away, in which case I keep her as a friend and pursue other women. If I don't see it coming, my understanding of female sexual psychology will offer me explanations other than the woman trying to "lead me on." I have enough perspective to realize that she may have given me a chance to attract her, and I simply failed to convey my attractive qualities to her, or she didn't find me attractive. Yet I'm not crushed, because I know that I will be meeting new women next weekend, and I am free to maintain a friendship with her if I so choose.

Similarly, many women complain of a situation where they have become sexual with a guy who is "just not that into her." In fact, this seems to be a fear of some women who hear about pickup artists: they think pickup artists are going to go around seducing them and then moving on. Yet whether a man will move on from a woman after having sex depends on his perception of her appeal for a relationship. This variable is partly under the woman's control. If she can display qualities that make her appeal to him as a relationship partner, and differentiate herself from other women of equal or greater attractiveness, then he is less likely to move on. Furthermore, with a better knowledge of male sexual psychology, she can more easily guess in the first place whether he would be plausibly romantically interested in her, and move on if not.

There are genuine cases of women taking advantage of men non-sexually, and of men taking advantage of women sexually, by lying about their intentions. There are other cases in which people are ambiguous about what they are looking for, and negligently lead another party who wants something more with them into false beliefs about their availability. Yet in my view, the problems underlying "let's just be friends" and "pump and dump" scenarios that are equally as common really lie at the feet of the "friend," or the "dumped." And those problems include the following:

  1. Lack of qualities that attract the member of the opposite into wanting the same thing as the guy friend or dumped woman does, or presence of unattractive qualities
  2. Presence of attractive qualities, but lack of ability to display them in a timely fashion (e.g. I once went out with a girl who got drunk on our first few dates, which made it hard for me to connect with her real personality, and almost prevented me from realizing how intelligent and accomplished she was)
  3. Lack of understanding of the psychology of the opposite sex, leading to over-investing that will not be reciprocated, walking blindly into rejection, and then blaming the other sex for it

People tend to use their sexual and relational skills to seek what kind of arrangement they want with members of the opposite sex. Yet if members of sex A want arrangement X with members of sex B, while members of sex A are lacking qualities, skills, and understanding necessary for members of sex B to want that kind of relationship with members of sex A, then we have a curious zero-sum situation: a member of sex B's goals will be different from a member of sex A's goals with each other. Since members of sex B finding members of sex A underwhelming in a certain way, their preferred arrangement will be to have a narrow interaction in which they get what they want, while members of sex A do not get what they want (and perhaps feel "used"). However, if members of sex A had more "game" (or whatever you want to call it), then they would be less likely to encounter the situation of members of sex A only wanting them in such a narrow way, in which case members of sex B would use their own "game" in order to seek arrangements that are desired more mutually.

Either men or women are A or B depending on the context. Imagine a matrix of group A's level of game crossed with group B's level of game (where I define "game" as ability, conscious or otherwise, to understand the psychology of the opposite sex, and to attract and induce members of the opposite sex to be more likely to want the kind of sexual/romantic situation that you desire with them; I have reservations about the word "game", but it's late and I need to save typing):

Neither A nor B have game: mutual blundering

A has more game than B: A "uses" B because A only wants a narrow kind of interaction with B

B has more game than A: B "uses" A, reverse of above

A and B both have considerable game: both groups are more likely to want non-zero-sum interactions with each other because they both desire each other in the ways that the other desires them, and members of both groups can more easily identify and avoid potentially zero-sum situations where an asymmetricality of desires occurs

In short, a woman with relational game should be less likely to fear men with seduction ability, because men will be more likely to fall for her.

Assuming that individuals cannot systematically change the preferences of the opposite sex, the best way for both men and women to get want they want sexually and romantically is by members of both sexes:

a) maximally understanding the preferences the of the opposite sex, and b) maximally learning to fulfill the preferences of the opposite sex, subject to certain basic constraints of authenticity, ethics, and one's own preferences

Rational and empirical investigation would be helpful in pursuing these goals. For now, people will have to do this on their own, or with like minded people. Yet in the future, rather than make everyone reinvent the real, these abilities should be instilled by general socialization. To some extent, they already are (at least if you were popular when growing up). But the average quality of advice about the opposite sex is laughably bad for both sexes (especially for men) in society, and dominated by oversimplified stereotypes (e.g. "men only want one thing") and true-but-useless platitudes ("just be yourself," "every woman wants something different").

comment by bogus · 2009-07-21T07:52:17.585Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This should be a top-level post. It would counter both the pervasive misunderstanding of what PUA is about and Eliezer's point about PUA being locker-room man talk.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-21T17:07:21.147Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I would consider cleaning it up and re-writing it as a top level post if others request, and/or consider it out of place in this thread.

comment by JohannesDahlstrom · 2009-07-22T21:04:15.402Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Please do. It deserves to be top-level.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-21T18:31:07.598Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Downvote explanation requested. I am already considering moving this post somewhere else; it is on-topic for the comment it is responding to, but it may drift from the topic of the thread. Objections to the argument of this comment, or of the language and framings it contains, is also invited.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-21T18:15:11.348Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps use "positive sum" instead of "non-zero-sum"

comment by rela · 2010-09-13T02:40:18.097Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Most of this is part of some silly game which women play amongst themselves: some of it may be male-directed, but it's definitely a minor portion.

It is possible that I have misunderstood your comment. So, I hope that you will not mind if I reiterate in order to make sure that I have understood correctly: Women spend time on "clothing lipstick etc" primarily because they are concerned about the impression other women will form of them.

I'm afraid that any response will be purely anecdotal: but I can say that I am much more likely to shave my legs when I go to have coffee with a group of women, as compared to with a group that contains men. And I am almost certain to shave my legs before going to coffee with a man who I would be interested in dating.

Best, rela

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T13:38:52.942Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Systematically?

Also, a whole lot of that stuff (most?) is for intra-women signaling.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-20T13:44:54.870Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "systematically"? There's lots of magazines for females that discuss the exact set of topics I enumerated, add sex and relationship advice into the bargain, and very little else. This approach works, so women don't need to study evo-psych or whatever PUAs study.

I defy your claim about signaling because it seems wildly improbable to me. Why would women want to signal their attractiveness to other women? Give a citation or something.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-21T05:33:57.028Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I defy your claim about signaling because it seems wildly improbable to me. Why would women want to signal their attractiveness to other women? Give a citation or something.

Shoes and handbags are probably an adequate citation. Clothing as well, perhaps, but that's at least somewhat ambiguous. There may be a lot of men out there who pay close attention to the shoes and handbags of the women they are interested in, but I can't say I've met any of them. I'm not entirely sure what the motivation is for women who buy these things (I dated a woman with numerous $500+ purses, and she was in college), but I am pretty sure it's unrelated to attracting men, and it would make a great deal of sense if it's status signaling towards other women.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T05:48:38.319Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There may be a lot of men out there who pay close attention to the shoes and handbags of the women they are interested in, but I can't say I've met any of them.

That's a strawman argument. Of course men don't pay close attention to the individual aspects, only the general impression matters. The point is to make the guy want you, not make him want your handbag. I don't mentally note the price of girls' shoes and purses, but I certainly note when they fit in with and "enhance" the rest of their attire; knowing some girls with an extraordinary sense of color and style taught me to perceive this stuff consciously some years ago, but it's always had an unconscious influence as far as I feel.

On the other hand, I can't dismiss the idea of signaling as completely as before. I just haven't yet heard a convincing explanation why women would benefit from signaling high status to each other, as opposed to (say) signaling friendliness and caring.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-21T06:37:55.143Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's a straw man argument. Yes if a woman is wearing a nice dress and a pair of Crocs, that's an issue, but from what I've seen the marginal effect of shoes is pretty small from most men's perspectives. My impression, both from personal experience and from popular culture, is that women actually notice accessories and men do not. That sounds like signaling towards women; in fact, women I know who spend a lot on accessories have admitted as much to me. If someone has actually gathered hard data on this, I can't find it and would love to see it, but I'd be really surprised if women who shop for accessories seriously are doing so to attract men.

I just haven't yet heard a convincing explanation why women would benefit from signaling high status to each other.

So? The behaviour either happens or it doesn't. Your ability to explain it is totally irrelevant. Granted my evidence is undesirably anecdotal, so you may have not seen evidence that women buy accessories for other women to see. Still, the fact that you can't explain it (especially that you can't explain it with ev-psych specifically) does not preclude or remove the event from existence. I'd still believe men have nipples even if I couldn't figure out how it were evolutionarily advantageous.

But I'll try to offer an explanation (and an alternative). People seek social status. That simple. Women may also want to signal friendliness and caring (they're not opposed to status), but they benefit strongly from being high-status. Similarly, it may simply be a social thing. My parents encouraged me to dress one way and not another. Clothing is a significant indicator of social status. Thus, people come to believe a certain style is "right," and what style that is does a lot to signal what social niche they come from. This lets the whole thing operate without any consciousness of signaling.

An alternative. People value looking good for obvious reasons. The only evaluation they can make of "looking good" is by their own criteria, thus they seek primarily to look good to themselves. Thus, if some women like accessories, they will seek them out seriously, because they want to look good and they view them as vital to achieving that end, even if men don't agree.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T09:34:40.268Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hah. Neither of your offered explanations discriminates between men and women (the first one would actually imply men dressing up more, because men have more to gain from status), and neither explains why women consciously try to stand out from the group when dressing up, e.g. get upset when they see some other woman dressed identically (both explanations would imply the reverse reaction). My obvious explanation of sexual selection accounts for both.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-21T20:20:06.380Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Your "obvious" explanation of sexual selection does not explain why (some) women spend inordinate amounts of time and money seeking out accessories that men don't notice or care about, and continue to seek these out well after they have married and (sometimes) over the objections of their spouses. Also, I was talking about accessories, not clothing.

My explanation does not discriminate between men and women; society does. Each has a different method of showing off status. Men show off status via different accessories, namely gizmos like phones and watches and conspicuous consumption and in some cases shoes and jewelery (and cars, but those signal between genders, as well). And just because men may have more to gain by signaling status, that does not predict that they will gain status through the same mechanisms. Men who spend a lot more on clothes than their actual status justifies tend to be looked down upon by other men - status is one of those things that if you try too hard to show you have it, you lose it. The same standard (to my knowledge) does not generally apply to women.

Or, more simply, most men don't really see much about how they dress (or their appearance generally) as relating to their social status, where more women see it as being more important. This would be an evolutionary motivator (show high status) operating through a social outlet (by dressing a certain way).

I was explicitly not talking about clothing, but about accessories, so the "same outfit" really is a straw man. Though I am uncertain how sexual selection explains it better than status signaling (if someone is wearing the same thing as you that seems like it would obviously dilute your status signal heavily), but that's not the point since I was talking about accessories specifically.

My "people value looking good" also explains both of these phenomena FWIW; men don't see nice clothing as necessary to looking good, and women might have their self-image of looking good (and special) harmed if they show up dressed exactly like another woman.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-21T20:26:47.347Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

women might have their self-image of looking good (and special) harmed if they show up dressed exactly like another woman.

Since I don't care as much about what I wear as most women (evidence: I own exactly one pair of shoes, typically wear no jewelry except a digital watch, and usually go at least several months between reluctant visits to clothing vendors), I can't access a lot of this psychology via introspection. However, I suspect that when women dress up, the idea is to display a skill, at least as much as it is to display status. The skill is to create a unique, yet suitably mainstream-attractive look (or to hit some sweet spot of quirkiness). Showing up in duplicate outfits impugns the skills of both women (or more, if you wind up with a situation like that scene in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"). If you wear expensive things, most other people cannot afford those articles and you get an automatic "uniqueness" edge; this explains why people who can afford very expensive accessories deplore knockoffs.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T20:44:58.333Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

However, I suspect that when women dress up, the idea is to display a skill, at least as much as it is to display status.

I've seen a different evolutionary explanation, which is that females' gene propagation is best served by cultivating uniqueness, in order to convince a man that there is no one else like her. Whereas a man's gene propagation is best served (if he's not the leader of the group, that is) if all men appear to be the same.

The article I read about this discussed dancing as an example of this phenomenon, noting that in nearly every known culture, traditional dances done by females are either individual or emphasize individual characteristics, whereas dances done by men are synchronous group affairs in which they all try to look the same, in order to disguise their individual differences and conceal their relative skills.

There was also a bunch of stuff about scent, martial ability, and other signals being read in male/female dances, how certain male-female dance moves common to many cultures have the function of bringing a woman's face past a man's underarm so she can smell his genetic compatibility or lack thereof, how men's skill at individual dance affects both their perceived desirability as sex partners by women and how likely they are to stray... even an explanation of why men are generally far more reluctant to dance or learn how to do so than women are, unless they are confident they'll be highly skilled at it.

Anyway, the strong implication I got was that women would likely have evolved to have a negative reaction to looking the same as another woman, because it would make them appear more interchangeable, and thus less likely to sustain the commitment of a man through pregnancy and childbirth (vs. "losing" the man to her lookalike competitor).

Whatever form this reaction manifests in -- whether as just a feeling of being gauche or unskilled, or as an elaborate theory of "objectification", there would certainly be a strong evolutionary benefit to such an adaptation, and quite likely a bigger benefit than would come from merely displaying skill to other women. Of course, it might also be that skill at presentation also signals to other women, "I am a strong competitor, so don't try to take 'my' man" (whether 'my' means the one they have, or the one they're going after).

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-21T22:55:42.858Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree pretty much entirely; I didn't want to get into the issue of displaying skill and taste, since it gets even more complex and my post seemed long enough.

I'm not sure about the distaste for knockoffs coming from a desire for "uniqueness." I don't think that rich women mind that other rich women have the same, say, Luis Vuitton bag; I think they mind when any woman who wants it can have a Luis Vuitton bag that looks like what they spent serious money on. It ceases to be a clear status symbol. It seems that the effect on signaling is greater than the effect on uniqueness.

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-21T20:36:38.801Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

However, I suspect that when women dress up, the idea is to display a skill, at least as much as it is to display status.

In reality, the wealthier you are, the less personal skill is involved, to the point where red-carpet celebrities are dressed by couturiers (i.e. at x event so-and-so was dressed by Marc Jacobs). I suppose the less status you have, the more skill you need, but I think that skill is employed for the purpose of faking higher status.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-21T22:59:58.876Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can still go very, very wrong despite spending a lot of money. Celebrities with couture designers are in kind of a special position, since no matter how bad they look, they have a significant power to define what counts as fashionable. Rich people who are not fashion icons can go very very wrong, even (and in some cases especially) if they buy whatever couture the celebrities were wearing.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T21:01:04.825Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't like your explanations because they don't really explain anything, just shuffle complexity around. "See, there's this thing called phlogiston, err status, that says you have to do this if you're a man but something different if you're a woman, for reasons unspecified."

Take a woman to a store and you'll see that the process of buying a handbag is guided by reasoning very similar to the process of buying a dress. The dress is clearly for attracting mates; what if the handbag is just a side effect, some clever marketer's way to hack the mate attraction instinct?

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-21T21:45:22.752Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

what if the handbag is just a side effect, some clever marketer's way to hack the mate attraction instinct?

Easy. Price and conspicuous branding. There are many, many accessories (and regular clothing) that do not look all that much different from cheaper substitutes, yet cost a very large amount of money. Think in particular of products that display very large logos or brand names - you think people buy these because the logos look so good? My favorite example is "celebrity"-style sunglasses - the huge sunglasses some celebrities wear in order to make them hard to recognize. This is a product that attractive people wear for the express purpose of hiding how they look. Yet (among some subgroups) these are quite popular, and I know women who will drop several hundred dollars on a designer pair of these, despite having a face that they are not served by hiding.

It is clear that (some) women (and men) value such products precisely because they cost so much. Mate selection does not explain why people would spend a whole lot more on an item that does not make them look better. Status signaling explains this quite well; the purpose of the $1000 bag isn't to look good so much as it is to say, "I spent $1000 on this bag." An ev-psych approach would explain why men would want to show this off, hence the Ferrari, but I don't really see how showing off wealth would help women attract desirable men, certainly not to the extent that some women spend on these things, and certainly not after they already have a mate.

And phlogiston? You sincerely believe that men and women signal status by doing the same things? Or do you not believe that social status exists? Do you think that a man and a woman both owning a red Ferrari signal the exact same things? Do you think people will view a man with a $1000 handbag just like they'll view a woman with a $1000 handbag? "Phlogiston" makes a delightful straw man, but a terrible argument. Social status exists, and men and women do actually do different things to express having it, because society expects different things of men and women.

Some things, particularly human social customs, are really, really complicated. The fact that you would prefer a simple and elegant answer does not change this brute fact.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T14:05:12.176Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Peruse Vogue any time. None of that stuff is for males. it signals things like: I'm rich, I'm young, I'm cultured, I'm upper-class, I'm able to devote effort to display, I'm socially well-connected...

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-20T14:16:48.500Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What evolutionary reason could a woman have for wanting to signal being rich and cultured to other women? 'Cause it doesn't make those other women want to become her allies; rather, it aggravates them. And do you consider it a weird coincidence that all the things I listed (tan, lipstick etc.) also increase the woman's attractiveness to men?

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T14:27:47.386Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sorry, but that's just a wierd question. Why wouldn't women want to play status games?

Most of those things were originally developed as seduction aids and do double duty, but they have been adopted as status aids and probably are more important in that role. (Signaling only to men, women can get away with much less work - compare porn.)

In their original pure seduction aid role, some stuff - lipstick and perfume for example - used to be extremely disreputable.

Also some obvious fashion fetishes are void of signal to males - handbags are an example.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T16:05:28.274Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me a lot of this has to be female-female signaling as proposed. Most men do not seem to care what I'm wearing, and would probably prefer it was 'nothing'. I have NEVER had a guy bring up something I'm wearing unless it was clearly being used as an opening for chatting me up.

comment by MBlume · 2009-07-20T18:53:39.959Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For the record (I don't think this is objectifying, but my calibration's pretty confused lately), yes we'd probably prefer it was 'nothing,' but we still notice what you're wearing and respond strongly to it, and no, it's not as simple as "less is better".

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T23:13:52.768Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I wouldn't say that women can not wear clothes that men find attractive/unattractive, or otherwise interesting. But I know from conversations that many men consider a good majority of what women wear to be pointless and stupid looking. All the guys I know are practically offended by those baby-doll dress, or stuff like shoes with bows on them.

I have to agree. I mean, I like dressing up, but there is definite limit of like an hour which I will not go beyond. If an hour of work can't make you look good, no amount of time will.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T18:38:37.519Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have NEVER had a guy bring up something I'm wearing unless it was clearly being used as an opening for chatting me up.

I assume 'chatting me up' is being used here to mean something involving dating? An internet search for the expression just turned up synonyms for "making conversation", which wouldn't make sense in context.

Curious... where are you from?

ETA: thanks to anonym below.

In that case, it seems odd to me that guys you know never bring up anything you're wearing. Do you have many male friends? Maybe this is a cultural thing, or am I the 'odd one out' here?

comment by anonym · 2009-07-20T19:26:14.061Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Chatting me up" == "hitting on me". It's a British colloquialism.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T19:27:28.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I'm a student of the British language, but I'm hardly fluent.

comment by Vichy · 2009-07-20T23:10:57.470Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm residing in the northwest USA. Pretty much all of my friends are males. No, literally all of them.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T03:59:53.485Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You didn't answer. Why would women play status games? Men play status games to rise in the dominance hierarchy and ultimately get many girls; that's the obvious evolutionary reason.

My working hypothesis for now is simply that women claim they strive to look good primarily to show off to other women, and you're accepting this claim uncritically. The reason they claim that (and actually believe that, evolution's weird) is that explicitly admitting that you dress up to steal high status men from other women would make those other women feel threatened, so this behavior has evolved into a harmless "game". That also addresses your objection why women adopt those ornate displays instead of just undressing.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-21T07:53:12.736Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There actually are reasonable-sounding evolutionary hypotheses behind status competition for women in addition to competition for males: competition over food, particularly food for infants.

Further reading: Male, Female by David Geary Mother Nature by Sarah Hrdy

comment by Z_M_Davis · 2009-07-21T08:26:48.599Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also recommended: Anne Campbell's A Mind of Her Own: The Evolutionary Psychology of Women, which has chapters on status, competition, and aggression amongst women.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-21T11:00:01.108Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I found this review, and at first look it seems to support me more than y'all: unless I'm reading it wrong, it says that women's desire to look good is explained only by competition for good mates. Now, I'm a total amateur and would love to be corrected, but the arguments offered so far just aren't very convincing.

comment by mni · 2009-07-20T15:37:06.948Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What evolutionary reason could a woman have for wanting to signal being rich and cultured to other women?

Evolutionary reason? Sounds like you're automatically discounting the possibility that the specific status games of a specific group of people in our specific society are a result of cultural development that has no particular basis in evolutionary psychology.

comment by Bo102010 · 2009-07-20T00:18:09.456Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted because as aspiring rationalists we are presumably intelligent, and should act as though we are enlightened.

See Hofstadter's article in Metamagical Themas on using gendered pronouns (preview here). I was sympathetic to its conclusions before I read it, but it gives good ideas to consider.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-07-20T01:48:51.547Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, that was when I decided to grit my teeth and use non-gendered language no matter what it did to prosody. Once I transitioned from "ve" to "they" it grew on me surprisingly fast, and no longer takes a conscious effort; male-specific language now seems jarring.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T02:28:19.727Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"They" has long been in use for that purpose anyhow. Singular "they" being incorrect is a relatively modern, and quickly fading, notion.

comment by Bo102010 · 2009-07-20T02:48:47.349Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hofstadter (and Dawkins) were both influential to my thoughts on non-gendered language, but XKCD best sums up my thoughts on "they" vs. awkward substitutes.

comment by kpreid · 2009-07-20T02:16:59.452Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not that "they" isn't the current best option for practical writing, but had you ever tried Spivak?

ETA: The notability I claim for Spivak is that it does not add sounds not present in the standard English pronouns (such as z and v).

comment by Peter_Twieg · 2009-07-20T02:31:13.781Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I believe the favored gender-neutral third-person subject pronoun du jour is "zie."

ie. "Zie bought hir shoes at Walmart."

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T14:57:27.463Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Another contribution via Hofstadter was mentioned recently on Less Wrong: A Person Paper on Purity in Language. Be sure to read the postscript, even if you don't finish the main body.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-20T00:32:45.054Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for mentioning this. Given the number of GEB fans around here, Hofstadter's thoughts on the matter may be of interest.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T01:45:17.859Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is fascinating and insightful. Thank you very much for the link.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-21T01:44:21.757Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Hello all,

New rationalist/reader/commenter here.

I originally wrote a rant against PUA culture and then a summation of that rant to post here, but I realized that most, if not all, of my objections to what I perceive to be negative in the PUA community and practice are derived from my biases [and insecurities] rather than a truly rational foundation.

I can object to the PUA sub-culture out of personal distaste, and maybe from a weak ethical point of view, but besides parts of the body of PUA doctrine and rhetoric, there is really nothing irrational about them that I can see.

These men have taken empirical observations and social engineering experiments and created a pragmatic system to utilize for their desired goal in a legal and relatively non-detrimental manner.

So the greater argument seems to be, at least insomuch that the PUA community and their practices are relevant to the original post in this thread, a question of which person-of-interest and group irrationalities/biases are to be sanctioned here for the sake of making certain posters more comfortable.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-07-20T12:38:00.589Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm still not sure that the problem is real or at least worth the fuss. It might be, but I'm not convinced. It might be more like the name effect, for example: real, but tiny. The first step before trying to do something about the issue should be to make sure the issue isn't illusory.

So far, I see Alicorn complaining about her aesthetic preferences not met by the prose on the forum, but how typical is it? Some people agree that the writing decisions made by some of the posters are not that great, but how much of it is support of hypothetical preferences of other people isn't clear. A whole information cascade about preferences may form this way, with hardly any of the participants benefiting, but most of them thinking that they help others. A few can't demand of a community what they intuitively think is fair.

Everything that involves arguing that it's important to not drive women away from the site is contingent on the reality of effect of writing style choices on the number of female participants.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T16:09:44.120Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. Where these issues bump into such empirical questions, it seems like we should need statistical, rather than merely anecdotal, evidence.

But the evidence that we do have is anecdotal, and it does suggest that some valued members of our community are made uncomfortable (to the point of considering leaving) by some inconsiderate use of language. And those who like this site are already a statistical anomaly.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-20T18:35:59.626Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, most women don't have a negative emotional response to men talking about "getting girls". They themselves talk about "getting a man". I suspect that the percentage of women are actually offended by this kind of talk is not large (10%-20%?).

Of course each such statement has to be evaluated separately, but for the word 'get' in this context specifically, I think the above applies.

Maybe we could gather a bunch of such statements and ask women whether they find each one offensive and why. We might be able to gather some statistical data.

comment by wuwei · 2009-07-20T00:58:54.884Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted because I appreciate Alicorn's efforts and would like to hear additional rational presentations of views in the same neighborhood as her's.

I would bet I also upvoted some of the comments Alicorn is referring to as comments that perpetuate the problem.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-19T22:42:27.417Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I've tried to avoid being the 'feminism police' around here too, despite apparently having a stronger background in it than you do. I'll try to pay more attention.

This is perhaps an obvious case of "don't be rude or marginalize any groups" that seems like a good rule for inclusivity. But it is worth bringing these things to attention specifically; the places where people are often biased are worth being reminded of.

comment by LucasSloan · 2009-07-21T04:14:28.635Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

First of all I must say that I do not know if there is in fact a problem on LW, and it is not my goal to definitely say so, I only ask for introspection. There are not enough women on this site to make a proper analysis of how the (obvious) male orientation of some language used generates negative sentiment. However, I think that the simple fact that one person thinks there is a problem is a big indicator of a problem. It takes a great deal of courage (or, I admit, contrariness) to go against an established group consensus, and as far as I can tell, alicorn is not prone to the second. Humans have a tendency to feel protective of in groups, which may account for alicorn's feelings, but the same goes for the men who feel she is overreacting.

I have spent a great deal of time attempting to figure out whether or not I am sexist. All I can say for certain is that I am able to avoid certain very egregious examples of it. Eliezer recently asked what systemic biases prevent humans from ever seeing really obvious things. I must ask if the men in the audience can be certain that they aren't making a similar mistake. Most people are unaware of many biases and will defend their misconceptions even when provoked.

To conclude my plea for introspection I will state a fact then ask a few questions. At least one woman is offended by examples of sexism on LW. Is it okay to offend anyone? If it is not your intent to offend, is it your responsibility to not offend or the responsibility of your audience to not be offended?

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-21T20:43:03.795Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

Again, from a rationalist perspective, Alicorn's aversion to some oft-espoused views on this site about women and sex aren't rational and objective in themselves, but subjective views on the rational consequences of the commentary; I.E. - Possibly repelling a desired demographic's (rationalist women) inclusion and participation here.

So it seems that one of the most rational perspectives on the issue is the question of whether the membership of this site could come to a consensus as to whether they want to harbor some self-imposed restrictions and decidedly un-rational (but civil) biases in order to make that demographic feel more comfortable and welcome? [Also, whether doing so would be detrimental to the overall shared-mission of the site: To deconstruct and address irrationalities within our society and ourselves regardless of how much the process makes us uncomfortable?]

For the record, I am a large black American male, who as both a self-described rationalist and pragmatist fully realize that I have to disengage some aspects of my identity politics to participate more effectively in various groups. Be those politics gender, race, sexuality, political, economic, philosophical, etc. related; Or be those groups different varities of these same categories.

I suspect that one of the best ways we could settle this issue would be to pay equal attention to the irrationalities of the 'typical' American Male, American Female, Feminist and Pick-Up Artist communities and sub-cultures and to try to decide in some manner as to what degree the irrationalities in each can be tolerated here without being counter-productive to the mission at large.

comment by LucasSloan · 2009-07-21T22:44:00.226Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From what you said, I assume that you have personally decided to not be offended when the other person did not mean to offend. You say you are "large" by which I assume you are overweight(1), well, welcome to the club. I too ignore things people say (even things which are deliberately offensive). But although my mother's BMI is far higher than mine, I do not go around making statements analogous to those I put up with to her. I used to believe that the golden rule gave me license to do anything to other people which I was willing to put up with, and to a certain degree, that still makes sense. However, it is rarely my goal to annoy/offend people (it happens any way, but I try not to make the same mistake twice) and as far as I can tell, it is not your goal either. I do not believe that a consensus on how to act is necessary, but just as if someone was offended by my use of the word "retard" I would not use it in their presence unless I wanted to piss them off. You don't swear in front of your grandmother after all.

I do not believe that we are desperately contrary to each other, but I prefer to think in terms of how I wish others to be affected than in terms of how they should interpret me.

(1)notice how I used a more or less clinical term when a more offensive term like fat was available

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-21T23:41:51.915Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

  • "From what you said, I assume that you have personally decided to not be offended when the other person did not mean to offend."

  • Well, yes. My acting policy is that I should not react outwardly or overly emotionally to another person's statements if the consequences of these statements have no perceived negative effect on those things I value [my reputation in my community, my life, my property, my loved ones]. It is a policy that has served me well in recent years. I just wish I had adhered to it in earlier stages of my life.

  • "You say you are "large" by which I assume you are overweight(1), well, welcome to the club."

  • I am overweight, but what I meant to express in my original comments was the fact that my height [6'2''], body size and race tend to illicit a reaction in some people that are in my immediate vicinity that I jokingly call "negrophobia". My point was that regardless of these socially awkward situations that I experience in events, organizations and situations that traditionally have little sustained presence of black people in them, I have learned to put them in context; To realize that, again, as long as these situations don't lead to any 'rationally' perceived negative effect, I really should not take offense in them. They are a result of social and psychological phenomena beyond my absolute control, but in which I can influence by becoming a contributing asset in these organizations.

[Sorry for the ranting style of this last comment, but I really wanted to elaborate on my views here.]

  • "I used to believe that the golden rule gave me license to do anything to other people which I was willing to put up with, and to a certain degree, that still makes sense."

  • I don't express these views from the philosophical perspective of the "Golden Rule". As a lifelong Southern Gentleman, I tend to favor the sociobiological view of "reciprocal utilitarianism" as my personal guide to ethics... I.E. - "Do unto others as what you feel they may be able to do for you in the near future [or so that they may stop doing against you as soon as possible]."

comment by LucasSloan · 2009-07-22T00:04:05.924Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not entirely certain what your "reciprocal utilitarianism" means. Do you value how people actually respond to your acts or just that you are giving them "good" consequences?

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-22T02:30:42.383Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

Utilitarian theory is the sociological and philosophical theory that all people desire and strive for whatever they perceive to lead to their happiness.

Reciprocal utilitarianism is a theory of social interaction in which you assist others in achieving what they perceive to lead to happiness in the hopes that they may assist you in the same in the near future.

My main focus when interacting with anyone is to ascertain whether they are generally counter-reciprocal or preemptively-reciprocal, honest, trustworthy, reliable and congenial.

In most situations, if these people don't meet these qualities to my satisfaction, I still try to maintain a higher but minimum level in parallel to them to maintain good standing "just in case".

If a person does reciprocate and meet these desirable qualities to my satisfaction, I try to meet or exceed their level of positive return in praise, loyalty or material wealth.

So in answer to your question: Yes, I value how people respond to my actions. In fact, the continuous building of good relations and reciprocity [or the disassociation of myself with undesirable and unreliable people] is the cornerstone of my social life; Not because I believe it is unselfish, but because living in a selfish but 'ethical' manner has worked for me.

[Note: Again, I apologize for the ranting style of this post. I believe that we may have misinterpreted the contents of each other's original posts, but I am enjoying this tangent.]

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2009-07-22T03:41:40.721Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You mean reciprocal altruism. "Sociobiology" was a dead give-away.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-22T03:46:42.247Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

Yes! That's the concept! Thank you!

If possible, I would like to apologize for misusing the concept of "utilitarianism" for what should have been "reciprocal altruism".

For the sake of the discussion, please assume that my original comments have been amended to reflect this.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T03:50:49.117Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not to worry. When I started around these folks, I was mistaking their use of "altruism" for what we call "altruism" in ethics, which is a different animal entirely. That's one reason we try not to argue too hard about mere definitions.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-22T03:55:19.796Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

Aye, thank you.

It is a comfort to me to know I can have my misconceptions knocked out of me in a gentle and civil way here.

I think I'll enjoy learning from this community.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T02:35:16.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Utilitarian theory is the sociological and philosophical theory that all people desire and strive for whatever they perceive to lead to their happiness.

Who defines it this way? It sounds like you're talking about psychological hedonism, or something like it.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-22T03:09:18.999Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

As far as I know, the definition of utilitarianism that I typed is in wide acceptance by the philosophical and psychological community at large.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

http://www.utilitarianism.com/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utilitarianism

My personal view on utilitarianism is that most people in our culture view it as valid in their broader context of beliefs and pursue it accordingly. Unfortunately, what people often perceive as utilitarian may not actually lead to their satisfaction.

Hence my writing that through the act of assisting people in achieving what they perceive as most likely leading to their happiness, I can usually extract some level of reciprocity in the future for my good intentions and efforts.

I don't see any of this as being hedonistic and neither do I endorse hedonism. My personal suspicion is that the exercise and understanding of rationality in all personal undertakings can assist a person in obtaining sustained satisfaction; As well as the further understanding that sustained satisfaction as one desires it may never come, but one can maintain some level of contentment knowing that they have struggled towards some greater goal in the course of their life. Rationality, from what I have observed and experience, tends to foster a level of self-control in a person that runs counter to hedonism.

I suppose at this point, I should let it be known that my new interest in rationalism comes from my background in psychology and philosophy --- if it isn't already obvious from my writing.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T03:16:42.588Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The sources you cited don't seem to support your definition, but rather use the sort more well known to ethicists. The one on Wikipedia does a good enough job:

Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to overall utility: that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all people

That is, it doesn't suggest what people actually do strive for, nor does it suggest that people are after their own happiness. Rather, it's an ethical theory for which the following are true:

  • An action is right if it leads to a good outcome
  • An outcome is good if it maximizes overall net utility

Of course, there are variations on Utilitarianism and different ideas of what 'utility' means (Jeremy Bentham believed more pleasure / less pain summed it up). But they're all variants on this theory.

The theory that each person only ever pursues what leads to their own happiness is commonly called 'psychological hedonism', and is of questionable worth since it's usually presented in a nonfalsifiable fashion.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-22T03:37:33.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hello,

I did not mean to imply that people generally seek their own happiness over the greater good for all. Nor did I mean to imply that there was a dichotomy between the two at all.

I keep alluding to people pursuing what they "perceive" as "most likely" bringing happiness. I tend to see people's perceptions as to what can make them happy as being inspired by their social and cultural influences --- Family, friends, lovers, associates, religion, economic and political views, social upbringing, etc.

But I do see what you're saying --- and I apologize. I should have elaborated further that my personal views on the role of utilitarianism in society partially deviate from traditional views of the abstract definition of utilitarianism. My primary usage is derived from Nietzsche's criticisms of utilitarianism and championing of the concept of the "Will to Power" as well as my views on the individual being influenced by their participation in a socio-cultural system and the cycle of interaction therein.

I will just call my methods of interaction with others, "reciprocal mutualism" from now on.

EDIT: I was mistaken in my use of "utilitarianism". I really meant to convey the sociobological concept of "reciprocal altruism". I'd like to extend further apologies for this mistake.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/134/sayeth_the_girl/ynt

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-20T03:07:37.360Z · score: 5 (25 votes) · LW · GW

x

comment by CannibalSmith · 2009-07-20T05:03:36.458Z · score: 15 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I object to speaking unlike ordinary people do in ordinary life. Your suggestion would make this community even more insular.

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-21T22:22:40.025Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

x

comment by CronoDAS · 2009-07-20T05:20:25.996Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Change has to start somewhere, although this particular phrasing seems a bit awkward...

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T10:07:47.671Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

So use "go pulling", "get laid", "hot", etc. English is surprisingly full of gender neutral sex talk.

comment by knb · 2009-07-20T06:40:58.103Z · score: 10 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I have an idea. We can say things like "satisfy sexual urges" rather than "get a man/woman." That way our language doesn't objectify anybody, but we don't have to ignore the irrational parts of our brains.

Why is sexual desire irrational? If such a major feature of human psychology can be written off as irrational, what remains? Sexual desire is an enormously important human motivation, perhaps even the most important of all. Lust is every bit as important a feature of our minds as kindness, hunger, fear, or love. Indeed, these parts of ourselves are exquisitely and intrinsically intertwined.

I'm voting down because I see this comment, the top-level post, and the ideology behind it, as a futile attempt to pathologize a very healthy kind of human desire.

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-21T22:17:34.283Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

x

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-07-21T22:28:54.390Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Why is sexual desire irrational?

Because I didn't put thought into it and decide to have sexual desire. It just happened.

This is wrong. Rationality isn't about defeating emotion. You can't think up your values from a philosophy of perfect emptiness. Terminal values is one of the things that depend on where you are in the mind design space. No matter how your values came into being, even as they are, gorged up by the mindless god of evolution, you use them to decide what to make of yourself, what to expand to the future.

comment by knb · 2009-07-21T23:38:51.765Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I concur with what Vladimir Nesov's comment.

Pathologize human behavior? That is exactly what I was trying to avoid.

No, I said it pathologizes human desire. You referred to sexual desire as "irrational" and as "our inner sex fiends". This strongly implies that you see our sex desire as crazy/irrational. You also seem to imply we would be better off without it "We can't turn off our inner sex fiends, but....."

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T15:28:34.583Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That last example is particularly amusing slash enlightening - I think in part because the original version feels like it intends: "You are such a nerd, you will never earn high social status".

(Which is why it's so wrong, actually - it objectifies women as symbols of male achievement.)

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-20T17:33:40.640Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Which is why it's so wrong, actually - it objectifies women as symbols of male achievement.

Huh? If somebody says to a woman, "you're so ugly, you'll never have a man," is that objectifying men as symbols of female attractiveness?

(I'm not saying either putdown is sensible; I'm just saying I don't see how either of them is objectifying to the opposite sex from the target of the putdown. Arguably, the "nerd" putdown objectifies men as having value to women only for their status, whereas the reverse objectifies women as having value to men only for their physical attractiveness. I suppose you could say that each putdown also implies the opposite sex is shallow, but is that really objectification?)

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T18:04:11.130Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm ... no, they're still parallel: the man is objectified as a symbol of female achievement, with unattractiveness being cited as the barrier to a relationship.

The thing is, you don't address the thing you objectify, you just talk about them like it is an object.

(That's not to say that the content you point out in both examples isn't toxic and sexist, just that it falls under a different heading.)

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-20T18:14:44.438Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm ... no, they're still parallel: the man is objectified as a symbol of female achievement, with unattractiveness being cited as the barrier to a relationship.

I still don't get it. How about, "your research is so awful, no respectable scientists will cite you." Are we objectifying scientists, then?

AFAICT, these statements are of the form "you lack quality X, therefore those who desire quality X will not give you the form of approval or validation you desire." That is, the statement takes into account the expected goals of the agent being putdown, as well as a presumed class of agents whose approval is sought. That doesn't sound like anybody's being considered an "object" whose goals don't count; it's saying, your results don't align with this other group's goals.

True, the assumed goals may not apply to every member of the presumed class (perhaps there are some "respectable scientists" who will cite your work), but this doesn't somehow reach out and harm every single "respectable scientist"! (It doesn't even harm the scientists who would cite the work, unless they take the putdown to indirectly imply that they are not "respectable".)

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T18:46:27.034Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The researcher reward is citations - those are the objects. In the other two cases, the rewards are people.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-20T19:19:42.442Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The researcher reward is citations - those are the objects. In the other two cases, the rewards are people.

No, in all three cases, the true reward is the approval of those people; i.e., the true message of the putdown is, "nobody approves of you".

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T19:41:41.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's a generous interpretation. In some cases it may even be correct. But in some cases it is not.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-21T00:38:15.094Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That's a generous interpretation. In some cases it may even be correct. But in some cases it is not.

How is it a generous interpretation? Such putdowns are a straightforward attack on primate self-esteem -- your measure of the group's opinion of you. If it weren't about approval, it couldn't be an insult.

Compare, for example, with, "you're so short, you'll never get those bananas out of the tree." That's not an insult, it's just a statement of fact.

Such putdowns can't work by "objectification", because if you replace the people with objects, it's no longer inherently insulting. "Your programs are so long, you'll never fit them in memory." "Your hut is so unstable, it'll probably fall down."

The only way an insult can make sense is if it implies that people who matter (e.g. women) don't approve of you. "Ha ha, you're so poor, you'll never be able to buy a Mercedes" cannot possibly be as insulting, unless by cultural implication this means you will be disapproved of by some group, or there's a cultural expectation that you can't be a good mate without a Mercedes. The choice of an opposite sex group of disapprovers is simply chosen to maximize the emotional impact of the intended wound. (i.e., your genes will die out because no one will want you as a mate.)

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T18:12:33.646Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Great link, thanks!

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T18:23:28.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome!

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T18:24:28.947Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Welcome"? Huh? Did you turn on the anti-kibitzer?

comment by MBlume · 2009-07-20T18:25:43.931Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

lol, I think he meant "(You're) Welcome!" =)

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-20T18:47:53.603Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What (ah, history repeating itself) MBlume said. (;

comment by Fetterkey · 2009-07-21T07:46:41.910Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think that your efforts would be better spent taming the "sex-crazed maniac" part of your brain, frankly.

comment by [deleted] · 2009-07-21T22:19:08.197Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

x

comment by Fetterkey · 2009-07-21T22:35:03.735Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Easier != better than.

comment by Rings_of_Saturn · 2009-07-20T17:08:14.585Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This idea does not have my approval.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-20T03:08:48.016Z · score: -2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

This idea has my approval.

comment by taw · 2009-07-19T23:52:43.469Z · score: 5 (31 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted due to trying to shame people into obedience to your norms and complete misunderstanding of what PUA is about.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T02:35:03.682Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And you aren't? Shame, obedience and norms are value-loaded words and you used them with intent to provoke emotion.

Edit: the above is tu quoque, I know. I'm expressing my moral preference for overt judgment over emotional leading. The latter feels like a volitional back-door. Silly me for doing what I was decrying!

comment by csvoss (Terdragon) · 2013-11-10T16:52:20.983Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As a long-time female lurker on LW, encountering this post convinced me to finally make an account. I suppose it is a bittersweet post -- good news: there are LWers who care about this, bad news: there are LWers who don't -- but it worked to get me to comment here, anyways. I hope that the community has improved since. Thank you!

comment by lucidfox · 2010-12-02T08:00:28.701Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Girly username? "Alicorn" strikes me as pretty gender-neutral. The first mental image that popped into my mind before I learned about your gender, ironically, was a male, although not decidedly masculine, fantasy elf.

But yes, invisibility is a common problem online. I don't myself assign any prior probabilities to any given person online being a certain gender, unless the community is explicitly designated, for example, as "meant for women". But many communicate from a "male as default" standpoint, and maybe the only real way to combat it is to balance the gender ratio to a critical mass at which point that kind of prior simply becomes useless.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-02T08:33:25.033Z · score: -5 (15 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't a post that I like seeing bumped.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-22T14:39:41.325Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sweeping generalizations about women, if they are not backed up by overwhelming hard data (responsibly gathered and interpreted).

Sorry if this has already been said, but, to quote a friend, what would constitute a sweeping generalization varies widely. Some people would read this as being close to equivalent to saying 'Don't use heuristics when dealing with stuff related to women', which is impossible and imposes major costs. You can't engage in discussions if you're not allowed to use heuristics.

comment by TimS · 2013-02-25T12:03:04.177Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can't engage in discussions if you're not allowed to use heuristics.

Probably not. But some heuristics create benefit for you by causing harm to others. Endorsing such a heuristic as acceptable to use entails either:

1) Disputing, on an empirical basis, the existence or amount of harm caused by the heuristic, or
2) Asserting, on an empirical basis, the existence and magnitude of the benefit you receive, or
3) Accepting the harm to others as unproblematic because you receive any benefit at all by using it.

In short, the strongest version of the argument you challenge says that the costs to others of certain heuristics outweigh the benefits received by the heuristics users. Assuming that the generalizations are accurate enough to be considered heuristics.

comment by Fetterkey · 2009-07-21T07:52:11.717Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am not female, and I find some of the language and PUA-related content here to be extremely off-putting. If you really want to refine the art of seduction, I would suggest reading Greene; this blog, on the other hand, is for refining the art of rationality.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-21T17:22:35.483Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Robert Greene? How extensively have you read him? He readily advocates manipulation and refers to the other party as the "victim." I find this off-putting: he is describing things that are (mostly) fair play in a way that makes them sound like foul play, which is exactly how many PUAs sound, leading readers to get the wrong idea.

comment by Fetterkey · 2009-07-21T19:17:44.202Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I find his stance in this regard to be absolutely correct; if you're going to write a book on methods of manipulating people, you may as well call a spade a spade.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-20T18:58:51.729Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On PUAs:

Originally, I had a long rant I had typed out in a fury after reading some of the posts on the previously linked, "Roissy in DC" PUA blog.

My comments were originally directed towards some of the irrationalities and inadequacies present within the rhetoric of greater PUA and "Pump-&Dump" culture. But as I continued to write, I found that I wasn't able to separate my own biases against the PUA rhetoric and convey my comments rationally.

So I figured it may be best to just sum up a few of my thoughts on the matter in the hopes that they will stimulate discussion...

  • It seems that PUA culture desires to coerce and/or skip the evolutionary and traditionally inspired courtship processes in order to obtain sexual favor with women without providing longterm co-commitment and benefit for them.

  • Many PUA-aspirants and celebrity PUAs within the sub-culture seem themselves to be very unfulfilled personally despite attempting to appear as the modern equivalents to most worthy provider and Alpha Male. The behaviors they seek to emulate and display usually come after many years [and possibly generations] of hard work in the internal building of personhood, reputation, competency and external social capital & physical/monetary capital. [Which are extremely hard to fake after a certain stage in courtship.]

  • Many of the examples of traditional Alpha Males that PUAs use to demonstrate their points such as Tribe Leaders, Kings, Historical Celebrities, etc. are actually examples of the previously listed concept .... Individuals who spent years obtaining their internal and external fulfillments or inherited them from lineages that spent years doing so, giving them the potential to access many mates. [I.E. Their personhood and fiefdoms were built through hardwork and dedication, not through witty social tricks and routines.

  • Just observationally, it would seem that the "goal" of a lot of PUAs is to become an Alpha Male via the building of self-esteem through sexual conquests. This in itself seems to be a philosophy of short-sighted seeking pleasure over long-term internal and external growth. Wouldn't it be better to teach men who feel unfulfilled methods that are conducive to lifelong satisfaction and prosperity past the stage where their sexual libido is in full swing? [Even though I know full well that some men would be happy enough dying after some few years of wide access to many sexual partners.]

  • Many PUA Celebrities seem to be extremely condescending of any views, lifestyles and agendas that don't mesh with their own. [PUA-culture infighting amongst PUA celebrities is rampant... But this may be due more than fighting over paying followers and ego more than doctrine.]

Once again, just a few points that I hope may stimulate conversation.

[EDIT]:

To be even more succinct, I suppose I am alarmed at how much the PUA sub-culture and PUA-like ideas on women, courtship, relationships and sex are spreading within the mainstream young pop-culture circuit here in the U.S.

This fear is probably a result of my deeply-held suspicion that the formula for finding a worthy and desirable mate is in building self-confidence, a stable fiefdom [home, property, financial status] and possessing traits that are desirable in the long-term...

Not treating the act of finding a mate as a game in which the perceived "WINNING OF" has no extended consequences on you or your "mate". [Or in which you have no consideration for the effects the rules you play by in this game have on your "mate".]

I will admit that I see a few aspects of PUA philosophy as having merit... Specifically the deconstruct of the "Alpha Male" persona and the compromises and negotiations that American caucasian [PUA culture seems to chiefly be aimed towards and molded around this cultural category] men and women engage in when courting and mating.

But the means in which these observations are implemented... It all seems to build an individual towards style without any substance.

comment by Andy_McKenzie · 2009-07-20T01:41:54.591Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I upvoted because I agree on the meta level that it would be nice to have more diversity of ideas in this and most other communities. And I read all of the comments, so it obviously triggered a discussion that interested me.

I agree with Robin, however, that generalizations need not be prohibited--that is going too far. However, generalizations should whenever possible be made falsifiable.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2009-07-20T01:19:06.697Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think any of the comments you cited warrant going meta, but I can certainly understand why discussion of picking up physically attractive women might annoy you. Presumably there are more appropriate forums for that.

I've been annoyed at people who grab attention by strutting/flirting in what should be a nonsexual context, but upon reflection, I've decided that usually such disapproval is best kept to oneself.

comment by casebash · 2015-12-27T13:24:25.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Disclaimer is definitely off-putting. It comes off as implying that you consider criticism to be unwelcome. I can understand the desire to exclude unreasonable people from the conversation, but posting a sign, "No idiots allowed" doesn't accomplish that. It may discourage people who disagree with you from posting, but only because they will assume from the disclaimer that you've made up your mind and that it is therefore not worth their time talking to you. This will occur independently of how intelligent their feedback is, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some reverse selection here where the people who make low effort criticisms will comment anyway, but those who would make more intelligent criticisms won't find it worth their time.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-15T11:31:11.726Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

An Alicorn:

Also, I think we should be persons before humans before genders before races before cultures, at least morally. Notice how each category is smaller than the preceding.

Honestly, I am probably a feminist. I see the problem of, say, difference in wages, between genders, but also how (here in Denmark at least) magically passing the 18 year line increases the wage you can rightfully demand. A 16yo can stock shelves just as well as a 19yo, thank you, that doesn't mean the 16yo should get ~9 euros/hour and the 19yo twice that. Similarly, but subtler, managers tend to be subconsciously biased in deciding who to give wages, in ways that because of the sate of affairs result in gender imbalances. This is just as unfair, but much harder to fix.

I do know that humanity has oppressed half it's population for a long freaking time, which is a reason I don't tolerate Abrahamic religions. That is bad, but it is the past, and so we fix the mistakes in the now. I live in a country that had gender debate driven ad nauseam by crazy feminazis in the 1970's, that is just reversed stupidity.

Foremost my conclusion is that the world is fucked up. When, say, women can no longer reasonably call themselves oppressed, I'll probably stop rooting for them.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-15T12:33:12.253Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

persons before humans before genders before races before cultures

Not sure about the ordering of the last three.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-16T08:52:39.959Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it's an anthropic principle thing, it is more likely that a human is a woman than a Caucasian (the five or so genetic races, in case that wasn't clear), and again, not all Asians are say, Chinese culture.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-17T11:26:53.683Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see how “we should be persons before humans before genders before races before cultures, at least morally” (emphasis added) follows from that.

ETA: Plus, are you sure that among “the five or so genetic races” there isn't [one] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongoloid) that exceeds 50% of the population? (How do you count cross-breeds, anyway?)

comment by VijayKrishnan · 2009-07-20T18:17:39.196Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If you are prone to dismissing women's complaints of gender-related problems as the women being whiny, emotionally unstable girls who see sexism where there is none, this post is unlikely to interest you.

The above does not apply to me per se, but this post neverthless doesn't interest me for its content. The poster of this article certainly looks like an immature feminist who is incapable of separating rational inquiry and the asking of hard questions, when they get close to her value system.

I have found Anna's posts way more mature and tackling issues and hard questions with sensible arguments instead of holding a long list of taboo topics and crying foul when anyone ever talks bluntly about them. Similar is the case with other girls that I know of. I particularly recall Robin Hanson's post regarding applying an SAT score correction factor to factor in the prior information of greater variance in the performance of men (which would lead to removing a few points from the high scoring women). While there were mindless argument by immature feminists crying foul, instead of addressing the math, I thought Anna's follow up post detailing how the prior knowledge of variance differences becomes less and less consequential with multiple SAT trials whose scores are averaged or when SAT is coupled with other pieces of information, was extremely insightful.

Anyway, the girl that's posting this article seems only 20 and has plenty of time to grow up. :-) I am hoping that exposure to these politically incorrect communities for enough time will ensure that she "grows up" in a couple of years and fearlessly asks and investigates hard questions and acknowledges uncomfortable realities rather than allow clear thought to be constantly muddied by political sensibilities. Good luck!

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T18:21:27.369Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you are prone to dismissing women's complaints of gender-related problems as the women being whiny, emotionally unstable girls who see sexism where there is none, this post is unlikely to interest you.

The above does not apply to me per se, ... The poster of this article certainly looks like an immature feminist who is incapable of separating rational inquiry and the asking of hard questions, when they get close to her value system.

Seriously? It would be helpful if you could re-read those two fragments, and resolve the tension.

comment by VijayKrishnan · 2009-07-21T05:35:32.258Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The resolution of tension is in the following. I do empathize with complaints related to sexual harassment in the workplace, them being under pressure due to "unreasonable" norms etc.

I however absolutely detest lying or soft peddling the truth or refraining from asking hard and important questions, simply because they affect some people's political sensibilities. I have little regard for such political sensibilities that subvert the quest for the truth.

So yes, a woman who complains of sexual harassment in the workplace is not one I would characterize as whiny; a woman who claims that Larry Summers's talk was sexist is certainly one I would characterize as whiny and finding sexism where there is none.

I hope I've made my point clear.

comment by VijayKrishnan · 2009-07-21T05:34:30.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The resolution of tension is in the following. I do empathize with complaints related to sexual harassment in the workplace, them being under pressure due to "unreasonable" norms etc.

 I however absolutely detest lying or soft peddling the truth or refraining from asking hard and important questions, simply because they affect some people's political sensibilities. I have little regard for such political sensibilities that subvert the quest for the truth. 

 So yes, a woman who complains of sexual harassment in the workplace is not one I would characterize as whiny; a woman who claims that Larry Summers's talk was sexist is certainly one I would characterize as whiny and finding sexism where there is none.

I hope I've made my point clear.
comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-21T01:27:51.808Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hello all,

New rationalist/reader/commenter here.

I originally wrote a rant against PUA culture and then a summation of that rant to post here, but I realized that most, if not all, of my objections to what I perceive to be negative in the PUA community and practice are derived from my biases [and insecurities] rather than a truly rational foundation.

I can object to the PUA sub-culture out of personal distaste, and maybe from a weak ethical point of view, but besides parts of the body of PUA doctrine and rhetoric, there is really nothing irrational about them that I can see.

These men have taken empirical observations and social engineering experiments and created a pragmatic system to utilize for their desired goal in a legal and relatively non-detrimental manner.

So the greater argument seems to be, at least insomuch that the PUA community and their practices are relevant to the original post in this thread, a question of which person-of-interest and group irrationalities/biases are to be sanctioned here for the sake of making certain posters more comfortable.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-21T01:39:02.714Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like this comment was misplaced - it does not seem to be a reply to its parent.

comment by G_Ruby · 2009-07-21T01:45:17.580Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Apologies.

My previous comment was moved to a more appropriate place in the thread.

[I am still trying to get used to this site's non-linear commenting system.]

comment by VijayKrishnan · 2009-07-20T18:13:39.526Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"If you are prone to dismissing women's complaints of gender-related problems as the women being whiny, emotionally unstable girls who see sexism where there is none, this post is unlikely to interest you."

The above does not apply to me per se, but this post neverthless doesn't interest me for its content. The poster of this article certainly looks like an immature feminist who is incapable of separating rational inquiry and the asking of hard questions, when they get close to her value system. 

 I have found Anna's posts way more mature and tackling issues and hard questions with sensible arguments instead of holding a long list of taboo topics and crying foul when anyone ever talks bluntly about them. Similar is the case with other girls that I know of. I particularly recall Robin Hanson's post regarding applying an SAT score correction factor to factor in the prior information of greater variance in the performance of men (which would lead to removing a few points from the high scoring women). While there were mindless argument by immature feminists crying foul, instead of addressing the math, I thought Anna's follow up post detailing how the prior knowledge of variance differences becomes less and less consequential with multiple SAT trials whose scores are averaged or when SAT is coupled with other pieces of information, was extremely insightful.

Anyway, the girl that's posting this article seems only 20 and has plenty of time to grow up. :-) I am hoping that exposure to these politically incorrect communities for enough time will ensure that she "grows up" in a couple of years and fearlessly asks and investigates hard questions and acknowledges uncomfortable realities rather than allow clear thought to be constantly muddied by political sensibilities. Good luck!
comment by RichardKennaway · 2009-07-20T10:30:37.081Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well said.

Obligatory XKCD link.

comment by CronoDAS · 2009-07-20T04:22:42.858Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

::clicks links::

Wow, I go away to Otakon for a 3-day weekend and LW decides to go throw a flame war. (And my very old grandmother is sitting on our couch refusing to go home, but that's not relevant to the discussion here.)

What the hell, LWers?

::sigh::

Don't make me take matters into my own hands.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-20T15:55:06.282Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hilarious.

But seriously, if this is what you call a flame war, then you haven't been 'round the Internet much.

I'm pretty sure we're still in 'honest disagreement' territory, though I don't think the conversation is going anywhere currently; too many tangents.

comment by CronoDAS · 2009-07-20T17:08:39.239Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I know. This is nothing compared to some real flame wars out there, but people are still getting upset. We've got a bad case of meanings being garbled in the transition between different people's brains, and that's never good. We aren't even at the stage of honest disagreement, since we haven't been able to successfully paraphrase each other's positions. (And this is very important.) In other words, we don't understand what we disagree about, which is worse than simply disagreeing.

comment by JulianMorrison · 2009-07-20T00:15:01.226Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sexism is our anosognosia?

comment by HalFinney · 2009-07-19T22:49:24.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What percentage of the posts exhibit these problems, would you estimate (or just guess)? Thanks.

ETA, it might well be that potential female contributors would find themselves drawn to topics which are more likely to lead to sexist discussions.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-19T22:51:36.984Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

If you mean top-level posts, it's not that many - certainly a single-digit percentage, although I'm not sure which digit. In comments, the ratio is skewed, because calling people on it makes them do it more as they attempt to defend themselves.

comment by HalFinney · 2009-07-19T23:53:40.657Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant, do you have a sense of what percentage of top-level posts have comments which show the problem?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-19T23:59:02.731Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure. I have the impression that it is way too many, but that doesn't mean a whole lot, since any positive number is too many and any annoyingly high positive number is way too many. I think most of the top-level posts that mention anything having to do with gender probably have at least one offending comment.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-02T08:07:15.390Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't vote for Hilary Clinton in the primary.

I am not American, but still I had the impression that, as a white male, if I had rooted for Obama some people would have called me sexist and if I had rooted for Clinton some people would have called me racist. (Not that I gave a damn about that -- IIRC I rooted for Obama for reasons not directly related to his opponent's gender, which is enough to count as non-sexist by my definition.)

comment by huono_ekonomi · 2009-07-21T08:39:38.219Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How about using LW to collect the data to answer this question?

For example by introducing tags to mark comments as sexist/racist/otherwise offensive, and few months period to collect data.

After that period there could be another thread to analyze the data and collectively decide how to continue?

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-07-20T01:26:55.796Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OB/LW readers/writers are overwhelmingly male. If men and women have different perceptions of gender bias in writing, which seems overwhelmingly likely, the fact that a woman (who is by no means confrontational or overly outspoken on this topic) feels this issue is worth a top-level post seems like strong evidence that e should worry about it.

comment by Whisper · 2009-07-22T07:33:56.352Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'd support this entirely, were it not for the bit

"Casual use of masculine and/or heteronormative examples in posts and comments that aren't explicitly about gender. It's just not that hard to come up with an unsexed example. Be especially careful when using the second person. If you need to use an example with a gender, there's no reason to consider male the default - consider choosing randomly, or you could use a real person as an example (who isn't presumed to archetypically represent anyone in the audience) instead of a hypothetical one (who might be)."

English evolved in a time period, predominatly ruled over by men. Hence, the default term is: "Mankind", "Man", and the default, when gender is uncertain, is to use "Man", "Him", or derivatives of such.

The others I can support. Objectification of anyone is an insult to thier intelligence, heck, even thier sapience. Sweeping generalizations about anyone are just that. Generalizations. Just as statistics are meaningless when applied on an individual level, so are generalizations, and men, please support me in this when I say: True pick up 'artists' know that each woman is a unique challange in and of herself. There may be certain techniques that may affect a large slice of the demographic, but even then, if you attempt to apply them without extensive knowledge of the subject, more often than not, you fall flat on your face. Even peeling oranges cannot always be done in the exact same manner, and women are far, [b]far[/b] more complex than mere fruit. Any who challange this, I respond with a challange of my own. Choose a pick up line. Any line at all. Go to a diverse number of clubs on multiple nights, and try it on enough women to provide statistical rigor, then come back here and try to tell me that it has a success margin wide enough to even be [i]considered.[/i]

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-22T10:44:47.317Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

English evolved in a time period, predominatly ruled over by men. Hence, the default term is: "Mankind", "Man", and the default, when gender is uncertain, is to use "Man", "Him", or derivatives of such.

In Old English, the word "man" was gender-neutral, while the words for male and female were something like wer and wif. The compound word wifman, meaning "female human" is what evolved into the modern word "woman" (interestingly, the word wer survives most commonly in "werewolf", which as you can see literally means man-wolf, and distinctly male). Cognates of "man", such as the German Mensch in fact remain gender neutral.

The gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun is "they", with documented use at least as far back as Chaucer and Shakespeare.

comment by BlackHumor · 2010-06-03T04:01:33.921Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And even ignoring that, "English was like this" is no reason for it to continue to be like that if the alternative is perfectly understandable. Languages change all the time for all kinds of reasons; we don't use the complex system of verb tenses from Old English, or hither, thither and wither, or yon and yonder, (etc.), so why should we feel obligated to use its pronouns? (side note: which were not the same as modern English pronouns; "you" used to be a second person plural object only, it was thee and thou singular and ye and you plural.)

But yes, "man" used to be gender neutral, and for most of the history of English "they" was the gender neutral third person singular.

comment by Whisper · 2009-08-04T23:32:54.327Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My apologies then, I was unaware of such. I lacked documentation, but had read in multiple sources (that memory fails to be exact about) that the roots were masculine, hence the comment.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T13:54:15.420Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for unsupported folk etymology. See SoullessAutomaton's comment.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-30T15:51:17.257Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So, was searching "Jezebel" on Lesswrong after seeing that one reddit poster who posted a comment got featured on that site. Then searched "Jezebel" on LW and got here.

A few things I'd like to address, despite this article being rather old:

  1. Most important of all, actually. Have your view changed? Because otherwise, I'm afraid the answers I'll be getting will be somewhat different, at least that's what I feel when I think about it. If you have a quality record of Alicorn 2009 then it would be nice but Alicorn 2015 is fine too (sorry, I know how women fret over how old they are)

  2. Can you say what makes this post any better than any other post about women saying they feel uncomfortable? This post seems quite generic. I've seen women do this sometimes and it's always the same thing, almost as if they're saying they want to be treated better. It's okay, but at the same time there's many things involved. Are you sure your feeling is the same as what other people feel? I personally do not feel any reason to treat you any better than other posters. But I really do wonder if there's some phenomenon that women suffer some sort of self-discrimination, or maybe inadequetness. Have you ever felt like that?

  3. There was supposed to be a question here, but I decided PM is a better way to do it. Despite how amusing a flamewar on an old thread sounds like.

  4. Have you ever thought that it cannot be changed? And if it could be changed, your method is ineffective? SPOILER ALERT: I'm male, and only 160cm tall (5'3 for you imperialists) and I can't say I'm perfectly fine with my height. You probably never thought of how it feels to see so many women who are either taller than you naturally or taller than you once they put their heels on. This doesn't feel nice. You might say I'm comparing your (or the female hive-mind, or whatever else) uneasiness to mine, but I'm short enough that it heppens almost too much. Now, there are clear differences between us. I guess we can let it slide for one person. An exception, and not the rule, or whatever. But at the same time, this isn't the first time I see this and probably not the last. Certainly the first time on a place where rational discussion is encoureged more than others, but when you see somme things happen in a variety of places you just have to wonder what's really behind it other than "this and that repeating patterns". And back to the first two sentences.. I personally cannot cut all women 10cm in height (that would only compensate for the heels anyway) the same way as you cannot alter, artificially or naturally or in any other way how men behave. You can say you're feeling uncomfortable all day, but I doubt you do it. I do honestly feel that my height isn't satisfactory quite often. But will crying (and yes, I don't care for your first paragraph at this point) about any of those two things solve them in even a fraction of them? No. You can only make your presence known here and if you feel attached to this pace as you say you are, recruit some more women here and ruin the equilbrium, or whatever you'd think makes sense (women, making sense, haha!). The same way as the only way I can stand out (oh, the irony) is to make better jokes, to dress better, to have more money or more impressive skills or whatever. You do not start at the goal; you work yourself there with great effort and tsuyoku naritai. Can you eat fruit and see flowers blooming without even planting a seed? There is no logic there. So now back to the original questions. Do you think it can be changed? And if so, do you think you're doing it the right way? I'll expand a bit on the second question at question number 6.

  5. Have you ever felt those gender wars to be silly? Maybe I'm too selfish to consider other views but sometimes I can't help but think "these views are dumb and your ignorance is absolutely not as good as my knowledge". Again, I wouldn't discriminate or anything because the other person is a woman. But I often see women doing XYZ. Is it offensive to say "oh, women" when I see XYZ? Now that's stupid. Once again, I treat people as individuals, I have nothing more to say other than "don't shoot me because I'm not in your yard".

  6. I say posts like these aren't really the way to do it. Why? Because it makes me feel like "shh, there's women in the room, you can't say that" and now that's bad for rational discussion. For general social gatherings it's okay though. But not on LW or any place that emphasizes rationality. Nobody said rationality is gender-bound either. I don't care for research nor ancedentals or whatever. No flowers without seeds. You cannot come in to a man-dominated community and just say "I'm a woman, this and that topics aren't very comfortable for me to see, please don't talk about them, mmkay?". It's already too straining to think that if you make some silly remark or make a mistake or whatever some Lesswrong Police Departmant Officer Psuedkowsky would be there to eat me alive. Well, that's an exaggeration but you don't want to appear too dumb in places where intellect is valued. Wouldn't want Miss Alisoccer to bat me in the head, either. Bottom line: I think you're doing what you want to do the wrong way. What do you think?

PSA: I'm posting this only because you've been particularly nice on me on IRC. You can ignore this message or whatever if you want, I'm sure some other poor soul will take arms in the illusionary gender wars and as usual, die on the battlefield of a zero-sum shootout. P/S/A/2: I might be a little bit biased after seeing so much "women in tech" bullcrap. You're also free to ask me anything you'd wanna know if you think it would clear the fog up a bit. P//S//A//III: I'm reading the comments and looking for some new ammo for my next fight in the gender wars.

comment by Alicorn · 2015-01-30T20:34:25.696Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm posting this only because you've been particularly nice on me on IRC.

I don't really hang out on IRC except for a private channel in which my beta readers assemble. Are you sure that was me? I wouldn't want to respond to a post that was composed in error.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-31T16:36:09.275Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Eh. I might have mistaken you for someone else. But I'm not responding to the person on IRC, whomever it might be. I've posted a response in response to your own post on LW. It was in November last year so it could have been you.

Anyway, as I've said, can you answer the questions? I've put some time into that, I'd like to have an answer.

comment by Alicorn · 2015-01-31T17:22:22.366Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure why not. I'll use the numbering there would have been if the number 1 wasn't duplicated so it'll still make sense if you fix that.

  1. My views on gender and feminism in general have slid substantially over the past six years. I don't have particularly good memories of what I was thinking in 2009. I do still think making a crack about your suspicion that I worry about my age is icky.

  2. I doubt very much that my OP is a substantial improvement over other posts on the same topic; like most of my writing from that long ago I both find it vaguely embarrassing from a quality standpoint and refuse on principle to delete it. It is notable principally for its location (on LW as opposed to somewhere else). I did not extensively poll other women on LW before writing my OP and don't remember receiving any significant private messages from same, so I have no particularly special insight into what other women feel on the matter. The rest of this question seems badly worded to me; I'm not sure what you mean.

  3. I have not received a PM from you.

  4. What an... interestingly loaded... and opaque... way to phrase a question. I have actually thought about the plight of short men before. You're about the same height as my dad, and he brings up the (entirely genuine, even) discrimination faced by short men on a pretty routine basis, although as far as I know he doesn't directly have a problem with my mother being taller than him. But I'm not sure why you brought it up. People being taller than you happens too much? I'm only an inch taller than you if I stand up straight; people being taller than me happens about the same amount, I'd imagine. The surrounding culture is different for men and women here but you talk as though it's inherently unpleasant to be short. Do I think culture, in general/on this specific point, can be changed? Well, we aren't currently hunter-gatherers, so probably culture can change. Did this post help? I don't really know. Is my current behavior now in 2015 helping? Again, I don't know; anyway I've backed off from LW proper in favor of following rationalist tumblr and hanging out with the rationalist meatspace crowd. (The rationalist meatspace crowd has a decent number of women in it, especially if you look places like CfAR's staff.)

  5. The only coherent thing I can extract from this paragraph is "Have you ever felt those gender wars to be silly?", the rest of it seems almost Markov-chain-like in its relevance. Yes, I have often found gender wars to be silly.

  6. This isn't a question, this is a ramble with an unhelpful flower analogy and poor coherence. Is what I think.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-31T17:59:58.542Z · score: -12 (12 votes) · LW · GW
  1. That's just a joke, missy. Your views slid to the wrong way, or what? :) Don't worry about your age though. Mentally mature women are cool. Don't expect a dinner and a date, though!

  2. Eh, that was my point. I've read so many ramblings like that, and it makes me honestly feel that "I've read this before". And that was my main problem with things like that. I'm quite sure many other men feel the same when they see yet another blog post on THAT KIND OF CHANGE written by a woman. And when I read the same patterns all over again, I just wonder if there's some elephant everybody is missing. Better get our eyes checked.. or more liked our facts checked.

  3. Will do later, although it's a rather silly topic and I think we'd both think the same about it.

  4. Brought it up because I've never seen short men do the same nonsense or requesting nonsencial requests or anything unreasonable despite how they feel about it. Or maybe I never bothered to search for it. Or maybe because I'll tell them the same thing I'll tell to every women who makes an unreasonable post of that kind. I treat unreasonable people equally so it doesn't really matter to me what they post about.

  5. The only problem is that, it's ON THE INTERNET. How many people take the internet seriously? I'm probably making some sort of fallacy here, but at the same time I cannot help but wonder why I always see it on the internet. Probably because the women are afraid of retribution.

  6. Nevermind this, I messed up.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-01T11:04:33.639Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Ehh. Over 10 or so downvotes for this? Seems like there's some feminists or some 6'5 men with a superiority complex around. But seriously so many downvotes yet zero explanations? The more I get them the more it basically feels like I'm not the problem.

comment by Kawoomba · 2015-02-01T11:43:40.921Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like there's some feminists or some 6'5 men with a superiority complex around.

Well, I am 6'7, without a superiority complex of course. That's not why I downvoted you, though, and since you asked for an explanation:

I'm reading the comments and looking for some new ammo for my next fight in the gender wars.

That's not the kind of approach (arguments as soldiers) we're looking for in a rationality forum. One of the prequisites is a willingness to change your mind, which seems to be setting the bar too high for some people.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-01T11:51:05.066Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is silly. How can you take such a thing seriously?

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2015-02-01T14:08:44.922Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can you point out anything specific that's wrong with it, or is this just a "that's not something I'm used to" reaction?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-01T15:36:29.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll point you to question #4 of my original post:

Have you ever felt those gender wars to be silly?

And then, this, which Kawoomba also quoted:

P//S//A//III: I'm reading the comments and looking for some new ammo for my next fight in the gender wars.

I've made the implication that I think the gender wars are silly. After that, If the gender wars are silly, why would I be reading the comments and reloading my guns (ohhh, puns!) in the first place?

Can't you see how idiotic that is? You're free to call me an idiot, and I don't really care. But at the same time I also hope you make an update and understand that not everything should be taken literally. I could give you the story as to how I came to a conclusion about properly updating but that's: A. a short one so we can do it with a PM (I'll post it publicly if you want to - more powe.. er, downvotes to me!) B. Not very relevant to the current discussion, although it can be Yet Another Reason #24214 on why updating (and communicating) is important.