↑ comment by Firinn ·
2023-09-15T23:55:51.356Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I disagree that we're confusing multiple issues; my central point is that these things are deeply related. They form a pattern - a culture - which makes bike theft and rape not comparable in the way the OP wants them to be comparable.
You might not think that 4 through 6 count as 'victim-blaming', but they all contribute to the overall effect on the victim. Whether your advice is helpful or harmful can depend on a lot of factors - including whether a victim is being met with suspicion or doubt, whether a victim feels humiliated, and whether a victim feels safe reporting.
If someone is currently thinking, "Hmm, my bike got stolen. That sucks. I wonder how I can get that to not happen again?" then your advice to buy a different lock is probably going to be helpful! The victim is likely to want to listen to it, and be in a good mental state to implement that advice in the near future, and they're not really going to be worried that you have some ulterior motive for giving the advice. When someone says, "Have you considered buying a different brand of bike lock?" I'm not scared that they're going to follow-up that question by saying something like, "Well, it's just that since you admit yourself that you didn't buy the exact brand of bike lock I'm recommending, I don't believe your bike was really stolen and I'm going to tell all our friends that you're a reckless idiot who doesn't lock their bike properly so they shouldn't give you any sympathy about this so-called theft."
If we lived in a world that had this sort of culture around bike theft - victim-disbelieving, victim-shaming, victim-blaming or whatever else you want to call it - then people might be thinking things like, "Oh my god my bike got stolen, I'm so scared to even tell anyone because I don't know if they'll believe me, what if they think I made it up? What if they tell me I'm too irresponsible and just shouldn't ever ride bikes in the future ever again? What if they tell me I'm damaged goods because this happened to me?"
In that world, if someone tells you that their bike was stolen, responding, "did you lock it?" is an asshole thing to do. Because there will be some fraction of people who ask, "did you lock it?" and then, after that, say things like, "well, if you didn't use a D-lock on both the wheels and the frame, then you probably just consented for someone to borrow it and you're misremembering. You can't go around saying your bike got stolen when it was probably just borrowed - I mean, imagine if your bike is found and the person who borrowed it gets arrested! You'd ruin someone's life just because you misremembered giving them permission to borrow your bike. Next time, if you don't consent for someone to take your bike, just use at least five locks."
People who are feeling scared and vulnerable are not likely to be receptive to advice about bike locks, or feeling ready to go to the supermarket and get a new bike lock. If you offer advice about bike locks in that world, instead of thinking, "hmm that's a great idea, I'll go to the shops right now and buy that recommended bike lock," they are more likely to be thinking, "oh fuck are they implying that they don't believe my bike was really stolen? Are they going to tell my friends that I'm a stupid reckless person because I didn't lock my bike properly?" In the world where we have a victim-blaming victim-shaming victim-disbelieving culture around bike theft, you need to reassure the bike theft victim that you are not going to be that asshole.
Rationality isn't always about making the maximally theoretically correct statements all the time. Rationality is systematized winning. It doesn't matter if the statement "you should buy a better bike lock" is literally true. It matters whether saying that statement causes good outcomes to happen. For bike theft, it probably causes good outcomes; the person hears the statement, goes out and buys a better bike lock, and their bike is less likely to be stolen in future. For rape, it causes bad outcomes; the person worries that you're not a safe/supportive person to talk to, shuts down, and hides in their room to cry. You can argue that the hide-in-the-room-and-cry trauma response is irrational, and that doesn't matter even one iota, because being an aspiring rationalist is about taking the actions with the best expected outcomes in an imperfect world where sometimes humans are imperfect and sometimes people are traumatised. You don't control other people's actions; you control your own. (And in our imperfect world, it's not irrational for rape victims to be scared of talking to people who send signals that they might engage in victim-blaming/victim-shaming/victim-disbelieving.)
If people were forced to bet on their beliefs, I think most people would be forced to admit that they do understand this on some level; when you say "try buying this different bike lock" the expected outcome is that the victim is somewhat more likely to go shopping and buy that bike lock, whereas when you say "try wearing less revealing clothing" the expected outcome is that the victim feels crushed and traumatised and stops listening to you. When people give that advice, I don't think they are actually making the victim any less likely to be raped again - they're mostly just feeling righteous about saying things that they think the victim should listen to in some abstract sense. (To back this up, a lot of the advice that is most commonly shared - like "don't wear revealing clothing" or "don't walk down dark alleys at night" or "shout fire, don't shout rape" - is basically useless or wrong. Rape is not mostly committed by complete strangers in dark alleys, and covering more skin doesn't make someone less likely to be raped.)
If rationality was all about making the purest theoretically true statements, then sure, whatever, let's go ahead and taboo some words. But rationality is about winning, so let's take context into account and talk about the expected outcomes of our actions.
If you like, just aggregate all the "victim-blaming"/"victim-disbelieving"/"victim-humiliating" things into the question, "From the perspective of the victim who just disclosed something, what is p(this person is about to say or do something unpleasant | this person has said words that sound like unsolicited advice)?" Replies from: ymeskhout, SaidAchmiz
↑ comment by ymeskhout ·
2023-09-16T18:29:49.371Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I disagree that we're confusing multiple issues; my central point is that these things are deeply related.
This is what I'm talking about. It's ok to say that these issues are related to each other, but it'll remain useful to retain the ability to discuss and evaluate individual components. Otherwise:
A: "It's ok to offer victims advice on how to reduce their risk."
B: "No because the advice gets packaged with doubt over whether the victim really is a victim."
A: "Ok but I'm not saying we should doubt victim's stories, I'm only talking about advice on how to reduce risk."
B: "But the advice tends to be given at inappropriate times and with what appears to be insufficient compassion"
A: "Yes that would be a problem, but again I'm not suggesting that people give advice inappropriately. I would hope that when I advocate for something, folks can presume there's an implied 'appropriately' qualifier in there."
B: "Well most of the advice people give is straight up wrong."
A: "I just said..."
And so on. I'm not saying that the concerns you raise are invalid! But stuffing everything into the same discourse gets confusing very quickly. My post was strictly about "giving advice to victims" and the pushback you're giving invokes all these collateral issues I never argued in favor of.
Maybe it turns out it's impossible to disaggregate "giving advice" from all the other phenomena you're describing, or maybe it's impossible to give advice with appropriate timing and grace. Those are important discussions to have but nevertheless it helps to first imagine the least convenient possible world [LW · GW] and to keep issues discrete, otherwise it all gets mixed into a murky soup.
↑ comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) ·
2023-09-16T03:52:51.553Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
If people were forced to bet on their beliefs, I think most people would be forced to admit that they do understand this on some level; when you say “try buying this different bike lock” the expected outcome is that the victim is somewhat more likely to go shopping and buy that bike lock, whereas when you say “try wearing less revealing clothing” the expected outcome is that the victim feels crushed and traumatised and stops listening to you.
This analogy is inaccurate.
The analogue of “try wearing less revealing clothing”, in the bike situation, would be something like “try not having such an expensive bike”. (In both cases, the advice is “make it less appealing for the evildoers to do this crime to you, while reducing the utility/pleasure you get from your property”.)
Conversely, the analogue of “try buying this different bike lock”, in the sexual assault situation, would be something like “try buying this roofie detector gadget”. (In both cases, the advice is “make it more difficult for the evildoers to do this crime to you, by putting obstacles directly in the way of their crime attempts”.)
Once the analogy is rectified, we can see that the responses to each set of “advice” also becomes analogous:
“Try wearing less revealing clothing” seems like an insulting thing to say—but the same is true of “try not having such an expensive bike”.
“Try buying this different bike lock” seems like non-insulting, well-intentioned advice, aimed at harm reduction—but so does “try buying this roofie detector gadget”.
To put it another way, the person saying “try buying this different bike lock”, or “try buying this roofie detector gadget”, is trying to empower you. The person saying “try wearing less revealing clothing”, or “try not having such an expensive bike”, does not seem like they’re trying to empower you.
(Note that all of this is distinct from the question of which, if any, of these four pieces of advice will, if followed, actually reduce your relevant risk of victimization, and by how much.)
As far as the commentary on rationality being winning… indeed, you are quite correct that truly rational strategies must take into account human irrationality, as well as emotions, values, etc.
However, it seems quite implausible a priori that there should be no actions that one could possibly take to reduce one’s chance of victimization by sexual assault. But if that’s not the case—if there are indeed such actions—then your view amounts to the claim that it’s not possible to communicate any information about such actions to anyone who has once been victimized. In other words, it seems like you’re saying either that there’s literally nothing that anyone can do to reduce their chance of being raped, or that if someone’s been raped once, there is no way that information about such actions can ever be conveyed to them.
Neither of those things seem the least bit plausible; indeed, they run directly counter to common sense, as well as to actually existing advice which it is trivial to find online, including via organizations specifically devoted to such causes.
Replies from: email@example.com
↑ comment by SeñorDingDong (firstname.lastname@example.org) ·
2023-09-16T10:15:32.039Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I think your analogy gestures at something useful but needs expansion. The 'roofie detector gadget' example could be reframed in a way which disempowers - eg, 'it's your fault for not using this gadget', or 'well you really ought to have used this gadget', etc.
This suggests to me subject matter of the advice is less important than its underlying motive or attitude. I think advice will generally be disempowering if it presupposes the level of risk a person can acceptably run. Contrast the following: 'well, you were wearing revealing clothes' versus 'you can wear whatever you like, but just note that you might be at a greater risk of being assaulted if you go to bar X.' The latter lets the recipient make their own decision about risk. As a separate matter, whether we then have sympathy for a victim who runs a large risk depends on the justifications for running it: cf the freedom to go out at night and choose one's own clothes versus building your own airplane out of scrap metal for fun.
Of course, even 'empowering' advice could still be upsetting to a victim if given as an immediate response. That's not surprising. Advice in general - especially highly personal or intimate - often needs to be given delicately and sensitively for it to help someone. There is a reasonable position between 'never being able to give advice' and 'not doing it immediately after the incident.'
In any case, I tend to agree Firinn here that there are important disanalogies between bike theft and rape which cannot be reduced to differences in the prevalence of false allegations. The latter is simply a more complicated crime both socially and legally - it is more serious (in psychological effect, social stigma, and legal penalty, with a few fringe cases excepted) and more closely implicates contentious political beliefs which cash out in different allocations of blame, responsibility, wrongfulness etc.
It seems sensible to remember that by giving advice you will engage in this complex social phenomena. But then, reading your comments, I don't think you would deny this? Replies from: SaidAchmiz
↑ comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) ·
2023-09-16T10:31:50.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I think your analogy gestures at something useful but needs expansion. The ‘roofie detector gadget’ example could be reframed in a way which disempowers—eg, ‘it’s your fault for not using this gadget’, or ‘well you really ought to have used this gadget’, etc.
If you add blame to the advice, then of course you change the impact—because you’ve added something that wasn’t there before. “If you do X, Y will result” is simply not the same thing as “you are at fault for not doing X”. This isn’t a reframing, it’s simply a different claim.
This suggests to me subject matter of the advice is less important than its underlying motive or attitude.
The substance of advice is important if you’re trying to accomplish some goal (i.e., improve your outcomes somehow).
The motive for advice-giving is important for interpreting advice (i.e., determining whether it’s likely to actually be useful), but is screened off by the judgment of usefulness.
As for “attitude”, it may be “important” in the sense of affecting interpersonal relations, but as far as the utility of advice goes, attitude is irrelevant.
Contrast the following: ‘well, you *were *wearing revealing clothes’ versus ‘you can wear whatever you like, but just note that you might be at a greater risk of being assaulted if you go to bar X.’ The latter lets the recipient make their own decision about risk.
The recipient can make their own decision about risk no matter how someone else phrases advice to them. I’m afraid I don’t see what you’re getting at, here.
Of course, even ‘empowering’ advice could still be upsetting to a victim if given as an immediate response. That’s not surprising. Advice in general—especially highly personal or intimate—often needs to be given delicately and sensitively for it to help someone. There is a reasonable position between ‘never being able to give advice’ and ‘not doing it immediately after the incident.’
No doubt (especially if the incident in question is as traumatic as rape). But who here is suggesting that “immediately after the incident” is a good time for advice-giving of any sort? This seems like a red herring.
However, there does at some point come a time when advice is warranted. At some point, one must continue living one’s life. And then one must make various choices; and it is possible to choose well (and reduce one’s chances of repeated victimization), or to choose poorly (and maintain or even increase those chances). Advice, at this point, is appropriate.
In short, when we’re discussing “what advice is appropriate”, we are presupposing that we’ve chosen the timing properly. Having assumed this, the question of what advice we should give does still remain.
In any case, I tend to agree Firinn here that there are important disanalogies between bike theft and rape which cannot be reduced to differences in the prevalence of false allegations. The latter is simply a more complicated crime both socially and legally—it is more serious (in psychological effect, social stigma, and legal penalty, with a few fringe cases excepted) and more closely implicates contentious political beliefs which cash out in different allocations of blame, responsibility, wrongfulness etc.
It seems sensible to remember that by giving advice you will engage in this complex social phenomena. But then, reading your comments, I don’t think you would deny this?
I don’t deny it, mostly because there’s hardly anything here to deny… what is contained in these two paragraphs except platitudes and generalities?
Replies from: Slapstick
↑ comment by Slapstick ·
2023-09-18T01:24:17.648Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
in short, when we’re discussing “what advice is appropriate”, we are presupposing that we’ve chosen the timing properly. Having assumed this, the question of what advice we should give does still remain.
If you presuppose things like proper timing, and presumably other considerations about appropriate contextual cues, I don't think there really remains any issue here.
I think generally the type of person who actually has valuable advice to offer in this context is also the type of person who's socially aware enough to offer it via methods which are recieved well.
Replies from: SaidAchmiz
↑ comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) ·
2023-09-18T01:44:28.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Well… maybe. Before making assumptions as broad and vague as “presumably other considerations about appropriate contextual cues” and “methods which are recieved well”, I’d want to see at least a sketch of what any of those things are supposed to be referring to.
The question, let’s recall, is whether the sort of advice described in the OP is appropriate, in the general case. Sure, we can assume the advice is given with reasonable attention to basic tact, with common sense about timing, etc., but it wouldn’t do to make assumptions which make the original question moot!