How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

post by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-09T04:41:06.895Z · score: 22 (64 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 774 comments

One of the lessons highlighted in the thread "Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter" is Gender ratio matters.

There have recently been a number of articles addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this, from the perspective of a geeky/sciencefiction community with similar attributes to LessWrong, and I want to link to these, not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is there and has a name for the problem, which may facilitate wider discussion and make it easier for others to know when to point towards the resources those who would benefit by them.

However before I do, in the light of RedRobot's comment in the "Of Gender and Rationality" thread, I'd like to echo a sentiment from one of the articles, that people exhibiting this behaviour may be of any gender and may victimise upon any gender.   And so, while it may be correlated with a particular gender, it is the behaviour that should be focused upon, and turning this thread into bashing of one gender (or defensiveness against perceived bashing) would be unhelpful.

Ok, disclaimers out of the way, here are the links:

Some of those raise deeper issues about rape culture and audience as enabler, but the TLDR summary is:

  1. Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
  2. If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours.
  3. There are specific objective behaviours listed in the articles (for example, to do with touching, sexual jokes and following people) that even someone 'bad' at social skills can learn to avoid doing.
  4. If someone is informed that their behaviour is creeping people out, and yet they don't take steps to avoid doing these behaviours, that is a serious problem for the group as a whole, and it needs to be treated seriously and be seen to be treated seriously, especially by the 'audience' who are not being victimised directly.

EDITED TO ADD:

Despite the way some of the links are framed as being addressed to creepers, this post is aimed at least as much at the community as a whole, intended to trigger a discussion on how the community should best go about handling such a problem once identified, with the TLDR being "set of restraints to place on someone who is burning the commons", rather that a complete description that guarantees that anyone who doesn't meet it isn't creepy.  (Thank you to jsteinhardt for clearly verbalising the misinterpretation - for discussion see his reply to this post)

774 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:11:57.036Z · score: 36 (43 votes) · LW · GW

POST IDEA- Feedback Wanted

When these gender discussions come up, I am often tempted to write in with my own experiences and desires. But I generally don't because I don't want to generalize from one example, or claim to be the Voice of Women, etc. However, according to the last survey, I actually AM over 1% of the females on here, and so is every other woman. (i.e. there are less than 100 of us).

My idea is to put out a call for women on LessWrong to write openly about their experiences and desires in this community, and send them to me. I will anonymize them all, and put them all up under one post.

This would have a couple of benefits, including:

  • Anonymity allows for open expression- When you are in the vast minority, speaking out can feel like "swimming upstream," and so may not happen very much.

  • Putting all the women's responses in one posts helps figure out what is/is not a problem- Because of the gender ratio, most discussions on the topic are Men Talking About what Women Want, it can be hard to figure out what women are saying on the issues, versus what men are saying women say.

  • The plural of anecdote is data- If one woman says X, it is an anecdote, and very weak evidence. If 10% of women say X, it is much stronger evidence.

Note that with a lot of the above issues, one of the biggest problems in figuring out what is going on isn't purposeful misogyny or anything. Just the fact that the gender ratio is so skewed can make it difficult to hear women (think picking out one voice amongst ten). The idea I'm proposing is an attempt to work around this, not an attempt to marginalize men, who may also have important things to say, but would not be the focus of this investigation.

Even with a sample size of 10 responses (approximately the amount I would say is needed for this to be useful), according to the last survey, that is 10% of the women on this site. A sizable proportion, indeed.

Please give feedback, if you think this is a good or bad idea, and if you are a woman (or transgendered person, or female-identifying, or...etc), if you would participate. I will only run this experiment if a) people want it, and b) women will respond.

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-08T21:19:07.712Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I'm really curious what this would turn up (and I wonder if it'll bring up things that no one woman would say by themselves to everyone on the site), so I definitely think it should happen!

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-09T05:56:48.868Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I would be game for this. In fact, I've pretty much been going round doing this where I thought people were failing to understand how women worked anyway. This is a great way of avoiding generalising from one example though, which from what I've noticed of posts on the subject of women, happens a lot.

Just also remember that this isn't going to give helpful advice unless we can all learn to stop saying things that we say and really don't mean. I might be generalising from one example again, but women often rationalise more than men, so it's hard for us to speak in an unbiased way about our actual preferences. It took me a lot of effort just to learn /when/ I was rationalising, let alone fix it.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T21:42:16.497Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

This seems interesting. There have been threads on specifically female viewpoints before, but the anonymity is a wrinkle that no one's tried yet as far as I know. Go for it; the worst that can happen is not turning up anything new.

(Well, I suppose the short-term worst that can happen might involve stirring up resentment that's been obscured for social reasons and that turning into a fight, but in the long run that resentment either is or isn't there already.)

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T21:25:47.475Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'm unclear on what exactly I would tell you, but assuming there exists a useful answer to that question other than "y'know, stuff", I'm game. Also, given that there are so few, anonymity may not be anonymity (my writing style's probably recognizable to some; any individual incident I've probably already told all my friends about so it'll be recognized at least by those; etc.); how would you work around that?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T22:19:09.236Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm unclear on what exactly I would tell you,

This comment actually gave me An Idea, so thank you!

Idea- In the Call for Responses post, there could be a Ask the Women thread, where people can submit questions. If you want a question answered, upvote it.

When the women write their responses, they can use the questions as prompts. A question that gets many upvotes will probably be written on by more women, thus getting more data. But if you want to respond to a more lower voted question, you can (or just say whatever you want to say)

I would say that the submitted questions will be assumed to be answered using Crocker's Rules, no exceptions. What we want is a more stream-of-consciousness, gut-level reaction . Not self-censored, want-to-be-polite-and-concise, filtered answers.

comment by Caspian · 2012-09-09T03:44:22.733Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Some topics for the call for responses I would propose:

Occasions when a man was creepy towards you at a social event.

Occasions when a woman was creepy towards you at a social event.

Occasions you met a new male friend at a social event, and how it wasn't creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it.

Occasions you met a new female friend at a social event, and how it wasn't creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it.

(I mean new friend in the sense that you didn't know them, not that they were already a new friend before the event)

"This has never happened to me" would also be a useful response.

All of the above questions could be answered for either lesswrong-related events, or social events in general.

comment by dspeyer · 2012-09-11T22:44:47.469Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Occasions (or general patterns) when someone tried too hard to not be creepy toward you and displeased you as a result.

(Some of the policies that get tossed around are pretty extreme, so I'd be interested in measuring the overcompensation risk.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T22:32:12.152Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

given that there are so few, anonymity may not be anonymity (my writing style's probably recognizable to some; any individual incident I've probably already told all my friends about so it'll be recognized at least by those; etc.); how would you work around that?

I'm expecting few enough responses that I'm willing to work with people on a case-by-case basis. For example, for you I could edit your writing towards my own style, or even (so long as it's not pages) read it, wait an hour, and re-write it in my own voice, if needed (going back to make sure all relevant details are added in)

Discussing individual incidents is a bit trickier. In general, I would like to keep the narratives individual-specific. (i.e. "Lady Q writes: " , rather than "Thoughts on Question X: ") . Otherwise, the concern would be unable to differentiate between 10 women writing 1 good thing and 2 bad things each, OR 9/10 women wrote 1 good thing, and 1 woman writes 20 bad things.

That said, I do see the use of an "Anonymous Incidents" section, where people can put identifying incidents they would like to discuss, without associating it with the rest of their narrative. Do you think that would solve this issue?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-09T00:58:53.130Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That said, I do see the use of an "Anonymous Incidents" section, where people can put identifying incidents they would like to discuss, without associating it with the rest of their narrative. Do you think that would solve this issue?

I don't have a clear picture of what this would look like.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T01:14:01.529Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think I can illustrate with an example. Let me know if this helps!

Jane submits her narrative to the post. One paragraph in her narrative describes an incident that many people would recognize as her. Jane wants to mention this incident, but does not want to associate it with the rest of her narrative, because then people who could recognize that single incident, will know that the rest of the narrative is also hers. She pulls out the identifiable incident to be placed in a "Anonymous Comments" section that is not linked to the rest of her narrative. It is still somewhat anonymous, in that her name isn't on it, and only the people who already know the story realize it is hers. But they can not trace knowledge of that particular story back to the rest of her narrative.

The post layout would be something like:

Jane's (pseudonym) narrative:
Whee! I'm a narrative.

Emily's narrative:
Yay! I'm Emily's narrative. Pretend there are more narratives. We like pretending!

Anonymous comments:

  1. <insert comment that Stacey doesn't want associated with> etc
comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-09T04:09:31.478Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Okay. But what is the content of "whee, I'm a narrative"?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T06:23:01.576Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By "narrative", I am referring to the bulk of whatever Jane wrote. Probably items such as answering the questions upvoted in the forum. It would be everything Jane submitted to me, modulo the paragraph or two that she wanted placed in the "Comments" section instead, because they are incidents known to be hers.

Perhaps I shouldn't have used the phrase "Anonymous Comments". The narratives are also anonymous. The Comments section is what allows them to be so, by having somewhere else to place Obviously-Jane material. In fact, the Comments section is probably even LESS anonymous than the narratives, because they are composed of identifiable material that you don't want associated with your super-anonymous narrative....

Um.....feel free to suggest better words than "Narrative" or "Comments section"... I don't think I'm explaining well. :P

comment by ahartell · 2012-09-09T06:02:03.552Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

All of the other stuff you have to say that wouldn't be easily identified as something said by you.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T21:48:37.503Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'm .8 confident it won't turn up anything surprising enough to make it worth your effort, but if you're motivated to expend the effort anyway, I'd certainly read the results. I'm cis-male, so pretty much irrelevant to the effort other than as a reader.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T22:50:38.398Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I actually am very curious to the responses, but whether the results are surprising or not, I think another value it would have is as a place to point people to. For example, Norm New-Guy or Felicity the Feminist says "I think X is a problem," you can point them to the narratives, and say "8/10 women disagree." (or vice versa)

Also, even if there are no "surprises" per se, it could still be enough to redefine your hypothesis space. For example, maybe before the results, I would guess that any one of six issues might be occurring to effect the gender ratio. After reading the samples, I notice that most the results focus on only 3 of my original issues, and maybe there is a new one women were discussing, that although it wasn't in my original hypothesis space, wasn't necessarily "surprising" (depending on your definition- perhaps you hadn't thought of it yourself, but when someone said it, it made sense. I can see how you'd consider this a "surprise" though.)

comment by Larks · 2012-09-10T19:34:22.444Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In general, when making an example that could equally be made in either direction, I think it's best to go the direction against what you think - or what others think you think.

So in the same way I think Yvain's post would have been improved if his examples had been against positions he held, so too you might in future want your examples to be phrased more like

For example, Norm New-Guy or Felicity the Feminist says "I think X is a problem," you can point eir to the narratives, and say "8/10 women disagree." (or vice versa).

Obveously this is a purely about reducing system 1 negative reactions to posts and demonstrating an ability to visualise the other side's hypothesis, and not a content issue at all. It's much like the motivation behind Politics is the Mind Killer.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T20:36:59.321Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I like this idea a lot, and have changed the relevant example accordingly.

comment by thomblake · 2012-09-10T18:59:10.311Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm .8 confident it won't turn up anything surprising

I wonder if there's a general rule about how confident you should be there.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-10T19:20:15.067Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Dunno. What confidence level would you consider appropriate?

I could have said "I'm pretty confident..." or "I don't expect it to turn up anything..." or something along those lines, but I figure I have more of a chance of calibrating my confidence levels if I state them more precisely in the first place.

comment by thomblake · 2012-09-10T19:23:48.649Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know. I'm mostly musing about whether "it won't turn up anything surprising" is already contained in the concept of a confidence level, or else whether there is a particular confidence level at which you expect to not be surprised.

Put another way, when do you expect to be surprised?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-10T20:03:34.683Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, for example, if more than a third of the women responding reported never experiencing any unpleasant experiences of the sort described, that would surprise me.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T22:18:33.548Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you do this you could also make a small poll for the participants; numbers are easier to skim and to regroup than anecdotes are.

Anyway, I think this is a good idea, whatever form it takes.

comment by Caspian · 2012-09-09T03:47:26.448Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

make a small for the participants

Is there a missing word after "small"?

ETA: I probably should have sent that by private message

comment by Emile · 2012-09-09T14:31:53.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, fixed, thanks.

comment by albeola · 2012-09-08T22:54:14.640Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's already the option of doing this through alternate accounts.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T22:57:48.932Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That seems like enough of a trivial inconvenience to deter a lot of people, even if it was being actively encouraged in some context similar to this one. Sending a PM to Daenerys seems much less inconvenient, if more work for her.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T23:18:36.459Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Two points:

1) Alternate accounts are suspect to manipulation (anyone can create an account claiming anything), and as such what they say carries little weight. The cohesive post will have the added weight that the submissions will be verified as being written by actual female Less Wrongers, and not sock puppets with 0 karma. Also, some posters might be ok having their name associated at the level of "I wrote A submission" versus "I wrote THIS submission."

2) If you post on your own, rather than as a group, you will still run into the difficulty of being overpowered by the amount of male voices, so either few will hear you, or you'll be one against many, or you'll be taken as "single anecdote/ feminazi" rather than "The Women of Less Wrong"

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T04:36:41.006Z · score: 31 (43 votes) · LW · GW

I'm never a fan of "don't"-oriented guides to social interaction. In my experience, the reason people do things that are taken as creepy is that they don't know a better way -- if they did, wouldn't they do that and thus avoid alienating everyone in the first place?

Giving more "don'ts" doesn't solve that problem: it just makes it harder to locate the space of socially-optimal behavior. What's worse, being extremely restrictive in the social risks you take itself can be taken as creepy! ("Gee, this guy never seems to start conversations with anyone...")

These guides should instead say what to do, not what not to do, that will make the group more comfortable around you.

Edit: Take this one in particular. 90% is "don'ts", 5% is stuff of questionable relevance to the archetypal target of these guides (the problem is that male nerds announce their sexual fetishes too early? really?), and the last 5% is the usual vague "be higher status" advice which, if it were as easy as suggested, would have obviated the need for this advice in the first place.

(To its credit, it has a link to more general social adeptness advice that I didn't read, but then that article, if useful, should be the one linked, not this one.)

comment by coffeespoons · 2012-09-09T10:47:27.221Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the Dr Nerdlove link does give useful advice. It tells you what not to do and what you should do instead. I have pretty good social skills, and I'm female, so it's unlikely that people see me as being creepy, but I actually think that reading through that may have improved my social skills further! For instance, in the past, when I've been interested in someone I have sometimes tried to keep talking even when they appear to be losing interest. This paragraph gives very useful advice:

If the conversation is starting to die off – as opposed to a natural lull – you don’t want to try stick around desperately trying to keep things going. Make your excuses and bow out of the conversation gracefully. Similarly, if you notice that her eyes are starting to dart around to the sides – as though she were looking around for someone – you need to realize that she’s looking for someone to rescue her from you.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:42:14.474Z · score: -9 (29 votes) · LW · GW

I'm never a fan of "don't"-oriented guides to social interaction. In my experience, the reason people do things that are taken as creepy is that they don't know a better way -- if they did, wouldn't they do that and thus avoid alienating everyone in the first place?

Making things awkward or uncomfortable for others doesn't incur in them a debt to help you self-optimize and get what you want. You might want to take the advice in the spirit it's given instead.

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-08T01:01:25.423Z · score: 30 (32 votes) · LW · GW

Question: Is there anyone here who has helped a creep become substantially less creepy? How did you help that happen?

Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T10:14:58.912Z · score: 34 (36 votes) · LW · GW

I used to be a giant creep. I knew I had no social skills, tried to develop some, and it backfired more often than not. For example, I knew I was clingy and unable to tell if people wanted to get rid of me. So I reasoned that I should just hover around people I wanted to talk to and make it unclear whether I was there because of them or by coincidence, so they would feel free to talk to me or not as they wished.

What helped was Internet articles like those linked above. Those actually explain what behaviors are desirable and undesirable, and basics of reading people.

I still don't know the difference between "You should go away" and "Should I go away?" - verbal expressions of these are identical. "I'm leaving, bye" and "I'm leaving, wanna come along?" are also hard to distinguish.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-01-15T16:45:37.274Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"I'm leaving, bye" and "I'm leaving, wanna come along?" are also hard to distinguish.

If they don't tell you where they're going, I guess it's definitely the former.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-09-08T03:12:32.202Z · score: 24 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?

I apparently sometimes come across as intense, and am often bad at small talk, but once people get to know me, they tend to like me. The result is that I have a number of social links where I was originally perceived as a creepy guy who thought we were closer than they thought we were when we met, and through continued interaction the social distance has settled at an agreed-on point (around my initial estimate, though generally a bit further than it. I've recalibrated since then, and think I would get it right now for most people).

For example, the first guy I dated told me (after I started dating him) that I was creepy the first time I met him. I basically went to a con just to meet him, and didn't have anything else to do. So... I ended up following him around. At one point, he said to a friend "hey, let's go to dinner!" and I said "Great! I'll come along!" Rookie mistakes fueled by wishful thinking. Later, he told me that he was hoping to get rid of me by going to dinner. At no point did he ask me to leave or make obvious that he didn't want me around; any subtle cues I either didn't notice or didn't want to notice. I must also comment that his friend (who I wasn't paying much attention to) was more creeped out by me than he was, and later warned him about me, and so he may have reinterpreted his memories in light of that warning and not actually been sending those signals. Memories are fuzzy, but looking back on it the behavior I would describe it as closer to creepy than not creepy.

The second time we met, it was again at a con- but I had brought a friend along (which was both social proof and distraction), and I used proper distance (said "Hey, I'll be in this game tonight at 8- you should come play it!" and then left). I also lucked out that the people he came with were irresponsible and so I got an easy opportunity to demonstrate responsibility. I ended up driving him the ~six hours back to his place (it was sort of on our way), and then we started dating shortly afterwards.

That transformation was a response to minimal feedback (I think I basically went home, said "hm, that didn't work. Why might it not have worked?" and guessed correctly), a slight level up in social skills, and a significant level up in social equipment / luck (coming with a friend instead of alone, and his friends bailing on him).

It's also a different situation- this isn't me acting poorly around all women (or men in my case), but trying to get over the obstacle of "someone who I only know from the internet is interested in me." One issue with creeping is underestimating social distance, but that's the primary element that my creeping and general creeping share.

Moderately related, I creeped out one of his friends who visited with a poorly made joke. (I failed to hide my ability to memorize numbers and joked about being able to look up publicly available information.) I learned that people famous on the internet are way more concerned about stalkers than the general populace, and now don't make any stalker-related jokes around people famous on the internet.

The commonality of both of those examples, though, is that I recognized that I wasn't going about things properly and I fixed my behaviors. That's not the problem with these creepers, which is a limited case of someone who is generating social pollution as a byproduct of trying to get what they want. The general case is thorny and hard to deal with.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T09:39:55.339Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?

raises hand

I read this, included the comments thread, and thought about it.

OTOH, there's the huge confounding factor that it was shortly after I came back from Ireland to Italy, and Italians are harder to creep out than Anglo-Saxon people. Stand one metre from (say) an American and they will freak the hell out; stand one metre from an Italian and they'll wonder whether they smell. Also, I can't see any evidence that many women in Italy are anywhere nearly as scared of potential rapists as Starling describes (at least where I am -- in larger cities and/or more fucked-up regions the situation might be different). So, to be sure it's my absolute creepiness that decreased and not the standard by which it's measured that increased, I'd have to go back to an English-speaking country and see how I'm received there.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T19:11:57.355Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

OTOH, there's the huge confounding factor that it was shortly after I came back from Ireland to Italy, and Italians are harder to creep out than Anglo-Saxon people. Stand one metre from (say) an American and they will freak the hell out; stand one metre from an Italian and they'll wonder whether they smell.

The example you give illustrates the difference in personal space norms between cultures, I'll take it on your word that Italians also happen to be less easily creeped out. But the difference in personal space norms doesn't itself indicate much about who is most easily creeped out. Trying to make a social approach and standing a more than appropriate distance away could itself be creepy (although obviously not as creepy as a personal space invasion itself.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:12:15.354Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Italian doesn't even have a good translation for creepy! (Inquietante ‘unsettling’ is close, but not quite there.) :-)

(Smiley obligatory per Poe's Law, as some people seem to take such arguments seriously.)

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T21:35:46.808Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Neither does French, by the way, which seems to indicate some difference on how that topic is considered in different cultures.

I'm not familiar enough with gender issues in geek conventions in France to tell what forms similar concerns take here; though I do remember a girl complaining that Richard Stallman kept staring at her boobs.

comment by ikrase · 2013-02-03T18:10:08.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have heard that some parts of Europe have very large problems with sexual harassment of an agressive form beyond creepyness.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T20:47:02.610Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The example you give illustrates the difference in personal space norms between cultures, I'll take it on your word that Italians also happen to be less easily creeped out. But the difference in personal space norms doesn't itself indicate much about who is most easily creeped out.

I suspect, based to the limited number of cultures I'm familiar with, that if you did cross-cultural studies you'd find that the two are correlated.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T20:47:59.708Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect, based to the limited number of cultures I'm familiar with, that if you did cross-cultural studies you'd find that the two are correlated.

That wouldn't surprise me.

comment by RobinZ · 2012-09-08T16:34:37.253Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Stand one metre from (say) an American and they will freak the hell out; stand one metre from an Italian and they'll wonder whether they smell.

From what I'm told about queues in New York, there might be significant regional variations among Americans in that respect.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:05:26.481Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

queues

Not obvious to me that that can be generalized to other interactions. Some people could be much less creeped out by someone waiting in a line two feet behind them but not otherwise interacting with them in any way than by someone standing in front of them talking to them at the same distance.

comment by ErikM · 2012-09-07T18:08:30.004Z · score: 25 (31 votes) · LW · GW

Hard problem.

"Change your behavior if a significant fraction complains" fails to protect isolated victims, who are likely to be the most common targets of bad behavior and also the ones in most need of support. "Change your behavior if one person complains" is grossly abusable, and the first-order fix to complain about frivolous complaints spirals off into meta. Appealing to common sense, good judgment etc. seems to me like passing the buck back to the situation that created a need for this discussion in the first place.

As a secondary consideration, there's the spectrum between an ex-Muslim requesting that all women present cover up for a few meetings while acclimatising, and a nudist showing up to a meeting and being requested by others to wear clothing while present. At what point does one's apparel start to constitute "behavior" that other people may complain about as creepy?

On thinking about this (five minutes by the clock!) I start to suspect that trying to write rules about creeping is too high-level and abstract, and it would be better to codify rules on what specific behaviors are tolerated or not, and this ruleset could vary by group. Such as:

  • You must accede to requests of the form "Don't ask me to do that again".

Edit: oops, list syntax

comment by TimS · 2012-09-07T18:45:28.843Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Do not initiate intimate physical contact (hugs, touching shoulder, etc) unless the target has previously made similar contact with you.

This rule is always safe to follow, but is suboptimal in that it rules out some contact that both parties would enjoy.

Do not act entitled to intimate physical contact unless you have already made that kind of target and are sure it was appreciated

This is mostly an anti-innuendo rule. Just as threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence, entitlement to entering personal space is equivalent to entering personal space.

comment by Incorrect · 2012-09-07T18:54:45.019Z · score: 19 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Do not initiate intimate physical contact (hugs, touching shoulder, etc) unless the target has previously made similar contact with you.

If everyone follows this rule nobody will ever initiate physical contact.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-07T20:40:28.054Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

For a better-phrased example of this rule, see the code of conduct from the OpenSF polyamory conference:

No touching other people without asking! (Or unless you already have that sort of relationship with them.) We really mean it. This means no random hands on knees, shoulders, etc. We know this is California and everyone hugs, but please do that awkward "wanna hug?" gesture before actually hugging. When in doubt about any kind of social or erotic touching, please ASK FIRST. We have attendees who do not like to be touched, and they will like you much better if you respect their personal space.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-09-08T01:09:34.630Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The OpenSF code of conduct seems pretty good in general.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T01:11:26.298Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It does! Want to clone it for the Singularity Summit?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T21:57:55.911Z · score: 10 (28 votes) · LW · GW

So, I know this funny little trick where you can verbalize a desire and seek explicit permission to act it out while taking care to make sure nothing about the situation seems especially likely to make the other party feel coerced or intimidated into giving an answer out of synch with their preferences. It basically involves paying attention, modelling the other person as an agent, deciding on that basis whether the request is appropriate (while noting the distinction between "appropriate" and "acceptable to the other person") and then asking politely. You do have to take care not to assume that the answer is or "should be" yes, though -- the difference that makes in your approach usually comes off as a bit creepy.

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-08T20:06:50.443Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If it happens that you don't know how to perform all of these magical tricks, using your words is a good first approximation. The likelihood of a good outcome is often improved if you ask e.g. "Can I hug you?" as opposed to just bounding up and hugging the person, and your blameworthiness is significantly lowered.

Note please that physically imposing folks who appear to be men and are not charismatic (like social status, but interpreted on an individual basis - the individual one considers highest-charisma is likely to be thought of as creepy by a lot of other people, because it's about walking the fine line between creepiness and friendliness) are most likely to benefit from this. This does stand to be noticed. Cute perky energetic young women can get away with hugging practically anyone without asking. This does not necessarily mean that they should.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-09-08T00:06:18.889Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Challenging, but certainly possible.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:01:18.489Z · score: 18 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Which bit do you find challenging?

I mean, I was kinda being snarky (I don't think what I suggested is all that hard or unusual at all, though it obviously varies. I've noticed a few reasons for that:

-The person is failing to model the other as an agent, as a center of perspective. Their model of the person starts and stops at their own feelings and reactions; hence, if they find the person attractive, "X is attractive to me" becomes way more salient than it would otherwise be, in determining how they'll attempt interaction. Men do this to women a lot, in general, but there are plenty of other dynamics or situations which can lead to it. Autism or similar psychological variance is massively overstated as an explanation for it; it's way too prevalent a behavior in the general population for that.

-The person has no sense of whether something is appropriate or not, even though they've modelled the other party accurately ("is agent, has preferences"). This is very common among people who, for whatever reason, have had socialization issues. They usually know there's a bewildering array of possible rules or at least broad patterns that might theoretically bear on the answer, but it's not obvious which ones apply, or that they haven't even thought of. To be honest, even socially-successful people sometimes have trouble navigating that, as soon as they're in circumstances that are unfamiliar to them -- another culture's norms, or when dealing with a known charged dynamic and they're concerned about signalling and how they come off. The trick is that there's usually not any one right answer; it can be as specific as the nonverbal communication between two parties. Is asking for a hug creepy or unnecessary? Sometimes, if you can't read the cues, you really can't know short of asking. This means there's always some subjective sense of risk; the problem is they don't know how to calibrate that to the situation, don't have a model of likely prior probabilities. All they really have is a sense of the variance on the options, which is incredibly wide.

-They're failing to not-assume-yes. This is related to the first problem; the person is failing to be aware of, or consider, the pressure their request creates, or is equivocating the risk of being told "no" or declared "creepy" to be symmetrical with the worst-case scenario on the other person's chart. For one reason or another, it just seems to them that if there's no obvious reason not to, no compelling objection in particular, then obviously the thing they want should happen. "No" isn't heard as a good answer in and of itself, not a sufficient report of the other party's preference; it's felt as somehow keeping them at arm's length, denying them the information they need to know how to get what they want. This sort of thing is very obvious from outside, because it leads to different behaviors and responses, and body language tells, when confronted with a "no."

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-09-08T01:21:30.691Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The hard part is forming an accurate model of the other person and situation.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T04:38:50.087Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Don't worry -- I'm sure those links are packed with advice on this particularly difficult subproblem! Why else would they be recommended?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T01:27:14.928Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Your last paragraph is excellent. (Others also good, last excellent.)

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T11:18:13.105Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

There's a bit of confounding between

  • "Hug?" "No, I don't want a hug." "Okay, won't ask again."
  • "Hug?" "No, I don't want a hug." "How dare you deny me what I want?"
  • "Hug?" "No, I want to lower your status, and this refusal is a way to do that." "Okay, I'm a worthless and horrible person and should grovel."
  • "Hug?" "No, I want to lower your status, and this refusal is a way to do that." "How dare you rudely shun me?"

The usual way is to convey requests and refusals by cues too subtle for status fights. The nerdy way is to always interpret answers as preference reports, not status fights. Bad things happen in the intersection.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T09:15:50.752Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That can come across to some women as insecure. (Though I'd expect most of those are in the left half of the bell curve and hence unlikely to be found in LW meetups.)

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-08T14:14:06.357Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Some women? And you're Irish? This behaviour is practically tattooing "I have poor social skills or severe confidence issues" on your forehead in any guess culture. Odd is about as positive a description as it's going to get outside of people who've not read a good deal of woman's studies stuff.

comment by fiddlemath · 2012-09-08T16:16:36.817Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly! As such, we should figure out how to turn geekdoms into ask cultures, when they aren't already. Putting even marginally socially-awkward people in situations where they have to guess other people's intentions, when everyone is intentionally avoiding making their intentions common knowledge, well, that's sort of cruel.

So, this become a problem we can actually try to solve. In a relatively small environment, like a group of a dozen or so, what can one do to induce "ask culture", instead of "guess culture"?

(This should probably be a discussion post of its own... hm.)

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T16:56:58.723Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

My own approach: if I can afford the status-hit, I ask about stuff in a guess culture, and I explicitly answer questions there. In some cases I volunteer explicit explanations even when questions weren't asked, although I'm careful about this, because it can cause a status-hit for the person I'm talking to as well.

Some additional notes:

  • I was raised in two different guess cultures simultaneously, then transferred to an ask culture in my adolescence, and I'm fairly socially adept. This caused me to think explicitly about this stuff rather a lot, even before I had words for it. That said, I strongly suspect that there's much clearer understandings of this stuff available in research literature, and a good scholar would be invaluable if you were serious about this as a project.

  • Talking about "affording the status-hit" is oversimplifying to the point of being misleading, since I live in the intersection of multiple cultures and being seen in culture A as deliberately making a status-lowering move in culture B can be a status-raising move in A. Depending on how much I value A-status and B-status, "taking a hit" in B might not be a sacrifice at all. (Of course, being seen that way in A without actually making such a move in B... for example, pretending to my A friends that I am seen as a rebel in B while in fact being no such thing... is potentially a more valuable move, albeit a risky one. As well as a dishonest one, to the extent that that matters.)

  • The terms "ask culture" and "guess culture" are misleading as well; it's more precise to think in terms of topics for which a given culture takes an "ask" stance, and topics for which it takes a "guess" stance. It's even clearer to think in terms of preferred levels of directness and indirectness when trying to find something out, since successful people don't actually guess about topics for which their culture takes a "guess" stance, they investigate indirectly. But, having said all that, I'm willing to keep talking about "ask" and "guess" culture for convenience as long as we understand the limits of the labels.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T18:24:33.582Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A downside of asking for things in a guess culture is that people have to give you the things. (Unless you're demanding so much they'd rather refuse and lose you as an ally.) Imposing this cost on people hurts them, as well as lowers your status.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T19:24:44.878Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Note that I wrote "asking about", not "asking for".

I agree that turning down requests in a guess culture has social costs, which is one reason the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate requests is considered so important.

Imposing costs on others by making demands of them doesn't necessarily lower my status.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T19:27:23.237Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Imposing costs on others by making demands of them doesn't necessarily lower my status.

Where "doesn't necessarily" for most intents and purposes could mean "does the reverse of"!

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T19:32:41.788Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. But now you've gone and ruined my guess-culture use of understatement with your ask-culture explicitness! Hrumph.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-08T15:51:00.986Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's almost as though some people consider your status hit as something of extremely low importance!

comment by fiddlemath · 2012-09-08T16:06:36.796Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Understood - but essentially no humans consider their own status hits as of extremely low importance. this is so strong that directing other people to lower their status - even if it's in their best long-term interest - is only rarely practical advice.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-08T18:23:25.207Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Oh absolutely. To be clear, I am asserting that people making this recommendation are basically following the FDA playbook. Given a tradeoff between bad things happening and costly safety measures...radically optimize for an expensive six sigmas of certainty that no bad event ever happens, with massive costs to everyone else.

Now, this strategy can make sense, if either:

  • You view even a single creepy incident as an extreme harm and believe that this sort of thing happens very often. [Note: "Creepiness is bad and I have an anecdote to prove it" is does not prove this quantitative claim.]
  • You care a lot about the feelings of people claiming creepiness and care very little about the costs to everyone else.

Arguably, the few people in this thread that are advocating extremely socially costly "safety measures" believe a combination of both.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-08T20:14:28.448Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This is sometimes a fair characterization, but remember that (like this thread has been discussing) the social cost depends a lot on your environment. Better to say that categorically recommending behaviors without understanding the perspectives of those that those behaviors would harm is a problem (obviously somewhat inevitable due to ignorance). (I think we need the term "typical social group fallacy".)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:38:00.960Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

(I'm Italian.)

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-08T14:47:54.704Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Forgive me, my memory is poor, I took your references to Ireland to mean you were Irish.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T15:06:32.321Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

(I studied in Ireland from September 2010 to May 2011.) EDIT: Why were this and the grandparent upvoted?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-09-09T09:05:16.965Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't the one who upvoted it, but volunteering extra information that reduces confusions certainly seems worth upvoting to me.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-09T22:55:37.553Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Because we want to see more comments like this (i.e. clearing up confusion), and because in a thread this large it only takes a small percentage of people deciding that a comment is high-quality for it to get upvoted.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T18:21:37.008Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably more accurate to refer to hint cultures rather than guess cultures.

I wish lojban had worked out better-- it would be very handy to have a concise way of indicating whether you're talking about how a culture feels from the inside or the outside.

comment by thomblake · 2012-09-10T16:27:42.127Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably more accurate to refer to hint cultures rather than guess cultures.

Probably depends who's talking.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:14:32.124Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It's almost like there is no one magic rule set for interacting with us or something! ;p

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-08T19:59:51.974Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

On the one hand, emphatically yes - when talking about How To Interact with people of X gender, people tend to make a lot of generalizations.

On the other, feminist scripts seem to be against didactically learning social rules to an extreme extent - instead of pointing out "Hey, this thing works on maybe three out of four women, referring to that subset as 'women' makes you believe less in the other one-quarter," they go the entirely opposite direction and say that learning any rule, ever, is wrong and misleading and Evil. I dislike this, and while your comment is clearly not being this, it can easily be read as it by someone with experience interacting with those scripts.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T14:28:31.921Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists can be for women who use other social conventions, and vice versa. Makes it hard when one doesn't know the convention being used. Also makes other-optimising a problem here.

(Edited for clarification)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T19:47:36.859Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Heck, I suspect that in a lot of cases what a feminist claims is creepy on the internet, and what the same feminist would find creepy in real life are different things.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T21:44:13.065Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That extends to more than feminists, and more than creepiness; people's verbal descriptions of grammatical or moral rules often don't match the judgement they will give to specific cases. More generally, people can't see how their brain works, and when they try to describe it they will get a lot wrong.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-09-09T11:19:36.245Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Creepiness is partially context-dependent. If you try to list all details, there will be too many details to remember. On the other hand, if you try to find some general rules (such as: "don't make people feel uncomfortable"), some people will have problem translating them to specific situations.

This could be possibly solved by making a "beginners" handbook, which would contain the general rules and their specific instances in the most typical situations (at school, at job, on street, in shop), and later some specific advice for less typical situations (at disco, at funeral, etc.).

But still, even the internet version would probably need different sections for instant messengers, facebook, e-mail... even for e-mail to different groups of people... Eh. Anyway, it could also start with most frequent situations, and progress to the more rare ones.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T15:02:22.722Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists is not for women who go other social conventions, and vice versa. [...]

(Edit: sorry for the double negative)

I suspect one of those negatives still has to go, no?

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T15:25:31.201Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think I was really meaning to say "not not creepy" at the time :S

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T15:44:06.905Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But do you mean to say that the creepiness standards of internet feminists are the same as that for "women who go other social convention"? I was expecting you to mean that they were different.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2012-09-08T16:04:30.825Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Is it clearer like this?

I often find that what is not-creepy for internet feminists is not for women who follow other social conventions, and vice versa.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T18:43:15.236Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly even clearer:

"I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists is creepy for women who follow other social conventions, and vice versa."

Examples would be nice.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T15:47:52.928Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I meant 'not creepy' for internet feminists (asking politely) corresponding to 'not not creepy' for other people.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T15:55:45.764Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, OK, it makes sense now (though I suspect most people will still read it the wrong way)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T10:40:47.910Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't even notice where the negatives were in the original version -- I just assumed the intended meaning to be the one that makes sense.

Relevant Language Log post

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T04:37:46.136Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I like how the guides go about detailing how to do this, rather than simply telling people more things they're doing wrong.

Wait...

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-09-08T07:13:23.623Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

You have to follow some extra links to reach the "do" advice., but it's there.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T18:17:42.038Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

A problem with teasing is that it sets up an environment where it can feel very risky to say "No, I don't like being teased". Will the request be respected, or will it be met with more teasing?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T19:32:17.616Z · score: 9 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I like the sentence "I am done being teased now". It seems to work pretty well.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T01:38:00.634Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I like that approach. Unfortunately, for some of the most socially-adept (in other respects), any request not to tease is itself regarded as an invitation for more teasing -- or at least, the "I really need to stop" sensor is way too insensitive to negatives. Even worse, some end up liking the person because of this (which obviously has horrid incentive effects).

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-09T04:08:39.767Z · score: -25 (43 votes) · LW · GW

My request that you not reply to my comments was not, and never became, an invitation for replies to my comments.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T04:38:43.013Z · score: 29 (41 votes) · LW · GW

My request that you not reply to my comments was not, and never became, an invitation for replies to my comments.

Alicorn's request for SilasBarta to not reply to her comments was not, and never became, an obligation for him to not speak up when Alicorn says things that he opposes.

Replying to a comment on a forum is not the same as approaching someone in person to engage in conversation. It is, fittingly, like responding to a public speech at the forum. Accordingly, the right to reply to Alicorn's comments isn't something that requires her 'invitation'. She does not have the right to speak whatever she wishes and demand that someone in particular who disagrees with her may not reply. (Except, I suppose, in the technical sense whereby she could in principle abuse her moderation powers to prevent someone replying for any reason she chose.)

This particular play for status and control over SilasBarta should be rejected and crushed mercilessly. SilasBarta's comment isn't personal in nature and so does not represent the kind of social approach that fits with the subject of this thread and doesn't get the same treatment.

The solution to not wanting to see replies by a specific individual is an ignore feature and that is one we really need here. There are plenty of people I whose comments I don't want to see and as a bonus that which is not seen can not be fed.

comment by komponisto · 2012-09-12T05:50:59.462Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Also, the grandparent is disingenuous. Presumably, Silas assumed that the request had simply expired, not that it had morphed into a different kind of request.

...as did I, frankly. I'm now commenting here after seeing this and thinking, "Oh, no, please don't let this be about....that!", and then finding, to my utter horror, that it was indeed about that.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T14:54:10.369Z · score: -1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

My request that you not reply to my comments was not, and never became, an invitation for replies to my comments.

Alicorn's request for SilasBarta to not reply to her comments was not, and never became, an obligation for him to not speak up when Alicorn says things that he opposes.

Alicorn's request was exactly that. What else could the words possibly mean?

I agree that an "ignore" feature would be very valuable for this site.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T15:03:58.323Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Alicorn's request was exactly that.

A request is not exactly an obligation. If you disagree, I request that you give me all your money.

What else could the words possibly mean?

I think my words above mean that I have uttered an unreasonable request that someone with healthy boundaries would ignore.

(Note that even if you happen to believe people have the particular rights of control over others that Alicorn has claimed your reply here would still seem to be confusing the nature of the relationship between verbal symbols and obligation.)

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-09T05:00:54.488Z · score: -34 (52 votes) · LW · GW

I have just solicited from Eliezer, and received, permission to ban further comments from Silas that reply to me.

End of thread.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-09T07:39:51.730Z · score: 34 (43 votes) · LW · GW

This makes me lose respect for both you and Eliezer.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-09T08:34:56.114Z · score: 10 (28 votes) · LW · GW

I don't really enjoy bringing this up, much less in this thread, but IIRC, it used to be that SilasBarta would hound Alicorn and "follow her around" on the site (by specifically tracking her recent comments) in order to confront her. This is deeply disruptive behavior which can actually drive honest users off the site, so it's very much not OK. No users should be getting this kind of treatment, unless they're actually being so annoying on their own that we'd rather drive them off.

Let Silas apologize to Eliezer directly for his problem behavior, then we can think about lifting these restrictions on his commenting privileges.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T18:42:56.742Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

but IIRC, it used to be that SilasBarta would hound Alicorn and "follow her around" on the site (by specifically tracking her recent comments) in order to confront her.

Completely and utterly false.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T10:37:09.259Z · score: -4 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Oh the irony. The last link in the OP specifically discusses exactly this scenario.

While the outcome for a woman targeted by a man like this is poor, the damage done to the group by all the other men staying silent (or outright supporting him) is huge. Really, this isn't even buried in the comments, this is the whole point of the two letters discussed in that link.

I can't speak to whether there are problems of this sort in LW meetups, but right here is our evidence of it here in LW comments.

I understand concerns about censorship, arbitrary moderation, special treatment, etc, but everyone who downvoted Alicorn and upvoted wedrifid here has also sent a message of tacit support for SilasBarta and a very clear message to any other woman here.

From my link above, edited:

Step 1: A creepy dude does creepy, entitled shit and makes women feel unsafe {in LW}

Step 2: The women speak up about it {in LW}

Step 3: It gets written off as “not a big deal” or “he probably didn’t mean it” or “he’s not a bad guy, really.” {...}

Step 4: Everyone is worried about hurting creepy dude’s feelings or making it weird for creepy dude. Better yet, everyone is worried about how the other dudes in the friend group will feel if they are called out for enabling creepy dude. Women are worried that if they push the issue, that the entire friend group will side with creepy dude or that they’ll be blamed for causing “drama.” {...}

Step 5: Creepy dude creeps on with his creepy self. He’s learned that there are no real (i.e. “disapproval & pushback from dudes and dude society”) consequences to his actions. Women feel creeped out and unsafe. Some of them decide to take a firm stand against creeping and not {participate in LW} anymore. {...} Some of the woman decide to just quietly put up with it, because they’ve learned that no one will really side with them and it’s easier to go along than to lose one’s entire community. The whole group works around this missing stair.

The Geek Social Fallacies seem rather apt here, too.

(Edit to fix square bracket use)

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-09T15:39:50.737Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

By this exact scenario, do you mean something TOTALLY different? disagreeing with someone who makes public comments on an internet forum is not "creepy entitled shit" (you wouldn't even have thought to make this accusation here if SilasBarta was female and Eliezer was the target) and even if we assume that the original situation of banning him from responding to her was totally justified (I don't know, I haven't read the backdrama), then it's still ridiculous for Alicorn to respond to a thread SilasBarta is talking in without him being able to reply. I'm not trying to defend anything SilasBarta did in the past, I'm trying to defend conversation. If you have a restraining order against someone, you shouldn't walk right up to THEM and force them to leave wherever they happen to be.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-10T10:14:16.370Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(you wouldn't even have thought to make this accusation here if SilasBarta was female and Eliezer was the target)

Agreed, and I think that says something interesting and useful. Symmetry is not a useful tool here.

If there's broader interest in seeing some attempt at a rationalist view of privilege I'm keen to get whatever help is available, and take it to a separate Discussion.

comment by coffeespoons · 2012-09-10T14:16:28.892Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would be interested in seeing some attempt at a rationalist view of privilege, however I'm not sure that it would be welcome here; also I do think there are many advantages in trying to stick to the "no mindkiller topics" rule. Do you have a personal blog that you could post it on? If you do decide post it on LW I would recommend using the open thread, rather than the discussion or main section.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T10:46:12.756Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Oh the irony. The last link in the OP specifically discusses exactly this scenario.

No. It. Does. Not.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T10:53:46.883Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect if I were LW-high-status, I could politely point out that while we've both argued from assertions, one of us has expanded on their assertion, and one of us has not.

Unless you mean "that linked post does not discuss LW or any of the individuals you reference, so claiming it specifically discusses exactly this scenario is trivially false"? I have no objection to curbing my hyperbole with an edit.

I take from your vehemence that your disagreement is more fundamental though. Do you have more words there you're willing to add, here or in PM?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T11:06:31.234Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect if I were LW-high-status, I could politely point out that while we've both argued from assertions, one of us has expanded on their assertion, and one of us has not.

What is it about being low status that makes you think you are better served by making the claim passively aggressively rather than politely? Politeness usually more important when status is lacking, not less. Or do you consider this style to be even more polite than, well, pointing out politely?

As it happens I have expanded rather a lot in my original message. I chose not to expand further in response to either you or bogus because I didn't see benefit to such engagement.

I take from your vehemence that your disagreement is more fundamental though.

The thing in the OP is bad. Replying to public comments isn't. That is all.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-09T11:22:20.393Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Oh the irony. The last link in the OP specifically discusses exactly this scenario.

No way. Hounding users on an internet site can cause a lot of annoyance and status problems, but it's not creepy, i.e. it entails no shared threat of bodily harm. People routinely get away with extremely weird behavior on internet groups, even though corresponding behaviors (even something as mild as a heated social confrontation) would get them shunned and ostracized, or perhaps physically assaulted and injured, in a real-world actual community where bodily harm considerations are critical. There is nothing wrong with this persay - it just takes some getting used to.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T15:00:28.611Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Hounding someone, even if there are no threats, can turn an online group into no fun for them.

I'm not convinced it's true that all female fury at male inappropriate attention is based in fear of physical harm. However, large amounts of inappropriate attention can be a huge attention and energy drain-- mental cpus are a limited resource.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-09T15:15:40.455Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

However, large amounts of inappropriate attention can be a huge attention and energy drain-- mental cpus are a limited resource.

Yes, that's why I tend to pull out the magic words: "Please put me on your do-not-call list". Works like a charm.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-14T15:32:25.251Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No way. Hounding users on an internet site can cause a lot of annoyance and status problems, but it's not creepy, i.e. it entails no shared threat of bodily harm.

I disagree with your definition of "creepy". However, whether we define the word that way or not, would you agree that it is behaviour worth discouraging?

It is one thing to disagree with a view that someone is expressing. It is quite another to follow that person around, disproportionately, in order to find opportunities to disagree specifically with them, (whether that's in order to make them feel unwelcome and drive them out, or whether via some twisted logic the hounder feels it gains them dominance or even sees it as courting behaviour).

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T11:41:31.739Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Just confirming: are you disagreeing because link posited risk of escalation to assault which I agree seems impossible in a purely online context?

I drew the analogy because it called out the toxic effects on a community, and that in many ways the toxicity is not that there was a creeper, but that there is much signalling in their support that has follow-on effects.

Assuming those claimed signalling secondary losses are correct, I don't see anything specific to an online context that would be immune. The "risk of escalation" discussed there seems severable from its other points.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-09T12:15:34.276Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am disagreeing because I regard what you call "risk of escalation to assault" (or, more generally: risks of bodily harm and benefits from tightly-knit social cooperation) as a critical determinant of social interaction. It is very hard to meaningfully compare real-world and online contexts, much less regard them as "the exact same scenario".

(Indeed, I have jokingly argued before that we should totally deprecate and taboo the term "community" as referring to online social groups, since it tends to promote this very kind of ontological confusion.)

As for your question about "toxicity", let's just say that this particular discussion has been held already. If anything, LW has seemed to err towards taking complaints about divisive or disruptive behavior more seriously than they otherwise would, especially when outgroup status is a factor.

comment by Kindly · 2012-09-09T14:08:30.216Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The obvious solution is to only ban creepy, personal comments.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T19:34:16.433Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer confirmed to me via PM that he did grant permission, and did it based on his trust of Alicorn.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T05:14:18.687Z · score: 18 (28 votes) · LW · GW

I have just solicited from Eliezer, and received, permission to ban further comments from Silas that reply to me.

(Except, I suppose, in the technical sense whereby she could in principle abuse her moderation powers to prevent someone replying for any reason she chose.)

It seems my caveats were too generous. I honestly thought you would be outright offended if I even hinted that you would do such a thing. It seems obviously the sort of thing a moderator would be careful not to do.

Silas, please document all such abuses---PM them to me.

It should be noted that all instances of comments which moderator privileges prevent reply to represent comments that I wish to see less of on lesswrong, for reasons related to filtered evidence.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T05:17:51.299Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. Interestingly, I was about to reply to your quoted comment with something about it being irresponsible to even insinuate that a moderator would abuse their power that way, &c. but ... yeah. I just PM'd EY for confirmation. If true, this may just be "jump the shark" day.

comment by Pavitra · 2012-09-09T06:21:47.903Z · score: -9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt that a rogue moderator would receive express advance approval of abusive actions. If Eliezer says that Alicorn may ban certain comments, then it is not abusive for Alicorn to ban those comments.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T06:26:58.805Z · score: 19 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt that a rogue moderator would receive express advance approval of abusive actions. If Eliezer says that Alicorn may ban certain comments, then it is not abusive for Alicorn to ban those comments.

If Eliezer's approval makes the action tautologically non-abusive then please act as if I substituted a different word that means something along the lines of "detrimental, innapropriate, politically ill advised, deprecated and considered 'naughty' by user:wedrifid". ;)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T08:11:02.532Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer's approval makes the action tautologically non-abusive

I am stealing that.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T09:14:37.361Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Like it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T14:54:53.202Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

End of thread is something you are not in a position to enforce.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T15:14:56.318Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

End of thread is something you are not in a position to enforce.

Is that literally true?

I would have said "Enforcing End of Thread would seem to be politically ill-advised in this instance".

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-09T21:49:42.627Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I would have said "Enforcing End of Thread would seem to be politically ill-advised in this instance".

Well, given Eliezer's recent actions his attitude seems to be that as the supreme rationalist leader of lesswrong he can ignore anyone else's opinion.

comment by thomblake · 2012-09-10T16:23:29.592Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

(paid karma to respond)

As I understood the spirit of the original agreement, you were not supposed to comment downthread from Silas if you didn't want to be responded-to. You did so.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T19:37:49.955Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks-- I'll keep it in mind. The advantage might be that it has no flavor of "please stop teasing me".

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T19:43:54.753Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't say please at all. It says "we were doing this thing. Now we aren't anymore."

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T20:07:07.083Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly. It's a status assertion.

I've presumably got some background assumptions that being teased means I'm in a one-down position.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T01:43:25.578Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think it manages to avoid the usual unpleasantness associated with saying, "hey, this is serious now", but then, I prefer bluntness anyway.

comment by katydee · 2012-09-12T10:55:46.704Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Since many issues of this type stem not from polite-but-overreaching people but rather the legitimately impolite, this method may not always be hugely effective. Legitimately impolite people would hear something like that and reply "Are you?" with a smirk. Also, if you get angry or seriously assertive, they are likely to assume the problem is on your end and tell people about how "crazy" you are.

The fact that many people reward such behavior is of course a major contributor to this issue.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-12T15:24:23.176Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I solve that problem on the meta-level by not hanging out with impolite people after discovering this fact about them.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-07T19:36:35.863Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think a commonsense reading of this rule would prohibit holding one's arms up and saying "Hugs?"

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:58:20.363Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Or possibly just "Hugs okay?", sans the arms outstretched (it can create pressure; the person has signalled very loudly in social terms, so the other person's denial can lead to face loss; people who've been socialized to be sensitive to that, whether for cultural or other reasons, might find the outstretched arms add pressure. Fine for folks who've no issue asserting their boundaries loudly and clearly without concern for face, but that's not even enough of everybody to be a really good rule, I think.)

comment by Armok_GoB · 2012-09-08T18:23:51.538Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is being vague with who it's directed at and counting on something like the bystander effect a good hack for that?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T19:05:47.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. I've not tried that myself, but as someone who had a lot of past awkwardness and cluelessness in social situations, and now does alright, it strikes me as not a good move. My sense is that it'll just look like a different flavor of awkward-confused, albeit one that puts less direct pressure on the person.

comment by Zvi · 2012-09-11T18:24:08.000Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Jandila's response here illustrates the vital point that common sense is not a safe way to read advice in this area. If you need advice, what you consider common sense will often be deeply wrong.

comment by waveman · 2012-09-08T01:31:47.080Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

The only explanation for this is that it is acceptable for women to initiate physical contact without prior contact by the other party. This is an unconscious double standard.

comment by eurg · 2012-09-08T18:54:05.340Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In many social groups touching initiated from women is often received just as bad as from men, and fairly so. I am sure there are lots of groups with this specific double standard, but it is not universal, not by a large margin.

Also, "only explanation": Really?

comment by TimS · 2012-09-07T18:59:19.766Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This rule is always safe to follow, but is suboptimal in that it rules out some contact that both parties would enjoy.

comment by MBlume · 2012-09-08T04:17:44.056Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Just as threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence

Threats of violence are bad. Threats of violence are bad because acts of violence are bad. Some of the moral badness of acts of violence flows into threats of violence and makes them bad too. Threats of violence should not be tolerated.

Threats of violence are not morally equivalent to acts of violence. The fact that we're talking about practical real-world morality is no excuse to lose our ability to think quantitatively.

comment by katydee · 2012-09-08T01:19:53.811Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

"threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence"

Um, what?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T16:04:56.993Z · score: 24 (38 votes) · LW · GW

"If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours."

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

One thing that is spoken about over and over in those links is how majority-male groups often ignore creepy -- or outright abusive -- behaviour towards women. If you're a man, and you're in a large group with only a small number of women, and they find your behaviour creepy, you need to change it even if none of the men care. It's actually worse if it's not 'a significant fraction', because then the person you're upsetting may have no support within the group.

If someone tells you "don't do that, it's creepy and it's upsetting me" then don't do that.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-07T16:19:14.156Z · score: 18 (22 votes) · LW · GW

IAWYC but this gets you the conjugate problem of allowing some asshole who finds things like partial loss of speech creepy to evict people from the group.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-09-07T16:26:22.362Z · score: 5 (15 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't seem a very plausible problem. In the majority of cases I'd guess that someone declaring themselves creeped are actually creeped out - and in the few cases where they're just obviously trying to make trouble, I expect the group's common sense will prevail in order to evict them instead.

As a sidenote, isn't it just as easy to write "Agreed" instead of IAWYC"? I had to look up what that meant...

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-07T16:36:23.493Z · score: 17 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Being creeped out by some manifestations of disability seems quite plausible to me. If not "partial loss of speech", we could go with something like stereotypical Tourette's.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-07T19:01:26.792Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Some people are creeped out by sex-related behavior described in the post. We agree that this creepy behavior is wrong and want to reduce it, so we talk about norms and actions against creeping.

Some people are creeped out by disabilities, or by minorities, race, disfigurement, and a host of other things. We think (some of) these creepy things are not wrong and want to encourage or legitimize them, so we talk about not allowing anti-creepy action.

This seems indeed like the worst argument in the world. The problem seems to be that the behavior discussed in the post has no precise name of its own, so it appropriates the term "creepy" which was originally much wider in application. Then others react against the new norms being applied to all "creepy" behavior.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-07T21:00:11.320Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

We're trying to assign a static attribute to explain behaviors which shake out to a particular (and highly individual) emotional response. That's not quite the Worst Argument -- though it is related -- but it is a very bad habit of argument.

We're never going to find a "creepyp" type predicate attached to anyone. It may be that some subset of LWers exhibit behavior which reliably tends to alienate certain groups we'd be interested in hearing more from, though, and if so it should be possible for us to describe this behavior and try to develop group norms to exclude it: as a community we're pretty good at analyzing that sort of thing, and it certainly beats spiraling further into semantic fail.

On the other hand, I can see some potential for close examination of the problem to lead into gender fail -- something that we've historically been very poor at dealing with.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-07T22:50:47.054Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"Creepy" is a natural category - it describes behaviors that are likely to cause a certain emotion. This emotion is triggered by things that are obviously bad, by things that are subtly bad and often announce worse things when the group isn't looking, and by non-bad things.

Our aim is to combat the first two while allowing the last one. Anti-creepy action ("Stop all creepy behavior, get out if you can't") acts against all three. Banning obviously bad things ("Ask before you touch") acts only against the first one.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T22:39:01.314Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reminded of the Diseased Thinking post. If you can't successfully discourage someone with Tourette's from inappropriate swearing but you can successfully discourage a neurotypical male from exhibiting inappropriate sexual-like behaviour, then it makes sense to attempt the latter but not the former.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T02:31:00.855Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the issue was creep behavior, not sexual-like behavior (the latter of which I assume nerds are permitted, from time to time!). And that makes it harder, since a person can also seem weird for erring in the opposite direction, in which they don't start conversations or make eye contact (outside of conversations).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T08:44:55.120Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was mentioning swearing and sexual-like behaviour as two different examples of behaviours which might creep people out. (Edited the grandparent to say “inappropriate swearing” and “inappropriate sexual-like behaviour”.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-09-09T12:39:34.360Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Also, people who are prejudiced against certain groups (or against specific behaviors by those groups) might claim to be creeped out by those people, while giving a reason that seems entirely distinct from their prejudice. It might not even be at all conscious.

E.g. if a woman is assertive and has strong opinions, people are more likely to say that the woman is being rude than if a man had exactly the same behaviors. In a man, they might even consider those traits admirable. It's not at all a given that the complainers even realize that they have a double standard - to them, the woman simply comes off as rude while the man comes off as strong-willed and charismatic.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T16:28:51.718Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

No, it doesn't, because it's talking about the responsibility of the individual, not the group. If someone tells me I'm behaving inappropriately, that's for me to deal with. It's only if and when I don't deal with it that it becomes a problem for a group -- and one would hope that any group confronted with such a person would dismiss their complaints.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-07T17:45:50.571Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

This directly contradicts your comment in response to Douglas_Reay lower down

comment by Raemon · 2012-09-07T17:56:08.510Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How so?

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-07T18:00:30.041Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He recommends bringing it to the group in this comment, but says in the other comment that even if the entire group disagrees with the creeped out person they are still in the right.

comment by Raemon · 2012-09-07T18:29:01.615Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Only as a last resort, and he didn't prescribe a particular action for the group to take. The whole point was that individual people should take responsibility for addressing problems if they can, but that individuals don't have sole power to evict people from the group, which was the argument he was responding to.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T22:03:18.718Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly,

comment by evand · 2012-09-07T16:35:51.116Z · score: -12 (32 votes) · LW · GW

This approach of listing possible excuses for perpetrators, and accusing hypothetical victims of making it all up, is a big part of the culture of support for creeps that the linked articles are complaining about.

Your comment, and ones like it, are part of the problem.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-07T16:39:04.353Z · score: 27 (33 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, sweeping dismissal of legit concern. Sometimes people do creepy things. When they do, it's very important to the people they're creeping on that they be believed. This doesn't mean sentences of the form "X is creepy" have some kind of sacredness property that immunizes them from ever being false or used for goals they shouldn't be.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T00:17:31.479Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

So, my social skills are not great. Aren't even really good. But over the last few years, I've gotten so much better from where I was that it's ridiculous.

Anyway, I wish people, particularly women, had been that open with me about my behavior.

Let me be clear: the scenario you present almost never happens. Now, if it does happens, yes, the creep involved has no excuse but to stop. But the signals people, and particularly woman, give off can be much more obscure if you don't know what you're doing.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:59:58.499Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Now, if it does happens, yes, the creep involved has no excuse but to stop. But the signals people, and particularly woman, give off can be much more obscure if you don't know what you're doing.

That sounds like placing the onus for dealing with poor social skills onto the person who's confronted with them, though, in a general sort of way.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T02:07:54.558Z · score: 22 (26 votes) · LW · GW

If you're dealing with a person with a person with poor social skills, the onus is already on you. You can try to help, or you can run away, or do a hundred other things, but you are already dealing with it.

I'd just like to suggest that using subtle social cues on the socially inept might not be terribly effective for accomplishing desired social outcomes with that person.

comment by Nisan · 2012-09-08T10:50:27.773Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'd just like to point out that "onus" is a horrible word, one that should automatically be marked with a red flag. It's probably not doing you any favors here.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T02:19:06.572Z · score: 5 (17 votes) · LW · GW

If you're dealing with a person with a person with poor social skills, the onus is already on you

As a person with poor-to-middling social skills at the best of times: no, that's silly and I reject it as a working premise for conflict resolution and group interaction.

Establishing a social norm that hey, some folks here might be autistic or poorly socialized or otherwise have some difficulties with the usual set of interactions is completely different from establishing a norm that whenever someone failing at some element of socialization, and thereby causing others to feel unsafe, pressured or disturbed, then those who've had the reaction are obligated to see the situation resolved to that first party's favor.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T02:31:08.569Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't say that. You can do what you want. But if someone made you feel uncomfortable, you already feel uncomfortable. Should they not have made you feel uncomfortable? Yes. Is it fair? No.

What are you going to do about it? That's the only question you get to answer.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T02:34:23.260Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You're swinging rather wide of my point, here.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T02:49:20.419Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The point of my post was: you may have swung rather wide of mine.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T02:06:01.647Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

For practical purposes, the onus should be on whoever has the ability to deal with it. If someone unknowingly does something you don't like, and you want them to stop, telling them is say more useful to both of you, regardless of your views on "victim blaming"

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:05:17.314Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The scenario may not have happened to you. That doesn't mean it 'almost never happens'.

If you haven't been told that you're doing anything wrong, then obviously you can't be blamed for carrying on. My point is only that if you have been told, you shouldn't be waiting for some quorum to come to a conclusion, just stop doing the thing that is upsetting the other person.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T01:43:11.420Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

They totally told me I was doing things wrong. All the time. It's just they were doing so in a code I didn't understand and expecting me to operate by rules I wasn't told about. If a woman did something like this seven years ago, (And, while the same thing didn't happen, a lot of the subtler cues did.), I would have done the same things the man did. I was never, ever told, "Hey man, you're being creepy. Cut it out." I wouldn't have known what to do, and I would have done the exact wrong thing.

I wouldn't do it now. I'm roughly as good of a person as I was then, I just understand the rules better.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T15:33:22.618Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Saying "You do NOT touch me" or "Don't want to talk about this", as that person did, is not a code.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T15:48:39.410Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Great! Now speak in non-code when people are approaching the line, not five miles past it.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T16:23:29.783Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

If (1) a population varies widely in terms of how direct a demand needs to be before they recognize it as one, and
(2) framing a demand much more directly than necessary for a particular target to recognize it is viewed as socially inappropriate ("hey, OK, you don't have to make a federal case out of it lady! Jeez. Some people have no friggin sense of proportion, y'know?"), and
(3) framing a demand much more weakly than necessary is both ineffective (that is, my demand gets ignored) and viewed as socially inappropriate when I eventually ramp up to the necessary level of directness...

...well, you tell me: what should I do in that situation, when there's a demand I want to make of an individual whose sensitivity to demands I don't know?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T18:17:36.893Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You forgot (4): not recognizing a demand and refusing to comply are indistinguishable.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T19:26:26.882Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you clarify why you consider this something I forgot?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T18:52:44.252Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You forgot (4): not recognizing a demand and refusing to comply are indistinguishable.

Can be. Depending how the refusing is done I'd even suggest that not recognizing can be 'creepier'.

comment by Antisuji · 2012-09-09T02:21:19.935Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is troubling if true. The worst offenders described in the OP's links are creepers of the latter type, who know their behavior is bad but do it anyway. And yet this is seen as not as creepy as behavior from someone who is socially inept but not malicious?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T03:49:49.027Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The worst offenders described in the OP's links are creepers of the latter type, who know their behavior is bad but do it anyway. And yet this is seen as not as creepy as behavior from someone who is socially inept but not malicious?

No.

comment by TimS · 2012-09-09T04:02:56.689Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Given the structure of the sentence, I can't tell if you endorse that "oblivious is worse than malicious"

Oblivious is more difficult to deal with, in that it takes a more subtle intervention over a longer period of time. But I'm not sure that difficulty of correcting the problem is correlated with how "creepy" the behavior is, or appears to be to the target.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T04:10:21.737Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Given the structure of the sentence, I can't tell if you endorse that "oblivious is worse than malicious"

No.

comment by Antisuji · 2012-09-09T07:15:21.661Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In that case I am confused. Which is seen as creepier, deliberate bad behavior or ineptitude? Or do I completely misunderstand?

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-09T09:54:25.131Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Ineptitude mostly. Doing something that could be interpreted as creepy in full knowledge is either a calculated risk or the act of an asshole. Assholes might sometimes be worth hanging out with, or being associated with from a social/political point of view. Creepy people have well below average social skills more or less by definition; associating with them is harmful to ones reputation. That's why one gets the feeling of revulsion/contamination.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T21:16:53.933Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Female perspective- I see deliberate bad behavior as MUCH MUCH worse than ineptitude.

People who act deliberately bad are bad people and I don't want them near me. Assholes are NOT worth hanging out with. Men who are ok with hanging out with these sorts of people ("Well they act deliberately bad towards women, but have social status/ are fun to be with, so...") are supporting their deliberately bad behavior, and showing that they will not support women when men are deliberately bad towards them. I don't want to hang out with THOSE sorts of guys either.

People who are just inept are not as scary, and can learn "ept-ness". They might occasionally creep me out accidentally, but are not doing the deliberately bad things that I believe SHOULD result in social shunning.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T09:11:19.786Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In that case I am confused. Which is seen as creepier, deliberate bad behavior or ineptitude? Or do I completely misunderstand?

I haven't actually made a claim about either deliberate bad behavior or malice. I do claim that there is a subset of situations and responses where the form of aware-noncompliance is less creepy than the ignorance. I doubt that subset overlaps all that much with the other subset of noncompliance which also constitutes either bad behavior or malice.

Not even noticing demands really does have the potential to convey a lot of creepiness.

comment by hairyfigment · 2012-09-08T02:30:42.161Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Let me be clear: the scenario you present almost never happens.

How do you figure? Also, what do you mean? 'Only a small fraction of men do this,' or 'This almost never happens to women as described'? And are you taking 'creepy' to mean deliberately malicious, or more like what you just said you used to do?

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T02:35:46.347Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I mean, women almost never react to being creeped out with an unambiguous response that makes a socially inept person know what's going on with no room for denial.

I really wished they did, but I can understand why they don't.

comment by hairyfigment · 2012-09-08T02:49:19.315Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, I think we agree on all that. Do you see why "no room for denial" might seem deeply creepy, and not a requirement that an inept adult could possibly be applying consistently?

The parens note pauses (very short or, where a number is given, in seconds or tenths thereof); the “.hh indicates a short inhale.

Example 3

Mark: We were wondering if you wanted to come over Saturday, f ’r dinner.

(0.4)

Jane: Well (.) .hh it’d be great but we promised Carol already.

(Potter and Wetherell, 1987: 86)

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T11:25:00.581Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This says that people understand indirect refusals the same in sexual and non-sexual contexts. It doesn't say that everyone understands them.

A person who never thinks "Shit, are they bored, or are they just making sure I'm not bored?" will never think "Shit, are they turning down sex, or are they just making sure I really want it?". A person who has trouble with the former may well run into the latter. (Still not an excuse though.)

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T02:53:54.084Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect the denial doesn't come so much from "determined to do things despite consent" as much as "determined to preserve one's own self esteem." But it comes off creepy anyway.

They're totally applying it inconsistently. But they don't know that. Hence, the social ineptitude.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T03:50:27.448Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't always work anyway.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T05:08:04.611Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Of course. But it destroys excuses, which I've found to be the best motivation for action, both in myself and others

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-10T07:39:09.067Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If someone tells you "don't do that, it's creepy and it's upsetting me" then don't do that.

Don't do that to them, and reevaluate tactics in general after updating for this encounter.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T16:14:22.598Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-10T17:51:11.551Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'll add that you should also reevaluate how much you should be interacting with that person at all, and not just changing some particular behavior.

Someone who finds you upsetting is just not your natural market in the first place, and even if that limited data sample is an unfortunate fluke, or even if you agree that your behavior was inappropriate, it has happened, so you're now Mr. Creepy to that person. Maybe you can climb your way out of that hole, but you're likely better off spending your time and energy where you're not starting out in a hole. Know when to fold a bad hand.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T22:34:28.995Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

“If” just means it's a sufficient condition, not necessarily that it's also a necessary one.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-07T16:16:34.503Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, I just wasn't sure how to word it to make clear that the same reasoning applies if a significant fraction of the members of one gender think you're creepy then, even if they are outnumbered by the other gender, that's still a significant fraction.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T16:31:17.978Z · score: 3 (23 votes) · LW · GW

No.

Not 'a significant fraction'.

One of the prime tools used by the kind of arsehole who infiltrates groups in order to rape is to isolate individuals, and behave differently towards them. If any individual person thinks your behaviour towards them is creepy, it is your responsibility to change your behaviour towards that person, even if everyone else disagrees with them.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-07T17:44:13.112Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can understand this on a sort of "don't be a dick" set of rules where if something you do makes someone uncomfortable you should prefer not to do it, a rule of this kind is not just open to abuse but oppressive in and of itself.

comment by Raemon · 2012-09-07T17:57:55.818Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Most moral guidelines have a bajillion exceptions. All rules are ultimately something of a "don't be a dick" rule.

It occurs to me that perhaps, as LW-ers we tend to like nice, codified rules you could program into an AI, so our tendency is to read rules as "execute this behavior consistently" rather than "this is the generally correct heuristic, but use your judgement as appropriate."

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-07T18:09:47.707Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Falling back on vagueness misses the entire point of the rules, which is simultaneously to provide a guideline for well-meaning but oblivious people and to allow your group to expel people for clearcut reasons. If you are worried about being creepy and bad at reading social signals, the rules do you the favor of allowing you to be good nonetheless, whereas a vague exception-filled guideline is almost useless as telling someone to not be creepy. If you are a bad person, the rules mean you can't defend yourself by saying you're well-meaning or whatever, because if you touch people without permission a bunch, we can point to the rules and say "Go away".

comment by Raemon · 2012-09-07T18:26:11.294Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

First: I'm actually in the process of figuring out my own take on this, so my opinion may be subject to change over the course of this thread (and a few other threads elsewhere in the internet that happened to come up at the same time).

There's two sets of rules getting talked about here - one is the rules for the group, the other is the rules for an individual.

Because of things like bystander effect, status-quo bias, etc, it's important for groups to have some clear cut lines which, if crossed, result in expulsion (or at least a solid warning with a clear threat of expulsion).

I think AndrewHickey was not referring to codified group rules at the time, but to your own personal rules you should be following, regardless. The group shouldn't automatically expel every member who's doing something that one person finds arbitrarily creepy. But if you find that someone is creeped out by a behavior of yours, you should still take it upon yourself to alter that behavior, at least around that person, for no reason other than that it bothers them. You should also use common sense in the corner case that some person is arbitrarily deciding "I find X creepy" in a deliberate effort to screw with you.

It's also your responsibility to treat that question seriously and not look for reasons like "this person is arbitrarily declaring me creepy" as an excuse to not have to change your behavior.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T22:11:38.393Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly. I was talking about the 'rule' "If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours."

That's a rule for an individual's behaviour. And as written it's a stupid rule that invites abuse -- the stereotypical 'nice guy' can just say "well, no-one else complained" and still carry on behaving that way and thinking of himself as behaving properly.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-07T18:50:21.017Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that the distinction between group rules and personal rules is very important, and should be more explicit in this sort f conversation

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T22:04:22.121Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Taking responsibility for one's own actions is not oppressive.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T00:22:43.604Z · score: 2 (26 votes) · LW · GW

I find your point of view creepy, and want you to stop talking about it. Take responsibility for your actions, and stop creeping me out.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-07T18:00:25.155Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Given we're establishing guidelines that people will choose to follow in order not to be jerks, "don't rape people" is a perfectly good rule. You said yourself that for group-enforced guidelines, the group has to judge (and thus reject "Alice speaks in a creepy monotone, I am creeped out, she must stop"-type complaints); it's hard to see how to do that if every one else disagrees.

comment by anonymous259 · 2012-09-08T06:40:45.287Z · score: 19 (45 votes) · LW · GW

Is anyone else distressed by the fact that, at the time of writing this comment, all of the "Recent Comments" displayed on the front page of the site are on a topic called "How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy"?

I'm not usually the kind of person who worries about "marketing" considerations, but....

Discussion section, ffs!

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-09-09T04:41:30.217Z · score: 8 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Since this comment got more upvotes than the article itself, I'm moving to Discussion.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:40:05.562Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

It won't help.

comment by Filipe · 2012-09-07T18:28:02.599Z · score: 19 (39 votes) · LW · GW

Is there an actual history of people complaining about 'creepy behavior' in LW meetups? Or is this just one of those blank-statey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence?

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-07T18:33:33.182Z · score: 14 (32 votes) · LW · GW

The creepy-expulsions will continue until the sex ratio improves!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T09:11:31.071Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Only if that process is faster than females leaving on their own accord because they think there are creepy males.

comment by Manfred · 2012-09-08T20:33:30.936Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Security through creepy obscurity, eh? :P

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:09:50.636Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What? (What I mean is that, assuming “improves” means “becomes closer to that of the whole population”, and considering that the sex ratio is close to 1 in the whole population but more like 10 in Less Wrong, five men leaving would improve the sex ratio, but not if one woman also leaves.) I guess you were making a joke, which I don't get.

comment by Manfred · 2012-09-08T22:50:17.683Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I interpreted your comment to mean something like "talking about creepiness might make women leave faster."

I will now attempt to thoroughly dissect what I said after I thought you said that. Because why not :P

"Security through obscurity" is a model of security where talking about security makes you less secure - it's generally agreed to be pretty suboptimal. Drawing the analogy between not talking about creepiness to have people not leave and not talking about security to be secure is the surface point of my post.

But there are several flaws in the analogy between not talking about security and not talking about creepiness, which I refer to pretty subtly and form the main point of the post.

The first word is ambiguous: "security" for who? The analogy-ey interpretation would be for LW users, but the problem the "creepy obscurity" is directed at isn't keeping people secure, it's not making people leave, so the analogy breaks down. If we look at the part of reality where the analogy breaks down, the security that would be granted by not talking about problematic behavior is actually the "security" of the people who don't want to have to deal with the problem or worry about their community getting smaller, not the security of LW users in general.

Also, "creepy obscurity" serves two purposes. The first is to modify "security through obscurity" to talk about creepiness, thus drawing the analogy. The second is to be a little threatening by referring to the obscurity that gets granted to creepy people, and also referring to literal creepy obscurity. This second interpretation turns the sentence into a bit of an oxymoron, since "creepy obscurity" doesn't sound very secure at all. The oxymoron here could be considered a joke, like "jumbo shrimp" or "anarchy rules." But calling this an oxymoron also contains a rhetorical claim that keeping creepy people in the community obscure could not actually be secure.

And, of course the ", eh?" is there to imply that there's a joke. This is mostly just to say that I'm willfully misunderstanding you a little, but that I think it's fun to draw the connection from your post to "security through creepy obscurity."

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T18:51:53.308Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Considering that the atheist and fannish communities were somewhat caught by surprise, I think it's reasonable for LW to try to avoid this problem before it surfaces.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-07T19:15:25.588Z · score: 0 (18 votes) · LW · GW

All Douglas said on that score is that creepiness is "one social skills issue that might be affecting this". I think you are overreacting just a teensy little bit.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-08T09:30:08.804Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Hi, downvoter(s)! Do please let me know what you think is wrong with my comment. Thanks!

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-09-08T21:22:20.939Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't downvote, although I might have if your request for feedback hadn't already been there by the time I read your comment.

Filipe's comment is a perfectly reasonable request for information. If many people have been giving reports of being creeped out by other people at LW meetups, that's a pretty important thing to know, and if there aren't many people who've been giving such reports, that's also worth knowing.

Treating reasonable requests for information as unwarranted defensiveness is something I am personally inclined to downvote for.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-08T23:33:43.859Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This bit of Filipe's comment ...

Is there an actual history of people complaining about 'creepy behavior' in LW meetups?

... is a perfectly reasonable request for information. If that had been all Felipe said I'd have had no problem with it. Excellent question. But this bit ...

Or is this just one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence?

... well, that bit is a p.r.r.f.i. only in the same way as things like "Are you really as stupid as you sound?" are. I repeat: Douglas_Reay's post contains no blank-slatey attempts to explain anything and makes no claims that anyone's discriminating against anyone else. It just doesn't.

The absolutely most it could reasonably be said to do along those lines is this: It gently suggests that maybe one contributing factor to gender imbalance in groups like LW meetings, if the participants don't make any attempt to avoid it, might be that some people behave in a way that creeps others out.

And apparently Filipe objects to even that much being said. That looks to me not like a "perfectly reasonable request for information" but like an attempt to discourage even mentioning the possibility of such a problem.

Am I missing something (or imagining something) here?

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-09-09T00:40:26.112Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

... well, that bit is a p.r.r.f.i. only in the same way as things like "Are you really as stupid as you sound?" are. I repeat: Douglas_Reay's post contains no blank-slatey attempts to explain anything and makes no claims that anyone's discriminating against anyone else. It just doesn't.

Well, if you bring up a a bunch of links about learning how not to come off as creepy, and pose it as a salient topic of discussion to the community, you're tacitly implying that people coming off as creepy is a problem of particular relevance to the community.

The connotations are such that, rather than having to make explicit that there have been cases where people at Less Wrong meetups have been offended by behavior they've found creepy, it could reasonably be taken as implied, unless explicitly disavowed.

If there is evidence of such a pattern, then it is certainly worth knowing about. But posing it as an explanation, or even a contributing factor, in the gender imbalance of the community, is something that could reasonably be taken as insulting.

Suppose you have an online acquaintance who's rather unpopular. Your only information on why they might be unpopular comes from your online interactions with them and what they tell you themself, and you're unsure why they have so little social success based on that information. So, you suggest "Maybe you should try showering more often."

Now, if the person does in fact have poor personal hygiene, this could be the exact behavior modification they need to achieve better social success. But this is not gently suggesting that one possible contributing factor to their lack of social success is poor personal hygiene. In terms of ordinary human communication, it amounts to a tacit accusation that they're a smelly person.

I parse Filipe's comment as being something along the lines of "Do we have evidence that this is a pervasive pattern in this community? If so, I acknowledge this as as being a potentially valuable contribution. If not, I find the tacit assumption that it is somewhat offensive." If no such assumption is intended, then the post would do well to disclaim it.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-09T01:06:21.000Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I think all it implies is that creepiness could be a problem. There have been a number of recent instances -- much discussed online -- where it seems to have been, in the SF and atheist communities; that seems to me plenty enough to explain Douglas's decision to bring it up.

I don't find the analogy with suggesting that an unpopular person shower more very convincing. The main (though not the only) reason is that the dynamics of giving and taking offence seem to me quite different in the two cases, on account of the difference between saying something to one person and saying it to a whole community.

Consider: rather a large fraction of LW's content consists of articles saying "Here is a mistake it's possible to make when thinking. You should probably try not to do that." If you go up to an individual person and say something like that then they're likely to think you're accusing them of making that mistake, and they may well take offence. If you say it publicly to the whole community then no one is being accused of anything and empirically it seems that people don't take offence. Similarly, no one takes the LW articles about akrasia as personal accusations of Not Getting Stuff Done, etc. For that matter, since you use it as an analogy: I've seen articles in LW that said explicitly: "Some people, more of them among people of the sort LW attracts, have poor personal hygiene: you should shower regularly." And, as it turns out, no one seems to have been offended; I don't recall any responses saying "How dare you accuse me of having poor personal hygiene?".

Why take a statement of the form "Some people in our community may do such-and-such a bad thing; let's avoid it" as a personal attack and take offence? It just isn't a personal attack. Not even if it really does mean "Some people in our community actually do do such-and-such a bad thing". -- Not unless someone thinks that actually they, personally, are being attacked (or that someone close to them is) and that the generalized some-people-in-our-community stuff is just a cover. But I haven't heard anyone suggest that anything like that is going on here.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-09-09T01:45:43.907Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I personally agree that creepiness could be a problem in this community, and was not offended by the article, but I don't see it as unreasonable defensiveness for someone to be offended by the implication that this is a significant problem in the absence of evidence.

This is an issue which, I suspect, a significant number of our members are very conscious of, and take pains to avoid. One effective way to offend people, indeed the way in which I have most recently personally been significantly offended, is lecturing them in the assumption that they're unaware of an error which they have actually gone to significant effort to correct.

Since this is a particularly touchy subject, it helps to take pains not to offend people. Maybe this article "just isn't" a personal attack, but then many creepy behaviors "just aren't" making inappropriate advances, but still set off the triggers of people who, after all, can only read behaviors, not intentions.

comment by Manfred · 2012-09-08T20:32:53.605Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure. Perhaps "you are overreacting just a teensy little bit" was interpreted as making things more personal than necessary.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-08T20:58:47.767Z · score: 8 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Well, honestly. Douglas_Reay posts something saying "if people attending LW meetings are creepy then that might be bad for the community's gender balance", and Filipe responds by suggesting that it's "just one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some sort of discrimination, without any evidence".

It is absolutely beyond my understanding why Filipe's comment has been voted up to +13 since what Douglas wrote was not an "attempt to explain" anything and he didn't assert that anyone was discriminating against anyone. Filipe's comment is based on two gross misrepresentations of what Douglas wrote, and on the basis of those gross misrepresentations he's made an entirely unreasonable accusation, and apparently the consensus of the Less Wrong community is that this deserves to be at +13.

In what possible world is Filipe's grotesque misrepresentation reasonable (and indeed worthy of all those upvotes) and gently pointing out its errors unreasonable (and deserving of drive-by downvotes)?

Note: "absolutely beyond my understanding" is not strictly correct. I have an obvious candidate explanation, but not one that speaks well of the portion of the LW community that's active here: reflex-action anti-anti-sexism from people who have taken to upvoting everything they see that oh-so-daringly says that men are more often very intelligent than women. Comments saying that white people are more intelligent than black people also consistently attract high scores too. It seems to me that, seeing how common and how consistently upvoted these comments are, they shouldn't any longer be considered either unusually insightful or courageous, any more than other comments that could get you in trouble elsewhere but would be widely agreed with here like "I think there is no God" or "a lot of what people say and do is best understood in terms of signalling rather than in terms of its explicit propositional content". But evidently rather a lot of people disagree.

If anyone has a less depressing explanation of what's going on here, then I would be very glad to hear it.

[EDITED to fix a misspelling -- I keep writing "Felipe" instead of "Filipe"; no other changes.]

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-08T23:09:58.342Z · score: 21 (27 votes) · LW · GW

I think a few mutually-reinforcing things are going on, and the narcissistic pattern you describe is a big one. Another is feeling socially unsafe, in a way that's hard for me to summarize, but easier to describe some features of:

  • Talk of how women are underrepresented at LW meetups (or whatever) pattern-matches to a moral demand that there be more women at LW meetups, otherwise LWers are bad sexist people. As is often the case with perceived moral demands, this feels threatening and defending oneself by attacking premises and identifying the demander as the Enemy is a really tempting response.
    • The perceived moral demand is seen as vague, which makes it feel more threatening — it feels like one can never know whether or not they're subject to criticism.
      • The OP's first link, for instance, says "no one’s required to inform you that you’re creeping" and "Not a complete instruction set on how not to be a creeper." Even if these are true, saying them in that piece's aggressive tone without indicating that doing something simple gets you a lot of the way ('you don't get cookies for being a decent person') causes me, at least, to feel gut-level fear of doing Something Wrong without knowing it and being blamed. (This fear is easy for me now to ignore, not as easy for everyone.)
  • I think people often feel like "sexist" is only ever a term of extreme opprobrium, don't distinguish/feel that other people distinguish between "behaving in a sexist way" and "being sexist", and don't feel like it's possible/other people see it as possible for behaving in a sexist way to be slightly and forgivably bad, so they must defend themselves from arguments that might imply that they're sexist. (This seems easier to illustrate for "racist"; the prototype racist in most(?) people's minds is a Nazi or something equally awful, which makes the claim that it's "racist" to, e.g., be more afraid of a black person on the street at night less thinkable.)
  • It is not obviously false that there are biological reasons that women would be less likely to be interested in LW absent any discrimination.
    • This possibility is a good way to claim that one isn't or might not be subject to perceived moral demands, which makes endorsing it more attractive.
    • If this is true and the people making the perceived moral demand wouldn't believe it if it were true (which it's perceived that they certainly wouldn't), then the demand will continue to be there forever even if all actual discrimination is addressed. This feels more threatening.
    • A common response (it feels to me like the most common by far on the Internet as a whole; this isn't necessarily true but the feeling is a relevant data point) to this idea, by the people perceived as making the moral demand, is that it is obviously false and considering the hypothesis makes you a bad sexist person. Independent of anything else, for X to say this about a hypothesis Y thinks might be true is likely to make Y feel threatened and (if Y identifies as a truth-seeker) offended. This leads to polarization and increases Y's identification with the hypothesis.
  • This point about 'privilege' language.
  • Even if none of this sort of crap is present in a particular discussion, if someone has seen it before, they're likely to pattern-match to it and become more defensive.

All of this is true or not independently of how justified the feeling of unsafety is. Any actual risk is almost always small and the mature thing to do is to feel its smallness, but rolling a saving throw for Not Trying to Please Everyone Unless They're Tagged as an Enemy — at least, that's what not being triggered by this feels like to me — is really hard for some people.

comment by albeola · 2012-09-09T00:44:28.257Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Any actual risk is almost always small and the mature thing to do is to feel this, but rolling a saving throw for Not Trying to Please Everyone Unless They're Tagged as an Enemy — at least, that's what not being triggered by this feels like to me — is really hard for some people.

This made me feel condescended to. Compare "being creeped on in this and that particular setting carries only very small objective risks, and the mature thing to do is feel this, but not trying to please everyone (or whatever is the analogous irrational decision policy here) is really hard for some people".

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T21:49:13.671Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone has a less depressing explanation of what's going on here, then I would be very glad to hear it.

I do! Filipe wrote:

Is there an actual history of people complaining about 'creepy behavior' in LW meetups?

I would genuinely like to know the answer to that question, so I upvoted it.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-08T23:18:47.047Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I agree that that's a good reason. (Though I personally wouldn't upvote a question on those grounds if it were already at a large positive score; in so far as others have the same quirks as I do, your explanation can only be part of the story.)

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-09-09T02:30:26.693Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It is absolutely beyond my understanding why Filipe's comment has been voted up to +13 since what Douglas wrote was not an "attempt to explain" anything and he didn't assert that anyone was discriminating against anyone. Filipe's comment is based on two gross misrepresentations of what Douglas wrote, and on the basis of those gross misrepresentations he's made an entirely unreasonable accusation, and apparently the consensus of the Less Wrong community is that this deserves to be at +13.

In what possible world is Filipe's grotesque misrepresentation reasonable (and indeed worthy of all those upvotes) and gently pointing out its errors unreasonable (and deserving of drive-by downvotes)?

Personally, I upvoted Filipe's comment for the reason Emile gave here, I agree with Manfred's comment here, and while the second part of Filipe's comment could be taken as overly politicizing, I feel that your comments have acted to degenerate the situation further. For reasons Nick Tarleton has outlined in this comment, "blank-statey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence" are something that some people in this community have become rather sensitive to.

If you had responded by saying, for example, "I don't think that this article is arguing that the gender disparity in this community rests primarily on behavioral issues of the members, but considering the self-confessed social fluency issues many of our members have, I think it's likely there are people here who would benefit from it," I think you could have de-escalated hostility in the discussion. The reply you gave to Manfred, though, appears far more hostile to me than Filipe's original comment, and it looks to me like you're doing more to blow out of proportion a possible cause for offense.

I upvoted Filipe's comment because it asked a question the answer to which I was also interested in, and I have downvoted a number of yours because I feel that you have done an inappropriately poor job assuming good faith.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T21:22:23.002Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Well, honestly. Douglas_Reay posts something saying "if people attending LW meetings are creepy then that might be bad for the community's gender balance", and Filipe responds by suggesting that it's "just one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some sort of discrimination, without any evidence".

Douglas_Reay didn't provide any evidence for his theory. Not even what one would expect to be the minimal standard, i.e., an assertion that creepy behaviors do in fact take place at LW meetups.

Filipe was pointing this out and presented the obvious candidate explanation for Douglas_Reay's action, i.e., the one that makes his actions look bad. How is this any different from what you just did in your comment?

comment by gjm · 2012-09-08T23:57:17.437Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Douglas_Reay didn't provide any evidence for his theory.

What theory? The one Filipe just made up out of thin air, where Imaginary Douglas Reay proposed discrimination as a blank-slate explanation for "the gender ratio in High-IQ communities"? Or some actual theory that he actually claimed was likely to be true?

(It looks to me as if the only theory anywhere in this region of ideaspace that he endorsed was this one: "If people act creepily towards others and nothing is done about it, that might contribute to gender imbalance in offline LW communities." This doesn't look to me like the sort of claim for which I'd expect evidence to be provided before anyone's even challenged it, still less the sort for which if someone makes it without such accompanying evidence I'd go looking for nefarious explanations. Of course your opinion may diverge from mine; if so, and if you can say anything about why, I'd be interested.)

the obvious candidate explanation for Douglas_Reay's action, i.e., the one that makes his actions look bad

Either I'm seriously misunderstanding you, or you have what seems to me a seriously broken heuristic for how to generate candidate explanations for people's actions. It seems like you're saying that when you're trying to understand why someone did something, "the obvious candidate explanation" is "the one that makes his actions look bad". Why?

How is this any different from what you just did in your comment?

It looks to me as if you just pointed out one similarity between what I said and what Filipe said, namely that we both speculated that someone might be doing something for not-very-impressive reasons. I agree: we both did that. Aside from that, I see many differences and no other similarities. I can try to list some differences, but there are so many that I think it would be helpful if you'd first explain what inferences you want drawn from the alleged similarity.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-09T00:13:23.436Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

What theory? The one Filipe just made up out of thin air, where Imaginary Douglas Reay proposed discrimination as a blank-slate explanation for "the gender ratio in High-IQ communities"? Or some actual theory that he actually claimed was likely to be true?

The theory that creepy behavior is happening at LW meetups and that it's responsible for the skewed gender ratios.

the obvious candidate explanation for Douglas_Reay's action, i.e., the one that makes his actions look bad

Either I'm seriously misunderstanding you, or you have what seems to me a seriously broken heuristic for how to generate candidate explanations for people's actions. It seems like you're saying that when you're trying to understand why someone did something, "the obvious candidate explanation" is "the one that makes his actions look bad". Why?

I could ask you the same question about the heuristic generating your explanation.

It looks to me as if you just pointed out one similarity between what I said and what Filipe said, namely that we both speculated that someone might be doing something for not-very-impressive reasons. I agree: we both did that. Aside from that, I see many differences and no other similarities. I can try to list some differences, but there are so many that I think it would be helpful if you'd first explain what inferences you want drawn from the alleged similarity.

They're similar in that they both share the property you just criticized above.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-09T00:25:16.194Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The theory that creepy behavior is happening at LW meetups and that it's responsible for the skewed gender ratios.

So, in fact, a theory composed of two parts, neither of which Douglas_Reay either stated nor implied. Why, then, call it "his theory" and object to his not having provided evidence for it?

I could ask you the same question about the heuristic generating your explanation.

I suppose you could, but since you don't know what that heuristic is I'm not sure what the point would be. (But you seem to be claiming -- I am completely unable to think of a good reason why -- that my heuristic was something like "pick something nasty if possible". If that really is what you're saying, then once again I would love to know why.)

They're similar in that they both share the property you just criticized above.

What property, exactly?

I'm curious about where you're heading with this, anyway. I mean, let's suppose you convince me that what I'm doing in this discussion is exactly the same as what Filipe was doing. What then? Perhaps you think I would say: "Oh, OK, so Filipe was right after all". No, I would say "Oh, damn, I've been being completely unreasonable". Or perhaps you think I would say "Oh, OK, that answers my question about upvotes and downvotes". No, because the thing that puzzled me there was that Filipe's comment was at +13, which is a really unusually high score; "gjm and Filipe were being unreasonable in the same way" is no sort of explanation of that.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-09T20:01:36.211Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So, in fact, a theory composed of two parts, neither of which Douglas_Reay either stated nor implied. Why, then, call it "his theory" and object to his not having provided evidence for it?

Your interpretation of seems to be different from that of most of the other people here. You might want to consider the possibility that the problem is on your end.

But you seem to be claiming -- I am completely unable to think of a good reason why -- that my heuristic was something like "pick something nasty if possible".

Sorry, what I meant was the heuristic is pick what appears to be the obvious explanation, which in a case like this is likely to turn out to be nasty.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-09T21:54:27.179Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

[Attention conservation notice: This is long.]

You might want to consider the possibility that the problem is on your end.

For sure, it might be. If you think it is, you might want to consider the possibility of convincing me, rather than pointing out the (obvious) fact that I might be wrong.

the heuristic is pick what appears to be the obvious explanation

See, it doesn't look to me even slightly like "the obvious explanation" and I don't see how to make it look like t.o.e. without the kind of bizarre misreading that I think Filipe engaged in. Of course (see above) I could be wrong. I'll explain -- and this is why this is going to be so long -- why the "Filipe-Nier explanation" seems so strange to me. Perhaps you can show me where I'm going terribly amiss.

So you claim, IIUC, that the obvious explanation for Douglas_Reay's writing what he did was that he wanted to offer "one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination". That is, that (1) what he was primarily doing was explaining, (2) that the explanation he offered was "blank-slatey", and (3) that he was presenting it as "some form of discrimination".

How plausible is this analysis of Douglas_Reay's purposes, and how do other explanations of his posting what he did stack up? I'll consider only one other explanation (not because I think it's the only possible one but because this is going to be too long in any case): that he posted what he did because he thinks it's possible that some people at some LW meetups may act creepily, thus putting off some other people we'd rather not put off, and he wants to do what he can to make this less likely to happen. According to this explanation, (1) what he was primarily doing was attempting to shape the culture of LW meetups a bit, (2) there's nothing particularly "blank-slatey" about it, and (3) if discrimination is involved then it's tangential to what Douglas_Reay was saying.

First question, then: Was he primarily offering an explanation, or attempting to influence behaviour so as to reduce "creepiness"? I think the latter is much more plausible, for the following reasons. (a) Everything DR explicitly said points that way. The title: "How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy". What he actually said about his purposes: "not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is here", etc. The only connection DR draws between "creepiness" and gender ratio is what I've quoted before: "... addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this ...". As distinct from, say, "the issue that is probably causing this". (b) DR's posting history, which has lots about how to run LW meetups and very little about, e.g., the causes of gender imbalance in "High-IQ communities". (c) DR's other comments in this discussion, which again seem to indicate that his goal is to make LW meetups less likely to put people off. (d) Posting what DR actually did -- full of things that have nothing to do with "explaining the gender ratio" -- seems like a really weird way to attempt to influence opinions on that explanatory question, but entirely comprehensible as an attempt to influence behaviour ("creepiness" and reactions thereto).

Second question: Is he pushing some sort of "blank-slatey" agenda? [[Semi-digression: I confess that I'm not certain what Filipe meant by this, but among the ideas Pinker's famous book criticizes under that heading two seem potentially relevant: (a) that differences between people and groups are purely environmental in origin and not fixed at birth by, e.g., genetics; (b) that human behaviour is infinitely malleable. Of these, (b) would be relevant if we were talking about DR's attempts to influence behaviour (e.g., someone might argue that it's futile to try to stop people being "creepy") but that's explicitly what Filipe (and, I take it, you) think was "obviously" not his real purpose, so it'd better be (a). In combination with Filipe's choice of terminology -- "High-IQ communities" -- I therefore take it his point was something like this: "Communities that draw their membership from the upper tails of the intelligence distribution are inevitably going to be male-dominated because most exceptionally intelligent people are male; this looks like just one more attempt to deny that fact in the service of the false idea that there are no innate differences between the sexes.".]] I've looked very carefully at everything Douglas_Reay wrote there, and I can find (a) nothing even slightly resembling a statement that there are no innate differences between men and women, (b) nothing that assumes that there are no such differences, and (c) nothing that makes more sense if we assume there are no such differences. So the only evidence for a "blank-slatey" agenda is, it seems to me, the alleged fact that Douglas_Reay posted an "explanation" for gender imbalance that isn't "there are fewer women because most of the very cleverest people are men". Except that -- see above -- he didn't in fact do any such thing, and the absolute most he said was that "creepiness" might have something to do with it, which of course is perfectly consistent with any number of other contributing factors. All in all, I'm really not seeing any grounds for calling what Douglas wrote "blank-slatey".

Third question: is Douglas_Reay complaining, explicitly or implicitly, about "discrimination" and using it as an explanation for gender imbalances in LW meetups? Well, explicitly at least, Douglas seems to have gone out of his way to avoid making what he said anything of the sort. (Third paragraph, which I'll summarize as "This isn't only about men being creepy at women; let's focus on the behaviour and not on what group is doing it to what other group".) He assumes -- so it looks to me, at least -- that his audience wants to avoid "creepiness", which seems like the reverse of what you'd assume if you were taking the issue to be one of discrimination. I'm fairly sure (from, e.g., the positive-sounding mention of "rape culture") that Douglas does, in fact, consider that discrimination against women is a real thing -- and if there's supposed to be something wrong with that opinion, I'd be interested to know what -- but that is not at all the same as saying that such discrimination is the cause of gender imbalance in the LW community.

Overall question: Which explanation of Douglas_Reay's words is more credible? On what appears to be Filipe's (and your?) theory, his purpose in writing what he did was to push a "blank-slatey" explanation of gender imbalances in LW meetings, in which case presumably the stuff about how to avoid "creepiness" -- ostensibly the entire point of the post -- was just some sort of distraction. On the other theory I propose, his purpose was to influence behaviour, and the possibility of a link to gender imbalances was just a way of introducing the topic. I am at a loss to see why, if his purpose was as Filipe proposes, he would have written anything like what he did. On the other hand, conditional on the other theory I proposed, that problem goes away and what replaces it ("then why did he even mention gender ratio?") seems far less puzzling: he mentioned gender ratio because he expects some readers to want a less skewed gender ratio at meetups and to find it plausible that avoiding "creepiness" might help with that.

[EDITED to fix a typographical screwup related to LW's handling of underscores. No substantive changes.]

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-11T00:31:18.183Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, gjm. I'm pretty awed by how well you explained that. Hats off to you.

comment by gjm · 2012-09-11T00:52:43.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Glad to be of service. I confess to being rather bemused at some of what's going on in this thread. (Perhaps that's because, as Eugene Nier suggests, I've got it all wrong, but if so it's odd that no one seems willing to refute me rather than insulting me.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:56:29.928Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone has a less depressing explanation of what's going on here, then I would be very glad to hear it.

No, I think you pretty much nailed it. It's been going on from Day 1, it was endemic in LWs founder population, it's very common within the cultural core demographics that LW attracts, and even folks here who are aware of it and find it a little unseemly often underestimate the extent and significance of the issue.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-10T07:24:06.274Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I think this conversation could start with a good dose of Korzybski and General Semantics.

"Being creepy" does not represent the situation as well as "Person X is uncomfortable with Person Y's overtures for an increased level of personal contact."

The situation is improved when Person X more clearly communicates their discomfort and disinterest, and when Person Y pays more attention to how well their overtures are received, up to just moving on and avoiding contact.

But neither communication nor perception are perfect, and worse, the incentives would tend to promote a nonzero level of creepiness. The person with interest should be expected to make an overture - they're hoping for more.

The advice I see in the first article basically tells the interested party not to make overtures. I don't see that as helpful. Human beings touch each other. They stand close. They make sexual comments. Particularly when they are interested in someone.

Consider one piece of advice:

That person you want to touch? Put them in charge of the whole touch experience.

If they both want to touch each other, then they never will, both waiting for the other to touch them. Somebody has to make the first overture.

10) actually has some useful advice on how to spot a lack of interest, and indeed, disinterest, dislike, and aversion. That's fine for an article on "knowing when to piss off", but it's not so helpful for someone trying to reach out to someone else.

What's needed is an article "How to make an effective overture that minimizes creepy feelings in the subject of interest".

Give an extensional description of the aspects that increase creepiness, and how those can be minimized by someone trying to make a connection.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T07:37:24.385Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I think this conversation could start with a good dose of Korzybski and General Semantics.

"Being creepy" does not represent the situation as well as "Person X is uncomfortable with Person Y's overtures for an increased level of personal contact."

Thankyou buybuy. Tabooing the term and describing the actual behaviors and circumstances specifically is exactly what is called for here!

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-10T08:29:50.855Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You're welcome.

You seem to be one of the list elders, so to speak, so I've got a tangential question for you.

I see occasional references to Korzybski, and the Map is Not The Territory sequence article. "Tabooing a word" is just the kind of semantic hygiene practice of which he had zillions - in fact I wouldn't be surprised if he originated "tabooing a word".

But I don't get the impression that a lot of people here have read his work, or if they did, few have interest. What's your sense of the level of familiarity with and interest in Korzybski here?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T08:44:11.405Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

But I don't get the impression that a lot of people here have read his work, or if they did, few have interest. What's your sense of the level of familiarity with and interest in Korzybski here?

Yours is the only reference I can recall. From the sound of it I'd like to hear more. Any other key insights of his that you think we could benefit from?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-12T02:31:40.957Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Hard to summarize a lot of stuff, and I don't know that seeing the summary without the explanation of it is that helpful.

Instead, I'll apply General Semantics to my response to the conversation, as an imaginary Korzybski (K). It's been a while since I read the stuff, so my use of his terms will doubtless lack some precision, and be colored by my own attitude as well.

K: We have a discussion here. People are saying things like Joe is creepy, or Joe is a creep.

K: They are using the "is of identity", and the "is of predication". We know that this falsifies reality. An apple is not red, but is perceived as red by us in the proper circumstances. In other circumstances, we would not perceive it as red. Even taking a conscious being out of the equation, the apple would be measured as red by some instrument or process under certain conditions, and not red in other circumstances.

K: Now let's look at the term "creep". Our total evaluative response to the word "creep" contains a mass of associative (often emotive) and extensional (observable) components. We have many negative and unpleasant emotional associations with the term. If we are going to properly evaluate Joe and his behavior instead of merely letting our reactions to words that we chose to apply to Joe dictate our response to Joe, we should limit our discussion to extensional terms.

K: Unfortunately, it seems to me that even the implied extensional usage of the word is highly variable in this discussion, with creep_you <> creep_me <> creep_him <> creep_her, to a degree that impacts effective communication. The same is likely true even of creep_him_1, creep_him_2, creep_him_3 - people aren't being consistent in their own usage of the term.

K: So let's make an explicit extensional definition of the word "creep" to test whether we have been communicating at all.

ME: I would add that the various comments on blame/responsibility that try to get around blame by resorting to causality don't get us anywhere. Joe's behavior no more caused Jane's reaction than Jane's emotional and perceptual makeup. Change either sufficiently, and Jane does not perceive Joe as creepy. I think this is implicit in K's method, but I don't recall him this particular discussion on causality. Although it's starting to ring a few bells in some musty old neurons.

There's a lot of other stuff. I consider General Semantics as semantic hygiene, seeing how certain semantic practices encourage bad habits of thought, and having specific counter practices for avoiding the poor habits of thought. Purell for the mind.

In the end, I don't think the counter practices are necessary to keep your ideas clean and tidy as long as you've internalized an aversion to the poor habits of thought, but they help when confusion is afoot.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-12T05:03:47.159Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(May be worth editing your comment and replacing all instances of "_" with "\_".)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-10T09:12:41.727Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Time and place indexing-- for what times and places do you have evidence of something being true?

Now that I think about it, Eliezer's year subscripts for his different stages of understanding may be a result of influence from Korzybski.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-12T02:38:45.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Couldn't find the definitive "tabooing a word", if there is such a thing, but after the taboo, I think EY recommends replacing it with what amounts to an "extensional" description.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-10T11:46:28.231Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But I don't get the impression that a lot of people here have read his work, or if they did, few have interest. What's your sense of the level of familiarity with and interest in Korzybski here?

I've seen a few references, and the impression I got is that the sequence on words overlaps a lot with Korzybski's General Semantics.

comment by arundelo · 2012-09-10T09:19:14.847Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer got some early influence from the General Semantics-inspired Null-A books by A.E. van Vogt.

(I'm leaving two versions of this comment in different threads because DeeElf also asked about Korzybski and LW.)

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-10T17:57:24.913Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the link to the other discussion. I had been assuming more familiarity Korzybski than seems to be the case.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T10:22:52.406Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Being creepy" does not represent the situation as well as "Person X is uncomfortable with Person Y's overtures for an increased level of personal contact."

I'm not sure this is it. If I had to give a definition for "creepy", it would be something like: "Person Y's attitude and behavior are making Person X feel personally unsafe (to some degree) around Person Y."

So yes, it does take two to tango, but it's not clear that Person X can do anything about eir feelings, especially since the feelings may be functionally justified at some level (i.e. most if not all examples of 'creepy' behavior actually are evidence that Person Y is more likely to be a threat).

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T11:08:34.197Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure this is it. If I had to give a definition for "creepy", it would be something like: "Person Y's attitude and behavior are making Person X feel personally unsafe (to some degree) around Person Y."

Both definitions are used, and plenty more besides. This is actually why bubuy's point is so important. The cluster of things that are called 'creepy' is diverse and the most useful response to given situations varies depending on what the actual situation is rather than on whether someone calls it 'creepy'.

Incidentally, your definition is weakened by focusing on preemptively applying judgement more than causal accuracy. While the intent is to convey that the person being labeled 'creepy' is responsible for the feelings of the other it actually implies that even the most lewdly inappropriate, boundary-oblivious and clingy loser is immune to being 'creepy' when their target is sufficiently physically secure, emotionally mature and psychologically self-determined. This is absurd, clearly not your intent and actually forces the 'victim' to be disempowered before they are entitled to any 'anti-creep' rights.

It is quite OK to keep assertions of 'and it is right and fitting that we hold person Y responsible in this case and use some form of sanction' out of the actual definition of 'creepy' and in the realm of policy advocation.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T11:32:36.185Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

even the most lewdly inappropriate, boundary-oblivious and clingy loser is immune to being 'creepy' when their target is sufficiently physically secure, emotionally mature and psychologically self-determined. This is absurd

I'm not sure that it is - unless you mean that the target is unjustified in feeling physically safe, and the loser is actually posing a threat to hir. But we can still define such behavior as "creepy" by extension, since the target would actually judge themselfes as being unsafe if they were more reasonable and knowledgeable about the loser's attitude and behavior. Definitions often perform poorly at such boundaries, but this does not imply that there isn't a salient cluster in thingspace which is adequately captured by the above definition.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T12:35:23.735Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that it is - unless you mean that the target is unjustified in feeling physically safe, and the loser is actually posing a threat to hir.

That would also be sufficient to abandon the definition. But no, I mean she is actually are physically safe and the guy is being creepy as @#%#. Either the recipient of the creepiness or an observer can both legitimately call that behavior creepy even if the victim of it neither feels nor actually is physically unsafe.

but this does not imply that there isn't a salient cluster in thingspace which is adequately captured by the above definition.

The above definition conveys concepts that aren't even intended for use in 'thingspace' as opposed to 'political space'. Specifically, the assignment of blame and responsibility. It can be resolved to a thing space cluster but if this is done it points to a cluster that does not, in fact, serve your purposes. If interpreted as a literal epistemic description when executing 'creepiness' prevention policies it would result in inferior outcomes to what you would get if you executed your actual meaning. Fortunately few would (acta as if they) interpret the definition literally and would instead interpret it as an approximate reference to a related thing in thingspace but with additional policy decisions snuck in.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T13:23:43.321Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That would also be sufficient to abandon the definition. But no, I mean she is actually are physically safe and the guy is being creepy as @#%#. Either the recipient of the creepiness or an observer can both legitimately call that behavior creepy even if the victim of it neither feels nor actually is physically unsafe.

I'd say that the target can legitimately state that the guy's behavior is making her uncomfortable (assuming that this is in fact the case), and/or tell the guy to buzz off and have this enforced as necessary. Either the target or any third party can legitimately caution the guy that his behavior could be interpreted as "creepy" (i.e. at least mildly threatening) by others.

However, I would not use "creepy" to describe all instances where someone is being merely bothered by someone else; nor would I want to have a fixed cluster of behaviors be regarded as "creepy", regardless of the target's actual feelings and reactions. Thus, I'd say that defining the above as not-creepy is in fact very reasonable.

The above definition conveys concepts that aren't even intended for use in 'thingspace' as opposed to 'political space'. Specifically, the assignment of blame and responsibility.

Um, no. Physical causality is not the same as appropriately-assigned blame and responsibility. Even then, I could easily rephrase my definition as: "Person X's experience and overall disposition causes her to feel physically unsafe to some degree, upon being exposed to some peculiar attitudes and behavors on Person Y's part" and this would not change my preferred policy.

comment by V_V · 2012-09-10T16:53:29.471Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Like feeling uncomfortable and unsafe when those n*s sit next to you in the bus? Why don't they move to the back rows? How insensitive!

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T17:40:26.225Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what your point is here. Are you saying that "n*s" were relegated to the back rows of the bus because they would give off a creeper vibe? ISTR that it had to do with legally enforced segregation.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-11T04:10:50.845Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And why do you think those laws were passed?

comment by V_V · 2012-09-10T20:33:08.358Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The legal system just backed whatever policy the bus companies had. The bus companies had a policy that maximized customer satisfaction.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T21:00:22.255Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

[totally offtopic] That's ridiculous. Taking the Montgomery, AL bus system as an example, black customers were critically important to the economics of the city transit system, which is one reason the Rosa Parks bus boycott was such a big deal. Outside Montgomery, we do know of streetcar companies who refused to segregate their customers, until they were forced to do so by the government (See Roback, Jennifer (1986). "The Political Economy of Segregation: The Case of Segregated Streetcars". Journal of Economic History 56 (4): 893–917. doi:10.1017/S0022050700050634).

Racial segregation in the U.S. South was a wholly political decision - in fact, it was politically pushed by pro-white Democrat politicians in opposition to the Republican party (which used to be pro-integration).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-11T04:10:19.110Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More like "the legal system backed up the whatever impressions those in power, i.e., whites had".

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-12T03:06:46.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Some whites were in power, and some whites were not.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-09-12T03:00:00.977Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

People can do a lot about their feelings. But whether they can or not, the issue of blame is not resolved. That X feels upset about what Y does, and even can't help feeling upset, does not necessarily imply that X is to blame for anything.

As to "the cause" of the bad feelings, clearly it's combination of the X's emotional disposition and Y's behavior, and if either were sufficiently different, the bad feelings would not have occurred.

But we've at least identified one problem in this conversation. You have a different definition of creepy than I do. I don't think yours is quite so robust, because I'd just call yours "threatening" or "dangerous", not creepy, but it does seem like a potential element of creepiness.

But then, unsafe how? What is the threat? I can see a number.

Threat of physical or sexual assault. Threat to social status by a low status male even showing interest (as if he had a chance, etc.). Threat of that in a public setting. Threat of the discomfort of dealing with him and his interest.

Finally, I wonder how much a woman perceives any unwanted sexual interest from a man she doesn't trust as something of a threat, even when an objective review of the circumstances would say there is no real threat. That would seem natural to me, in an evolutionary sense.

comment by ikrase · 2013-02-03T17:42:50.700Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

THat's a good point. I am rather upset by how much defense of creeping there is here but it might be good if the sufferers discomfort and the creeper's self could be seperated a little.

comment by mstevens · 2012-09-12T19:43:02.728Z · score: 16 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I think this argument:

Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours. There are specific objective behaviours listed in the articles (for example, to do with touching, sexual jokes and following > people) that even someone 'bad' at social skills can learn to avoid doing. If someone is informed that their behaviour is creeping people out, and yet they don't take steps to avoid doing these >behaviours, that is a serious problem for the group as a whole, and it needs to be treated seriously and be seen to be > treated seriously, especially by the 'audience' who are not being victimised directly.

is flawed as it proves far too much.

We consider the (very plausible) hypothetical scenario of a LW meetup with many men and few women. The men are prone to hitting on the women. The women just want to talk about utility functions, and say no.

The men, being nerds, handle rejection badly. They are uncomfortable and upset.

Therefore by the argument above, the women are engaging in creepy behaviour. Plus, a significant fraction of the group are finding it creepy.

Therefore the responsibility to change their behaviour lies with the women, and they presumably need to start putting out more.

Since this is clearly an absurd conclusion, I think there's something wrong with the original argument. Probably we need to introduce some notion of legitimate and illegitimate emotional reactions, but that's a whole can of worms.

comment by elharo · 2013-04-27T14:31:42.242Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think the argument proves this much, and if it does it's easily fixable. I agree that in this sadly plausible scenario, "The men, being nerds, handle rejection badly." They are upset, but are they uncomfortable? Not necessarily so, and even if they are I don't think the emotional response is the same as a general feeling of "creepiness". I think the difference is that creepiness includes not just "unsafe or uncomfortable" but "unsafe AND uncomfortable". The physical and emotional response of being rejected is not the same as the physical and emotional response of being hit on in a "creepy" fashion.

comment by chaosmosis · 2012-09-09T03:57:40.775Z · score: 16 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Creepiness is bad.

But, I've seen labeling people as creepy used as an extremely Dark Arts sort of tactic. The problem is, if someone is labeled as creepy, it becomes very difficult for them to justify themselves to other people, or to confront those who've labeled them. People use the representativeness heuristic and see that they expect a creeper to deny their creepiness and to confront the people who are calling them creepy, so for the wrongly accused it's very difficult to ever clear their names in the eyes of the general public.

There were a couple guys in my high school who admittedly had big personality flaws, but then girls preyed on them by intentionally putting the guys in positions where the guys thought the girls were showing interest, but then the girl could immediately retreat to calling the guy creepy. This was useful for discrediting people the girls didn't like, as well as making the girls seem more desirable. This always really pissed me off and made me sad at the world.

(Full disclosure: something like this happened to me in middle school. I waited it out and made extra efforts to signal not creepy behavior. It worked, but only to a limited extent, people were always cautious when they were first getting to know me and it made me a bit sad. In high school, I never had any issues.)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-09T06:19:00.537Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Fortunately, this isn't just about some kind of abstract "being creepy" XML tag getting attached to individuals. It's about specific behaviors which individuals can learn not to do.

There were a couple guys in my high school who admittedly had big personality flaws, but then girls preyed on them by intentionally putting the guys in positions where the guys thought the girls were showing interest, but then the girl could immediately retreat to calling the guy creepy. This was useful for discrediting people the girls didn't like, as well as making the girls seem more desirable.

Sounds like pretty typical but unfortunate levels of high-school harassment and hazing. That's not what we're talking about here.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-09T22:41:39.653Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Fortunately, this isn't just about some kind of abstract "being creepy" XML tag getting attached to individuals.

In places where there is a socially determined reputation, that's exactly what it's like.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-10T01:09:41.857Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I don't disagree that happens. But it's not what this thread — and, particularly, the "how not to be creepy" sources in the OP — are about.

comment by chaosmosis · 2012-09-10T04:54:19.610Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The first paragraph, specifically, is more relevant. I don't really think anyone here is planning on maliciously accusing anyone else of being creepy in order to exploit the representativeness heuristic. But I'm worried that someone with good intentions might move too quickly in determining whether someone is really creepy or not, and that bad consequences would result.

The key is just to question whether a noncreepy person could also have reasons for engaging in behavior X, before concluding that they're creepy and then immediately proceeding to take action. If there's no reminder to look for what does or does not distinguish the two people then you'll end up privileging whatever hypothesis you already had in mind, which as a result of this post would be the creepiness hypothesis.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-10T06:16:00.548Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does the label and motive matter?

Or is the important thing whether someone is engaging in a behaviour that they have control over, that is having negative consequences, and they are failing to take steps to change this even when the negative consequences are pointed out to them?

comment by chaosmosis · 2012-09-10T17:04:38.202Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not all actions which are labeled creepy have negative consequences or are exclusive to creepy people. If someone does an action without negative consequences but that action is then labeled creepy prematurely without considering the motive behind it, then this premature labeling will have negative consequences. Bad labels mean bad models of reality which result in bad decisions. Mistaking someone for a creep when they're not precludes making friends with a potentially good person, and means your predictions of their behavior will be wrong.

You say that "they are failing to take steps to change this even when the negative consequences are pointed out to them". I am confused. You seem to be envisioning a very specific type of scenario here, and I don't know why you think that I would be envisioning the same scenario. Since when did my argument get restricted to instances where someone has been confronted with their creepiness and refused to change? My argument is meant to encourage caution in the people here are considering experiences from their own lives and trying to determine who is and isn't creepy, on a general overall sort of level, not to this very specific kind of instance that you mention.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-10T17:23:11.494Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The key is just to question whether a noncreepy person could also have reasons for engaging in behavior X, before concluding that they're creepy and then immediately proceeding to take action.

On the contrary, I think the key is to consistently label nonconsensual taking of intimacies as "creepy" regardless of who does it. Treating "creepy" as an XML tag on people is a terrible idea — both for the "creeps" and for others. Declaring, "Some people are noncreepy" is vulnerable to exploitation by people who manage to get themselves labeled "noncreepy" and then go around assaulting people with impunity, knowing that their noncreepy tag will protect them from accusations: when someone says "Hey, Joe assaulted me!" others will respond, "He couldn't have done that; he's noncreepy!" That's part of what the feminists call "rape culture".

comment by chaosmosis · 2012-09-10T18:04:59.683Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

On the contrary, I think the key is to consistently label nonconsensual taking of intimacies as "creepy" regardless of who does it.

I don't have a problem with that. My point is that some behaviors which aren't "nonconsensual taking[s] of intimacies" are still associated with creepiness (some for good reason, even, like murdering cats or what have you) and that we need to check those behaviors for alternative explanations (maybe they have really really bad allergies [although probably not!]).

Treating "creepy" as an XML tag on people is a terrible idea — both for the "creeps" and for others.

Taboo XML tag and say this again. Are you saying we shouldn't have a concept of "creepy people" only a concept of "creepy behavior"? Because while that might work well in the abstract, in reality it's important to predict how people will behave, which requires using labels and categories and heuristics.

Declaring, "Some people are noncreepy" is vulnerable to exploitation by people who manage to get themselves labeled "noncreepy" and then go around assaulting people with impunity, knowing that their noncreepy tag will protect them from accusations: when someone says "Hey, Joe assaulted me!" others will respond "He couldn't have done that; he's noncreepy!" That's part of what the feminists call "rape culture".

I think the position you argue against is roughly correct, actually. If there are behaviors and characteristics that strongly correlate with a lack of creepiness, it is logical to have a low prior probability on the judgement that someone with those characteristics will assault someone. For example, if someone is asexual or a child, then it's incredibly likely that they aren't a sexual predator. If someone is really nice and doesn't stare at girls or do anything weird, they're also probably not a predator. Yes, people can get around your best predictions, but that isn't a reason to not make predictions in the first place, it's just a reason to update when you get more evidence.

If Joe really isn't creepy at all then he's probably either innocent or a sociopath. If I knew Joe, and he seemed like a really nice guy, and he's never said anything that seemed slightly disturbing, and he'd been perfectly normal his whole life, I wouldn't just assume that he must be a rapist just because I heard a rumor somewhere. That would be dumb of me. The correct response is to gather more information, while for now going with your priors that say Joe is a-okay.

I don't like that you tried to stick me with defending rape culture, also. That's just inflammatory.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-10T20:05:04.933Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't like that you tried to stick me with defending rape culture, also. That's just inflammatory.

I thought we were both responding to the general topic; I didn't mean to imply that you had that intention.

Are you saying we shouldn't have a concept of "creepy people" only a concept of "creepy behavior"? Because while that might work well in the abstract, in reality it's important to predict how people will behave, which requires using labels and categories and heuristics.

Sure, but we need to check that these are grounded in reality. For instance, if conforming to a particular subcultural or class norm doesn't actually correlate with being less likely to do bad behaviors X, Y, and Z, then we shouldn't treat them like it does.

comment by chaosmosis · 2012-09-10T20:09:56.137Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but we need to check that these are grounded in reality. For instance, if conforming to a particular subcultural or class norm doesn't actually correlate with being less likely to do bad behaviors X, Y, and Z, then we shouldn't treat them like it does.

Okay. This doesn't clash with my position.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-10T04:51:35.194Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But the point is potentially relevant to any discussion where the label "creepy" is being applied.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T02:02:51.942Z · score: 16 (42 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) "there are many flaws and mistakes being made here, and time spent dealing with issues that are actually well understood in the field; here are some high-value expert resources that will quickly level you up in this field so you can at least now make interesting and important mistakes, rather than repeating basic mistakes the whole field moved past".

These have been universally well received (AFAIK) except for this one - and make no mistake, that's exactly what the OP was.

I strongly suspect in any other topic area, the defensiveness, cached behaviours and confirmation bias abounding in many of the replies here would be called out for what it is.

I also suspect in any other topic area, any links presented as "read these to quickly level up" would in fact be read before the post is being argued with. I strongly suspect that is not the case here because, well, basic arguments are being made which are addressed and dealt with in the links (sometimes in the comments rather than in the OP).

Variations on "but if we did that, all of us would constantly be in trouble" are the main ones I'm thinking of there. Since I'm sure there's a significant overlap of LW readers with SF fandom, many of you would also have seen this thoroughly dealt with in the Readercon debacle.

I suspect there is also a correlation here with approving of PUA and disapproving of anti-"creeper" measures, and am now fascinated by how we might confirm or deny that.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T02:24:05.663Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect there is also a correlation here with approving of PUA and disapproving of anti-"creeper" measures, and am now fascinated by how we might confirm or deny that.

I'm not a PUA expert by any means, but from what I've read of the field its approach is complex. On the one hand, it concerns itself extensively with not coming off as creepy, as that's one of the easier ways to be profoundly unattractive. On the other, it acknowledges that building social skills entails a lengthy awkward phase while they're being learned, wherein an aspiring PUA might inadvertently seem creepy, and encourages an aggressive approach during this phase in order to gain skill faster. Offhand I couldn't say whether this approach inspires more or less lifetime creepy feelings than the alternative.

I'd model most of the PUA types I've read as being dismissive of at least some attempts to minimize creepy behavior on grounds of it trying to solve a wrong problem, but as being outright contemptuous of the behavior itself.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T04:12:46.863Z · score: 0 (42 votes) · LW · GW

My experience of PUA memes for "improving success with women" is that they're written by men, cast interaction in competitive terms, treat all the parties' interests as zero sum, and their success relies on women having little or no agency and remaining that way.

I contrast that with intersectional social justice feminism, which is largely written by women, casts interaction in collaborative terms, rejects zero-sum framings, and its success relies on upgrading everyone's agency & ability.

I also can't help but think that if & when PUA works, its success inversely varies with a woman's intelligence, self-awareness and rationality. The opposite is true with social justice feminism.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T07:03:02.106Z · score: 15 (39 votes) · LW · GW

My experience of PUA memes for "improving success with women" is that

Your testimony thereof gives an overwhelming impression that your experience with such memes comes either exclusively from or is dominated by second hand sources who are themselves hostile to the culture.

they're written by men

Yes. (And dating advice for men written by women gets a different label.)

cast interaction in competitive terms

A significant aspect of it, at certain phases of courtship, yes.

, treat all the parties' interests as zero sum

Nonsense.

and their success relies on women having little or no agency and remaining that way.

This assumes that the will directing said agency does not wish to mate with or form a relationship with someone with the social skills developed by the PUA. As it happens the universe we live in enough people (and, I would even suggest most people) do prefer people with those skills

I contrast that with intersectional social justice feminism, which is largely written by women, casts interaction in collaborative terms, rejects zero-sum framings, and its success relies on upgrading everyone's agency & ability.

Those sound like noble ideals. It is plausible that there is a group of people who adhere to them. Did they come prepackaged with your prejudice or can you buy them separately?

I also can't help but think that if & when PUA works, its success inversely varies with a woman's intelligence, self-awareness and rationality.

I doubt that.

The opposite is true with social justice feminism.

Social justice feminism is a strategy for attracting mates that can be compared in efficacy to skills developed with the active intent to attract said mates? That would be an impressive set of ideals indeed if true!

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T11:24:02.887Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Mm, I agree I could know PUA better than I do. You're under no obligation to educate me, of course, but if you had a few links you thought exemplary for PUA at its best, I'd be much obliged.

I'm finding (scholarly, thoughtful) critiques of PUA and the seduction community from a feminist social justice perspective, but in case they're attacking PUA at its worst. I'll do some reading. I'm concentrating on inside-view critiques from people well versed in PUA techniques and the seduction community, there are some good links out there.

Putting this as charitably as possible, even if in fact there is nothing misogynistic or unjust in PUA, there is a vast amount of feminist distrust of it, and PUA doesn't seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).

PUA is probably too far off-topic for this post and I'm willing to continue this elsewhere (Discussions?) or let it drop for now.

comment by pjeby · 2012-09-08T16:36:12.348Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Putting this as charitably as possible, even if in fact there is nothing misogynistic or unjust in PUA, there is a vast amount of feminist distrust of it, and PUA doesn't seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).

Here are a few quick counterexamples to your comments about zero-sum, lack of agency, lack of response to feminism, etc::

I think these should be sufficient to provide a shift in your opinion regarding what the field of "PUA" includes, even if you view these schools of thought as isolated examples. (They aren't the only such schools, of course; they just happen to be ones it was easy for me to find representative links for.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T20:29:36.278Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

See also Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, a substantial overview of different sorts of PUA, a woman's experiences exploring the PUA subcultures, and some theory on the subject.

Has anyone read the book?

She picks up on something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I've seen (and LW is almost the only place that I've seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.

comment by pjeby · 2012-09-09T02:08:19.042Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I've seen (and LW is almost the only place that I've seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.

That is actually a good way of stating the difference between the material that I don't like, vs. the material I do. People who focus on the zero-sum aspects of mating and dating (i.e. both inter- and intra-gender competition) seem, well, creepy to me.

I suppose those folks might write off my concerns as simply saying they're displaying low status by focusing on those aspects, but I think the real issue, as you state, is simply that they seem to live in a universe where nobody likes anybody or has any positive intentions, and people who think otherwise are all just signalling or deluded. It's like if HP:MoR's Professor Quirrel was giving relationship classes!

(Luckily, this is not a universal characteristic of PUA theory, as Soporno and AMP demonstrate.)

[Edit: brain fart - I wrote "non-zero sum" when I meant "zero sum"]

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T02:31:36.285Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Non-zero sum? I'm not sure that's the issue.

In theory, I think it would be possible to have an alliance-building PUA model of relationships, and it would still be Quirrelesque.

HughRistik had a different list of benign elements in PUA, I think-- but have any of the benign styles shown up at LW?

I'm not sure whether this is relevant, but it took me a while to put what bothers me about PUA as I've seen it into words, and longer than that to pull together the nerve to post about it.

comment by pjeby · 2012-09-09T05:42:34.507Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Non-zero sum? I'm not sure that's the issue.

I agree; it's just a symptom. "A universe where no one likes anybody" is a much better summation.

HughRistik had a different list of benign elements in PUA, I think-- but have any of the benign styles shown up at LW?

Define "shown up".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T05:57:25.712Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Define "shown up"

Appeared with sufficient force to make an impression.

This is admittedly subjective (and probably incomplete-- I don't read everything at LW), but what I saw was probably mid-range PUA-- neither grossly misogynistic nor obviously benign-- combined with claims that there are excellent elements in PUA and I shouldn't stereotype it by its worst.

comment by ikrase · 2013-02-03T18:19:47.346Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The stuff that's particularly benign in PUA is also the stuff that PUA has no monopoly on.

But yeah, I think that the true rejection is just how Quirrel-ish it is. Not harmful, not unprincipled, but just how it seems to be written for the sake of sexytimes alone.

comment by coffeespoons · 2012-09-08T21:47:34.732Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Reading the book now. I'm certainly less anti-PUA than I was before I started reading it., and I have much more sympathy for the guys who join the seduction community than I used to.

She picks up on something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I've seen (and LW is almost the only place that I've seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.

Yes, this!

comment by Document · 2012-09-12T01:53:00.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It was written by a Less Wronger. I'm not sure whether that's ironic or not.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2012-09-11T10:16:33.047Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I read and enjoyed it.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T07:53:35.999Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, I'll take a look.

EDIT: Have read those links several times and digested them over the last few days. I am poking at why the third one bothers me (I think it's the "it's in their nature" statement).

Certainly the first two are good counter-examples to my earlier impressions. Thank you again.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T10:27:02.110Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

PUA doesn't seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).

Why would they find that worth their time?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T10:46:04.755Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Why would they find that worth their time?

Agree and my own reaction took this a step further---I was glad to hear that JoeW, as someone who seems to affiliate with people politically opposed to PUA, got the impression that the PUA community felt no obligation to engage or respond. I would have thought less of the community if it did.

PUAs are not political activists. They are people who enjoy, practice and develop a specific set of skills with a specific purpose. Their comparative advantage really isn't in engaging in moral and political debate to convince others that they deserve respect, acceptance or special treatment. Moreover acting as if you need to justify yourself (or your group) to others already represents a significant loss of standing. That is one aspect of politics in general that PUAs should be expected to be familiar with, since it overlaps so much with the rules of the social game that they are dedicated to mastering.

(This is different from simply explaining their own personal ethical values completely divorced from any reference to external critics and in terms of conveying information rather than giving excuse. That is something that PUA-instructor types seem to enjoy doing.)

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-10T14:01:48.839Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Moreover acting as if you need to justify yourself (or your group) to others already represents a significant loss of standing.

[boggled] Isn't that what we're all doing here at LW? Arguing and justifying our arguments? Did you just lower your standing with your justification? At time of writing I see quite the reverse.

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-10T14:38:17.535Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Moreover acting as if you need to justify yourself (or your group) to others already represents a significant loss of standing.

boggled] Isn't that what we're all doing here at LW? Arguing and justifying our arguments? Did you just lower your standing with your justification? At time of writing I see quite the reverse.

LW is a freakishly abnormal social setting, even for internet fora. Most people here care more about figuring out what's true than winning arguments. This is unique in my experience of the internet. "facts" are not the primary use case for language., social politics are.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-11T13:55:44.085Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good points, thank you.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-10T14:35:37.134Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If someone justifies their request for me to justify my personal choices, I may do so. However, generally speaking, justifying one's choices is a super low-status move and requesting (or, more frequently, demanding) justification is a high-status move.

Justification of belief, although having status connotations, can usually be treated differently.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-11T13:54:49.486Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wish I'd graduated from the Cooperative Conspiracy before attempting these arguments. :)

Yes, I see what you say and agree. Updating.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-10T14:11:13.816Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What's the downside?

Adopting PUA techniques and values: arguably improves sex and/or relationship outcomes with some women. Visibly adopting and affiliating with PUA: definitely worsen sex and/or relationship outcomes with some (other but not wholly disjoint set of) women.

Addressing those perceptions might offset some of the latter (certain) penalty, and it's not clear to me that it would come at any reduction to the former (possible) bonus.

I'm still reading the "PUA at its best" links so I don't know enough to say how costly this approach is. Perhaps you're saying you think it's better to cut your losses, completely give up on any women alienated by PUA and focus on those who don't notice or don't care?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T14:18:51.385Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What's the downside?

Time and effort spent are a very real costs as is opportunity cost.

Adopting PUA techniques and values: arguably improves sex and/or relationship outcomes with some women.

...

Perhaps you're saying you think it's better to cut your losses, completely give up on any women alienated by PUA and focus on those who don't notice or don't care?

I'm not sure why women who are alienated by PUA would be off the table as potential romantic partners. I'm sure it has a cost, but I'm not sure the kind of person who sough out PUA in the first place doesn't still have better odds using game and paying the price, rather than doing what he would have done before.

Visibly adopting and affiliating with PUA: definitely worsen sex and/or relationship outcomes with some (other but not wholly disjoint set of) women.

I'm sceptical of claims that PUA being practised in the wild is easy to spot. To bring in ancedotes from my social life, I've had both false positives and negatives when guessing which strangers (later acquaintances and friends) where running game and which had never heard of it.

I've had very positive experience talking to my gfs about game as I see and practice it (sprinkled with general Hansonian observations about status and behaviour), they are very interested and often talk to me about it. One became very enthusiastic to the point of reading the same gaming blogs as I do and reporting gossip in the jargon, which makes it almost fun to listen to. Not to mention the opportunity for great inside jokes. :)

I think it made communication about desire, sexuality, socialization and relationships easier. Maybe I would be even better off if I hadn't shared this interest or didn't have it in the first place, but I don't think that is the case.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-10T14:45:08.068Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That was my question though, albeit not stated so clearly: is it really an opportunity cost?

Does fetishising intelligence, sex positivity, communicative effectiveness, intersectional social justice, and active informed consent really turn off mainstream conventional women? Serious question; I seldom have relationships or sex outside that constellation of characteristics.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T14:47:01.247Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That was my question though, albeit not stated so clearly: is it really an opportunity cost?

The thing is convincing people on the internet about something is very different from talking to people in your personal life.

Does fetishising intelligence, sex positivity, communicative effectiveness, intersectional social justice, and active informed consent really turn off mainstream conventional women?

I'm just wondering what is intersectional social justice? I found it challenging to unpack the meaning behind the words used in the wikipedia article. Please try to idiot proof the explanation in accordance with this while retaining as much accuracy as possible.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T15:05:41.923Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I found it challenging to unpack the meaning behind the words used in the wikipedia article.

It's not your fault: the wikipedia article is gobbledygook. The TL;DR version is that discriminated outgroups (classified by gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability etc. etc.) should want to cooperate among each other, since mitigating discrimination and socially systemic ingroup bias is in fact a common interest shared by all of them.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-11T13:53:08.973Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh my, I hadn't read that Wiki page, that's not very useful no.

The answer from bogus doesn't seem incorrect to me, but it seems incomplete. It's not just a call for cooperation but for rejecting single-issue reductionism, which fails to address (sufficiently or at all) matters such as relative privilege (e.g. women of colour face additional issues that white women do not) or situational privilege (localised exceptions to more global privilege divisions, such as some public health policies discriminating against men.

The claim is engaging in any one issue of social justice without considering the others alienates allies due to hypocrisy (e.g. where relative privilege recapitulates inequalities in wider society). First-wave feminism has been heavily criticised for being a feminism of middle-class educated white women, for instance, just as 1970s sexuality movements have been criticised for being largely run by white men.

TL;DR might be "utility functions take more than one argument" and "don't burn your allies - you'll also burn yourself".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-11T16:38:57.698Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is interesting-- neither bogus' nor JoeW's definition of intersectionality exactly matches what I'd picked up from reading Racefail and the like.

I think of intersectionality as acknowledging that people have multiple traits, some of which give social advantages and some of which give social disadvantages. Having an advantage in one way doesn't take away the disadvantage in another, and vice versa. Furthermore, people are not required to choose a single identity based on one trait.

I have never seen situational privilege mentioned before. I thought that if people had a trait that was usually privileged, they were just supposed to endure any mistreatment they received for it.

Would anyone happen to know the history of the adoption of the idea of intersectionality? I'm willing to bet that it was a hard fight, but I'm guessing.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-11T17:09:46.455Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that if people had a trait that was usually privileged, they were just supposed to endure any mistreatment they received for it.

That's not actually a standard norm -- one thing worth noting is that when you look at the recent history of online SJ, what you're seeing is the proliferation of terms, tactics, ideas and theoretical frameworks from the last century, in a variety of contexts, suddenly become very visible and popular. Lots of people are discovering it, and in many cases what took decades or longer to develop in some groups is being adopted wholesale by people who are often familiar with summaries, or a few key texts.

A lot of people are finding it very empowering. Those people are not especially more likely to have deep insight, uncommon empathy, or a very broad view of the world than anyone else. This means they're going to be doing all the things people do in addition to talk about SJ, when talking about SJ.

Yes, this does mean some will be bullies, and sometimes whole groups will endorse that, essentially because in the process of bullying the person is also saying stuff they agree with, that they find empowering, and that is widely deprecated in society in general (often in ways that cause them tangible harm).

The trick is that bully-detection can run afoul of a related, but not similarly-pathological phenomenon. I wanna unpack this a little more because it's kind of complicated, and how well you see or agree that there's a distinction is often dependent on your own social values. It goes like this:

Some people have set up spaces to discuss some element of their experience in a SJ context -- say, a blog that deals with racism in popular culture, posted online. While technically anyone can access it if they know the URL, the blog is not written so as to be maximally-understandable to the widest cross-section of possible audiences. This is fine -- this is no different than discussing biology or astronomy publicly despite the sheer number of people who'd feel it was controversial to assert certain facts about evolution or cosmology, or who just don't know much about the topic.

People who aren't very knowledgeable about the topic, or have issues with it being discussed as a factual matter at all, may discover the blog and the discussion going on there. When they do, they'll often attempt to participate in the discussion from their own starting point, and when the immediate responses don't satisfy them, they'll keep pushing at it.

Thing is, it is really, emphatically not up to the bloggers or the commentators to bring them up to speed. It just isn't -- yes, education is important, yes communicating your point persuasively to outsiders is an important skill, but we don't expect the journal Nature to give everybody a basic, elementary-level understanding of physics before talking about the latest interesting results out of $LABORATORY. There's nothing especially wrong with pointing that out; doing so confrontationally might not seem very polite, but politeness may not actually be warranted either, as it'll merely encourage the person to keep demanding time and attention the folks there want for doing what it was they got together to do in the first place.

Explaining that this is not the place to come to be educated, or that it's not something they're volunteering to do, is seldom easy or productive to do gently. The goal is to get the person to stop trying to participate in a discussion they're derailing. Social and communication norms will play a big part in how that's phrased, too. It may be anything from arm's-length polite to trollish depending on the community and the individual involved. The common factor is that the purpose of communication on this topic is to end the discussion, which is consuming scarce resources of time, attention and energy.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-11T17:39:31.593Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Every time I touch the social justice core community, I wish I hadn't. I can read some of it without exploding, and I have some friends from it who I can talk to without wanting to smack them, but the central community is toxic. It's not just about 101 spaces needing to be a separate thing; it's negative-sum echo chambers. Here's a recent example of someone biting me (skim post for context, search my name for my comment, the blogger's reply is two down).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-11T18:23:10.001Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What's the central community? I wasn't aware SJ had one. Certainly given the strife between its disparate elements, I'd be a little surprised if one existed.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-11T19:21:44.265Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well-known feminist/antiracist bloggers and well-trafficked parts of tumblr are most of what I'm thinking about. There's plenty of infighting (that's what makes it negative sum); that doesn't mean it's not a category I can point at.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-11T19:30:38.075Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well-known feminist/antiracist bloggers and well-trafficked parts of tumblr are most of what I'm thinking about.

You know that doesn't even add up to internet-famous, right? This is not the center of anything -- just the slice of it most visible to you.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-11T19:33:11.655Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine I used some other word, then. (Other slices are also visible to me, but they are less popular, and do not make me angry.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-11T17:18:51.495Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It still seems to add up to that I (as a white person) am supposed to show unlimited patience. Also, the sort of anger you're describing doesn't just show up against people who show up in a dedicated online group which isn't interested in doing 101 yet another time.

Recent example-- gender issues, not race.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-11T18:26:12.900Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It still seems to add up to that I (as a white person) am supposed to show unlimited patience.

In what context? Nobody said you had to participate in the discussion, right? Is it vitally important that you be there, having that conversation with those people?

Also, the sort of anger you're describing doesn't just show up against people who show up in a dedicated online group which isn't interested in doing 101 yet another time.

I...said that, yeah. I said that first, in fact. That was the first part of my post, before the other thing...

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-12T05:23:44.415Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, thank you, you've just crystalised some thoughts for me.

I think my definition of intersectional social justice now includes explicit precommitment to bypassing & minimising defensiveness. It's as valued, encouraged and sought after as bypassing & minimising irrational biases are here.

Your comment prompted this when I realised that for me, external calls for me to get past my defensiveness cause very similar frustration to when I feel like I'm being told to be more patient/tolerant/self-effacing than I think is reasonable. It may be that it works similarly for you and others, too.

More specifically, no, no-one is supposed to show unlimited patience; minorities do not automatically "win" (qv. situational & relative privilege, plus lack of privilege does not confer a magical anti-jerk field). However we are all asked to do the work in acknowledging any defensiveness and its downstream reactions & responses.

I have other early ideas about defensiveness as a cognitive bias, too. :)

comment by bogus · 2012-09-11T18:09:54.339Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with Alicorn and NancyLebovitz that "social justice" discourse on the internet often suffers from echo-chambers and affective death spirals which give it an overall impression of being extremely phyg-ish and vulnerable to all sorts of biases and limited cognition.

The silver lining is that these detrimental features also eliminate its potential of exerting any kind of adverse influence on real-world politics and society. This is why I encourage people to refrain from commenting as "outsiders" on such blogs, so as to save their limited time and effort.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-11T18:32:45.489Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Why, it's almost like LessWrong.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-11T18:40:31.656Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Heh. I take it you've been reading RationalWiki again.

(Edited to add: I regret having to explain the joke, but anyway: the obvious difference between the rationalist and SJ cmmunities is that the rationalist community is equipped with the proper cognitive tools and social norms for dealing with phyg-like tendencies, whereas social justice groups - broadly understood - are not. This marks a big difference between the two - which incidentally explains why I do find it at least marginally worthwhile to participate in LW. Equating these two situations really is not that different from what RationalWiki states in its LessWrong page: the denotation is broadly correct - the article may well be a useful sanity check for LW users - but the connotation is arguably very misleading.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-11T18:45:49.161Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

EDIT: Y'know what, actually, forget snippy replying back to the snip. What I find damn fascinating about this reply is that the suggestion that any of those labels might apply here immediately prompted a guess at which Other Tribe I must be secretly infiltrating from.

I think that says a lot.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-11T19:42:36.893Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

the obvious difference between the rationalist and SJ cmmunities is that the rationalist community is equipped with the proper cognitive tools and social norms for dealing with phyg-like tendencies, whereas social justice groups - broadly understood - are not.

To me this reads more as rationalist cheering than as a good argument in favor of LW social norms. Yes, we've generally got a good opinion of LW culture around here -- that's why we're posting here rather than on, say, Tiger Beatdown. But that's hardly surprising.

What are the specific norms and cognitive tools that make the LW community so well equipped, and where's the evidence that we're actually implementing them successfully? If we don't have a good answer to that, we shouldn't be making the claim.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-11T20:18:43.945Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

To me this reads more as rationalist cheering than as a good argument in favor of rationalist social norms.

You may want to refer to EY's article about Guardians of Ayn Rand. Objectivists may have been "rationalists" in some sense, but did they ever claim to have good cognitive and social tools against phyg-ishness? Of course they didn't, because they expended no effort on developing such tools, and coming up with tools or successfully applying them conferred no status benefits within their social group. Do you spot the difference now? Good, it's nice that we're clearing this up.

If we don't have a good answer to that, we shouldn't be making the claim.

I agree that we should not be focusing too much (or at all) on this particular claim about ourselves, as a matter of basic epistemic hygiene: as LW insiders, we should fear and alieve that we really are being too phyg-ish, as opposed to not phyg-ish at all. Nonetheless, there are exceptions - such as when a naïve comparison is drawn between LessWrong and garden-variety social and political movements. At some point, it really becomes important to set the record straight.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-11T20:32:27.870Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Objectivists may have "rationalists" in some sense, but did they ever claim to have good cognitive and social tools against phyg-ishness? Of course they didn't, because they expended no effort on developing such tools...

Depends how wide your scope is. It's fairly rare for groups to use the cult terminology (my impression is that LW developed its vocabulary in that area mainly thanks to early accusations of being a personality cult centered on EY; consider Two Cult Koans). But it's quite common for groups to identify as "the non-clique clique", to borrow a phrase from a recent conversation: that's an identity shared by all of Objectivism, LW rationality, and most strains of social justice. Their methods for attempting that status vary, but all indications are that it's a hard problem, which is exactly why we should wait on data before making any strong claims about our methodology.

As to Objectivism specifically, my knowledge of the group is limited to Rand's writings, but she seems to have been under the impression that what she saw as rigorous axiomatization would be enough to prevent the pitfalls of ideology. She put a huge amount of effort into streamlining her philosophy along those lines, far more than we've put into combating happy death spirals and the affect heuristic directly. In retrospect that was clearly a bad approach, but in her own context it wasn't obviously so; it seemed to have worked for mathematics, after all, which was making huge strides around when she was writing.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-11T21:03:32.949Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But it's quite common for groups to identify as "the non-clique clique", to borrow a phrase from a recent conversation:

Unfortunately, "the non-clique clique" is vulnerable to outgroup-homogeneity and related biases. It's all too easy to think that they are a clique with simplistic views, wereas we (our own tribe) are a diverse group with a variety of opinions and well-argued viewpoints. It's not clear that this adds anything in terms of basic hygiene.

... what she saw as rigorous axiomatization would be enough to prevent the pitfalls of ideology. She put a huge amount of effort into streamlining her philosophy along those lines ...

I assume that Objectivism was not in fact the first known attempt at "rigorous axiomatized" philosophy - so the outside view should've been fairly clear, even at the time. Besides, it's not clear what you (or perhaps Rand herself) mean by "ideology": informally, rigorous axiomatization seems to be a recipe for absolute-sounding, black-and-white statements. Is it really plausible that this would not be understood at the time?

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-11T21:18:38.231Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"the non-clique clique" is vulnerable to outgroup-homogeneity and related biases. It's all too easy to think that they are a clique with simplistic views, wereas we (our own tribe) are a diverse group with a variety of opinions and well-argued viewpoints.

Which is exactly my point. Everyone thinks this, and most of them are wrong. What I'm hoping for is some data point that suggests, from the outside view, that our approach of focusing on the underlying heuristics and biases is more effective at preventing actual affective death spirals than Rand's axiomatization or SJ's focus on symptoms. Once again, knowledge of bias isn't well correlated with reduction of bias, and there's very little consistency here in actual epistemic hygiene practice. The minicamps might have data, but I'm not involved in those.

Objectivism was not in fact the first known attempt at "rigorous axiomatized" philosophy - so the outside view should've been fairly clear [...] Besides, it's not clear what you (or perhaps Rand herself) mean by "ideology": informally, rigorous axiomatization seems to be a recipe for absolute-sounding, black-and-white statements.

Rand was looking for absolute-sounding statements; indeed, she was looking for absolute statements, things you could treat as theorems and therefore wouldn't need to worry about bias in. It's not too far wrong to describe Objectivism as an attempt to axiomatize political philosophy (and to a lesser extent other branches of philosophy, though her attempts at these were much weaker) along mathematical lines. This had been tried before (I believe Leibniz took a whack at it), but not successfully, and not famously.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-10T14:51:31.102Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does fetishising intelligence, sex positivity, communicative effectiveness, intersectional social justice, and active informed consent really turn off mainstream conventional women?

Some of these, yes. PUA makes it easier to connect with women who have no preference for thinking about sex/sexuality - or even gender relations - in such active and overt terms.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T04:44:33.666Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I really don't see much hope for bridging the gap between pro- and anti-PUA camps on this board; both positions are already entrenched, and large portions of both sides have adopted the other as a Hated Enemy with whom no rational dialogue can be maintained. It's not a battle I'm interested in fighting; besides, that battle's already been fought. Several times. To no productive effect.

Speaking as someone who's fairly familiar with both sides yet identifies with neither, though, I think they have more in common than they're willing to admit. There's a great deal of adversarial framing going on, yes, to the point where you've got people like Heartiste who've built their reputations on it. But both sides are basically trying to advocate for greater agency and fulfillment within their scope and among their constituents, which sounds like a great opportunity for intersectionality if I've ever heard one. As to zero-sum framing -- well, "leave her better than you found her" is a well-known, and fairly mainstream, PUA catchphrase.

If I'm going to demonize anything here, this unspeakably stupid war-of-the-sexes model seems like by far my best target.

comment by MBlume · 2012-09-09T01:00:32.368Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I think that to the extent we have a conflict between "pro-PUA" and "anti-PUA" camps on LW, most of the conflict consists simply in deciding whether to cheer "yay PUA" or "boo PUA", and, relatedly, what specific memes to treat as central to the PUA memeplex. I suspect that if people were asked to endorse or repudiate specific pieces of concrete social advice, there'd be a lot less disagreement than there is over "yay PUA" or "boo PUA".

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-09-09T11:53:41.775Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"What specific memes to treat as central" is very important part. I would say this is the part where many memetic wars are won or lost.

If you allow pro-X people to design the official definition of X, every time you use the definition you automatically provide applause lights to X. If you allow anti-X people to design the official definition of X, every time you use the definition you automacally provide boo lights to X.

A typical pro-X definition of X is something like: "X is a movement of people who want happiness and cookies for everyone". Far-mode applause lights; omitting the controversial details.

A typical anti-X definition of X is something like: "X is a movement containing evil low-status people (here are some extreme examples)".

For any group consisting of humans, you can create both definitions, and then pro-X and anti-X people will disagree on which definition is the correct one. The group more successful in popularizing their message has essentially already won.

comment by Antisuji · 2012-09-09T07:32:12.167Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'd love to see Yvain's blog post you linked turned into a top-level LW post. I found it more elucidating that the Worst Argument in the World post, say.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-09-09T00:40:26.194Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

the gap between pro- and anti-PUA camps on this board ... both positions are already entrenched, and large portions of both sides have adopted the other as a Hated Enemy with whom no rational dialogue can be maintained

At the very least this doesn't seem to be clearly the case. To the extent this is an unstable property influenced by social norms, approved claiming of more certainty than actually present pushes the norms towards establishing that property more strongly. Since what you describe is a bad property ("no rational dialogue can be maintained"), I disapprove of the claim of certainty you've made.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-09T01:08:22.557Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting perspective. I think the grandparent should make it fairly clear that I disapprove of this state of affairs and feel that entrenched members of both camps are, at best, wasting their time; on the other hand, I also feel that most of the cultural mass of the problem is out of our hands. This isn't an endogenous squabble of LW's; it's a wider cultural dispute that just tends to instantiate itself here because of our demographic placement (and our taste for metacontrarianism). And since for whatever reason it doesn't seem to partake of our norm of political detachment, I think we'll have a very hard time with it unless and until the conventional wisdom shifts one way or another.

I could be wrong. I hope I am.

comment by jimmy · 2012-09-10T18:23:16.255Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I also can't help but think that if & when PUA works, its success inversely varies with a woman's intelligence, self-awareness and rationality.

I actually taught my girlfriend some of the PUA stuff so that she's better at seducing me! (with success)

I hope that doesn't make me any of those things :p

comment by ikrase · 2013-02-03T18:16:12.445Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Furthermore, PUA often seems very focused on specifically-sexualized enviroments in which nobody is actually speaking directly (A particular sort of high-class Los Angeles nightclub seems to be the original target) and really ruthlessly optimizing.

Plus wayyyyyyyy too much Dark Arts.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T05:26:04.508Z · score: 11 (25 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) ...

These have been universally well received (AFAIK) except for this one - and make no mistake, that's exactly what the OP was.

I'm sorry, do you have actual evidence that reading Yet Another List of Don'ts will "quickly level you up" in this field? Or that the TC is an expert? Or that they are even high-value resources? Can you identify even one person that has (as you put it) gained a few levels from these resources?

Being extremely doubtful of this parallel you've made, I can't buy your claim that this is being treated differently.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T05:59:23.293Z · score: 8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I saw the main gains of the top post being the links. I don't agree that the links contain only "don'ts"... but, well, so what if they did? If there are clumsy don'ts as routine mistakes, learning to recognise and avoid them is surely an improvement?

As these aren't academic peer-reviewed articles, I can't give you objective evidence in the form of citations and impact measures. What sort of metrics could one provide that would make them more convincingly expert? If these aren't the best experts available I too would like to know who is better so as to learn more.

Can you identify even one person that has (as you put it) gained a few levels from these resources?

If you're saying you'll accept anecdotes as weak evidence, then yes, I am one data point there. :) Comments particularly on the pervocracy and Captain Awkward links contain other such claims.

As many have said - both here, and perhaps ironically, in many of those links too - it's more productive to focus on behaviours rather than on labels for people. "Creeper" is a very laden term, probably very similar to "racist" - most of us don't want to think of ourselves as someone with all the imputed characteristics of those labels, and we get defensive.

When I started being able to focus on behaviours (my own and others'), I recognised a number of ways in which my own biases, ignorance and negligence were costing me flawless victories in many social & business settings. This is why I wonder why there's so much pushback, as the upgrades in general communication/social/people skills from a good reading of privilege and social justice are useful everywhere.

Rationality & intelligence should win, right? If smart women with better people skills than us have specific practical advice, how can we lose by listening carefully and bypassing our defensiveness? Even if only 1% of it were useful, don't you want that 1%? I do.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T06:27:45.199Z · score: 17 (35 votes) · LW · GW

I don't agree that the links contain only "don'ts"... but, well, so what if they did? If there are clumsy don'ts as routine mistakes, learning to recognise and avoid them is surely an improvement?

For the reason I gave earlier: the weird stuff happens because they don't know what the superior option is, not because they're under the impression that it was a great idea all along. Moreover, to borrow from EY's felicitous phrasing, non-wood is not a building material, non-selling-apples is not a business plan, and non-hugs-without-asking is not a social adeptness enhancement method.

As these aren't academic peer-reviewed articles, ...

you should probably avoid implying that they met such a standard with a statement like:

I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) "there are many flaws and mistakes being made here, and time spent dealing with issues that are actually well understood in the field; here are some high-value expert resources that will quickly level you up in this field so you can at least now make interesting and important mistakes, rather than repeating basic mistakes the whole field moved past"


If you're saying you'll accept anecdotes as weak evidence, then yes, I am one data point there.

I accept anecdotes as weak evidence. I accept self-reports as weak(er) evidence. I do not, however, accept that this evidence suffices given the strength of your claim (and confidence in it), nor do I accept the comparison to the other articles you mentioned.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T09:18:25.409Z · score: 16 (20 votes) · LW · GW

These are good points, and I don't have great answers to them.

My weak answer is that in a field that isn't well represented in peer-reviewed academic journals, we still have to sift it by some measures. I agree self-reports are close to worthless - we could find self-reports extolling the virtues of astrology and homeopathy.

My other weak answer is that Elevator-Gate and responses to the discussion of forming a Humanist+ community make it abundantly clear that the atheist/rationalist movement is widely perceived by a lot of smart women as both passively a horrible place to be and actively hostile to anyone who says so. I haven't tried exhaustive online searches but I'm not finding even 1% of the same data volumes from women saying they find atheist/rationalist space actively attractive because of these attitudes.

I like your point about non-wood, but if someone tells you you are stepping on their foot, non-stepping-on-feet probably does need to figure prominently in your short term decision tree.

(Great link, it's short, it's to the point.)

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T19:58:07.444Z · score: 4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

If someone is routinely stepping on feet, it would make more sense to find out why, and offer non-destructive ways of accomplishing that. For example, if they're stepping on feet to get attention, then offering the general rule of "don't step on feet" is just setting yourself up to write an unending list of articles about "... or lift people in the air", "... or play airhorns", "...or dress as a clown", etc.

(And I know, "you're not obligated to fix other people's problems", but once you've decided to go that route, you should take into account which methods are most effective, and "don't [do this specific failure mode]" isn't it.)

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T08:05:21.566Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I find I agree with everything you've said, yet I'm still wondering what happens to the poor person whose foot has been stood on.

Perhaps I'm just restating and agreeing with "no obligation to fix others", but the comments in the CaptainAwkward link address this specifically: the approach you describe still makes the person transgressing boundaries the focus of our attention and response. I find that caring about why someone routinely steps on feet is quite low on my list, and (perhaps this is my main point) something I'm only willing to invest resources in once they (1) stop stepping on people's feet and (2) agree and acknowledge they shouldn't be stepping on feet.

I'm also a bit skeptical of the idea you peripherally touch on, but we're seeing in a lot of the comments in this post, that avoiding the "creeper" equivalent on stepping on toes is a tough bar to clear and is unfair to ask of someone with deficits in social/people/communication skills. I think it's very telling that such people seldom seem to get into boundary-related trouble with anyone they recognise as more powerful than them (law enforcement; airport security; workplace bosses).

There was that study about (average, neurotypical) men's supposed deficits in reading indirect communication compared to women that found that it's basically rubbish - they can do it when they think they have to, and they don't with women because they think they don't have to. (Link is to non-academic summary, but has the links to the journal articles.)

I'm wandering well past your point here but you reminded me of this. :)

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T19:25:45.611Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly, if your main priority is stopping this behavior, that affects how your respond to it. But once you've decided to write articles telling the creeps how to act at events, and the advice is something other than "never go to events, just be alone", then I think you need to offer advice more than "don'ts".

And so if you've closed off the "they should just go away" route, then I think you have no choice but to offer solutions that avoid having to write the infinite list of articles about "... or dance Irish jigs at random, either". And that means saying what to do right.

I'm also a bit skeptical of the idea you peripherally touch on, but we're seeing in a lot of the comments in this post, that avoiding the "creeper" equivalent on stepping on toes is a tough bar to clear and is unfair to ask of someone with deficits in social/people/communication skills.

I've never suggested that. That is an easy bar to clear indeed. My point is that clearing every such bar without positive advice (about what to do rather than not do) is hard. And so, again, you can certainly take the "who cares if they just never come at all?" approach, but since these articles don't go that way, they have to do better than "don'ts".

There was that study about (average, neurotypical) men's supposed deficits in reading indirect communication compared to women that found that it's basically rubbish

How is that relevant to the non-neurotypical creep type we're concerned about here?

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-10T10:18:16.625Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am willing to attempt a separate Discussion post that attempts to put together specific, practical, measurable "do this (and here's why)" techniques from a rationalist approach. (Or as close as possible; there won't be a lot of peer-reviewed scholarly research here, but there is some.)

If there's interest in this, I'd welcome assistance and critiques. I'm not stonewalling but I'm feeling we've wandered a bit too far from the OP.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T06:00:58.951Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying either way which it is, but if only 1 percent is useful, that doesn't mean the other 99 percent is neutral. It could very well be BAD.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T09:02:51.618Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Mm, that's fair. I don't think anything should be taken uncritically.

comment by lucidian · 2012-09-08T02:38:04.089Z · score: 11 (29 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you that the socially awkward among us could reap large benefits by implementing these "anti-creeper measures". That's because we live in a society where such "creepy" behaviors are deemed unacceptable, and in order to fit into a society, one has to follow that society's norms.

However, I think many people on this thread have a problem with these norms existing, and that's what they're upset about; they'd like to combat these social norms instead of acquiescing to them. And I can certainly see why a rationalist might be opposed to these norms. The idea of "creepiness" seems to be a relatively new social phenomenon, and since it emerged, people have gotten much more conscious about avoiding being "creepy". Most of the discussion in the comments has been about unwanted physical contact, but another part of creepiness is unwanted verbal communication. Social norms seem to cater increasingly to the oversensitive and easily offended; instead of asking oversensitive people to lighten up a bit, we often go out of our way to avoid saying things that will offend people. And of course, any social norm that prevents people from communicating their beliefs and opinions honestly is contrary to the goals of the rationalist movement. It may then be of interest to rationalists to fight this increase in sensitivity by encouraging open discussion, and discouraging taking offense.

Of course, to actually change social norms, we would first have to infiltrate society, which requires gaining basic competence in social skills, even ones we disagree with.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T03:23:17.365Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

It isn't clear to me that the connotations of "oversensitive" as it's used here are justified. Some people suffer, to greater or lesser degrees, in situations that I don't. That doesn't necessarily make them oversensitive, or me insensitive.

There are some things we, as a culture, are more sensitive to now than our predecessors were. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't believe a rational person, in a situation where honesty causes suffering, necessarily prefers to be honest.

All of that said, I certainly support discouraging people from suffering, given the option. And I support discouraging people from claiming to suffer when they don't. But I don't support encouraging people to keep their mouths shut when they suffer. And I suspect that many social structures that ostensibly do the former in reality do the latter.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-09-08T11:54:07.169Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The idea of "creepiness" seems to be a relatively new social phenomenon

What the whuh? Perhaps the label is new (though I find that implausible too), but I really don't think the behaviour as an observed phenomenon is. What do you base your statement on?

comment by lucidian · 2012-09-08T12:51:24.114Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, I think I meant that the label is new, as well as the increased social consciousness of creepiness. A couple years ago, I realized that at my college, the two things everyone wanted to avoid being were "awkward" and "creepy". I could tell because people would preface comments with "this is super awkward, but" or "I don't mean to come across as creepy, but". Usually, the comments would be anything but awkward or creepy, but prefacing the comment does a couple of useful things:

  • The speaker safeguards himself against being judged by anyone who might possibly find the comment awkward/creepy, or on the threshold of awkward/creepy. If he knows that he's being awkward/creepy, at least no one will think he's so socially maladjusted that he's doing it by accident.

  • The speaker demonstrates that she's not awkward/creepy. I mean, if she's worried about a comment as innocuous as /that/ being perceived as awkward/creepy, she's certainly not going to do anything /actually/ awkward/creepy!

The conspicuous self-consciousness and constant safeguarding against awkward/creepiness always annoyed me, so I'm likely responding to that as much as I'm responding to the content of this thread.

EDIT: Maybe I'm completely misinterpreting the social situation. Maybe in the past, people were unable to express anything potentially awkward/creepy for fear of being seen as such. And maybe the increased social consciousness and explicit prefacing allow people to discuss ideas or opinions that they previously wouldn't have been able to say aloud at all.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T18:35:10.519Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Social norms seem to cater increasingly to the oversensitive and easily offended; instead of asking oversensitive people to lighten up a bit, we often go out of our way to avoid saying things that will offend people.

You're just asserting that your preferred level of sensitivity is better than other people's higher preferred level. You call them "oversensitive and easily offended", which assigns your preferences an apparently objective or otherwise special status, but you don't give a reason for this. What reason does anyone else have to go along with your preferences instead of their own?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T20:56:42.370Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What reason does lucidian have to go with their preference level instead of his own.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T21:08:00.787Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying he has any such reason. But neither does anyone else have a reason to go along with his preferences.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T21:57:46.182Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying he has any such reason. But neither does anyone else have a reason to go along with his preferences.

Well, the OP was about the first and not the second.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T03:59:42.348Z · score: 5 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you that the socially awkward among us could reap large benefits by implementing these "anti-creeper measures". That's because we live in a society where such "creepy" behaviors are deemed unacceptable, and in order to fit into a society, one has to follow that society's norms.

Actually society mostly has no problem at all with these behaviours, which is why the creeper memes flourish. The success of high-status creepers critically relies on this.

But if I grant you your point, I'm reading what you say as the benefit of not being a creeper is conformity with supposed anti-creeper norms. Is that what you meant? Because if so, er, I would have thought the benefits of not being a creeper were the upgrades from no longer seeing women chiefly (or solely) as mating opportunities.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T02:24:53.994Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I, for one, have read these. They come up any time feminism rubs up against male geekdom, like blisters. Hopefully they do some help, but change is hard, and that's just how social skills are: they're skills, and acquiring them is and requires serious change on your part as a person.

This is obfuscated by other things, like hey, sometimes it is the other person's problem. Not all the time. Maybe even only rarely. But sometimes. And the temptation to make that excuse for yourself is very strong, even if you do know better.

The defensiveness isn't a good thing, but it's certainly understandable, and if you're part of the contrarian cluster, there's going to be some instinctive, automatic pushback. I know there is in me. Plus the criticism is leveled at (one of) my (our) tribe. What did you think was going to happen?

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T04:03:13.976Z · score: 9 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Naively, I thought the LessWrong commitment to being, well, less wrong, would extend to all opportunities to be less wrong.

I know attempts to discuss privilege here have typically not gone well, which is a pity because I think there's some good argument that privilege is itself a cognitive bias - a complex one, that both builds on and encourages development of others.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-09-08T06:29:30.898Z · score: 19 (25 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's some good argument that privilege is itself a cognitive bias - a complex one, that both builds on and encourages development of others.

It's not clear to me that privilege is a bias of its own, so much as aspects of privilege are examples of other biases, like availability bias.

I think the primary reason that attempts to discuss privilege don't go well is because the quality of most thought on privilege is, well, not very good. People who volunteer to speak on the topic generally have strong enough opinions that they can't help but moralize, which is something to resist whenever possible.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T20:34:22.076Z · score: 17 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I think another problem with discussions of privilege is that they frequently sound as though some people (in the ways that they're privileged) should have unlimited undefined obligations and other people (in the ways that they're not privileged) should have unlimited social clout.

Or is that what you mean by moralizing?

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T09:24:36.632Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I would love to see a discussion of privilege in terms of biases. Obvious ones include: attribution errors (fundamental & ultimate); system justification; outgroup homogeneity & ingroup superiority biases.

I hadn't considered the availability heuristic but yes, that's probably relevant too.

comment by Despard · 2012-09-09T06:50:59.468Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That's actually a really interesting thought. I am white and male and straight and am very aware of my privilege, and also am very interested in heuristics and biases and how they are part of our thought patterns. I consider myself very much a feminist, and also a realist in terms of how people actually work compared with how people would like each other to work. I might brood on this for a bit and write about it.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T08:21:31.998Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This could be something that's kicked around in Discussions for a while perhaps?

Related, I'd like to see defensiveness discussed through the lens of cognitive bias. It has wide impact; it can be improved; improving it likewise has wide impact on one's life. I think it's one of those meta-levels of improvement where upgrades significantly affect our ability to upgrade many other things.

comment by novalis · 2012-09-10T07:28:07.894Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's also the fundamental attribution error ("they're not doing a good job because they're just lazy").

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T02:38:49.993Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would love to see a discussion of privilege in terms of biases.

So do I, as long as it doesn't start from the subtle assumption that men have privilege(s) while women don't.

comment by RomanDavis · 2012-09-08T05:16:57.439Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, but you don't get surprised when we turn out to be a bunch of apes after all.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-09-08T06:15:53.783Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, but you don't get surprised when we turn out to be a bunch of apes after all.

The function of JoeW's comment is not informing you "I put P(LWers behaving badly)<.05" but "If I remind LWers of a virtue they profess to like, they may alter their behavior to be more in line with that virtue."

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-08T04:41:25.147Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well put. I lean towards the "requiring more of male geeks" side, but that's a really good analysis.

Plus the criticism is leveled at (one of) my (our) tribe. What did you think was going to happen?

Exactly. (Interestingly, the clash that led me to write that post had the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.)

comment by jsteinhardt · 2012-09-09T07:17:56.817Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The links above do not strike me as good advice. For people with sufficiently low social skills, the only way to follow the advice above is to never interact with anyone ever (i.e. it is easy to fail the eye contact test if you do not know how to initiate conversations, or if you happen to hang out with a group that does not make eye contact often, something which is particularly common among nerdier folk). Furthermore, one can break some of these rules and yet still be non-creepy; never following a group along when they go to do something is a recipe for meeting many fewer people, and not necessary to avoid creepiness if you are decent at interpreting social cues. I therefore do not think the parallel you are drawing is a valid one.

As a further point, the post on weight-lifting a while back was not well-received, despite being more correct than this post. What is has in common with this post is a lack of citations back to reputable-seeming sources (such citations definitely do not guarantee the correctness of a post, so I am not claiming this to be good grounds for discrimination, but am pointing it out as a difference).

ETA: I have no strong opinions on PUA, I think decreasing creepiness is a good thing, but I don't think that these are great resources for doing so. I definitely got something out of them --- for instance, an outside view awareness of the different responses that men and women tend to have when a man is creeping on a woman --- but it is hard to endorse the advice given in aggregate.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-10T08:40:17.288Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The links above do not strike me as good advice. For people with sufficiently low social skills, the only way to follow the advice above is to never interact with anyone ever

Do you have better advice to give?

For someone with low social skills, who has been told that their behaviour is making other people uncomfortable, maybe the correct course of action is not to continue those behaviours until they have improved their social skills sufficiently to be able to do them without making other people uncomfortable.

Because what's the alternative? Asking people to put up with X's behaviour that makes them feel creeped out, because "Oh dear X can't help it, they have poor social skills." ?

comment by jsteinhardt · 2012-09-10T18:59:45.668Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you think that is your best course of action, then by all means follow it. That wasn't the point I was trying to make (like I said, I think decreasing creepiness is a good thing). Although I would suggest that if you really want to improve social skills, you can do much better by reading Luke's post on romance and accompanying references. Also, by reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. Take this with a grain of salt as I haven't read the books myself but am mainly going off of skimming the subject matter. (You may wonder why something on romance matters for non-creepiness; it's not as directly related as I would like, but creepiness is essentially the result of unwanted sexual advances, which can be as implicit as a guy showing inordinately high amounts of attention towards a girl that is not attracted to him.)

The point I was trying to make was that this post would be analogous to the situation where, say, Luke or Yvain were to write a post that was substantially and obviously technically incorrect, but such that following the advice in that post was better than not doing anything. I therefore disagree with JoeW's claim that poor reception towards this post indicates sexism (although there are plenty of comments elsewhere in this thread that do indicate sexism, or at least extreme social naievete, as well as plenty of comments coming from poorly-thought-out feminist positions; there are also plenty of comments that indicate not sexism but a valid critique of the poorly-thought-out feminist positions, as well as well-thought-out feminist positions; the story is not as black-and-white as most are trying to make it out to be, and there is plenty of noise and bias to go around).

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-11T05:56:32.602Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are looking at this as being advice aimed at the person being creepy, and evaluating whether the information in the links would be practical at helping them improve their social skills.

Have you considered it from the perspective of it being aimed at someone who is uncertain about the validity of their feeling there is something wrong in a group, and whether the information in the links would help them identify the problem and confirm to them that it is actually a problem that they do have a right to have addressed?

comment by jsteinhardt · 2012-09-11T06:31:08.951Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I misinterpreted your original comment and did not realize you were the OP. Re-reading the top-level post, I now realize that you did in fact intend this to be aimed not just at the perpetrators but at the community as a whole.

I now feel slightly confused about something, but it's hard to point to what exactly. So instead of trying to figure it out, let me just re-iterate that I approve of the point that if anyone feels uncomfortable it is the group's responsibility to fix that. I also approve of global over local (i.e. this person is here to hang out with all the other people here, not for my sole benefit). I suspect that a large portion of the people on this thread would also approve of both of these. The issue seems to be more the part where the links are also framed as social advice, where I now (I think?) see that they were not intended as such, but instead as a set of restraints to place on someone who is burning the commons.

I am probably at fault for this, but I did not understand any of that until I reread the OP. I interpreted it in the context of intended social advice. If other people did as well, I think that explains some of the reactions (but not all of them --- I think some of it results from having previously had bad experiences with feminist memespace, in the same way that some of the anti-FAI / anti-SingInst discussion results from having had bad experiences with the FAI/SingInst memespace). If it is not too late, your cause may be helped by unambiguously reframing it in the way you intended (if I am correct about what you intended).

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-11T08:39:28.621Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If it is not too late, your cause may be helped by unambiguously reframing it in the way you intended

I wasn't sure of the etiquette about editing top level posts.

I've now added a clarification to the end of the post. Thank you for the suggestion.

comment by Kindly · 2012-09-10T13:06:47.370Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You want to give people that are acting creepy advice that it's at least slightly in their interest to follow, otherwise they will ignore it.

comment by Pentashagon · 2012-09-09T06:57:32.544Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I'm struck by the fact that for centuries there were complex rules of etiquette established for interacting with other members of society depending on class, gender, family relationship, etc. Then during the 20th century that formal system of rules was all but abandoned. Obviously we can't simply revert to Victorian mores, but perhaps we should pay attention to the history of etiquette and re-engineer it for modern society. Pick some Schelling Points for polite behavior and publish them. There is already an Etiquette For Dummies book on amazon, but I've only read the first chapter as a free preview which contains generic advice with few details. I imagine there are more comprehensive collections available.

When I was reading about the elevatorgate flamewar I wondered if perhaps a lot of the people arguing with each other were actually arguing past the elephant in the room; society is currently structured so that it is common and considered normal to put people into social situations that they find very uncomfortable. For instance, who thinks it would be fun and not awkward to get into a 5 by 5 foot windowless room with a complete stranger, close the door, wait 30 seconds (probably without speaking or looking at each other), and then leave? And yet we have elevators everywhere. Originally there were human elevator operators which at least meant you weren't alone with a stranger in a claustrophobic box. Would open-air elevators or monitored security cameras or reintroducing human elevator operators or replacing elevators with stairs have prevented elevatorgate? Possibly.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-09T15:16:36.404Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'm struck by the fact that for centuries there were complex rules of etiquette established for interacting with other members of society depending on class, gender, family relationship, etc. Then during the 20th century that formal system of rules was all but abandoned.

Were they really? Here in France, when you meet a woman you kiss her on the cheek, but when you meet a man you shake his hand; you use different pronouns ("vous" or "tu" - cognates to "you" and "thou" in English) depending on the relative status of your interlocutor (and other things); in many western countries (the US more than France; though it seems) it still seems expected for a man to buy an overpriced piece of rock to the woman he's planning to marry and not the other way around, etc. - we have plenty of rules that depend on gender! (probably more than on class)

I think that what happened is that there was an effort to increase fairness by removing some discriminating rules, which meant those rules became weaker, but also more likely to be tacit: since Victorian society didn't consider gender equality to be a major principle, there wasn't anything wrong with spelling out the norms that regulated gender relations (unless they went against other values of the time). Now nobody wants to sound sexist; so people have to figure the rules out on their own.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T23:35:29.696Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

you use different pronouns ("vous" or "tu" - cognates to "you" and "thou" in English) depending on the relative status of your interlocutor (and other things)

Dunno about French, but I think that in most languages with such a system the V form is getting rarer and rarer. For example, in Italian the rule used to be that one only used “tu” with friends, family and children/teenagers (of course this is only as precise as one's definition of “friend”, but still); but nowadays one uses it with everybody except superiors and people obviously (at least a decade) older than oneself (with the weird result that someone in their 20s is more likely to be addressed as “tu” by a stranger in their 40s than by a stranger in their 70s). In English too, addressing people as “Firstname” vs “Mr Lastname” is roughly equivalent, and the latter is becoming rarer and rarer.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-10T11:35:30.110Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, the usage is following the same evolution in France - there are also similar usages in China (ni vs. nin) that are disappearing.

comment by thomblake · 2012-09-10T19:04:47.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

but I think that in most languages with such a system the V form is getting rarer and rarer.

In Spanish, at least, it varies by region, and some places have dropped the familiar in favor of the formal. English did the same thing.

comment by Pentashagon · 2012-09-11T16:45:57.837Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Were they really? Here in France, when you meet a woman you kiss her on the cheek, but when you meet a man you shake his hand; you use different pronouns ("vous" or "tu" - cognates to "you" and "thou" in English) depending on the relative status of your interlocutor (and other things); in many western countries (the US more than France; though it seems) it still seems expected for a man to buy an overpriced piece of rock to the woman he's planning to marry and not the other way around, etc. - we have plenty of rules that depend on gender! (probably more than on class)

Is it a social blunder not to kiss a woman on the cheek when you meet her? On the same level as asking her out in an elevator at 4 AM? To be honest I'm not sure how strict the rules of etiquette were in the old days, but I think there's a distinction between customs and etiquette. Customs are things most people do and are comfortable with and no one really objects. Not following expected etiquette causes discomfort and potentially emotional harm.

I wonder how much influence etiquette has on a man buying a diamond for a woman and how much influence marketing has. In fact, I wonder just how much of our current etiquette (or at least our customs) has been caused directly by marketing and popular entertainment. I suspect we treat each other a lot like we see people being treated on TV and in movies, rather than how they would like to be treated.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-11T17:56:12.857Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As I understand it, the use of diamonds in engagement and wedding rings was the result of an advertising campaign by DeBeers, but I'd say they actually managed to establish a custom-- one which would endure for quite a while even if DeBeers ceased to exist. It might even endure in the highly unlikely event that advertising ceased to exist.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-11T20:32:22.906Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is it a social blunder not to kiss a woman on the cheek when you meet her? On the same level as asking her out in an elevator at 4 AM?

Not really a social blunder, just possibly slightly awkward, depending of the context. When I arrived in France as a little kid I found all that kissing disgusting and recoiled when someone would try to kiss me on the cheek. I later forced myself to suffer the ordeal in order to fit in socially. Now it's pretty much a habit, so I wouldn't be surprised if I eventually accidentally creeped out an American girl by kissing her on the cheek.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T23:25:28.211Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

replacing elevators with stairs

Not many people would be willing to climb stairs to get to the twentieth floor. Some people (e.g. my very sedentary and morbidly obese grandmother) wouldn't even be able to do that.

comment by Pentashagon · 2012-09-10T19:41:43.986Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not many people would be willing to climb stairs to get to the twentieth floor. Some people (e.g. my very sedentary and morbidly obese grandmother) wouldn't even be able to do that.

It's interesting that the creation of a social awkwardness device is essentially the only reason we have high-rise buildings in the first place. Note that malls, which must make significant efforts to attract people and make them feel comfortable (and ready to spend money), either make limited use of elevators or actually do make them transparent. Escalators wouldn't work for anything more than a few floors. Like you mentioned, stairs don't work either. We need levitation (or at least pneumatic) tubes!

comment by ChristianKl · 2012-09-09T21:25:51.070Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Whether a man is allowed to touch a woman or isn't can depend on the man. If the man feels good and is relaxed he is allowed more touching. If he's high status he's also allowed to initiate more physical contact.

If a guy wants to be seen as non creepy, trying to figure out the rules of etiquette that are valid for a high status member in his group might not be enough. Books are problematic. If you read a book you might see that high status members of your group don't follow the etiquette of the book.

There are basically two ways: (1) Learn to feel when you make other people uncomfortable. (2) Follow a set of rules that make your interactions safe.

comment by JQuinton · 2012-09-10T20:56:48.218Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If I may argue from anecdote for a bit:

I was at a party a while back where I made a somewhat sexual joke and the people in that conversation (probably more female than male, I can't remember; my social scene is lopsided towards women) all laughed. A couple of minutes later, another guy made the same exact joke with a different group of people at the party and his reception was a lot less warm than mine (some people groaned).

I could only explain why this happened as a result of relative status in a social group. Status seems to determine who is "creepy" and who is "not creepy" even if they are using the same words. Of course I'm tall and in good shape while the other guy isn't so much. So I think that factors into status as well; the first thing that people are going to do when trying to describe "non-creepy" behavior is imagine Brad Pitt or someone who they already are attracted to, and then proceed to describe their ideal encounter with this hypothetical attractive person.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T21:50:34.121Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

There are basically two ways: (1) Learn to feel when you make other people uncomfortable. (2) Follow a set of rules that make your interactions safe.

Another piece would be learning how to recognize when people are attracted to you-- a fair number of people (perhaps especially geeks) aren't reliably good at that.

comment by ChristianKl · 2012-09-09T22:38:15.794Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It's an important skill but it's not enough. Even a girl that's attracted to you can get uncomfortable if you touch her too much.

A shy girl might get uncomfortable with physical touch from a guy she's attracted to. Another girl who isn't attracted to the same guy might find the same amount of physical touch acceptable.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T23:40:09.889Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I creeped out girls who had cold-approached me first a few times in the past.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T11:14:54.238Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I creeped out girls who had cold-approached me first a few times in the past.

Wow, that's impressive. :)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T22:40:50.622Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with your comment.

It's just that noticing when someone is attracted to you frequently gets left out of advice.

comment by bbleeker · 2012-09-10T11:09:17.693Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm selfishly glad my husband was late in learning that. If he'd learned sooner, he'd have been married to someone else long before we met. :-)

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-10T03:02:55.997Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I remain badly uncomfortable with this portrayal of the situation as "High status men are permitted to touch arbitrary women in their social group more," and this being presumed to be the same as "Women are more happy when high status men touch them [than when low-status men do.]" I can allow someone to touch me for a lot of reasons: fear, paralysis, having been Psychology-of-Persuasion'd into it, being friends with them, being ecstatic about something unrelated, sexual or aesthetic attraction. However, I have good reason to believe that nearly all men don't just want to touch women, they want to touch women and have those women be happy about it, in the moment and afterwards. For certain when I think about touching someone, I'm displeased at the thought of them pretending to enjoy it and feeling vaguely skeeved, but not knowing why/not thinking they have the ability to prevent me from doing so.

comment by ChristianKl · 2012-09-10T10:10:11.744Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A woman who's afraid to resist the touch in the moment might still label the guy afterwards as a creep. When I said allowed, I meant behavior that doesn't lead to being labeled creepy.

When it comes to the girl being happy about being touched things can be more complex. Most people find being tickled a bit uncomfortable. Some guysenjoy tickling a girl even if the girl would prefer in the moment not to be tickled.

Tickling a girl communicates "We have a relationship where I have the power to tickle you without negative consequences for myself". It's demonstration of power. If the girl goes along with it, she recognises the power. It demonstrates status to other people who are watching.

Successful demonstration of power can increase the amount of attraction that a girl feels. Jerks who demonstrate power have more success with girl than nice guys who don't.

The pickup literature is full with advice that suggest that being "nice" isn't enough to create attraction. Unfortunately that frequently leads to guy's behaving in creepy ways. They try to act like they have social power that they don't have.

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-10T15:35:26.068Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is funny to me, because the first time I met a group of Less Wrongers, one of them tickled me a day or two into us having met. However, the person in question was MBlume, who is known to not be scary.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-10T14:16:20.635Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the purposes of LW meetups aren't to be venues for seduction, and the riskier styles have noticeable odds of guaranteeing that some women won't come back.

comment by ChristianKl · 2012-09-10T17:20:42.820Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I myself wouldn't use LW meetups as venues for seduction. I would however guess that most of the people who act creepy on LW meetups do see them as venues for seduction. If you want to convince those people to change their behavior I think it makes sense to speak in a language that they are more likely to understand.

If you use the kind of language in which the main post of this discussion is posted, I think you are unlikely to reach the people who pose the problem. If my intended audience wouldn't be the people who pose the problem but the people who are fluent in deconstrutivist language I would speak differently.

comment by Bruno_Coelho · 2012-09-10T06:40:21.598Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I liltle touch in the upper arm(women) in dating situations make a difference(signal high status), but could end very bad, if is a overeaction.

comment by ikrase · 2013-02-03T18:00:08.136Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I think we do need to schelling points. I think that many of the worst creepers would ignore them (and then it would be obvious that they were ignoring them and they could be stopped) and other people would be able to conform without confusion.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T13:53:30.914Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

While this kind of advice seems useful, I do wish those articles you linked wouldn't attempt to stay gender-neutral: many of our social norms are gender-specific, and describing them with minimal reference to gender is going to be inaccurate!

In addition to that, the gender ratio in this community and in many nerdy/geeky communities (open source, sci-fi fandom, atheism, etc.) means that a majority of the "creepiness problem" is going to be a guy creeping out a girl, and not some other combination - since that's the kind of interaction that needs the most "fixing", why not focus exclusively on it?

It's nice to try to find a general rule that applies to many cases, but if you're giving a talk to a bunch of people about to go camping and hiking in British Columbia, "How to avoid getting mauled to death by a Grizzly Bear" is more useful than "How to avoid large carnivores, like Tigers, Bears and Lions".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:05:08.282Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

While this kind of advice seems useful, I do wish those articles you linked wouldn't attempt to stay gender-neutral: many of our social norms are gender-specific, and describing them with minimal reference to gender is going to be inaccurate!

Yes, but the gender-specific aspects vary from culture to culture, even within the First World. (Silly example: it is normal throughout Italy to greet a female friend by kissing her on the cheeks, but greeting a male friend that way is normal for some Italians, unusual for others --i.e. they only do that with close friends they haven't seen in a while--, and almost unthinkable for others still.)

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T15:37:36.704Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Sure! But the gender-invariant rules also vary from culture to culture.

(I'm French by the way, we have the same cheek-kissing as you italians, and I think neither of us hugs nearly as much as those weird Americans)

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T18:25:42.268Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And "what creeps a person out" varies between cultures and also significantly within a culture.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T00:21:39.858Z · score: 13 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I am amused that you came up with exactly the same list I would produce in trying to introduce this discussion to any geeky audience. :) The Captain Awkward ones especially have many useful comments - a bit of a read but nothing compared to the Sequences.

Since there have been lots of requests for specific rules to implement that don't reference supposed categories of people:

  1. Ask first. Always. For everything. Really.
  2. Frame all such questions to require enthusiastic active consent to proceed.

To expand on the second point: rather than ask "may I [x]?", ask "would you like me to [x]?" Keen readers will note an analogy with opt-out vs. opt-in. It is easy to mumble, to take too long thinking about it, to start calculating social & status costs if the opt-out is chosen... but those issues are largely addressed by the second form.

comment by tmgerbich · 2012-09-08T12:00:59.650Z · score: 15 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Ask first. Always. For everything. Really.

I'm going to disagree with this. Honestly, straight up asking can be even more creepy in a lot of situations. For example if you ask, "Can I give you a hug?", you've double creeped me out.

First, you violated my boundaries because we're not hugging friends yet if ever. Second, you violated my social norms by not reading our friendship hug level from the vibe of our conversation and my body language. You're right that I may not actually tell you "no" because it is more difficult to opt-out, but that doesn't make it less creepy.

There are some situations where asking is appropriate, but most of the time I would say if the social cues aren't clear err on the side of caution and later on ask a buddy who's good at that stuff what was going on in that situation and if you made the right call. Asking for stuff just tacks awkward onto creepy.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T12:37:01.981Z · score: 29 (31 votes) · LW · GW

There is a deep, bad problem with "if you can't read cues, go fuck yourself". I'm fine with generic norms of what is and isn't okay to ask: don't ask to hug someone on your first conversation, don't ask for anything romantic/sexual outside of certain specific contexts, only ask for things a little more intimate than what's already approved. You can learn those.

I'm not fine with there being nothing you can do given unclear cues. The cost of two people who wanted to hug not hugging is negligible; the cost of someone being unable of social interaction until someone comes to clue them in is not.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T14:30:59.722Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I think the "real norms" are awfully complicated and depend of gender (not only of people, but of whether the present company is all-male, all-female or mixed), status and subtle cues; whereas the "spoken norms" are simpler and give more lip service to our far values by being gender-neutral and not referring to status.

You can probably get along with the simpler spoken rules, but you will miss some opportunities, and may occasionally break an unspoken rule and look bad. How big of a difference it will make will depend of the gap between the spoken and unspoken rules (a small gap for nerds; a larger gap for say European aristocracy).

The articles in the OP seem to try to address this problem mostly by making the "spoken norms" restrictive enough so that you won't screw up following them, you'll "only" miss opportunities that would be allowed by the unspoken norms (like hugging given the right cues). Another approach is to close the gap in the other directions by allowing more things to get closer to the spoken norms, e.g. Crocker's Rules.

comment by bigjeff5 · 2012-09-13T16:13:38.267Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The heart of the problem is body language.

It's an actual language that must be learned and spoken, but a lot of people for some reason never learned it, or learned it poorly.

When these people interact with strangers, it's exactly like the guy with a bad understanding of a foreign language who tries to speak it, and instead of saying "Hi, are you friendly? Lets be friends!" he says "Hi, I want swallow your head!"

I hope you can see why people wouldn't like someone who goes around talking like that on a regular basis, and that the problem really does lie with the speaker, not the people he's speaking to.

What's worse, if he doesn't understand what others are trying to tell him (in the language he speaks poorly - aka body language) when he makes these kinds of statements he certainly can remain oblivious to the problem and be unable to fix it himself. If a person in that situation never meets a kind soul willing to help him speak correctly then he really is screwed, and there isn't much he can do about it unless he recognizes the problem on his own and seeks help.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-13T19:22:27.379Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What kind of help? If you don't speak a language, you can buy a grammar, or ask native speakers to think up some examples and build rules from them. Whereas if you ask people "How do I know if someone is bored?" they don't give you actual tips, or even "There's no rule, you have to learn it case-by-case" and a few examples. They just say "Oh, I can never tell either" when they obviously can, or "Well, they just look and act bored...".

comment by Emile · 2012-09-13T20:23:10.295Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Impro acting, maybe, or have someone point things out like "don't you see how impatient he looks?", etc. - the kind of things parents may do with their kids. Or read a book on etiquette, or hire some kind of body language coach, I'm sure it exists. Or of course a pick-up artist book.

By the way, "There's no rule, you have to learn it case-by-case" is something I often had to say when teaching French to Chinese students; or rather often it was "there may be a rule underneath all those cases, but I have no idea what it is!". Often finding the rule for your native language requires significant effort; and some rules you come up may not accurately describe the way the language actually works.

comment by bigjeff5 · 2012-09-13T21:09:41.847Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Body language coaching doesn't just exist, it's an industry. It is typically associated with public speaking, salesmanship, etc, and there are a lot of places (and books, and online resources, etc) to get training. In fact, one of the linked blogs in the OP, "Paging Dr. NerdLove", is completely dedicated to helping men who are bad at inter-personal communication with women (i.e. socially awkward) get better at it, which includes quite a lot of body language training.

It's reasonably well known that body language comprises a significant portion of interpersonal communications, so just like you'd expect with other languages there are quite a lot of resources for learning the language, if you take some time to look for them.

And of course, like any language, the resources are of varying quality and usefulness. But the general idea of "you get what you pay for" holds.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-27T09:38:36.289Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't speak a language, you can buy a grammar, or ask native speakers to think up some examples and build rules from them.

You do that when you're a complete beginner, or to polish off your grammar to avoid coming off as uneducated esp. in writing, but the way you actually learn a language well enough to have a conversation without too many misunderstandings by either party is by listening to it (and, when you get a chance, speaking it) a lot. And many of the things you'll learn this way are things that few grammars will explicitly state and few native speakers will admit. No amount of theoretical study will train your ear to understand speech in real time. You cannot rely on System 2 alone to speak a natural language, as per Moravec's paradox.

The analogy would be that you learn body language by paying attention to what people who already know it. More generally, ISTM that paying attention to stuff around you (and also paying attention to what you are doing, for that matter) is an oft-neglected skill. (Dear myself-a-few-years-ago, are you listening?)

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-08T13:49:03.308Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

There is a deep, bad problem with "if you can't read cues, go fuck yourself".

What motivation do people with social skills and those norms have to help those with less social skills? Because unless there's something in it for them they're not doing it. Many of the kind of people who have social skills find hanging out with the kind of people who don't actively unpleasant. That is actually overlaps substantially with the way creepy is used; people whose social skills are so low that they are unpleasant to be around in a group, who do not have redeeming features/high status.

Also, other people's lack of social skills? Mostly not my problem. The only people I would give social skills advice to unsolicited would be those who are clearly likely to be receptive to it, i.e. people who are in a status hierarchy I'm in where I'm superior. Most people who ask for advice don't want the real thing, and sugarcoating it and getting the real message through is hard.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T20:38:58.131Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

What I find really annoying is the following dynamic:

1) not allowed into existing groups, people without social skills form their own group

2) said group acquires higher status (largely because people without social skills frequently have other useful skills)

3) people with social skills notice the new group with rising status and start joining it

4) said high-social-skills people use their skills to acquire high positions in the group and start kicking the original low-social-skills people out

This more-or-less describes the history of geek/nerd culture over the past several decades.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T21:15:32.503Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Do you find this more annoying than other patterns where people lacking X trait and thereby excluded from valuable X-having groups form their own groups, create value within those groups, and then lose control of those groups (and the associated value) to X-havers who appropriate it?

Because it seems to me there are a great many Xes like this. Wealth is an obvious one, for example.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T22:06:15.739Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know enough about geek culture to tell how closely that model fits reality; but it looks plausible. I have some doubts about step 4), I prefer explanations that don't involve malice.

An alternative model is that people with social skills tend to be used to subtle and implicit modes of interaction (guess culture vs. ask culture), and the group's explicit modes of interaction makes them uncomfortable (giving rise to this thread).

Yet another model that skips step 1): small groups with a homogenous membership will have simple norms; as the group gets successful it grows and attracts more people and more diversity (in age, sex, nationality, and interests), and the simple norms don't work as well, and "success" in the group depends more and more on being able to handle social complexity ("social skills" and "politics" in the office politics meaning).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T22:13:06.076Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know enough about geek culture to tell how closely that model fits reality; but it looks plausible. I have some doubts about step 4), I prefer explanations that don't involve malice.

I never said step 4) involve malice.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-10T11:32:33.342Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Malice" may have been a bit strong; maybe it's something like "I prefer explanations that don't imply moral blame for one of the parties involved".

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-11T03:42:15.896Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I only provide the explanation, assigning blame or other moral elements is up to you.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-27T09:24:21.552Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I find really annoying

Whining about it doesn't strike me as the thing to do. Trying to adapt to it in the short term and/or to fix it in the long term would be better IMO.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-04-28T01:54:13.047Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, one component of fixing this dynamic is drawing people's attention to it. Especially people who may be unknowingly perpetuating it.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-28T09:03:03.079Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T14:28:57.653Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Which is why Internet articles are so wonderful. You can give general, detailed, justified advice with many examples, and it's not a personal attack on anybody in particular.

comment by tmgerbich · 2012-09-08T23:36:34.931Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What motivation do people with social skills and those norms have to help those with less social skills? >Because unless there's something in it for them they're not doing it. Many of the kind of people who have >social skills find hanging out with the kind of people who don't actively unpleasant.

I would say that if the people with the high social skills have the option of removing the people with low social skills from the group then there is little/no incentive to help them beyond perhaps altruism.

But in many situations these mixed groups are forced, and teaching the people with low social skills to interact according to the understood cultural rules can make them more pleasant company. So if you're continually forced into an environment with someone, improving their social skills can be of direct benefit to you. Examples would include a coworker in a team work environment, a family member or in-law, the roommate or significant other of a valuable friendship, etc.

comment by tmgerbich · 2012-09-08T23:27:41.518Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There is a deep, bad problem with "if you can't read cues, go fuck yourself".

I'm not fine with there being nothing you can do given unclear cues. The cost of two people who wanted to hug not >hugging is negligible; the cost of someone being unable of social interaction until someone comes to clue them in >is not.

I don't think that's what I was intending to get at. If you can't read the cues about the appropriateness of a particular course of action then it is advisable to wait until you can ask someone more informed for information about how to act in a future similar situation.

But that doesn't mean you have to stand there and not participate. For example, let's say you and I are talking and I'm telling you a story about how something in my immediate environment is causing me to think of something that caused me personal distress in the past. Now for the sake of the example, let's say that you and I have met a couple times but are not close friends. During the interaction I shift my body to close out the rest of the room and increase the intimacy and exclusivity content of the private conversation between the two of us. Perhaps I even visibly deflate while telling the story, shifting my posture convey a decrease in confidence and happiness.

This is a situation where it might be appropriate to give someone a hug. But if you're not comfortable reading the cues at the time to determine if this is that kind of situation then I would advise you NOT to ask me right then. Because even though on the surface it may seem as though I have given all the right signals to convey that I would welcome physical comfort, I have not told you anything about the number of other people in the room, the style of clothing being worn by the conversationalists, the presence or absence of mind-altering substances, the relationship statuses of the conversationalists, etc. There are many other factors that could influence whether or not a hug is appropriate here.

And yes, I recognize that in this situation asking "Can I give you a hug" may work out, depending on how "creepily" you ask (and that's a whole different topic, but body language while asking makes a HUGE difference). But most likely I would find it off-putting and it would increase my desire to removal myself from the situation, because this person has just demonstrated either a lack of understanding or a disregard for the general rules of social interaction in my society.

The thing is, not asking about a hug does not close you off to other alternatives that are much lower risk. For example, you could share a similar story from your personal history. You could voice an offer to listen further if I want to talk more about it. You can ask if I would be more comfortable leaving a situation that I have already indicated is in someway unpleasant to me. And while I recognize that each of those actions could be inappropriate depending on the specifics of a given situation, they are much lower risk. And if you're unsure, defaulting to the lower risk interaction option is generally preferable. Plus, like I said, you can always recount the situation later on LessWrong and ask if in the future given those parameters a hug would have been ok.

comment by coffeespoons · 2012-09-08T19:53:10.364Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

At Bicon in the UK, the code of conduct requires that people ask before touching. People hug a lot there, but they nearly always ask (unless they know each other well). It doesn't seem at all creepy because it's a community norm.

I think it's generally an excellent system. Once you've asked a lot of people an occasional no* doesn't hurt. And generally, people haven't seemed offended when I've said no to them.

*It's important to remember that no doesn't necessarily mean "go away you creep." Some people don't enjoy hugs.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T12:13:26.086Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I do agree with everything you say here.

I say in another reply here that I'm a fan of reframing for active consent and opt-in. I don't ask "can I give you a hug" for precisely the reasons you say.

If it's not clear to me if we're on hugging terms or not, then I assume we're not. Cost to me if wrong about that = low.

If I have high confidence that we're on hugging terms, but I don't know if you feel like it right now, and I have high confidence that we're on terms where asking this is ok, I'll ask "would you like me to hug you?" That's an implied "at this particular time", and not used for escalating from non-hugging to hugging. If I have doubt on any of these points, I don't ask. Cost to me if I'm wrong about that = low.

Perhaps it asks a lot in terms of social/people/communication skills to model if processing the question will be costly, or if the cost to them is high for me asking when perhaps I shouldn't have. It doesn't particularly seem so, to me.

TL;DR : costs to you in me asking when I shouldn't are higher than the costs to me of not asking when it would've been ok. I'm ok with that asymmetry - privilege is profoundly asymmetric.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T13:03:44.066Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. Expected utility maximization (using a TDT-like decision theory so as to not defect in prisoners' dilemmas), keeping in mind that one of the possible actions is gathering more information. We're on Less Wrong after all.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-09T00:49:24.974Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For example if you ask, "Can I give you a hug?", you've double creeped me out.

It seems to me that if we update to be less creeped out by people asking for permission that we don't end up granting, we will make it safer for people to ask for permission. This means that ① some people who might otherwise not hug, but whom we would like hugs from, might be more likely to ask and thence to hug; and ② some people who might hug without asking will instead ask and take no for an answer.

So, encouraging asking will get us ① more wanted hugs, and ② fewer unwanted hugs.

comment by ChristianKl · 2012-09-09T21:30:21.170Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When it comes to hugging you can to ask nonverbally. You look at the person and open your arms in prepartion of the hug.

If the reciprote the gesture, you hug them. Otherwise you don't.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T10:28:04.747Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose that these rules could move someone from "creepy" to "extremely awkward", which is probably an improvement. People never say no to "Would you like to talk to me?" or "You look kinda bored, do you want to continue this conversation?" (unless they take the latter to mean "I'm bored, go away").

Refusals are always at least a little rude. True opt-in forms use implications (things like "I like bowling, too bad my friends don't" vs "Want to go bowling?"), but they require social skills to generate and understand.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T17:04:45.795Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If someone asked me point blank "would you like to talk to me?" I would evaluate the answer to this question and provide it, and sometimes it would be no.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T17:37:07.662Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I will have to try that at a party now, just to see what kinds of reactions I get.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T13:40:21.021Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

True opt-in forms use implications (things like "I like bowling, too bad my friends don't" vs "Want to go bowling?")

That sounds backwards to me: the former sounds like I really want to go play bowling with you, the latter (in certain contexts at least) like I'm just inviting you out for politeness' sake but not actually expecting you to come.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2012-09-08T14:46:16.915Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think either of them could be the more pushy one, depending on the context, intonation, etc.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:49:50.252Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. OTOH, if you say the former in a context/intonation such that it doesn't sound like an invitation at all, it kind of defeats the point.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T11:28:50.376Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly off-topic for the top-level post, but I don't agree opt-in requires implications or any great amount of social skills.

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-08T17:20:24.975Z · score: 12 (24 votes) · LW · GW

I just wanted to say that I'm truly impressed: things are teetering a bit, but it's been 24 hours and we still have a multifaceted conversation that hasn't degenerated into a flamewar! On the Internet!

(In case anyone wondered, yes, I do like to tempt fate with statements like this—it's no different from loudly announcing, "Nothing can stop me now!" at various intervals.)

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-08T06:21:48.400Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

ADBOC to the first link in this context — its tone is appropriate if the target audience is unrepentant creepers who need to be shamed into shaping up*, but as advice to random people who may or may not behave creepily, it feels way too aggressive, like it's presuming guilt. (The third link, on the other hand, is great tone-wise.)

* A narrower category than "people who behave creepily some of the time".

** Not that I would expect it to work well; most people wouldn't consider the author a moral authority who's entitled to shame them. Behavior modification is hard.

comment by Airedale · 2012-09-13T16:01:22.225Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

** Not that I would expect it to work well; most people wouldn't consider the author a moral authority who's entitled to shame them. Behavior modification is hard.

Not a moral authority for most people who might stumble upon the post, sure, but I would guess that Scalzi is a reasonable facsimile of such of person for the audience of SFF fandom and con attendees at whom the post was more specifically aimed. He's perhaps not a "moral authority" but he is a person of sufficiently high status in that community that his words would carry some weight.

As for tone, it seems pretty typical of Scalzi-style prose, so again, for his main audience of fans, I don't know that tone would be a problem. The follow-up post linked on the page also seems to do a fair job explaining why the post is not just targeted to unrepentant creepers but also applies to people who may quite accidentally veer into that territory without even realizing it, and details how he has had to consciously check himself from doing so on occasion.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-09-09T21:56:35.764Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In context, it was literally about an unrepentant creeper.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-10T00:47:18.950Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I mean in the context of this LW post. Also, the title "An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping" strongly suggests an intended audience of not-necessarily-creepers.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-09-10T13:02:51.194Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but in terms of the actual historical context of the blog post, it was spurred into existence due to a nonrepentant creeper and a conversation springing from that.

comment by waveman · 2012-09-08T01:21:23.568Z · score: 12 (46 votes) · LW · GW

Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

It would be really good to have a definition that had some shreds of objectivity to it. As it stands your definition simply assigns to one person the responsibility for another person's feelings. This is infantilizing to the 'victim' and places the 'perpetrator' at the mercy of the "victim's" subjectivity.

The alleged safeguard that a significant fraction must agree the behavior is creepy is rarely applied in practice. "If you made her feel creeped out, man, that's creepy".

In practice this definition of creepiness is almost solely used against men. I had a female colleague (many, actually over the years) who wore inappropriately 'hot' outfits at work and behaved in overtly sexual ways that left me feeling uncomfortable. One cannot complain about this because it is "slut shaming".

I notice a disturbing trend for rationality orientated groups to be invaded by people who like to impose long lists of rules about acceptable behavior and speech, generally with a feminist flavor. These people generally have made little to no contribution to the groups in question. I see here for example OP's first post here was all of three months ago. The open source and atheism communities have seen similar phenomena.

We need to expose these people and their ideas to full rational scrutiny. I have read a lot of feminism literature and I believe that the field could benefit significantly from an infusion of LW style rationality.

Finally can I point out a clear source of irrational thinking that tends to surface in these discussions: the "protective instinct" towards women. For reasons that don't particularly matter in this context, when we see women (or children) at the risk of harm, powerful emotions arise. Thus, if you want a massacre to sound as bad as possible you say "100 people were killed including 50 women and children." In movies, it is almost always unacceptable for a sympathetic female character to be killed (read any guide to writing move scripts).

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-09-08T13:53:54.537Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The open source and atheism communities have seen similar phenomena.

Science fiction conventions too. Clearly, this is an outrage.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-08T17:45:19.289Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

It would be really good to have a definition that had some shreds of objectivity to it. As it stands your definition simply assigns to one person the responsibility for another person's feelings.

Um, no. There is legal precedent for this phrasing in related contexts, albeit with the understandable proviso that the behavior must be "reasonably believed" to be threatening. This is pretty much what we're dealing with here: the whole problem with creepy behavior (as opposed to merely being awkward or anti-social) is that it puts people's personal safety at risk.

comment by waveman · 2012-09-09T05:41:56.123Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you add language that says "reasonably interpreted to be threatening" you are getting closer to an objective test. But that is not what was proposed here. The problem occurs when you assign to one person the responsibility for another person's feelings, irrespective of the context or reasonableness.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T01:54:00.043Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

As it stands your definition simply assigns to one person the responsibility for another person's feelings. This is infantilizing to the 'victim' and places the 'perpetrator' at the mercy of the "victim's" subjectivity.

It seems to me that it is this argument that infantilizes the targets of harassment and other unwelcome behaviour we're lumping under "creepy". It only works if these targets are "gormless, passive babies who can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves". (That link is on "trigger warnings" but applies here for the same reasons.)

Allowing people to define their own subjective states ("this is how I feel") seems to me to in fact be the opposite of infantilizing.

"Oh no we'll all be in trouble if this sort of behaviour is explicitly forbidden" is actually quite a common response in these sorts of discussions, and it is discussed and addressed in the OP's links.

... how many commenters here have actually read those links? :/

comment by waveman · 2012-09-09T05:51:27.985Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Who has read this?

At least one (myself). And many others like them.

It seems to me that it is this argument that infantilizes the targets of harassment and other unwelcome behaviour we're lumping under "creepy".

The problem is that it is not specific behavior that is forbidden. It is more like "making advances while male to someone to who finds you unattractive at the time, or later on" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBVuAGFcGKY) or, in another context "driving while black".

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-09T08:38:15.997Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually that's a very useful and powerful analogy because it also references ingroup vs. outgroup asymmetry, and how that is a driver for power imbalance and perceptions.

comment by duckduckMOO · 2012-09-11T00:02:13.016Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

... did you even read the post you are replying to? :/

"Allowing people to define their own subjective states ("this is how I feel") seems to me to in fact be the opposite of infantilizing."

This has nothing to do with whether defining "creepiness" by how people feel is infantilising. Defining any behaviour that affects someones feelings a certain way is not even close to "allowing people to define their own subjective states."

As it stands it's so barely related I have to assume as well as not reading the post you are replying to you are also misusing define.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-09-08T11:58:15.236Z · score: 5 (19 votes) · LW · GW

The open source and atheism communities have seen similar phenomena.

Yes, to the vast benefit of both.

comment by waveman · 2012-09-09T05:43:08.977Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This is argument by assertion. What evidence do you have for "this vast benefit"?

comment by tmgerbich · 2012-09-08T12:12:04.679Z · score: 1 (17 votes) · LW · GW

It would be really good to have a definition that had some shreds of objectivity to it.

The problem with this is that there is no objectivity. It's not just about the behavior, or the "perpetrator", or the "victim". It's the intersection of all of them and it's basically dependent on how the "victim" interprets certain aspects of the "perpetrator's" behavior- which is hugely biased by the personal characteristics of the "perpetrator". A hot guy walking up to a girl in a bar is flattering. An ugly guy doing the exact same thing is creepy. A confident guy using a line is an segue to flirtation. A nervous guy using the exact same line is creepy.

This makes it really difficult to teach people to not be creepy by telling them specific actions to take or not take. Much more useful would be a guide with certain tests that people could put out there to gauge the "temperature" of social situations before committing to a course of action.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-07T19:08:45.715Z · score: 12 (58 votes) · LW · GW

What this boils down to is trying to get the benefit of excluding low status folks without thinking about the "nasty" "exclusionary" mechanisms that cause such convenient exclusion in real life.

Most real-life social groups have mechanisms to exclude low-status people - from informal shunning to formal membership criteria. Since people as well as groups seek to maximize status, this evolves into a complex equilibrium. (Groucho: "I wouldn't want to join a club that would have [a status exclusion mechanism weak enough to have] me as a member.")

But since we at LW must have a rational explanation for things, these arbitrary criteria (of which my proposal is a pastiche) won't do. Half of the folks here are OK with outsourcing the power and responsibility for excluding low-status folks onto the women of LW. The other half doesn't even want that. Both sides want to consciously come up with convoluted arguments about why "creepy" [low-status male] behavior is objectively bad. That dog won't hunt.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-07T20:50:47.476Z · score: 23 (49 votes) · LW · GW

What this boils down to is trying to get the benefit of excluding low status folks without thinking about the "nasty" "exclusionary" mechanisms that cause such convenient exclusion in real life.

What your comment boils down to is a statement that you intend to treat other people's objections to your (or your friends') nonconsensual or threatening behavior as attempts to exclude you (or them) as low-status rather than as requests for you to behave in a more consensual and nonthreatening manner towards them.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T19:50:48.727Z · score: 11 (27 votes) · LW · GW

"creepy" [low-status male] behavior

It's easy to be low-status without being creepy.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-07T20:08:27.436Z · score: 10 (30 votes) · LW · GW

It's entirely possible (I'm imagining being meek and social risk-averse) in the same way as it's entirely possible to grow up poor and stay out of trouble with the law. It's a lot easier to be creepy if you're low-status, and much of the behavior that is deemed creepy would not be called creepy if a high-status person did the exact same thing (think "quirky," "endearing," "charming").

In practice, cracking down on creepiness means excluding low-status people, except for a meek remnant.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T20:36:16.221Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

There's high-status creeping too (like someone putting an arm round someone who doesn't want him to). This can be very bad for the creepee - the high status means that complaints to the group are likely to be dismissed as oversensitivity or whining.

It's a natural human tendency to let high-status people get away with things, but I don't think it's so immutable that a group can't develop a culture that reduces the damage.

And if you are the creep, there's at least a chance that you didn't mean to be and that you're willing to modify your behaviour in ways that have large advantages for the creepee and only small disadvantages for you.

comment by lucidian · 2012-09-07T21:08:23.764Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

If male creepiness is contributing to the gender imbalance on LessWrong, I would expect high-status creepiness to be far more problematic than low-status creepiness. In a social setting, it's a lot easier to call a low-status member out for being creepy. If a high-status member is being creepy, a newcomer might prefer to leave than to confront him/her or complain about his/her behavior to the rest of the group. Alternatively, if the newcomer does complain about the high-status member, he/she might be scoffed at by the rest of the group, who likes that individual.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:24:09.157Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Status gets wonky here, though, and online in general. One's status doesn't readily translate from one's RL social network to the internet (celebrities are an obvious exception here), and the cultural makeup of the group's members, in addition to the social norms they propagate within the group itself, will go a long way toward determining relative status.

It's one thing if you're talking Eliezer or Alicorn, but the run-of-the-mill LW member probably fits into this situation. Hence, we don't need to necessarily see creepy behavior among the highest-status folks here, for it to nevertheless be a widespread norm that affects gender ratios on the site. (Frankly, all sorts of communities, online and off, encounter this in some form).

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T05:17:48.246Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

There's high-status creeping too (like someone putting an arm round someone who doesn't want him to).

Yes, but if you're high-status, a much higher fraction of people do want (or are okay with) your arm around them, and so the GP is right that status affects the probability of triggering the creep classifier.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2012-09-08T16:20:00.106Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

True, but it's also entirely possible to want behavior X from person Y and still find it creepy when Y actually does X, depending on how and in what context they do it. Creepiness is often about those details.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T20:31:51.355Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That still wouldn't justify the unhelpful, over-general warning of "don't do X", stripped of the specific (correctly-diagnosed) "how and in what context" caveats.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-08T20:46:30.909Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

For at least some X's, the real warning is not "don't do X, ever." It's: "if you do X, you are responsible for anyone being creeped out by X. You might get away with it, depending on how considerate, socially aware, or charismatic you are - just don't complain if you get it wrong and we have to kick you out so that people can feel safe and comfortable."

AFAICT, there's nothing wrong with this rule: in fact, it is close to optimal for the purposes of LW meetups.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2012-09-08T23:26:00.106Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty much this. Also, the advice being given might more accurately be "you don't do X, because you obviously don't know how to judge the context and details and are therefore very likely to get it wrong". Except, if someone actually says that, the person it's being said to is liable to try to rope them into explaining the context-and-details thing, which 1) is very complicated, to the point where explaining it is a major project and 2) most people can't articulate, so that's awkward if it happens. Also, it's often true that once a person does learn how to judge the context and details properly (on their own, generally speaking, by observation and reading many things on the topic), they will then be able to see what they were doing wrong before and how to avoid that mistake, and conclude that they can try again regardless of previous advice.

Most of what I just said isn't relevant to meetup groups, though; bogus' angle is much more relevant there.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-07T20:45:58.123Z · score: -2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

For better or worse, creepiness is socially defined. WIthin a social group, most people don't secretly resent high-status people, by definition. If only one person has a problem with it, that's not being creepy, that's "he's being charming and you have a problem."

It only becomes "creepy" when you come to LW or a group of sympathetic friends and the local balance of power shifts in your favor.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-07T22:26:53.383Z · score: 16 (22 votes) · LW · GW

If only one person in a group is allergic to my aftershave, they are allergic to my aftershave.
If only one person in a group finds my voice intolerable, they find my voice intolerable.
If only one person in a group finds my behavior disturbing or frightening or alienating, they find my behavior disturbing or frightening or alienating.

Yes, that person has a problem.
And the question is, what are we going to do about that problem, if anything?

The notion that because they have a problem, we therefore ought not do anything, strikes me as bizarre. It's precisely because they have a problem that the question even arises; if they didn't have a problem, there would be no reason to even discuss it.

So, OK. If my behavior frightens or disturbs or alienates you, or my aftershave causes you an allergic reaction, or whatever, you have a problem.The question is, what happens next?

I might decide I care about your problem, and take steps to alleviate it.
Or I might decide I don't care about your problem, and go on doing what I was doing.
Or somewhere in between.

You might similarly decide to alleviate your own problem, or decide to ignore it, or something in between.
Third parties might, similarly, decide they care about your problem to various degrees, or they might not.

This is not independent of status -- if you're a high-status member of the group, I might care about your problem because of your status; if you're a low-status member I might not-care about your problem because of your status; if I'm a high-status member third parties might not-care about your problem because of my status, and so forth.

But it's not equivalent to status, either -- if we come from a culture where acknowledging the existence of body odor is taboo, the fact that you have a problem with my body odor might get ignored even if we're all of equal status, or even if you're higher status than I am. (Of course, you might then claim a different problem you don't actually have in order to solve your real problem in a socially acceptable way.)

Similarly, it's not independent of the size of the affected group, but it's not equivalent to it either.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T21:00:08.717Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Since it's very low-cost to stop touching someone who doesn't like it, compared to the cost of enduring it, a group where it's considered "creepy" is a better group.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-07T21:59:16.121Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

If only one person has a problem with it, that's not being creepy, that's "he's being charming and you have a problem."

And that, folks, is one of the ways that the ~6% of educated males (according to one study, anyway) who are rapists get to do their thing: by being "charming" to everyone but their target, so the target is isolated and feels she has nobody to turn to.

FYI: If one person in my meetup group has a problem with Person X touching them when they don't want him/her to, I have a problem with Person X, too.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T18:58:48.544Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

WIthin a social group, most people don't secretly resent high-status people, by definition.

That certainly isn't true by definition and it isn't even always true in practice. "It's better to be feared than to be loved", etc.

(The rest of your comment seems more or less accurate as a description of how social power and moralizing works.)

comment by lucidian · 2012-09-07T21:30:21.818Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

People behave differently in different social contexts, though. If person Y finds person X's behavior creepy, and no one else finds person X's behavior creepy, it could be that X is behaving differently towards Y than he/she is towards everyone else.

Obviously, this is relevant to the gender situation, where person X is male and behaves differently towards females than he does towards males.

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-07T21:20:18.362Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

It's socially influenced, but you're being a bit too status-deterministic about it. Take the example of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's (probably true but not prosecuted) rape allegation. Beforehand, he was as high-status as a man can get in the United States, and a vast majority of American women who knew who he was would have found him attractive. Afterward, he seems to have regained much of his status among male Steeler fans, but he has the unmistakable tag of "creepy" (to say the least) among women who follow football.

comment by TimS · 2012-09-07T20:50:07.063Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused by your argument. Where I live, the visibly religious are high status. Does that mean I can't resent a religious person's treatment of me? That's a strange definition of high-status.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T21:49:06.223Z · score: 7 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Creepiness is not down to status. High-status people can be plenty creepy.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T05:15:48.157Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Can be, sure. The claim is still valid as a heuristic.

What's more, people are more likely to pre-judge the high status person favorably, and thus want whatever behavior would be a "no-no" for the low-status person, and so behavior violating the supposed anti-creep rules is much less likely to be noticed and recognized as such (e.g. my example before about pushy hugs).

Anytime you find yourself saying, "How dare he do X? That's creepy! Don't ever do X, folks!", ask yourself if you would have the same reaction if you liked this person and welcomed X. If the answer is no, you've misdiagnosed the problem.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:20:35.759Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the first part of your comment, but the last paragraph seems contradictory:

Anytime you find yourself saying, "How dare he do X? That's creepy! Don't ever do X, folks!", ask yourself if you would have the same reaction if you liked this person and welcomed X.

Creepiness is by definition unwelcome behavior; that's just the meaning of the term - "that which causes someone to feel creeped out". Of course any welcome behavior would not be labelled creepy.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T20:29:56.013Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

But the entire problem is that its welcomeness is not known until you do it! That's why you have to go based on general standards of acceptable behavior in judging an action, not by whether one person happened to not like it.

Imagine if Elevatorgate started from, not some elevator, but just the mere fact of Watson being "asked out", and she went on to say, "Whoa! Creepy! Guys, don't ever ask a woman out!"

Someone might protest, "Wait, what?"

Do you understand why it's not a very satisfactory answer to say, "It's okay, we're only talking about those cases where it's unwanted"? If so, apply it to your own answer.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:43:23.891Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I reread your first comment and I think I just misread it the first time. (And you may have misread mine). I think we were just talking past each other.

We seem to agree on the important bits, namely that:

  • "Creepiness" is defined and measured by the "creeped out" response of recipients.
  • Therefore it depends not just on the action, but on the recipient and on how they perceive the actor.
  • Therefore an action is not definitely creepy or noncreepy until carried out; it is hard to predict reactions.
  • To the extent that the same action is perceived as creepy or not coming from different people, we shouldn't be talking about the action itself sometimes being creepy, but about the relevant differences between people.
comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T20:57:46.980Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think we agree, in particular, because I don't agree that the particulars of how a specific event was perceived are relevant for general rules of condemnation. That is, I'm fine with saying "Don't do X" if X really is widely disliked, regardless of the person, but not with giving the same advice, while actually predicating it on people's ability to know others' reaction in advance.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T21:24:12.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I understood it to mean "ask myself if I can imagine someone doing X in a way I welcomed."

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T19:31:13.608Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Anytime you find yourself saying, "How dare he do X? That's creepy! Don't ever do X, folks!", ask yourself if you would have the same reaction if you liked this person and welcomed X. If the answer is no, you've misdiagnosed the problem.

I think the truth of that statement depends on how you chunk the behavior.

To get back to this, Rene's approaches to Genevieve would have been appropriate as behaviors in that sort of a relationship if you chunk them as things a person might do, and very inappropriate because she was moving away from him/not responding, etc., so that if your chunk includes what she does (not to mention that a relationship didn't already exist) as well as what he does, you get a different answer.

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-08T00:43:22.572Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Moreover, when a low-status person creeps on me, I feel like I have more freedom to express nicely to them that I was creeped out and offer to explain why. When a high-status person creeps on me, I feel like they have too much power to want to stop or listen to me, and nobody else will listen to me either, because this person has social command.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:05:43.160Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, same here. Creepy behavior from people with high status is a big red flag on a group or social situation for me; it implies that at least in some cases they can get away with that, and I categorically don't feel emotionally safe in those environments.

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-08T04:31:19.175Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

See also: The Missing Stair. Source has a history of overusing feminist memes with the result of obfuscating their point, but I think this piece was particularly well-written.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-08T06:12:32.795Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Status" is not quite the right term here — social rank correlates with the kind of charm that can make an ambiguous behavior be not-creepy, but isn't the same.

comment by TimS · 2012-09-07T20:04:50.725Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Likewise, there are times and places when creepy is not low-status.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T18:52:51.651Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably quite difficult for a creepy person to stop being creepy.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T19:05:29.129Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably quite difficult for a creepy person to stop being creepy.

For this reason (and others) I much prefer to focus on specific behaviors for the purpose of determining what is acceptable behavior versus a valid target for social sanction.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-09-07T21:30:54.784Z · score: 6 (34 votes) · LW · GW

What this boils down to is trying to get the benefit of excluding low status folks without thinking about the "nasty" "exclusionary" mechanisms that cause such convenient exclusion in real life.

The fuck it does. This is about creepiness. Actual attempts at unwelcome intimacy. Whoever from and whoever to.

It is not about status, except to the extent that high status can (this is a bad thing) protect the perpetrators of actual creepy behaviour from being called to account, and low status (this is also a bad thing) can prevent the target from being heard.

For further enlightenment, see, for example, here.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T12:47:21.227Z · score: 20 (30 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, "unwelcome" means that the definition sometimes depends almost exclusively on status. In the extreme situation that a guy is so high status I wouldn't mind anything he did and would always say yes, he couldn't possibly be creepy.

In a less hypothetical case, my reaction to statements like "you're beautiful" or "your hair looks amazing" depends entirely on who is saying it. It would be considered creepy only if the guy was sufficiently low status that my intuition doesn't process the statement as sincere.

Similarly I mentally flinch violently when touched by males who are too low status for my intuition to classify as attractive, have no such reaction for moderately attractive guys, and get a jolt of pleasure if the guy is very attractive. This effect is consistent and something I have no conscious control over.

I think people dismissing status are underestimating either the degree to which people's unconscious can control their conscious, or the degree to which status interactions controls the unconscious.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-09T13:19:13.226Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why am I getting karma for this when it's been established that I'm using a highly unconventional definition of status? I mean, I like karma and all, but this confuses me...

comment by Emile · 2012-09-09T15:27:15.868Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Status is not an extremely clear thing to begin with, the same criticism could probably be applied to most uses of the term on LessWrong. I just mentally reparse what you write as

In a less hypothetical case, my reaction to statements like "you're beautiful" or "your hair looks amazing" depends entirely on who is saying it. It would be considered creepy only if the guy has certain negative characteristics so that my intuition doesn't process the statement as sincere.

You're basically talking about how attractive you find him, but using "status" adds the connotations that it's not just about the looks, and that how others judge him comes into the equation; both those connotations seem true.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T06:15:47.784Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

The fuck it does. This is about creepiness. Actual attempts at unwelcome intimacy. Whoever from and whoever to.

Like how starting a conversation with a stranger who doesn't want to talk to you is unwelcome, and thus creepy?

Or did you think people would never get the C-word for doing just that?

For further enlightenment, see, for example, here.

I missed the enlightenment you were expecting me to get from learning of a case where a high-status person got surprisingly little punishment (and no effective loss to social life) from doing creep things.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T09:07:09.465Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Like how starting a conversation with a stranger who doesn't want to talk to you is unwelcome, and thus creepy?

You seem to be underestimating how easy it is to guess beforehand whether or not a stranger would want to talk to you. See the comment thread to this. (Well, I disagree that complimenting a stranger's netbook is necessarily creepy, but...)

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:08:56.104Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I disagree that complimenting a stranger's netbook is creepy, but...

This disagreement on what is creepy demonstrates precisely how hard it is to predict in advance if some behavior will be perceived as creepy or not.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T20:27:50.828Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I should have said/thought had said "is necessarily creepy". (Fixed now.)

comment by Dre · 2012-09-10T19:06:58.217Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Though I don't think its that simple because both sides are claiming that the other side is not reporting how they truly feel. One side claims that people are calling things creepy semi-arbitrarily to raise their own status, and the other claims that people are intentionally refusing to recognize creepy behavior as creepy so they don't have to stop it (or being slightly more charitable, so they don't take a status hit for being creepy).

comment by pjeby · 2012-09-09T02:14:05.800Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be underestimating how easy it is to guess beforehand whether or not a stranger would want to talk to you. See the comment thread to this. (Well, I disagree that complimenting a stranger's netbook is necessarily creepy, but...)

Upvoted for an excellent link which caused me to update my intuition regarding the nature and frequency of various types of public harassment of women. I didn't update so far as to regard the XKCD cartoon as "promoting rape culture" (which I still think is going overboard), but after reading the (very very long) comment thread with all the subway/public/other harassment stories, I can totally see where they're coming from.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-09T04:47:57.900Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That thread gives an important overview of a sort. It's got its limits because women who talk about not having it that bad from men are not kindly treated in the discussion.

I'm not denying any of those stories about behavior ranging from intrusive to seriously threatening and it's obviously fairly common, just saying that it's not a overview of the whole situation. I've never seen an overview of the whole situation for women.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-09-08T21:38:48.177Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

People who frequently fall into patterns of behavior that others regard as "creepy" tend to be those who do not find this easy.

Could you create a set of instructions that can easily be followed by people with low levels of social fluency, which would allow them to make this judgment with low levels of false positives and false negatives? If so, you'd be doing a big favor both to people who're frequently exposed to "creepy" behavior, and people who frequently engage in that behavior. It would also probably be unique in the world.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T12:11:17.669Z · score: 12 (24 votes) · LW · GW

The fuck it does. This is about creepiness.

It is not about status, except

The arrogant vulgarity doesn't fit well with the demonstration of naivety (come to think of it "The fuck it does" wouldn't be be appropriate here even if well informed). Creepiness is significantly about status. Typically it refers to something along the lines of "low status male attempting interaction".

This doesn't mean I'm endorsing any particular instance of creepiness but it is useful to understand what it is that prompts the perception 'creepy'.

It is not about status, except to the extent that high status can (this is a bad thing) protect the perpetrators of actual creepy behaviour from being called to account

High status can also make the identical behaviors not creepy in the first place. Even if unwelcome the perception of the high status 'unwelcome' will feel different to the creepy low-status 'unwelcome'.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T12:58:15.646Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, yeah, someone you wouldn't like to have sex with hitting on you is creepier than someone you would like to have sex with hitting on you (obviously -- why the hell would the latter be creepy at all?), and (especially if “someone” is male and “you” are female), whether you would like to have sex with them correlates with their status. But would that still hold to the same extent if you could change the “status” variable while holding the “attractiveness” (broadly construed) variable constant?

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T13:14:26.953Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Tabooing "status" might be necessary. I couldn't compute your last sentence... Apparently my word-space is so constructed that attractiveness of a man to a woman basically equates to status. (They might not be the same thing as far as hormones are concerned, but they arise from the same mechanisms.)

What you call a less "attractive", higher "status" man, I call a lower "status" man who has motivating factors to have incorrect beliefs about his "status".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T16:04:53.841Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Apparently my word-space is so constructed that attractiveness of a man to a woman basically equates to status.

There's your problem right there!

I'm usually not a big fan of the "look it up on Wikipedia" approach to amending skewed perception (it has the failure mode of encouraging an excessively topical, definition-driven understanding of a term), but if you perceive status and attractiveness to others as basically synonymous, or even largely so, then you're viewing the world through a seriously-distorted lens and should really start at the ground level: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T18:41:52.573Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm usually not a big fan of the "look it up on Wikipedia" approach to amending skewed perception (it has the failure mode of encouraging an excessively topical, definition-driven understanding of a term), but if you perceive status and attractiveness to others as basically synonymous, or even largely so, then you're viewing the world through a seriously-distorted lens and should really start at the ground level: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status

Synonymous---clearly not. "Largely so" is more of an exaggeration than a fundamental incomprehension.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-09T00:11:03.622Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. Ok. What do you call the ape status-instinct then? That's thing that you get by cleverly body-language and verbally sparring with people. I've managed to end up on top of a number of authority figures doing that.

Edit: the human version of the behaviour that Wikipedia describes as "dominance hierarchies".

Double edit: would it make more sense to distinguish the terms as system-1-status and system-2-status?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T02:12:33.745Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I...think you're confused. I didn't say social status doesn't exist; I also didn't say that "social status" was a bad term for it. What I said was that you have an extremely nonstandard set of word associations here, such that what you mean when you're saying "social status" is...well, not intuitive from the more usual use of that word.

I'm not saying instincts for status don't exist; I'm saying that "attractiveness of a man to a woman basically equates to status" is a baffling definition of "status" (reinforcing my point by linking to a general overview of the concept and the things the word applies to). It would be like meaning only "penguins" whenever you say "birds", and then trying to generalize that use whenever someone else talks about ornithology.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-09T05:40:54.021Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're misinterpreting my point again, and I also think it's more of a "what do you mean by "melon"" issue (ever order a melon smoothie from a place without pictures on the menu and been surprised?) than a "penguin" issue, but the definitions themselves have been adequately dissolved in this thread so there's no point in continuing to pursue something off-topic.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T15:12:12.714Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Compare Bill Gates to Jose the charming tour guide.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:01:03.263Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Consider interaction among heterosexual people of the same sex (men with men, women with women). This is probably a majority of all social interaction, and it strongly influences status in mixed-sex social groups. While attractiveness is generally helpful here too, it's less important than other factors.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T13:35:19.941Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine two men who have the same socio-economical position, the same amount of social skills, wear similar clothes, behave the same way, etc., etc., but one is 5'6" (1.68 m) and one is 6' (1.83 m). Most women will likely be more attracted to the latter; would you say he has higher status?

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T13:43:59.426Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, minorly: halo effect. Though given your example I see that status and attraction aren't the same thing, they're just intertwined in a ridiculous positive feedback loop, to the extent that it's very easy to think of them as the same thing. Having more women be attracted to you usually leads to better social skills. Having more height usually means more self-confidence, etcetc.

The specific situation you describe also can't possibly arise, because one would look down at me to speak to me and the other would look up. Then they'd be behaving differently.

ETA: I tried to think of a least convenient world, but couldn't.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T16:12:30.805Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Though given your example I see that status and attraction aren't the same thing, they're just intertwined in a ridiculous positive feedback loop, to the extent that it's very easy to think of them as the same thing.

Take it from someone with rather low basic social status (multiple forms of visible minority, many of which are still thought of mainly as "deviant" rather than just "other", who can't can't hide it out and about in daily life): the fact that you see it this way has more to do with your own situation and your own unfulfilled preferences, than with it being a basic feature of how status works. Status is not primarily about your sexual attractiveness to people. Low-status people get laid all the time. Low-status people get into lasting relationships. Low-status people have children. Low-status people even make ethical nonmonogamy work for them. (Low status people who fit all of the above can even be sexually frustrated!)

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-09-08T21:44:01.186Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The specific situation you describe also can't possibly arise, because one would look down at me to speak to me and the other would look up. Then they'd be behaving differently.

ETA: I tried to think of a least convenient world, but couldn't.

Suppose you're standing on a staircase. The taller man stands on a step below you, while the shorter man stands on a step above you, and the steps are of such height that each would be looking you directly in the eye. Is that a sufficiently inconvenient world?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:29:20.910Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IAWYC but

The specific situation you describe also can't possibly arise, because one would look down at me to speak to me and the other would look up. Then they'd be behaving differently.

C'mon. There's a difference between looking down (physically) because you're shorter and looking down at you (physically) because I'm looking down (metaphorically). (I'm 1.87 m (6'2") myself so I have to do the former all the time.) In the latter case, I will stand up straight with my shoulders back and only tilt my eyes and (to a lower extent) my head down. In the former case, I will (say) sit on a stool while you're on a higher chair/walk on the edge of the carriageway while you're walking on the sidewalk/stand on a lower step of a stairway than you, and/or bend my whole upper body downwards.

(Why does this comment looks to me as if there are unbalanced parentheses even though I know there aren't?)

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T14:41:09.726Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, but it still has an effect. And also the tall guy standing a step below me is definitely not behaving the same as the short guy standing a step above me.

Anyway, the difference in this case is negligible and doesn't help the situation at hand. As far as I can see, to have a guy who was more physically attractive score lower on status would require lowering some other type of attractiveness, like behaviour or signalling. The actions you describe are signalling.

Come to think of it, maybe we just mean different things when we say "attractiveness".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T15:21:31.977Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, but it still has an effect. And also the tall guy standing a step below me is definitely not behaving the same as the short guy standing a step above me.

Huh, yeah. He's also wearing larger clothes, and curving spacetime by a larger amount. But “all other things” in “all other things being equal” doesn't usually literally mean all other things -- otherwise any counterfactual will involve logical inconsistencies.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:58:27.921Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By “attractiveness” I meant the set of all things about me that determine how likely you are to be attracted to me, not just handsomeness. It seems like you might be using “status” the same way I'm using “attractiveness”, whereas I'm using it only for “social” (FLOABW) features. IOW, as I'm using the words, I can have higher or lower status in a given social group but higher or lower attractiveness for a given person. Given that not all women in the same group will be attracted to exactly the same features in men, and given that one can be higher- or lower-status even in an all-straight-male group, the two are not synonymous.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-08T15:41:45.082Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're misunderstanding my point. I agree that status has a wider social meaning, but I was specifically referring to status in the context of one man approaching one woman, and saying that in that case it is usually at least monotonic with attraction. A well-respected academic has status within his field, but is still low-status in male-female interaction terms if he is sufficiently uncharismatic.

Edit: oops. My earlier comments didn't make this at all clear.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T20:45:47.563Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think Athrelon in the comment that started this thread meant "status" in the latter sense.

comment by Sarokrae · 2012-09-09T00:16:03.011Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Guess I was arguing a completely different point then.

Now, where did that thread go which was about the better way to fix creepiness being how to teach people to get/signal more status, rather than what not to do... Pretty sure there they're using this definition.

(Gah, words are hard.)

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T18:40:46.043Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, yeah, someone you wouldn't like to have sex with hitting on you is creepier than someone you would like to have sex with hitting on you (obviously -- why the hell would the latter be creepy at all?)

In answer to the second question---If done so awkwardly, in a way that violates local norms or expectations or in a way that makes you look bad in public. (These are all things other than being low status that seem to play a part in the 'creepiness'.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T20:34:48.427Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was about to answer "Well, if they behaved like that then you'd most likely not want to have sex with them (any longer)", then I realised that if we interpret counterfactuals this way, my comment would be nearly tautological.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T20:44:57.554Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was about to answer "Well, if they behaved like that then you'd most likely not want to have sex with them (any longer)"

Those are certainly unattractive traits and would often be sufficient to remove the desire. But no, the effect isn't anywhere near strong enough to make the potential tautological definition valid.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T20:55:20.957Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, yeah. I had in mind a sense of "creep" according to which it'd be logically contradictory to simultaneously be creeped out by someone and want to have sex with them, but now I realise i had no good reason to think that.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:17:53.366Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I'll tap out now (at least for a couple days), both because I feel like I'm borderline mind-killed and likely to get more so if I continue, and because I've already already procrastinated away way too much RL stuff.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2012-09-09T21:04:51.592Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

attempts at (unwelcome intimacy) = naked aggression.

unwelcome (attempts at intimacy) = failure to anticipate rejection. both sides lost.

asking for harsher penalties for the second (which is already quite painful) is like asking cops to beat up panhandlers - the price you pay for a place you want to live.

comment by Jade · 2012-09-08T02:36:07.318Z · score: -1 (47 votes) · LW · GW

That Readercon example points out an irrationality in the thinking of some creeps, rapists, or PUAs: "sex is a need." Related to that fallacy is the sense of entitlement that sex with desired sex objects should be a reward for being "nice," even though real nice persons avoid using sentient beings as tools and may avoid short-lived pleasures like sex altogether (e.g. Paul Erdos, Nikola Tesla). [And I can tell you from experience, women fawn over good guys. I even had a crush on Tesla. But being good guys, they focus on doing good and may not even notice women fawning over them.] Another fallacy in the minds of some creeps is that their behavior is good for their targets, e.g. "she needs a dicking."

Basically, what we're dealing with are persons who need some luminosity, or awareness and control, over their lusty wants, so they no longer act on those wants as "needs," spending more resources on satisfying those wants over other wants (their own or others') or other beings' real needs, like humans' need to feel safe enough to socialize.

High-status creeps are the worst because they're allowed to be repeat offenders (e.g. Jerry Sandusky). In my experience with a low-status creep, he excluded himself after not getting what he "needed" from his target. That is, he was welcome at meetings but didn't want to go without the prospect of his "need" being met by his desired sex object. That was several years ago, with a freethought group, before I developed this understanding and ability to counteract that irrationality.

Simply saying "sex is not a need; you can live well without it" actually worked in one case. A case that's been difficult for me to crack is where the person, somewhat high-status, is committed to irrationalities and harasses people (sexually harassing females, verbally harassing whomever does something he doesn't like). I might break of his icon of Mercy, taking away his method for reducing his guilt, which he should feel to avoid harming others.

[Edit replacing backslashes with commas. Not that it changes the meaning to me, having known creeps, rapists, and literature by PUAs.]

See "Romance and Violence in Dating Relationships." Apologetics or confabulations are part of the process of passion escalating into aggression or violence. A rational person would avoid the costs and risks of continuing interactions with someone interested in sex and who's brain, like most brains, could rationalize or delude itself, with such fallacies as I noted above (another example: "blue balls") or with thinking that the woman wants sexual relations with him when she doesn't. Hence, avoidance of "creeps." Women poor at detecting and avoiding such dynamics may be more likely to get abused (http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/25/12/2199.full.pdf+html).

Evidence of what I said about lack of illumination: "Results indicate that there is a considerable degree of overlap between victims of physical violence and offenders over time and that certain covariates including school commitment, parental monitoring, low self-control, and sex significantly discriminate victim and offender groups. Furthermore, low self-control appears to be the most salient risk factor for distinguishing both victimization and delinquency trajectories" 2010 Longitudinal Assessment of the Victim-Offender Overlap.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T13:01:39.718Z · score: 16 (26 votes) · LW · GW

That Readercon example points out an irrationality in the thinking of some creeps/rapists/PUAs

Seriously? Creeps/rapists/PUAs. People kept reading after that introduction?

comment by Jade · 2012-09-08T23:48:27.182Z · score: -17 (27 votes) · LW · GW

What do you know about them that makes them like apples and oranges in your mind? If you can't give me a reason for why they're not comparable in any way, I'm gonna have to give your a kick in the ass for being so dismissive of what another person knows.

comment by pjeby · 2012-09-09T02:24:08.896Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

What do you know about them [creeps, rapists, PUAs] that makes them like apples and oranges in your mind?

I was originally going to argue with wedrifid and say he was being uncharitable in interpreting your statement as considering all three groups to be basically the same: my interpretation was that you meant "some creeps, some rapists, and some PUAs", and your statement could then be read in a meaningful light.

However, this new question suggests that you did in fact mean to lump all three groups of people together as a single category, so I'm now downvoting both comments.

If you can't give me a reason for why they're not comparable in any way, I'm gonna have to give your a kick in the ass for being so dismissive of what another person knows.

Ironically, you are threatening wedrifid with violence for doing something which you yourself are doing, i.e, dismissing others' knowledge as irrelevant. I don't think either the dismissal or the threat are appropriate discourse for LW.

comment by anon895 · 2012-09-09T03:33:26.456Z · score: -4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

"Threatening with violence"? Seriously?

comment by Jade · 2012-09-09T15:03:44.566Z · score: -6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for being able to not take words too literally.

pjeby, obviously I couldn't possibly know all creeps, rapists & PUAs; so you were correct in your first interpretation that I meant: "some creeps, some rapists, and some PUAs." Give me one example where I've dismissed others' knowledge, rather than their knee-jerk reactions based on wrong interpretations of my words meaning what they couldn't possibly mean. Apparently, there are some readers here who've identified with being a creep or PUA and some wouldn't want them to be associated with rapists, hence your downvoting. But the fact is we're talking about humans, not apples and oranges. (Are you gonna downvote this now because you think I'm "lumping"? What a BS excuse for downvoting.) Fallacious justifications of un-illuminated thoughts & behaviors is a problem we all have to face. I was pointing out specifics of this problem to address this thread, giving abstractions of cases I've known. Instead of offering counter-examples or counterarguments, some have written blunt rejections or simply downvoted. If I am wrong, why can't someone make me less wrong? Instead, what I'm getting here is not unlike how abuse victims get dismissed when they accuse liked persons as abusers. How do I know this? Cuz I was abused and tried to make the truth known and got similar knee-jerk denials. Feeling rational, I think it's appropriate discourse for LW to say: "Fuck you deniers." Now do you get how my talking about ass-kicking was an expression of emotion [specifically, indignation], not an actual threat?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T23:48:18.377Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even if by “Creeps/rapists/PUAs” you meant to point at points along a continuum, and the connotation that said points are close together was unintentional, you got the order wrong, as rapists ought to be at one extreme rather than in the middle.

comment by Jade · 2012-09-10T21:12:25.566Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Why assume I was using a continuum? Is a continuum necessary? Even if we must put them on a continuum, why assume the order you've assumed? We could, for example, base the continuum on how wrong their theories of humans are, in which case, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to lump the individuals into those three categories and place them on the continuum.

Any more excuses or unnecessary assumptions for me to dispel? I have yet to see a better theory or counter-evidence not accounted for by my theory. Instead, I see just-so theories pigeon-holing humans as just "fundamentally" sex-driven or creeps as just "desperate" or "low-status." Now, given what I know about how brains work and assuming some readers' brains here have absorbed evo psy terminology, it's understandable why brains are spouting such overly-narrow views of humans. I took a course on evo psy with Gordon Gallup where he taught a little about our ancestors living in trees and moving onto land, but mostly the course was on mating. Even Eleizer's article on evo psy has a story revolving around modern humans mating.

But one's theory would have to include more than data on mating to be less wrong about humans. It would have to include a theory of fun, for example, to account for how persons could enjoy their lives without sex, like Tesla or Erdos did. Even the fact that you guys enjoy being on LessWrong, which isn't the best activity for getting laid, says something about the inadequacy of some of the stupid theories posited on this thread, which started off being about how to improve "creepy" persons' theories using information from the suggested articles.

Some of you guys have work to do for your brains to develop a theory of everything, with which you may be less likely to form ad hoc, just-so theories and discount data that don't fit your theories.

(Disclosure & "help wanted ad:" My brain developed a theory of everything, which I'm working on sharing with others. I'm calling it the Enlightenment project, b/c I can't simply tell people what the theory is--"Information won’t set you free by itself". We have to help brains develop their own less wrong ToEs. I'm looking for brain-hackers who can help create a wiki, videos, and whatever other materials could be used to help most people. And I have some specific ideas that require a digital graphics artist to become something outside of my head for people to use. If you want to help, message me.)

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T03:12:20.568Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with this line of thinking. Sexuality isn't a physical need in the sense that, say, water is a physical need, but it is a pretty fundamental drive. It certainly doesn't morally oblige any particular person to fulfill it for you (analogously, the human need for companionship doesn't oblige random strangers to accept overtures of friendship), but it's sufficiently potent that I'd be cautious about casually demoting it below other social considerations, let alone suggesting sexual asceticism as a viable solution in the average case; that seems like an easy way to come up with eudaemonically suboptimal prescriptions.

Nice Guy (tm) psychology is something else again. I'm not sure how much of the popular view of it is anywhere near accurate, but in isolation I'd hesitate to take it as suggesting anything more than one particular pathology of sexual politics and maybe some interesting facts about the surrounding culture.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T03:48:05.579Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Sexuality isn't a physical need in the sense of, say, water being a physical need, but it is a pretty fundamental drive.

Some have argued the same regarding revenge, nepotism, and various other "drives" that we might expect people to learn how to express in a moral way.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T04:22:13.971Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not arguing against the need to express sexuality in a moral way. But if we have good reason to think that sexuality (or status-seeking, the wish to redress grievances, or any of the psychology behind revenge, nepotism, etc.) is a low-level motivation, then from a eudaemonic standpoint it seems like a very bad move to prioritize denying or minimizing those motivations instead of looking for relatively benign ways to express them.

We have only a very limited ability to change our motivational structure, and even within those limits it's easy to screw up our emotional equilibrium by doing so. It's far better -- if far harder -- to come up with an incentive structure that rewards ethical pursuit of human drives than to build one which frustrates them.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T04:45:52.619Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the first paragraph and ADBOC with the second. Human culture contains lots of incentive structures that do just that. It is often not at all necessary to invent new ones, but rather to evaluate, choose, and tweak existing ones.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T04:50:01.550Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Human culture contains lots of incentive structures that do just that. It is often not at all necessary to invent new ones, but rather to evaluate, choose, and tweak existing ones.

I don't disagree, but I do think that the existing incentive structures surrounding sexuality are pretty damned dysfunctional. I chose the wording I did because I think there'll need to be a lot of original thought going into a better incentive structure (and because I don't think there currently exist any really good candidate solutions), but I'm not trying to imply that we need to throw out the existing culture completely.

comment by duckduckMOO · 2012-09-11T01:01:39.346Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's too specific/complicated to be low level/fundamental. Actually all of them are too specific/complicated to be low level. They're just so widely and thoroughly internalised (to the point where not being that way will likely be bad for you just because other people will dislike you for it) very few people realise they are changable, or are motivated to change them. There's little reason to change them for most people. Not having a desire for revenge or redress grievances is a quick way to become a target/victim, status seeking gets you status if you do it right which gets you power. nepotism makes you a more attractive ally.

I think it's more accurate to say that changing motivational structure is hard and risky than the ability is limited. There's no hard or soft cap afaik (which is what limited makes it sound like to me) it's just really hard to do and most people don't care to anyway.

Also wtf is a need. Is that like a right? It means you really really want something? really really really? really really really really? nonsense on stilts. Take your fucking stilts off bro.

edit: I can't believe I put bro at the end of that post. Kinda ruins it.

edit2: no it doesn't, stop pandering.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-11T01:05:04.296Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm having trouble making sense of this in context. Did you mean to reply to this post?

comment by duckduckMOO · 2012-09-11T01:38:57.489Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

i typed it out as a response to that post and copy pasted it to this post (adding the /fundamental) because it is higher up. So kinda.

comment by Jade · 2012-09-08T04:47:03.786Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

We don't have to "casually demote" anything. Like Fox News says, "we report -- you decide."

Generally, "need" is used to refer to something perceived to be necessary in an optimization process. There are cases where a human doesn't need companionship, let alone sex (see recluses or transcendentalists' recommendations that persons isolate themselves from society for a while to clear their heads of irrationalities).

If "the average case" involves little luminosity of sexuality and lots of sexualization of beings, then of course sexual abstinence wouldn't be likely. Rape occurs in epidemic proportions in such places where people are also demoralized or decommissioned from doing much good work, like on reservations.

Nice Guy and Nice Gal are idealized gender roles for an optimal society. Some oppose gender roles to the extent that they limit persons from doing good, esp. when they make one gender subservient to the other or make a person of one gender subservient to another person of another gender (like the promulgated view that wife should serve husband). A person or AI caring only about one person or half the human population would not be optimal.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T05:21:37.952Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Nice Guy and Nice Gal are idealized gender roles for an optimal society.

I think we're talking past each other here. The "Nice Guy (tm)" phenomenon I was referring to is categorically not an idealized gender role within an optimal or any other society, hence the sarcasm trademark, although it has its roots in (a misinterpretation of) one idealized masculinity. Instead, it's a shorthand way of describing the pathology you described in the ancestor: the guy in question (there are women who do similar things, but the term as I'm using it is tied up in the male gender role) performs passive masculinity really hard and expects that sexual favors will follow. When this fails, usually due to poor socialization and poor understanding of sexual politics, bitterness and frustration ensue.

I actually think the terminology's pretty toxic as such things go, since it tends to be treated as a static attribute of the people so described instead of suggesting solutions to the underlying problems. It's common jargon in these sorts of discussions, though, and denotationally it does describe a real dysfunction, so I'm okay with using it as shorthand. Apologies for any bad assumptions on my part.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T10:00:01.410Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You might want to link “Nice Guy (tm)” in the grandparent to, er..., somewhere.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T10:11:22.286Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm open to suggestions.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T10:24:01.653Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I found this on Google but I'm pretty sure I've seen a way better one before.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-09-08T10:32:27.450Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This might be better.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T10:51:13.604Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Edited.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T09:47:01.010Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

"sex is a need."

Taboo “need”. Yes, it's not necessary for survival; but homeless people can survive too, and still not many people say stuff like “shelter is not a need” or “stop acting like you're entitled to shelter”. (But I still agree no-one is expected to give you a sleeping place solely because you think you are a decent person.)

I mean, Maslow put it in the bottom layer of his pyramid... (Though the fact that he separately lists “sexual intimacy” higher up means that by “sex” in the bottom layer he likely meant the kind of sex that even prostitutes can give.)

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T11:47:59.095Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Off-topic: your model of prostitution is wrong. Social skills, putting people at ease, listening, and acting are big parts of the job. Look up "girlfriend experience".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T12:36:16.755Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I was thinking more about street prostitutes than escorts, but what in my comment suggests anything about “my model of prostitution”, anyway?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T12:39:14.215Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Sexual intimacy" is a thing prostitutes (including low-end ones) provide, which is why they're more expensive than fleshlights.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T12:45:28.926Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Given that Maslow listed it separately from “sex”, I guess he had in mind a narrower sense for “sexual intimacy” than you might have. (Unless he had in mind an extremely broad sense for “sex”, which would include e.g. self-masturbation.)

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:13:06.124Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe he was just moralizing and wanted to label short or paid-for sexual intimacy as "mere sex".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T20:59:58.577Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By looking at the pyramid, I think he meant for "sexual intimacy" to be to "sex" as friendship is to conversation, i.e. by the former he meant what people today would call "being in a relationship" or "romance". But I'm not fully sure.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T21:09:55.800Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You mean the function of guaranteeing availability? Having friends provides good conversation. Being in a relationship provides good sex.

And being free from worry about having to provide conversation or sex for tomorrow satisfies a psychological need for security. That makes sense.

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-08T02:53:53.935Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Do you want to taboo "want" and "need"?

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-08T14:02:19.282Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This comment is the first that has ever made me want to build an army of sock puppets for downvoting purposes, not that I shall do so.

comment by anon895 · 2012-09-09T02:40:01.558Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

As a low-status male, right now I'm less worried about being excluded from a meetup than I am about being publicly associated with LW at all. It already has a reputation (and not just for the things mentioned there); now it's a place where a comment like Jade's here isn't just downvoted, but downvoted to a level that labels it a troll comment not worth replying to.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-09T13:57:55.763Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Related to: List of public drafts on LessWrong

The Problem With Rational Wiki

It already has a reputation

Since you cite it as source you should be aware Rational Wiki has a certain reputation here as well. I'm not talking about the object level disagreements such as cryonics, existential risk, many-worlds interpretation and artificial intelligence because we have some reasonable disagreement on those here as well. Even its cheeky tone while not helping its stated goals can be amusing. I'm somewhat less forgiving about their casual approach to epistemology and their vulnerability to cargo cult science, as long as it is peer reviewed cargo cult science.

While factually it is as about as accurate as Wikipedia, it is very selective about the facts that it is interested in. For example what would you expect from a site calling itself "Rational Wiki" to have on its page about charity. Do you expect information on how much good charity actually does? What kinds of charities do not do what they say on the label? How to avoid getting misled? The ethics of charity? The psychology, sociology or economics of charity?

I'm sorry to disappoint you but the article consists of some haphazardly arranged facts and stats on how much members of some religions give or are supposed to give to charity, a dig against Christianity and a non-sequitur unfavourable comparison of the US to Sweden. Contrast this with what you can find on the topic on sites like LessWrong or 80, 000 Hours. Basically the material presented is what a slightly left of centre atheist needs to win an internet debate. As is much of the rest of the site.

Indeed some entries have a clear ideological bias that is quite startling to behold on a "rational wiki" and it has been noted by some.

Now to avoid any misunderstandings there are good articles, a few LWers are contributors to the rational wiki and there is certainly nothing wrong with being a left of centre atheist! Nearly everyone on this site is an atheist, and people who identify as left wing politically form a large majority here. The tribal markers and its political agenda aren't the biggest problem. Sites with all sorts of agendas, even political ones, promoting rationality are a good thing.

Its problem is that it is an ammunition depot to aid in winning debates. Very specific kinds of debates too. This may sound harsh, but consider: How many people reading the site that aren't already atheists will change their mind on religion? How many people who follow a "crankish" belief won't do so afterwards? While I'm sure it happens the site obviously isn't optimized for this. How many people will read the wiki and try to find errors and biases in their own thinking to debug it instead of breaking if further it or using it as a club? How many will apply this knowledge to help them with any real world problems? Truth seeeking? As a source or community that could aid in that quest it is less useful and reliable than Wikipedia, which while a rather good and extensive encyclopaedia (despite snickering to the contrary) has a subtly but importantly different stated goal.

What else remains? What other plausible function does it serve?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-28T21:26:43.198Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What else remains? What other plausible function does [RationalWiki] serve?

I find it quite entertaining.

comment by anon895 · 2015-03-14T21:29:56.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see how any of those questions relate to my post.

(For transparency:

I initially read your post as saying that, because RationalWiki isn't "really" rational, their opinion on LW is automatically wrong and stupid; that therefore, anyone who shares or has absorbed that opinion (since the RW link was just a conveniently available illustration) is also wrong and stupid; and that therefore, their potential opinion of me as part of it is either inconsequential or totally outside my control. Or maybe you meant that people you know don't take RW seriously, and that therefore I shouldn't worry about encountering RW attitudes in the wild.

I then read more closely and realized that you weren't actually saying any of that. Furthermore, your post wasn't even directed at me, since I never claimed that RW served some vital and unique function (though if nothing else it's good for documenting and illustrating the beliefs and attitudes of the type of people who contribute to it). For you to take my post to mean that (I reasoned at the time) would be stupid; and steelmanning and the principle of charity obligated me to act under the assumption that you weren't stupid until conclusively shown otherwise. Therefore, I had to consider your post a personal tangent and ignore it.

I now realize that I was committing illusion of transparency, assuming short inferential distance and neglecting connotation. I apologize if my previous post connoted that I was holding RW above reproach; and I reject your connotation that RW's flaws mean that I'm wrong to be concerned about the consequences of loudly promoting LW and its memes wherever I go.)

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-09T13:59:20.942Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It already has a reputation

lesswrong wishes it had a reputation!

comment by anon895 · 2015-03-14T05:05:22.860Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This post (edit: fixed link) reminded me of this thread. 2.5 years later, I'm still not sure I understand your point or why it has a +5 score. How does what LW (which I guess I'm not part of) "wants"^W "wishes" relate to my concerns?

comment by fezziwig · 2015-03-14T13:53:37.650Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Almost nobody has heard of Less Wrong or Eliezer. There's a mean article on RationalWiki (though honestly it doesn't look that mean anymore), there's a hostile thread on DarkLordPotter, but almost nobody has heard of those, either. This was even more true two years ago.

I'm not wedrifid. But I suspect his point is that, outside of a few incredibly narrow sub-sub-cultures, nobody knows anything about Less Wrong and no one who knows you personally will judge you by your connection to it, no matter how public or overt.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-09-10T10:28:27.226Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what you are using status to mean. Would you be willing to restate your argument with 'status' tabbooed?

comment by shminux · 2012-09-07T17:54:50.148Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

It's amusing how some comments to this thread degenerated into versions of Yvain's worst argument in the world:

is labeled creepy and the archetypal example of creepy is harmful, therefore A is bad.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-07T19:04:31.690Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Also: behavior B is bad and is creepy. People talk about creepiness being bad, rather than behavior B being bad. But behavior A is also creepy, and some people think it's not bad. So they say creepiness is not bad. Then they feel they have to defend behavior B against claims of being bad (blue/green politics).

comment by shminux · 2012-09-07T19:16:15.858Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. Maybe Yvain can make a case study out of the OP.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-07T18:18:32.034Z · score: 9 (41 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's clear that:

  • Different people have different creepiness tolerances.
  • Creepiness is significantly associated with mainstream social status (as opposed to status within the LW group).
  • Most people, including most LWers, find it stressful to be around very creepy people.

Therefore, I propose the following system to reduce the stress of creepiness in LW groups while still maintaining a "big tent."

  • In every city large enough to support a large LW meetup population, there will be multiple tiers of LW groups. (Use common sense in determining optimal group size. I doubt any city beyond SF/NY has enough people to implement this right now)
  • These groups will be explicitly ranked by status (or more precisely, degree of tolerance - with high status groups having the lowest tolerance for creepy behaviors)
  • Membership in the lowest-tier group is automatic; membership in all higher-tier groups is conducted through an interview/probation process. This review process involves observers from the immediately higher- and lower-tier groups.
  • Membership in a higher-tier group automatically grants membership all lower-tier groups.

In this way, we'll have a series of meetup groups that accommodate people of all creepiness tolerances. People who dislike dealing with creepy people can choose groups that exclude them, but the automatic membership in lower-tiered system avoids the problem of losing the interesting-but-creepy people. The only people who miss out are creepy people with low creepy tolerances, but we probably don't want them anyway.

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-09-07T19:00:22.021Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

LessWrong readers are about the only group of humans on the planet that I can see explicitly describing such rules and then making them work. It is far more common to end up with this kind of arrangements but put up some façade to save face.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-09-07T19:12:23.091Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Yup. Really, I did nothing more than describe elements of the old-fashioned class system and the timeless informal status system, with a few bells and whistles.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T03:11:15.912Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Except that in mainstream caste systems, behaviors considered 'creepy' because they signal low status, not the other way around.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T11:08:01.272Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Nah. Many creepy behaviors, like boxing people in and ignoring reluctance, convey "I have high enough status not to fear the social cost of this behavior; if you try to punish me for it, everyone will be on my side". This is high-status. Some creepy behaviors, like the creepy monotone, convey "I am unable to conform to many social norms", which causes and signals low status.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T19:53:45.562Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"I have high enough status not to fear the social cost of this behavior; if you try to punish me for it, everyone will be on my side".

More like "I have high enough status that you will actually want this".

Creepy is when it turns out the person doing this actually didn't have high enough status.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T18:48:18.166Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's complicated-- my impression is that there are a lot of low status people (including most low status men) aren't seen as creepy. There's something additional-- body language? postural?-- and I've never seen it adequately defined or described.

comment by Pentashagon · 2012-09-09T06:09:22.235Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The only people who miss out are creepy people with low creepy tolerances, but we probably don't want them anyway.

That might cover a fair portion of the autistic spectrum.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-10T01:51:05.516Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Gender-related Lesswrong threads have almost always been problematic, historically. However, in all honesty, the signal/noise ratio in this thread seems low, even when compared to others of its kind.

Can anyone here honestly state that they learned something from this thread?

Note: The question was not rhetorical. If anyone was helped, I would actually like to learn that they were helped. Other note: I apologize for making the signal/noise ratio of this thread even worse by going meta.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-10T04:12:46.835Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Can anyone here honestly state that they learned something from this thread?

I would note that, even if true, we are unlikely to see replies of the form "I learned that I am creepy" or "I knew I am creepy, but from this thread I learned that LessWrong is aware of the problem and I'm unlikely to get away with it in meetings because people have named the problem and are aware of the importance of picking up on it."

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-10T02:55:59.926Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I was also pleasantly surprised to notice how little this thread was mindkilled.

As for something I learned, the distinction between individual interpretation of someone's behavior as charismatic v. an individual's social status within a group was made salient in a way that let me notice it. There's several other things I can't call to mind but which I'm pretty sure I did learn.

comment by 9eB1 · 2012-09-11T20:17:28.726Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think you may have misread the comment you are replying to. He said that this thread had a low signal to noise ratio, and expressed disbelief that anyone "honestly... learned something from this thread."

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-11T22:50:17.647Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I totally did misread the comment.

Honestly, I might just be filtering out the noise at this point - or having recently worked out how to point out that a comment is noise in a certain way might be helping me consider noise more of a learning experience and less of a blank field.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-10T04:18:30.300Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone was helped, I would actually like to learn that they were helped.

It would have been nice if, instead of just picking holes in my attempt at a TLDR summary, more people had instead proposed alternative one paragraph summaries of the advice within the links.

I think it would also have been helpful if there had been a bit more direct advice for someone in a LW meeting who is feeling creeped out, advice for someone in a LW meeting who notices someone else giving signs of feeling creeped out, and a show of visible support for the best such advice.

However this thread, so far, has not gone in that direction.

comment by Furslid · 2012-09-07T21:45:38.804Z · score: 8 (24 votes) · LW · GW

I think the most important advice is not "Don't be a creep." It is "Do not tolerate creepiness in others."

If someone is accused of being a creep do not back them up or dismiss their accuser unless you are damn sure they weren't being creepy. If someone looks creepy based on social cues (ex. is focusing on someone much more intently than it is returned.) consider creating a break in the conversation that would allow for a graceful exit. If someone is consistently creepy, especially with touching or gross innuendo and will not stop they should not be welcome in your group.

comment by NMJablonski · 2012-09-07T22:26:57.318Z · score: 14 (28 votes) · LW · GW

Assume guilt!

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-07T22:42:43.022Z · score: 9 (21 votes) · LW · GW

No. Address the behavior, not the person. "Don't hug people without asking" is not the same as "You are an evil person, begone with you." Aspiring rationalists should be able to accept the request and update their beliefs regarding others' preferences accordingly. Failure to update when others' happiness is at stake, is bad rationality and morally wrong.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T04:47:12.113Z · score: 19 (41 votes) · LW · GW

I don't really understand attempts to solve creepiness problems with things like "don't hug people without asking". In my experience, the most socially adept people violate this rule in spades, it's just that they more correctly guess who wants to hug them (which is easy when most want to hug them to begin with).

More generally, it bothers me when advice is of the form, "Don't do X" when the real rule is "don't do X with low status" and the advised's problem is more the low status than the X, and the advisor has no intention of giving advice on status.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T05:30:44.231Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

First: Skill ("socially adept") and status are distinct; I'm not sure but it kinda sounds like you are conflating them.

Second: Formal "don't hug without asking" rules are usually recommended for situations involving strangers, such as conventions and meetups — and for situations where a person might be discouraged by power imbalance from expressing their discomfort, such as workplaces. Much of the purpose of the rule is to assure people who don't want to be hugged that they will not be. The goal isn't to regulate intimacy but to deter unwanted intimacy and to assure people they won't be subjected to it.

(I posted the relevant bit of the OpenSF polyamory conference's code of conduct elsethread, but here's the link.)

Third: Some of the times that you think you've seen someone correctly predict that someone wanted a hug, you may have actually witnessed someone who didn't want a hug playing along to avoid making a scene, or to please the hugger, or the like — especially if the hugger is high-status. Pretending to enjoy something is a thing. Part of the point of the rule is to reduce the chance of putting anyone in that situation — and to remind people that saying no is respected.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-09T01:10:37.852Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're right about the socially adept overhugging situations. Nevertheless, I don't think the non-hugging-without-asking advice is helpful to the intended audience.

For one thing, this socially-adept over-hugger, for all his flaws, is still much preferable and beneficial to the group than the archetypal, socially-inept creep under discussion. So, while the overhugger might be strictly better for the group to the follow the hugging advice, I would still say the most important thing (the low-hanging fruit here) is to teach the creep the things that the overhugger is doing right, not to tell him to avoid the things the overhugger is doing wrong.

Like I've tried to demonstrate here, it's hard to form a model of the things you need to do in a group setting when a) you don't know how to act, and b) all advice you get is in the negative. If it does anything, the negative advice just reinforces a mental model that says, "to be on the safe side, don't even talk to anyone because you might hit one of the prohibited things", which is not a step forward. And if my own experience is any guide, it just blends into the same old message of, "your desires are bad, how dare you act on them" -- not a healthy mentality to encourage in the target audience, who probably already assimilated this message early on.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T14:11:55.220Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

it bothers me when advice is of the form, "Don't do X" when the real rule is "don't do X with low status"

(Mostly unrelated to your point)

Things become even more complicated when that rule means that doing X can work as a status signal (like a way of "acting confident").

comment by Furslid · 2012-09-08T20:11:10.090Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

No, it is not don't do X with low status. It is don't do X when unwanted. Status may influence what is wanted, but it does not excuse unwanted physical contact. It is just as wrong for the alpha male to do this as the omega male. For instance, I know someone with OCD who really does not like being touched. Are you saying it would be ok for some high status person to leave her uncomfortable with an unwanted hug?

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T20:24:10.063Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

No, it is not don't do X with low status. It is don't do X when unwanted.

So the rule is to use a mind-reader?

Are you saying it would be ok for some high status person to leave her uncomfortable with an unwanted hug?

I'm saying that the rare failure of a heuristic does not make it wrong to employ the heuristic; it just means that the user of it should stop employing it after it is known for this (very unusual) case.

There exist people who are extremely allergic to peanuts, so much that taking them out would cause a negative reaction far worse than an unwanted hug. Does that mean you're going to go around promoting a rule that "You should never bring peanuts with you"? Or would you recognize that this condition is rare enough to make it the obligation of the person with the condition to alert others, rather than demonizing those who fail to account for cases like this?

(Note: hug-unwanting is, of course, far more common than this peanut allergy, and thus carries different implications.)

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-10T04:06:26.893Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So the rule is to use a mind-reader?

Roughly, yes. Standard-model humans come with mind-reader included. So the average person writing these is effectively saying to use it.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-10T18:02:44.639Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't that kind of missing the point, though, since the people in question almost certainly don't have mind-readers with such a capability? Sounds like yet another failure of insight on the part of the writers.

It reminds me of a certain LWer's "helpful" advice that, "You have to dress right, and wear the right clothes, that look good, and wear it the right way." Ah, thanks, man, how'd I miss that?


But even more importantly, I don't think anyone has a mind reader capable of what these writers are expecting of it. Everyone has some margin of error and so can't be categorically expected (or advised) to avoid "all" "unwanted" behavior -- much more reasonable to ask that they not do a (person-invariant) category of generally disliked behavior, whether or not a particular person happens to like or not like it (and punish even if it happened to be liked, because of incentive effects).

Worse, "unwanted" behavior with respect to Jones might be for Smith not to make romantic overtures toward Doe (assuming Doe and Jones aren't in a relationship). Or for Smith not to offer products for sale that are competitive with Jones's. Or for Smith to keep his golden watch rather than give it away.

No reasonable social rule requires you to junk your life in order to be a perpetual font of charity, however wanted that might be.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-10T19:13:59.136Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was not under the impression that we were discussing reasonable, consistent social rules.

To someone with built-in social skills, it basically feels like the policy reduces to "do what other people want". It takes a lot of effort to see that the reduction goes the other way (i.e. we're trying to reduce "do what other people want" to actionable rules). Additionally, the writers are probably giving the first explanation that comes to mind for why people seem creepy (naturally, one that reflects favorably on them and, more importantly, unfavorably on the person they're criticizing). If they dug deeper, they might (might) be able to come up with specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors that trigger the "creepy" association. This would be useful if they were interested in helping creepy people become less creepy, but for the most part the people writing about creepiness are writing because they've just been on the receiving end, and just want it to go away.

I suspect that at least some people have a mind-reader at least close to the specs of these writers, particularly people those from the writers' social groups. The standard model onboard human emulator really is quite good, particularly when it's been trained by large amounts of social contact (something most people labeled creepy (the low-status kind) don't get much of). Which is why the most successful advice on how to become less creepy is to get out more. Being creepy isn't something you can really think yourself out of, because it has a lot to do with posture, timing, intonation, and trained guesswork. I'm fairly sure that formal training for becoming less creepy would be effective (possibly more so than the "getting out more"), but it's something that would require an outside, experienced party.

comment by Furslid · 2012-09-08T20:45:40.799Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

No, I am not saying that being a mind reader is required. Obviously we use physical and verbal cues. The point is that there is a goal to be achieved. The goal is not making people uncomfortable. It is not controlling the behavior of low status males.

The example was meant to provide a clear counterexample to "Don't do X when low status." That implies "X is acceptable when high status." It isn't. In fact, we often view high status creepers as much worse. It's worse if the boss is touchy-feely at work than if a coworker is.

comment by SilasBarta · 2012-09-08T20:52:12.228Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

No, I am not saying that being a mind reader is required. Obviously we use physical and verbal cues.

Okay, but then why do you assume the problem is that the person doesn't know X is wrong, rather than that the person misread the cues, and thus diagnose the problem with long expositions of "don't do X" rather than "hey, here's how to read cues better"?

More importantly, why do so many people respond as you did, despite it being about as helpful as "The problem is that you need to sell non-apples!"

comment by Furslid · 2012-09-08T21:18:47.141Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Of course I do try to help people read cues better. However, the problem is behavior. Misreading cues can lead to bad behavior, but someone can know they are making someone else uncomfortable and still act that way. I make no assumption about why someone does something. I only ask that they stop.

My point were that accepting creepiness is not cool and that low status is not what makes the behavior wrong. They were not meant to help people avoid being creepy, and naturally are not helpful.

comment by Furslid · 2012-09-08T20:52:38.793Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, I am not saying that you condemn someone. Simply saying something neutral is perfectly fine. Something like, "I didn't notice him being creepy." is OK. Saying that they are wrong to be creeped out or that they must accept creepy behavior is not.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T19:22:09.049Z · score: 6 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I read your links. How very encouraging. I think I'll stop talking to women now...

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-11T00:48:09.006Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Why? Have women been complaining that you make them feel uncomfortable by how you talk to them?

Think of the basic advice in the first few links as being like a computer trouble shooting guide that starts off by saying "Is the plug in the socket? Is the socket turned on? Have you tried rebooting?". Sort of a checklist, that you only need to work through if there is actually a problem.

Kind of like: "Do women glare and yell at you when you hug them? Check whether you're using the PolyApproved (tm) procedure of making the awkward 'wanna hug?' gesture first, and only proceeding to an actual hug if the gesture is reciprocated. Note for advanced users: there are alternative procedures and short cuts which can be used at your own risk."

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-12T23:41:57.098Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Does the first link not come off to you as very aggressive and (almost) presuming guilt? (I can't imagine how it couldn't, so if it doesn't to you I'm interested in your perspective.)

It feels to me like a troubleshooting guide that continually insinuates how much of a frickin' moron the user would be if they turned off the computer without properly shutting down (or any number of other explicitly-unstated foolish actions), except that troubleshooting guides normally can't morally condemn you.

(The third link actually does read like a decent guide.)

comment by Kenny · 2012-09-12T01:17:28.455Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think I understand what nyan_sandwich means; some quotes from the link "My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?":

LW, I know you love him, and I know you don’t want to hear this, but if he can’t agree to that, he can’t be your boyfriend anymore. Someone who would put the feelings of a serial sexual predator ahead of the safety of the person they claim to love is not a good partner.

It’s really fucking sad and unfair. Welcome to our culture, where it’s always this sad and unfair whenever women’s safety is on the line.

This is how far Rape Culture skews our vision. Being sexually harassed and assaulted is seen as something that you should be cool (i.e. quiet) about. But GOD FORBID you break up the weekly games night with the temerity to be a victim of such a crime! Don’t you know that your harasser has the best table for playing Settlers of Cataan?

I wrote-up a (draft) post on my own blog because I was offended by the implication that, by being a member of "society", and one that is a Rape Culture by-the-way, I am culpable for rape, sexual assault, and the ongoing minimization of women's safety.

And that post is actually one of the better ones, in that it doesn't instruct the reader "don't touch".

I mean, don't you know that everyone says you should be cool about being raped? Reading that makes me livid.

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-07T22:15:03.074Z · score: 2 (24 votes) · LW · GW

EDIT: OK, on reflection I'm less confident in all this. Feel free to read my original comment below.


I have a theory that a high male-to-female ratio actually triggers creepy behavior in men. Why?

Creepy behavior has an evolutionary purpose, just like all human behavior. The optimal mating strategy changes depending on my tribe's gender ratio. As nasty as it sounds, from the perspective of my genes it may make sense to try to have sex by force, if it's not going to happen any other way.

I suspect evolution has programmed men to be more bitter, resentful, and belligerent if they seem to be in an area where there aren't many women. Hence you get sexual assault problems in the military, countries with surplus young males causing various forms of societal unrest, etc.

In other words, maybe it's not that individuals are creepy so much as men "naturally" act more rapey if there are only a few women around. Of course, we're all adults and we can supress unwanted internal drives, but it may also be a good idea to attack the root problem.

So in light of this, some possible solutions for male creepiness:

  • When men feel desperate, they act creepy. That doesn't necessarily mean we should treat these men like bad people. Yes, these are antisocial behaviors. But they're a manifestation of internal suffering. So, try to feel compassion and respect for people that are suffering, in addition to letting them know that their behavior is antisocial.
  • If you're a man and you notice yourself acting creepy, one idea is to try to get interested in something that's got a decent number of women involved with it. (Possible examples: acting, dancing, book clubs. Maybe other commenters have more ideas?) Hopefully, this will program your subconscious to believe you're no longer in a desperate situation. In the best case, maybe you'll find a girlfriend.
comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T03:17:34.022Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Creepy behavior has an evolutionary purpose, just like all human behavior.

The primary 'evolutionary purpose' here is in the selection of instincts for things feeling 'creepy', not evolving to be 'creepy'. It is at the core a mechanism for reducing the chance that the host will mate with a low value male---either consensually or otherwise. 'Creepy behavior' then is largely a matter of losing at an evolutionary arms race. (With confounding factors around there being trade-offs to acting confident.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-10T04:08:55.083Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know any of this?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T04:57:41.358Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know any of this?

The central claim I made is that creepiness, like sexiness is about perceptions of the observer. Looking at the "evolutionary purpose of creepy behavior" is the wrong place to look and is likely to involve some confusion about the map and the territory.

I also mentioned offhand that the instinct to be 'creeped out' serves the purpose of reducing the chance of impregnation by inferior mates, either consentually or otherwise. It honestly didn't occur to me that this is something people would expect significant justification for. It doesn't strike me as a deep or particularly controversial insight.

comment by WrongBot · 2012-09-07T22:38:52.987Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Creepy behavior has an evolutionary purpose, just like all human behavior.

Humans are adaptation-executors, not fitness-maximizers. Evolution may have crafted me into a person who wants to sit at home alone all day and play video games, but sitting at home alone all day and playing video games doesn't offer me a fitness advantage.

(I don't actually want to sit at home alone all day and play video games. At least, not every day.)

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-07T22:47:54.606Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Yep. I'm arguing that creepy/misogynistic behavior may be an adaptation that fires when a man is feeling desperate.

It's weird because since thinking of this yesterday, I've noticed that it has a ton of explanatory power regarding my own feelings and behavior. And it actually offers a concrete solution to the problem of feeling creepy: hang out with more women. But I'm getting voted down both here and on reddit. I guess maybe I'm generalizing from myself improperly, and lack of social awarenesss is actually a much larger problem?

Hanging out with more women could also be a solution to lack of social awareness, by the way. In my experience, I naturally tend to start making friends with some of them, and in conversations I learn a lot more about how they think and feel.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-07T23:02:01.379Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be confusing high-status creep and low-status creep. The latter, which you describe, happens among desperate low-status men (rarely other genders), is characterized by misogyny and a sense of thwarted entitlement, is obvious to outsiders, and makes then even less desirable partners. Hanging around women is usually promoted as a cure, and looks like it works. I see little evidence for or against this being evolutionary or cultural.

The former happens among predators, who often (not always) are high-status because they're driven to be, is characterized by a sense of entitlement that is denied but acted on (by flouting norms and personally-imposed boundaries on interaction, especially sexual), and works in the sense that it gets the creeper lots of dubiously consensual sex while avoiding social blame. This seems to be a straightforward outgrowth of "Screw the rules, I have status".

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-07T23:38:09.761Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That seems like an accurate description to me. I'm inclined to think that if LW has any kind of creep problem, it's more likely to be low-status creep problem, i.e. men who feel like social outcasts (possibly because they're really smart and have always had a hard time finding people like them to make friends with) and have been programmed to alieve that as social outcasts, the only way they're going to have sex is through creepy means.

And maybe part of the solution to this problem is to help men feel less like social outcasts. Group hug, everyone! I'm also in favor if discouraging creepy behavior verbally; I'm just suggesting this as an additional solution.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:18:03.518Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

And maybe part of the solution to this problem is to help men feel less like social outcasts. Group hug, everyone!

And this gets into a related issue -- male/male affection in general is often strongly proscribed, at least in Western society, to the point where a risk of censure for the mere possibility of a sexual component is a real risk. My guess is that most men, regardless of status or other factors, will not fail to pick up on this, given the sheer amount of signalling to that effect. Some groups that recognize this problem try to drive an even harder wedge of distinction between the two possible readings of any given affectionate act, which doesn't help in the long run; it simply exacerbates the matter.

Clearly a whole lotta lower-status creepy men who feel like social outcasts need to start doing something to shake this homophobia and this obsession with their own sexual dissatisfaction, and the rigidly-framed societal narratives they're willing to accept that being fulfilled within...

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T07:45:14.449Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

And this gets into a related issue -- male/male affection in general is often strongly proscribed, at least in Western society, to the point where a risk of censure for the mere possibility of a sexual component is a real risk.

It should be noted this is a recent phenomena. This wasn't at all the case in the 19th and early 20th century.

Clearly a whole lotta lower-status creepy men who feel like social outcasts need to start doing something to shake this homophobia and this obsession with their own sexual dissatisfaction, and the rigidly-framed societal narratives they're willing to accept that being fulfilled within...

The vast majority of modern societies where male/male non-sexual affection is considered normal are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality, like say Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and to a lesser extent other Mediterranean cultures like say the Sicilian one, so I'm not sure it is useful to frame it in those terms.

The unfortunate norms basically arise out of the following: "It is socially acceptable to have sex with men, the standard social identity for that assumes you have sex with only men, how do I signal I don't have sex with men?"

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-09-08T10:39:42.377Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So the solution is increased tolerance and visibility of bisexuality? That explains the most male-male-affectionate subculture I know of, the sigh furry community, where bisexuality is rarely erased.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T10:44:58.766Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So the solution is increased tolerance and visibility of bisexuality?

A possible solution, yes. It works as long as people don't mind dating bisexuals. If people prefer to date those who only date one gender, it doesn't work that well since it still pays to signal.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:12:50.464Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It should be noted this is a recent phenomena.

Yah, it definitely varies in time, place and cultural context.

The vast majority of modern societies where male/male non-sexual affection is considered normal are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality

The vast majority of modern societies (full stop) are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality. The variance on human cultural diversity has been winnowed a lot; you don't see much like the Spartan or old Celtic norms today. Both colonialism and the spread of big, monotheistic conversion-focused religions probably have at least a bit to do with that (though the religion angle shouldn't be overemphasized either -- indigenous cultures that aren't violently subjected to conversion often come up with interesting syncretic adaptations -- the Minangkabau are polyandric, matrifocal, animist, intellectual-focused Muslim culture who were able to bring in Islam at their pace, on their terms).

Basically what I'm saying here is I don't think acceptance of male/male affection in general is a causal determinant of homophobia in culture, and that pragmatically, both problems need attention in this culture.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T16:56:34.628Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The vast majority of modern societies (full stop) are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality.

There are worlds of difference between Sweden and Turkey, let alone Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

Remember that while in some parts of the ancient world homosexual relations with young men or fellow fighters where tolerated or even idealized as a higher form of love than with women, men where generally still pressured to find wives and produce heirs with them. There where exceptions to this, but they where just that, exceptions. Homosexuals outside of the closet in the West are not under such pressure by society at large.

Naturally the social construct of homosexual identity has besides such benefits also limitations and expectations peculiar to our society that came up with it, that may not be something everyone wants.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T17:07:53.469Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Homosexuals outside of the closet in the West are not under such pressure by society at large.

Me and a whole lotta other queer people know might beg to differ on that point. ;p

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T18:35:34.472Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I assume you are referring to family pressure? Outside of "pray the gay away" American silliness from some Churches I don't think I see much pressure to marry with the opposite sex. But you are probably more knowledgeable on this than I am.

What I was going for is that the social reality of homosexuality in some parts of the ancient world as it likely was has both ups and downs when compared to the social reality of homosexuality in the West today and that comparison to them is hard to use that as an argument that all modern societies are extremely intolerant of homosexuality. One can much more plausibly make this argument on the same grounds we criticize other things that where never better but should be better in the future.

I'm just wondering if this is something we now agree on or if you found it unconvincing.

Edit: I would appreciate it if down voters would comment to explain why they down vote.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T19:15:10.870Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I assume you are referring to family pressure?

Some but not only.

Outside of "pray the gay away" American silliness from some Churches I don't think I see much pressure to marry with the opposite sex

I hear it a lot -- I live in the US, I grew up in mostly liberal areas of it (and live in one now) and it's still very common for me to hear, both in person and in media, the idea that queer people are confused, deviant or mentally-ill. I don't tend to hear the suggestion that they're demon-possessed outside of more "churchy" circles than I habitually frequent, but I do run into the attitude from time to time since I have a fair bit of contact with multiple culture groups in my everyday life (and pretty much all of them have their own flavor of homophobia).

What I was going for is that the social reality of homosexuality in some parts of the ancient world as it likely was has both ups and downs when compared to the social reality of homosexuality in the West today

Sure, I agree with you.

and that comparison to them is hard to use that as an argument that all modern societies are extremely intolerant of homosexuality.

Well, I didn't mean to make that point by means of the comparison, but I do think it's a true statement -- I genuinely if you were to round up all the distinct societal groups in the world today (however you want to slice the distinctions -- I'd say it's true at both the level of communities and nation-states), you'd find that a big majority of them display homophobic/heterosexist norms. That's not to say it's the same kind or intensity everywhere, but my life as a queer person has left me rather disillusioned with the idea that even places with a reputation for "tolerance" or "acceptance" (say, a liberal city in Canada, which I've spent plenty of time in, and where same-sex marriage is just a thing, or the Netherlands, which I haven't visited but have some friends from) are really, at a basic statistical level, not homophobic. I agree that in some places those norms have shifted so greatly that it's not a major thing there, but I don't think those places are really representative of the majority of human social groups or cultures, however finely-grained your definition of those things.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-29T16:15:12.404Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The vast majority of modern societies where male/male non-sexual affection is considered normal are incredibly intolerant of homosexuality

Yes, but within each society ISTM that the individuals who display less affection towards members of the same sex tend to be the more homophobic ones (possibly because homophobes don't want to be seen as showing more same-sex affection than the typical person in their own society).

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:45:35.681Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The former happens among predators, who often (not always) are high-status because they're driven to be

Also, placing a male into a high status position probably increases the chance he will exhibit this behavior.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-07T23:16:32.276Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And it actually offers a concrete solution to the problem of feeling creepy: hang out with more women.

If that works, it might just be that by doing so you learn more about those women's preferences. In other words, that specific sort of creepitude may just be low skill, and the remedy is practice. That is, it's not an adaptation firing any more than the fact that an untrained trumpet player produces painfully unpleasant noise (and doesn't get invited to perform at parties) is an adaptation firing!

What worries me is some folks' readiness to rationalize exhibiting the low-skill behavior — especially when it comes at others' expense. "Asking me not to play my trumpet at meetup is just calling me low-status!"

This is different in its causes from deliberate, exploitative creepitude — the person who gets off on blatting their crappy trumpet at others to demonstrate their dominance, or some such ...

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-07T23:54:20.957Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If that works, it might just be that by doing so you learn more about those women's preferences. In other words, that specific sort of creepitude may just be low skill, and the remedy is practice.

Yep, I raised that hypothesis in the latter half of my comment.

What worries me is some folks' readiness to rationalize exhibiting the low-skill behavior — especially when it comes at others' expense. "Asking me not to play my trumpet at meetup is just calling me low-status!"

I don't wish to rationalize exhibiting low-skill behavior at all. I think discouraging low-skill behavior is a good idea. In fact, I think it can potentially be valuable negative feedback if done right (see http://lesswrong.com/lw/e5h/how_to_deal_with_someone_in_a_lesswrong_meeting/7daq). I'm hoping my proposed solutions can be done in tandem with discouraging low-skill behavior.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T00:53:56.788Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, I raised that hypothesis in the latter half of my comment.

Sure, I wanted to point out that it may well explain away the whole effect, leaving the "adaptation that fires when a man is feeling desperate" explanation looking unnecessary — and excluded by Occam. Flirty skills are skills and follow the usual patterns for skills; that they're involved in reproduction doesn't give them any more evopsych fairy dust than (say) language or music. (Which get a lot, but they don't get "being bad at singing is an adaptation".)

I don't wish to rationalize exhibiting low-skill behavior at all.

I didn't think you did — "some folks" was meant to imply "not you, at least not here". But some people do that. See, for instance, Elevatorgate and any number of other cases where folks readily engage in motivated search to find reasons to stick up for the creeper at the expense of the creeped.

comment by Jade · 2012-09-08T02:46:21.946Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Your theory fails to account for cases of creepiness among men surrounded by their targets (women, children, men, whatever). See my explanation.

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-08T02:51:06.946Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. I'm not sure what fraction of creepy behavior is explained by my theory. BTW, you might like this comment.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-07T23:35:35.277Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

And it actually offers a concrete solution to the problem of feeling creepy: hang out with more women.

Even if hanging out with women makes you grow less creepy over time, you're still inflicting your creepy self on them at the beginning. Being willing to do this for your own benefit is... creepy.

I'm still not convinced there's an ethical way out of the creepy trap. Is there any sound (not self-serving) argument against the idea that the best thing for creepy males to do is just go away?

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-08T00:59:04.606Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Ceteris paribus, the world where a creepy guy turns into a non-creepy guy is better than the one where the creepy guy ceases to exist. (Marginally, at least, the world needs a whole lot more well-adjusted nerds.)

So a better question is, how does a social group help and encourage creeps to become non-creeps wherever possible (without enabling creepy behavior)?

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-08T01:19:55.575Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

how does a social group help and encourage creeps to become non-creeps

Point them at the links in the OP.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:41:56.167Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This one too (which, on a totally unrelated note, exhibits the groping-her-way-towards-Bayesianism phenomenon I have noticed -- to the point of (appearing to) incorrectly think that Schrödinger's cat is about epistemic probability).

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:25:08.389Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Marginally, at least, the world needs a whole lot more well-adjusted nerds.

What do you mean by that? Who needs them for what purpose and as opposed to what alternative?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T00:02:45.773Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Is there any sound (not self-serving) argument against the idea that the best thing for creepy males to do is just go away?

Maybe. Telling people to go away makes them stop listening to you - and probably not "go away", but "find people who agree with them and hang out there instead". You can move the problem, but making it stop being a problem isn't going to happen through mere eviction unless you can effect very systematic culturewide change.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T01:50:19.765Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Telling people to go away makes them stop listening to you - and probably not "go away", but "find people who agree with them and hang out there instead".

Yeah, I see this in the wild pretty often and it seems... suboptimal. Not to name names, but when you get lots of creepy-labeled people hanging out together, one natural consequence is the formation of identity groups based partly around the behaviors that got them labeled as creepy in the first place. Which in turn creates positive reinforcement that makes those behaviors a lot harder to get rid of and the process of removing them a lot more painful.

That seems like a straightforward loss for everyone, except in the hypothetical case where allegedly creepy behavior is consequentially positive but maintains negative associations thanks to some random social hangover -- and I think those cases are pretty rare.

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-08T00:22:50.471Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect you and Matt are talking past each other a bit.

Let's say we've got a guy who went to engineering school, works as an engineer, and plays Magic the Gathering in his spare time. As a result most of the people he has interacted with over the past decade are men, and evolution has programmed him to feel desperate and act creepy. Is there any ethical way for him to overcome his creepiness problem? Matt's arguing that maybe there isn't, because even if he finds women to hang out with, he'll end up creeping them out some at first by accident. So the ethical thing to do is to avoid women at all costs.

What's your take on this argument? My take is that someone needs to give Matt a big hug.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:12:55.673Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

As a result most of the people he has interacted with over the past decade are men, and evolution has programmed him to feel desperate and act creepy.

For all that it's relevant to your point and means in context, you might as well replace "evolution has programmed him" with "he is being moved by the gods."

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-08T02:16:59.060Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I'm not sure why telling myself "I have a strong inclination to do x" and "evolution programmed me to do y in order to acheive z" feel so different.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-10T04:59:46.651Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Generally, I find that if the behavior is fitness-maximizing (seeking social interaction, sex, food, etc), I think of it as "evolution programmed me", whereas in the case of things that are not obviously fitness-maximizing (finding interesting puzzles/challenges, building things, playing guitar, etc), I think of it as "I have an inclination to X". It might actually also have to do with whether most people have similar urges as well, now that I think about it.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T01:19:51.504Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The blind idiot god Evolution knows little of this human invention called "morality" ...

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:40:22.293Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My take is that someone needs to give Matt a big hug.

Correction, Matt needs someone to give him a big hug.

comment by Rubix · 2012-09-08T00:39:20.043Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It might be optimal for this guy to befriend men, or women he knows to be married or gay, who know how to socialize with people and are willing to help him out with that. There's a bootstrapping issue, but it's the best outcome if it can be attained.

[ETA: I failed a pronoun.]

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:42:31.081Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Married women frequently (warning, availability) report men making unwanted sexual advances. That they're married makes them even more creepy.

comment by JoeW · 2012-09-08T01:05:26.691Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

[Edit] Misread, unfairly singled out one responder, editing to make generic.

My take is that any such person can read all the links provided by the OP, some of which are written specifically for people in that scenario.

Some of the other links have many comments now, but it's worth reading all of them. Anyone who can read every comment on all of those links is pretty much guaranteed to level-up in all sorts of ways that will be to their benefit in many respects, including improving their interactions with other people, which includes women.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:31:33.170Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

not "go away", but "find people who agree with them and hang out there instead"

I'm not sure what the difference supposed to be. If they hang out with someone else, and are happy there, and don't bother you anymore, how is that "not going away", and why is that not a good solution?

The problem seems to be not your scenario, but the one where they fail to find people who agree with them and hang out there.

ETA: reading Nornagest's comment below, maybe you mean that they find others who agree with them, but instead of hanging out together somewhere else, they come back with those others and bother you as a group (or bother someone else). That's a problem, but if these other similar-minded people are around to be found, I'm not sure if not telling them to go away will prevent them from finding one another and banding together.

Tl;dr of my point: telling people to go away should on balance make them go away more.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T19:42:12.006Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What I meant (but didn't express well) was more like "they go find another group, which is composed of people who agree with them and can protect each other, and there are also some people around for some reason who don't like all this creeping but don't have the wherewithal to leave for some reason".

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:07:50.601Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Telling them to go away may well increase such congregations (I'm interested in hearing non-anecdotal evidence). But even assuming that happens, do you think the net amount of being-creeped-out increases as a result? Some people do get them to go away, after all.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-08T01:03:38.765Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but I'm not so much interested (right now) in what are the optimal rules to impose on people; I'm asking what is the right thing to do, which is a subtly different question. Your argument that eviction leads to problems in other places is clearly true. Analogously, it would be a very bad idea to impose a 80% marginal tax rate on top earners to fund the Against Malaria Foundation, because most of them would work less and there would be huge deadweight loss. However, Peter Singer and people like that argue persuasively that very wealthy people should as a matter of principle voluntarily give a high percentage of their income to efficient charity. And this causes no deadweight loss if they make sure to work as much as before.

Similarly, if there are creeps in your group, don't you wish they would just leave, and not try to infiltrate another innocent group? Then that is what they should do.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T01:05:53.219Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Similarly, if there are creeps in your group, don't you wish they would just leave, and not try to infiltrate another innocent group?

I wish them to do their part to not run into the people they creep on, and allow other people in the group (if any exist) to continue to extract any available value from their participation. And fix them, if that's doable. (This is if all they are doing is creeping. If they are committing assaults or something I wish them to go away, to a corrections facility.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T01:11:42.849Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Analogously, it would be a very bad idea to impose a 80% marginal tax rate on top earners to fund the Against Malaria Foundation, because most of them would work less and there would be huge deadweight loss.

The tax rate was 90 percent on them for a long time, in the US -- what's your basis for that claim? It sounds like a cached belief.

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-09-08T14:24:57.836Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One popular tax dodge that made the effective tax rate much lower. Also, until the 80's (Reagan?) you could get lots of stuff paid for by the company without paying tax on it; company car, housing allowance, other stuff. I'm not an expert but the "real" tax rates were that high only for some.

comment by orthonormal · 2012-09-08T17:00:54.770Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, interesting claim in the link. I Googled, though, and I couldn't find any source for this besides the comments on Y Combinator. Can you find another source (preferably one that explains how big an effect this had in aggregate)?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:26:59.242Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And they still dodge taxes now, even when the rates have been slashed into oblivion. If anything they only seem more determined to do it.

comment by TGM · 2012-09-08T14:51:13.566Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Mindkiller Alert!

The yield of a tax at 0% is 0. The yield of tax at 100% is also close to zero, as nobody will do anything to earn money that will be taxed at 100% (i.e. ensure all earnings dodge that tax). Therefore the set of policies that give maximum tax yield do not have a tax rate of 100%, and increasing tax rates beyond that reduce tax yield.

This analysis is subject to some caveats, and where the optimal rate is is a very complicated and politically charged question, of course, and this is already completely off topic.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T15:14:36.600Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(Not to mention that some taxes are easier to evade than others, and it's easier for some people (e.g. self-employed workers) to evade taxes than for others (e.g. public servants).)

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T15:01:17.477Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Taxes will be dodged regardless of the rate as long as paying lawyers and accountants is cheaper than paying those taxes. Simplifying the tax code would do a lot to prevent this deadweight loss

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T00:32:13.328Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Best thing for who?

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-08T00:40:41.213Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The world. Find highest possible total utility, act accordingly.

Of course that result may not work out great for some particular person, and that's interesting, but that's not the question I'm asking right now.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T00:43:08.967Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

So you think the world would be better off if creepy men all "go away"? A bold point to make. Maybe they should just kill themselves while they're at it?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T00:58:30.935Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Creepy behavior should go away. Individuals can update.

There is little value in staying creepy, after all.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:28:22.449Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's hard enough to learn to update one's abstract formal beliefs. Updating one's unconsciously regulated social behavior is impossible in the general case, and in most of the desirable concrete cases too. And here the people who should "update" are the ones who are least adept at social behavior to begin with.

comment by tmgerbich · 2012-09-08T23:39:56.448Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Updating one's unconsciously regulated social behavior is impossible in the general case, and in most of the desirable >concrete cases too.

I don't see why that should necessarily be the case. It would simply require specifying the desired behavior and bringing it into the realm of the conscious until the new behavior is learned.

For example, if I were able to realize that a major barrier to my social communication is my lack of eye contact, I could make a deliberate effort to always make eye contact when having conversations. Ideally this behavior would eventually become internalized, but even if it didn't there's no actual reason why I couldn't keep it up for the rest of my life.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-09-08T23:29:30.100Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Updating one's unconsciously regulated social behavior is impossible in the general case, and in most of the desirable concrete cases too.

"Impossible" is a big claim. We don't put much stock in zero or one probabilities around here ...

System 1 can be programmed by System 2. There are cases of individuals updating to become (e.g.) less socially anxious; less triggered by various things; or less bigoted in various ways. About fifteen years ago I took a massive update about taking responsibility for actions that had harmed others; the details are more private than I care to post about, though. For that matter, there are religious and philosophical conversion experiences that produce dramatic social behavior change; and psychedelic experiences that do so, too.

People can change. Many people spend a lot of effort constructing rationalizations as to why they shouldn't have to, though.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-08T01:33:53.933Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure, I'm still thinking it through. The point is that it is not immediately obvious to me that we should reject a result just because it seems unattractive. Maybe our intuitions are just wrong. See the Repugnant Conclusion and Torture vs. Specks.

comment by lucidian · 2012-09-08T02:03:48.420Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably some women are less averse to creepiness than other women. Perhaps a socially awkward guy could start by interacting with women who are tolerant of social awkwardness, but who will point out his mistakes so he can improve. Then, he could work his way up to interacting with people who are less and less tolerant of creepiness.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:24:37.852Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Even if such women are numerous enough, a socially awkward man who is bad at reading others will not be able to reliably identify them, and so will occasionally creep out more-averse women, and that may be enough for him to be banished from the whole social group. This is a matter for empirical measurement.

comment by dspeyer · 2012-09-12T00:32:14.088Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If noncreepiness can be learned fairly quickly under the right circumstances, and the decreepified individual can contribute to people around him significantly, then the benefit to the world at large of decreepification is larger than the cost.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:22:38.663Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's the worst thing for them, but it's probably the best thing for everyone else.

And what do you mean, non self-serving argument? Who else could it serve except for the people making it? If creeps go away, everyone else benefits, so everyone else is served by the argument that they should go away. That's tautological.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-08T20:15:16.281Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I meant self-serving from the creep's point of view.

It's the worst thing for them, but it's probably the best thing for everyone else.

I agree. It seems to me that the best, most straightforward solution to creepiness is to have very low tolerance for it, and eject anyone who violates with extreme prejudice. A lot of the discussion in this thread is about how to compromise with creepers, which seems a little shameful, like negotiating with terrorists.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-08T20:19:27.217Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that the best, most straightforward solution to creepiness is to have very low tolerance for it, and eject anyone who violates with extreme prejudice. A lot of the discussion in this thread is about how to compromise with creepers, which seems a little shameful, like negotiating with terrorists.

Ugh. Now you're kinda creeping me out.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-08T21:04:06.249Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I probably should've just said "I agree" in the grandparent and left it at that. But I would like to plead that I don't want to use power against anyone. I realize I have been treating this whole discussion more like a thought experiment (in which we are free to create and kill 3^^^3 people, tile the universe with paperclips, and negotiate with babyeating aliens) than a real-world issue. Maybe that was insensitive and I'm sorry.

If you can see your way clear to it, please try to take my comments as being the equivalent to saying "Well, it appears that egalitarian utilitarianism obligates us to give most of our money to the AMF and live lives of impoverishment, isn't that interesting," without having any real desire to take anyone's money.

But again, the error is mine; this is a near problem and shouldn't be treated like a far idea. Apologies.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-08T20:40:22.148Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Ugh. Now you're kinda creeping me out.

I am creeped out by Matt's comment too, and not just by way of making an ironic point. The declared wish to use power based against others based on his own naivety. Creepy and dangerous (to the extent that it is not impotent).

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:28:19.593Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I meant self-serving from the creep's point of view.

If it's better for creeps to not go away, then any argument that they should not go away serves them. This is regardless of the actual argument.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-08T20:41:22.940Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I probably was not clear enough. What I mean is: let's assume creeps want to stay and everyone else wants them to leave. Then any argument made by the creeps that tries to dissuade others from evicting them is self-serving. (You say, well of course). The problem is that most arguers in favor of creep-tolerance don't acknowledge those competing interests, instead they try to assert that higher intolerance for creeps would be bad for the group as a whole somehow. I am tentatively of the opinion that these arguments are bullshit, in the Frankfurt sense. People who argue this way are like those who claim they are buying an expensive TV to stimulate the economy, or those who claim they don't give to charity because handouts only hurt poor people in the long run. Of course, those are not the real reasons; the real reasons are much more simple and selfish.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T20:52:20.419Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is all true but doesn't seem relevant. You asked if there was any argument against making creeps go away that wasn't self serving (if made by a creep). The answer is that there isn't and cannot be one, because any such argument made by a creep serves the creep.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T21:37:48.289Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, most arguers against creep-tolerance aren't acknowledge their competing interests either.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-09-10T03:08:31.360Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, maybe it's not that individuals are creepy so much as men "naturally" act more rapey if there are only a few women around

Was jumping from creepy to rapey like that intentional?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T03:05:29.915Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, maybe it's not that individuals are creepy so much as men "naturally" act more rapey if there are only a few women around.

This is unlikely. The idea that male-on-female rape, in humans, is reflective of forced mating as a reproductive strategy makes some big mistakes because it doesn't factor in how human reproduction actually works.

It's true in a general way that if the cost of your gametes is low, and you can get out of the parental investment, then increasing the number of coital acts is an effective way to buy genetic fitness at reduced cost (part of why mammals tend to be much more promiscuous, in a very broad sense, than birds: birds get their embryo out of Mom and into the world early and let it develop there, which means Daddy has a higher incentive to invest parentally -- though this is only a very broad pattern).

Trigger warning for those who'd rather not hear it described in frank, mechanical terms!

But with humans in specific, rape is not a great reproductive strategy. The odds of insemination are lower, because things like self-lubrication and uterine peristalsis (which make a big difference) aren't typically going to occur. Even post-coital cuddling increases the odds of fertilization. Getting into comparative primatology, humans have conspicuously large penises compared to our relatives who do tend to use force as a basic approach to getting sex (gorillas, who have a harem-style arrangement as their basic stable social model).

Rape has been prevalent throughout human history, but forced copulation doesn't seem to be a leading or even closely-tailing human reproductive strategy. It's probably not an adaptation (though if you insist that pretty much every salient feature of behavior is, or is the proximal outcome of some evolutionary adaptation, you can spin a theoretical picture to justify it easily).

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-09-10T02:50:50.479Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The odds of insemination are lower, because things like self-lubrication and uterine peristalsis (which make a big difference) aren't typically going to occur.

A quick Bing search found this:

A SINGLE act of rape may be more than twice as likely to make a woman pregnant as a single act of consensual sex.

[...]

The Gottschalls focused on 405 women who had suffered a single incidence of penile-vaginal rape at some point between the ages of 12 and 45. Of these, 6.4 per cent became pregnant. But that figure jumped to nearly 8 per cent when the researchers allowed for the women who'd been using birth control-US government statistics show that 1 in 5 of the women in the sample were likely to have been using the pill or an IUD.

To complete the comparison, the Gottschalls needed to know how many women in that age group get pregnant from one-night stands and other one-off acts of consensual sex. The answer-reported this year in a separate study by Allen Wilcox, head of the epidemiology branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences-was a mere 3.1 per cent. "It was surprising to see this margin of difference," says Jon Gottschall.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-23T17:57:32.518Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Did they account for people having consensual one-night stands possibly using condoms more often than rapists ?

comment by PhilGoetz · 2012-09-10T02:30:09.727Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Rape has been prevalent throughout human history, but forced copulation doesn't seem to be a leading or even closely-tailing human reproductive strategy.

"Forced copulation" could describe a fair percentage of co-habitations in a fair percentage of cultures throughout history.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-09-09T22:17:02.791Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Trigger warning: more mechanical discussion of nonconsensual sex.

The odds of insemination are lower

On a per-act basis, rapes are about twice as likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex. I suspect that you're right that various fertility-boosting measures don't happen during rape and this effect is due primarily to selection effects (who rapes, who is raped, and when the rape happens), but the net result is still that rapes are a decent reproductive strategy (if the rapist can get away with it).

Rape has been prevalent throughout human history, but forced copulation doesn't seem to be a leading or even closely-tailing human reproductive strategy.

This seems really unlikely in the context of marriages before the Enlightenment, or in the context of wars and raids (where women were a resource like any other).

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-10T02:52:32.572Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

On a per-act basis, rapes are about twice as likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex.

Yes, in America. We also frequently do our best, when having consensual sex, to minimize our odds of having kids. (I was unable to find rates of birth control use during rapes, unfortunately.) In the ancestral environment, this would probably not be a factor.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-09-10T03:08:54.690Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, in America. We also frequently do our best, when having consensual sex, to minimize our odds of having kids. (I was unable to find rates of birth control use during rapes, unfortunately.) In the ancestral environment, this would probably not be a factor.

I'm pretty sure the 3% number comes mostly from women trying to get pregnant, and it's estimated that the per-act incidence of rape pregnancy would be about 8% instead of about 6% if none of the victims were using birth control.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-10T04:19:38.674Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Tentatively updated. Will investigate further later. 3.1 number comes from an odd data-set.

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/atniehs/labs/epi/studies/eps/question/index.cfm

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-10T04:03:26.810Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have updated my credence based on Gottschall. (Also, updated credence in the sexy son hypotheses, but let's ignore that for now.)

However, the 3.1% value is supposed to come from here:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199512073332301

I cannot find any such thing.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-09-10T04:24:47.983Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It looks to me like your link is a 1995 study, and my link described a 2000 or 2001 study, which I'm having trouble finding. I think it might be this one but I'm not seeing the 3.1% value anywhere. The study I linked has slightly lowered my credence in the 3.1% number, but I can't tell if the numbers it's reporting are per-act numbers or not. (I'm not an expert in this field and have been trusting summaries from science journalists; I'm not sure if I'm interpreting the actual papers correctly or not.) It looks like this study might have said "at their least fertile, there's less than a 5% per-act chance of copulation, which is lower than we thought it was" and that got interpreted as "in general, there's less than a 5% per-act chance of copulation."

I hope Gottschall and company know what they're doing, and expect the 3.1% number comes from another study. It might be profitable to email one of the professors in question and ask for where that number came from, because it's being slippery.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-10T04:28:17.301Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, for deleting my post. I linked to the wrong study (as you pointed out) and wanted no replies until I revised my post.

Also, this is the 2001 study:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11376648

Edit: I would like to criticize Todd Akin for making my truth-seeking less convenient by really messing up the signal-to-noise ratio regarding this matter.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-10T02:19:58.639Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

but the net result is still that rapes are a decent reproductive strategy (if the rapist can get away with it).

They touch on the statistics further down -- it's believed to be due to the fact that, in the case of consensual sex, the woman is more likely to have control over when in their fertility cycle the act occurs.

This seems really unlikely in the context of marriages before the Enlightenment, or in the context of wars and raids (where women were a resource like any other).

Different cultures have had very different approaches to marriage throughout history; they still often do. Anyway, I'm talking about the claim that rape is an evolutionary adaptation from the ancestral environment, couched as a reproductive strategy -- Neolithic Eurasia is a bit too recent to be germane to my argument.

comment by novalis · 2012-09-10T07:43:43.803Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Historically, getting pregnant or not wasn't the only important factor; maternal investment in the child (vs abandonment or neglect) was tremendously important too. And, naturally, mothers would be less likely to invest in a child with an absent or non-providing father (this is especially true early in their lives, when they would have more chances to have children with mates of their choice).

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-08T03:26:21.650Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, even if rape is not an adaptation, men still do it. So it seems plausible that whatever baggage evolved along with rape (from however long ago) would also still be present.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T03:30:31.519Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Well, even if rape is not an adaptation, men still do it.

Making sandwiches is not a genetic adaptation. Men still do it.

comment by hg00 · 2012-09-08T03:35:55.101Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Are you suggesting rape doesn't happen among hunter-gatherers? What does "adaptation" mean, exactly?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T05:22:33.569Z · score: 12 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Are you suggesting rape doesn't happen among hunter-gatherers?

No, but I am suggesting it's probably not been selected for as a genetic predisposition due to the fitness it supposedly brings. The cost/benefit ratio seems pretty damn bad. Let's assume a man of 25 (great fertility, past the peak risk-of-mortality age on a pure-forager's lifespan curve, presumably able to provide for himself to greater or lesser degree.) Assume he only targets women of peak reproductive age, 25 to 30 years (this is very generous for the rape-as-adaptation argument; in reality rapists are known to target women of any age, from single-digits to senescence), thereby maximizing expected payoff per act.

He loses fitness if:

-He is killed by the victim or her relatives. How likely this is depends entirely on his culture -- some forager band societies are quite pacifistic; others resort quickly to violence and have no real way to regulate its spread. It's a pretty strong risk, though.

-The mother refuses to raise the child. This is unlikely to happen, but in a society with high infant mortality rates and established protocols for socially-legitimate infanticide by abandonment or handing off to a relative for culling (standard practice in societies like these if the baby is more than 48 hours old; otherwise the mother usually does it), it's not socially-costly behavior either.

-Having a reputation as a rapist makes it harder for him to survive. This is a virtual certainty -- cooperative food acquisition, compulsory sharing and an ethic of reciprocity are standard features of societies like these. Cutting someone off from this network of assistance is as good as a death sentence in most cases; it also means he's unlikely to ever get consensual sex, or medical assistance when he's hurt. I can't overstate how bad an outcome this is, and how likely it is to happen -- tribal societies don't keep many secrets!

Meanwhile, he gains fitness if and only if all of the following happen: -The victim is potentially able to concieve on that given day AND -She does (the cumulative on these first two items equals 3 - 5 percent odds of conception for consensual sex), AND -She doesn't then miscarry (true 90 percent of the time), AND -She won't voluntarily let the unwanted baby die (not sure, but estimates for the probability of routine infanticide in paleolithic cultures ranges from 15 percent on the lower end, up to 20 or even 50 percent in some cases). No idea offhand, but it seems a heck of a lot more likely than it would be today in the Western European culture area.

You'd have to get incredibly lucky to have a payoff even once; it's certainly not a viable reproductive strategy, not even a distant also-ran that some minority of the population favors. Human population densities in the EEA simply don't support it.

So the fact that rape is common suggests that it's happening for some other reason than it being an evolutionarily-fixed, advantageous trait.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-08T22:37:22.196Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I find it hard to believe that a tendency to rape (or more specifically, the psychological traits that make one more likely to be a rapist today) wouldn't have been a fitness advantage in at least some of our forager ancestors. There are too many examples in societies close to our own where various forms of rape or were forgivable/forgiven (by society, not necessarily by the victim): rape of foreigners in war, marital rape, rape as punishment, protection of the rapist by an influent member of his family, marrying the rapist ... sure, some of those situations may not happen in a forager society, but there may be different ones that do happen.

Having a reputation as a rapist makes it harder for him to survive

This supposes that the society in question has a concept of "rapist" analogous to our own; I suspect many societies would have different concepts, and only harshly punish some of the behaviors (rape of enemies and marital rape seem to usually get off the hook, except in very recent history).

As an illustration of the way different societies approach the problem, I've already been in a conversation with African men who were saying how under certain conditions rape was an acceptable way of getting sex from a girl.

That being said, I don't know much about how foragers approach the question of rape, I'm merely skeptical of the idea that they have very few children of rape.

comment by Emile · 2012-09-09T21:27:56.504Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There are too many examples in societies close to our own where various forms of rape or were forgivable/forgiven (by society, not necessarily by the victim): rape of foreigners in war, marital rape, rape as punishment, protection of the rapist by an influent member of his family, marrying the rapist ...

Also, date rape of course, duh.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-08T06:42:53.333Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for careful thinking even though I probably disagree with the conclusion.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-09-08T19:19:02.408Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Having a reputation as a rapist makes it harder for him to survive. [...] tribal societies don't keep many secrets!

On the other hand, in most contemporary and historical agricultural societies, rape is often kept secret, and women have incentives not to make public accusations. This has been true for long enough to allow for some quite drastic changes in behavior to spread through natural selection (on, say, mostly existing variation).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T05:49:09.554Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Observe that if he's unlikely to be able to have sex otherwise, it's worth the risk.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:05:03.117Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No way -- kin selection. He can still net genetic fitness by helping out his social unit, which will almost invariably contain his relatives, who share some of his genetic payload. Conversely, raping someone is likely going to be terminal in some fashion, which eliminates any chance of getting lucky later. Even if they only cast him out instead of killing him, his chances of successfully mating later drop precipitously.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T21:21:06.904Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think we can know much about how social norms and rape played out in the early environment.

There are competing pressures. Unless someone is very low status, throwing them out is likely to be disruptive to the group.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T21:39:08.662Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think we can know much about how social norms and rape played out in the early environment.

We can make some inferences from mobile foragers who've maintained some cultural distance from the outside world, though -- they're not a perfect substitute, but they tell us something about patterns of human behavior and existence in the absence of other economic or ecological resource bases.

It's certainly a whole lot more likely to be, at minimum not entirely off-target, than you'll be semi-consciously conflating "hunter-gatherer" as a synonym for "primitive", assuming that all societies without industrialization or intensive agriculture of the type one recognizes are in that category, failing to account for the spread of of particular value-systems and norms that have widely impacted societies around the world, and hyper-focusing on chimps to the exclusion of other primates as analogues for our own evolutionary history (which is what I'm seeing and responding to here).

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-09-08T21:58:04.971Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

As someone with almost no vested interest in the conversation I'm not going to do the (rather extensive) work it would take to provide a good summary of the science of rape, however I find it odd that this conversation seems to be completely ignoring that fact that it is a heavily researched area, particularly by evolutionary psychologists. As a representative example this experiment suggests a link between status manipulations and additudes towards rape, and the evo-psyc journal it's in has 50+ other articles that mention rape, even though its less than ten years old.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-08T22:41:31.384Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is there any way to check on whether those sorts of simulations are a good model for attitudes which haven't been affected by experimenters?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T22:16:00.384Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm aware of the evo psych research into the subject of rape. I disagree with it, but I'm aware of it, I've read some fair portion of it, and I think that the idea that rape is a behavioral adaptation driving a reproductive strategy is flawed.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T05:40:08.573Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

[citation needed]

If nothing else, a reputations as a "rapist" is not at all the same thing in a society where women aren't considered to be people, but property. Hunter gatherers as well as civilization at least up to the biblical level have also engaged in Bride kidnapping (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_kidnapping) Which we would definitely think of as rape but clearly wasn't viewed in the same way at those times. Genghis Khan didn't get to be the ancestor of 8 percent of people in east asia by being nice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_from_Genghis_Khan)

You seem to be doing a lot of theorizing about ancient behavior on very little data, because you don't want rape to have been adaptative.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-08T17:09:10.903Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It should be considered rude to post:

[citation needed]

and then offer irrelevant information to back up your point.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T17:24:21.500Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that the first part is rude, but how is information irrelevant? It's an undisputed example of violent tactics working for reproduction, and a description of how the culture of many societies either endorsed or did not frown on what we would see as rape.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-08T17:44:06.048Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The article on bride kidnapping contained no hunter-gatherers, as far I could see.

It's an undisputed example of violent tactics working for reproduction, and a description of how the culture of many societies either endorsed or did not frown on what we would see as rape.

I do not think it wise to attempt to extrapolate information about the EEA from contemporary (or even merely ancient) societies whose material conditions do not resemble the conditions of bands in the EEA. (Hell, I don't even know if we can extrapolate information from modern bands. All of this is an incredible epistemic mess.)

Genghis Khan didn't get to be the ancestor of 8 percent of people in east asia by being nice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_from_Genghis_Khan)

I do not dispute the truth of this fact. However, the ruler of the largest contiguous land empire in history is not the sort of fellow we wish to be looking at in order to determine whether or not rape was adaptive in the EEA. If you were interested in answering such a question, I guess you would want to look at some folks like the Hadza and observe how reproductively successful fellows like Scumbag Sengani, a hypothetical rapist, end up being.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T17:29:35.717Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's irrelevant because Neolithic-era societies are not representative of plausible assumptions about the evolutionary ancestral environment or early human and protohuman lifestyles. It's not an example of the thing being talked about; it has no direct bearing on it; ergo, it's irrelevant.

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T17:36:27.297Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We have evidence that chimps rape, and we have evidence that Neolithic societies rape. You need to provide strong information that somewhere between those two states of existence(taking the way chimpanzees live now as an very broad approximation of how our great great great ancestors lived), it became evolutionarily unfavorable to rape, but not enough to keep civilized people from doing it

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T19:03:50.952Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

taking the way chimpanzees live now as an very broad approximation of how our great great great ancestors lived

Bad assumption. We're genetically equidistant from chimps and bonobos, who are pretty nearly opposite in their social and sexual behavior.

Did that common ancestor favor one strategy, or the other? Or neither one, or a mix of the two? Is the chimp model an adaptation subsequent to that divergence? Is the bonobo model one? Are both?

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-08T18:05:40.538Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

We have evidence that chimps rape

taking the way chimpanzees live now as an very broad approximation of how our great great great ancestors lived

We do share a common ancestor with chimps, yes. From this common ancestor is descended both chimps and bonobos.

Given the existence of bonobos, I do not see why chimp-rape is particularly relevant to the question of whether or not rape is adaptive in humans. That is, given the existence of bonobos, it seems uncertain whether or not the common ancestor of chimps and humans (who is also the common ancestor of humans and bonobos) was, how to put this, a rape ape.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T05:45:16.151Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If nothing else, a reputations as a "rapist" is not at all the same thing in a society where women aren't considered to be people, but property.

That does not describe forager societies at all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer#Common_characteristics

comment by drethelin · 2012-09-08T05:58:43.465Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yanomami_women#Violence

Not strict "foragers"

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T14:00:33.379Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The Yanomamo are horticulturalists. They grow bananas, manioc and other crops available in the wild by means of slash-and-burn and managed planting. They are not an example of a forager (aka hunter-gatherer) society.

comment by waveman · 2012-09-09T06:15:34.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They are were (using past tense because of the changes they have undergone) a hybrid culture. They did agriculture but the crops were low-quality and they also relied heavily on hunting and also on gathering. For a man to prove himself a worthy husband for a woman, he had to do "bride service" which basically amounted to providing meat from hunting to the bride's family for a year or two.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T03:59:04.184Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

But with humans in specific, rape is not a great reproductive strategy. The odds of insemination are lower, because things like self-lubrication and uterine peristalsis (which make a big difference) aren't typically going to occur. Even post-coital cuddling increases the odds of fertilization. Getting into comparative primatology, humans have conspicuously large penises compared to our relatives who do tend to use force as a basic approach to getting sex (gorillas, who have a harem-style arrangement as their basic stable social model).

So basically you're saying that Todd Akin's recent comments about rape were correct?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-09-08T04:08:33.497Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

He may have been misunderstanding some of the same information Jandila supplies. But it's not an absolute effect, it's a probabilistic one. I'm more likely to break an egg yolk if I open the egg two feet above my bowl; that doesn't mean it doesn't happen pretty frequently when I open it closer to the bowl (or that it couldn't land intact from two feet up).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T05:33:53.289Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

But it's not an absolute effect, it's a probabilistic one.

Agreed. However, Jandila requires it to be an absolute (or almost absolute) effect for the argument against hg00's point to work.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T05:25:40.168Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Uh, no. This isn't a matter of suppressing pregnancies that aren't wanted -- it's a matter of not boosting the likelihood of pregnancy by means of various reinforcing mechanisms that in all add a minor, though non-negligible, probability of conception.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-09-08T05:43:12.658Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So you admit that the decrease in the probability of conception is minor. This means that it's not enough to invalidate hg00's argument that what you think of as 'creepy' strategies, even rape, are adaptive under some circumstances.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-08T05:46:09.681Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

hg00 didn't make the argument that it was adaptive, e just assumes it is. I respond to that too, if you'll look at my dialogue with em a bit further.

comment by Bo102010 · 2012-09-07T23:19:49.137Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't think it was quite fair that your comment was downvoted to -2, but then I read the sentence "When women feel desperate, they cry about it."

While I think your comment was overall constructive to the discussion, that kind of thing is a turnoff. I assume you meant it in the best possible way, but I would encourage you to avoid that particular construction in the future.

comment by Bo102010 · 2012-09-08T02:30:50.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm genuinely curious why hg00's amended comment is now even more downvoted? And why my advice is also? Generally I take downvotes to mean "Would not like to read more of such comments at Less Wrong," but I'm a little puzzled at these.

comment by V_V · 2012-09-10T21:40:33.886Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

In the good old tradition of making up armchair evolutionary psychology "explanations" (aka just so stories), here is my uneducated guess:

In the ancestral environment, abnormal behavior patterns (unusual body language or lack of proper feedback to body language, unusual vocalizations, poor motor coordination, anything "odd" in general) were symptoms of neurological disorders. Neurological disorders were typically caused by infectious diseases, because, well, infectious diseases were so common back then that pretty much any disorder was probably caused by them.

So, there is this odd-behaving ape. The apes that are not bothered by that and keep hanging around it or, gods forbid, mate with it, catch meningitis or some other nasty bug and die. The apes who are creeped the hell out of it avoid infection and get to pass their genes.

Fast forward a couple million years, to some odd-behaving dude. Chances are that he has no infectious disease. Maybe an autism spectrum condition, or poor socialization or socialization in a different culture, or whatnot. But your ape amygdalae don't know that. They just say to your cortex "odd behavior = mortal threat".

Perhaps you rationalize this visceral fear as justified adversion to risk of assault, but it may be actually an innate response evolved for something completely unrelated.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-09-11T21:17:21.242Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Then why is creepiness so gendered?

comment by V_V · 2012-09-12T00:04:31.764Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is there any evidence that creepiness is so gendered? It could be just a stereotype.

Even if it is indeed gendered:

  • Modern causes of creepiness (autistic spectrum condition, etc.) may be gender biased.

  • Males are less risk adverse than females, expecially when it comes to mating, therefore they might be less sensitive to creepiness.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-09-12T02:31:28.378Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There is anecdotal evidence that creepiness is gendered, and all of the evidence on creepiness that I know of is anecdotal. The examples trend heavily towards women finding men creepy, rather than any of the other 3 gender combinations. The examples also tend to involve sexual interest (or suspected sexual interest) from the person who is perceived as creepy, even in cases which involve other gender combinations. These seem like important clues that can help us narrow down the hypothesis space, rather than modern-day rationalizations of an unrelated feeling.

Standard evolutionary psychology does include a disease-avoidance mechanism, much like the one you described, which is based on the emotion of disgust. One hypothesis is that creepiness is nothing more than an instance of that, but the patterns of behavior that people describe when they discuss creepiness seem much more closely related to sex than to disease. For example, if creepiness was evidence of an infectious neurological disorder then we'd expect everyone to want to keep their distance from someone who has shown signs of creepiness. But instead, anecdata suggest that avoidance motivations are extremely strong for the creeped-on person, weaker for other people of the same sex as the creeped-on person, and weaker still for people of the opposite sex.

comment by V_V · 2012-09-12T10:18:51.774Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is anecdotal evidence that creepiness is gendered, and all of the evidence on creepiness that I know of is anecdotal.

Anecdotal evidence might be affected by a gender-biased sample:

The communities where creepiness is common enough to be a salient issue are "geek" gatherings. People who attend comics conventions, LW meetups, etc., are mostly male. Therefore, even if the average female geek had the same probability of being a creep as the average male geek, you would know much more male geek creeps than female ones due to this base rate bias.

if creepiness was evidence of an infectious neurological disorder then we'd expect everyone to want to keep their distance from someone who has shown signs of creepiness. But instead, anecdata suggest that avoidance motivations are extremely strong for the creeped-on person, weaker for other people of the same sex as the creeped-on person, and weaker still for people of the opposite sex.

Sexual intercourse is a primary avenue of disease transmission, hence it would be plausible that the creepiness emotion is more salient in people who perceive the sexual interest of an uncanny person.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-12T01:42:38.621Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How sure are we that creepiness is strongly correlated with autism?

comment by V_V · 2012-09-12T09:50:23.185Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We aren't. It was my conjecture based on the fact that autistic people may have difficulties at reading and using facial expressions and body language, show unusual speech patterns (choice of topics, discourse structure, syntax, lexicon, intonation, etc.), poor motor coordination, etc. Thus, I hypothesize that they are more likely to elicit the uncanny valley effect.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-10T04:37:34.649Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're being cryptic in another of your social experiments, just to see what we'll do. Am I wrong?

comment by Kawoomba · 2012-09-08T19:23:53.652Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Shouldn't the rejection of creepy/non-conformist-in-general behavior be a reaction to be overcome, not something to be accommodated?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-08T19:29:30.530Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

These aren't mutually exclusive choices.

If someone is violently allergic to peanuts, I certainly endorse them overcoming that reaction if they're able to do so (e.g., if there's a viable cure for peanut allergies available) but I also endorse accommodating it (e.g., by not putting peanuts in their food).

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-10T20:19:00.596Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Depends how reliable a signal of threat it is, and also on how we feel about sexual status markers. As others have noted, the behavior that gets labeled "creepy" covers a pretty wide spectrum -- sometimes it's a reliable indication that the person you're dealing with is sexually threatening, sometimes it's an indication of inexperience or low status but not a strong marker of threat, and occasionally it shows up due to conflicting social protocols even when both parties are high-status and nonthreatening.

The latter's straightforwardly something to overcome, or at least to recognize and route around. The former's straightforwardly adaptive. It's the "indicator of low status" category that gets ambiguous, but I don't think it's obvious that we'd be better off if our concept of sexual status was weakened or abolished.

On the other hand, if something in our culture (rather than our basic emotional machinery) is causing us to unnecessarily conflate low status with actual threat, then that also seems suboptimal; even if the subject would be rejected either way, it can't be pleasant for either party for him to be assumed dangerous. In that case the fault's in the culture, though, not in the emotional reaction.

comment by Manfred · 2012-09-08T20:10:02.660Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not if it comes from terminal values - don't wanna modify in caveats to those.

Note that it doesn't have to be a terminal value - it can be a rational response if something like P(terminal values negatively impacted | creepy) > P(terminal values negatively impacted | average) is true.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-09-08T05:13:50.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A message that seems useful, but that I feel like I don't see often enough in discussions like this one, is that being a little bit creepy is a little bit bad — not zero, not horribly — and does not make you a "creep" who deserves no sympathy. I'm pretty sure that a lot of the defensiveness that comes up when creepiness is discussed comes from perceiving that one is being told that creepy behavior is unforgivable, and additionally easy to commit by mistake ("not a complete instruction set") — in response to that, it's really tempting to go on the defensive. (It is a fact about my brain that, when I first read the OP's first link, I felt like I was being told this, and felt unsafe and angry and like I wanted to fight back. Looking at it more closely, it's more sympathetic than my gut reaction thinks it is, but still mostly comes off as pointlessly nasty. Conversely, the third link's tone is great.)

Unfortunately, I'm guessing that (equally natural) frustration with this defensiveness tends to polarize people away from being sympathetic to people-who-they're-telling-not-to-be-creepy. Everyone loses.

comment by snowball · 2012-09-10T13:31:52.173Z · score: -4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

It might be a good idea to require each person to choose and wear a colored bracelet, such that the color of the bracelet would signal to other parties the level of decorum that they must apply in their relations with its wearer. For example:

  1. A black blacelet indicates that all relations with its wearer must remain scrupulously reserved.

  2. A white bracelet indicates that prior consent must politely be obtained from its wearer before intimate or informal relations are initiated; if this consent is refused, or later revoked, the other party must apologize and desist immediately.

  3. A purple bracelet indicates that its wearer may at all times be presumed to consent to the maximum level of intimacy or informality that is permitted at the gathering.

Obviously, many permutations of and enhancements to this scheme are conceivable.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-09-11T10:54:06.733Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Obligatory XKCD.

comment by Kindly · 2012-09-11T12:40:25.298Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That link should really be compulsory reading for everyone discussing these topics.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-10T14:59:02.165Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would tone down the purple bracelet to "the wearer may at all times be presumed to be open to all offers of intimacy or informality which are permitted at the gathering, but their refusal of specific offers is still to be taken seriously".

Would this system require that the level of intimacy and informality for a gathering be made explicit?

comment by snowball · 2012-09-10T18:37:32.370Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I imagine that one would post some kind of notice at the entrance to the venue, which would precisely explain the mapping of bracelet colors to the norms of personal interaction that they indicate; the bracelets themselves would then be piled up in baskets beneath that notice.

I think it's important to have explicit norms of permissible behavior for a few reasons:

  • The juridical function of explicit norms: Explicit norms form a bright line by which to identify malicious actors, such as, for example, an aggressive pickup artist who is willing to harass dozens of women in order to somewhat increase the likelihood that he will take one home with him.

  • The didactic function of explicit norms: Explicit norms allow well-intentioned people to clearly distinguish behaviors that are acceptable to the community from those that are harmful and forbidden. For example, in the absence of explicit norms, a man who lacked social skill might not realize that putting his hands on a woman's shoulders would probably make her uneasy. At the same time, however, he might also be refraining from certain pleasurable actions because he wrongly feared them to be unacceptable to the community, when, in fact, they were really innocuous.

  • The efficiency function of explicit norms: Explicit norms make it easier for people to determine which norms to apply in their relations with one another. In the absence of explicit norms, people must invest significant amounts of time trying to identify other people with whom they have complementary interests. A bracelet-signalling scheme would lessen the burden of these taxing social negotiations.

In practice, I think a relatively open gathering at a public location would call for the following levels of intimacy:

  1. Black bracelet: I'm not interested in anything except polite intellectual discussion.

  2. White bracelet: You may try to establish a more personal relationship with me, but if I'm not interested in you, I expect you to take notice of this quickly and to gracefully withdraw.

  3. Purple bracelet: Feel free to approach me and to say or propose anything you like. It won't bother me very much, and if I don't enjoy your company, I'll frankly tell you to go away.

On the other hand, a debauched soirée at a private house might require a rather different scheme, such as:

  1. Black bracelet: I'm not interested in anything except polite intellectual discussion.

  2. White bracelet: You may say what you like to me, but no touching. If I tell you to back off, do so immediately.

  3. Purple bracelet: You may hug me, put your arms around my shoulders, and so on, but not in any way that is grossly erotic. If I tell you to stop, do so immediately.

  4. Green bracelet: You may wrestle with me, grope me, kiss my body, etc. If I tell you to stop, do so immediately.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-09-11T10:54:46.496Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One more behavior: I took a survey (which I can't find again) about hugging from behind, and everyone who answered hated it, except for a few who had a short list of people who they permitted it from.

I didn't have a random or especially large sample, but the unanimity was striking.

comment by datadataeverywhere · 2012-09-12T11:19:16.703Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I like being hugged from behind...by a very small number of people. From everyone else, it's quite unwanted.

This has had an interesting effect; if someone hugs me from behind, I unconsciously either put them in a bucket of people that I like a great deal, or make myself uncomfortable by telling them "don't do that". There's an odd bit of wiggle room in there, where someone might make me like them more by doing something somewhat uncomfortable to me. If this happened more often, I would take more care to address this particular bias; I also suspect there are subtler variants that I haven't recognized (I only just realized the above while reflecting on your post).

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-09-10T20:04:34.025Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've been in a group that tried this. It worked reasonably well for a time but the trivial inconvenience of suppling and remembering to wear the consent stickers we used led to people just not bothering with it.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-09-07T21:47:23.840Z · score: -4 (36 votes) · LW · GW

There are non-obvious reasons why you should perhaps not be talking about this. I can't tell you those reasons (for precisely the same reasons you should perhaps not be talking about this), but I can tell you it leads to slippery slopes of negative sum signaling games.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T22:08:21.296Z · score: 5 (21 votes) · LW · GW

I think you shouldn't have made this comment, for decision-theoretic reasons.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-09-08T10:13:32.133Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

(I suppose what you're implying is that the fact that we have to talk about it in the first place would imply that we actually do have more of a problem with creepiness than most organizations. Bad publicity, and all that.)

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-08T18:59:39.093Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

There's a thought provoking video on YouTube:

What Atheists Can Learn from the LGBT Movement

in which a LGBT woman, who is also an atheist, talks about a mistake the LGBT movement ignored in its early days that later came back to bite it, that the atheist community should learn from and avoid repeating.

Given the existence of a problem in SciFi, Atheist and other male dominated geek subcultures, it would be surprising if it wasn't something that, sooner or later, appeared in this one too. Maybe discussing it is temporary bad publicity, but I think it should be considered an investment for the future. Some problems are best tackled early, before they become too ingrained in a culture's tradition. The 'missing stair' phenomena.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-09-08T21:42:29.142Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The video is an hour long. Summary?

Edit: I found a transcript of a shorter version of the talk.

comment by Douglas_Reay · 2012-09-08T21:55:11.840Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a link to a related blog post she wrote.

The section I was thinking of was:


Atheists need to work -- now -- on making our movement more diverse, and making it more welcoming and inclusive of women and people of color.

And by now, I mean now. We need to start on this now, so we don't get set into patterns and vicious circles and self-fulfilling prophecies that in ten or twenty years will be damn near impossible to fix.

What can we learn here from the LGBT movement? The early LGBT movement screwed this up. Badly.

The early LGBT movement was very much dominated by gay white men. The public representatives of the movement were mostly gay white men; most organizations were led by gay white men. And the gay white male leaders had some seriously bad race and gender stuff: treating gay men of color as fetishistic Others, objects of sexual desire rather than members of the community... and treating lesbians as alien Others, inscrutable and trivial.

And we're paying for it today. Relations between lesbians and gay men, between white queers and queers of color, are often strained at best. Conversations in our movement about race and gender take place in a decades-old minefield of rancor and bitterness, where nothing anybody says is right. And we still, after decades, have a strong tendency to put gay white men front and center as the most visible, iconic representatives of our community.

That makes it hard on everyone in the LGBT movement -- women and men, of all races. It creates rifts that make our community weaker. And it has a seriously bad impact on our ability to make effective social change. For instance, the LGBT movement has a profoundly impaired ability to shift homophobic attitudes in the black communities... since those communities can claim, entirely fairly, that the gay community doesn't care about black people, and hasn't made an effort to deal with our racism.

We screwed this up. We still screw this up. We are paying for our screwups.

Atheists have a chance to not do that.


comment by V_V · 2012-09-12T11:15:50.684Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Atheists need to work -- now -- on making our movement more diverse, and making it more welcoming and inclusive of women and people of color.

Atheism is not a movement, it's a philosophical position, indifferent to what type of genital organs you have in your pants, what color they are and how you use them. I'd gladly prefer it stays this way, thank you.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-12T12:00:49.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Christina is talking about the atheist movement, not the set of all atheists ("atheist" is used there as a shorthand for "member of the movement;" maybe we need different words?). And if you're talking about a movement, then a call to be more inclusive is not a non sequitur at all. A philosophy cannot be exclusive or inclusive, but of course a movement can.

comment by V_V · 2012-09-12T13:24:21.847Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Christina is talking about the atheist movement, not the set of all atheists ("atheist" is used there as a shorthand for "member of the movement;" maybe we need different words?).

Yes, I think it's a very poor choice of words to conflate a philosophical position with a set of people publicly arguing for it (and for other things as well).

And I'm not even sure we can properly say that there is an atheist movement. There are a few prominent atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Myers, etc.), plus various bloggers, who speak at atheist conventions, but atheists as a whole are not organized, and they have a variety of positions on many relevant topics (religious tolerance, personal liberties, etc.)

In contrast, IIUC, the LGBT movement is more organized, and, while not universally representative, has more support among the queer people. I suppose that most queer people largely agree on issues such as sexual rights, adoption rights, family rights, etc. After all, being queer refers to pattern of preferences and behaviors, while being an atheist refers to an epistemic state.

And if you're talking about a movement, then a call to be more inclusive is not a non sequitur at all.

It's not a non sequitur, but I don't think it's good advice. Intellectual honest discourse should be, IMHO, blind to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preferences, and other group differences (unless these happen to be the topic of the discourse, of course). Affirmative action has no place in it.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-09-12T14:47:47.522Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose that most queer people largely agree on issue such as sexual rights, adoption rights, famility rights, etc. After all, being queer refers to pattern of preferences and behaviors, while being an atheist refers to an epistemic state.

I'm not sure the situations are all that different, except that "movement atheism" is younger. (I speak here mostly of the U.S., since it's what I know.)

Queers, for example, are significantly divided on questions of family rights. There are those of us who endorse the existing legal structure around families, for example, and want that structure expanded to include us. And there are those of us who reject the existing legal structure around families altogether, and want it eliminated.

That said, that division isn't terribly visible from a mainstream perspective; there's a relatively coherent political platform that gets treated as "the" queer rights movement, and most people go along with that.

I think a lot of the formalization of queer activism comes from its alliance with political parties. Because the major political parties in the U.S. have taken differentiable stances on queer rights, queer activists have de facto allied themselves with the Blues and opposed the Greens. (This causes some difficulties for queer people whose political or economic ideologies naturally incline Green. There is in fact a Green queer movement, although it doesn't get a lot of respect from your typical queer-on-the-street.)

I suspect that if atheism becomes a differentiable Green/Blue issue we'll see a similar pattern over the next thirty years. And it easily could... religious pluralism is increasingly becoming a differentiable Green/Blue issue in the US, which seems related.

comment by Matt_Caulfield · 2012-09-12T14:17:29.269Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would tend to disagree, and if no one had ever argued about identity politics on the internet before, I would be very interested in continuing this discussion. But as it is... I'll bow out here.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-09-08T22:25:45.039Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I would strongly prefer that the Lesswrong community, whatever that even is, does not get too closely entwined with the mainstream atheist community. Generally, it seems that shifting one's message further to the left of the bell curve is lossy at best, dishonest at worst.

comment by bogus · 2012-09-08T22:06:07.775Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Meh. Is there any evidence that this sort of crude ingroup/outgroup bias ("treating [minority outgroups] as alien/objectified Others" and the like) is a significant problem in the rationalist community? My prior for this being an issue is quite low, given our emphasis on cognitive biases: the example of LGBT and other social groups is not directly relevant.

Added: My rough, anecdotal evidence is that ingroup favoritism has not been an issue at LW so far, at least if we define "ingroup" conventionally as white, cis-male folks. If anything, the rationalist community is remarkably less ingroup-focused than one would expect given its demographics and some of its beliefs.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-08T22:07:39.304Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have the data to answer that question, but the fact that we talk about cognitive bias a lot isn't good evidence that average members of our community are exceptionally effective at dealing with any particular bias. Witness akrasia.

comment by faul_sname · 2012-09-10T04:42:25.235Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I know I have considerably less of an akrasia problem now, in no small part due to reading things from here and from hacker news (ycombinator).

I think it's fair to say average members of the community are better at recognizing bias in theselves. I'm not sure about dealing with it.

comment by Nornagest · 2012-09-10T04:59:31.185Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that's fairly likely, but some degree of general improvement doesn't necessarily imply exceptional skill relative to the general population if we have some reason to think that the base rates might be different. In this case, I think we might reasonably expect a community focused on amelioration of bias to attract people who see themselves as having trouble with one bias or another, and akrasia (and trouble with executive function more generally) seems to be one of the more commonly problematic issues within our demographic. We also have data saying that knowledge of bias doesn't translate directly to reduction of bias, though we're working on that.

Othering as per bogus' post is a separate issue, one that we haven't dealt much with directly, but at the very least I don't think it's obviously true that our constituents are unusually good at dealing with it. Geekdom's pretty homogeneous.

comment by iceman · 2012-09-07T22:43:37.440Z · score: -5 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I vaguely remember Eliezer saying that something is on topic at LessWrong if it improves the chances of a positive singularity (but a quick Google search couldn't locate that). I would assume that this applies to meetups, and metadiscussions of meetups. So I would appeal to everyone to put into place policies that would help the SIAI, whatever those may be. If minimizing "creepy" behavior maximizes the chance that the SIAI is successful in its mission, then I want policies that minimize incidence of creepy behavior, even if this is simply an excuse to exclude low status persons. If not minimizing "creepy" behavior maximizes the chance that the SIAI is successful in its mission, then I don't want policies that minimize creepy behavior, even if this r