Comment by clarissethorn on Influence = Manipulation · 2012-05-08T17:03:24.855Z · LW · GW

It's been a long time since I logged into LW; I just saw this. Actually, I released a book this year in which I analyze manipulation fairly extensively through the lens of the pickup artist subculture. It's called Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser:

Comment by clarissethorn on A wild theist platonist appears, to ask about the path · 2012-05-08T16:47:55.804Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the shoutout!

Comment by clarissethorn on Influence = Manipulation · 2011-06-14T18:05:39.983Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that once we get away from obviously problematic situations (such as blackmail), the distinction is going to be in intent, which is never uncontroversial.

Comment by clarissethorn on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-05-18T11:26:23.317Z · LW · GW

He has this post about the "dark side of game":

This post from him really flipped me out:

because of this quotation: "yes we still had sex on Friday night (she squirted), Saturday night (she cried), Sunday morning (she tolerated it) and Sunday night looks good too (she's gonna go for the handjob option when I offer it). "

which, uh, doesn't sound like his wife is all that into the sex. On the other hand, she later asserted that she has no problem with their current setup in this post:

so the problem I think is more with careless phrasing than careless treatment of her feelings. At least, I hope so. She sounds pretty ok to me.

Comment by clarissethorn on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-05-18T11:18:16.607Z · LW · GW

Haha. That's some vote of confidence there.

Comment by clarissethorn on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-04-18T05:07:26.689Z · LW · GW

I know! I heart my commenters! Many of them are sooo amazing.

Comment by clarissethorn on The peril of ignoring emotions · 2011-04-12T03:43:58.856Z · LW · GW

I've been working on figuring out how exactly I establish intimacy through conversation, and getting better at it. One thing HughRistik once observed is that "expressing interest in their reality" is absolutely key, but that's pretty basic.

Comment by clarissethorn on [LINK] Ethical Pick-Up Artistry (Clarisse Thorn) · 2011-04-12T03:42:15.349Z · LW · GW

I am tickled to be referenced as "Clarisse Thorn herself". Since that conversation, though, I have to say that I've thought about Kristen's Feministe comment a lot, and I think I understand it better now (though I'm still not sure I agree).

(1) shows a guy who is trying to exert dominance by telling her what to do. "You have lovely eyes, they'd be remarkable if you wore makeup" includes a proposed "solution" to the "problem" he's outlining. (3), on the other hand, is just mockery. "That guy will rot your brain" doesn't tell her what to do.

I see the distinction now, but I'm not convinced that the speakers did, nor am I convinced that most hearers would.

Comment by clarissethorn on The peril of ignoring emotions · 2011-04-06T11:10:21.516Z · LW · GW

My problem with this model is that sexuality is extremely important to me and a guy pretty much has to prove that he's sexually interesting in order to be worth my time. This is difficult to accurately gauge through conversation -- even men who are in my sexual subcultures/etc can be less-than-ideal sexual matches. It might be good for me to follow a more strategic drawn-out pattern than sex on the first date, but that would require me to spend a lot of time on men who may not end up being sexually awesome (and also it removes the pleasure of having sex with them from the first few dates). I am currently working on ensuring that I hit emotional hookpoint with men on the first date, and then having sex on the first date. I seem to be relatively successful at this, but I'd like to be better at it.

Comment by clarissethorn on A Rationalist's Account of Objectification? · 2011-03-28T05:14:58.137Z · LW · GW

I recommend the movie "Filming Desire" for what I found to be a very interesting and nuanced feminist analysis of objectification, and what happens when women try to represent sex for ourselves rather than buying into how the dominant culture represents sex (i.e., how men with stereotypical desires represent sex).

Here is an edited version of a comment I recently wrote on my own post "Ethical Pick-Up Artistry" [ ], which I think is tangentially relevant:

I don’t really like the idea that men’s sexuality is generally more focused on stereotypically “hot” women, and that it’s some kind of inherent difference -- beyond cultural influences -- that it's more unusual/more difficult for men to be attracted to non-conventionally attractive women than to conventionally attractive ones, as opposed to the way attraction works for most het women. But it could be true, and if it is then I don’t feel comfortable shaming men for that. (It seems like gay men frequently exhibit similar attraction patterns to straight men, in terms of being considerably more attracted to younger partners and more, shall we say, sculpted partners. I seem to recall reading somewhere that lesbians have written critiques of ageism in gay men’s attraction patterns.)

There’s evidence for sexual fluidity but there’s no evidence for being able to consciously change sexuality. Maybe changing culture can change sexuality. There’s no evidence for this and I’m extremely reluctant to police art, porn, whatever based on a weak hypothesis, especially if the goal is to police sexuality even more than it is already policed. All the anecdotes (and sexuality scholars) I’ve encountered have said that sexual fluidity appears to happen in a way we can’t control and don’t understand. The ex-gay movement shows us that even people who are very motivated to abandon homosexuality simply cannot meet with success, and will become disillusioned witnesses against the programs that tried. What good is shame for influencing such a force?

But is it such a problem that attraction patterns are like this? Well, it sucks for conventionally unattractive women in particular. I have a lot of sympathy for this (as my frequently-noted fears of aging show). On the other hand, a lot of things about sexual attraction just aren’t fair, and if we start insisting that people are obligated to have sex with people they’re not attracted to, that’s not right either.

I think the real, and important, problem comes in when people (especially women) who are attractive are given more social power in other areas: more likely to be promoted, more likely to be seen as competent, etc (studies show that blonde hair is most universally attractive to men and that blondes make more money on average than other women). Some famous misogynist, I can’t remember which one, is on record as saying that feminism is about giving unattractive women more power in society (even leaving aside its massive misread on feminism, this statement assumes that unattractive women don’t deserve any power in society, which is obviously fucked up).

People aren’t very good at watching their biases in general, and so when I say that men generally suck at watching out for how biased they get about attractive women, I’m not trying to say something specific about men. It may be that women are less biased by conventionally attractive men because our hormones just work differently. It may also be that attractive men would be able to get ahead through their attractiveness more if women had the same amount of overall power in society as men. Regardless, it seems like the focus should be on de-biasing people to think that attractive people are better at things that have nothing to do with attraction, rather than on attempting to change men's attraction patterns.

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-21T21:41:08.935Z · LW · GW

No, I didn't comment on the post I'm thinking of. It was overwhelmingly sexist (in comments people made jokes about women being gold-diggers, for example), but it didn't have to do with BDSM.

I've gotten better at "sounding rationalist" since I commented on that "is masochism necessary" post, and I've also gotten better at not getting angry. I look back at how I wrote my comment there and I'm a little surprised at myself.

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-21T01:46:10.887Z · LW · GW

As I said, I spent a while trying to find it, but I couldn't. I really wish I could find it, because it was a stellar example. After I failed to find it I thought that maybe it was actually a post at OvercomingBias (don't even get me started on Robin Hanson), but I couldn't find it when looking for that either. I think I must have deleted the email in a fit of rage.

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-20T21:29:23.918Z · LW · GW

I agree -- different resources are necessary for different questions. I personally tend to read sociology papers whenever I can get my grubby little paws on them. Note that I have a feminist bent, so I tend to look for feminist-leaning resources. For example, I recently read this fascinating study:

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-20T21:27:12.051Z · LW · GW

I have a big crush on HughRistik. It is important to note that he is not an accurate representation of PUAs. He is considerably more concerned with ethics, more friendly to feminism, more willing to acknowledge systemic problems in the PUA subculture, and smarter than the vast majority of PUAs. Quotation from one of his writings:

"There are a lot of problems with the seduction community that feminists correctly observe, including misogyny, cynicism towards relationships, and a few tactics that are bad for consent." from:

(edited for grammar)

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-20T21:24:09.502Z · LW · GW

The first LW post I was ever directed to was so bad (and the comments were waaaay worse) that I didn't comment, decided never to look at this site again, and had to be convinced by the steady campaigning of a friend.

Of course, feminism (and sexuality) is my pet issue. Note the quote from Alicorn in the "sayeth the girl" post that rhollerith posted: "I would almost certainly have vacated the site already if feminism were my pet issue, or if I were more easily offended."

Maybe this is more evidence that I'm particularly hard to offend? Not sure.

I spent a while trying to find the first post I was ever directed to, but I couldn't -- sorry.

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-20T21:16:32.668Z · LW · GW

Of course, it depends more on the individuals involved than anything else, but I would say that a non-negligible percentage of rationalists are unwilling to question gender biases (and in fact, many get defensive because they prefer to consider themselves rational and non-sexist, and then in their defensiveness, fail to examine their biases). This is common enough that the geek feminist blog Restructure has a whole post called The Myth Of White Male Geek Rationality:

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-20T21:10:56.333Z · LW · GW

Yes -- and I find that the "Women hate the dark arts because they can't deal with reality" trope is a very common one (perhaps less common on LW, but common in general). It may be that the OP didn't intend to imply that, but it may also not be an unreasonable implication to draw given the frequency the argument is made.

Comment by clarissethorn on Unknown knowns: Why did you choose to be monogamous? · 2011-03-20T21:05:58.230Z · LW · GW

Hahaha. You wish.

Comment by clarissethorn on Unknown knowns: Why did you choose to be monogamous? · 2011-03-18T01:32:59.373Z · LW · GW

Another thought -- along the lines of my first paragraph, one common term that's used to insult sex-positive feminists (by feminists who don't identify as sex-positive) is "fun feminists". The idea being that we wouldn't hold our position if it weren't "fun", or that we've been distracted from the "important" stuff by the "fun" stuff, or that we get undeserved attention for being more "fun". This obviously makes some of us feel like we have to prove that we're not that fun :P

Comment by clarissethorn on Unknown knowns: Why did you choose to be monogamous? · 2011-03-18T01:20:11.666Z · LW · GW

Hey Eliezer,

Interesting point. I think part of the problem is that sex theorists have to work very hard to get ourselves taken seriously, so many of us overcompensate. Another problem is that while sex is totally fun, sex also comes with an enormous potential to harm, so it's important to take it seriously at least somewhat.

Also, sex is a highly-triggering area for most people. I specifically try to include some humor and/or sexy anecdotes in my writing, but I find that I am considerably likely to be misinterpreted when I do so, and when I'm misinterpreted it can get really bad really fast ("I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU JUST MADE LIGHT OF ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS!11").

One of the projects I'm outlining right now is a BDSM erotica novella in which I try to include as much theory as I possibly can while still keeping it sexy. We'll see if I succeed.

Comment by clarissethorn on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-18T01:13:15.377Z · LW · GW

I'm a little surprised to see the issues of LWers interacting with women reduced to "being careful when discussing explicit awareness of social reality" ... with a link to PUA stuff.

1) PUA stuff is hardly the only example out there of "explicit awareness of social reality".

2) It's quite telling that the implication of the post is that "women don't like explicit awareness of social reality", rather than the (more accurate) "women don't like PUA".

One way to encourage women to participate in rationalist communities might be to make a conscious effort not to portray us as silly, manipulative, fickle, irrational gold-diggers. Some rationalists do a good job of this ... many don't. And PUAs, rationalist and otherwise, are usually bad at this. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

Comment by clarissethorn on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... · 2010-12-26T04:17:34.703Z · LW · GW

Good point re: religious dogma. I think there are studies showing that religious/conservative folks are much better at volunteering and donating to charity than liberal/secular folks. It's too bad.

Re: lawyer/secretary, well, the longer I focus my time on activism the more likely it becomes that if I were more "gainfully employed" I'd be a secretary ... :P

Comment by clarissethorn on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... · 2010-12-26T04:15:36.524Z · LW · GW

Yeah, it looks like it. Funny, I was sure he lived in Long Island, but I don't remember why. Chalk another one up to memory being fallible even when I was "very sure" about the details.

Here's a New Yorker piece:'skidney.pdf

Comment by clarissethorn on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... · 2010-12-25T05:42:06.210Z · LW · GW

The second point is something that really gets me. It seems to me that rather than feeling bad about donating to one charity rather than a more efficient or more "important" other charity, we should feel bad about spending money on frivolities rather than donating to charity. Nonprofit organizations are forced to compete against each other for slender resources in many ways, including donor dollars -- why can't they compete against things that have less moral value instead? It would be awesome if there were more social pressure to donate to charity rather than going to the movies or buying pretty clothes.

Interestingly, however, there is some social stigma against donating "too much". A few years ago, there was a New York gentleman who donated a much larger than "normal" percentage of his money to charity, as well as his kidney, plus some other stuff. (I'm sorry, I really wish I could remember his name, but I am very sure I have these details correct, because I read a lot about it at the time.) People speculated in the press about his mental status and other children mocked his kids at school, although his family was hardly left poor by the experience, and his health was not endangered.

In terms of the point in the OP about the lawyer who should be working overtime rather than volunteering ... I struggle with this so much. I spend most of my time doing activism, and I have friends who spend more time than I do (who do things like take very low-paying part-time jobs in order to finance spending most of their time doing activism), but most of us are sex-positive activists, and sex-positive activism is arguably an extremely "low priority" type of activism. If we are concerned about saving more lives, for example, then we should be dedicating our time to other types of activism, or we should be using our intelligence to get awesome jobs and then spending the money on charity. However, I (for one) have tried dedicating all my time to doing activism that seemed "more important" (HIV in Africa) rather than the activism that is most interesting to me (various types of sexuality stuff in America), and I was both less happy and less effective. I am also very sure that I would be unhappy if I dedicated my considerable IQ to becoming a corporate bitch and then donating lots of money, rather than working directly on the issues I care about.

Additionally, it is undeniable that someone has to work on the issues I care about, or else who would I donate money to even if I had a lot of it?

Comment by clarissethorn on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-03T04:07:32.520Z · LW · GW

I generally like this essay on this topic:

If you read the comments, however, please note that the original essay contained a lot of language that was pretty aggressive and insulting to feminists and sex/gender writers. Some writers (including myself) called out that language in the comments. The essay was then edited multiple times, but no notes were left that it had been edited. This was a great way to make commenters who had complained about the original essay (such as myself) look like crazy bitches, which doesn't seem like a very charitable debating tactic to me. ;)

Otherwise, though, yeah, it's a good essay.

Comment by clarissethorn on Burning Man Meetup: Bayes Camp · 2010-08-25T21:55:01.051Z · LW · GW

Sweet. I'll try to remember to stop by.

Comment by clarissethorn on Unknown knowns: Why did you choose to be monogamous? · 2010-06-29T14:42:09.235Z · LW · GW

Women are much less likely to be capable of achieving orgasm through penetrative sex than men, so the ban on penetrative sex for her may be less asymmetrical than you seem to think. After all, if she can easily achieve orgasm by several methods other than penetrative sex, but he prefers penetrative sex over other methods, then while there may be some jealousy active in the penetrative sex prohibition, it may also not be that much of a "sacrifice" for her.

It is also entirely possible that she feels more jealous when she knows her husband's partners well, and therefore the requirement exists for him to know her partners, but not for her to know his partners. Different people react differently to these things.

It is also entirely possible that they have a BDSM relationship as well, and that he is the dominant partner. A lot of polyamorous BDSM relationships restrict the submissive partner more than the dominant partner.

Finally, I don't personally read the veto as existing to ensure that both parties always take the other's desires into account .... Remember that poly relationships tend to be much more highly-communicated, verbally, than the average mono relationship. I read it as intended for partners to be able to veto, not intended to force partners to think about each other. After all, if they weren't thinking about each other, they wouldn't have written this contract in the first place.

Comment by clarissethorn on Unknown knowns: Why did you choose to be monogamous? · 2010-06-28T10:26:21.216Z · LW · GW

EDIT: OH my God, I forgot the special LW markup, ARGH. Comment has been edited.

I have an enormous amount of experience with the polyamory community and with observing polyamorous relationships, but I was convinced that I myself had a "monogamy orientation" until recently, when I became less sure. Regardless of whether or not a person is "oriented" towards monogamy or polyamory, however, I think it's useful for both monogamous and polyamorous people to discuss relationships in the kind of depth that is common in the poly community; in other words, discussions in the poly community can offer a lot of insight on how to thoughtfully organize a relationship.

The two best polyamory FAQs I've seen are here and here.

The best swing FAQ I've seen is here.

Here is an excellent example of a polyamorous relationship contract, in which both parties carefully set priorities, discuss triggers, and define their terms.

Comment by clarissethorn on Diseased thinking: dissolving questions about disease · 2010-06-07T13:43:26.606Z · LW · GW

Also: I recently saw a list of diseases ranked by doctors from most to least stigmatized; the list was accompanied by analysis that claimed that more respected doctors work on less stigmatized illnesses. I saw it on the Internet but alas, I can't find it now. I did find this, though:

Comment by clarissethorn on Attention Lurkers: Please say hi · 2010-06-07T13:37:52.065Z · LW · GW

Well, it just doesn't post. I'm not really sure what goes wrong ... sorry.

Comment by clarissethorn on Diseased thinking: dissolving questions about disease · 2010-06-07T13:36:36.714Z · LW · GW

This is a really interesting post and I will most likely respond on my own blog sometime. In the meantime, I haven't read the whole comment thread, but I don't think this article has been linked yet (I did search for the title):

It's called "The Americanization of Mental Illness". Definitely worth a read; in particular, here is an excellent quotation:

It turns out that those who adopted biomedical/genetic beliefs about mental disorders were the same people who wanted less contact with the mentally ill and thought of them as more dangerous and unpredictable. This unfortunate relationship has popped up in numerous studies around the world. In a study conducted in Turkey, for example, those who labeled schizophrenic behavior as akil hastaligi (illness of the brain or reasoning abilities) were more inclined to assert that schizophrenics were aggressive and should not live freely in the community than those who saw the disorder as ruhsal hastagi (a disorder of the spiritual or inner self). Another study, which looked at populations in Germany, Russia and Mongolia, found that “irrespective of place . . . endorsing biological factors as the cause of schizophrenia was associated with a greater desire for social distance.”

Even as we have congratulated ourselves for becoming more “benevolent and supportive” of the mentally ill, we have steadily backed away from the sufferers themselves. It appears, in short, that the impact of our worldwide antistigma campaign may have been the exact opposite of what we intended.

Comment by clarissethorn on Attention Lurkers: Please say hi · 2010-04-27T10:28:18.576Z · LW · GW

I'm not a technician -- so I'm not sure. But I have noticed that I pretty much always seem to be able to leave comments on Wordpress blogs, for example, whereas I frequently have trouble here and sometimes at Blogspot as well. It helps not to require a login, but Wordpress seems to function okay for me even when it's logging me in.

Comment by clarissethorn on Attention Lurkers: Please say hi · 2010-04-26T14:19:34.831Z · LW · GW

Thank you, I'm aware of that. But that still requires a person to be a pretty obsessive user of this site. Unless I have a lot of free time (like today), there's no way I can go back and check every single site where I've left comments and see how my comments are doing. At least LW aggregates reply comments to my input, but that doesn't solve the bigger problem of me having to come back to LW in the first place.

It's also worth noting that this comment interface is difficult to use in many places with slow/bad connections, like, you know, the entirety of Africa. Right now I'm in an amazing internet café in a capital city; but when I'm at home, I sometimes can't comment at all because my connection is too crappy to handle it. I don't get the impression that LW is very concerned with diversifying its userbase, but if it is, then a more accessible interface for slow connections would be important.

Comment by clarissethorn on Attention Lurkers: Please say hi · 2010-04-25T15:15:48.282Z · LW · GW

(I'm sorry if this comment gets posted multiple times. My African internet connection really sucks.)

Hi. 25 years old, HIV/AIDS worker in Africa, pro-BDSM sex activist in Chicago. Blog at

I very rarely comment because comments here are expected to be very well-thought-out. Stating something quick, on the basis of instinct, or without stating it in perfectly precise language seems to me to be dangerous.

Another reason this site has a higher percentage of lurkers is, obviously, because of the account requirement. There's another related problem, though: there's no way to have followup comments emailed to you. This means that if you really want to participate in the site, you have to be pretty obsessive about checking the site itself. That's annoying unless you are very interested in a very high percentage of the site's output. If, for a given commenter (like me), rationalism is a side interest rather than a major one, then the failure to email comments on posts that I'm interested in -- or even responses to my own comments -- becomes a prohibitive barrier unless I've got an unexpected amount of free time.

Comment by clarissethorn on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2010-03-15T10:55:15.795Z · LW · GW

I looked around for an FAQ link and didn't see one, and I've gone through all my preferences and haven't found anything relevant. Is there any way to arrange for followup comments (I suppose, the contents of my account inbox) to be emailed to me?

Comment by clarissethorn on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2010-03-15T10:52:02.720Z · LW · GW

That's fair. And I'll add that for a site populated mainly by entitled white guys (I kid, I kid), this site does much better at being generally feminist than most within that demographic.

PS It's kind of exciting to be talking to you, EY. Your article on heuristics and biases in the context of extinction events is one of my favorites ever. I probably think about it once a week.

Comment by clarissethorn on Undiscriminating Skepticism · 2010-03-15T10:43:50.336Z · LW · GW

I'd definitely take all three of the above pills. In fact, I wonder how much harm such pills would have to do for me not to take them.

Comment by clarissethorn on Undiscriminating Skepticism · 2010-03-15T10:42:04.106Z · LW · GW

Ah, Spider Robinson. I remember buying a stack of his books at Borders around age 12 and having the clerk give my mother an alarmed look. Mom just waved her hand ....

I think it's pretty normal for science-fiction-reading middle- to upper-middle-class kids to think that alternative sexuality is "normal" and to feel guilty for being vanilla/monogamous/whatever. (I used to feel a lot of pressure to be polyamorous.) Interestingly, though, there still seems to be a lot of internalized stigma about certain forms of sexuality, as demonstrated for example in my coming-out story. I would imagine that most people here fit that tribal group.

Still, within that tribal group I still encounter a lot of people with assumptions I'd call weird and/or irrational, which is why I asked specifically what kind of sexuality-related arguments would lead you to consider someone to be defending a non-mainstream belief. I think your legalized rape post (it was forwarded to me last year, actually, and I still haven't decided how I feel about it) is a definite example of defending a non-mainstream belief, but I wonder if there are less dramatic ones.

Comment by clarissethorn on Undiscriminating Skepticism · 2010-03-15T10:30:13.142Z · LW · GW

Hi Doug! Yes, I remember you. I've actually read a number of posts here, and I've commented once here before, but I was too angry and irrational and in feminist-community mode during that little fracas, so I decided to give myself lots of time to cool off before posting again. (Note that the original post has been edited to the point where it is no longer clear what pissed me off.) (I also discussed some of the cultural differences between this site and the feminist blogosphere that contributed to that blowup in the comments here.)

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2010-03-15T10:28:26.484Z · LW · GW

Yeah, seriously ... I only just came back to this, and I'm rather surprised that a community like LessWrong will countenance editing posts without noting the edits.

Comment by clarissethorn on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2010-03-15T10:24:47.727Z · LW · GW

I go by Clarisse and I'm a feminist, sex-positive educator who has delivered workshops on both sexual communication and BDSM to a variety of audiences, including New York’s Museum of Sex, San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, and several Chicago universities. I created and curated the original Sex+++ sex-positive documentary film series at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; I have also volunteered as an archivist, curator and fundraiser for that venerable BDSM institution, the Leather Archives & Museum. Currently, I'm working on HIV mitigation in southern Africa. I blog at and Twitter at @clarissethorn.

Besides sex, other interests include gaming, science fiction and fantasy, and housing cooperatives.

I've read some posts here that I thought had really awful attitudes about sexuality and BDSM in particular, so I'm sure I'll be posting about those. I would like it if people were more rational about sex, inasmuch as we can be.

Comment by clarissethorn on Undiscriminating Skepticism · 2010-03-15T02:23:54.549Z · LW · GW

Sorry if this is overly tangential, but as a sex educator I'm interested to know what you all think are your tribal beliefs around sexuality, and what kind of sexuality-related arguments would lead you to consider someone to be defending a non-mainstream belief.

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-12T18:39:18.677Z · LW · GW

Presentation is endorsement, unless it's framed with disclaimers.

Let's return to the LGBTQ example. Consider the following potential sentences:

"Many people think of homosexuality as a sexual perversion. But there are ordinary, socially-accepted behaviors that seem partly homoerotic to me:"

Would you call that a neutral statement? Would you claim so passionately that it revealed no bias on the part of the person who said it?

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-12T18:33:16.348Z · LW · GW

It is a judgmental viewpoint. Maybe he didn't mean it that way, but that doesn't mean it's not a judgmental viewpoint.

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-12T18:32:16.605Z · LW · GW

I made no moral accusations and I threatened no social rejection. I pointed out your bias. I did it with strong words; maybe I should apologize for that; I'm an orator, I don't usually run in specifically "rationalist" circles, and I'm used to a different kind of conversation.

In terms of discouraging discussion, here's what I think discourages discussion:

1) Any request for ideas that implies that people who have some experience with the matter at hand are "perverts" -- this insults and scares off people who could contribute to your discussion.

2) The implication that telling people they're being judgmental is the same as "threatening people with social rejection" or "making moral accusations" -- this tells potential commenters that if they call you out on your bias, you'll refuse to listen because you feel so hurt that someone called you biased.

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-12T18:25:11.345Z · LW · GW

Yes. Exactly. This comment says everything I would have said, and probably more eloquently.

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-11T18:25:32.771Z · LW · GW


Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-11T17:58:53.364Z · LW · GW

:::::::::: You don't know this site very well. We would discuss those questions if they seemed relevant. ::::::::::


I just think it's important for people who have these conversations to consider the point that "what's relevant" or "what's worthy of examination" is often, itself, socially constructed.

:::::::::: Can you see how this might reasonably connect to masochism in particular, and not sexuality in general? ::::::::::

Yes. But my concern is not masochism in general. I am responding to the ways in which sexual masochism has been framed in this discussion.

Sexual masochism is relevant -- it was brought up in the original post. I recognize that my comments may not directly address the main questions of the original post. But what I am hoping is that my comments shed some light on some aspects of the post, and encourage the writers here to consider what biases they are bringing to those aspects.

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-11T17:13:24.221Z · LW · GW

:::::::::: Many people do think of BDSM as a sexual perversion. I didn't invent this reality; I just live here. ::::::::::

This answer strikes me as a bit facile. Sure, lots of people think of BDSM as a sexual perversion. Lots of people also consider it a sexual preference. You chose to use words that stigmatize BDSM, and you chose not to present words that don't stigmatize BDSM. You could have made the same point without using stigmatizing words. Stating that you have no opinion after the fact is an attempt to dodge responsibility for that.

The way we frame these things matters. I wouldn't have such a problem with what you said if you had at least noted the judgment inherent in the terms you used -- but you didn't. For instance, if you really have no negative judgments around BDSM, then you might have said something like: "Many people think of masochism as a sexual perversion, while others see it as a harmless sexual preference."

:::::::::: That's probably more sympathetic to your view than anything you'll find in mainstream media, or even in psychology journals. ::::::::::

Like those of people, the opinions presented in mainstream media and psychology journals vary. As it happens, I will be speaking at a psychology conference in May that's specifically intended to train psychology professionals in being more sensitive to BDSM-identified patients. (The conference will take place at Chicago's Center on Halsted.)

And again, by claiming that you've been more sympathetic to my opinions than "other" forms of media, you're trying to dodge responsibility for the fact that you presented a plainly judgmental viewpoint.

:::::::::: If that means that you resent discussion of the idea, this website isn't right for you. We discuss things that make us uncomfortable, because we want to know the answer. ::::::::::

Discuss the idea all you want. Just know, while you're "examining", that there are real people who have real masochistic needs whom you may really be stigmatizing with what you say. And the idea that you must "examine" this need in itself can be stigmatizing.

Perhaps I can illustrate this with an example: Would you even consider "examining" why gay people are gay? Why straight people are straight? I don't know this site very well. Maybe you would discuss those questions. But if you wouldn't, then perhaps it might be worth asking yourself why you think it's worth examining masochism and wondering what "causes" it, when you don't ask similar questions about straightness or LGBTQ or what have you.

For more on this, I recommend this post: [ ]

:::::::::: Could you post some links to specific pages discussing theories? ::::::::::

I can try; I don't have a lot of time to hunt down specific posts, but I've read a lot on this topic and I might be able to come up with something. It would be helpful if you could ask a more specific question, though.

It's probably obvious that my personal favorite BDSM theory blog is SM-Feminist: [ ]

But I don't think she has much truck with evol-psych, either, though I could be wrong.

Comment by clarissethorn on Is masochism necessary? · 2009-04-11T07:16:03.322Z · LW · GW

Hi. I'm Clarisse Thorn, a BDSM educator and activist. I blog at [ ]. Props to Michael Bishop for directing me to your post.

Wow, where to begin. I'll try not to get too upset, but for me, this was a really bad start to your post:

::::::::::: Many people think of masochism as a sexual perversion :::::::::::

Why did you start right out by referring to BDSM as a "sexual perversion"? Couldn't you have chosen some less judgmental words? Seriously, it would have been so easy. You could have just said "sexual preference". Instead, you chose to use language loaded with stigma.

::::::::::: When we find ourselves acting masochistically, should we try to "correct" it? :::::::::::

Amazingly, people are different and do things for different reasons. I assume you agree. Perhaps this means that if people find themselves acting masochistically, they should take different actions depending on their individual personalities.

I don't have much to say about non-sexual masochism, but I have a lot to say about sexual masochism ....

Many people see BDSM as an inbuilt sexual identity or "orientation". In that case, "correcting masochism" would be like trying to "pray away the gay" -- it ain't gonna happen, and you're just going to damage people if you assert that it should. I absolutely, definitely consider myself to have BDSM "built in", and I resent any implication that it would ever be reasonable to tell me that I "shouldn't" do BDSM.

I do think that some people use masochism for self-harm that may be bad for them. And yes, sometimes even BDSM-masochism can be a self-harming mechanism ... but before someone goes there -- no, that is not an argument against BDSM in itself. If you think that BDSM-type masochism should be argued against because it can be a form of self-harm, then I request that you read this excellent post: [ ]

::::::::::: If so, what's the evolutionary-psych explanation? :::::::::::

Well, I am of the camp that thinks evolutionary psychology almost always ends up being an excuse to create legit-sounding theories that back up what we think we already know. In other words, I think it's usually used as an instrument to reinforce current social norms.

But since I know you will discuss it anyway, I request that you examine your assumptions very thoroughly as you do so. You might consider being particularly critical of evol-psych theories that imply that:

1) masochism is always maladaptive,

2) sexual masochism is a particularly "bad" form of masochism,

3) women are more likely to be masochistic than men.

::::::::::: Is masochism more prevalent now than in the bad old days? :::::::::::

I doubt it. If you start seriously investigating the history of BDSM, for instance, you find examples that show how it's been around since the beginning of time. If you are interested in BDSM history, I recommend this excellent blog: [ ]

::::::::::: I was surprised not to find any evo-psych explanations for masochism on the web; or even any general theory of masochism that tried to unite two different behaviors :::::::::::

Really? Where are you reading? Check out my blogroll for any number of excellent BDSM blogs that will provide any number of excellent BDSM theories from any number of angles.