Not a social justice blog! Stop only reading my posts about social justice!

Lies, Damned Lies, And Social Media (Part 5 of ∞)

[content warning: rape, false rape allegations]

(see also parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of ∞)

I.

Spotted on Brute Reason but liked and reblogged 35,000 times: Five Things More Likely To Happen To You Than Being Accused Of Rape. A man is 631 times more likely to become an NFL player than to be falsely accused of rape! Thirty-two times more likely to be struck by lightning! Eleven times more likely to be hit by a comet!

Needless to say, all of these figures are completely wrong, in fact wrong by a factor of over 22,700x. I’m not really complaining – missing the mark by only a little over four orders of magnitude is actually not bad for a “story” of this type. Nevertheless, it will be instructive to figure out where they erred so we may be vigilant against such things in the future, and perhaps certain moral lessons may be gleaned in the process as well.

II.

Since that article itself does not show its work, we will have to rely on its obvious inspiration, an almost-identical blog post written a few days before by the same person responsible for the Buzzfeed piece, Charles Clymer.

It starts by noting that there are about 84,000 forcible rapes per year – and that FBI statistics suggest 8% are false accusations. We will can examine these numbers later, but for now let’s just take them as given.

It then goes on to calculate that, given the average man has sex 99 times per year (who is this average man?!) there are 5.1 billion acts of sexual intercourse in the United States each year among American men 15 – 39. Divide 5.1 billion by 6,750, and therefore, in Clymer’s words “the odds of any sexually-active male between the ages of 15 and 39 has a 750,000 to 1 chance of being falsely accused of rape”

And, he goes on to say, 1/33 men are raped during their lifetime. Therefore, the average man has a 27500x higher chance of being raped than being falsely accused of rape. The average man has a 1 in 84,079 chance of being killed by lightning, so that’s 32x more likely than getting falsely accused of rape. And it adds that the average women has a 1/4 chance of being raped during her lifetime – so the odds of a woman being raped during her lifetime must be 220000x higher than the odds of a man being falsely accused of rape.

Did you spot the sleight of hand in those calculations? He calculated the odds of a man who has sex 99 times per year for 24 years being accused of rape per sex act, and then declared this was the odds of being accused of rape in your lifetime. Then he went on to compare it to various other lifetime odds, like the lifetime odds of being raped, the lifetime odds of being struck by lightning, et cetera.

This isn’t comparing apples to oranges. This isn’t even comparing apples to orangutans. This is comparing apples to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

To highlight exactly how awful this is, suppose we wanted to trivialize rape itself through the same methodology. The average woman, as per the article’s statistics, has a 1/4 chance of getting raped during her lifetime, which means a 1/9500 or so chance of getting raped per sex act if she has sex 99 times per year from ages 15-39. And looking at the same list of statistically unlikely things provided on that article, that’s less than the odds of dying in a plane crash (1/7032). So you crow “THE AVERAGE WOMAN IS LESS LIKELY TO GET RAPED THAN TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH! HA HA WOMEN ARE SO DUMB TO EVER WORRY ABOUT RAPE!”. And now you have a Buzzfeed article.

III.

We can do better. Let’s come up with conservative and liberal estimates of a man’s chance of getting falsely accused of rape between ages 15 and 39.

The rate of false rape accusations is notoriously difficult to study, since researchers have no failsafe way of figuring out whether a given accusation is true or not. The leading scholar in the area, David Lisak, explains that the generally accepted methodology is to count a rape accusation as false “if there is a clear and credible admission [of falsehood] from the complainant, or strong evidential grounds”, and goes on to explain what these grounds might be:

For example, if key elements of a victim’s account were internally inconsistent and directly contradicted by multiple witnesses and if the victim then altered those key elements of his or her account, investigators might conclude that the report was false

Attempts to use this methodology return varying results. Lisak lists seven studies he considers credible, which find false accusation rates of 2.1%, 2.5%, 3.0%, 5.9%, 6.8%, 8.3%, 10.3%, 10.9%. The two with 10%+ mysteriously go missing and thus we get the commonly quoted number of “two to eight percent”, which is repeated by sources as diverse as Alas, A Blog, Slate, and Wikipedia (Straight Statistics keeps the original 2% – 10% number)

Feminists make one true and important critique of these numbers – sometimes real victims, in the depths of stress we can’t even imagine, do strange things and get their story hopelessly garbled. Or they suddenly lose their nerve and don’t want to continue the legal process and tell the police they were making it up in order to drop the case as quickly as possible. All of these would go down as “false allegations” under the “victim has to admit she was lying or contradict herself” criteria. No doubt this does happen.

But the opposite critique seems much stronger: that some false accusers manage tell their story without contradicting themselves, and without changing their mind and admit they were lying. We’re not talking about making it all the way through a trial – the majority of reported rapes get quietly dropped by the police for one reason or another and never make it that far. Although keeping your story halfway straight is probably harder than it sounds sitting in an armchair without any cops grilling me, it seems very easy to imagine that most false accusers manage this task, especially since they may worry that admitting their duplicity will lead to some punishment.

The research community defines false accusations as those that can be proven false beyond a reasonable doubt, and all others as true. Yet many – maybe most – false accusations are not provably false and so will not be included.

So there’s reason to believe some of those 2-10% of presumed false accusations are actually true, and other reasons to believe that some of the 98% – 92% of presumed true accusations are actually false.

What is an upper bound on the number of false rape accusations? Researchers tend to find that police estimate 20%-40% of the rape accusations they get to be “unfounded”, (for example Philadelphia Police 1968, Chambers and Millar 1983, Grace et al 1992, Jordan 2004, Gregory and Lees 1996, etc, etc). Many scholars critique the police’s judgment, suggesting many police officers automatically dismiss anyone who doesn’t fit their profile of a “typical rape victim”. A police-based study that took pains to avoid this failure mode by investigating all cases very aggressively (Kanin 1994) was criticized for what I think are ideological reasons – they primarily seemed to amount to the worry that the aggressive investigations stigmatized rape victims, which would make them so flustered that they would falsely recant. Certainly possible. On the other hand, if you dismiss studies for not investigating thoroughly enough and for investigating thoroughly, there will never be any study you can’t dismiss. So while not necessarily endorsing Kanin and the similar studies in this range, I think they make a useful “not provably true” upper bound to contrast with the “near-provably false” lower bound of 2%-10%.

IV.

But this only represents the number of false rape accusations that get reported to the police. 80% of rapes never make it to the police. Might false rape accusations be similar?

Suppose you are a woman who wants to destroy a guy’s reputation for some reason. Do you go to the police station, open up a legal case, get yourself tested with an invasive rape kit, hire an attorney, put yourself through a trial which may take years and involve your reputation being dragged through the mud, accept that you probably won’t get a conviction anyway given that you have no evidence – and take the risk of jail time if you’re caught lying?

Or do you walk to the other side of the quad and bring it up to your school administrator, who has just declared to the national news that she thinks all men accused of rape should be automatically expelled from the college, without any investigation, regardless of whether there is any evidence?

Or if even the school administrator isn’t guilty-until-proven-innocent enough for you, why not just go to a bunch of your friends, tell them your ex-boyfriend raped you, and trust them to spread the accusation all over your community? Then it doesn’t even matter whether anyone believes you or not, the rumor is still out there.

This last one is the one that happened to me. I wasn’t the ex-boyfriend (thank God). I was the friend who was told about it. I took it very very seriously, investigated as best I could, and eventually became extremely confident that the accusation was false. No, you don’t know the people involved. No, I won’t give you personal details. No, I won’t tell you how I became certain that the accusation was false because that would involve personal details. Yes, that leaves you a lot of room to accuse me of lying if you want.

But if my word isn’t good enough for you, I happen to have witnessed two more cases of false rape accusations where I can tell you some minimal details. In a psychiatric hospital I used to work in (not the one I currently work in) during my brief time there there were two different accusations of rape by staff members against patients…

I want to take a second out to say very emphatically that all accusations of rape by psychiatric patients should be taken very seriously. Yes, psychiatric patients sometimes have complicated cognitive or personality issues that make them more likely to falsely report rape, but for exactly this reason they are much more vulnerable and people are much more likely to take advantage of them. This is a known problem and you should never dismiss their complaint.

…but in this case, there were video cameras all over the hospital and these were sufficient to prove that no assault had taken place in either case. Now I know someone is going to say that blah blah psychiatric patients blah blah doesn’t generalize to the general population, but the fact is that even if you accept that sorta-ableist dismissal, those patients were in hospital for three to seven days and then they went back out into regular society.I would love to say that we treated every single one of their problems so thoroughly it would never come back but I wouldn’t bet on it.

So I know three men who have been accused of rape in a way that did not involve the police, and none (as far as I know) who have been accused in a way that did. This suggests that like rapes themselves, most false rape accusations never reach law enforcement.

While rape victims have some incentives to report their cases to the police – a desire for justice, a desire for safety, the belief that the evidence will support them – false accusers have very strong incentives not to – too much work, easier revenge through other means, knowledge that the evidence is unlikely to support them, fear of getting in trouble for perjury if their deception gets out. So I consider it a very conservative estimate to say that the ratio of unreported to reported false accusations is 4:1 – the same as it is with rapes. A more realistic estimate might be as high as double or triple that.

V.

Now we have the data necessary to do a slightly better job calculating the risk of false rape allegations. We’ll start with the most conservative possible estimate.

We will stick with the article’s figure of 84,000 reported rapes per year and 8% false accusation rate, for a total of 6,750 falsely accused.

We go on to assume, for the sake of conservativism, that there has never been a single false accuser who did not later confess, and that there has never been a false accuser who did not go to the police (my own memories of this must be hallucinations).

Since there are 53 million men ages 15-39 in the United States, the probability of being one of these 6,750 falsely accused is 1/7850 per year. But since you have 24 years in that age range in which to be accused, your lifetime probability of being falsely accused is about 1/327, or 0.3%. This is small, but according to Clymer’s list it’s about the same as your risk of dying in a car crash. Do you worry about dying in a car crash? Then you are allowed to worry about being falsely accused of rape.

(note that this is the most conservative possible estimate, using exactly the same numbers as in the article but not lying about what math we’re doing. But the article got 1/750,000. So the absolute lower bound for how wrong the article was is “wrong by a factor of 2,300x”)

What about a slightly less hyperconservative estimate? Continuing our conservative assumption that there has never been a false accuser who has not later confused, but allowing that false accusations reach the police at only the same rate that rapes do, 1.5% of men will get falsely accused.

What estimate do I personally find most likely? Suppose we keep everything else the same, but allow that for every false accuser who later confesses, there is also one false accuser who does not later confess. This raises the false accusation rate to 16% – which, keep in mind, is still less than half of what the police think it is, so it’s not like we’re allowing rape-culture-happy cops to color our perception here. Now 3% of men will get falsely accused.

What is an upper bound for the extent of this problem? We could obtain one by using Kanin’s 40% and holding everything else constant, but no matter how many times I qualified this attempt with “I am using this as an upper bound, not endorsing this as the actual number of rapes”, someone would yell at me for using a study they disagree with and call me a rape apologist. So I will leave the difficult task of multiplying 3% by 2.5x to my readers. You might then try multiplying it even further if you think false accusations are less likely than true accusations to make it to the police.

So greater than 0.3% of men get falsely accused of rape sometime in their lives, and the most likely number is probably around 3%.

Which means the article was off by a factor of at least 2,300x and probably more like 22,700x.

And yet it got 35,000 Tumblr likes and reblogs. By blatantly lying in a sensationalist way, it became more popular than anything you or I will ever write. There are scientists dedicating their lives to making new discoveries on the frontiers of knowledge, poets making words dance and catch fire, struggling writers trying to tell the stories inside of them – all desperate for someone to pay attention to what they’re saying – and the Internet ignores these people and instead brings hundreds of thousands of hits and no doubt a big windfall in ad revenue to frickin’ Buzzfeed.

And I would like to just let it be, except that there’s a probably one-in-thirty but definitely-no-less-than-one-in-three-hundred chance that I will be falsely accused of rape someday, and need to defend myself, and maybe I’ll have what should be an airtight alibi, and then the people who read this Buzzfeed article will dismiss it with “Well, I saw on the Internet there’s only a one in a million chance you’re telling the truth, so screw your alibi!” This is already happening. One of the Tumblr rebloggers added the comment “Yeah, so you know the dude who says he was falsely accused of rape? Now you know. He’s a rapist.” These are not just falsehoods, they’re dangerous falsehoods.

So please permit me a second to gripe about this.

It is commonly said that a lie will get halfway across the world before the truth can get its boots on. And this is true. Except in the feminist blogosphere, where a lie will get to Alpha Centauri and back three times while the truth is locked up in a makeshift dungeon in the basement, screaming.

I have been debunking bad statistics for a long time. In medicine, in psychology, in politics. Click on the “statistics” tag of this blog if you don’t believe me. Yet the feminist blogosphere is the only place where I consistently see things atrociously wrong get reblogged by thousands of usually very smart people without anyone ever bothering to think critically about them. Like, thirty five thousand feminists – including some who self-identify as rationalists! – saw an article that literally said a guy was more likely to get hit by a comet than get falsely accused of rape, and said “Yeah, sure, that sounds plausible”.

So please permit me to keep griping just one moment longer. Be extraordinarily paranoid when dealing with the feminist blogosphere. This may be true of all highly charged political blogospheres, but it is certainly true of feminism. If you go in there with an innocent attitude of “Here is a number, I assume it is generally correct and means what it says it means”, you will get super-burned

There are some honorable exceptions. I have found Alas, A Blog to be pretty scrupulous, and of course everything ever written by Ozy is wonderful and perfect in every way. But two swallows do not make a summer, and these and any similar blogs you find should be considered islands of lucidity battered by a constant tide of bullshytte. I do not have time to debunk them all but you should view them with a prior of extraordinarily high suspicion.

Thank you for letting me get that out of my system.

VI.

Why would this happen? Why would smart people, by the tens of thousands, be so delighted by the opportunity to embrace these fabrications?

There is something called the “just world fallacy”, that says everyone gets what they deserve and moral questions are always easy and there is never any need to make scary tradeoffs.

And, as is so often the case for things with “fallacy” in the name, it is not true.

Look at how the Clymer article, in its own words, describes false rape allegations:

“False rape hysteria”, it informs us, is perpetrated by “men’s rights activists, more accurately known as insecure woman-hating assholes”, because they think “women are products to be bought and sold and when these objects assert their right to human value many (if not most) men feel threatened.”

Now let’s hear from a guy on the r/mensrights community on Reddit:

Anyway, like I said, it’s been just over a year since [I was falsely accused of rape]. Since then I haven’t been the same. The most striking thing that I’ve noticed is the paranoia that I have almost every waking moment. Of everybody. Of men, of women, and even friends. I can’t bring myself to date women anymore. I have panic attacks every time I see a police officer. I constintly think that I’m being followed. The night I came home from being interviewed by the cops I drank myself to sleep and I’ve been doing that ever since. If I don’t any flicker of light makes me think that the police are here to arrest me. I’ve been able to fake a normal social life to my family and work and the friends I have left but most don’t know anything about this. I’m not looking for pity from anyone. In fact, I’m doing better than I have been. The reason I’m posting this is because I want people to know how bad being accused of something like rape can hurt and scar someone.

Man, what an “insecure, woman-hating asshole.”

But consider the alternative to this kind of glib dismissal.

3% of men are falsely accused of rape. 15% of women are raped. If someone you know gets accused of rape, your prior still is very very high that they did it.

I was extraordinarily lucky to find very strong evidence that my friend was innocent. I was extraordinarily lucky that both my co-workers had video feeds that could confirm their stories. If I hadn’t, I don’t know what I would have done. My two choices would have been to either accept the possibility that I’m staying friends with a rapist, or to accept the possibility I’m ostracizing someone for something he didn’t do.

And someone is going to expect me to conclude by recommending what the correct thing to do in these cases is, but I have no idea. Probably there is no solution that isn’t horrible. If there is, it’s way above my pay grade. Ask Ozy. Ze’s the one with the Gender Studies degree.

All I can suggest is that you not flee from the magnitude of the decision with comfortable lies.

One of those comfortable lies is to tell yourself that all women are lying sluts so the accusation can be safely ignored.

But another comfortable lie is that false rape accusations are eleven times rarer than getting hit by comets.

This is why a terrible article on Buzzfeed is getting more publicity and support than anything you or I will ever write.

Because people want to live in his world, where the comfortable lies are all true and no one suffers without deserving it.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

239 Responses to Lies, Damned Lies, And Social Media (Part 5 of ∞)

  1. Andrew says:

    When I see statistics butchered that badly and that obviously, the question I find myself wondering is whether I’d feel better about it if they were butchering it intentionally to effectively tell lies to promote their cause, or whether they’re so blinded by dogma that they honestly believe things like 11 times more likely to be hit by a comet because the calculator said so. The onion can’t make that shit up.

    Report comment

    • Douglas Knight says:

      In this case, what you see is the result of “going viral” optimization process and it hardly matters what the original author meant. You might say that the author is tumblr, not the person on the byline. The intentions of the people who forwarded it is a more meaningful question.

      Report comment

  2. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    This is the most wonderfully wrathful thing I’ve ever read from you. I’m guessing you’re going to tone it down once the complaints start coming, but that was a glorious read, thank you.

    Also, the comments on the article aren’t too bad – There are good number of critical ones.

    Report comment

  3. Gunlord says:

    One thing to consider, though, is that the 3% of men falsely accused of rape may not necessarily be a representative sample of the population–i.e some groups of men may have a higher than 3% chance of getting falsely accused while others may have a much lower chance.

    I mean, just off the top of my head, I’d be willing to wager that a disproportionate number of black men have been falsely accused of rape historically, in the U.S. at least. Other factors are behavioral–given how many cases of rape involve drugs and alcohol, I’d also wager a disproportionate number of the falsely-accused are college-age men who party a lot and are relatively promiscuous. And, of course, in most cases you need some degree of interaction with women for any one of them to accuse you of anything. Men who interact with many women professionally and personally (romantically or otherwise) are probably over-represented in the ranks of the falsely accused. I’ve heard of people getting falsely accused over the Internet and on Facebook, but that’s extremely rare (I’ve honestly heard of only one story like that, and I can’t find a link to it so I suspect my memory may be failing me).

    By the same token, I’d make one more bet that many types of men run a much lower than 3% chance of getting falsely accused, based on lifestyle. Men who don’t drink much are less likely to be falsely accused by inebriated women, and men who avoid women in general, or live in primarily/entirely male environments, also seem like they don’t have much to worry about from false accusations.

    (Nota bene: In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should mention that I’m in the latter group; I don’t associate much with women IRL in professional or romantic respects. I haven’t been accused of anything once in all my years of life, so I’d say it’s working well enough for me. Other men who generally avoid women call themselves MGTOW, or “Men Going Their Own Way,” but I don’t belong to that group. The acronym is silly and its adherents typically annoy me)

    Anyways, on the subject of reducing one’s risk of being falsely accused, you may find this blog post from the “Community of the Wrongly Accused:”

    http://www.cotwa.info/2012/08/how-to-prevent-false-rape-claims-and.html

    These guys are part of the “manosphere,” as it’s called, so take it with a grain of salt, but the advice strikes me as solid enough. At least they’re trying to provide constructive advice instead of just whining, which puts this essay a cut above the typical manosphere boilerplate, IMO. Especially II, avoiding situations where the woman has an incentive to deny the sex was consensual. Not futzing around with someone else’s wife or girlfriend will keep you out of all sorts of trouble in most cases, lowering your risk of getting falsely accused is just icing on the cake.

    Report comment

    • Andy says:

      I mean, just off the top of my head, I’d be willing to wager that a disproportionate number of black men have been falsely accused of rape historically, in the U.S. at least.

      I’d agree with you there, at least in the Civil Rights era and before. Willie McGee may have been an example of this.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_McGee_(convict)
      It would be interesting to read a feminist, sex-positive version of the COTWA article. I’d do it, but I don’t consider myself NEARLY well-acquainted enough with the subject matter.

      Report comment

    • Well, by what seems to be current feminist standards, this sounds like blaming the victim.

      That being said, the most common model I’ve seen is false rape accusations being a result of regret after consensual sex, and it’s seemed to me that a way of improving the odds of avoiding that would be to be meticulous about consent– the suggestion to avoid sex with drunk women fits with that. Not being drunk oneself also improves the odds of having good judgement.

      I have no idea whether regret after consensual sex is the most common cause of false rape accusations. Other possibilities would include misidentification or malice.

      Possibly a sidetrack, but I’ve wondered if you’re having been terrified about the possibility of engaging in non-consensual sex is connected to finding that polyamory is boring– being careful about consent makes drama less likely.

      Report comment

      • Bish says:

        I think that’s a good summary. Some other possible motivations for false accusations (based on discussions, since we don’t have any good research on this subject):

        - As a lie to boyfriends or parents to get out of trouble

        - To gain leverage in custody battles. See the SAVE study I discussed earlier which found that 17% of the sample knew someone who was falsely accused of abuse, and 27.5% of those accusations were in a custody battle.

        - Miscommunication. The accused person believed that the sex was consensual, while the accuser experienced rape. In a legal sense, there was no mens rea. It’s really difficult to judge these cases. Some feminists claim that miscommunication doesn’t really happen, but this seems like a biased reading of a biased study that extrapolates beyond what the data actually found.

        Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          Of course the SAVE study isn’t capable of distinguishing “falsely accused of abuse in a custody battle” and “honestly accused of abuse in a custody battle and I don’t believe the allegations because the person is my friend.”

          Report comment

        • Bish says:

          I noted in my other post that the SAVE study is self-reported, but thanks for the additional clarification so nobody gets confused.

          Report comment

        • I get the impression that some false accusations (maybe especially by younger women) are motivated by some combination of spite and the desire for havoc– they did want to hurt the man, but they honestly had no idea of how much damage they were going to cause.

          Report comment

      • Gunlord says:

        I’ve wondered if you’re having been terrified about the possibility of engaging in non-consensual sex is connected to finding that polyamory is boring– being careful about consent makes drama less likely.

        Are you asking this of me, personally, or Scott? I’m not part of the polyamory scene and I don’t actually know much about it. In my case, just going off what I’ve heard, it seems too drama-laden for me, but I dunno how many other people feel the same.

        Report comment

      • a person says:

        I think it’s kind of shitty and a double standard how on the one hand people respond with the furious indignation of a thousand suns when you suggest that women are more likely to get raped if they’re getting drunk and flirting with lots of guys at parties, but we shrug and say that men are just sort of expected to never get drunk and hook up with girls at parties if they don’t want to get falsely accused. If you’re part of a culture where this is the normal beginning of the courtship process, sorry!

        Report comment

        • Gunlord says:

          I think it’s a silly double standard myself. If any woman were to ask me for advice, I’d tell her to avoid drinking and hanging around a lot of drunk guys. Just a gender-flipped version of what I’d tell a man: Avoid drinking and hanging around a lot of drunk women if you don’t want to get falsely accused. No furious indignation either way for me, though I don’t generally do indignation anyways.

          Report comment

        • Scott says:

          I think this is more than adequately explained by the kind of “dentologist libertarian” view of free will as discussed
          here. We tend to view people as having magical free will, and those who use it for evil are at their core evil people.

          So the woman who gets drunk and flirts is not exercising her free will to get raped; while the man who gets drunk and thinks consent doesn’t matter IS exercising his free will to rape.

          Then you simply condemn the evil people and agree with the good people.

          Report comment

    • Edward says:

      “I mean, just off the top of my head, I’d be willing to wager that a disproportionate number of black men have been falsely accused of rape historically, in the U.S. at least.”

      This appears to be very true if we look at forcible rape stats going back to the 1980′s. At one point black men were half of all men accused with a mere 12% of the male population. Fast forward to today where 2/3′s of men accused are white. What the heck happened in between? Were black men on this massive rape binge or did racism play a big role in these accusations coming to the fore?

      I think the answer is obvious. You don’t see flips in disparities like that many places but it definitely suggest some serious racial bias in historic rape arrests that still persist today. I say this because actual studies on rape don’t point to any substantial gap in perpetration. Black women for example are only slightly more likely than white women to be raped in their lifetime. The numbers don’t add up. Other than that the highest rate of interracial rape is found on reservations where non native mostly white men go to rape native women because those rape cases had to be handled by slower and far less likely to prosecute federal courts. These women had a 70% non native perpetrator rate. Like most crime rape is mostly a in group phenomenon.

      According to RAAIN:

      “All women: 17.6%
      White women: 17.7%
      Black women: 18.8%
      Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
      American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
      Mixed race women: 24.4%”

      Then you have the arrest stats:

      “In 1980 the numbers of forcible rape arrests of whites and of blacks were nearly equal, being 51% and 47% of all forcible rape arrests respectively. In 1980, these counts translated into a black forcible rape arrest rate that was 7 times greater than the white arrest rate. From 1980 to 2009, the black forcible rape arrest rate declined 70%, the AIAN
      rate declined 67%, and the API rate declined 61%. In contrast, between 1980 and 2009 the white arrest rate for forcible rape declined 31%. As a result, by 2009 the black arrest rate for forcible rape had fallen to 3 times
      the white arrest rate. In 2009, 66% of all arrests for forcible rape involved whites and 31% involved blacks.”

      http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/aus8009.pdf

      Report comment

      • Gunlord says:

        Just the stats I was looking for, thanks Edward. I’m surprised at what seems to be the extremely high rate (24.4%, second only to Native American women) rape rate for “mixed race” women. Do they break that category down for black-white, Asian-white, Black-Asian, and other racial combinations and so on?

        Report comment

  4. Andy says:

    I posted this to Facebook with the line, “Arguments like Clymer’s are like sending soldiers into battle with tissue paper for armor – the people who do try to justify rape will pounce on them as an excuse to tear feminism apart.” Because I believe feminism deserves better than bad arguments. Thanks for writing this, Scott.

    Report comment

    • Randall Randall says:

      That sounds remarkably like linking to this post with “These are the sorts of arguments anti-feminists make,” which I assume is not the way you meant it, given your thanking of Scott.

      Report comment

      • Andy says:

        I want my side – the side of feminism and justice – to win this very very very long argument. And I want people who try to justify or dismiss rape to lose. But my side won’t have a chance to win if bad arguments are used. Bad arguments, repeated over and over with all the zeal of of a protest chant, are like human-wave attacks against machine-gun trenches in WW1. Thus, my side needs some [i]better arguments[/i]. And unfortunately, I think the only way to get the arguments to improve is to tear down the bad arguments my side makes.
        …I hope that makes sense outside my own tiny skull.

        Report comment

        • suntzuanime says:

          I wish what you were saying were true. I fear that you are rationalizing due to the Just World fallacy, though. Bad arguments shouldn’t win, that would be just too horrible to bear, but history shows over and over that they do.

          The value of making good arguments, AFAICT, is that it’s harder to make them in the service of evil. So if you are misguided into thinking the side of feminism is the same as the side of justice, scrupulously making only good arguments will limit the damage you do.

          Report comment

        • Andy says:

          I know that the world is not just, and I try to avoid the Just World Fallacy, but I cling to the naive hope that we can, with enough effort and intelligence and compassion.

          Report comment

        • Andrew says:

          Do you think that there is actually an argument about whether rape is OK? Do you think that’s an actual issue?

          The actual political issue has to do with social attitudes regarding burden of proof, assumption of guilt or innocence, and so on — in legal contexts, in “quasi-legal” contexts (like college policies), and in social mores. In this actual political issue, there is a genuine conflict of interest between men and women, which has to be carefully balanced, not “won” by one side or the other. Trying to frame the matter as a battle between “justice” on one side, and thus injustice on the other, strikes me as a disastrous distortion (and actually, since you mention it — a pretty bad argument, in terms of rationality if not effectiveness).

          Just to be clear, though — is “your side,” as you conceive of it, one that says “always believe the [alleged] victim”?

          Report comment

  5. Elissa says:

    I think you got your numbers wrong on lifetime risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident. Best I can figure out it’s over 1%.

    Report comment

  6. Patrick Robotham says:

    “(note that this is the most conservative possible estimate, using exactly the same numbers as in the article but not lying about what math we’re doing. But the article got 1/750,000. So the absolute lower bound for how wrong the article was is “wrong by a factor of 2,300x”)”

    Wouldn’t the most conservative estimate used the lowest estimate? (i.e. 2.1%, not 8%)

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I guess, but I wanted to stick to the article’s own methodology. If you switch it to 2%, the article’s wrong by a factor of 600x, which is still bad, and it only gets that high by coincidence and because we’re giving it more slack than it gives itself.

      Report comment

      • Patrick Robotham says:

        Well the article is obviously sensationalist rubbish. I have no interest in defending the article. I want to understand your math.

        I must also confess to be confused by the step where you multiplied the false rape accusation rate by 5, which I’ve quoted below. My comments are in [square brackets].

        What about a slightly less hyperconservative estimate? Continuing our conservative assumption that there has never been a false accuser who has not later confused [should this be confessed?], but allowing that false accusations reach the police at only the same rate that rapes do [I'm confused about this step, why does it lead to an increase of 400%?], 1.5% of men will get falsely accused.

        Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Only 1/5 of rapes are reported to the police (source: RAINN, others), so if false accusations are reported to the police at the same rate as true accusations, then the number of total false accusations equals the number of false accusations reported to police * 5.

          Report comment

    • ESRogs says:

      Came to the comments to say this as well. I felt unnerved when the “most conservative possible estimate” didn’t use the most conservative numbers from just a few paragraphs before.

      Still though, fantastic article! I thought the conclusion was especially good.

      Report comment

  7. Patrick Robotham says:

    Thank you for clarifying.

    This assumption about “unreported false accusations” does not strike me as plausible.

    In the first case, an “unreported false accusation” is kind of a bizarre category. I can think of two things it could mean: 1. A falsified police report, 2. defamation.

    In the first case, these accusations are on police files, while unreported rapes are not. An accusation that is false but ‘unreported’ is surely just a false positive, so in effect you’ve multiplied the “true rate of fraudulent accsuations” by 5 and thus asserted that the real rate of false accusations is 40%, while still calling it 8% (which you then double to 80%, calling it 16%).

    This would be an uncharitable interpretation, so I’ll move onto sense 2. This is a little bit less implausible, but still kind of weird. There are a lot of reasons why somebody who’s been raped would not want to go to the police (e.g. fear of slut-shaming) that don’t apply to defamation. See http://pervocracy.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/why-i-didnt-just-call-cops.html for the kind of thing I’m talking about.

    I feel like I’ve missed a category here, but I don’t think that false accusations have the same “unknown unknown” problem of under-reporting as other crimes do, since they’re not completely private by their very nature.

    Report comment

    • Bish says:

      By “unreported false accusation,” I thought Scott was referring to accusations that were unreported to the police (for reasons that he and Pervocracy discuss) but instead reported to college authorities or spread in public or in the community.

      Report comment

  8. fubarobfusco says:

    3% of men are falsely accused of rape. 15% of women are raped. If someone you know gets accused of rape, your prior still is very very high that they did it.

    According to Lisak & Miller’s 2002 “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists”, 6.4% of sampled college men admit to having committed or attempted to commit rape, and 4% have done so repeatedly. Repeat rapists account for a disproportionate number of rapes, though, so we should expect a lot fewer rapists than victims. (Also note that Lisak & Miller’s sample excluded anyone who has actually been prosecuted, to say nothing of convicted.)

    Taking all these numbers at face value, if someone you know is accused of rape, your prior is upwards of 2:1 that they did it. (Also that if they did, it’s probably not the only time.)

    One piece of evidence to look for is the accused’s history regarding violence. In Lisak & Miller’s sample, single-act rapists commit about twice as many non-rape violent acts as non-rapists do; and repeat rapists commit ten times as much non-rape violence as non-rapists.

    There is a traditional standard of evidence in criminal law, Blackstone’s ratio: “The law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This implicitly recommends odds of 10:1 or better before society should impose criminal penalties, which in Blackstone’s day commonly meant hanging. (Benjamin Franklin upped the odds to 100:1.)

    We might wonder what odds are appropriate before a social circle, college, or other group of people should impose penalties such as social exclusion, which may be taken as somewhat milder than hanging. We might also consider that failing to exclude a true rapist from one’s social circle may well have the effect of excluding the victim: we may not have the choice to exclude nobody, but must choose between them. The same may apply in educational settings, where a true victim may choose to drop out or transfer rather than remain near their assailant.

    Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      On the other hand, we should also consider that having an “always believe the accuser and automatically exclude the accused” rule gives an enormous blackmailing power to the potential accusers.

      As an illustration from my own life: Once (not in college) a married woman tried to blackmail me into relationship, saying that if I refuse to have a relationship with her, she will tell her husband that I tried to seduce her, and presumably her husband will harm me. She didn’t use the rape accusation threat specifically, but a different person in a similar situation could have. (I refused; among other reasons because I have a strong policy about not negotiating with blackmailers.)

      Now imagine what would happen if instead she was my classmate at the college, and could make an accusation against me, which would automatically result in my exclusion and her anonymity would be protected. Of course if she would get a dozen guys excluded this way, someone probably would become suspicious. But if they all complied with her requests, no one else would suspect an abuse of the system. (She would also have an option of not following her threats on the guys who don’t comply, or only let exclude one of them as a warning for others.)

      The problem is, if you allow this kind of power to be used, some people will use it. They may be a small minority, but they can use it repeatedly.

      Report comment

      • ozymandias says:

        Of course, “have sex with me or I’ll get you expelled” is rape. (The situation’s more complicated if you’re male, because sometimes it’s only rape if you were penetrated, but it’s at least classified as sexual assault.) What happens if you accuse her of rape/sexual assault and she counteraccuses you? They expel both of you?

        Report comment

  9. The thing that I see as the next phase is that sexual assault by women against men and boys is going to get taken seriously. If I’m right, things are about to get a lot more complicated.

    Report comment

  10. Bish says:

    Good post.

    For another line of research on false accusations, see SAVE’s large community telephone survey which found that around 10% of people report being falsely accused of abuse:

    http://www.saveservices.org/falsely-accused/survey/results/

    This study is self-report, so it’s plausible that some people are falsely reporting a a false accusation. But, as feminists prefer to do with survivors, I think we should believe people who claim to be victims unless we have reasons not to. After all, a false accusation is a form of abuse.

    The study found that 17% of respondents know someone who was falsely accused of abuse, and that 39% of those accusations were of sexual abuse. These results mean that 6.6% of people know someone who says they were falsely accused of sexual abuse. Given that some of those people will know the same victims of false accusations, and that not all sexual abuse accusations are of rape, we would have to discount that figure to speculate at the number of false accusations of rape. If we discount it by a factor of 5 or 10, we are right in your ballpark estimate of 0.3-3%.

    Report comment

  11. ozymandias says:

    I am concerned about false rape accusations!

    Here’s why: there is one group of people who is *really interested* in punishing their partners for leaving them, in preventing their partners from leaving them in the first place, and in isolating their partners from their entire social group. That group of people is “abusers.” I think we should be really cautious before we say “it is a moral requirement for you to abandon your friends if someone says the sentence ‘this person raped me,’” because that is an incredibly potent tool for abusive people to use, and ideally our anti-abuse activism should not give abusive people more ability to hurt their victims. (Don’t even talk to me about sending all accused abusers or rapists to jail.)

    And of course in the real world very few people believe all survivors; they believe the person with social power, which is a lot of times the abusive person, because a lot of abusers are really charming and manipulative people.

    I am not sure if this is a solvable problem. Actually, the more I read about rape, the more I think it is a completely unsolvable set of problems and we are pretty much doomed to have 1 in 6 women be raped forever.

    Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey, there’s always 殺殺殺殺殺殺殺.

      Edit: to be less snide, I feel like the modern social atomization that the Reactionaries always rail against might actually be a good thing in this regard. If “society” is split into countless individuals, there’s no more social power for abusers to abuse. It’s no big deal to abandon a “friend” or two if all interpersonal interaction is fluid and stateless anyway.

      Report comment

    • I am not sure if this is a solvable problem. Actually, the more I read about rape, the more I think it is a completely unsolvable set of problems and we are pretty much doomed to have 1 in 6 women be raped forever.

      We might start to get some solutions when all people who want to start carrying with them wearable (or implantable) electronics that as a default record everything that happens to them. And additionally institute very harsh punishments for those rapes for which there is very strong evidence.

      Report comment

    • Fnord says:

      Given the tendency of both rapists and abusers to be repeat offenders, it seems like paying attention to patterns might be the way to deal with this.

      The “Abigail accused Bob of rape; I don’t know what to make of it, but just be aware” is useful information to have even you don’t (and can’t) act on it immediately. Because it then lets you update if Caroline accuses Bob. If we can actually withhold judgment without stigmatizing accusers, because obviously this doesn’t work if victims are shamed into keeping it secret.

      Report comment

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        > The “Abigail accused Bob of rape; I don’t know what to make of it, but just be aware” is useful information to have even you don’t (and can’t) act on it immediately. Because it then lets you update if Caroline accuses Bob.

        One failure mode here, of course, is if Abigail and Caroline are conspiring together against Bob. Another failure mode is if Bob is just an incredibly low-status person, and Abagail and Caroline are both the sort of people that prey on low-status victims. This can VERY easily happen, for example, if Bob has Asperger’s, and Abagail accuses Bob of rape because he’s an easy target. Since accusing Bob of rape makes it more likely that future claims of rape are treated as accurate (by the mechanism you just described), Caroline now sees Bob as an even EASIER target than Abagail did.

        One good heuristic to follow, that regrettably is almost guaranteed NOT to be followed, is “look at the relative social power between accuser and accused.” If the accused has more social power than the accuser, it’s probably better to err on the assumption that the accuser is telling the truth. If the accuser has more social power than the accused, then it’s more plausible that the accusation is simply a vehicle for abuse.

        Of course, this is the OPPOSITE of how people actually tend to behave in these situations, because of multiple well-known cognitive biases (the “halo effect” being one big one that comes to mind).

        To TL;DR this:

        > Given the tendency of both rapists and abusers to be repeat offenders, it seems like paying attention to patterns might be the way to deal with this.

        It is very important to distinguish patterns that we see from patterns that we project.

        Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          A really common way around “look at the relative social power” norms is for people to assume that whoever they like is the weaker person in the situation. This happens a lot with disabled men IME: lots of people enjoy being like “I don’t like disabled men, therefore they are exercising their male privilege and social power over me, therefore it is correct and feminist of me to hate them.”

          Report comment

        • nydwracu says:

          Social power isn’t necessarily objective, but I’m not quite sure how to state what you’re getting at to take that into account. Look at the relative social power difference as the accuser would perceive it… no, that fails the Duke test. Look at the relative social power difference as the accuser’s target audience would perceive it (as the accuser would perceive their target audience would perceive it?) — that at least doesn’t fail the Duke test, I think.

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Just because the rule gets the wrong answer in a particular case doesn’t mean it’s bad rule. Moreover, national news examples where our actions don’t matter are systematically different from examples that we encounter personally, where we may really need to choose sides. So I don’t think that the Duke example tells us much.

          Report comment

        • Watercressed says:

          >One good heuristic to follow, that regrettably is almost guaranteed NOT to be followed, is “look at the relative social power between accuser and accused.” If the accused has more social power than the accuser, it’s probably better to err on the assumption that the accuser is telling the truth. If the accuser has more social power than the accused, then it’s more plausible that the accusation is simply a vehicle for abuse.

          How do you know this?

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Replying to myself since we’re at the bottom quote depth:

          >> One good heuristic to follow, that regrettably is almost guaranteed NOT to be followed, is “look at the relative social power between accuser and accused.” If the accused has more social power than the accuser, it’s probably better to err on the assumption that the accuser is telling the truth. If the accuser has more social power than the accused, then it’s more plausible that the accusation is simply a vehicle for abuse.

          > How do you know this

          It’s a matter of probabilities and consequences.

          1. A powerful person has more reason to believe that they can get away with accusing a weak person, which lowers the threshold that they might do so without worrying about being questioned.

          2. A weak person has less reason to believe that they can get away with accusing a strong person, which raises the threshold that they might do so – making it more likely that they’ll only do so when something is actually going on.

          3. A strong person can survive a false accusation more than a weak person, so the consequences of believing a false accusation will be far more devastating if the accused is socially weak than if the accused is socially strong.

          4. Plenty of psychological studies have shown that the strong tend to prey on the weak; I can’t think of many that show a tendency for the weak to prey on the strong.

          5. The halo effect tends to push people’s priors erroneously towards believing that socially powerful people are less likely to rape and less likely to falsely accuse rape than is factual, and to believing that socially weak people are more likely to rape and more likely to falsely accuse rape than is factual. Therefore, if it is claimed that a socially powerful person raped a socially weak person, I have a known bias against believing it; likewise, if it is claimed that a socially weak person raped a socially powerful person, I have a known bias against disbelieving it. The process I described attempts to correct for that bias.

          Report comment

      • Ampersand says:

        Given the tendency of both rapists and abusers to be repeat offenders, it seems like paying attention to patterns might be the way to deal with this.

        More than one federal survey has found that having been raped or abused once makes it more likely one will be raped or abused again. So if your implication is *** that if someone has a “pattern” of making rape accusations (how many makes a pattern?), we could infer from that that she’s a serial false accuser, then I don’t think that’s a safe assumption even on its face.

        If Lisak is correct that rapists purposely seek out vulnerable people as victims, then that one person could be unlucky enough to be sought out by more than one rapist is not unlikely. Have you read Uli Lust’s autobiographical graphic novel “Today Is The Last Day Of The Rest Of Your Life?” It’s anecdotal, of course, but a good example of a realistic account of being targeted by multiple rapists because one is an easy target.

        (***I’m not sure that is what you were implying, though.)

        Report comment

    • Konkvistador says:

      We reduce the genetic fitness of rape. That is what most helped reduce violence.

      Report comment

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        > We reduce the genetic fitness of rape. That is what most helped reduce violence.

        Indeed; making contraceptives freely available should lower the incidence reasonably quickly, and I believe there are studies that bear this out.

        Report comment

      • Mike Blume says:

        Can’t tell whether your hidden assumption is “humans actually track/are motivated by genetic fitness” or “biology will be running the show long enough that if we do this, eventually rapist genes will be selected out of the population”. I’m skeptical of both, but especially the latter.

        Report comment

        • Randy M says:

          Actually it sounds like he is suggesting that the latter has already happened. If so, I wonder when this effect is suggested to have begun? And does it take into account rape during war?

          Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      > I am not sure if this is a solvable problem. Actually, the more I read about rape, the more I think it is a completely unsolvable set of problems and we are pretty much doomed to have 1 in 6 women be raped forever.

      Well, once it’s widespread for people to have camera implants (possibly in the form of cybernetic eye implants, but any device that is always-on, records video, and can’t be easily removed will do), it should become quite difficult to rape people without a great deal of effort.

      Report comment

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Well, once it’s widespread for people to have camera implants (possibly in the form of cybernetic eye implants, but any device that is always-on, records video, and can’t be easily removed will do), it should become quite difficult to rape people without a great deal of effort.

        Or alternatively, culture will shift so that certain people become acceptable targets for rape, and even if they record the event the general social response will range from indifference towards the victim to praise for the attacker.

        Universal compassion doesn’t *have* to be a thing, you know.

        Report comment

  12. Segarra says:

    My pal advisable I’d like this web-site. He ended up being totally proper. This particular submit in fact created my personal evening. You should not consider simply how much time period I needed spent with this data! Appreciate it!

    Report comment

  13. apparently_not_average says:

    Honestly I’m sure this is an awesome piece but I got to the part about the average man having sex 99 times a year, felt very inadequate, and stopped reading.

    Report comment

    • Earnest_Peer says:

      That number is from the same article as “you are more likely to be hit by a comet than to be accused of rape”, and is as ridiculous as all the other numbers in there. In fact, it’s one of the numbers the article needed to make up to get the false accusation number even lower. Pay no heed to it.

      Report comment

      • Andy says:

        It’s one sex act (which is how I read it) for every 3 or 4 days. And depending on how you count (having sex, taking a cuddle-nap, and then having sex again might count as 2 sex acts) For someone in a steady sexual relationship with someone I don’t see a lot of (she has school, I have school) this number actually sounded plausible interpreted this way. And the populations that are most likely to be falsely accused of rape, frankly, have a lot more sex than I do.

        Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I wish I lived in Charles Clymer’s world, where no one ever gets falsely accused of things and you get to have sex ninety-nine times a year.

      Report comment

  14. houseboatonstyx says:

    It is commonly said that a lie will get halfway across the world before the truth can get its boots on. And this is true. Except in the feminist blogosphere, where a lie will get to Alpha Centauri and back three times while the truth is locked up in a makeshift dungeon in the basement, screaming.

    Maybe I missed an earlier segment explaining the criteria for being included in the ‘feminist blogosphere’, and the Sturgeon’s Factor for blogs (or blogospheres) in general.

    Report comment

  15. Sig says:

    No one knows the rate of false accusations, because only the Kanin study tried to get the actual rate. The other studies make no attempt to root out undetected false accusations.

    It looks to be around 8% confirmed, with a further 15% in innocent convictions, but we have no way of telling the real number, unless we use a system like Kanins on a large population.

    To say false accusations are rare is a nonsense. I’ve been falsely accused of DV, and have been falsely accused of misogny, things relating to rape and wife beating more times than I can count.

    Go to see the Warren Farrell protest in Toronto vid on youtube to see organised mass false accusations relating to rape and incest made against a man who has being having these accusations made against him for decades.

    So the chances of being falsely accused are far greater than those of being raped or any of the exampls given in that article.

    Report comment

    • ozymandias says:

      …Aren’t the accusations made about Warren Farrell about incest, like, “Warren Farrell gave an interview to Penthouse in which he said that parents having sex with their children was often a pleasant and enjoyable experience for both parties, especially mothers having sex with their sons”? That seems importantly different from being accused of actually committing incest and, more importantly, actually true.

      Report comment

      • Sig says:

        No. Thats just the false accusation the feminists circulated about him.

        He said in playboy affection between fathers and daughters is lost and taboo, men are afraid to be affectionate with their daughters because of pedo and incest hysteria. He right, I have a daughter and I used to get dirty and accusing looks from women, just because I was affectionate with her.

        The other accusation is to do with the fact he did research on incest and reported the findings that there were people with negative experiences of it, and people with positive experiences of it.

        This was twisted to mean that he was pro incest.

        These false accusations are designed to discredit and silence. People in the mens movement, are falsely accused of things relating to sex criminality and the like all the time.

        Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          But he *did* say– and this is agreed upon by MRAs and feminists– that many experiences of incest are positive, that much of the problems are related to an incest taboo and not to incest itself which is why we should get rid of the incest taboo, and “I’m not recommending incest between parent and child, and especially not between father and daughter. The great majority of fathers can grasp the dynamics of positive incest intellectually. But in a society that encourages looking at women in almost purely sexual terms, I don’t believe they can translate this understanding into practice.”

          I feel like “incest apologist” is, in fact, a reasonable characterization of the article in question.

          Report comment

        • grendelkhan says:

          “The other accusation is to do with the fact he did research on incest and reported the findings that there were people with negative experiences of it, and people with positive experiences of it.”

          That’s a very charitable way of looking at it. Here he is defending his work as being the product of a new researcher, but he seemed to be much more willing to take fathers’ word for it that their experience with incest was positive than daughters’ word for it that it wasn’t. That’s kind of creepy. (It makes sense that abusers would be happier about an experience than their victims, wouldn’t it?) Furthermore, it reads as creepy to me in a way that Rind et al. didn’t.

          Maybe you get creeped-out looks from people because you’re (assuming you’re on board with Farrell here) the sort of person who holds beliefs about how having sex with your daughter might be a good experience for both of you? I suppose it would depend on how vocal you are about that.

          Report comment

      • grendelkhan says:

        I think the ones about Warren Farrell and rape are way more interesting. Here’s Farrell writing about “date fraud” and “date lying”:

        If a man ignoring a woman’s verbal “no” is committing date rape, then a woman who says “no” with her verbal language but “yes” with her body language is committing date fraud. And a woman who continues to be sexual even after she says “no” is committing date lying.

        For some exciting concept-rhyming, here’s a quote from Ryan (2004), “Further evidence for a cognitive component of rape”, doi:10.1016/j.avb.2003.05.001, quoting an imprisoned rapist who had abducted and raped a teenager who was out for a walk:

        When you take a woman out, woo her, and then she says ‘no, I’m a nice girl,’ you have to use force. All men do this. She said ‘no’ but it was a societal ‘no,’ she wanted to be coaxed. All women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’ but it’s a societal ‘no’ so they won’t have to feel responsible later.

        There’s a testable theory here, that we’re accidentally overcounting rape because people frequently put up token resistance. This is unlikely; here’s a long, long thread in which I went into some details.

        Short version: Farrell held (and so far as I can tell, continues to hold and promulgate) incorrect and actively harmful ideas about rape. This makes people really angry, hence the protests in Toronto. (Which, because I keep being accused of this, I’ll say I don’t support, any more than I support shouting down Ann Coulter.)

        Funny thing about the protests; afterwards, in an attempt to shuffly off of the moral high ground as quickly as possible, the folks at A Voice for Men proceeded to publicly proclaim their intent to dox and vaguely threaten someone who was involved in the protest: “<a href="We have her image and know her general location. We will identify her and profile her activity and name for public view. We will not stop there, or just with her. And while we will not publish our complete intent, we are dogged in our efforts.”

        I wish the Men’s Rights folks provided better opposition for feminism. This just comes off as cartoony-villainy.

        Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’m afraid that my views on the subject will offend both the Social Justice warriors and the redpillers, but here goes.

          At core, I think we’re having trouble because we want “consent” to be a clear, cut-and-dry thing, when it can’t be. Consent is an aspect of human social communication and behavior, and so there’s invariably going to be a lot of ambiguity. If someone isn’t 100% sure they want to do something, but they decide to do it anyways, did they consent? If so, at what threshold of “I’m not sure” is it no longer consensual? What if they regret it afterwards? What if, afterwards, their memory says they were less sure than they would have answered at the time? When they wake up the next morning, the actual events of the previous night are gone; all that remains are the memories and evidence, which do not accurately capture internal mental states.

          Moreso, we have a collective social interest in keeping consent ambiguous. On the whole, we WANT high-status men to get away with raping low-status women; we also want to punish low-status men for having sex with high-status women. That’s going to mean adjusting the threshold for “consent” up or down based on the perceived relative status of the alleged perpetrator and victim.

          From my perspective, there is a grain of truth to “women are trained to put up token resistance, which men are expected to push through to get what they want”. The problem is that the amount of resistance that men are expected to honor vs. the amount they’re expected to push through varies based on the relative status of the man and woman involved, the nuances of the social environment they find themselves in, and the whim of their subconsciouses. The only two choices a man really has are to never try, or to accept that he has an unknown level of risk and proceed regardless. And it’s not the woman’s fault, because she doesn’t know the answer any more than he does – the ultimate decision of whether a sex act was ‘really rape-rape’ or not is not up to her, or him; it’s up to the collective judgment of society after-the-fact. Once that judgment is made, the narrative solidifies into always-was-her-fault-shame-the-slut / always-was-rape-kill-the-bastard.

          You can get a good sense of all this if you ever respond to a Social Justice person’s spiel with “can we dissolve the word ‘rape’ please? I need to understand what concrete acts and consequences we’re discussing, here.” You can also get a reasonable sense of this if you ever ask a redpill-brand PUA to give you his definition of what ‘rape’ is.

          To wax Hansonian, we require a certain amount of hypocrisy and ambiguity in our definitions of ‘rape’ and ‘consent’ and ‘free will’ if we’re going to continue to enforce our social hierarchies, and asking humans to stop enforcing their social hierarchies just gets them to shift the enforcement somewhere new.

          Report comment

        • From memory: Clarisse Thorn said that some one in ten people (both men and women) prefer sex that looks like rape– no overt consent. She tried to figure out how both they and the majority can get what they want, but I don’t think she came to any conclusions.

          If she’s right– and she seems like a person who at least tries to pay attention– then then accurate communication is made more difficult by having a significant number of people who don’t want overt communication.

          Report comment

        • grendelkhan says:

          In the thread linked above, I went into a bit more detail. There’s remarkable coherence between people who say that they raped someone (though you have to taboo the word ‘rape’) and people who say that they were raped.

          The idea that rapists don’t know that they’re committing rape is unlikely (they generally wouldn’t say ‘rape’; they’d say they ‘had sex with someone even thought they didn’t want them to’). It is unlikely that this is a result of miscommunication; for example, men (at least American men) put up token resistance more often than women, but men aren’t victimized more than women.

          And though women there are reported to “say yes when they meant no”, it’s widely understood that people will usually not just say no; refusals are given through a variety of signaling mechanisms, which are quite straightforward to read.

          In short, it sure looks like people generally know whether or not someone else wants to have sex with them, and claims to the contrary don’t seem consilient with the way people communicate with each other when they’re not having sex.

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          The correct link is this.

          Report comment

    • Bish says:

      So the chances of being falsely accused are far greater than those of being raped or any of the exampls given in that article.

      Although I believe that false accusations of rape towards men are undercounted, men being raped is also undercounted. It’s most likely that men face a higher rate of rape than of false accusations of rape.

      Report comment

      • Sig says:

        I don’t think so.

        Its true there are many men in the movement that have experienced abusive partners, many that would qualify as having been raped where they women answering a survey.

        But the accusations relating to rape and so on are non stop. MRAs tend to hide their identities for fear of accusations.

        My own false accusation, was more traumatic than any negative sexual experience I have had. This would also explain why false accusations are a big deal, the trauma and fear of basically being kidnapped, state violence leveled at you, losing your job, your reputation, education perhaps, losing your kids, being on a list for ever, being among the most hated people in society, if you do go to prison you might be raped repeatedly or murdered, you could be harmed or murdered by vigilantes outside prison.

        False accusations are generally more serious than rapes. I would imagine there is more damage from false accusations in the mens movement, than there is damage from rape.

        Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          But the majority of false rape accusations, one assumes, do not go to police. They involve losing one’s friends group, which is also a common consequence of being a rape survivor.

          I don’t think comparing trauma is ethical– for some people, a false rape accusation is more traumatizing than a rape; for others, a rape is more traumatizing. There is no such thing as an objective scale of how traumatizing experiences are. However, given the caveats, I would think for most people a false rape accusation not reported to police is less traumatizing than a rape not reported to police.

          I would also like to encourage you to think about the ways that seeming to minimize the trauma of rape makes your movement alienating to male rape survivors. I have been in contact with many male rape survivors who say the MRA movement is deeply unsafe to them for exactly this reason. (The feminist movement is not much better. Being a male rape survivor is lonely.)

          Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Oh god, now we’re counting false accusations of misogyny? Is there anyone who hasn’t gotten one of those?

      I agree there’s room for the false accusation rate to be much higher than 3%. What holds me back from making stronger claims is that I feel like there would be broader social consequences if that were the case. If (let’s say) 20% of men had been falsely accused of rape, I feel like it would have made it into the culture enough that there would be TV shows about it, books about it, huge support groups, and men’s rights movements at least as large as feminist movements that can get way more than just a couple of scattered discontents.

      Report comment

      • Atreic says:

        Two points:

        1) I think the concept of a ‘false accusation of misogyny’ is hazy and unhelpful, because of definitions TM. I mean, everyone has hit arguments where one person says ‘I’m not a misogynist, I just think that we have to consider $thing’ (where $thing might be rights of the foetus, or biological differences between men and women) and the other person says ‘anyone who believes $thing _is_ a misogynist’. It’s hard enough to talk about rape, where there’s a legal definition – the axiomatic differences in whether a belief is fundamentally misogynist make me think that any sort of ‘I have been falsely accused of misogyny’ conversation can’t really go anywhere.

        2) I read a really interesting (but can’t find it now, and think it was friendslocked) post on LJ, about how disproportionately many of the texts we use to teach high school students _did_ have as their main plot a false accusation of rape. I can’t remember all the examples, [apologies for the spoilers, but they're really famous books!] but Of Mice and Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird were the two that stuck with me.

        Report comment

        • Atreic says:

          TV Tropes has a few, but not a huge number, for what it’s worth. Although it’s clearly incomplete, because I have a vague memory that at least one Jodi Picoult was a false-accusation did-he-didn’t-he plot, and I can’t spot that there.

          Report comment

  16. Benquo says:

    Good to know I was right and this is bullshit.

    Claim #5, “Men 82,000x More Likely to Be Raped”, seemed off. I didn’t have time to look up the underlying figures so I did a quick sanity check. I looked up the % of reported rapes than happen to men (about 10%). And the % of reported rapes where a man is accused (about 100%). And the % of rape reports that are false (lots of variance on estimates for this one, as the OP points out, but order of 5% totally false seems like a solid conservative number).

    So, a reported rape is only about twice as likely to have a man as a victim, as it is to falsely name a man as a perpetrator. Not 82,000 times as likely. Off by about a factor of 42,000.

    Report comment

  17. Meg Lankers says:

    American gender-feminists are going to keep perverting American law enforcement until we reach a point where hetero-sexual relationship are a legal liability for guys. Some are saying we are already there.

    Report comment

    • Andy says:

      I’d dispute this. As a young man who’s in a heterosexual relationship, on a college campus filled with feminists, many of whom are in heterosexual relationships…
      Yes, I’ll call bullshit on that prediction.
      A BAD relationship is a legal liability. How to fix that? I have no clue, but we should get working on that. How to fix or safely end bad relationships for both men and women. Difficult. But not impossible.

      Report comment

    • ozymandias says:

      Gender feminist vs. equity feminist are not real categories. “Gender feminist” puts radical feminists and liberal feminists in the same category, despite their major differences in goals, methods, ideology, etc.; “equity feminist,” as far as I can tell, consists solely of Christina Hoff Sommers and her six friends. Just say “feminist.”

      Report comment

      • Konkvistador says:

        This.

        People not separating radical and liberal feminists is a pet peeve of mine as well for the past year. Especially since I find overall the radical feminist model of reality more convincing than the liberal one.

        Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          BRO HAVE YOU READ FIRESTONE YET

          Report comment

        • Konkvistador says:

          Not yet on my reading list.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          OMG if you read Firestone can you post a review somewhere? It would delight me.

          Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          Shit, I’ve been meaning to liveblog it for some time now. I’ll get started as soon as I handle some (uncertain amount of) rl shit.

          Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          Some highlights include:
          - an (IMO) bold and clear-headed biodeterminist spin on Marxist historical materialism in analyzing women’s inequality
          - an engaging brief history of American feminism
          - an interesting feminist reinterpretation of Freud, trying to make his narrative of family relations clearer and more grounded
          - a sharp deconstruction of childhood, romantic love and commercialized sexuality, as very recent additions in the evolution of patriarchy
          - some unconvincing white anti-racism, where Firestone views race through the lens of gender, much like the Marxists she criticizes view gender through the lens of economics
          - some feminist analysis of cultural history without the mumbo-jumbo and the vague gender essentialism; Firestone impressively avoids magical reasoning and stretched analogies in explaining how patriarchy relates to cultural progress
          - a cool proto-transhumanist prescriptive bit, as an after-the-revolution maximum programme – rather sensible as Marxist utopias go

          There’s more subjects touched upon, with consistent clarity. Different sections tie well together. And the writing is really enjoyable.

          Report comment

        • Gunlord says:

          Wasn’t Firestone big on artificial wombs? Those are, ironically enough, a manosphere/MRA wet dream.

          Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          Yeah, but the utopian bits seem to be a secondary – if attractive – part of her ideas IMO.

          Report comment

        • Andy says:

          Wasn’t Firestone big on artificial wombs? Those are, ironically enough, a manosphere/MRA wet dream.

          Ironically, I associate artificial wombs most strongly with semi-feminist science fiction by Lois McMaster Bujold. I particularly liked Ethan of Athos, whose main character is an obstetrician on a planet full of men. A hell of an adventure, very fun, but also quite thoughtful.

          Report comment

        • Gunlord says:

          Yes, Ethan of Athos is one of my favorite sci-fi books, actually. IMO it provides a much more interesting look at a woman-free world than any utopian vision I’ve seen from the manosphere.

          Report comment

        • Andy says:

          Yes, Ethan of Athos is one of my favorite sci-fi books, actually.

          Has anyone introduced LMB into the manosphere? She could always use more buyers… :P
          One quote from her, which I’m struggling to find so I can word it exactly, is that new technological advances would get used by different groups in many many many different ways. So her uterine replicator gets used by the Athosians to build their man-planet (Can we call this a manet? Please?) and used by Galactech to cook up the quaddies (before Falling Free) and by the Cetagandans for their really quite interesting eugenics-as-art project, and the Jacksonians for surgical cloning, and a whole bunch of ordinary families for cooking up nice safe gene-cleaned kids. One of the sources of angst for a character later in the series is that her son, born in her own body because it’s cheaper, inherits her husband’s rare genetic disorder, though he later gets it fixed before it can be a problem.

          Report comment

    • Konkvistador says:

      The political incentives for this are certainly there.

      Report comment

  18. Anonymous says:

    Lisak lists seven studies he considers credible, which find false accusation rates of 2.1%, 2.5%, 3.0%, 5.9%, 6.8%, 8.3%, 10.3%, 10.9%. The two with 10%+ mysteriously go missing and thus we get the commonly quoted number of “two to eight percent”, which is repeated by sources as diverse as Alas, A Blog, Slate, and Wikipedia (Straight Statistics keeps the original 2% – 10% number)

    Shouldn’t the range be 2%-11%? Yes, this is thoroughly nitpicky, but I seem to remember looking at these statistics a year or two back and catching myself making the same mistake–lowballing despite myself.

    Report comment

  19. Another glaring discrepancy in Clymer’s ridiculously dishonest analysis of the risk men face is his assumption that false rape accusations only occur in the context of sex that actually occurred. Your own deconstruction of Clymer’s article also does not seem to address this problem.

    While many false accusations stem from actual sexual encounters, there are other cases where the accused had no sexual involvement with the accuser at all. The Duke Lacrosse case was a famous example of this, where no sex, let alone sexual misconduct, occurred but an accusation was made. Another such case is that of Brian Banks, who briefly “made out” with his accuser, but never actually had sexual intercourse with her (her rape kit confirmed this).

    It also does not address cases like this one, where there is no specific target of the accusation.

    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1112/14/ijvm.01.html

    In such cases, men who have done nothing wrong other than be in the vicinity and match the random description given by the accuser can plausibly end up in some serious hot water and lifelong consequences–especially in states where criminal background checks allow employers to see arrests as well as charges and/or convictions.

    You are spot on in your assessment of the majority of the feminist blogosphere caring more about ideological adherence to their dogma that “women just don’t lie about rape” than the truth. This phenomenon is exemplified in Amanda Marcotte’s blog post about Duck Lacrosse after the charges were thrown out. Despite an enormous amount of alibi evidence (including security camera footage), she insisted a bunch of privileged white boys had gotten away with raping a disadvantaged black woman (a woman who, incidentally, went on to commit arson, assault and homicide before the system finally thought it prudent to put a halt to her shenanigans).

    A man need never to have had sex at all, let alone with an accuser, to be falsely accused of rape. The entire basing of a man’s risk on a per sexual encounter basis is fallacious to begin with–as Clymer would know if he’d done the barest amount of research before writing his statistical masterpiece embarrassment.

    Report comment

  20. Douglas Knight says:

    You ask about the rate of false accusations among accusations not reported to the police. Gossip is hard to assess, but one can and does apply the same methodology to reports to school authorities as applied to reports to police, with the same results. Indeed, the paper by Lisak et al that is commonly cited as a survey is nominally about one such study.

    Report comment

  21. J. Quinton says:

    I always wonder about the false positive paradox when I read about the statistics behind rape/false rape accusations…

    Report comment

    • St. Rev says:

      There’s some limited evidence that the false conviction rate for major crimes is astonishingly high. This is based on cases where physical evidence has been preserved and retested with newer technology. Trying to dig up the study I read now.

      Report comment

  22. When you state that only three percent are falsely accused, you incorrectly suggest that 97 percent are actual rapes. No serious or legitimate study has ever said that. Every single study has shown that the majority of rape claims fall into a gray area where no one can say with any sense of conclusiveness whether they were actual, false, mistaken, or mischaracterized claims. Even Dr. Lisak’s study on the subject shows that very thing, and Lisak’s study has been heralded by feminist activists. So if you insist on saying that only three percent are false (actually, it’s more like 8 to 10 percent), you need an asterisk, and you would do well also to state that the percentage of claims that can be definitively classified as rape is not much greater. That’s a fact.

    Report comment

  23. Douglas Knight says:

    3% of men are falsely accused of rape. 15% of women are raped. If someone you know gets accused of rape, your prior still is very very high that they did it.

    That seems like a meaningless comparison to me. Isn’t the relevant comparison the proportion of accusations that are false? (Which was an ingredient in computing the 3% number…)

    Report comment

    • St. Rev says:

      Yeah, that’s a weak comparison for a variety of reasons. Suppose, for example, that one serial rapist is responsible for all rapes in a community containing 1000 men. At a rate of 3%, 30 men will be falsely accused. (It’s probably safe to assume that the one true rapist will be accused many, many times, unless he’s president or something, but the argument is still shaky.)

      Report comment

  24. nydwracu says:

    This Clymer fellow is lucky that I am male. Were I not, poetic justice would find itself delivered.

    Also, unvis.it is a very useful tool these days. It is not realistically possible to hoist the black flag and start slitting the liars’ throats, but it is at least easy to deprive them of a few pennies.

    Report comment

  25. JRM says:

    I’m a prosecutor; lots of good comments here. I note that while I have handled sex crimes cases, I haven’t handled a lot of them. And I speak for myself.

    I agree with Gunlord that some people have much greater risk of being falsely accused of rape. Alcohol’s an issue.

    There are troublesome cases where there are bad decisions made by everyone. Some of those are rapes. Some of those are not rapes. Sorting them out can be difficult.

    Note that things that the police follow up on don’t always end up as charged criminal cases. I have heard prosecutors with the always-believe-the-victim mentality, but that’s pretty rare. There are a subset of cases where it looks like the guy is 70% or so to be good for it, but there’s no way to improve that number; you’ve got what you’ve got. Those cases shouldn’t (and, in my jurisdiction, don’t) get issued.

    There are other, rarer cases which are quite dubious on their face. Every once in a great while, we get an allegation which is provably false. I think people who make deliberately false accusations should get metaphorically lit on fire, but California law is depressingly lenient on false reporters.

    People who make false reports screw up the system, and there are enough of them that caution is warranted. That means a lot of rapists go free. No one (well, almost no one) wants that.

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that feminist blogs are way outside the statistical illiteracy/fictionalization of political blogs generally. My Facebook feed tries to make me stupider every day. This particular post that you dismembered was very special, though. It should get a trophy.

    Report comment

  26. LRS says:

    Satisfying post. Thanks, Scott.

    The “RACE/GENDER/ETC” appears to have birthed a companion “THINGS I WILL REGRET WRITING” tag. I look forward to the day when the latter strikes out on its first adventure independent of the company of the former.

    Report comment

  27. naath says:

    Point 1 – why is it that “being falsely accused of rape” is a hugely terrifying prospect whereas being falsely accused of murder, or theft, or any other crime seems not to be? I suppose it is in part to do with the way that rape cases are widely believed to be badly handled by the criminal justice system, which leads to lower confidence in a “not guilty” verdict.

    Point 2 – you mention suspension-before-investigation as a problem. Now, suppose Alice accuses Bob of raping her; we take this accusation of a serious crime seriously and propose to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. It is clear that no such investigation can be instantaneous. The question arises then “what do we do with Bob whilst we perform this investigation” – we could allow Bob to continue as usual, or we could suspend him, potentially we could arrest him and keep him in custody. Obviously taking any action against Bob at this point risks that you will later find Bob to be entirely innocent and your action unjustly harmed Bob. On the other hand you may later find that Bob is guilty; if you allow Bob to continue as normal you may have allowed Bob to commit more rapes.

    What would you suggest is done with Bob whilst the investigation is carried out?

    I’d like to see some sort of punishment for clear cases of “Alice made all this up” although you’d have to make a stronger case than “we couldn’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that Bob did it” or no-one would ever accuse anyone of rape.

    Report comment

    • Brian Potter says:

      Re: Point 1

      One possible reason, it’s hard to make a credible claim of murder without a body or a disappearance, and it’s hard to make a claiim of theft without being able to demonstrate that you’re missing money. Likewise with other sorts of crime. But a credible claim of rape can be made with little to no physical evidence.

      Report comment

      • I tend to think it’s a combination of a few things:

        1) the fact that sex is a legal act that occurs millions of times a day between people around the world, and one which only becomes illegal because of two people’s states of mind–one person’s lack of consent and the other person’s awareness of their lack of consent–therefore, rape as now defined is a seriously murky act in practical terms. It makes it difficult to prove or disprove.

        2) men really appreciate sex when they are able to get it, in part because of a value differential between male and female sexuality that is partly biological and partly cultural. Female sexuality is something that is extremely highly valued, so valued that cultures have consistently guarded it from “defiling” by men and women alike. Promiscuous women are shamed (mainly by other women) because, essentially, they deflate the value of female sexuality as a whole, and because they are seen as damaging themselves through their behavior. Promiscuous men (contrary to what feminists will tell you) are and have always been subject to social shaming, because they are seen as damaging their sexual partners (think dog, pig, lecher, profligate, debaucher, etc). They have also been subject to some admiration, simply because convincing women to have sex with you without offering anything valuable in return requires skill and charm, even now.

        Consider that up until fairly recently, in many jurisdictions across the west, “seduction” of an unmarried woman was a felony.

        As such, men who rape women are seen as not only assaulting them, but as, in a sense, stealing something from a woman that other men value so highly they have historically promised lifelong material support in order to obtain it.

        3) both men and women, and society as a collective, are hyper-responsive to any harm that befalls women. Consider this quote from an article by Tim Goldich:

        A case in point is provided in an editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof, published June 5, 2005 in the New York Times under the heading, “A Policy of Rape.” Says Kristof, “More than two years after the genocide in Darfur began, the women of Kalma Camp—a teeming squatter’s camp of 110,000 people driven from their burned villages—still face the risk of gang rape every single day as they go out looking for firewood.” Now, of course, this is an abomination that demands attention. It is also an abomination that receives attention. My concern with this article comes from what’s missing—at least up until the very end. “I’m still chilled by the matter-of-fact explanation I received as to why it is women who collect firewood, even though they’re the ones who are raped,” says Kristof. “‘It’s simple,’ one woman here explained. ‘When the men go out, they’re killed. The women are only raped.’”

        Consider this alongside typical feminist “evidence” that women suffer most, such as claims that 80% of people displaced from their homes during war are women and girls. Who bothers to wonder what happened to all the men and boys that didn’t make it to the refugee camps? How many were forcibly conscripted at age 12, or murdered? How many died protecting the women and girls as they fled the conflict? Does anyone care?

        4) there’s no excuse for rape the way there is for homicide or robbery. There’s no self-defence argument. There’s no way to reasonably justify it. As rape used to be defined (sexual violation of a woman by force, where resistance on the part of the woman was required), it is an entirely selfish act. With robbery, one could argue that they need to feed their family, or pay their bills, or whatever. With homicide, one could argue that they were defending themselves, or were so enraged or distressed they didn’t know what they were doing (like a person who walks in on someone beating their kids or something). How does a person justify forcing a woman to have sex?

        While the definition of rape has expanded to include a lot of acts that were not historically defined as rape (in fact, most would have been covered by “seduction” laws), when people hear the word “rape”, most will imagine the “stranger jumping out of the bushes and forcing a woman at knifepoint” kind, not the two people got drunk and disinhibited and made the exact same stupid decision at a bad time kind, and one regretted it more than the other, or the “she was interested but he pushed her boundaries too quickly” kind, or she changed her mind in the middle of things kind. This, I think, is the primary reason why feminists tend to want to call all these things rape rather than sexual assault or sexual misconduct–they are relying on the image of the ugly, mean man with a weapon waiting in a parkade for a vulnerable stranger to generate public horror over all instances of sexual misconduct against women, however ambiguous.

        5) men love and respect women. Even after half a century of feminists telling men, on behalf of all women, that they’re giant assholes, most men love women. When a woman is raped, they think of their mothers, sisters and daughters. Because of this, vigilante justice seems to be more common in cases of sexual violation of women than any other crime–including, insanely, the killing of a woman. For a normal man who would be repulsed and horrified, perhaps to the point of going to prison for a revenge beating or killing, were it to happen to a woman he loves, the idea of being accused of doing that very thing to someone else’s mother, daughter or sister is equally repulsive and horrifying.

        The majority of black men lynched in the US were accused of rape. Tons of the propaganda aimed at getting soldiers to enlist during WWI and WWII focussed on “if we don’t stop them, they’ll come to rape our women”.

        There are men who have hanged themselves after being falsely accused of rape. Not even charged, only accused, and the accuser recanted when it was too late.

        We treat rape (of women) as a uniquely horrific and inexcusable crime. This is a cultural attitude that gives women enormous power to harm men. Is it any wonder that men fear that accusation more than they fear accusations of any other crime?

        Report comment

        • misha says:

          Holy shit this comment is great. One thing I have to add is : This is one of those accusations that’s very hard to be exonerated of. The social sex offender registry is much like the real one: Once you’re on it it’s impossible to get off, and it follows you where ever you go. If a bunch of people heard “Bob raped alice” and then 2 weeks later a subset of those people heard “Alice was just making it up”, the rumor is still going to be out there indefinitely.

          Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I would agree with some of what Karen said below, but mostly it’s that if someone accused me of theft, no one would ever believe them in a million years. It’s not a credible accusation to make against a shy-but-friendly doctor with no criminal history. People would say “I know Scott, he’s not a thief” and that would be the end of it. And they would be absolutely correct, because in fact I am the sort of person who would never steal (except perhaps in situations so dire that I do not expect to get into them).

      With rape, people have been pushing for many years the absolute line that you must never accept “But he’s such a nice guy who would never do a thing like this” as any evidence whatsoever, and in fact if someone says this to feminists this is instantaneous evidence of his guilt. And I understand why that norm developed and is important, but it sure does remove one of the normal failsafes against false accusations. Consider the college administrator in the article who says everyone accused of rape should be expelled without exception. Can you imagine someone saying that about theft accusations?

      So the main reason I worry more about rape than theft is that one accusation would get laughed at and forgotten, and the other would follow me forever.

      But yeah, what Karen said is good too.

      As for point 2, I don’t think I mention what you think I mention. I totally agree that people accused of crimes should in many cases be suspended before being investigated. In fact, I have previously blogged about how important it is that police officers get suspended for suspected abuse. I’m not sure why you think I’m claiming the opposite. Perhaps you are thinking of the college administrator link, but I interpreted it as her saying that people should be automatically expelled permanently and there should be no investigation.

      Report comment

  28. Gunlord says:

    I’d like to see some sort of punishment for clear cases of “Alice made all this up”

    I’ve heard that in at least some cases, a false accusation of rape may count as libel or at least slander, and the false accuser can be made to pay if you can prove you suffered damages (loss of a job, etc.) as a result. Take a look at this:

    http://www.personalinjurylawyer.com/legal-advice/false-rape-accusation-defamation.htm

    Yeah, I know, never take free legal advice off the Internet, but it’s worth at least checking with a local lawyer if you can access one.

    no-one would ever accuse anyone of rape.

    Someone out there would probably want that. Gender warfare’s pretty strange these days.

    Report comment

  29. ThePrussian says:

    Damn fine post. Linked it over at my blog; this really is one of the best uses of critical analysis and statistics I’ve seen in the blogosphere.

    Report comment

  30. tjic says:

    I’ve been reading the blog for a long time (lurking). Just wanted to pipe up today and say that this is an excellent post.

    Report comment

  31. Marcel Müller says:

    “3% of men are falsely accused of rape. 15% of women are raped. If someone you know gets accused of rape, your prior still is very very high that they did it. I was extraordinarily lucky to find very strong evidence that my friend was innocent. I was extraordinarily lucky that both my co-workers had video feeds that could confirm their stories.”

    Under the imho reasonable assumption that stories of beeing raped and stories of being accused of rape spread more or less equally well, this means that you personally should – on average – know 15 women who have been raped.
    If you, as I would predict know no or at most one or two women who have been raped that would be moderately strong evidence, that one of the two numbers is off.
    One could of course argue that you cannot count the two cases from the hospital , since hospital employees may have a much higher incidence of being falsely accused of rape.

    Report comment

  32. Michael Keenan says:

    > Do not trust anything that comes out of the feminist blogosphere. When you see something in the feminist blogosphere, your default assumption should be that it is approximately as honest as this Clymer article.

    Scott, I’m curious as to your thoughts on why the epistemic standard in the feminist blogosphere is so bad.

    Is it that possession of a conceptual superweapon makes one unpracticed at addressing problems with ideas? Is it evaporative cooling (and if so, why did it occur so severely there and not in other causes)? Is it because (of course for utterly blameless and truly awful reasons) a lot of the pundits who care most about rape and are most vocal about it are traumatized in a way that makes them more likely to write vehemently and less calmly?

    What other blogospheres have similarly poor epistemic standards? These guesses make predictions. If it’s superweapons, then one might expect anti-racism blogs to be similar. If it’s trauma, one might expect prison abuse bloggers to be similar. I’m unfamiliar with those communities.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think part of it is that everyone has been hurt by things like sex and status, and so a movement that talks about sex and status is going to get us at our most fragile, and fear and anger tend to go hand in hand.

      I think part of it is that it’s one of the only parts of our society that is allowed to talk about status and morality openly, and that talking about status and morality openly is always a minefield.

      And part of it is that it’s a rare opportunity to circumvent liberal society’s “you should be nice and tolerant to everyone” with the workaround “Aha, but we can be mean and intolerant of people who are mean and intolerant, because that is technically working in SUPPORT of niceness and toleration”, and so became an irresistible outlet for people’s meanness and intolerance and then evolved to expand its ability to fill that niche.

      Report comment

    • Darcey Riley says:

      I would like to propose a different explanation for why feminist blogs are particularly bad about statistics. Feminist blogs’ target audience is liberals, and liberals tend to view science as a legitimate authority, so it makes sense that feminists would try to appeal to science in order to convince people. Other groups might be equally driven by ideologies, and equally unconcerned with facts, but their target audiences might not care about statistics. (No idea if this is actually a good explanation.)

      Report comment

  33. Anonymous says:

    We will can examine these numbers later, but for now let’s just take them as given.

    typo?

    Report comment

  34. Donald Q says:

    This post estimates men falsely accused of rape at 3%-7.5%. From other sources, I’ve seen estimates of the percentage of women raped that range from 15% to 25%. A truly robust surveillance state in full bloom could move both those numbers to 0%.

    If you know anyone who falls into either category mentioned above, really try to empathize and understand their suffering and actually do the multiplication on the relevant percentage of the entire population next time someone mentions privacy to you.

    Report comment

    • misha says:

      Our rates of non-capture are very high for a lot of crimes a lot of people think shouldn’t be crimes. I don’t think everyone I know who’s smoked weed should be arrested because the government gathers all that information and acts on it. This is ignoring any willful abuse of the surveillance state.

      Another factor is the inherent vagueness in non-abduction rape cases involving alcohol and whatnot. Even surveillance can’t tell you how someone feels on the inside.

      I’m actually pretty pro-surveillance, and think it’s kind of a shame that mugging is still possible to get away with, but I don’t think we’re in a great position to implement a safe surveilance state.

      Report comment

      • John says:

        If non-capture rates for things that shouldn’t be crimes dropped to near zero, wouldn’t that create immediate and overwhelming political pressure to bring the letter of the law more in line with sanity, by removing the release valve of inconsistent enforcement? Prosecutorial discretion is, itself, an opportunity for abuse.

        Report comment

      • Donald Q says:

        Misha sorry for the delayed reply, been very busy at work.
        I agree with you that many things are crimes which should be crimes and because of this privacy serves valuable social function. It essentially creates a no harm no foul zone around crimes. If something is actually not causing arm but is illegal people won’t get arrested for a because no one will notice that and it won’t be prosecuted. Consequently, people can break a bad law and learn it’s a bad law and have the information to advocate for its repeal.
        That said a lot of things that happen to people are very bad, extremely bad, really just down right awful and you could accept a great deal of negativity and value loss and still come out ahead if you prevented some of the worst things the happen.
        Legal institutions, although they couldn’t prevent all abuse could go a long way to preventing in the worst. A fairly simple possible frame work is you could have opt-in universal surveillance where you must advance notify the state that you want to opt-in and then if you ever involved in a trial in any capacity you can say “I want to footage of my day starting from ‘certain time A’ extending to ‘certain time B’ admitted into the trial.” So to clarify, the government is watching everybody, but the footage could only be entered into a trial if someone who had opted in in advance asked for it to be admitted. Note however, that if you chose to hang out with people who have opted in you would be near them and so included in their footage.
        So if, for example, I opt into surveillance and then I was mugged I could say I want the feed from when I got out of the subway to when I got home entered into the record of the trial. The jury could see my mugger mug me during the trial. Likewise if I was innocent and accused I could ask for my feed to be admitted. I would only be able to do this if I had opted in in advance
        You would clearly still have some abuse, but a framework like that could keep the abuse to manageable levels. Keep in mind the state already has a huge amount of power, so its ability to squash particular people who come to its attention wouldn’t be changed that much since the state can already do that fairly reliably. This would be enough to prevent fishing expeditions which I think would preserve most of the social benefits of privacy.

        Report comment

  35. Bish says:

    Most people don’t fear being falsely accused of murder, because they know they don’t plan on intentionally murdering anyone. If they were accused, it would probably be false. And if they did kill someone, it would then be an accident, in which case it would be tried as manslaughter, not as murder.

    Rape is different. It’s a lot more likely that someone could get accused of rape without ever intending to rape (even if it’s unlikely in an absolute sense, it’s more likely than getting accused of murder).

    karen:

    there’s no excuse for rape the way there is for homicide or robbery. There’s no self-defence argument. There’s no way to reasonably justify it.

    In a court of law, there is generally a defense of a lack of mens rea (guilty intent). In the court of public opinion (or many college tribunals), there is no such defense.

    While the definition of rape has expanded to include a lot of acts that were not historically defined as rape (in fact, most would have been covered by “seduction” laws), when people hear the word “rape”, most will imagine the “stranger jumping out of the bushes and forcing a woman at knifepoint” kind

    The stigma of rape is based on acts which involve mens rea (literally, “guilty mind”), such as situations involving force, threats, incapacitation/unconsciousness, and pushing past explicit “no.” These violations require mens rea. It’s pretty much guaranteed that they are purposeful.

    Yet some people also use “rape” to include situations of mutual intoxication (without incapacitation), misunderstanding/miscommunication, or lack of novel practices like affirmative consent (which are sadly unknown or counter to social norms in many places). These situations are much more ambiguous, and the violation might not be intentional or predatory.

    This usage of “rape” and “rapist” (and to a lesser extent, “sexual assault”) doesn’t distinguish between presence or lack of intent, which is a big problem, because almost all other areas of ethics care about intent. This conflation discards information and fails to carve reality at its joints (the relevant joint being mens rea).

    A broad category of rape (which can include some unintentional mistakes) that is stigmatized at the same level as deliberate predation and violence is a scary notion for some people. Even if they don’t think they are likely to make those mistakes, it would be hard to dispel an accusation in the court of public opinion (even though, as feminists observe, actual convictions are much rarer). This fear isn’t that a false accusation would involve a made-up scenario, but that it would falsely stigmatize the accused as having malicious intentions that they did not actually have.

    This, I think, is the primary reason why feminists tend to want to call all these things rape rather than sexual assault or sexual misconduct–they are relying on the image of the ugly, mean man with a weapon waiting in a parkade for a vulnerable stranger to generate public horror over all instances of sexual misconduct against women, however ambiguous.

    I think there are many potential reasons why feminists propose max stigma of rape for a broad range of sexual misconduct. The first reasons is that perhaps feminists feel they need to appeal to the stigma in order to get people to care. A second reason is that feminist rape counselors may encourage the survivor to identify their experience as “rape” for therapeutic reasons.

    Perhaps feminists work for max stigma on all types of rape is because they look at things from the accuser’s perspective, which doesn’t necessarily take into account the perspective of the accused (“intent isn’t magic”).

    Nevertheless, in most areas of criminal law and morality, the state of mind of the accused person absolutely does matter when judging them and naming what they are accused of, or estimating their danger of doing it again. Mens rea matters: there are often distinctions between malice, recklessness, negligence (which cover cases where the perpetrator didn’t intend the result, but could or should have known better). In some cases, the state of mind of the accused even changes what crime they are accused of, such as murder vs manslaughter.

    There is no manslaughter equivalent for rape and sexual assault. Failing to make distinctions between different types of violations is harmful to the accused, unhelpful to people trying judge the accused, and arguably unhelpful to some survivors by robbing them of language to describe what happened.

    Whether in the court of law or public opinion, people should receive the stigma they deserve if they hurt people, but giving them further stigma through linguistic association is arguably cruel and unusual punishment. (Deciding the appropriate stigma for sexual violations is open to debate, but I believe that a sharp difference in stigma should occur depending on mens rea.)

    Report comment

    • Multiheaded says:

      There is no manslaughter equivalent for rape and sexual assault. Failing to make distinctions between different types of violations is harmful to the accused, unhelpful to people trying judge the accused, and arguably unhelpful to some survivors by robbing them of language to describe what happened.

      As a feminist (who’s usually not very receptive to “What about teh menz?”), I think this might be the most viable point to work on in this whole unpleasant business – at least within the confines of the existing criminal injustice system. (Although I think that any proposal for it would have to be framed very cleverly… lest it get attacked by both sides as simultaneously a totalitarian feminazi nightmare and a rape-trivializing misogynist plot.)

      At the very least, feminists could help add nuance and distinction to existing informal moral and social picture of rape. After all, it’s not only a matter of unjustly severe accusations (which a ruthlessly utilitarian feminist might make a case for disregarding!), but of lesser violations slipping through and their subjects being scared off.

      Report comment

      • Anonymous says:

        When you say “ruthlessly utilitarian feminist”, do you mean that, or just a ruthlessly consequentialist feminist? If gender irrelevance / gender equity /what have you is a terminal value, then it makes perfect sense. Otherwise, it only makes partial sense to me.

        Report comment

    • Randy M says:

      “A second reason is that feminist rape counselors may encourage the survivor to identify their experience as “rape” for therapeutic reasons.”

      In what kind of therapy theory is this a reasonable tact?

      Report comment

      • As I understand it, the theory is that non-consensual sex is very bad for the person it was forced on, but for cultural reasons, people (perhaps especially women) are apt to believe either that the experience shouldn’t have bothered them, or that it was their fault that it happened.

        It is therefore considered helpful (and from accounts, it frequently is helpful) to convince a person that they were raped– subjected to a damaging experience which wasn’t their fault.

        Report comment

        • Randy M says:

          It seems to me that generally convincing people that they are even more of a victim–have even less control over their lives–is a detriment to them being able to move on, prevent it in the future, etc.

          Not to say that you should try to get victims to take blame on themselves, but if someone was in a situation that they didn’t view as rape, it strikes me as (note non-dogmatic language) untheraputic to try to convince them otherwise.

          Report comment

        • I think it would be worth looking at specific cases– convincing a patient that what happened to them was rape might make them feel more helpless, or it might offer them a good explanation for long-term aftereffects.

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          As I understand it, the theory is that non-consensual sex is very bad for the person it was forced on, but for cultural reasons, people (perhaps especially women) are apt to believe either that the experience shouldn’t have bothered them, or that it was their fault that it happened.

          True-fact-with-unpleasant-implications: Several studies of childhood sexual abuse have come to the conclusion that sexual abuse is not particularly traumatic, but that other people’s reaction to the abuse is what causes the most harmful long-term trauma. Some studies have indicated the same thing for adult sexual trauma. (I will try to look this up tomorrow after work, so that I am not merely spouting off half-remembered things past my bedtime).

          Put as succinctly as possible: society’s (and parents’ and loved-ones’) attitudes that rape is “sullying” and that “your innocence has been stolen” and that “you are no longer clean or pure” causes the victim to feel unclean and impure and sullied and non-innocent. Of course, in a lot of cases the victim will say this to themselves even if no one externally is echoing it, in which case getting them to acknowledge this process is probably healthy – but ultimately and somewhat paradoxically, there’s some evidence that the best possible culture for rape victims would be a culture that didn’t see rape as particularly bad, compared to similar levels of other kinds of physical violence.

          Report comment

        • Could you cite the studies? Where would they find people who didn’t believe rape was damaging/stigmatizing?

          The only thing I’ve heard that’s even vaguely in the neighborhood is that pre-age-of-consent sex isn’t damaging if there’s no coercion and it isn’t a family member. And I don’t have cites for that.

          Report comment

        • Multiheaded says:

          Not quite, I think; given this premise, the *best* possible culture would be one that plays off the impact on survivors, portraying it as something like being insulted by a drunk on the subway, but still aggressively reacts to the rapist’s malice and immorality (as opposed to the direct consequences of zir actions) – appealing to disgust and revulsion. Not unlike what rape survivors suffer now, especially in less-than-enlightened environments.

          (However, to achieve the part about minimizing the perceived impact, we’d probably also have to turn up to eleven the instrumental, hyper-permissive attitude to sex that conservatives complain about. They wouldn’t like that.)

          Report comment

    • a person says:

      I completely agree. It seems to me like when feminists talk about rape, their main concern is a lack of awareness of rape aside from relatively rare stranger-in-bushes type scenarios, and when MRAs/anti-feminists talk about rape, their main concern is revulsion at the idea that someone could be convicted as a rapist over what some might call a misunderstanding.

      If there was some sort of cultural and legal hierarchy of first-degree, second-degree, third-degree rape like there is with murder, this seems like it would uniquely solve both parties’ problems, as well as being very sane and logical. First degree could be “sociopath decides to rape someone and does it’, second could be “she said no but I knew she wanted it”-esque scenarios where a guy with very fucked up views on women doesn’t realize he raped someone even though to a sane person it’s obvious, and third would be reserved for things that seem like they could be a genuine misunderstanding. (Or whatever, the specifics aren’t the important part).

      But feminists don’t really seem to be proposing anything like this because ???????????????? It seems like most feminists are too interested in never conceding a single inch of ideological ground to consider a reasonable solution. So instead we have laws that are ridiculous to any person with a brain on the books that tell us any man who has sex with a woman who has drunk half a can of beer is a rapist. Okay.

      Report comment

      • Sniffnoy says:

        So instead we have laws that are ridiculous to any person with a brain on the books that tell us any man who has sex with a woman who has drunk half a can of beer is a rapist. Okay.

        There seems to be this general phenomenon of laws being written over-broadly so it’s easier to nail someone when they do something actually wrong; if someone just violates the letter of the law but doesn’t harm anyone, well, nobody will report it, or if someone does, that’s what prosecutorial discretion is for. You’re supposed to use common sense. It’s possible that people are OK with such laws because of this line of thinking.

        Unsurprisingly, I’m not a fan of this. I mean, first of all, there’s general principles, like, it’s easy to abuse this, and what’s the point of having laws at all if they’re not going to be the real laws? How is this system different from just having one law that says “don’t do bad things”?

        But also… not everyone has common sense. Common sense is domain-specific and needs to be developed by experience with that domain. If you don’t have experience with human mating, well, you might well look to the laws to determine what’s OK and what’s not. Especially if you consider, hey, we’re living in a sexist society, so my intuitions are presumably biased and unreliable, so common sense is something I should definitely ignore. Look at all the sexist things people justify with common sense! Things that are clearly actually harmful! So I need to toss that out.

        And it’s not at all clear to me that this line of thought is wrong! But if you’re a feminist expecting common sense of your audience, when said audience expects what you say to override common sense — what would be the point of even saying it otherwise? You may as well have not said it at all, if it’s just going to be overridden by common sense — well, the effect you produce is not going to be the one you’re going for.

        (Which is why I personally continue to abide by feminist proscriptions even though I am now pretty certain they’re wrong and overbroad — I have nothing to replace them with! It’s still important to me to make sure I’m not doing anything evil, and without any real feel for the problem domain (“common sense”), sticking to rules will have to do for now.)

        Note also that due to compartmentalization, people may just often not realize that the things they are proscribing are things they deem OK in actual occurrences; and in my experience, if you point out to someone “You said X is not OK, but you’re OK with the following instances of X”, they’ll just deny that it’s an instance of X. If we want to be charitable, it’s the “Worst Argument in the World” problem again, but in reverse — you’re the one saying “But this belongs to [bad category]!”, because you don’t have any feel for the categories involved and can only go by definitions; and they, responding to connotations, say “No it doesn’t!” rather than giving the correct response of “I suppose I was overbroad in saying [bad category] is wrong in all cases; it’s OK in this case, because a better approximation to the underlying principle is _____.” And so nobody ends up learning anything.

        Report comment

      • ozymandias says:

        I am not sure in how many states having sex with someone who has drunk half a can of beer qualifies as rape. In my state, Florida, having sex with an intoxicated person is only legally rape if the person is so intoxicated as to be incapable of appraising or controlling their own conduct *and* they were administered the intoxicating substance without their consent.

        I am also very interested in your proposed system for telling apart sociopaths and “she said no but I knew she wanted it.” Telepathy? Surely rape is already enough of a he said/she said crime, we don’t need to go around adding he said/she said elements to it.

        I suspect a large amount of the feminist lack of concern about misunderstandings is that the feminist community in general tends to be survivor-centric, and from the survivor’s point of view it doesn’t actually matter whether it was a misunderstanding. It doesn’t make them less raped.

        Report comment

        • Randy M says:

          >I am also very interested in your proposed system for telling apart sociopaths and “she said no but I knew she wanted it.”

          I would look to aggravating factors, like injury or weapons. (Need I point out that since we are already talking about degrees of rape, I’m not saying that there is no coercion short of physical violence? But “assault with a deadly weapon” is different from plain “assault” etc.)

          Or something else to demonstrate it was premeditated and not a crime of passion, like non-recreational drugs (something people don’t routinely voluntarily ingest).

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          I am not sure in how many states having sex with someone who has drunk half a can of beer qualifies as rape.

          I know that it does in Missouri, they explicitly told us this during our college orientation. I never saw Missouri as a liberal stronghold, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other states had similar laws.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          According to my brief Googling about Missouri state law, it counts as rape if one has sex with “a person who by reason of… intoxication, is manifestly unable or known by the actor to be unable to make a reasonable judgment as to the nature or harmfulness of the conduct charged to constitute the offense.”

          Admittedly I do not know a lot about alcohol but I think that most people do not become unable to make a reasonable judgment after half a beer. And I also think it’s quite reasonable to count that as rape, assuming that the person hadn’t given consent to sex in advance?

          Report comment

        • Fnord says:

          Many states, Florida and Missouri among them, do have multiple degrees of rape or sexual assault (or sexual battery, as Florida calls it). Although, as others have noted, based solely on the sociopath “she said no but I knew she wanted it” distinction. But, yes, use of force and/or weapons or administering narcotics without the victim’s consent are things that play a role.

          Report comment

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Regarding “a person’s” recollection vs. Ozy’s Googling:

          It may be that the law has changed, but it may also be that “a person” was just wrong, i.e., subject to misinformation. (This can possibly be determined with some more Google.) Unfortunately I suspect the truly relevant information here is just going to be annoyingly hard to determine. Seeing as frequently the relevant thing is not going to be what the law is, but what people go around saying it is.

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          @Ozy

          It definitely doesn’t look like half a beer = rape based on that quote, but I can assure you that the university told us that during our orientation and made it very clear. Whether this was some sort of lie/misunderstanding or if that’s how they interpret the law here, I don’t know. I just googled a little and I couldn’t find anything (although I’m drunk and my internet is really slow so I’m kind of impaired in this regard). I’m inclined to believe the former though, I was very surprised when I heard that the law made sex on half a beer illegal, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it was false after all.

          Also, my friend who goes to Ohio State was talking to me about how worried/angry he was that it was illegal for him to have sex with drunk girls at college, so either that’s the law in Ohio too or colleges are exaggerating in their rape education programs all over the country.

          Report comment

        • Randy M says:

          You would also need to look at actual case law to see how the courts interpret the “known by the actor to be unable to make a reasonable judgment” text of the law.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          It’s possible it’s against the school’s honor code and the anti-rape things fail to sufficiently distinguish between that and actually being illegal? Or they are lying, or case law interprets it so that sex while drunk is rape (although that last one would surprise me).

          Report comment

        • a person says:

          It’s possible it’s against the school’s honor code and the anti-rape things fail to sufficiently distinguish between that and actually being illegal?

          No, that definitely wasn’t it. They explicitly said that sex on any amount of alcohol was rape according to Missouri state law and that you should therefore never have sex with someone who has drank any amount of alcohol. I pointed out that this was obviously absurd and that there is nothing wrong with having sex with someone who has drank two beers and maybe, just maybe, if you are responsible and receptive and gain enthusiastic consent, you can even ethically have sex with someone who is fairly drunk. They said that was against the law. I said, right, but you have to make a distinction between the word of the law and what is actually ethical. I can’t remember what they said to that.

          The whole thing was very surreal. First the whole freshman class watched a skit that I thought was really well-done and even-handed that dealt with a “misunderstanding” sort of rape. Then we split up into gender-segregated groups of twenty or so to discuss the skit, with an optional other group for queer students who wanted their own forum. They then told us to go around and say our name and what our preferred gender pronouns were – unsurprisingly, everyone there said he/him. We proceeded to attempt to have a “honest guy’s chat” about girls and hooking up and stuff, despite the fact that it was led by a gay guy monotonically repeating feminist dogma at us, giving the whole thing a very insincere feeling. They asked us what we thought the definition of consent was, and after we all gave our opinions they wrote on the board that the only way to have consensual sex was for both people to be sober, one person to ask “Would you like to have sex with me?”, and the other person to say yes. Whenever anyone disagreed they pointed to the board and said “technically, that wouldn’t be consent according to this definition, though”. They then handed us business cards that said “Let’s take a raincheck. I cannot give proper consent right now. I would be interested in having further relations with you when sober” and insisted that handing this to girls would be a very non-awkward way to resolve the situation.

          Overall I was reminded of programs like DARE that go way overboard preaching their message to the point where the recipients recognize that the information they’re receiving is almost entirely divorced from reality, rendering the whole exercise useless. This wasn’t a hippie liberal arts school either, it’s a medium sized research university in the Midwest.

          Also like two days after that a drunk girl wanted to have sex with me but I was a little freaked out by what they told me so I passed it up. I’m still a little upset about that. (Lol.)

          Report comment

        • Bish says:

          According to this article about a biased sexual misconduct case at Stanford, college sexual misconduct policies are notorious broad, while laws are generally narrower. In the case of California, courts recognize a distinction between intoxication and incapacitation. But Stanford doesn’t (at least, as of 2011):

          In this climate, Stanford last semester found a male student guilty of sexual assault solely because it determined that his partner was intoxicated (as was he). Stanford policy states that students cannot consent to sex—even with a spouse—if “intoxicated” to any degree. To make matters worse, after receiving an April 4 open letter to all colleges from the federal Department of Education, Stanford lowered its standard of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to the “preponderance of the evidence” standard—our judiciary’s lowest—in the middle of the student’s proceedings.

          Yes, colleges punish students who had sex with someone when they were both drinking.

          More details on that case. What’s especially chilling is that they changed the burden of proof in the middle of the proceedings.

          Report comment

        • Crimson Wool says:

          It’s possible it’s against the school’s honor code and the anti-rape things fail to sufficiently distinguish between that and actually being illegal? Or they are lying, or case law interprets it so that sex while drunk is rape (although that last one would surprise me).

          http://www.wastedsex.com/resources/quiz.html

          Question 2: “Even if a woman is very intoxicated, she can still give legal consent to sex.”

          Supposed Correct Answer: “False.”

          Actual California penal code does not, as far as I can tell, prevent drunk women from consenting to sexual intercourse. And yet this website is supposedly the collaboration of “the San Diego County District Attorney, San Diego Police Department, Sheriff, colleges, universities, the military, the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, the Center for Community Solutions / Rape Crisis Center, and the Sexual Assault Response Team.”

          I don’t know. Is this true? Is it an accurate representation of how the law is applied in practice, rather than its theoretical basis? Or is it just misinformation?

          In any case, there are definitely people peddling the “drunk women can’t legally consent” line.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          IDK the explanatory bit after the question says “if a woman is so intoxicated that she is incapable of exercising the judgment required to consent to sex, it is a rape.” The California penal code says sex qualified as rape if “a person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused.”

          Report comment

      • Ampersand says:

        So instead we have laws that are ridiculous to any person with a brain on the books that tell us any man who has sex with a woman who has drunk half a can of beer is a rapist.

        I’m late, but I’m fairly certain that this claim is not true anywhere in the USA.

        You’ll find a survey of all the laws relating to rape and intoxication here (pdf link), with a summary table starting on page 96. I don’t think there’s anywhere where the law is as you claim.

        Report comment

      • Leo says:

        The reason I don’t want degrees of rape is that I expect that different sorts of rape are about equally traumatising, and that the main effect of introducing degrees would be to make victims of lesser-degree rape feel bad for what they and others think is overreacting. This is falsifiable.

        Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          But we already HAVE degrees of rape, they’re just based on the gender and status of the perpetrator and victim.

          Report comment

        • Desertopa says:

          This is way after the fact, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the victims of murder and manslaughter are all equally dead.

          I suspect that more sex offenders might be prosecuted and convicted in a system where we recognized lesser degrees of crime, of which they could unambiguously be judged guilty and punished commensurately, than in a system where we are forced to either conflate people with a lesser degree of ill intent with some of the worst criminals we recognize in our society, or not find them guilty at all.

          Report comment

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Well said! Two things on top of that:

      Firstly, it’s not only when it comes to sex per se that feminists have pushed for maximum stigma; it’s, well, all, of mating[0]. (Well, for those lesser things it’s less “maximum stigma” and more “maximum stigma you can get people to go along with”. Which is a lot.) Which is part of how you get the problem that Scott described in his Meditations or that HughRistik described here.

      Secondly, it’s worth noting that (especially in these other settings) you don’t even necessarily need any fear of actual punishment to to keep people afraid of making any sort of advance; convincing people that the things they want to do are bad and they’re bad people for wanting it can easily be sufficient. (Hence why the title of HughRistik’s post is about guilt rather than punishment.) And these conflations certainly help with that.

      Report comment

  36. Jeff Kaufman says:

    I doubt feminist blog posts are actually worse than other political posts, but this seems like something we can test. I’ve started trying some fact checking on ten feminist and MRA posts, though getting through all of them is going to take me a while: http://www.jefftk.com/p/are-feminist-blog-stats-atypically-bad

    Report comment

  37. St. Rev says:

    OK, this is very late to the party and most people may not see it, but I think this is important.

    Scott, I think it’s even worse than you argue here. I base the claim on this paper: Post-Conviction DNA Testing and Wrongful Conviction. Here’s the abstract:

    This study analyzed the results of new DNA testing of old physical evidence from 634 sexual assault and homicide cases that took place in Virginia between 1973 and 1987 in the first study of the effects of DNA testing on wrongful conviction in a large and approximately random sample of serious crime convictions. The study found that in five percent of homicide and sexual assault cases DNA testing eliminated the convicted offender as the source of incriminating physical evidence. When sexual assault convictions were isolated, DNA testing eliminated between 8 and 15 percent of convicted offenders and supported exoneration. Past estimates generally put the rate of wrongful conviction at or less than three percent.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    In the above, “approximately random” appears to mean that a single forensic serologist had kept a large store of physical evidence from old cases:

    The results can be generalized (with caveats) because the physical evidence was retained for reasons unrelated to the case outcome, and the cases were assigned to the serologist who retained the evidence in a way that did not introduce bias.

    The jaw-dropper is Table 2 on page 6.

    The two most important numbers in the bullets above show the rate at which convicted offenders were eliminated as the source of questioned evidence and that elimination was supportive of exoneration. This occurs for 8 percent of all sexual assault convictions in the sample and for 15 percent of all sexual assault convictions where a determinate finding was made. We note again that additional facts about the case not included in the forensic file may ultimately include the convicted offender. However, given that these are sexual assault cases where the profile was determined to be male and excluded the convicted offender, we anticipate this will be relatively rare.

    In short: in a pretty close to random sample of actual convictions for sexual assault, retesting makes a very strong case that 8% of the convictions are false, and can’t tell either way in another 46%. Out of the cases where evidence gave a conclusive result one way or the other, fifteen percent appear to be false.

    This isn’t a case of accusations being judged false by police. This is a case of accusations being supported by the authorities every step of the way to prison. You might think that both feminists and MRAs would care about this, since every false conviction with physical evidence also means a rapist getting away with the crime. Apparently not.

    Report comment

    • suntzuanime says:

      That doesn’t require the victim (of the rape) to have made any false claims, though. Presumably these are the sorts of cases where the victim did not get a good look at the attacker and there was a guy we didn’t like in the area without an alibi and confirmation bias worked its foul magic. That’s a lot different from a deliberate false accusation.

      EDIT: of course, it’s horrible, but it’s a different sort of horrible. I don’t think even the feminists say that witnesses never misidentify a suspect.

      Report comment

      • St. Rev says:

        The problem is false accusation. Deliberate false accusation is a subproblem. Note that the original article under discussion says ‘accused’, not ‘deliberately falsely accused’.

        The framing of the problem is so messed up, and we’re all so terrified of superweapons, that disambiguating these things is hard. But it needs to be done.

        There are three major classes of Bad Things here: 1) Rape, 2) Punishment of the innocent, 3) Non-punishment of the guilty. Arguments over these Bad Things are rotten through with shifting definitions, moving goal posts and unspoken assumptions. I’m trying to point out one specific hidden assumption is wrong: evidence that actual convictions for sexual assault are mistaken at a rate that should frighten everyone.

        Hell, you want to be really worried? Think about the following numbers:

        – The probability someone convicted of sexual assault is innocent

        – The probability someone accused, tried and acquitted is innocent

        – The probability someone indicted under charges that are later dismissed before trial is innocent

        – The probability that someone investigated and considered probably guilty by police but not indicted is innocent

        – The probability that someone investigated and considered probably innocent by police but considered probably guilty by researchers is innocent.

        It seems plausible to me that each likelihood is greater than the preceding one–and the first one on the list may be in the 8%-15% range. Scott’s argument starts by explicitly stipulating that they’re all essentially zero. But many of these cases are worse than ‘deliberate false accusations’, because when there’s an actual rape involved, it means the rapist goes unpunished.

        Report comment

        • suntzuanime says:

          Yes, but the question is if the other sort of problem even exists. If the other sort of problem doesn’t exist, you can’t claim “she’s lying”, you have to claim “it wasn’t me”.

          Report comment

        • Ampersand says:

          1) That study is terrifying.

          2) I’ve generally heard deliberate false reporting of a crime called “false accusation” or “false reporting,” and mis-identification called “mistaken accusation” or “mistaken identification.” I’d rather go with the commonly-used terms than the terms you suggest here.

          3) The distinction is important. For one thing, making a false accusation to police is a crime, but a mistaken identification is not a crime.

          4) For another, the two things – while identically tragic for victims of wrong accusations – have very different causes. A deliberate false accusation is caused by a criminal. A mistaken identification is frequently caused by biased or poor police procedures improperly guiding or pressuring a victim. These differences matter, because how we should approach solving the two problems is entirely different.

          5) Finally, I wonder how many of the false convictions were caused by false confessions? (Not victim-blaming, just thinking of another problem caused by how police act.)

          Report comment

        • gin and whiskey says:

          Ampersand says:
          I’ve generally heard deliberate false reporting of a crime called “false accusation” or “false reporting,” and mis-identification called “mistaken accusation” or “mistaken identification.” I’d rather go with the commonly-used terms than the terms you suggest here.

          When you say “commonly used” do you mean “commonly used among feminists and experts in the literature?”

          I ask because I am certain that in common usage, “false” usually means “wrong” or “incorrect.” And indeed, all of the dictionaries I just checked (four in total) have that as the first definition, with “maliciously/deliberately untrue” as the second. There’s probably a reason for that.

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Ampersand is full of shit.

          Report comment

        • St. Rev says:

          Re: 2) If you can point to a good standard reference on the subject I’ll happily adopt its terminology. However, this feels like a bit of a derail, to be honest. To expand on that:

          Re: 3) Mistaken identification is not a crime, and not an ethical offense on the part of the victim, but may involve malfeasance on the part of the justice system itself. In more detail:

          Re: 4) False accusation in the sense you reserve for it is politically/emotionally fraught for both feminists and MRAs, but it seems to me the distinction is invested with more significance that it merits, for this reason:

          A false accusation where no rape has occurred is a legal crime and also an ethical offense, yes.

          A mistaken identification, however, constitutes at least two ethical offenses, and sometimes three or more:

          – An innocent citizen is punished.
          – The actual offender is not punished.
          – Police and/or prosecutors may break the law in multiple ways in pursuing the case. Note in particular that thanks to the doctrines of sovereign and qualified immunity, the chance of any state actor being brought to justice–even if caught–is minimal.

          Re: 5) Yes, this is one type of state malfeasance.

          To sum up: False accusation in your sense is where a lot of emotional energy is directed, but false-accusation-by-the-state seems at least as bad to me in objective terms, and arguably far worse in the mean.

          Report comment

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’m surprised that the DNA exonerated so many fewer murder convicts than rape convicts. Maybe the difference is that the murder victim is not around to supply eye-witness testimony, so the murder cases rely on stronger evidence of other types? I wonder if people have ever tried DNA exoneration with any other crimes, maybe aggravated assault?

      PS – That study is from Virginia. I’m surprised that they kept physical evidence. Before 2000, legal exoneration was impossible. If your murder victim showed up alive a month after the trial, too bad. That may well still be true – the new law only allows exoneration by DNA.

      Report comment

      • St. Rev says:

        I suspect it’s just because rape cases are much more likely to provide definitive DNA evidence, for obvious reasons. But notice that in non-sexual cases, 92% of the tests are indeterminate–exculpatory results supporting exoneration are 22% of the cases where they got any result at all!

        It appears that the whole study was made possible because a single serologist was a pack rat who didn’t destroy old evidence.

        It’s also unclear to me whether the study led to any actual exonerations. ETA: Later in the paper they note that their results led to 4 real exonerations, and describe the cases.

        Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          OK, so it’s 15% for rape and 22% for murder. Those are similar, and that’s what I was expecting.

          The papers says that the National Institutes of Justice have a policy only to study and exonerate false convictions of sexual assault and homicide. Because they’re interested in justice.

          I was wrong about Virginia: live bodies became admissible in 2004.

          Report comment

        • St. Rev says:

          I wouldn’t read too much into the homicide rate; the 22% figure here represents 5 cases out of only 23. (Although the ‘exculpatory but insufficient’ category accounts for another 48%!)

          Report comment

    • St. Rev says:

      Barn door closing dep’t: h/t to Sister Y for finding the paper, & innumerable other useful insights.

      Report comment

  38. Pingback: On some criticism of LessWrong

  39. therufs says:

    Could you draw the line for me between “feminist blogs publish wildly inaccurate statistics” to “your default assumption should be that [anything coming out of the feminist blogosphere] is approximately as honest as this Clymer article”?

    There are a lot of feminist blog posts that cite zero statistics, and you seem to be saying that we should just assume they’re wholecloth fabrications and *then* try to change our minds.

    Report comment

  40. John says:

    How can you give us this one negative example, then mention two positive examples, and get to the negative conclusion that all feminist blogs are bad and should never be trusted? Why ask readers to switch off their brains and go for a knee-jerk reaction instead?

    Unfortunately, the opposite case also exists and scares women into staying silent about their rape.

    Here’s just one case in which a woman got punished for reporting her actual rape:
    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021161550_rapelawsuitxml.html

    “[After her rape] the woman was charged with false reporting and fined $500 when she later tried to insist the rape did happen.

    It wasn’t until 2½ years later, when former Washington state resident Marc O’Leary was arrested for several rapes in Colorado, that Lynnwood police reopened their investigation. Among the items Colorado detectives found in O’Leary’s possession were photographs of the woman and her ID card.”

    Report comment

  41. Pingback: In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization | Slate Star Codex

  42. Francisco Boni says:

    About undetected rapists:

    “Of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.”

    Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists by David Lesak and Paul M. Miller, published in Violence and Victims, Vol 17, No. 1, 2002 (Lisak & Miller 2002)

    “McWhorter used a Sexual Experiences Survey tool that has been in use for more than 20 years. Of her 1146 participants, 144, or 13%, admitted an attempted or completed rape — substantially higher than Lisak & Miller. But in another respect, her work very much matched theirs: 71% of the men who admitted an attempted or completed rape admitted more than one, very close to Lisak & Miller’s 63%. The 96 men who admitted multiple attempted of completed rapes in McWhorter’s survey averaged 6.36 assaults each. This is not far from Lisak & Miller’s average of 5.8 assaults per recidivist. Looked at another way, of the 865 total attempted or completed rapes these men admitted to, a staggering 95% were committed by 96 men, or just 8.4% of the sample.

    Reports of Rape Reperpetration by Newly Enlisted Male Navy Personnel by Stephanie K. McWhorter, et al., published in Violence and Victims, Vol, 24, No. 2, 2009 (McWhorter 2009)

    Report comment

  43. Ampersand says:

    Do not trust anything that comes out of the feminist blogosphere. When you see something in the feminist blogosphere, your default assumption should be that it is approximately as honest as this Clymer article.

    This is so hyperbolic that I suspect it’s actually harmful, as it encourages either team rallying (“damn straight, feminists are all liars!”) or defensiveness (“anti-feminist insults”) instead of thought.

    I do think that you’re talking about a real phenomenon, but it’s not at all limited to the feminist blogosphere (nor is it as universal in the feminist blogosphere as you imply). If you see more than the usual number of bad stats in the feminist blogosphere, that is probably because your own interests lead you to look more for those bad stats than for bad stats in (say) gun blogs, climate change skepticism blogs, anti-evolution blogs, truther blogs, tea party blogs, etc..

    That said, I don’t disagree with you that it’s all-too-common for feminists to accept false statistics as long as those statistics align with our confirmation biases. I think this is a more severe problem on the internet, and probably most severe on tumblr and similar social media. But I’ve also observed the same problem with offline feminism, including some feminist academics, which is pretty shameful.

    I think a lot of this comes from the culture of contempt that dominates contemporary politics (I can’t say if it dominated politics in the past). The more we view people who disagree with us as irredeemably evil and acting out of bad motives, the more difficult it becomes for any criticism to seem credible enough to take seriously. This makes it extremely unlikely that bad statistics will be caught and discredited within a movement, even if the mistakes are pointed out by outsiders.

    Treating this as something especially unique and toxic within feminism is a mistake, I think, not only because I’m a feminist, but because it’s a misdiagnosis. The tendency I’m talking about is happening throughout our political culture, among feminists and anti-feminists, liberals and conservatives, etc etc. An analysis that singles out feminists as extra-evil-demagogues is an analysis that is wrong about reality and thus unlikely to offer any good solutions.

    OTOH, it’s not like I’ve got any decent solutions, either. So, well, never mind.

    Report comment

    • Sniffnoy says:

      While I don’t doubt that things are just as bad elsewhere, I’m not sure the comparison is a fair one, and the reason, I think, has a lot to do with the contrarian hierarchy.

      That is to say, on a lot of things, the conservative position is the naïve/uneducated position, while the liberal position is the educated/contrarian position. We don’t expect them to have good arguments. If they abuse statistics, that’s just dumb people being dumb. If feminists abuse statistics, they’re betraying the inheritance of the light (or something like that). We’re[0] supposed to be better than them!

      That is to say, feminism is not so much uniquely evil as uniquely disappointing in its failure to be good. Or more capable of doing bad with its wrongness, because respectable, within-the-garden people listen to feminism.

      Admittedly, it’s possible this apparent asymmetry is just a function of viewpoint. But from the educated liberal point of view, that’s how it looks.

      [0](I don’t actually consider myself a feminist anymore but I would have described it the same previously.)

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “This is so hyperbolic that I suspect it’s actually harmful, as it encourages either team rallying (“damn straight, feminists are all liars!”) or defensiveness (“anti-feminist insults”) instead of thought.”

      Then let me explain what leads me to this conclusion and see what you think. Here are a small subset of the feminist statistics that annoy me. I’m not going to fully justify why I think each one is wrong because each would take a post as long as this one, but hopefully you’ll already be familiar with a lot of them.

      1. The Vancouver rape stuff I wrote an article about before. I see this in all kinds of permutations now, not just that it decreased rape in Vancouver (which is bad statistics) but that it decreased rape in Edmonton (which is just plain getting the story wrong).

      2. The pay gap. I’m sure you know about the controversy here, and we can have long debates over what confounders we should and shouldn’t adjust for, but the not-for-equal-work number is almost universally presented with “for equal work” at the end of it. They also present data that has a lot to do with sexism in the past (ie the careers of women who entered the workforce in the 70s and are still it today) as if it reflected the present, and differences due to women taking more time off as if it reflected sexism. I’m not demanding that articles admit that the average childless female recent graduate earns more than the average childless recent male graduate, but if they just say “Women make 71 cents on the male dollar for equal work”, I’m perfectly willing to call that a statistical disaster.

      3. False rape allegation statistics, which range from “it never happens”, to the article I’m critiquing here, to an unsourced “0.02%”, to even the highest quality articles not bringing up the points about the methodology only counting provably false allegations or the point that allegations that don’t reach the police are likely to be much higher.

      4. Statistics where they say that X number of women are raped, and then you look at the data and it’s actually saying X number of women are raped, sexually harassed, groped, or something else, and the number actually raped is a small fraction of that claim.

      5. Statistics where they say “One out of X women are raped at college”, where X is as low as two and rarely higher than 4 which is higher than the number of women raped per lifetime and they can’t cite sources for their claim. This is sometimes a subset of (4), sometimes its own inexplicable problem.

      6. Statistics about how no men ever get raped, usually working from surveys that specifically exclude male rape by definition. Ozy’s old blog would highlight especially awful examples of this. People are getting a lot better at not doing this (I credit Ozy) but it’s still egregious.

      7. Statistics about how few of the characters in some medium are women. Sometimes these are false. Sometimes these are true, but very cherry-picked, so that other media or differently-categorized-media show female-predominances just as high as the male predominances they’re reporting. Sometimes they’re true if you take “everything in that medium since 1900″, but if you take things made recently you find equality or female predominance. Needless to say, this is then held up as evidence of present sexism.

      8. Stereotype threat stuff. Not only do most reports of the original experiment very seriously misinterpret the results, but they fail to mention how hard it’s been to replicate or detect in the real world even in what should be perfect situations. One day I want to do a very thorough stereotype threat analysis in the same manner as my marijuana analysis, and though I would not be surprised if I find it exists and has a small effect, the way it’s used in the feminist blogosphere seems to me way way way beyond a reasonable application.

      9. That Janet Metz (possibly getting her name wrong?) article on gender differences in math. Girls and boys are equally good at math (or slight female advantage) until college-level, when men suddenly dominate completely. Metz tested younger children (elementary, middle, maybe high school) and found that all the differences she found could be explained by prejudice. But as far as I know she was just picking up things like how young schoolgirls and young schoolboys are about equally good at math (or slight female advantage) in egalitarian places but schoolgirls are at a disadvantage in very sexist places. This is fine, but mostly unrelated to the fact that everywhere men suddenly develop a huge advantage around the graduate/postgraduate level. But this was exactly what the study was universally declared to have proven was sexist, and I see it used as a knock-down argument for this all the time.

      And okay, these are only nine things. But I don’t read feminist blogs that often. And I feel like most of the time I see the feminist blogosphere use statistics, it is one of these nine. The pay gap alone is a pretty big fraction of all feminist discourse. So I do not at all think it is an exaggeration to say that if you see a statistic on a feminist blog, it is very likely to be worthy of extreme doubt. I cannot think of a lot of other fields (outside of ones no one trusts, like creationism) that are quite that bad. Some people have told me that men’s rights is, but I do not read their blogs much, and I feel like that is just a subcategory of “gender is an especially untrustworthy field”.

      Report comment

      • ozymandias says:

        Even you used the 1/33 statistic for male rape in this very article, which is only accurate if you think a woman forcing a man to have PIV intercourse with her is not rape. I assume this is evidence for the “gender makes everyone have bad statistics” hypothesis. :P

        Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I think I just took that from Clymer. I didn’t know it was wrong. Can you explain and source your reasoning?

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          The 1 in 33 statistic comes from the 1998 NISVS survey. I prefer to use the 2010 because it’s more recent.

          In both versions, rape is defined as “forced oral, anal, or vaginal penetration.” This is a definition which massively undercounts male victims. According to the 2010, approximately 1.4% of men have been raped and 4.8% were made to penetrate someone else. If you add them together that’s about 6%, or 1 in 16. (Unfortunately we don’t know how much overlap there is between the two groups.)

          Report comment

        • What really freaks me out from NISVS 2010 is the 12 months numbers from the summary report (Ozy linked the shorter executive summary) – pages titled as 18/19, which is pages 28/29 on pdf.js on my machine.

          12 Months numbers, women, Rape (total, including so far as I can tell “attempted forced penetration”, “completed forced penetration”, and “completed alcohol/drug facilitated forced penetration”) estimated number of victims: 1,270,000

          12 Months numbers, men, Made to Penetrate (no further breakdown): 1,267,000

          Both the male rape and female forced to penetrate numbers are asterisked as “estimate is not reported; relative standard error >30% or cell size 90% ‘perpetrators in the case of this victim were only of the opposite sex’, maintaining the symmetry there as well.

          If you’d asked me before I got annoyed about the various misquotes of the summary and went through to pull out the exact numbers what probability I assigned to a conclusion of “if you consider a woman forcing a man to have PIV intercourse with her to *be* rape, the numbers are basically equal” I’d probably have said “small enough as to not be worth quantifying” … but I’ve been unable to come up with any other way to read those numbers. All thoughts gratefully received.

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          On the previous page,

          Among men, being made to penetrate someone else could have occurred in multiple ways: being made to vaginally penetrate a female using one’s own penis; orally penetrating a female’s vagina or anus; anally penetrating a male or female; or being made to receive oral sex from a male or female. It also includes female perpetrators attempting to force male victims to penetrate them, though it did not happen.

          I find the last sentence confusing. It is using the word “penetrate” that the paragraph claims to be defining. Read literally, it appears to me to say that all instances with a woman involve a third party. Probably the last sentence means PIV, and the number is mainly oral. I am surprised that they had no forced PIV in their sample.

          Report comment

        • That last sentence is why I picked the aggregate number that included attempted forced penetration on the female side.

          Probably … the number is mainly oral.

          I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that or how you’re deriving that theory. (not implying you’re wrong, mind, implying I literally do not understand what you mean sufficiently to know what I’d be assign a probability *to*)

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I read it as saying that it would include PIV, but that did not occur in their sample. I suppose it could be read as saying that attempted PIV counts, but other attempts do not count, but I doubt that’s the rule.

          Report comment

      • Ampersand says:

        [Significantly edited in the first 15 minutes after posting, including adding the final two paragraphs. --Amp]

        Scott:

        Even if all your examples were fair and reasonable, and not all of them are, your defense of your hyperbole would still amount to cherry-picking. There are thousands of posts in the feminist blogosphere every day, the vast majority of which don’t include any of these statistics.

        And one could go to ANY comparatively large-scale political movement and find similar mistakes and false claims being repeated over and over. MRAs, obviously, but also climate change skeptics, abortion bloggers (both sides), gun bloggers (both sides), etc etc etc. In a free speech society, but especially in a culture in which political opposition is virtually always parodied as horrible untrustworthy demons (pretty much like you’re parodying feminists), it is inevitable that any large-scale movement will include false memes being passed around.

        Nor can the fact that you anecdotally observe a lot of times that stats in feminist blog posts annoy you tell us anything one way or the other. You have no objective basis for comparison, that I can tell, nor have you seemed to consider whether or not you are an impartial observer.

        Nor do you address the harms I mentioned.

        I’m not going to address every one of your nine points, but I’ll address two of them, because I don’t want to spend hours on this, and I assume neither do you. :-)

        1. Vancouver rape stuff. I’ve read maybe two articles on this in my life, one of which was yours. I was persuaded by your post, but I’m not persuaded this is actually something that a typical feminist blogger brings up, like, ever. Searching my rss feeds (which includes over a hundred feminist blogs) fails to turn up even one example of this.

        In other words, just because a particular false stat is very important and present in your mind, doesn’t mean it’s especially important to many feminists at all, or mentioned by any but a tiny minority of feminists.

        2. The pay gap. This is one of the few times you make a testable claim, writing “the not-for-equal-work number is almost universally presented with “for equal work” at the end of it.”

        A google search for sex pay gap “for equal work” turns up 454,000 results, whereas a google search for sex pay gap turns up over 48 million results. That is, what you describe as “almost universally” turns out to be about 1%.

        So a testable fact you gave to me is wrong. Does that change your opinion in any way, or create any doubt in your mind? (Not snark, a sincere question.)

        If I understand your next two arguments correctly, you apparently believe that older women’s wage gaps are without a doubt irrelevant to what women currently entering the work force may experience; and you also think that women working taking more time off cannot reflect sexism.

        Without taking the time to develop my arguments, which are off-topic, I will say that I disagree in both cases.

        What’s relevant is that these disagreements have nothing to do with dishonesty, and instead represent questions that are legitimately disagreed on by people who are knowledgeable and arguing in good faith. That you introduce these good-faith disagreements as evidence of feminist dishonesty shows your judgement on the subject of “feminist dishonesty” is questionable at best.

        There are a great many feminist writers who discuss subjects like rape prevalence and the wage gap with honesty and nuance. (They are a minority, but I suspect that’s true of nearly all mass movements.) That doesn’t mean everything they (we) say is correct – everyone makes errors – nor does it mean that you’d agree with everything said. But to say virtually all feminists are liars until proven otherwise – which is pretty much what you’re saying – is unfair.

        But that you seem unaware of this (other than the brief mention of my blog – thanks for that – and Ozy) adds to the impression that you’re someone who is approaching feminism like a prosecutor, taking special note of evidence of guilt while not taking note of most contrary evidence, rather than someone who is approaching things with an open mind.

        I’m not saying you’re a bad person, or that there’s anything unique or unusual about having biases. Quite the opposite; virtually everyone has biases, including good people arguing in good faith. (And including myself, obviously.)

        But I think this sort of totalizing argument – “virtually all feminist blogs are untrustworthy until proven otherwise” – is not susceptible to any form of proof or argument that could persuade anyone who didn’t already wish to be persuaded. It will never be anything more than an insult to feminists, and preaching to the converted for anti-feminists. That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. But if you want to have amicable dialog with those who disagree with you, including feminists, then I think your approach here is counterproductive.

        Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I don’t think your Google search quite captures the subtleties here. I Googled “pay gap” and “women make less than men” and the first article I came across was http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination, which does not use the words “for equal work”, but which includes sentences like:

          “Women earn less than men in almost any occupation”, “Outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.”, “During the last decade there has been very little further progress in the gender integration of work. This persistent occupational segregation is a significant contributor to the lack of significant progress in closing the wage gap.”

          Then http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/womenspay.htm, which says “Even accounting for factors such as occupation, industry, race, marital status and job tenure, reports the GAO, working women today earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. This pay gap has persisted for the past two decades, remaining relatively consistent from 1983-2000.”

          (as far as I can tell this is false, but now that a government statistics site has said so I’m starting to doubt myself. Will look up later”)

          The third I came across was the White House’s http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/equal-pay#top, which includes the phrase “Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women in the same work place be given equal pay for equal work, the “gender gap” in pay persists.”

          So although if you want I’ll retract my claim that they always say so in exactly so many words, I do feel like at least they just imply it very very very strongly and leave you to draw your own conclusions.

          “Vancouver rape stuff. I’ve read maybe two articles on this in my life, one of which was yours. I was persuaded by your post, but I’m not persuaded this is actually something that a typical feminist blogger brings up, like, ever. Searching my rss feeds (which includes over a hundred feminist blogs) fails to turn up even one example of this.”

          That’s weird, because this very post that I’m criticizing here, which I criticize on a totally unrelated basis, also just happens by coincidence to mention the Edmonton thing (unless it was taken out since I read it). That would be a very strange coincidence if it were as rare as you believed.

          I’ll look into it more later.

          Report comment

        • Ampersand says:

          I don’t think your Google search quite captures the subtleties here.

          That cuts both ways – in my search that includes “for equal work,” you’ll find feminist articles that just plain get the stat wrong, but you’ll also find critiques of the wrong stat.

          But overall, a 100 to 1 ratio is hard to explain unless you’re willing to radically move your goalposts. Which you are.

          Neither the IWPR link nor the link citing GAO research “just say ‘Women make 71 cents on the male dollar for equal work.’” Neither one makes claims that are on their face unreasonable or without evidence. Both of them source their statistics.

          What you are now saying, in effect, is for any feminists to disagree with Scott Alexander about the causes of the wage gap in any way at all is evidence that “When you see something in the feminist blogosphere, your default assumption should be that it is [dishonest].” That’s ridiculous, Scott. And it’s ideological. The libertarian analysis you prefer is not the sole view honest people can hold, and disagreeing with it is not the same as lying.

          Nothing the IWPR article said or the GAO-citing article said was indefensible or relies on outright lying with statistical trickery the way the Clymer article did. Neither “just say ‘Women make 71 cents on the male dollar for equal work.’” These examples simply do not support the argument you initially made and are now moving the goalposts away from.

          The Obama link (which also comes up on my search) does support your claim. But I’m not denying that the error ever happens – in fact, it’s a pretty common error., and one I’ve objected to in a blog post back when I wrote about the wage gap a lot. It’s just not a near-universal error, as you claimed it was.

          I’m not demanding that articles admit that the average childless female recent graduate earns more than the average childless recent male graduate…

          Citation, please?

          I suspect you’re misstating research that finds that among unmarried childless urban full-time workers under 30, women earn more than men. The primary reason women in that group earn more is that they’re more likely to have graduated college.

          This report, using DOE data, found that among recent college graduates women earn less than men, even when controlling for major, job, and hours worked. (However, I have not looked into the report in depth.)

          Regarding the Clymer post, it’s not surprising that it didn’t turn up on my rss search – I don’t follow that blog. In fact, I’ve never heard of Clymer before reading this post on your blog, that I recall.

          Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          You’re claiming that only 1% of sites make this error, but also admitting that on the first three sites we both looked at, one of them explicitly made the error. I don’t want to calculate the odds of that happening by chance if your hypothesis were true, but it can’t be very high.

          You’re accusing me of moving my goalposts, but looking up I don’t think I ever claimed that every single article that used this statistic used the exact words “71 cents on the dollar for equal pay”. I just said that was definitely a statistical disaster, but that there were also subtler problems. And that was also just one of many things. You’re taking one of nine problems I specifically said were not an exhaustive list of problems, turning it into my entire argument, and then saying that since it’s not universally true of every single article you see I must be wrong.

          Consider: I am continuing to look through the top Google search results for “pay gap” and “women earn more than men” to determine a more accurate ratio of well-done to less-well-done, and this is the fourth site I find. Maybe you also saw it. It correctly mentions that the pay gap shrinks when adjusted for confounders, but then says “Within some minority groups, the wage gap is even worse: African-American women earn 69 cents for every dollar paid to African-American men, and Latinas earn just 58 cents on the dollar compared to Latino men.” I think this is wrong, and that those gaps are minority women compared to white men (I think minority gender gaps are actually smaller than white gender gaps).

          So even when I’m just looking for one false statistic, all these new false statistics I’m not even deliberately looking for and didn’t even think to mention in my list are creeping up. In articles by major news sources (does HuffPo count as major? I don’t really get how journalism works.)

          And apparently even my statement that people are starting to get better about not underreporting male rape has just been corrected by Ozy who tells me that even the new numbers are a gigantic disaster. (Yes, I fell for it too, but that’s because I didn’t trust MY OWN FRICKIN’ RECOMMENDATION NOT TO BELIEVE NUMBERS I SEE ON FEMINIST BLOGS. I AM KIND OF REALLY DUMB). I don’t feel like I’m going around deliberately searching out false statistics here. I feel like the guy who is saying “I will however admit that this one statistic has started being sort of all right” and then being corrected “Actually, that one too…”

          So if you want to frame the debate in terms of “does every single site use the exact words ‘for equal pay’” I will admit they do not (though I think it’s a lot higher than your proposed 100 to 1!). But that doesn’t mean there’s not a huge problem.

          I wonder if you would be so dismissive of errors in the other direction. If I turned men’s rights blogger and made the plank of my movement the claim that “the health care system is sexist because men die X years earlier than women on average, everyone must fight this rampant matriarchalist health care discrimination against men”, wouldn’t you think it was a little sketchy that I didn’t point out higher male smoking rates, testosterone’s role in heart disease, et cetera?

          Would you be willing to admit there was nothing fundamentally rotten with the movement because only *some* of the news articles pushing that line specifically declared “yes, we adjusted for all possible confounders before saying that”, and the others tended to just leave it as a strong implication and mostly avoid bringing the confounders up? If that sort of thing were my consistent level of output, wouldn’t you feel like you might want to warn your friends that anything I and my movement wrote should be treated with skepticism until proven innocent?

          I don’t want to say, as you put it, that “virtually all feminists are liars until proven otherwise”. But there are certain movements where you should default to a position of distrust. Creationism is a good example – even if I don’t personally know why a certain claim about radiocarbon dating is wrong, I can recommend preferring the explanation “then it is wrong for some reason you don’t understand” to “oh, better become a creationist”. I don’t think this is true of all movements everywhere – the discourse on both sides of the minimum wage argument, for example, seems to be unusually good. But feminism is one of these areas, where if you walk in with your normal attitude of “well, I can’t look up every number, so I’ll just trust that the ones I see are basically honest”, you will get super burned. This is what I am warning about and I don’t know how to do so strongly enough for people to notice, without it also being strong enough that it sounds a bit like an insulting “virtually all feminists are liars until proven otherwise”.

          “I suspect you’re misstating research that finds that among unmarried childless urban full-time workers under 30, women earn more than men. The primary reason women in that group earn more is that they’re more likely to have graduated college.”

          I feel like I just said that and you are now saying it and saying you disagree with me. The only differences I can see are the words “unmarried”, “full-time”, and “urban”, which don’t seem critical (esp since I usually hear gender gap is smaller in part-time than full-time, and since okay, fine, women are less likely to be farmers). But if it turns out that switches around when you consider rural and married people, I apologize for the error.

          Possibly the problem is that I used the phrase “recent graduate” to mean “a person who has graduated recently, whether from college or high school” (ie not one of those 60-year-old women who is still on a career track she inherited from her old-timey education) and you reasonably interpreted it as “college graduate”? If so, I apologize for the confusion.

          “But that you seem unaware of this (other than the brief mention of my blog – thanks for that – and Ozy) adds to the impression that you’re someone who is approaching feminism like a prosecutor, taking special note of evidence of guilt while not taking note of most contrary evidence, rather than someone who is approaching things with an open mind.”

          I hope I am open-minded, and I try to give credit where it is due and avoid literally-universalizing statements. But I admit that I tend more towards a critical than a complimentary direction. Perhaps that makes me a prosecutor. Judging by your blog’s tagline, you are an admitted defense lawyer. This doesn’t mean you’re not open-minded or honest, just that you apply your open mind with a particular focus. I agree you are doing a useful service, just like literal defense lawyers do. I think I’m also doing a useful service, just like literal prosecutors do. And one thing prosecutors do is not only argue individual defense claims, but also call character witnesses: “Your honor, I wish to establish a pattern of lies by the defendant, which means we should be especially careful before trusting zir future statements.” I think this is also a useful service. But if I ever step out of line and start using hearsay, call “objection!”

          (sorry for strained metaphor)

          I request that if you post a reply to this statement, you post it as a new comment at the bottom of the blog so that we break can out of the multiply-nested very-stretched comments here. I will expect it and look for it there.

          Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          You can’t extract meaningful numbers from google searches. For example, if you drop the word “for” inside the quotes, the number goes down by a factor of 10. That’s also true if you drop pay gap and only use the quoted phrase: “for equal work” vs “equal work”. Do you really want to conclude that 1000% of the time that someone uses the phrase “equal work” the person embeds it in the phrase “for equal work”?

          Report comment

      • Daran says:

        False rape allegation statistics, which range from “it never happens”, to the article I’m critiquing here, to an unsourced “0.02%”

        The source for that figure is Harry O’Reilly formerly of the New York City Rape Squad. I don’t have time to look it up in more detail, but that should be enough for you to track it down if you’re interested.

        It’s bullshit of course.

        Report comment

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I didn’t find O’Reilly’s 1984 article, but I found a long quote, but his number is 0.25%, not 0.02%.

          The last myth I want to deal with is that of false accusations. Do we really have women running around making false accusations against innocent men? Does this happen? Are there false reports? Of course there are, and we must always be on the alert and be aware that victims may be telling a lie. Some women do lie, of course, but the number of women who make false reports is negligible in comparison with the number of valid complainants. In a six-month period in New York City there were around 2000 reported rapes, of which about 250 were unfounded reports. But `unfounded’ does not mean lying. Let’s see what it means: 200 of the 250 were simple administrative errors. They should never have been called rapes in the first place; for example, a woman phones the station and yells rape. The police car goes out and there’s no one home. The next day a detective goes to follow the incident up and the woman says “Oh yes, my boyfriend and I had a fight last night and I yelled “rape”‘. `Why did you yell rape?’ `Because if I had yelled disorderly conduct, nobody is going to come, but if I yell rape I know damn sure that a cop is going to come in a hurry.’ That kind of thing is not a false rape charge, but a mild inconvenience to the police.

          We are therefore left with potentially 50 liars out of a total of 2000 complainants. Of that 50, perhaps 20 cases of false report were made as some kind of attempt by the woman to protect herself against a tyrannical father or husband because she had violated some family rule, usually a time curfew, and she has to account for why she is late. Rarely in these cases, however, does she accuse a specific person; rather, she claims that some mysterious figure in the night pulled her into a car and did this awful thing to her and caused her to be two hours late in coming home. Other times we have women who have psychological problems, loneliness being the main one, and they know if they say `rape’ the officer will come and talk with them awhile. These women have lied, of course, but no more maliciously than has the woman with the tyrannical husband/father.

          After analyzing all the ‘unfounded’ reports, we found that there were actually only five cases of women maliciously telling lies and deliberately falsely accusing men of rapes that had never been committed. In these cases the women are arrested for making false accusations – false charges are crimes which must be punished. the bottom line, then is that out of 2000 charges of rape, there were five proven liars. That is good enough evidence for me to conclude that most victims are telling the truth! (p.96-7).

          Report comment

  44. Josh says:

    So the initial figures you respond to seem clearly badly flawed (kudos for pointing that out), and trying to do a rigorous estimate of false accusations is clearly a worthy task. I did have some questions and disagreements about your argument though:

    1. Where does the 8% FBI estimate come from? I couldn’t find that in the FBI link you provided but maybe just didn’t see the right table. Why you go with that rather than some figure based on the 2-10% range?

    2. I think that your quotes around “unfounded” (in the 20-40% thing) might have meant you were trying to convey that “unfounded” is different from false, but I’m not sure your post fully captures that nuance. My understanding is that while the FBI standard for unfounded more closely lines up to false, local reporting to the FBI does not conform to a specific definition of the term (and may incorporate cases where evidence was inconclusive or victims stopped pursuing the case). Thus, I’m not sure if the 20-40% estimate of unfounded helps much with the falseness question.

    3. I don’t think you’re accurately capturing the criticism of Kanin’s study (or at least the criticism you link to). The problem is not that police officers advocated the cases too aggressively per se: the aggressiveness problem is that recantation from reported victims does not mean the initial charge was false, particularly in cases (as here) where recantation was the only option to get the case dropped. Moreover, the Kanin study was on one, unidentified police department with about a hundred rape cases and which required reported victims to take a polygraph test, something that federal policy currently disallows (for any police department taking federal funds). Given the other studies that have much larger sample sizes without the methodological problems, it’s weird to rely on Kanin here and particularly weird to juxtapose it as the “good” police department set of policies.

    4. I think your prior that non-reporting of false accusations are more common than non-reporting of rape is off: reporting rape to the police is incredibly different, rape is traumatizing, etc. Yes, there are incentives for the false accuser not to go to the police, but to describe as conservative an assumption of similar rates of police non-reporting of rape and false accusation strikes me as misguided. As to the idea that a more realistic episode is double or triple that (given the tremendous disincentives to reporting rape), do you have any evidence that would lead you to that conclusion? Do lower stakes types of reporting (such as to university administrators, say) include a higher false accusation rate?

    5. Do you know of acquaintances of yours being raped? Given that rates of rape are (in your analysis) higher than rates of false accusation, I’m surprised that you mention personal examples of one and not the other. Is it that the anecdotal rapes don’t seem relevant to the statistical analysis? This post seems to find personal experience important in building priors, so not mentioning personal experiences of rape victimization struck me as noteworthy.

    6. I think the 3*2.5 but it’s up to my readers is a weird circumlocution. I don’t really get why you use it.

    Report comment

    • Ampersand says:

      I very much agree with point three.

      I mean, I agree with more than just point three; but since I wrote much of the criticism of Kanin’s study that Scott linked to, my agreement that Scott’s post is not “accurately capturing the criticism of Kanin’s study” seems particularly relevant.

      Report comment

  45. Ampersand says:

    By the way, it wasn’t “reblogged” over 35,000 times. It had >35,000 “notes,” but that’s a statistic combining those who reblog with those who like, and I don’t know if those who both like and reblog are counted once or twice.

    How big a deal is 35,000 notes? From my perspective, as a blogger, that’s enormous. But industry guesstimates is that Tumblr has around 40 million active users. How many of those do you suppose are feminists or feminist sympathizers? I’d expect the answer would be in the millions, since there are a heck of a lot of feminists, and tumblr seems to have a disproportionate number of young lefties compared to the general population. (Totally an anecdotal impression, I have no hard evidence.)

    This post about Justin Bieber got almost 9 million notes. The most popular “social justice” themed posts, like this one and this one, get hundreds of thousands of notes.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      By the way, it wasn’t “reblogged” over 35,000 times. It had >35,000 “notes,” but that’s a statistic combining those who reblog with those who like

      The only two cases in which I use the 35000 number are:

      “Spotted on Brute Reason but liked and reblogged 35,000 times”

      “And yet it got 35,000 Tumblr likes and reblogs”

      I feel like I was actually extremely careful in stating that it was not reblogged 35,000 times, but in fact liked and reblogged 35,000 times. You can confirm on archive.org or similar services that I did not suddenly just edit that in to respond to your comment but that it has in fact been there the whole time.

      Possibly this phrase is ambiguous between “it was both liked 35000 times, and reblogged 35000 times” and “the category of things including both likes and reblogs happened to it 35000 times”, but I don’t think it’s too ambiguous, and I feel like this is the sort of ambiguity which is unavoidable without writing in Lojban.

      I appreciate your putting the number in perspective, but let me put it in the other perspective: my Anti-Reactionary FAQ, which got featured on TechCrunch, David Brin’s blog, Charles Stross’ blog, Mencius Moldbug’s blog, the reactionary magazine Radish, got 826 comments, and is by far the most popular thing I have ever written – got 31,000 views, which seems like a much less strict criteria than notes.

      This very post got on Tumblr and I think it got something like 15 or 20 notes before fizzling out. Lie something something halfway world truth boots something something.

      Report comment

  46. Pingback: No, men aren’t more likely to be hit by an asteroid than falsely accused of rape | Alas, a Blog

  47. Christopher says:

    Thank you. I was the kid in secondary school accused by my ex-girlfriend, and it made high school a living hell. I was fifteen and very quickly there were ‘don’t hang out with Chris alone’ stories.

    So thank you. I wish there were more people saying what needs to be said. Thank you.

    Report comment

    • Adam says:

      Thats another thing, people only go on false accusations to the police, as if they are the only false accusations that come with any repercussions. The social sphere can be just as brutal, if not more.

      Report comment

  48. Ampersand says:

    Douglas Knight –

    That’s really interesting. Point well taken.

    Scott:

    I don’t care about or stand behind my “1%” number, especially after reading what Douglas wrote.

    Before I continue, can you clarify your claim that “the not-for-equal-work number is almost universally presented with “for equal work” at the end of it”?

    I took this to be you referring to claims that the wage gap is solely or primarily caused by people with identical jobs being paid unequally. I have seen those claims, I have blogged about how those claims aren’t true. I don’t think anyone familiar with the literature can make that claim in good faith.

    However, now I’m wondering if that is what you meant, or if you meant that any wage gap discussion that argues that unequal pay EVER happens, even as one of a myriad of factors going into the wage gap, is in your view dishonest?

    Could you clarify exactly what you meant?

    I wonder if you would be so dismissive of errors in the other direction. If I turned men’s rights blogger and made the plank of my movement the claim that “the health care system is sexist because men die X years earlier than women on average, everyone must fight this rampant matriarchalist health care discrimination against men”, wouldn’t you think it was a little sketchy that I didn’t point out higher male smoking rates, testosterone’s role in heart disease, et cetera?

    I wouldn’t say that’s at all the same thing as comparing the odds of any one sex act leading to a false accusation to the lifetime odds of getting hit by lightning. Do you honestly not see the difference? The one is completely, indefensibly wrong, the other is part of a legitimate discussion that we should be having.

    When discussing why men lead shorter lives (on average), sure, the factors you mention are worth discussing. But so are social factors, including the social factors many MRAs are concerned with. (For that matter, I’d consider greater cig smoking a social trait.) I don’t think the MRA concerns about why men die sooner are so illegitimate that they should be dismissed as obvious lies, and in fact I share some of their concerns.

    Not every discussion has to be about those particular cofounders, and not mentioning those cofounders in every single discussion is not dishonesty.

    I’m not dismissive of errors, either made by anti-feminists or by feminists. But I think I’m a lot more charitable than you are in my definition of what is or isn’t dishonest. At least, when it comes to feminists.

    If that sort of thing were my consistent level of output, wouldn’t you feel like you might want to warn your friends that anything I and my movement wrote should be treated with skepticism until proven innocent?

    I think any blog post, by anyone who you don’t have reason to trust, should have its statistical and factual claims treated with skepticism. Most blogs, including many blog posts both of us have written, are written by amateurs. Most people, even reliable professional scholars, are unreliable when talking or writing off-the-cuff, or when talking outside their specialty.

    I don’t disagree with you that feminist blogs are unreliable, and I’d never trust a stat that I found on some blog by someone I didn’t know anything about on Tumblr. (Indeed, I’m pretty sure I saw the post your original post focused on, on Tumblr, and dismissed it without reading beyond the first few sentences.)

    The difference between your view and mine is that I don’t think that feminist bloggers are an exception to a rule of general blog reliability when it comes to facts and statistical claims. I don’t think any such general rule exists.

    It’s interesting to compare how unforgiving you are of feminists stating any facts wrong, compared to how very forgiving you are of yourself getting facts wrong.

    You stated “the average childless female recent graduate earns more than the average childless recent male graduate… ” Trying to correct this, you stated that by “graduate,” you meant either recent graduates of either high school or college. That’s not just a weird and misleading way to put it, it’s factually wrong – unless by “recent” you mean “up to 12 years,” not all people in the data are recent graduates, and furthermore some people in the data are high-school drop-outs.

    The caveats about this being about “urban” workers, and about it NOT being a study just of “graduates,” are important if you care at all about the substance of the work. To dismiss these differences as unimportant shows a very great lack of understanding of the issue, imo. (And your comment about “farmers” is not only trivializing but irrelevant – farming is well under 10% of workers even in rural areas, and dropping fast.)

    Typically – and here I don’t mean “typically for Scott,” but “typically for all political writers,” you didn’t just make a random mistake – you made a mistake that tended to confirm your desired beliefs with regard to the issue. Misstating the fact in the way you did has the effect of not just minimizing but literally reversing the wage gap among young, college-educated workers.

    My point is not that this is a big deal. It’s not a big deal. These sort of errors are an inevitable part of discourse, particularly amateur discourse, and you’re right to treat your misremembering a study as a matter of no importance.

    But after this thread, it’s nearly impossible to imagine you treating any feminist blogger making a similar error with the kind of charity and understanding that you treat errors of your own.

    I agree you are doing a useful service, just like literal defense lawyers do. I think I’m also doing a useful service, just like literal prosecutors do.

    I think parts 1 and 2 of your post provide an EXTREMELY useful service. But I don’t think that’s about being a prosecutor. That’s about caring about the truth and calling out someone on an indefensible statistical move.

    I think the final paragraphs of part 5, and part 6, are just typical bloggy “the ideology I dislike is eeevvviiiilllll” nonsense, although you’re too smooth to put it in such crude terms. It’s also inaccurate. Finally – as I said in my first comment responding to you – I think totalizing statements like that are generally harmful to discourse.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You are right that I was wrong to say the pay gap was “almost universally” mispresented. I didn’t realize I had phrased it that way, and that does make the exact phrasing of my previous statement incorrect.

      Likewise, it seems like from Douglas’ post you were quite wrong to make your 1:100 claim.

      I do not think your error is especially interesting, and I do not think my error is especially interesting. On the other hand, saying “Women make 71% as much as men, therefore sexism”, and making that one of the biggest planks of a gigantic social movement which gets cited uncritically during major speeches by the President of the US, when there are extremely well-known reasons why one should *not* conclude therefore sexism is an interesting error, and it seems to happen a lot. I apologize for overstating my case (slightly! as “sin of commission” instead of the more correct “often sin of commission, but sometimes serious sin of omission”) but I think you’re trying to poke holes rather than address the gist.

      You stated “the average childless female recent graduate earns more than the average childless recent male graduate… ” Trying to correct this, you stated that by “graduate,” you meant either recent graduates of either high school or college. That’s not just a weird and misleading way to put it, it’s factually wrong – unless by “recent” you mean “up to 12 years,” not all people in the data are recent graduates, and furthermore some people in the data are high-school drop-outs.

      I think you are either being uncharitable or misunderstanding me. How exactly would you prefer that I phrase the fact that this statistic applies to people who enter the workforce recently and not people who have been in it a long time? “Recent workforce entrant?” I suspect my usage is in fact much more standard. If I knew that my wording would be picked through with this level of intensity and turned into some generalized theory about my general mistakenness I would have done that, but this seems to be that same “you will not be happy unless I write in Lojban” thing as above.

      And now I interpret you (sorry if incorrect) as accusing me of lying about this to cover my tracks (you write “trying to correct this”) which I think is very unclassy. I told Charles Clymer on Facebook that I would make a huge public apology for accusing him of lying if he promised that his mistake was not intentional. Well, I promise that my use of “recent graduate” up there was not in fact intended to mean “only college graduate”. You can trust me or not.

      Unless I’m missing something, you haven’t even suggested I’m wrong. You’ve shown it’s true of urban but not rural people. But the population of the US is 85% urban, so most likely what is true of urban people will also be true of the general population. I admit I think I saw a post of yours before saying you had census data on this, but I can’t find it now, so you may have proven it is true of the general population but I just missed it. If so, sorry. But if you haven’t done this, you have not actually countered my statistic, just said you can subdivide finer than I can and spin off small subsets for which it isn’t true.

      (one might argue that’s what I’m doing with the general pay gap statistic by limiting it to childless-and-so-on, but I’m trying to find the most representative sample that controls for stuff like family and past sexism, not just subdividing till I find something I like)

      This seems a lot like your complaint about “reblogs” versus “likes and reblogs” above – flailing about to try to tar me with any sort of inaccuracy at all on even tiny points, being mostly ineffective even there, but continuing on until I’m so worn down I give up and abandon the conversation.

      And this is part of what I am complaining about – the feminist blogosphere is full of all these fantastic errors, they get completely ignored. The feminist blogosphere can be really nasty to its opponents, trivializes their suffering, and very few people examine it or protest except a few men’s rights blogs who are dismissed with “Yeah, they would say that”. I make a post that everyone agrees is broadly correct and which follows with a strong but hardly rabid condemnation of one aspect of feminism, a condemnation that doesn’t personally attack anyone and which freely admits in the next sentence that there are also lots of great feminists to whom it doesn’t apply – and I have to spend so long responding to assaults on every single thing I said, like whether a Tumblr “reblog and like” is different from a Tumblr “reblog or like”, or whether “recent graduate” means the same as “college graduate in the last twelve years” that goodness knows if I will ever work up the masochism to try it again. This seems wrong to me and I’m not sure how to fix it without having to spend all my time responding to claims that I am not meeting epistemic and linguistic-clarity standards so strong that any individual or movement would fail them unless they devoted all their energy to not doing so.

      (and lest you say that’s what I’m doing to the feminist movement – no. All of those nine things I mentioned are really serious consequential errors, not just using words that someone can find a way to misinterpret)

      I have edited the end of Part V to make it clearer that, although I do advocate extreme paranoia, the typical mistake is much less bad than Clymer’s, I cannot prove that feminism requires more paranoia than any other charged political blogosphere, and I am not condemning “all feminists as liars” or anything like that. I hope you will consider that an appropriate resolution to this line of discussion.

      Report comment

  49. Nonnie Mouse says:

    I do not understand the motivation here:

    “What about a slightly less hyperconservative estimate? Continuing our conservative assumption that there has never been a false accuser who has not later confused, but allowing that false accusations reach the police at only the same rate that rapes do, 1.5% of men will get falsely accused.”

    You seem to be multiplying the number by 5 because 80% of rapes do not get reported to the police. You are presumably adding the contribution from that 80%.

    If the rapes are not being reported, how do we know about them? Is it from anonymous surveys and such? If so, then nobody is getting accused, falsely or otherwise, so it should not contribute to the number of false rape accusations. Or is it from hearsay about people’s friends getting raped? If the latter, then I can maybe see it.

    Assuming you meant the former:

    You are saying that for every N people who report a true rape, there are bN people who report a false rape. Similarly, for every M people who talk to their friends about a rape, you suggest that there are bM people who talk to their friends about a rape that didn’t actually happen. Let’s accept that.

    But what happens next? There are 4 times as many people who have been raped as there are who report rape. What does that have to do with anything? You should multiply not by
    (# people who have been raped)/(# people who report rape) = 4
    but rather by
    (# people who tell their friends about being raped)/(# of people who tell police) = no idea

    The number of people who truly have been raped is not relevant here, is it?

    Am I mis-understanding what your 80% statistic meant?

    Oh, another thing: is 35,000 notes on a Tumblr really that big a deal? I mean this post on Tumblr showed up on my feed:
    http://xld.tumblr.com/post/76898373717/i-need-a-hug-or-6-shots-of-vodka
    It says “I need a hug or 6 shots of vodka”. That’s the entirety of the post. It has over 123,000 notes. There’s also a short gif of Tom Hiddleston apparently worth over 300,000 notes.

    Report comment

  50. Pingback: False Rape Accusations | Junior Ganymede

  51. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/02/26 | Free Northerner

  52. Pingback: Lies, Damned Lies, and Military Rape Statistics | iParallax

  53. Dennis Towne says:

    When I was in college, one of my roommates was accused of rape and got a visit from the local police. In the end, the police dropped the investigation because the accuser had a history generating false rape charges against boyfriends she felt wronged her.

    On the other hand, I’ve definitely not known any NFL players.

    Report comment

  54. Pingback: Lies, Damned Lies, and @cmclymer Charles Clymer @EmilyMatchar @JessicaValenti

  55. I was never accused of rape. But when my first wife came out as a lesbian, a lot of people said the poor woman had been a victim of “enforced heterosexuality”. Which made me the perpetrator of “enforced heterosexuality”.

    Report comment

  56. Pingback: *Slate Star Codex* | Nation of Beancounters

  57. Pax Empyrean says:

    I realize that this is article is ancient by blog standards, but I noticed something I think is worth commenting on. I didn’t see it in the comments I read, but I didn’t read all of them, so if I’m pointing out something you’re already aware of them you have my apologies.

    “3% of men are falsely accused of rape. 15% of women are raped. If someone you know gets accused of rape, your prior still is very very high that they did it.”

    The percentage of women who are raped is not necessarily equal to the percentage of men who are rapists. The 15% figure is the maximum possible for male rapists, assuming each rapist strikes only once. If, on the other hand, 1% of men are responsible for raping 15% of women, then 3% of men who are falsely accused of rape compared to 1% of men who are rapists still puts my odds at 3:1 against a randomly accused man being guilty of rape. If 3% of men are responsible for raping 15% of women while 3% of men will be falsely accused, then my prior is that a random man accused of rape has equal odds of being guilty or innocent.

    It seems likely to me that most men who are willing to commit rape would be likely to commit rape more than once, so that 5:1 prior of the accused being guilty is an upper bound on the probability of a random accusation being true, which falls as the number of rapes becomes more concentrated in a smaller population of rapists committing them.

    On the other hand, actual rapists probably attract a disproportionate share of the rape accusations, so I really have no idea how likely it is that any given alleged-rapist is actually a rapist. I wouldn’t start with the 15:3 assumption, though.

    Report comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>