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Untitled

EDIT: This is the most controversial post I have ever written in ten years of blogging. I wrote it because I was very angry at a specific incident. I stand by a lot of it, but if somebody links you here saying “HERE’S THE SORT OF GUY THIS SCOTT ALEXANDER PERSON IS, READ THIS SO YOU KNOW WHAT HIS BLOG IS REALLY ABOUT”, please read any other post instead. There’s a whole list of Top Posts on the Top Posts bar above.

Trigger warning: social justice, condemnation of some feminism, tangential reference to eating disorder. Note that although our names are very similar, I am NOT the same person as Scott Aaronson and he did NOT write this article. Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism.

I.

In my heart, there is a little counter that reads “XXX days without a ten-thousand word rant about feministm.” And I had just broken three digits when they had to go after Scott Aaronson.

For those of you who don’t know, Scott Aaronson is one of the nicest, smartest, and most decent people there are. A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man:

I check Feministing, and even radfem blogs like “I Blame the Patriarchy.” And yes, I’ve read many studies and task force reports about gender bias, and about the “privilege” and “entitlement” of the nerdy males that’s keeping women away from science. Alas, as much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my “male privilege”—my privilege!—is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience.

But I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me “privileged”—that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes—is completely alien to your way of seeing things. To have any hope of bridging the gargantuan chasm between us, I’m going to have to reveal something about my life, and it’s going to be embarrassing.

(sigh) Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year.

My recurring fantasy, through this period, was to have been born a woman, or a gay man, or best of all, completely asexual, so that I could simply devote my life to math, like my hero Paul Erdös did. Anything, really, other than the curse of having been born a heterosexual male, which for me, meant being consumed by desires that one couldn’t act on or even admit without running the risk of becoming an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.

Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. But I didn’t find any. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.

Because of my fears—my fears of being “outed” as a nerdy heterosexual male, and therefore as a potential creep or sex criminal—I had constant suicidal thoughts. As Bertrand Russell wrote of his own adolescence: “I was put off from suicide only by the desire to learn more mathematics.”

At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself. The psychiatrist refused to prescribe them, but he also couldn’t suggest any alternative: my case genuinely stumped him. As well it might—for in some sense, there was nothing “wrong” with me. In a different social context—for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine. (And after a decade of being coy about it, I suppose I’ve finally revealed the meaning of this blog’s title.) […]

Now, the whole time I was struggling with this, I was also fighting a second battle: to maintain the liberal, enlightened, feminist ideals that I had held since childhood, against a powerful current pulling me away from them. I reminded myself, every day, that no, there’s no conspiracy to make the world a hell for shy male nerds. There are only individual women and men trying to play the cards they’re dealt, and the confluence of their interests sometimes leads to crappy outcomes. No woman “owes” male nerds anything; no woman deserves blame if she prefers the Neanderthals; everyone’s free choice demands respect.

That I managed to climb out of the pit with my feminist beliefs mostly intact, you might call a triumph of abstract reason over experience. But I hope you now understand why I might feel “only” 97% on board with the program of feminism.

All right. Guy opens up for the first time about how he was so terrified of accidentally hurting women that he became suicidal and tried to get himself castrated. Eventually he got over it and is now 97% on board with feminism, but wants people to understand that when done wrong it can be really scary.

The feminist blogosphere, as always, responded completely proportionally. Amanda Marcotte, want to give us a representative sample?

[Aaronson’s post] is the whole “how can men be oppressed when I don’t get to have sex with all the hot women that I want without having to work for it?” whine, one that, amongst other things, starts on the assumption that women do not suffer things like social anxiety or rejection…It was just a yalp of entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men. [He is saying that] “having to explain my suffering to women when they should already be there, mopping my brow and offering me beers and blow jobs, is so tiresome…I was too busy JAQ-ing off, throwing tantrums, and making sure the chip on my shoulder was felt by everyone in the room to be bothered to do something like listen.” Women are failing him by not showing up naked in his bed, unbidden. Because bitches, yo.

The eternal struggle of the sexist: Objective reality suggests that women are people, but the heart wants to believe they are a robot army put here for sexual service and housework.

This would usually be the point where I state for the record that I believe very strongly that all women are human beings. Problem is, I’ve just conceived a sudden suspicion that one of them is actually a Vogon spy in a skin suit.

Anyway, Marcotte was bad enough, given that she runs one of the most-read feminist blogs on the Internet. But much of the rest of the feminist “discussion” on Tumblr, Twitter, and the like was if anything even worse.

But there was one small ray of hope. A bunch of people sent me an article on the issue by Laurie Penny in New Statesman, called “On Nerd Entitlement: White Male Nerds Need To Recognize That Other People Had Traumatic Upbringings Too And That’s Different From Structural Oppression.” The article was always linked with commentary like “This is so compassionate!” or “Finally a decent human being is addressing this issue with kindness!”

Well, I read the article, and ended up having the following Facebook conversation:

On further reflection, Other Friend has a point. I disliked Penny’s article, but compared to everything else it was a ray of light, a breath of fresh air, an unexpected incursion from a utopia of universal love and understanding. I didn’t feel like it treated Aaronson fairly. But I did feel like it treated him like a human being, which is rare and wonderful.

From the article:

I do not intend for a moment to minimise Aaronson’s suffering. Having been a lonely, anxious, horny young person who hated herself and was bullied I can categorically say that it is an awful place to be. I have seen responses to nerd anti-feminism along the lines of “being bullied at school doesn’t make you oppressed”. Maybe it’s not a vector of oppression in the same way, but it’s not nothing. It burns. It takes a long time to heal.

That this article keeps being praised effusively for admitting that someone else’s suicidal suffering “isn’t nothing”, is a sign. It’s a sign of how low our standards are. But it’s also a sign people are ready for change.

It’s hard for me express simultaneously both how genuinely grateful and impressed I am that the article managed to avoid being awful, and how far I still think it has to go. I can only offer Ms. Penny and the entire staff of the New Statesman the recognition appropriate for their achievement:

I’ve already written some thoughts on this general issue in Radicalizing The Romanceless. But by bringing nerd-dom into the picture, Penny has made that basic picture exponentially more complicated.

Luckily, this is a post about Scott Aaronson, so things that become exponentially more complicated fit the theme perfectly.

II.

Ms. Penny writes:

Feminism is not to blame for making life hell for “shy, nerdy men”. It is a real shame that Aaronson picked up Andrea Dworkin rather than any of the many feminist theorists and writers who manage to combine raw rage with refusal to resort to sexual shame as an instructive tool. Weaponised shame – male, female or other – has no place in any feminism I subscribe to.

I live in a world where feminists throwing weaponized shame at nerds is an obvious and inescapable part of daily life. Whether we’re “mouth-breathers”, “pimpled”, “scrawny”, “blubbery”, “sperglord”, “neckbeard”, “virgins”, “living in our parents’ basements”, “man-children” or whatever the insult du jour is, it’s always, always, ALWAYS a self-identified feminist saying it. Sometimes they say it obliquely, referring to a subgroup like “bronies” or “atheists” or “fedoras” while making sure everyone else in nerddom knows it’s about them too.

There continue to be a constant stream of feminist cartoons going around Tumblr featuring blubberous neckbearded fedora-wearing monsters threatening the virtue of innocent ladies.

Oops, I accidentally included three neo-Nazi caricatures of Jews in there. You did notice, right?

Read any article from the appropriate subfield of feminism, and you may well run into the part with the girl walking into a comic book store only to be accosted by a mouth-breathing troglodyte, followed by a “lesson” on nerd male privilege.

But it’s not just that. Try to look up something on Iron Man, and you get an article on Iron Man-Child and how “the white maleness of geek culture” proves they are “the most useless and deficient individuals in society, precisely because they have such a delusional sense of their own importance and entitlements.” Go to Jezebel and people are talking about how jocks are so much better than nerds because nerds hate women.

It has reached the point where articles published in major journals talk about the the fedora phenomenon in the context of “the growing trend in feminists and other activists online that use shaming as an activist strategy”.

Let’s not mince words. There is a growing trend in Internet feminism that works exactly by conflating the ideas of nerd, misogynist, virgin, person who disagrees with feminist tactics or politics, and unlovable freak.

Ms. Penny may be right that her ideal feminism doesn’t do that. Then again, my ideal masculinity doesn’t involve rape or sexual harassment. Ideals are always pretty awesome. But women still have the right to complain when actual men rape them, and I’m pretty sure nerds deserve the right to complain that actual feminists are, a lot of the time, focused way more on nerd-baiting than actual feminism, and that much the same people who called us “gross” and “fat” and “loser” in high school are calling us “gross” and “misogynist” and “entitled” now, and for much the same reasons.

III.

Penny goes on to deny that this is a gendered issue at all:

Like Aaronson, I was terrified of making my desires known- to anyone. I was not aware of any of my (substantial) privilege for one second – I was in hell, for goodness’ sake, and 14 to boot…Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that. Or how about a triple whammy: you have to go through your entire school years again but this time you’re a lonely nerd who also faces sexism and racism.

This comes across so strongly as “my suffering is worse than your suffering” spiel, so much so that I’m tempted to argue it and review a bunch of experiments like how even the least attractive women on dating sites get far more interest than men. Or how women asking random people for sex on the street get accepted more than two-thirds of the time, but men trying the same get zero percent. Or how the same study shows that the women who get declined get declined politely, while the men are treated with disgust and contempt. Or I could hunt down all of the stories of trans men who start taking testosterone, switch to a more male sex drive, and are suddenly like “OH MY GOD I SUDDENLY REALIZE WHAT MALE HORNINESS IS LIKE I THOUGHT I KNEW SEXUAL FRUSTRATION BEFORE BUT I REALLY REALLY DIDN’T HOW DO YOU PEOPLE LIVE WITH THIS?”

But my commenters have convinced me that taking this further would be joining in the pissing contest I’m condemning, so let’s put it a little differently.

A couple of studies show that average-attractiveness people who ask random opposite-gender strangers on dates are accepted 50% of the time, regardless of their gender.

Grant that everyone involved in this conversation has admitted they consider themselves below average attractiveness (except maybe Marcotte, whose daily tune-ups keep her skin-suit in excellent condition). Fine. Maybe we have a success rate of 10%?

That’s still astounding. It would be pretty easy to mock teenage-me for not asking for dates when ten percent of people would have said yes. Asking ten people something takes what, five minutes? And would have saved how many years of misery?

This is a pretty impressive market failure – in sheer utility cost, probably bigger than any of the market failures actual economists talk about.

Some people say the female version of the problem is men’s fault, and call the behavior involve slut-shaming. I take this very seriously and try not to slut-shame or tolerate those who do.

But the male version of the problem is nerd-shaming or creep-shaming or whatever, and I don’t feel like most women, especially most feminist women, take it nearly as seriously as I try to take their problems. If anything, many actively make it worse. This is exactly those cartoons above and the feminists spreading them. Nerds are told that if they want to date girls, that makes them disgusting toxic blubberous monsters who are a walking offense to womankind.

This is maybe not the most reasonable interpretation of modern sexual mores, but neither is “any women who has sex before marriage is a slut and no one will ever value her.” Feminists are eagle-eyed at spotting the way seemingly innocuous messages in culture can accidentally reinforce the latter, but continue to insist that there’s no possible way that shouting the former from the rooftops could possibly lead to anyone believing or internalizing it.

Talking about “entitled nerds” is the Hot New Internet Feminism thing these days. Here’s The Entitlement And Misogyny Of Nerd Culture. Here’s Sex, Nerds, Entitlement, and Rape. Here’s Is Nerd Culture Filled With Entitled Crybabies? There’s On Male Entitlement: Geeks, Creeps, and Sex.

And now, apparently, the New Statesman, realizing that it’s almost 2015 and it has yet to claim a share of the exciting nerd entitlement action, has On Nerd Entitlement by Laurie Penny

And this is more than a little weird, because the actual nerds I know in real life tend to be more like Scott Aaronson, who is spending less time feeling entitled to sex, and more time asking his doctor if there’s any way to get him castrated because his sexual desire might possibly offend a woman. Or more like me, who got asked out by a very pretty girl in middle school and ran away terrified because he knew nobody could actually like him and it was obviously some kind of nasty trick.

So given that real-life nerds are like this, and given that they’re sitting around being terrified that they’re disgusting toxic monsters whose wish to have sex is an offense against womenkind, what do you think happens when they hear from every news source in the world that they are entitled?

What happens is they think “Oh God! There was that one time when I looked at a woman and almost thought about asking her out! That means I must be feeling entitled to sex! I had temporarily forgotten that as a toxic monster I must never show any sexuality to anybody! Oh God oh God I’m even worse than I thought!”

Again, this is not the most rational thing in the world. But I maintain it’s no less rational than, say, women who won’t leave their abusive husband because he’s convinced them they don’t deserve anything better than what they get. Gender is weird. Self-loathing is easy to inculcate and encourage, even unintentionally. Heck, we’ve already identified this market failure of people preferring to castrate themselves rather than ask ten people on a date, something weird has got to explain it.

When feminists say that the market failure for young women is caused by slut-shaming, I stop slut-shaming, and so do most other decent people.

When men say that the market failure for young men is caused by nerd-shaming, feminists write dozens of very popular articles called things like “On Nerd Entitlement”.

The reason that my better nature thinks that it’s irrelevant whether or not Penny’s experience growing up was better or worse than Aaronson’s: when someone tells you that something you are doing is making their life miserable, you don’t lecture them about how your life is worse, even if it’s true. You STOP DOING IT.

IV.

This also serves to illuminate what I think is the last and most important difference between Penny’s experience and Aaronson’s experience.

When Penny bares her suffering to the world for all to hear about, she gets sympathy, she gets praised as compassionate, she gets published in important magazines whose readers feel sorry for her and acknowledge that her experience sucks.

When Aaronson talks about his suffering on his own blog, he gets Amanda Marcotte. He gets half the internet telling him he is now the worst person in the world.

This was my experience as well. When I complained that I felt miserable and alone, it was like throwing blood in the water. A feeding frenzy of feminists showed up to tell me I was a terrible person and deserved to die, sometimes in terms that made Marcotte look like grandmotherly kindness. This is part of the experience I write about in this post, and it’s such a universal part of the shy awkward male experience that we are constantly flabbergasted that women refuse to accept it exists.

When feminists write about this issue, they nearly always assume that the men involved are bitter about all the women who won’t sleep with them. In my experience and the experience of everyone I’ve ever talked to, we’re bitter about all the women who told us we were disgusting rapists when we opened up about our near-suicidal depression.

And when that happens, again and again and again, of course we learn to shut up about it. I bottled my feelings inside and never let them out and spent years feeling like I was a monster for even having them.

As a mental health professional, I can assure you this is the best coping strategy.

V.

Laurie Penny has an easy answer to any claims that any of this is feminists’ fault:

Feminism, however, is not to blame for making life hell for “shy, nerdy men”. Patriarchy is to blame for that.

I say: why can’t it be both?

Patriarchy is yet another motte and bailey trick.

The motte is that patriarchy is the existence of different gender roles in our society and the ways in which they are treated differently.

The bailey is that patriarchy is men having power over women.

If you allow people to switch between these and their connotations willy-nilly, then you enable all sorts of mischief.

Whenever men complain about anything, you say “Oh, things are bad for men? Well, that sounds like a gender role. Patriarchy’s fault!”

And then the next day you say “Well, since we already agreed yesterday your problem is patriarchy, the solution is take away power from men and give it to women. It’s right there in the word, patri-archy. So what we need is more feminism.”

Even if in this particular case the feminism is making the problem worse.

So, for example, we are told that the patriarchy causes male rape. We are told that if we want to fight male rape, the best way to do so is to work hard to promote feminist principles. But once feminism has been promoted, the particular feminists benefitting from that extra social capital may well be the ones to successfully lobbying national governments to keep male rape legal on the ground that if raping men was illegal, they might make false accusations which could hurt women.

If patriarchy is “any problem with gender roles”, it’s entirely possible, even predictable, that feminists can be the ones propping it up in any given situation.

I mean, we live in a world where the Chinese Communist Party is the group that enforces Chinese capitalism and oppresses any workers who complain about it. We live in a world where the guy who spoke out against ritualized purity-obsessed organized religion ended up as the founder of the largest ritualized purity-obsessed organized religion of all time. We live in a world where the police force, which is there to prevent theft and violence, is confiscating property and shooting people right and left. It seems neither uncommon nor unexpected that if you charge a group with eliminating an evil that’s really hard to eliminate, they usually end up mildly tweaking the evil into a form that benefits them, then devoting most of their energy to punishing people who complain.

Pick any attempt to shame people into conforming with gender roles, and you’ll find self-identified feminists leading the way. Transgender people? Feminists led the effort to stigmatize them and often still do. Discrimination against sex workers? Led by feminists. Against kinky people? Feminists again. People who have too much sex, or the wrong kind of sex? Feminists are among the jeering crowd, telling them they’re self-objectifying or reinforcing the patriarchy or whatever else they want to say. Male victims of domestic violence? It’s feminists fighting against acknowledging and helping them.

Yes, many feminists have been on both sides of these issues, and there have been good feminists tirelessly working against the bad feminists. Indeed, right now there are feminists who are telling the other feminists to lay off the nerd-shaming. My girlfriend is one of them. But that’s kind of my point. There are feminists on both sides of a lot of issues, including the important ones.

(“But nowadays in 2015 most feminists are on the right side of every gender issue, right?” Insofar as your definition of ‘the right side of a gender issue’ is heavily influenced by ‘the side most feminists are on’, I’m going to have a really hard time answering that question in a non-tautologous way. Come back in 2065 and we can have a really interesting discussion about whether the feminists of 2015 screwed up as massively as the feminists of 1970 and 1990 did.)

So feminists can be either against or in favor of “patriarchy” broadly defined. Whether or not a form of cruelty is decreed to be patriarchy doesn’t tell us how many feminists are among the people twisting the knife.

The preferred method of figuring this out is asking the people involved.

I’ve been saying for years that getting exposed to feminist shaming was part of what made my adolescence miserable. Every time I say this, I get a stream of grateful emails thanking me for saying something so true to their experience.

Scott Aaronson has now said that getting exposed to feminist shaming was part of what made his adolescence miserable. According to his most recent blog post, he’s also getting the stream of grateful emails:

Throughout the past two weeks, I’ve been getting regular emails from shy nerds who thanked me profusely for sharing as I did, for giving them hope for their own lives, and for articulating a life-crushing problem that anyone who’s spent a day among STEM nerds knows perfectly well, but that no one acknowledges in polite company. I owe the writers of those emails more than they owe me, since they’re the ones who convinced me that on balance, I did the right thing.

I hang out a lot with shy awkward nerdy men of all ages, and I very often hear from them that feminist shaming is part of what’s making their adolescence (and often current life) miserable.

And it’s not just men. Here’s what a lesbian friend of mine had to say about Penny’s article:

There are a hell of a lot of people attracted to women who seem to have internalized the message that their attraction makes them sick and wrong and evil and creepy, that basically any interaction they have with a woman is coercive or harmful on their part, and that initiating a romantic interaction makes them a sexual predator.

I know this because I’m one of them.

I’m a woman. I’m gay. By the time I realized that second thing, I’d internalized that all attraction to women was objectifying and therefore evil. I spent years of my life convinced that it was coercive to make it clear to girls that I wanted to date them, lest they feel pressured. So I could only ask them out with a clear conscience if I was in fact totally indifferent to their answer. I still decide I’m abusive pretty frequently, on the basis of things like ‘i want to kiss her, which is what an abuser would want’ and ‘i want to be special to her, which is what an abuser would want’.

I internalized these messages from exposure to feminist memes, norms, and communities. It was feminist messages, not homophobic ones, that made it hardest for me to come to terms with my sexuality. It wasn’t intentional. But it happened. And it has happened by now to enough people that ‘well obviously you’re misinterpreting it’ is starting to wear thin as an excuse. Lots and lots of people are misinterpreting the way I did. By and large, we’re vulnerable people. Very often we’re mentally ill or disabled people.

Even if it’s broadly good for feminism to emphasize narratives about objectification and entitlement, this seems like a negative consequence of the way contemporary feminist activism does that. Activism shouldn’t make vulnerable people suicidally guilty. If there was a way to do activism that didn’t have this consequence, it’d be better than the current setup.

The infuriating thing is that I think there might be. We could write articles acknowledging that certain conversations can exacerbate crippling guilt and self-loathing, particularly for people with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses that make them fixate on their own perceived worthlessness. We could really, truly, not-just-lip-service integrate concern for those people into our activism. We could acknowledge how common this experience is and have resources to help people. We could stop misidentifying anguish as entitlement, and stop acting like anguish that does have entitlement at its root is deserved or desirable or hilarious.

We could really just start by extending to men who share this experience with me the sympathy that I’m extended when I talk about it.

The responses on Tumblr from men and women all over the sexuality spectrum who have had any personal experience with this all say it’s how they feel as well.

I usually avoid the term “privilege” because it tends to start World War III when used. So let’s avoid the term and simply keep in mind the concept that people have private information about their own experience that it’s difficult for other people to get second-hand.

Ms. Penny, as an (I think?) heterosexual woman, has no idea what having to deal with our culture’s giant minefield around romance toward women is like.

Scott Aaronson is a straight guy, and he’s saying feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. I’m an asexual heteroromantic guy, and I’m telling her feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. Unitofcaring is a lesbian woman, and she’s saying feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. HughRistik, who is some sort of weird metrosexual something (I mock him because I love him), is telling her feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. A giant cry has arisen from shy awkward men, lesbians, bisexuals, whatever of the world is saying “NO, SERIOUSLY, FEMINIST SHAMING TACTICS ARE MAKING THIS WORSE”

When Ms. Penny protests that feminism can’t possibly be involved and all these other people’s s personal experience is wrong, this is coming from a place of startling arrogance. If patriarchy means everything in the world, then yes, it is the fault of patriarchy. But it’s the kind of patriarchy that feminism as a movement is working day in and day out to reinforce.

VI.

The subtitle of the article is “White male nerds need to recognise that other people had traumatic upbringings, too – and that’s different from structural oppression.”

This doesn’t really describe the argument very well. The closest it really comes is to say that:

Aaronson makes a sudden leap, and it’s a leap that comes right from the gut, from an honest place of trauma and post-rationalisation, from that teenage misery to a universal story of why nerdy men are in fact among the least privileged men out there, and why holding those men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas – in the most important fields both of human development and social mobility right now, the places where power is being created and cemented right now – is somehow unfair […]

This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it’s built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least.

I really fucking hope that it got better, or at least is getting better, At the same time, I want you to understand that that very real suffering does not cancel out male privilege, or make it somehow alright. Privilege doesn’t mean you don’t suffer, which, I know, totally blows.

The impression I’m getting is that yes, nerds think they have problems, but actually they’re really privileged. So their problems aren’t structural oppression in the same sense that women’s problems are. So. Quick hypothetical.

I’ve postulated before that “privilege” is a classic motte-and-bailey term. The motte, the uncontroversial and attractive definition, is “some people have built-in advantages over other people, and it might be hard for them to realize these advantages even exist”. Under this definition, it’s easy to agree that, let’s say, Aaronson has the privilege of not having to deal with slut-shaming, and Penny has the privilege of not having to deal with the kind of creep-shaming that focuses on male nerds.

The bailey, the sneaky definition used to push a political point once people have agreed to the motte, is that privilege is a one-dimensional axis such that for any two people, one has privilege over the other, and that first person has it better in every single way, and that second person has it worse in every single way.

This is of course the thing everyone swears they don’t mean when they use the word privilege, which is of course how the motte-and-bailey fallacy works. But as soon as they are not being explicitly challenged about the definition, this is the way they revert back to using the word.

Go back to the original Amanda Marcotte article. Check the title. “MIT Professor Explains The Real Oppression Is Having To Talk To Women”.

That phrasing, “the real oppression is…”, carries a pretty loaded assumption. I’d say “hides a pretty loaded assumption”, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much work to hide it.

If you look through Marcotte’s work, you find this same phrasing quite often. “Some antifeminist guy is ranting at me about how men are the ones who are really oppressed because of the draft” (source). And she’s not the only one. If you Google the term “are the ones who are really oppressed”, you can find an nice collection of people using this exact phraseology, including a few examples from a charming site called “Nerds Fucking Suck”.

But Aaronson is admitting about a hundred times that he recognizes the importance of the ways women are oppressed. He’s not saying his suffering is worse than women’s in every way, just that it’s really bad and maybe this is not the place where “male privilege” should be invoked. The “is really oppressed” isn’t taken from him, it’s assumed by Marcotte. Her obvious worldview is – since privilege and oppression are a completely one dimensional axis, for Aaronson to claim that there is anything whatsoever that has ever been bad for men must be interpreted as a claim that they are the ones who are really oppressed and therefore women are not the ones who are really oppressed and therefore nothing whatsoever has ever been bad for women. By Insane Moon Logic, it sort of makes sense.

As a result, Marcotte is incapable of acknowledging that Aaronson feels pain or has feelings more complicated than “all women exist solely to be my slaves”. She has to be a jerk to him, otherwise it would be a tacit admission that he has problems, which means only he has problems, which means no woman has ever had problems, which means all women are oppressors. Or whatever.

Marcotte is angry that Aaronson doesn’t cite any feminist writer besides Andrea Dworkin, so let’s go with Julia Serano here:

What if you’re trying to hold the same weird one-dimensional system in a way consistent with basic human decency? That is, you don’t want to do the Vogon thing and say Scott Aaronson’s misery is totally hilarious, but you also don’t want to acknowledge that it counts – because if it counted you’d have to admit that men have it bad in some ways, which means that the One Group That Can Ever Have Things Bad spot is taken by men, which means women don’t have it bad?

As best I can tell, the way with the fewest epicycles is to say “Yes, your pain technically exists, but it’s not structural oppression“, where structural oppression is the type of pain that fits neatly onto the one-dimensional line.

Laurie Penny is an extremely decent person, but like a shaman warding off misfortune with a ritual, she must dub Aaronson’s pain “not structural oppression” or else risk her own pain not counting, being somehow diminished.

I mean, I don’t think she thinks that’s what she’s doing. But I’m not sure why else it’s necessary to get so competitive about it.

Absent the one-dimensional view, it would be perfectly reasonable to say something like “You feel pain? I have felt pain before too. I’m sorry about your pain. It would be incredibly crass to try to quantify exactly how your pain compares to my pain and lord it over you if mine was worse. Instead I will try to help you with your pain, just as I hope that you will help me with mine.”

Given the one-dimensional view, any admission that other people suffer is a threat to the legitimacy of one’s own suffering. Horrible people will deny and actively mock the pain of others, but even decent people will only be able to accept the pain if they also mention in an aside that it doesn’t count as the correct sort of pain to matter in the moral calculus and certainly isn’t even in the same ballpark as their own.

But the one-dimensional view sucks. It is the culmination and perfection of the phenomenon I described in my post on social justice terminology, the abandonment of discourse about the world in favor of endless debate about who qualifies for certain highly loaded terms like “structural oppression”. And those terms end up as a sort of Orwellian Newspeak that makes it possible to dismiss entire categories of experience and decree by fiat who does and doesn’t matter.


The boot acknowledged my pain! So compassionate!

§

The suspect famously says “I didn’t kill him, officer! Also, he had it coming!”

In that spirit, I would like to propose that we shouldn’t make this debate about structural oppression, but even if we do this kind of minimization of male nerd suffering doesn’t stand.

I know there are a couple different definitions of what exactly structural oppression is, but however you define it, I feel like people who are at much higher risk of being bullied throughout school, are portrayed by the media as disgusting and ridiculous, have a much higher risk of mental disorders, and are constantly told by mainstream society that they’re ugly and defective kind of counts.

If nerdiness is defined as intelligence plus poor social skills, then it is at least as heritable as other things people are willing to count as structural oppression like homosexuality (heritability of social skills, heritability of IQ, heritability of homosexuality) If all nerds were born with blue dots on their heads, and the blue-dotters were bullied in school, cast negatively in the media, assumed to be as ravenous beasts hungry for innocent women, and denounced as “entitled” any time they overcame all this to become successful – would anybody deny that blue-dotters suffered from structural oppression? Wouldn’t the people who talked about how clearly blue-dotters are entitled dudebros in the tech industry be thought of the same way as someone who said Jews were greedy parasites in the banking industry?

Actually, let’s take this Jew thing and run with it. I am not the first person to notice that there are a lot of Jews in Silicon Valley. By maternal descent, at least Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Michael Dell, Steve Ballmer, Larry Ellison, and Sheryl Sandberg. (list previously included Jimmy Wales and Jeff Bezos, but I’ve been told that’s wrong. I regret the error)

Imagine how an anti-Semite might think about this. “Jews say they’re oppressed. But actually they’re all rich. Oppression disproved!”

In fact, he might he add exactly the same comment we see in the Statesman article: “This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it’s built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least.”

But once again this only works when you have the dumb one-dimensional model of privilege. Some Jews are rich, therefore all Jews are rich, therefore all Jews are privileged, therefore no Jew could be oppressed in any way, therefore Jews are the oppressors.

And much the same is true of nerds. In fact, have you noticed actual nerds and actual Jews tend to be the same people? I’m Jewish. Scott Aaronson is Jewish. Laurie Penny, who declares her nerd-girl credentials, is Jewish. We’re discussing a blog called, of all things, Shtetl-Optimized. A minority that makes up 1% of the Anglosphere also makes up three of the three nerds in this conversation. Probability of this happening by chance is (*calculates*) exactly one in a million. Aside from Zuckerberg, Page, Brin, Bezos, Wales, Ellison, and all the other famous people, about 40% of top programmers are Jewish.

Judaism and nerdity are not exactly the same, but they sure live pretty close together.

And this is why it’s distressing to see the same things people have always said about Jews get applied to nerds. They’re this weird separate group with their own culture who don’t join in the reindeer games of normal society. They dress weird and talk weird. They’re conventionally unattractive and have too much facial hair. But worst of all, they have the chutzpah to do all that and also be successful. Having been excluded from all of the popular jobs, they end up in the unpopular but lucrative jobs, for which they get called greedy parasites in the Jews’ case, and “the most useless and deficient individuals in society” in the case of the feminist article on nerds I referenced earlier.

Propaganda against the Jews is described as follows:

Since Jews were ugly, they depended on reprehensible methods of sexual conquest. Non-violent means such as money were common, but also violence. Streicher specialized in stories and images alleging Jewish sexual violence. In a typical example, a girl cowers under the huge claw-like hand of a Jew, his evil silhouette in the background. The caption at the bottom of the page: “German girls! Keep away from Jews!” These images were particularly striking and consistent with the larger theme. Although Jews were too cowardly to engage in manly combat and too disgusting to be physically attractive to German women, they were eager to overpower and rape German women, thereby corrupting the Aryan racial stock.

I already know the same machine that turned Aaronson’s “I am 97% on board with feminism” into “I think all women should be my slaves” is focusing its baleful gaze on me. So let me specify what I am obviously not saying. I am not saying nerds have it “just as bad as Jews in WWII Germany” or any nonsense like that. I am not saying that prejudice against nerds is literally motivated by occult anti-Semitism, or accusing anyone of being anti-Semitic.

I am saying that whatever structural oppression means, it should be about structure. And the structure society uses to marginalize and belittle nerds is very similar to a multi-purpose structure society has used to belittle weird groups in the past with catastrophic results.

There is a well-known, dangerous form of oppression that works just fine when the group involved have the same skin color as the rest of society, the same sex as the rest of society, and in many cases are totally indistinguishable from the rest of society except to themselves. It works by taking a group of unattractive, socially excluded people, mocking them, accusing them of being out to violate women, then denying that there could possibly be any problem with these attacks because they include rich people who dominate a specific industry.

[EDIT 1/3: Penny’s same article was reprinted at New Republic, which I guess also realized it gotten a piece of the Hot New Nerd Entitlement Trend yet. Their title was “Nerd Entitlement Lets Men Ignore Racism And Sexism”, which is kind of weird, since Penny’s article doesn’t do anything close to argue for that. Also since surveys show nerd men are more likely to be concerned about racism and sexism than other men – see for example this survey where nerds are far more feminist than average, so much so that nerd men are more feminist than non-nerd women, and since Penny’s article makes nothing even resembling an argument for this position. Once again, this only makes sense if you assume a one-dimensional zero-sum model of privilege, where the fact that miserable male nerds are concentrating on their own desire for the release of death, instead of what women think they should be concentrating on, means they must be universally denying women can have problems.]

[EDIT 1/3, Part 2: New Republic has changed their title. You can still see it in the URL, though]

VII.

It gets worse.

What can I say? This is a strange and difficult age, one of fast-paced change and misunderstandings. Nerd culture is changing, technology is changing, and our frameworks for gender and power are changing – for the better. And the backlash to that change is painful as good, smart people try to rationalise their own failure to be better, to be cleverer, to see the other side for the human beings they are. Finding out that you’re not the Rebel Alliance, you’re actually part of the Empire and have been all along, is painful.

She links this last sentence to an article called Why Nerd Culture Must Die, which, I don’t know, kind of makes me a little more skeptical of all of her protestations that she’s exactly as much of a nerd as anyone else and likes nerds and is really working for nerds’ best interests. The article repeats that nerds think they’re “the Rebel Alliance” but actually are “the Empire”. Ha ha! Burn!

You may be wondering whether you missed the part of Star Wars where Darth Vader is so terrified of hurting or offending other people that he stops interacting with anybody and becomes suicidally depressed for years. Finally, Vader mentions this fact in the comments section of a blog about obscure Sith rituals. The brave Rebel Alliance springs into action and gets all of the Coruscant newspapers to publish articles on how Vader is entitled and needs to check his privilege.

I don’t know. Maybe this was one of those things that got taken out in the Special Edition?

(Han shot first!)

But there’s actually something even creepier going on here which may or may not be intentional.

The Transsexual Empire is a very famous book from the late 1970s subtitled “The Making Of The She-Male” in which feminist activist Janice Raymond argues that transsexuals, despite claiming to be persecuted, form an evil empire dedicated to the reinforcing of patriarchy. It contains delightful passages such as “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves”. The Transgender Studies Reader says that the book “did not invent anti-transsexual prejudice, but it did more to justify and perpetuate it than perhaps any other book ever written.” The response, written by a prominent transgender activist, was titled The Empire Strikes Back – an obvious reference to the Star Wars film published around that time.

So the question is – how come various feminists keep independently choosing the Empire as a metaphor for their enemies?

Once again the one-dimensional model of privilege rears its ugly head.

Transsexuals claimed to be suffering. This was a problem, because some of them were transwomen who had started with the male gender role. They had privilege! And they claimed to be suffering! The one-dimensional model of privilege lifts its eyebrows quizzically and emits a “…wha?”

The solution is to deny their suffering. Not only deny their suffering, but accuse them of being out to “rape women’s bodies”. Not only deny their suffering and accuse them of being rapists, but to insist that they are privileged – no, super-privileged – no, the most privileged – no, a giant all-powerful all-encompassing mass of privilege that controls everything in the world,.

So they became an Empire. How better to drive home the fact that they’re definitely powerful and oppressive and definitely definitely not suffering? Because if they were suffering, it would mean we weren’t.

There’s another word the radical feminists like to use about transsexuals. “It’s aggrieved entitlement,” Lierre Keith tells the New Yorker. “They are so angry that we will not see them as women.” The article continues to explain how “When trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.”

And sigh, now here come the male nerds and say they’re suffering too, not as much as the transpeople but still a nonzero amount of pain! Is there no end to people who are not us, suffering in inconvenient ways? They say that when they feel haunted by scrupulosity, that shaming them all the time actually makes the problem worse! We need to establish that they’re privileged right away! So how better to rub in the concept of very privileged people than to draw in the old Empire analogy, right? Maybe try the “entitlement” claim again as well? Second time’s the charm!

But let’s be clear. There is a Star Wars metaphor to be made here.

Chancellor Palpatine is, by universal agreement, a great guy. According to Count Dooku, he “speaks honestly and champions the underprivileged” (direct quote from source). But sometimes people get in the way of his mission of helping the underprivileged, and then he has to, you know, tell it like it is.

Like the Senate. When the Senate is not sure they want to hand over power to the Chancellor, he declares that they are corrupt and oppose democracy.

Or the Jedi. When the Jedi resist his rule, he declares that they are obsessed with “gain[ing] power” and “if they are not all destroyed, it will be civil war without end.”

Whenever he wants to steamroll over someone, Palpatine’s modus operandi is to convince everyone that they are scary oppressors. This isn’t just my personal interpretation. Indeed, in Order 66, Palpatine says straight out:

“Beings believe what you tell them. They never check, they never ask, they never think…Tell them you can save them, and they will never ask—from what, from whom? Just say tyranny, oppression, vague bogeymen.”

If we’ve learned anything from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that Anakin Skywalker is unbearably annoying. But if we’ve learned two things from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that the easiest way to marginalize the legitimate concerns of anyone who stands in your way is to declare them oppressors loud enough to scare everyone who listens.

And if the people in the Star Wars universe had seen the Star Wars movies, I have no doubt whatsoever that Chancellor Palpatine would have discredited his opponents by saying they were the Empire.

(seriously, you wanted to throw the gauntlet down to lonely male nerds, and the turf you chose was Star Wars metaphors? HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA?)

VIII.

Unlike Aaronson, I was also female, so when I tried to pull myself out of that hell into a life of the mind, I found sexism standing in my way. I am still punished every day by men who believe that I do not deserve my work as a writer and scholar. Some escape it’s turned out to be.

Science is a way that shy, nerdy men pull themselves out of the horror of their teenage years. That is true. That is so. But shy, nerdy women have to try to pull themselves out of that same horror into a world that hates, fears and resents them because they are women

Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that.

Ms. Penny believes that, as a woman, she’s been unfairly excluded from the life of the mind and, indeed, from every pursuit she might enjoy or use as an escape.

There is something to be discussed here, but I am having trouble isolating Ms. Penny’s exact claim.

“Unfairly excluded from the life of the mind” might suggest she didn’t have the same opportunities as men to participate in higher education, but in fact women are now 33% more likely than men to earn college degrees and women get higher grades in college than men do. They also get well above half of all master’s degrees, and just a slice over half of all Ph.Ds (and rising). Their likelihood of becoming professors is nicely predicted by the percent of degrees they earn at a couple decade interval. The articles about the world of higher education now all have titles like Missing Men or Why Are Men Falling Behind.

Industry isn’t a good example here either. Women in her demographic group – twenty-something and childless – out-earn their male counterparts by almost ten cents on the dollar.

And she’s probably not talking about science, since women earn 55% of science degrees nowadays. They are somewhat overrepresented even in some “hard” sciences like biology, but overwhelmingly so in the social sciences. Over seventy five percent of psychology majors are female – a disproportionate which blows out of the water the comparatively miniscule 60-40 disproportion favoring men in mathematics.

(Hi! Male psychology major here, can confirm!)

When Penny says she as a woman is being pushed down and excluded from every opportunity in academic life, she means that women in a very small subset of subjects centered around computer science and engineering face a gender imbalance about as bad as men do in another collection of subjects such as psychology and education.

Penny attacks nerds for believing that “holding men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas…is somehow unfair.” Fine. I hold her to account for the even higher imbalance in favor of women in psychology and education. Once she accepts responsibility for that, I’ll accept responsibility for hers. That sounds extremely fair.

(“But that’s because of patriarchy!” READ SECTION V.)

I propose an alternate explanation to both dilemmas.

By late high school, the gap between men and women in math and programming is already as large as it will ever be. Yes, it’s true that only 20 – 23% of tech workers are women. But less than twenty percent of high school students who choose to the AP Computer Science test are women.

Nothing that happens between twelfth grade and death decreases the percent of women interested in computer science one whit.

I have no hard numbers on anything before high school, but from anecdotal evidence I know very very many young men who were programming BASIC on their dad’s old computer in elementary school, and only a tiny handful of young women who were doing the same.

I don’t want to get into a drawn out inborn-ability versus acculutration fight here. I want to say that I want to say that whether we attribute this to inborn ability or to acculturation, the entire gender gap has been determined in high school if not before. If anything, women actually gain a few percentage points as they enter Silicon Valley.

What the heck do high schoolers know about whether Silicon Valley culture is sexist or not? Even if you admit that all the online articles talking about this are being read by fourteen year olds in between Harry Potter and Twilight, these articles are a very new phenomenon and my stats are older than they are. Are you saying the is because of a high level of penetration of rumors about “toxic brogrammers” into the world of the average 11th grader?

The entire case for Silicon Valley misogyny driving women out of tech is a giant post hoc ergo propter hoc.

What’s worse, I have never heard any feminist give this case in anything like a principled way. The explanation is usually just something like of course men would use their privilege to guard a well-paying and socially prestigious field like programming from women, men have always guarded their privileges, they’ve never given anything up to women without a fight, etc.

My own field is medicine. More than half of medical students are female. In two years, more than half of doctors in the UK will be female, and the US is close behind.

Medicine is better-paying and more prestigious than programming. It’s also terrible. Medicine is full of extremely abrasive personalities. Medicine has long work hours. Medicine will laugh at you hysterically if you say you want to balance work and family life.

But women can’t get into medicine fast enough. Every so often medical journals and the popular news run scare stories about how there are so many women in medicine now that if they take off time to raise kids at their accustomed rates we’re suddenly going to find ourselves pretty much doctorless.

So any explanation of the low number of women in Silicon Valley has to equally well explain their comparatively high numbers in medicine.

Given all this, it’s really easy for me to see why it’s tempting to blame nerds. Look at these low-status people. It’s their fault. We already dislike them, now we have an even better reason to dislike them that nicely wraps up an otherwise embarassing mystery. They’re clearly repelling women with their rapey creepishness. It doesn’t hurt that occasional high profile stories of sexual harassment come out of Silicon Valley aren’t hard to find and bring viral.

(no one ever asks whether there are an equally high number of stories of sexual harassment in medicine – or law, or any other field – that no one had a reason to publicize. When I was in medical school, there was an extremely creepy incident of sexual harassment/borderline attempted rape involving a female medical student and male doctor at an outlying hospital where I worked. Nobody put it on the front page of Gawker, because the doctor involved wasn’t a nerd and no one feels any particular need to tar all doctors as sexist.)

But again, you really can’t blame this one on Silicon Valley nerds, unless they are breaking into high schools and harassing the women there. And possibly breaking into grade schools, demanding the young boys start tinkering with BASIC. Time for a better theory.

A look at percent female physicians by subspecialty is instructive. The specialty with the most women is pediatrics, followed by child psychiatry, followed by obstetrics, followed by – you get the picture. The specialties with the least women are the various surgeries – the ones where your patient is immobilized, anaesthetized, opened up, and turned into a not-quite-color-coded collection of tubes and wires to poke and prod at – the ones that bear more than a passing resemblance to engineering.

(surgeons are the jockiest jocks ever to jock, so you can’t blame us for this one)

It seems really obvious to me that women – in high schools and everywhere else – have a statistical predilection to like working with people (especially children) and to dislike working with abstract technical poking and prodding. This is a bias clearly inculcated well before SATs and AP exams, one that affects medics and programmers alike.

It’s a bias that probably has both cultural and biological origins. The cultural origins are far too varied to enumerate. Many people very justly bring up the issue of how our society genders toys, with parents getting very angry when girls play with stereotypically male toys and vice versa. The classic example is of course the talking Barbie who would famously say “Math is hard! Let’s go shopping!”

On the other hand, I also think people who neglect biological causes are doing the issue a disservice. Did you know that young monkeys express pretty much exactly the same gendered toy preferences as human children? Rhesus monkeys, vervet monkeys, pretty much whatever species of monkeys you try it on, the male monkeys enjoy wheeled toys more and the female monkeys plush toys more. The word reviewers use to describe the magnitude of the result is “overwhelming”. When intersex children are raised as other than their biological gender, their toy preference and behavior are consistently that associated with their biological gender and not the gender they are being raised as, even when they themselves are unaware their biological gender is different. This occurs even when parents reinforce them more for playing with their gender-being-raised-as toys. You can even successfully correlate the degree of this with the precise amount of androgen they get in the womb, and if you experimentally manipulate the amount of hormones monkeys receive in the womb, their gendered play will change accordingly. 2D:4D ratio, a level of how much testosterone is released during a crucial developmental period, accurately predicts scores both on a UK test of mathematical ability at age seven and the SATs in high school.

The end result of all this is probably our old friend gene-culture interaction, where certain small innate differences become ossified into social roles that then magnify the differences immensely. As a result, high school girls are only a fifth as likely to be interested in computer science as high school boys, and sure enough women are only a fifth as well represented in Silicon Valley as men.

All of this information is accessible for free to anyone who spends ten minutes doing a basic Google search. But instead we have to keep hearing how nerds are gross and disgusting and entitled and should feel constant shame for how they bully and harass the poor female programmers out of every industry they participate in. Penny blames nerds for not “holding men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas” but SERIOUSLY WE DIDN’T DO IT.

(except insofar as we helped acculturate kids. But that’s hardly a uniquely male pasttime.)

(before you bring up that one paper that showed research leaders advantaged male over female researchers, keep in mind that first of all it explains only a small portion of the discrepancy, and second of all the female research leaders showed the bias even worse than the male ones. Yet Penny frames her question as “holding men to account”. This is that motte-and-bailey thing with patriarchy again.)

Do you realize how unpleasant it is to be constantly blamed all the time for something we didn’t do, and have that be used to justify every form of insult and discrimination and accusation against us? The oldest pattern in human history is “Here’s a problem. And here’s a bunch of people who are different than us. Let’s blame it on them!”

There’s enough information out there to prove that creepy nerds are not the problem with female representation in STEM. Then again, there’s also enough information out there to prove that gay people don’t cause earthquakes. People will believe what they want to believe.

§

On the other hand, I’ve said above that I don’t like completely ignoring the accounts of thousands of people who say there’s a problem. Although my female friends in computer science keep insisting they’ve never encountered sexism there, many many others say they have.

But let’s keep our causal arrows pointing the right direction. Any space with a four-to-one male:female ratio is going to end up with some pretty desperate people and a whole lot of unwanted attention. Add into this mix the fact that nerds usually have poor social skills (explaining exactly why would take a literature review to put that last one to shame, but hopefully everyone can agree this is true), and you get people who are pretty sure they are supposed to do something but have no idea what. Err to one side and you get the overly-chivalrous people saying m’lady because it pattern matches to the most courtly and least sexual way of presenting themselves they can think of. Err to the other, and you get people hollowly imitating the behavior they see in famous seducers and playboys, which when done without the very finely-tuned social graces and body-language-reading-ability of famous seducers and playboys is pretty much just “being extremely creepy”.

But once you accept this model, it starts to look like feminists and I are trying to solve the same problem.

The problem is that nerds are scared and confused and feel lonely and have no idea how to approach women. From this root problem blossoms both Aaronson’s problem – that sometimes all you can do is go to a psychiatrist and ask to be castrated – and Penny’s problem – that other times people go read pickup artistry books that promise to tell them how the secret is “negging” people.

But Aaronson’s solution to the problem is to talk about it. And feminism’s solution to the problem is to swarm anyone who talks about it, beat them into submission, and tell them, in the words of Marcotte, that they are “yalping entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men”

IX.

Every article about male nerds calls us “entitled”.

I’m pretty sure they don’t mean financially, since nerds for example give disproportionately more to charity than other groups (see: Bill Gates, the joke in the effective altruist movement that it contains “all kinds of people – mathematicians, economists, philosophers, and computer scientists”).

And I’m pretty sure they don’t mean politically, since nerds are far more likely to support wealth redistribution than the general population (compare political alignment here to your choice of nationwide poll).

And I’m pretty sure they don’t mean psychologically. In psychology, entitlement as a construct is usually blended with narcissism. Predictors of narcissism include high emotional intelligence, high social skills but (uniquely among Dark Triad traits) not high nonverbal (ie mathematical) intelligence, and high extraversion. Another interesting fact about narcissists is that they tend to have more sexual partners than non-narcissists. Jonason describes the research on narcissism and sex by saying that “Narcissists find it easy to start new relationships but are less committed to and interested in staying in existing relationships.” I feel like even feminists should be able to agree that “extraverted people with excellent social skills but no particular mathematical aptitude who find it easy to start new relationships” is not a perfect match for nerds here.

So I don’t think these articles are talking about entitlement full stop. I guess they’re using this to point solely at sexual entitlement. But even this seems to require further clarification.

Do they mean nerds hold sexist attitudes? The research (1, 2, 3, 4) shows that sexist attitudes are best predicted by low levels of education, high levels of religious belief, and (whites only) low neuroticism. Once again, I don’t feel it should be controversial to say that “very religious people who drop out of school early and are psychologically completely healthy” is not how most people would describe nerds. Besides, in a survey I did of 1500 people on an incredibly nerdy forum last year, the average was extremely feminist, so much so that the average nerdy man was more feminist than the average non-nerdy woman.

Do they mean nerds are more likely to rape people? There is an appropriate caveat here that it is difficult-to-impossible to profile rapists – but if people took that caveat seriously then you couldn’t profile nerds as rapists either. Since we’re already talking about profiling, let’s go all the way and find that the best research about rapists (source: David Lisak) does find various characteristics of undetected campus rapists (ie primarily date rapists who get away with it, we’re not just talking about scary felons with knives here as a red herring). Some of these are purely psychological (“they’re sexist and don’t like women”). But the rest include: rapists are more sexually active and “engage in consensual and coercive sex far more often than is typical for men of their age group”. They are members of “sexually violent subcultures” including “fraternities and gangs”. They are “hypermasculine” and “strive always to behave in rigidly and stereotypically masculine ways” They are heavy drinkers, often using alcohol to release either their own inhibitions or those of their victims.

Once again, I feel like “hypermasculine frat boys and gangsters who party too hard and have a large number of partners” is a really poor description of nerds.

When people talk about nerds feeling “sexually entitled”, it’s never about any of these things. It’s always the same: A male nerd has dared to express that he is sad about being alone and miserable. Then they round this off to “therefore he believes everyone else owes him sex because he is so great” in precisely the way Amanda Marcotte does explicitly and Penny allows to lie beneath the surface.

Once again, Scott Aaronson’s entire problem was that he was so unwilling to hurt women even unintentionally, and so unclear about what the rules were for hurting women, that he erred on the side of super-ultra-caution and tried to force himself never to have any sexual interest in women at all even to the point of trying to get himself castrated. If entitlement means “I don’t care about women’s feelings, I just care about my own need for sex”, Aaronson is the perfect one hundred eighty degree opposite of entitlement. He is just about the most unentitled (untitled?) person imaginable.

Yet Aaronson is the example upon which these columnists have decided their case for “nerd entitlement” must rise and fall. You have better examples? Then why didn’t you use them?

I’ve already admitted that when a girl asked me out in middle school, I ran away terrified because I figured nobody could actually like me and it was obviously some kind of nasty trick. If entitlement means “believing you deserve all the sex”, then teenage-me also sounds pretty untitled.

Yet I, too, get to forever read articles about how entitled I am.

I’m not making some kind of #NotAllNerds statement here, any more than someone who disagrees with the claim “elephants are tiny” is claiming #NotAllElephants

A better word for this untitlement is, perhaps, scrupulosity, where you believe you are uniquely terrible and deserve nothing. Scrupulosity is often linked to obsessive compulsive disorder, which the recent survey suggests nerds have at higher rates than the general population and which is known to be more common in high-IQ people. When I hear my utilitarian friends say things like “I have money and people starving in Africa don’t have money, therefore I am morally obligated to give half of my money to people starving in Africa or else their starvation is my fault” and then actually go and do that – and trust me, these people are always nerds – then as often as not it’s scrupulosity at work.

When you tell a highly-untitled, high-scrupulosity person that they are entitled, it goes about as well as telling an anorexic person that they are fat.

If your excuse is going to be “okay, some nerds are overly scrupulous, but others are entitled”, how come that wasn’t your argument before? And how come, with laser-like focus, you only pick on the scrupulous ones? How come it’s 2015 and we still can’t agree that it’s not okay to take a group who’s already being bullied and harassed, stereotype it based on the characteristics of its worst members, and then write sweeping articles declaring that the entire group is like that?

X.

When Laurie Penny writes to women, she says:

What I most wanted to say, to all the messed-up teenagers and angry adults out there, is that the fight for your survival is political. The fight to own your emotions, your rage and pain and lust and fear, all those unspeakable secrets that we do not share because we worry that we will be hurt or shunned, is deeply political.

When Laurie Penny writes to men, she says:

Most of all, we’re going to have to make like Princess Elsa and let it go – all that resentment. All that rage and entitlement and hurt.

Clearly this second suggestion contains a non-standard use of the word “we”.

When women feel like they’re not allowed to “own their emotions” like “lust”, or have “secrets that they do not share because they worry that they will be hurt or shunned”, then it is “deeply political” and they have to “fight about it.”

When men make the same complaint, they are encouraged to “let go” of their “resentment” and “entitlement”.

The same worries, deep and secret fears, that are the core and driving heat of Penny’s feminism when they happen to women get called “entitlement” when they happen in men and need to be “let go”. You’re not allowed to complain about them. You’re not even allowed to ask the people hurting you to stop – then you’re super entitled. You shut up and get on with your life.

But it’s actually much worse than that. If you remember only one thing from this entire post, remember that Anakin Skywalker is unbearably annoying remember this:

The past is over. I do not hold, and have never held, any ill will toward the women who rejected me. Some of them continue to be my close friends. Some of them I’ve talked to about this Scott Aaronson thing, and even they agree with me on it. Nor did Aaronson mention any ill will to anyone who rejected him. Talking about how nerds should let go of our past resentment to our crushes is a giant red herring.

What this entire discussion is about is our very present resentment toward the (some) feminists who continue to perpetuate the stereotypes that hurt us then, continue to attack us now whenever we talk about the experience or ask them to stop, and continue to come up with rationalizations for why they don’t have to stop. This isn’t about little Caitlin who wouldn’t return my eye contact in seventh grade, this is about Amanda Marcotte, Jezebel, Gawker, and an entire system that gets its jollies by mocking us and trying to twist the knife.

The only reason little Caitlin is being brought up is so that feminists who don’t want to stop twisting can sidestep any criticism by pretending our argument is entirely how a seventh-grader shouldn’t have control of her own romantic decisions.

@#!$ that. Little Caitlin can do what she wants with her life. But dehumanizing and perpetrating stereotypes about a whole group of people who already have it pretty bad is not okay.

XI.

I already know that there are people reading this planning to write responses with titles like “Entitled Blogger Says All Women Exist For His Personal Sexual Pleasure, Also Men Are More Oppressed Than Women, Also Nerds Are More Oppressed Than WWII Era Jews”. And this post is way too long for most people who read those responses to get their misconceptions corrected. So before I close, let me give a brief summary of what I am trying to say:

1. There are a lot of really nasty stereotypes perpetuated about nerds, especially regarding how they are monsters, nobody can love them, and they are too disgusting to have relationships the same way other people do.

2. Although both men and women suffer from these stereotypes, men really do have a harder time getting relationships, and the experience is not the same.

3. Many of the people suffering from these stereotypes are in agreement that it is often self-identified feminists who push them most ardently, and that a small but vocal contingent of feminists seem to take special delight in making nerds’ lives worse.

4. You cannot define this problem away with the word “patriarchy”.

5. You cannot define this problem away by saying that because Mark Zuckerberg is a billionnaire, nerds are privileged, so they already have it too good. The Jews are a classic example of a group that were both economically advantaged in a particular industry, but also faced unfair stereotypes.

6. Whether women also have problems, and whether their problems are even worse, is not the point under discussion and is not relevant. Women can have a bunch of problems, but that doesn’t mean it is okay for any feminists to shame and bully nerds.

7. Nerds are not uniquely evil, they are not especially engaged in oppressing women, and they are not driving women out of Silicon Valley. Even if they were, “whenever they choose to open up about their private suffering” is not the time to talk about these things.

8. “Entitlement” is a uniquely bizarre insult to level at nerds given that by most of the term’s usual definitions nerds are some of the most untitled people there are.

9. The feminist problem of nerds being desperate and not having any social skills (and therefore being creeps to women) is the same as the nerd problem of nerds being desperate and not having any social skills (and therefore having to live their life desperate and without social skills). Denying the problem and yelling at nerds who talk about it doesn’t help either group.

10. The nerd complaint on this issue is not “high school girls rejected us in the past when we were lonely and desperate,” it is “some feminists are shaming us about our loneliness and desperation in the past and present and openly discussing how they plan to do so in the future.” Nobody with principles is angry at the girls who rejected them in the past and this is a giant red herring. If you don’t believe any feminists are shaming anyone, then say so; don’t make it about little Caitlin in seventh-grade.

If you want to debate or fisk this article, I would recommend using these paragraphs as starting points instead of whatever bizarre perversions of my words the brain of the worst person reading this can dream up.

[EDIT 1/15: Okay, it looks like the talking point people chose to go with was “he made a 1984 joke, therefore the thesis of the essay is that all men are oppressed by all women exactly as badly as people are oppressed in 1984.” As usual, I was insufficiently pessimistic.]

XII.

Penny ends:

We bring our broken hearts and blue balls to the table when we talk gender politics, especially if we are straight folks. Consent and the boundaries of consent – desire and what we’re allowed to speak of desire – we’re going to have to get better, braver and more honest, we’re going to have to undo decades of toxic socialisation and learn to speak to each other as human beings in double quick time.

[…]

The road ahead will be long. I believe in you. I believe in all of us. Nerds are brilliant. We are great at learning stuff. We can do anything we put our minds to, although I suspect this thing, this refusing to let the trauma of nerdolescence create more violence, this will be hardest of all.

I see a vision here of everybody, nerdy men, nerdy women, feminists, the media, whoever – cooperating to solve our mutual problems and treat each other with respect. Of course I am on board with this vision. As Scott Aaronson would put it, I am 97% on board. What keeps me from being 100% on board right now is the feeling that the other side still doesn’t get it.

First of all, a whole lot of other side is not Laurie Penny. They are the people gleefully mocking our pain and telling us we deserve it. But even the good people are worrisome enough.

They admit that nerdy men, lesbians, bisexuals, etc may be in pain, but they deny categorically any possible role of feminist shaming culture in causing that pain and want to take any self-reflection on their part off of the table of potential compromise.

They admit that our pain technically exists, but they are unable to acknowledge it without adding “…but by the way, your pain can’t possibly ever be as bad as our pain” or “your pain doesn’t qualify for this ontologically distinct category of pain which is much more important.”

They continue to think it is appropriate to respond to any complaint or expression of suffering on our part with accusations of “entitlement”, comparisons to Darth Vader, and empirically-contradicted slanders about how our mere presence drives women away from everything we love.

Once I see anyone, anywhere, publish an article that not only recognizes our pain, but doesn’t derail it into an explanation of why we’re definitely still terrible and there is no need whatsoever for them to change, then I will be more optimistic that progress is at hand.

XIII.

Oh frick.

And on that note I shall return to what I was doing before I read this post, which was drinking sweet tea and weeping about how boys don’t seem to want to kiss short-haired lady nerds, and trying not to blame the whole world for my broken heart, which is becoming more complex and interesting in the healing but still stings like a boiling ball of papercuts. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Having so much fun picking this article apart, and then this 🙁

Look. I mean what I say about how I don’t believe in zero-sum games. The reality of Prof. Aaronson’s problem does not for one second diminish the reality of Ms. Penny’s sadness as well.

So here is my offer to Ms. Penny. If she accepts and is in some kind of heavily nerd-populated city (NYC? SF?) I will use my connections in the nerd community to get her ten dates within ten days with intelligent, kind, respectful nerdy men of whom she approves. If she is in some less populated place, I will get her some lesser but still non-zero number of dates (unless she’s in Greenland or somewhere, in which case she’s on her own).

If I can’t do that, she may feel welcome to publically mock me and tell me that I was overconfident about how many people are, in fact, extremely willing to kiss short-haired lady nerds.

The rest of this article was serious, but this is extra serious. Let me know.

[EDIT: Comments are now closed, because this got linked on Instapundit and I know from experience that bad things happen if you leave the comments open after that point. Also, my comment software starts acting weird after like a thousand. If you must comment on this further, go bother Ozy on their open thread]. If you’re named in this article and you want to rebut it or reply, email me and I’ll include it somewhere.

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990 Responses to Untitled

  1. J says:

    Minor nits: “she said yes 69%”, “and I this”

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    • RCF says:

      Also, “it starts to look like me and the feminists” should be “looks like I”. And “untitled” doesn’t really make sense. And if biology is a hard science, it’s on the extreme soft edge of hard sciences.

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      • LJA says:

        RCF, perhaps it’s best you don’t offer support. None of those were mistakes, least of all calling biology a hard science. Check your privilege!

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        • Deiseach says:

          But that’s part of the complaint; as soon as women move into a field in large numbers, or it becomes heavily feminised, then things like this happen: biology is a ‘soft’ science, psychology isn’t a science at all, and neither is medicine. Is it any surprise that the surgical field is, as Scott points out, the one area dominated by men and that surgeons have the macho/jock/alpha male stereotype?

          Durka Dougall, a former surgical trainee who is now a fourth year public health specialist trainee in London, believes specialty stereotypes in surgery are gradually becoming redundant. “The classic surgery stereotype is male, tall, and strong enough to lift a limb. I’m a petite, short lady, but with so many devices available to assist me when I was working in surgery, the physical aspect of the job was never an issue.”

          Having moved to public health, Dougall says neither she nor her colleagues fit the traditional stereotype of the public health doctor. “Public health is thought to be a specialty where those drawn to it are women who are not particularly ambitious and that it’s a ‘fluffy’ career option. None of those characteristics fit my personality. And all the men and women I’ve met working in public health are individuals who want to inspire and make a difference,” she says.

          To pick up the point Scott made about women in medicine, I think there may have been an entry route there that isn’t in STEM fields, as “women = nurses” at least left the option of “going on to become doctors” open in people’s minds, even if it was an uphill struggle at times.

          From an 1894 collection of short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the story “The Doctors of Hoyland” and the attitude described:

          How do you do, Dr. Ripley?” said she.
          “How do you do, madam?” returned the visitor. “Your husband is perhaps out’?”
          “I am not married,” said she simply.
          “Oh, but I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor – Dr. Verrinder Smith.”
          “I am Dr. Verrinder Smith.”
          Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick it up again.
          “What!” he gasped, “the Lee Hopkins prizeman! You!”

          He had never seen a woman doctor before, and his whole conservative soul rose up in revolt at the idea. He could not recall any Biblical injunction that the man should remain ever the doctor and the woman the nurse, and yet he felt as if a blasphemy had been committed. His face betrayed his feelings only too clearly.

          “I am sorry to disappoint you,” said the lady drily.
          “You certainly have surprised me,” he answered, picking up his hat.
          “You are not among our champions, then?”
          “I cannot say that the movement has my approval.”
          “And why?”
          “I should much prefer not to discuss it.”
          “But I am sure you will answer a lady’s question.”
          “Ladies are in danger of losing their privileges when they usurp the place of the other sex. They cannot claim both.”
          ”Why should a woman not earn her bread by her brains?”
          Dr. Ripley felt irritated by the quiet manner in which the lady crossquestioned him.
          ”I should much prefer not to be led into a discussion, Miss Smith.”
          ”Dr. Smith,” she interrupted.
          “Well, Dr. Smith! But if you insist upon an answer, I must say that I do not think medicine a suitable profession for women and that I have a personal objection to masculine ladies.”
          It was an exceedingly rude speech, and he was ashamed of it the instant after he had made it. The lady, however, simply raised her eyebrows and smiled.
          “It seems to me that you are begging the question,” said she. “Of course, if it makes women masculine that would be a considerable deterioration. ”

          It was a neat little counter, and Dr. Ripley, like a pinked fencer, bowed his acknowledgment.

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          • Anonymous says:

            The idea that the social sciences and biology are less rigorous than e.g. physics has almost nothing to do with the number of women working in the field. I believe the terms “hard” and “soft” in this context are more recent, but Auguste Comte came up with an essentially identical hierarchy as early as the mid-1800s.

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          • RCF says:

            Freud is generally considered the father of psychology, and he certainly did not engage in rigorous science. Psychology has long been the domain of wild speculation and Saying Things In An Authoritative Voice rather than actual science. If anything, the increase in its scientific rigor has probably coincided with increased female participation. I checked the degree requirements at Stanford, and Physics requires three math courses, Biology requires two, and Psychology doesn’t seem to require any at all.

            I don’t see that your claim that the designation of “soft” is an effect of the prevalence of women as anything but baseless assertion.

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        • ALJ says:

          That is pretty much a fact. Biology is the softest of hard sciences… So much speculation so little hard data.

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        • RCF says:

          The others may be matters of opinion, but using the word “me” when it’s the subject of a verb is definitely a mistake. Is this meant as some sort of joke?

          Also, it should be “best you not offer support”.

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    • Christopher says:

      If this is the place for pointing out typos: “publically” is pretty rare and I wonder whether it is a reasoned choice over “publicly”.

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  2. Robert Liguori says:

    A question, Scott. Have you, so far, regretted the posts you have tagged as Things I Will Regret Writing? It seems to me that the articles are inherently worthy to be written, being all of well-researched, well-supported, (extremely) well-written, and on a very important and very contentious topic, upon which you elucidate many things, very clearly. You receive gratitude from many for writing these articles specifically, and I’m happy to add my name to that list. And while I disagree with some of the points you raised, in this article and the other tagged posts, I politely request you update your predictions of “I should feel pride and not regret about writing this.” by howevermuch you weight my opinion. (Hey, epsilon ain’t zero.)

    Now, given that I can only see a very external, very non-private view of your personal experiences, I can’t be sure if there are other reasons why you’d expect to regret writing these. Is there something that us in the peanut gallery can do that would help you regret writing these less? Perhaps having us send regular reminders along the lines of “We value your writing and find it to accurately describe our own experiences! Thank you and keep up the good work! Jezebeli non carborundum!” when the Entitled Blogger Blogs Entitledly responses start coming out?

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  3. Amanda L. says:

    ouch ouch ouch

    I couldn’t do more than skim this article (or the linked Scott Aaronson comment section, or any of the feminist critiques). As a feminist *and* a formerly socially awkward/ostracized nerd (still a nerd), everything in this conversation feels like an attack :/ WHY AM I SO MENTALLY WEAK

    Anyway, I really hope that the discussion on women in tech doesn’t get irreversibly tied into sexual politics and become an Our Soldiers Against Your Soldiers thing. As a female programmer, I’d like to be able to discuss my experiences in tech, including experiences wherein I felt my gender hindered me, without it being read as an attack on all nerds. I can already see some of the battle lines forming on various blogs / comment sections — “if it’s not 50/50 it’s oppression” vs “there’s clearly NO discrimination, it’s completely because women are worse at STEM” and it makes my head hurt.

    Incidentally, I think people are talking past one another on discrimination in tech partly because it varies *so much* by culture/company. When I worked at a small non-software company and was the only woman on the engineering team, I continually struggled with bro-culture, not being taken seriously, people trying to push me into fluffy design work, etc. Now that I work at Google there are few such issues. So from one side it can look like flagrant dismissal of very glaring problems, from the other like making mountains out of molehills, when really the people involved are working in very different environments.

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    • Karmakin says:

      I just want to say that I REALLY agree with your last paragraph. I wish we could get past the idea that we live in a monoculture where everybodies experience is exactly the same (at least based on demographics). There are environments that are great and there are environments that are awful. And there are probably reasons for each of these things. But we have to look at these environments as individual situations in order to properly understand them.

      This is a case where the desire for simple models really hinders us. See Scott’s repeated mentioning of one-directional power dynamics.

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    • Daniel Speyer says:

      Are you saying that brogrammers actually exist? I always thought they were like hippogryphs: two extremely different creatures fused into a single legend primarily for comedy value.

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      • Scott Alexander says:

        There’s supposedly one named “Pax Dickinson”, but he might be an Emmanuel Goldstein style figure.

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        • cpopell says:

          And interacting with Pax Dickinson dispels much of this, if you have a chance.

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        • I do actually exist, but the ‘brogrammer’ label was just stuck on me by the media, aided by what in retrospect was a poorly chosen Halloween costume.

          In reality I grew up as your typical nerd and the stories of the two Scotts resonated with me pretty deeply. I was a very shy nerd as a kid and never had a girlfriend until after graduating high school.

          I got more confident as I got older and as an adult can do a pretty convincing imitation of an extroverted ‘regular guy’ despite still being that nerd INTJ at heart, which probably helped get me chosen to be the poster child of “The Tech Bro Nightmare”.

          This whole thing would be hilarious except for the whole thing about no one wanting to hire me because if they do they’ll get in big trouble from the feminists. That’s what I get for being so privileged. 😉

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          • Anonymous says:

            Frankly, Mr. Dickinson, even as someone that does watch your Twitter feed you still come across not-very-well in a lot of brogrammer methods. I say that knowing it is not nice, but it is true and it is necessary.

            I mean, just in the last month, do you believe “insane” as a word that’s just useful spice to conversation?

            Folk can both vastly overstate your sins — and in fairness, a good deal of the — and you still be a sinner.

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          • Pax Dickinson says:

            I called a person (who has engaged in an open campaign to blacklist me FWIW) insane. I don’t apologize for that opinion as I find the description quite apt with regards to that person and her behavior.

            Does that therefore make me a ‘brogrammer’? Really?

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          • Mark says:

            I mean, just in the last month, do you believe “insane” as a word that’s just useful spice to conversation?

            In fairness (assuming we’re both referring to the same occurrence here), the person he called insane really is one of the most toxic, overtly abusive people in Pax’s industry. We’re talking Amanda-Marcotte-on-steroids levels of vitriolic malice. (Marcotte accuses people of not considering women to be people; this person literally accuses them of being violent terrorists.) I don’t think insulting people like that should be enough to qualify one as a brogrammer.

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          • gattsuru says:

            ((Above comment by Gattsuru; not sure why it came as Anonymous.))

            Mrs. Kane strikes me as a slimeball even by the standards of online discourse and twitter trolling, but your critique didn’t focus on her being a slimeball. The first Tweet used “insane” as shorthand for pointing and laughing at the obviously wrong person, and only a day later gave any detail, and even then not terribly strong stuff.

            You may well be right — her response certainly didn’t /disprove/ your point — but it’s playing the very sort of status games that folk are complaining about to start with.

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          • veronica d says:

            {Google, Google, Google}

            Pax Dickinson.

            Oh, you’re that guy. Actually, yeah, I think you are a manifestly terrible person and rightly the target of Internet feminists. Which is to say, I can have full sympathy for Scott Aaronson, and a fuckton of respect for him, cuz his book is great, and I can like Scott Alexander for being a voice of reason, and so on. I can even kinda-sorta respect some folks here who I disagree with, given a belief that we should make peace when we can. But you! You’re a toxic jerk and have it coming.

            Some men actually are what feminist say they are. Some people are bad.

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      • blacktrance says:

        They exist, I knew a few in college.

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        • Harald K says:

          Yeah, me too. There are a lot of guys studying tech who aren’t what we in any reasonable sense could call “nerds” – I wonder why people are surprised by that?

          It’s not programmers as a profession that needs to be defended. It’s specifically people who have problems approaching women/are terrified of being shamed, and possibly think they deserve it.

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      • Carlos says:

        Yes, they exist. 🙁 I have had two very weird, very specific brogrammer experiences last year. I’m not comfortable giving you more specific examples, so I understand if you wish to not believe me. I experienced it at a moment in my life that I was being exposed to many more different people than I would on my regular work life. (I’m just bringing it up because I think homophily explains a good chunk of the “i’ve never seen brogrammers in my life” sentiment. I’d have agreed with you until very recently)

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      • Sarah says:

        I’ve met ’em. They definitely exist.

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      • nydwracu says:

        A good portion of the programmers I know IRL probably are, but then again, I might be one too.

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      • ilzolende says:

        I’m not sure if the 16±2-year-old students in my HS CS class who were talking about the inherent unfairness of the divorce system and child support payments using obviously quoted arguments (there’s no way a HS student is paying anyone child support) count or not. There’s the fictional YA Cory Doctorow protagonists who have the more positive traits associated with bro-ness. All the programmers I actually know seem fairly non-bro-like, though.

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        • Harald K says:

          Divorce and child support aren’t typical frat-boy topics either, are they? There’s this tendency to put all people you dislike in one big bag, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the AMs of the world said they’re basically the same – but no.

          In a programming company I used to work for (which had a 60-40 gender ratio), there was one guy who was enthusiastic about “game”. But he seemed more interested in explaining that it wasn’t really about all those things you might have heard about negging and such, than actually applying it.

          He was actually a rather endearing guy, extroverted, ambitious but naïve – not exactly your average nerd.

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        • gattsuru says:

          (there’s no way a HS student is paying anyone child support)

          Generally, these cases involve high school students, typically under the age of consent, being raped and then charged for child support years later. In many cases, this does include back child support (ie, for time where the rape victim was in high school). Generally child support is determined by income and previous income, so even in jurisdictions where the law theoretically allows such a court finding, a full-time high school student wouldn’t be paying anyway.

          On the other hand, this also a lot closer to the actual sort of ‘protesting unfair legal issues’, even if wrong, than typical brogrammer stereotypes.

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      • Anonymous says:

        My stereotype of brogrammers is Travis Kalanick of Uber – more than a bit self-absorbed, uncaring of the consequences of his/his company’s actions, sees/expresses women as objects, slut-shames. Yeah, most of the more toxic bros I’ve met have been on the business/sports side of things, but I’ve run into enough bro-y computer science people to last me a lifetime.

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      • Emile says:

        Yep, I definitely know some brogrammers – I may even know someone who’s closer to being a “female brogrammer” than a nerd…

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      • Anonymous says:

        Bros exist in every field, don’t they? It’s not like everyone in CS is a nerd.

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      • John Henry says:

        They do exist, and in ever increasing numbers. Seventy years ago, accounting was a relatively unrewarding profession, and so was left to the nebbishy math geeks. When financial markets began to shift and a good accountant could make bank, it became a more desirable profession, and the bros and frat boys (i.e., the status-seekers) started to join in the fun. Now, an employee of a major accounting firm is more likely to be called a “consultant” than an “accountant,” and is more likely to be a bro than a nerd.

        The same thing has started happening in tech. At first, computers were really just a hobby for nerds. Then money and status were discovered in the field, and (predictably) the bros have moved in and begun shoving the nerds aside as they claim their rightful spot at the center of the tech industry money-status-and-influence trough. In fact, it seems to me that people like Amanda Marcotte are in that same group. Her bullying has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with throwing nerds under the bus in a grab for a larger slice of the internet influence pie.

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    • ATairov says:

      Possible confounder: guys that aren’t very sexist may avoid the types of guys who are. I know my self-selected work group is waaay more LGBT than normal, even if it’s partly due to where I met them. In my RL presence, the idea that women can be technical has never seriously been questioned.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Could sexism be something that’s more common in startups than established businesses? I’d imagine so because there’s no HR training, there are more extraverted confident people, and other things like that.

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      • Sarah says:

        I think it really depends on the team at the startup — and the established business.

        The startup I worked for most recently had a guy who loudly proclaimed feminist ideals but was a dick to actual women in the company who tried to work with him (myself included), and I had a manager who waited for months to tell me he thought the stuff I was doing wasn’t useful (even though others did) because he was afraid of hurting my feelings or something (once he finally talked to me about he literally said that his previous inability to confront me about it “might be a gender thing”).

        At Google, I didn’t really notice any issues relating to my gender (and for a while I even had another female engineer on the same team as me!), but I know women on other teams who did.

        It would be interesting to see numbers on this, though I’m not sure how to go about collecting the data. There are a few sites out there aimed at letting women post their (anonymized) stories about companies, but the ones I’ve seen have very little data so far (e.g. http://www.shesays.co/), and I’d personally be pretty reluctant to post on them (especially about a small startup where I was the only female engineer at the time… pretty hard to anonymize).

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        • veronica d says:

          On this, I think Google is rather singular in getting it mostly right, at least most of the time.

          Myself, I think it is because they are so utterly data driven that they can actually kinda get unconscious bias and find ways around it. Plus, it’s a very positive work environment that brings out the best in people.

          A+ for Google.

          [Note: I may or may not have a conflict of interest here. Take my post for what it is worth. Also, I’m an East Coast girl. I don’t claim to fully know the Mountain View scene.]

          [Second note: if you are a woman engineer, Google ain’t perfect. You can find complaints. But darn it’s better than most.]

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          • Sarah says:

            I have to argue a bit with the positive work environment; I got pretty depressed while I was there because I was doing stuff that seemed pretty worthless (UI for a product that I didn’t actually think was that useful), and my team was highly pressured to put in LOOONG hours (many of us were there til 3am regularly, worked weekends, etc. in the lead-up to launch, and we were in that state for a few months). Again, the work environment is pretty dependent on your specific team.

            But yes, Google is data-driven.

            While I was there, an email was sent out to the women engineers list saying that women disproportionately didn’t put themselves up for promotion, and that when they do they almost always get it (meaning there are probably some women who also deserve promos not going for them), and they offered workshops for women to help them figure out whether they should go up for promo/help them write their self-evals.

            Plus, you know, there was a group specifically for women software engineers that met up for lunches and things, which helped people build support networks.

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    • Russ Nelson says:

      The fact that some workplaces can be full of nerds and free of brogrammers says that the problem is clearly NOT nerds.

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  4. corrugated forehead says:

    Long post is indeed long, and I’ll need to read it again. But it is striking to me that so much of of your talk about entitlement is about “who can get laid more easily, men or women”, and you dismiss the entire economic question with “but we give a lot of money away.” I mean really? You really believe that pulling offers on OkCupid is the main thing there is to talk about when it comes to privilege and entitlement? You seem like a smart guy; I don’t believe that’s really what you think.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If I may draw upon the traditions of my people and answer a question with a question; do you think that the differing experiences on OKCupid reflects absolutely no difference in how most men and women (in America, in recent times, according to members of most subcultures, some restrictions may reply, etc.) experience dating and romantic or sexual propositions?

      I think that it obviously is. I am also answering my rhetorical question here to state my point clearly and directly; that while the numbers and experiments listed in the article are not necessarily the thing and the whole of the thing when it comes to the discussion, they are worth discussing. I am also suggesting that if you think they are not worth discussing, you offer reasons for this in your own plain, direct statement, and not ask “Is this the main thing?” when no one’s saying that this one piece of the discussion about relative situations and assumptions actually is the main thing. Doing so looks like you’re trying to back-handedly dismiss the example without actually engaging with why it shouldn’t be regarded as important.

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    • How many of the named feminists are low income earners? Also, why cannot other social goods be seriously discussed? A discussion of income differences would be unlikely to wander into sex and romance; why is the reverse not happening a problem?

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    • James Babcock says:

      I think the link about childless women in their twenties earning more than childless men in their twenties was more on-point for the economics question. It isn’t the ten thousand words it’d take to really address the topic fully, but it was a surprise and an update for me.

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    • Harald K says:

      Well, on the economic question: Although he’s in the sort of career that no doubt earns approval from Jewish mother-in-laws, Scott is not rich. Nor, I think, are most nerds. It depends on where you draw the boundaries, of course, but being nerdy is not the ticket to wealth that some people believe. Even for the comparatively high-success kind of nerd that the Scotts are (Alexander and Aaronson), it’s easy to imagine an only slightly different world where their psychological problems stopped their careers dead in their tracks.

      Nerd haters like Amanda Marcotte tacitly acknowledge this with their sneering about people living in their parent’s basements.

      If you want to talk about class and money, talk about class and money; it has little to do with nerdiness or the lack of it.

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    • aesthete says:

      This is of course addressed explicitly in the article:

      “The bailey, the sneaky definition used to push a political point once people have agreed to the motte, is that privilege is a one-dimensional axis such that for any two people, one has privilege over the other, and that first person has it better in every single way, and that second person has it worse in every single way.

      This is of course the thing everyone swears they don’t mean when they use the word privilege, which is of course how the motte-and-bailey fallacy works. But as soon as they are not being explicitly challenged about the definition, this is the way they revert back to using the word.”

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  5. Toggle says:

    This post is the usual amount of well-researched excellently written thoughtful Scott, but there’s an overtone that puts me on edge a little.

    You say a lot of things about what ‘feminism wants’. Which is of course silly. Other times you qualify it a bit more by saying what ‘most feminists’ want, which is better- but it’s not obvious that most people-who-wear-the-feminism-hat are of the Vogon type. For a post that’s otherwise scrupulously researched, you seem to neglect a big-picture look at whether this kind of behavior actually is representative of ‘feminism’. Andrea Dworkin and most of Jezebel are obviously in that camp, but I have this worry that for each Jezebelian, there are fifty perfectly reasonable humans in a tribe they think of as ‘feminist’ which will find themselves on the wrong side of a line in the sand. Perhaps there’s a bit more tribalism sneaking in here than you might otherwise prefer?

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    • Sniffnoy says:

      So, here’s the thing — whenever this sort of thing comes up, people say “Ah, but that’s not most feminists! That’s the loud and awful ones! The silent majority, the median feminist, would never say that sort of thing.”

      To which I can only say… how is that supposed to help anything? A silent majority is silent. Regardless of what they believe, they’re not affecting the conversation. I don’t care about what people who call themselves feminists happen to privately believe; I care about what the feminist movement actually does. Which means I care about the mean, not the median. (…or something like that, anyway. Not actually an actual mean since the truly extreme outliers won’t be influential. But you get the direction I’m gesturing in.)

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      • blacktrance says:

        It matters for at least three reasons. First, if your problem is with Amanda Marcotte types and your reaction is to attack feminism, you will be reasonably seen as attacking feminism, which, if you are a feminist, is most easily parsed as an attack on what you believe, and so they’ll come out to fight you, or at least will disregard you and dismiss you, which is not what you want. Second, noting that there’s a silent majority that’s not like that helps avoid motte-and-bailey anti-feminist arguments, where “Amanda Marcotte and people writing about ‘Nerd Entitlement’ are horrible’ is the motte and “feminism is horrible” is the bailey. Third, if there is a silent majority of feminists who aren’t like the loud and awful ones, a good effort could convince them to denounce the horrible ones, but lumping them together has the opposite effect and makes them more likely to stick up for the horrible ones. If you say something like, “You’re largely correct, and I agree with you, and it follows from our mutually shared principles that we should distance ourselves from and denounce Amanda Marcotte” you will get a different reaction from the one you’ll get if you say “Feminists, like Amanda Marcotte, are horrible, and feminism should be combated”.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          Good points.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I considered myself a staunch feminist for my entire adult life. I first encountered Social Justice a couple years ago, and it horrified and depressed me for weeks, but my response was to assume that it was just a tragedy of dissimilar-group friction, and to rationalize it all by attempting to study up on and internalize Social Justice theory and narrative.

          The second time Social Justice injected itself into my bubble was a few months ago. I lost a friendship of fifteen years in the fallout, and I am definitely not a feminist any more. My social circle indicates that my experience is not an isolated one. My reading here and elsewhere indicates that the phenomenon is in fact remarkably widespread and clearly growing.

          If you think Feminism is valuable, perhaps it would be a good idea to address the easily identifiable population engaged in actively driving people out of it, rather than sneering at those who pluck up the courage to jump ship.

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          • Zach says:

            Would feminists identify your previously-held views as feminist? Given your reaction to social justice, my initial inclination is to say that they would not — and that you considering yourself a feminist was more likely to be the result of an incomplete understanding of feminist theory, rather than of your actually agreeing with feminist theory. Which is not surprisingly very similar to what seems to be happening in Scott Aaronson’s confession.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Zach – The anon you responded to was me.

            When I first encountered Social Justice, what upset me was the lynch mob dynamic. Trying to understand it, I went to the personal spaces of the people leading the mob, one of which this was one:

            http://www.racialicious.com/2008/12/21/original-essay-the-not-rape-epidemic/

            I read what they wrote, accepted their narrative as fact, and concluded that Social Justice was a serious matter that deserved society’s full attention. I “listened and believed”, as the current saying goes.

            The second run-in was sufficiently farcical that rationalization was impossible. A big part of why I read this blog and Ozy’s Thing of Things is to try to understand what I’m seeing, to try and find some voice of reason from people like yourself to convince me that Social Justice isn’t completely post-rational. Ozy is very good at this, but the larger thrust of the movement seems overwhelming.

            …And of course, there’s no actual meaningful definition of “Feminism” in the first place, but all of that is beside the point. Whether I was really truly a feminist in the first place, I thought I was, and I rallied instinctively to feminist causes and appeals. A large percentage of our current society matches that same description, and that’s a very large part of why Feminism is a viable movement. If I could be driven out, there is a non-zero probability that those other “maybe feminists” can be driven out too. What does that do to the movement?

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          • Zach says:

            Ah, so it’s just specifically the hate mob aspects of social justice? Okay, I get that. I think social justice (especially online) has a tendency to go into burn-the-heretic mode too frequently, and that’s pretty bad.

            I can’t say much beyond, well, that part of social justice is controversial within social justice and not something I encounter very often even though I follow a lot of social justice folks. It kind of depends on the social groups you find? FWIW I’m pretty eclectic in what I read, but stuff like The Toast is more my style of social justice: mostly friendly and welcoming, but also capable of delivering some harsh critiques where appropriate. So if you find the hate mob behavior bad (and I absolutely see why), I’d recommend trying to find people who don’t behave like that and associating more with those groups.

            That sounds so simplistic, but I’m not sure it really is any more complicated than that.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Scott, if this is too far off tone, pls give me a chance to re-word it? Or just dump it. Blog niceness is more important.

            Okay, does this count as feminist?

            Voted for Hillary, then for Sarah. Will not rest till Congress has at least 51% women (or whatever the population is). Supports free contraceptives of all kinds and abortion no limits, and no limits on who can get it. Supports affirmative action for women (preferably without lowering requirements). Supports tenure track adjustments, family leave, childcare, etc, everywhere, and equal pay laws with teeth. Pretty strong versions of all the above. And more issues I’ve probably left out.

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          • Mark Z. says:

            I can’t say much beyond, well, that part of social justice is controversial within social justice and not something I encounter very often even though I follow a lot of social justice folks.

            If forming hate-mobs is controversial within the movement, what does that say about the movement? Can reasonable people agree to disagree about hate-mobs?

            The doctrinaire feminist answer seems to be that we can and must tolerate the existence of hate-mob Gawker feminists because they’re working toward the same goal.

            I disagree, insofar as my goals include living in a world without hate-mobs.

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        • arthur stanton says:

          You can’t make points based on a premise you haven’t proven.

          You haven’t proven that the “silent reasonable majority” exists.

          It is dark matter – it is something you are imagining because it fills a hole in what you want to believe.

          Here is the reality –

          It is 2014

          We all have the same level of access to tumblr, facebook, twitter, blogspot reddit, 4chan, wordpress, and every single other thing on the internet.

          There is no such thing anymore as a “silent majority”.

          If there is a meaningful strain of opinion: It will be spoken for.

          The “reasonable feminist” opinion that everyone wants to believe is there? Is not spoken for.

          First, if your problem is with Amanda Marcotte types and your reaction is to attack feminism, you will be reasonably seen as attacking feminism,

          If reasonable feminism existed, then reasonable feminism would step up and denounce the “Amanda Marcotte” types.

          According to you, “reasonable” feminism means ignoring the Amanda Marcotte types, then attacking Scott for pointing out how awful she is.

          The fact is, there is no meaningful spoken-for strain of feminist thought that disagrees with anything Amanda Marcotte has to say. It doesn’t exist.

          If it does? Prove me wrong.

          You can’t, and you won’t.

          You can do one of about htree things here:

          1. Ignore me
          2. talk in circles around the fact that you can’t prove me wrong
          3. personally attack me

          You can’t do the one thing that would actually prove me wrong, which is to show me the feminist that objects, and considers meaningful, the issue that Scott is talking about.

          Which, since that issue is, among other things: *male suicide*

          Then you don’t get to tell me that feminism cares about men, if it doesn’t care about this.

          And because feminism doesn’t care about me – it literally doesn’t care about whether I live or die – then I am relieved of all moral obligation to care about feminism, and anything it wants from me.

          This is extremely simple.

          Your movement has to care whether I live or die

          I don’t care what the cause is, I don’t care what arguments you have, I don’t care what moral claims you make:

          If my literal life and death are on the line

          And anyone thinks it is okay to crack jokes, or argue with me, or attack me

          Then no. I will never credit an argument from your movement, I will never help your movement, and I will say to anyone like myself:

          This movement does not care whether you live or die.

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          • Anon says:

            houseboatonstyx makes an indirect reply to your challenge (“where are the non-SJW feminsits?”) lower down. (S)he posits that real, policy-making, active feminists are too busy advancing actual feminism to reply to the likes of Marcotte. To which I also reply “bullshit”.

            The zero-sum privilege narrative which Scott decimates in this article is fundamental to modern feminism, and is promoted by almost all the modern feminist advocacy groups. I’m currently in the process of looking at all the United States “women’s advocacy groups” on Wikipedia and to test if this statement is true. Shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, and I’ll post here again.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Not claiming a majority, just existence.

            http://multiheaded1793.tumblr.com/post/106696027016/dear-social-justice-feminism-might-be-big-but

            A silent majority is possible, I have access to Facebook but don’t want to post politics there. Seems reasonable that plenty of other conflict averse people would be the same.

            If there’s discussion between feminists on 4chan I’d be interested to check it out.

            To be clear, I don’t identify as a feminist myself, but think it has good parts.

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          • I think reasonable feminists exist, which is not the same thing as saying that reasonable feminism (as a movement) exists.

            My existence proof (or near proof) is that Social Justice people are terrifying– if you’re not up for a rather bruising fight, you don’t oppose them directly in public, and most people aren’t up for that sort of a fight.

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          • MugaSofer says:

            >The “reasonable feminist” opinion that everyone wants to believe is there? Is not spoken for.

            Who are the people who believe in this silent majority, if not exactly those “reasonable feminists”?

            They may or may not be in the majority, but they clearly are spoken for – you’re replying to them.

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          • Randy M says:

            I think there is a big difference between blog comments that have favorable opinions of the label and professors, published writers, or even just well read blog authors.

            If reasonable feminism exists, there are surely links to papers, conference notes, or stand-alone posts that can quickly prove that it both exists and matters. Otherwise, the request is that everyone argue against something that may or may not reside in people’s heads.

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          • blacktrance says:

            I consider myself a reasonable feminist, though I assume that you won’t accept that, so I’ll provide a few other examples: 1 2 3 4

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        • Nick says:

          I’d also point out that it’s no more fair to read “horrible nerds are horrible people” as “nerds are horrible people” than to read “horrible feminists are horrible people” as “feminists are horrible people”.

          Which is to say either both or neither is a failure of rationalism.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I think I can see the direction you’re pointing, yes.

        The net consequences of a movement like feminism is often determined by the outliers and radicals, I agree. It’s absolutely important to pay attention, as Scott does here, to the directions that movement trend-setters are choosing.

        My complaint was more about the likely consequences of Scott’s writing. A critique can be framed in a lot of different way, ranging from ‘feminism is bad because [x]’ to ‘[x] is a betrayal of the virtuous core principles of feminism’, to the more analytical ‘failure state [x] follows from certain intellectual strains baked in to feminism, plus predictable human failings’, to a jillion other things. Depending on which signals you throw up, different people are going to struggle to read the post without having their brains turn off.

        Consider: ‘Talking about “entitled nerds” is pretty much feminism’s new favorite thing’. Truthy, but not very precise; it does a better job of designating the villain than it does of informing the reader. This will very predictably create a more polarized readership, with more heat and less light. It’s the sort of attack best used if you’re trying to clear out the squishy middle and take advantage of clearly defined battle lines- not Scott’s usual MO. It’s also the sort of thing that you’re likely to say when a person you like has been hurt by complicated social forces and your monkey brain is trying to simplify things down to the level of stick-banging.

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        • Toggle says:

          Arg. That was posted by me, who is Toggle.

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        • haishan says:

          It’s the sort of attack best used if you’re trying to clear out the squishy middle and take advantage of clearly defined battle lines- not Scott’s usual MO.

          I would suggest that no one (well, no one I’d wanna associate with) is trying to clear out the squishy middle and frame for heat instead of light. That’s something that powers and principalities are much better at than flesh and blood are. The squishy middle, and low-heat efficient LED lights of arguments, are the opposite of what sells newspapers and gets pageviews. If you give Moloch the smallest opening to turn brother against brother and husband against wife, he’ll take it almost 100% of the time.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Actually I think this demonstrates one of the best uses of the Moloch meme. When a large social movement like ‘feminism’ appears to become massively coordinated cruelty, it allows us to polarize around the anti-Moloch axis, rather than around the anti-feminism axis. The demon god of Carthage is still a potent enough symbol that hating it is satisfying, but removed from existing institutions so as to avoid catching any actual humans in the periphery. Moloch has victims, not allies. Nobody consents, silently or otherwise.

            Even better, it encourages to look for the strings that Moloch is using to control a particular situation, both as a weapon and as a justification for our Moloch-directed anger. So the ‘polarization’ motivates collaborative search for actionable solutions, rather than division along party lines.

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        • Brian says:

          It’s also the sort of thing that you’re likely to say when a person you like has been hurt by complicated social forces and your monkey brain is trying to simplify things down to the level of stick-banging.

          Hahaha. Yes, this.

          Normally I think Scott does a really commendable job of being reasonable on difficult issues, but I think for parts of this post he really slipped into chimp-stick-bangining mode.

          Some of his insights are quite profound and poignant, but at a lot of other places his animus realy shines through and it’s obvious how unchartiable to feminism he’s being.

          Which is unfortunate, coming from a guy who said he wanted to get “Principle of Charity” tattooed on his chest, but I guess it’s understandable in the same way that what feminism is doing is understandable.

          I still think this is one of the better articles on the subject, though, just because mokey-politicking is hard to do perfectly reasonably.

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      • A Modest Suggestion says:

        Perhaps “I do not care about the objective mode, I care about the measured median.”?

        This implies there are only a few types of feminist but I think the slightly reduced accuracy in truth is worth it.

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      • James says:

        Possibly the root mean squared.

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      • houseboatonstyx says:

        “[….] The silent majority, the median feminist, would never say that sort of thing.”
        To which I can only say… how is that supposed to help anything? A silent majority is silent. Regardless of what they believe, they’re not affecting the conversation. I don’t care about what people who call themselves feminists happen to privately believe; I care about what the feminist movement actually does.

        First, what the real feminists are doing is, well, doing. Working for Emily’s List, lobbying for better laws, working for female candidates, volunteering at abortion clinics, etc etc.

        Second, if they had time to deal with the sort of magazines that Marcotte fans — or her enemies — read, what magazines would publish them? (Other than just attacks on the SJW ‘feminists’ — which would send the message that the majority of real feminists have nothing better to think about.)

        Third, who has the stomach to dissect that sort of thing? It’s all too ridiculous. There are real feminist things in the real world to be done, even if there are some women calling themselves ‘feminists’ who are wrong on the Internet.

        ETA: And they are very wrong. But nothing will stop them behaving like that. And the only way I can think of to help the victims, is to suggest online dating sites so they won’t have to deal with Schrodinger’s Offense-Takers.

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        • SJW from hell says:

          I resent your claim that people who self-identify as feminists and hold feminist views are somehow regardless not “real” feminists because we talk about feminism on the internet in tones that don’t please you and because you disagree with us. You don’t get to unilaterally define feminism and exclude people from it. There is room for disagreement within feminism.

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          • Richard Gadsden says:

            Then you have the same problem that reproducing worker ants do – you can’t say “this person is not one of us”, and if you can’t say that, then you have to accept responsibility for every jerk who runs under your banner.

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          • Partisan says:

            Tangential comment / question: Have you ever got a satisfactory response after telling someone they “don’t get to do x?”

            My experience is that telling someone that they don’t get to do something is not likely to lead to me getting what I want.

            If the goal is in saying such a thing is to “Chastise the person where everyone can see how right I am and how wrong they are,” then maybe it’s effective.

            If the goal is to “Get the person to re-consider their position and change their behavior,” then I’d guess it’s not.

            (FWIW, I agree with the substabce of your comment.)

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        • DrBeat says:

          I don’t buy it.

          “Real feminists are too busy working to improve the world to stop the Not Real Feminists from destroying things” is not the most popular argument to defend feminism, but it’s on the list, and it’s bullshit.

          People’s priorities reveal things about themselves too. The Real Feminists are there, tirelessly working to change any condition that might harm a woman in any way, no matter how slight or unlikely. But the Real Feminists are too busy to change any condition that hurts men, no matter how large, no matter if it trades on their own name in order to wreak destruction. That set of priorities is not what I would expect to see from a “real feminism” that cares about gender equality for all. It’s exactly what I would expect to see from a “real feminism” that wants to exalt women and hurt men.

          The Real Feminists wanted to protect women from domestic violence, so they did something about it. They spoke and used their political power to have laws passed protecting women from domestic violence. In passing these laws, either they or the Not Real Feminists did a lot of harm to men, by erasing and covering up the fact that men are domestically abused as often as women, and enshrining into law the men are presumptively guilty and do not deserve equal protection under the law because they are threats to women. If the Real Feminists are not responsible for this, then they just saw it happening right next to them, carried out by people using their names and using their political power, and made no effort whatsoever to stop it. That is a condition that’s damn well close enough to “being responsible for it” that the distinction doesn’t really matter.

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        • Paul says:

          The ‘real feminists’ you talk about probably have significant overlap with the 4/5th of the population who believe that ‘men and women should be social, political, and economic equals’, but not with the 1/5th of the population who identify as feminists. (At least that’s my hypothesis)

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        • Anon says:

          You mention Emily’s List as being an example of “Real Feminists” who are too busy getting stuff done to play the zero-sum privilege game that was outlined by Scott.

          Yet even Emily’s list is tangentially involved in the creep-shaming that is being called out by Scott and the other Scott.

          Here is their official twitter from December:

          https://twitter.com/emilyslist/status/545722020391317504

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    • John Schilling says:

      I don’t think tribalism needs to be “sneaking in” here; it’s already come in through the front door with a fanfare of trumpets. This is a tribal conflict.

      Feminism, is inherently tribal. There is very little reason to use the word if you aren’t trying to signal membership in (or submission to) the tribe – we’ve got perfectly good terms like “women’s rights” or “gender equality” for just talking about the goals that people might like to pursue even if they don’t want to join the tribe. On the matter of nerd-shaming, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that who didn’t clearly identify as a member of the feminist tribe.

      And on the flip side, I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that so many people whose coding skills greatly exceed their talking-to-girls skills wear fedoras.

      So of there are fifty reasonable people calling themselves feminists or even just pursuing gender equality, for each Jezebelian, it would maybe be a reasonably good idea if they spoke up. And they’d be well advised to claim a name for themselves.

      Because, there’s that Southron in The Two Towers; the one who dies by Sam’s feet and about whom he says,

      “He wondered what that man’s name was and where he came from, if he was really evil of heart, or what lies and threats had lead him on the long march from his home, and if he would not rather have stayed there in peace”.

      Heck, even Shagrat and Gorbag a few chapters later come off as just ordinary working stiffs in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if you stand in the ranks without comment while Sauron or even Saruman leads, then you’re on their side of the line in the sand even if you’d rather have been somewhere else. And you may get shot for it, with the person who looses the arrow not feeling the least bit guilty.

      Absent explicit dissent, you stand where the tribal banner stands, and you will be judged by the words of the tribal chief.

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      • Amy says:

        Sorry, but no. I am a feminist explicitly uninterested in tribes, lynch mobs, etc. And it is a minority of people who call themselves feminist, in my experience, who go around looking for “allies” and so on.

        Feminist is a useful word with a long and proud history, and I see no reason not to use it. I can’t stop you from thinking in a paranoid fashion about what it signifies, but I can tell you that you’re simply wrong.

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        • John Schilling says:

          That would make you an explicitly dissenting feminist, which in this context is a good thing to be. Enough of this sort of goodness, and we don’t have a problem any more, and maybe feminism reclaims some of that proud history.

          Except, “uninterested in lynch mobs”? I take that as being mildly opposed to lynch mobs, which is a mildly good thing. I’m pretty certain everybody has an opinion on lynch mobs, and if they don’t they will when they are invited to join one.

          Lynch mobs typically start with one high-status person saying “Get a rope” and nobody saying “No”. They typically end with everybody in earshot at least tagging along. If I’m assessing the probability of a lynch mob being raised against me, it’s the status-weighted ratio of “Get a rope” to “No”, that matters. The number of people hanging around in the tribal commons not talking about lynching, that just factors into the size of the lynch mob that may or may not be raised against me.

          This is not paranoia.

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          • Amy says:

            Oh. Well, I’ve been the “no”, online and in person, as a reasonably high-status person v. others. It’s not that hard to do, though it’s certainly unpleasant, esp. in person. The first penalty appears to be that people you wouldn’t want to associate with stop believing you’re on their team. Nbd. The second penalty comes when the paranoid accusee then decides you’re on *his* team and gets upset when you fail to back his every word, at which point you say, “Fuck all of this, I have work to do.”

            Sometimes absence of rallying against means “person has actual life and is busy” or “person has looked at screen and said, ‘jesus christ, not again’, and decided the whole thing is too depressing to have anything to do with.” And not necessarily, “sheeple be good Germans.”

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        • arthur stanton says:

          So you can insult someone for being paranoid

          You can tell that person that he is wrong.

          Here is what you cannot do.

          You cannot say that Amanda Marcotte is wrong.

          Because you think that she is right.

          If you like, prove me wrong: By saying that Amanda Marcotte is, completely and entirely, wrong.

          Do that, and I will admit that I was wrong about your ability to do that.

          But you won’t do that.

          Because you you think that she is right

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        • MugaSofer says:

          If you want to keep the word, you need to fight the heretics who are corrupting – betraying – both it and your ideals.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Thought experiment. Suppose you are a proud member of Group X. Some costumed mud wrestlers adopt the term X. Will you jump in the mud pit to wrestle them? Probably better to continue clean real work in the real world, (especially as, if a known real X jumped into the mud, that would increase their clicks).

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          • Anonymous says:

            Thought experiment. You are a proud member of group X. Every single time a member of group X has done anything in the public eye, they have been a costumed mud wrestler. Claiming membership in group X allows costumed mud wrestlers to maliciously hurt people with no repercussions. Costumed mud wrestlers founded group X and have constituted group X for over fifty years.

            Every single person I have ever met who claimed membership in group X and denied being a costumed mud wrestler either left before I could see in their closet, or turned out to be a costumed mud wrestler with a long list of reasons why their costumed mud wrestling didn’t count.

            When you say you are a member of Group X who is not a costumed mud wrestler, am I obligated to believe you?

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Every single time a member of group X has done anything in the public eye, they have been a costumed mud wrestler. Claiming membership in group X allows costumed mud wrestlers to maliciously hurt people with no repercussions. Costumed mud wrestlers founded group X and have constituted group X for over fifty years.

            Mud pit = media and forums cultivating outrage
            Public eye =/= those media/forums

            [ Backs away from mud pit, speaks to others out in the clean air ]

            When — obviously well after 1974 — did it begin, that some people calling themselves ‘feminists’ saw non-jocks as enemy? (IE math geeks, dancers — any male that couldn’t or wouldn’t fit macho career gender expectations.) We were working for their Liberation too.

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlo-thomas/free-to-be-40-years-later_b_2206066.html

            Hm, another thing was, that girls could ask boys for dates. Safer for both.

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          • Matthew says:

            @houseboatonstyx

            I think your metaphor is missing something. I’m struggling to verbally model what I want to say; forgive me if this isn’t totally clear…

            I think a substantial chunk of the inferential distance between some of us in the “no longer identify as feminist” camp and the “still explicitly feminist, but not sympathetic to the SJW rhetorical pitchforks-and-torches factory” is that you still think you can win the battle to be the central example people associate with “feminist,” while we think the war for the word is already over and the good guys lost.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Amy and others

          Right on, sisters!

          I’ll try to get back with something the rest of y’all haven’t said, about mansplaing, but right now I’m busy with frozen plumbing while my dear het male spouse cooks.

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    • Anonymous says:

      but it’s not obvious that most people-who-wear-the-feminism-hat are of the Vogon type … but I have this worry that for each Jezebelian, there are fifty perfectly reasonable humans in a tribe they think of as ‘feminist’

      There might indeed be fifty perfectly reasonable “feminists” for each Jezebelian, but this is unimportant because the feminists with power and influence, those who write columns for the new statesmen, who own and write for the likes of gawker, who are academics in various feminist fields, and who write popular and influential feminist blogs almost always are of the same type as Marcotte. The elite of feminism is far more fanatical than the rank and file, and because feminism is an essentially top-down media based movement, it is perfectly reasonable to consider what the elite wants as “what feminism wants” because they essentially are feminism.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      This has a lot to do with the PR campaign to make “feminist” a prerequisite for “decent human being”: anyone who doesn’t reject the whole leftist frame thinks of themselves as a feminist, because nobody thinks they’re not a decent human being.

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    • cbhacking says:

      This occurred to me as well. I actually am in a weird place here: my aunt (call her Dr. G.) is a professor of 400-level Women’s Studies courses at a major research university. She is much-loved and respected in my family, and a significant part of my childhood, so I have had plenty of exposure to feminism throughout my life. I’ve met a number of her students (more, since I graduated, than I did when I attended that same university. Odd). Some of them ask me if I’m a feminist. My immediate reaction is always “yes” but lately I then immediately get uneasy because “oh shit, did she mean ‘am I in support of the crazy side of the Jezebel crowd?’ and does she now expect me to denounce everything as the fault of the patriarchy and accept blame for everything and will jump on me like a mother bear defending her cub if I so much as hint that I am in some way less privileged than some women?”

      The likely answer is no; I don’t agree with Dr. G. on everything, but I agree with her on a lot and when we disagree the discussions are always civil and enlightening, so I have no reason to expect students she invites to her home for a holiday dinner to be like that. The fear is still there, though, because that’s what the term “feminism” is coming to mean in my mind. I HATE that!

      Back in the day, you’d here “feminazi” used to describe the radical fringe of feminism: the bra-burning, man-hating, vicious women (some of whom would object to that spelling) that most people didn’t take too seriously ten years ago. I hated the term, because it too easily lent itself to a “fem[ales|inists] == Nazis” association, and could be used to disparage the whole feminist movement, and that was bad. “Radfem”, as in “radical feminist” – the “everything is the fault of patriarchy”, “all men are privileged and all women are unprivileged”, and manipulative and often vicious women who go unashamedly “punch up” using tactics they would claim to never tolerate if used on anybody with two X chromosomes, but often just go after the most vulnerable member of whatever demographic they want to target including other women who aren’t fully on board with their agenda and rhetoritc – seems a name both more accurate and less dangerous. I’m mostly fine with “radfem” (certainly I prefer it over “feminazi!”), and by its very name it distances itself from mainstream feminism. Unfortunately, a lot of what I hold to be “radfem” views seem to be getting described as “feminist” views.

      I don’t buy it, and I don’t accept it. I explicitly disavow solidarity with the radfems. We both claim to support many of the same goals, but I consider their approaches to those goals both unacceptable and counterproductive, and I often find myself wondering if that’s their true goal at all. I’m aware of the evidence that emotional tirades are often more effective in attracting followers than evidence-based appeals, and I fully believe the women in question have reason to be angry, but that doesn’t excuse the things they say and do. I’ll have no part of that.

      Unfortunately, they have an obvious interest in being viewed as mainstream, as the “real” feminists (therefore able to categorize all the rest of us as fake feminists and frauds). PLEASE don’t help them out by ascribing their views to the whole of “feminism” as a movement and a goal! Seriously, they no more represent the mainstream feminist view than televangelists preaching salvation or eternal torment on late-night TV (or any proselytizing young-earth creationist) represent mainstream Christianity (for the record, I am non-religious and do not hold Christianity in terribly high regard). Seriously, please just don’t. It marginalizes those of us who are trying to improve things.

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    • Brandon Berg says:

      Can anyone here speaking up for feminism point to public feminist voices with the same degree of prominence as the those in the utterly execrable Marcotte/Jezebel axis who are actually decent human beings promoting a reasonable vision of feminism and explicitly labeling it as such?

      I mean, I’ve been reading Alas for nearly ten years, and Barry Deutsch strikes me as quite reasonable and an all-around swell guy, aside from being totally wrong about all the issues on which we disagree, but he’s an outlier, and too obscure to qualify.

      And I personally know a lot of decent people who self-identify as feminist in the motte sense of the word—as I myself did at one point before I met the bailey feminists—but those are the tenets of classical feminism that have been so widely adopted that it makes about as much sense to self-identify as feminist on that basis as it makes to self-identify as abolitionist because you oppose the reinstatement of slavery.

      To me, “feminism” is the Marcotte/Jezebel axis of bile. And I’m not seeing any competing vision get much traction.

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      • B_For_Bandana says:

        Shakesville gives an unmistakable impression of being run by very decent people who are honestly on the side of goodness and compassion. Read as much as you want, you will not find in any post or comment so much as a hint of a wish for harm to come to anyone, or dismissal of anyone’s pain as inconsequential. It’s kind of weird, actually.

        I don’t have a good sense of whether it’s as prominent as Marcotte or Jezebel, though, so it may not qualify on that part.

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      • Jaskologist says:

        And I personally know a lot of decent people who self-identify as feminist in the motte sense of the word—as I myself did at one point before I met the bailey feminists—but those are the tenets of classical feminism that have been so widely adopted…

        In the previous post, I referred to these as “cultural feminists.” They stand in relation to feminism in the same way that cultural Catholics stand in relation to Catholicism. They will vaguely assent to whatever the Church says they’s supposed to, but their dedication is very shallow, and will not be allowed to severely inconvenience them. You can model feminism/sjw very well as a religion, because that’s what it is. But at least when a Catholic does something bad, other Catholics can point to the base scriptures to demonstrate how that wasn’t true Catholicism.

        The great mass of cultural believers are important, because they are the main source of power for the Church. But the true believers are probably more relevant for an outsider, because they decide what actually gets done with that power.

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      • Shellfish says:

        “Can anyone here speaking up for feminism point to public feminist voices…”

        Sure. It’s pretty easy to come up with a relatively long list that’s made up of people who are for the most part far more prominent than Marcotte (someone I’ve never heard of).

        Off the top of my head:
        * oprah winfrey
        * stephen colbert
        * madonna
        * emma watson
        * rebecca watson
        * anita sarkeesian
        * octavia butler
        * marry doria russel
        * coda hale

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        • Anonymous says:

          The first four are (obviously) far more prominent than Marcotte. Butler is a little more prominent. The rest are less prominent.

          (That was off the top of my head. Google hit counts confirms, with one exception: Rebecca Watson, which it places above Oprah. This is surely because she has a common name. In quotes, she still is a bit higher than Marcotte in quotes. I’m sticking with my gut. Except maybe it’s not fair to score print writer by google hits, so maybe Russell is more prominent. Maybe.)

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          • Shellfish says:

            It’s interesting that you think marcotte is more prominent than anyone but coda hale. I’ve never heard of her. Reading her bio on wikipedia gives no indication that I should have heard of her. In fact, her subnoteriety to watson seems to be underlined by the fact that she participated in watson’s skeptchickcon, not vice versa.

            Putting her ahead of multi-award winning authors also seems a bit strange, but I guess in the world of new media, writing books does not count for much.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Books have never been popular. That was true long before “new media.” The first four people on your list–the ones actually “far more famous”–are famous for old media, but not as writers. The result of “new media” is that people read a lot more than they used to, but still not books.

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        • FacelessCraven says:

          so, on that list, the first four act as spokespeople rather than actually promulgating theory, and then the next two are… perhaps not fantastic examples of “nice” feminists. Thing of Things just recently linked me to an enthusiastic defense of Doxxing by Watson, and Sarkeesian is essentially gender-swapped Jack Thompson.

          The last three, I’ve never heard of. Maybe I should fix that, but maybe they should too, as it were. By which I mean, if the nasty promulgators are ubiquitous and the nice ones are obscure, the movement has a problem, and me searching hard for the nice ones isn’t going to fix it.

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          • Shellfish says:

            Sensationalism sells. If you only know of people because they are sensationalistic, then you are just “drinking what they are selling”.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            To elaborate, I’m aware of Anita because she is currently heavily engaged in burning my native community to the ground, and I’m familiar with Watson because, as I was fleeing the devastation, I met a number of refugees that claimed she’d done the same to their native community.

            The fanatics are *getting shit done*, and those of us who are on the receiving end of the doing tend to take note of that.

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          • Shellfish says:

            Your histrionics, hyperbole, and rhetoric are amusing, but if you really think people are burning your native community to the ground, you’re severely delusional.

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      • Lucas says:

        I don’t know a great methodology for measuring “prominence”, but Cathy O’Neil is usually very sensible, and frequently writes about feminism. Good examples http://mathbabe.org/2014/03/20/optimizing-for-einstein-and-other-homo-erotic-theories/ http://mathbabe.org/2015/01/02/male-nerd-privilege/

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    • Anonymous says:

      Can you post some links to the self-identified feminists that explicitly reject the view Scott Alexander describes?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I have gone through the article and double checked that there are qualifiers everywhere there should be qualifiers.

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    • I’m largely an outsider to the whole feminism/nerd issue, in part through being a good deal older than Scott and (I suspect) most participants, but I too felt an odd overtone to the post.

      I’m very much an admirer of Scott’s writing—a while back I put up a blog post with a link to his blog in which I described him as a modern Orwell. Part of what I like about his work is how extraordinarily fair minded it is. There are not many people who can write a defense of a set of ideas they disagree with that could have been written by an articulate believer.

      This post felt different, as though the calm, logical persona had gotten entangled with deeply felt emotions—and not just the emotion of favoring truth and honesty. I was reminded of a recent post of his where he pointed out that he wasn’t really demonstrating his open mindedness by criticizing his own (blue) tribe, because he wasn’t actually a member of the blue tribe but of the grey tribe. This time it was clear that it was his own tribe he was defending.

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    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I feel like Toggle made a valiant effort to leap out of the pit of tribalism and the thread crashed back down even harder. Let me give it another shot:

      Statements about ‘feminism’ are underspecified. The truth-value of Aaronson’s post depends on ‘the feminism visible to an untitled nerd’. I would hope this framing can help us explain why a silent majority is not relevant here, without erasing or aggressing said majority.

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  6. I am very very grateful for this post.

    Because I have fewer privilege cards than Scott Alexander, and sometimes people will listen to me where they won’t listen to him:

    Being told as a high-scrupulosity person that you’re entitled does in fact feel a whole lot like being told as an anorexic person that you’re fat. That’s not an insensitive metaphor; it’s an entirely, painfully, accurate one. (I am anorexic and high-scrupulosity (took the Giving What We Can pledge for 30%) and so I fucking get to say this, if anyone does.) In both cases there’s the concrete knowledge that it’s false, and the intense emotional experience of ‘but it MIGHT BE TRUE’ and also ‘THE FACT SOMEONE THINKS IT’S TRUE IS SUFFICIENT’. If you wouldn’t do the second one but you’d do the first one, please please please listen: you are hurting people just as badly.

    Also, *big sigh*, AS A LESBIAN, since that matters: being told that you are constantly inadvertently sexually harassing people, possibly even by talking to them at all, and that objectifying thoughts make you a disgusting person and that most women feel constantly besieged by creeps, will terrify a certain segment of the population into hating themselves for attraction to women. My girlfriend spent years believing that if you initiated a conversation with someone or sat down near them without permission they would justifiably hate you forever. I spent those same years believing that if I found a woman attractive I was objectifying her and an evil creep, that desire was entitlement, that if I thought to myself ‘wow she’s cute’ it meant I was failing to think of her as a human being and she’d hate me if she ever found out. Both my girlfriend and I are convinced that if we were heterosexual men our lives would have been hell on earth. Scott Aaronson thinks his life would have been easier if he were a woman and I think he’s completely right.

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    • RCF says:

      “Because I have fewer privilege cards than Scott Alexander, and sometimes people will listen to me where they won’t listen to him”

      I find it ironic that you are saying that as you have less “privilege”, your views will be accorded greater weight, i.e. are more privileged.

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      • I also find that ironic. But, I mean, true.

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        • cbhacking says:

          The wonder of the motte-and-bailey of SJW “privilege”. If you have it, you’re not worth listening to. If you don’t, then we will grant you the non-ironic privilege of paying attention to what you say.

          EDIT: Maybe. So long as we can relate to you and don’t find you contemptible or unworthy of listening to for some other reason. Yeah, I don’t have a lot of respect for SJWs (and there’s a reason for that, but I’m not putting it in this comment).

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          • Pluviann says:

            I think it’s the same logic that leads to affirmative action.
            If people from Group A get X% more attention for their opinions than Group B then it makes sense to adjust your attention-giving to prioritise Group B, so that everyone gets heard equally. (There’s a much bigger argument here about how to decide which opinions are worth listening to, but I thik SJWs take it as axiomatic that everyone should be heard).

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            “everyone should be heard”, in the sense that everyone who disagrees has already had their say, and should sit down and shut up permanently, sure. I mean, I’ve seen this stated explicitly in a number of contexts.

            I don’t think that’s a very standard definition of “everyone should be heard”.

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    • 7783 says:

      Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Partisan says:

    Scott, thanks for writing this.

    I found myself thinking that section III is quite weak in comparison to the rest of the post. I agree with its conclusion, but I don’t think the arguments justify it.

    Suppose we live in a world where the conclusion is false. in the dating site example, the most attractive woman would have got 38 messages – the same as the most attractive man.

    Now suppose in that world there is a contingent of horrible nerds who endlessly spam women on dating sites with messages because they feel entitled to sex. The most attractive woman now gets `NaN` messages – many more than the most attractive man.

    On the basis of dating site messages, it seems pretty difficult to distinguish the “evil sex-crazed nerds are harrassing women” world from the “attractive women have an easier time of finding partners than attractive men world,” yes?

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    • John Schilling says:

      Your last sentence is missing a very critical word.

      As written, there’s nothing to distinguish the two states. Attractive women, in your hypothetical, are being harassed by evil sex-crazed nerds and they have an easier time finding partners. All they have to do is answer an email from one of the “evil sex-crazed nerds” begging to be their partner. Who probably isn’t actually evil.

      Regardless of all the reasons a woman would normally and reasonably reject an uninvited sexual propositions, regardless of how uncomfortable a sufficiently large and continuous a stream of such propositions might be in most contexts, in the specific context of a woman having difficulty finding a partner the presence of such a stream of propositions does reduce the difficulty. A woman in such a position has all the other available options for finding a partner, plus the added option of accepting one of the propositions.

      Which means the missing word in your last sentence is “attractive”. Well, OK, it’s got two of those, but it needs a third right before “partners”.

      And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it needs to be said. First, because it’s already been said in the other direction; I’ve seen several criticisms of I believe both Scott As by now saying that they are really whining about not being able to get the hot chickz and look here at all of the lonely nerdy girls and shut up you hypocrites.

      Second, because it’s true, in both directions. Whenever either Scott A, or a lonely nerdy girl, or anyone else anywhere of any gender, says “I want/need a date/sex partner/lover/spouse”, there is always an implied “attractive” in there. Or at least “not horribly unattractive”, and considering more than just physical appearance. Your thought experiment implicitly acknowledges this, tosses in a bunch of hypothetical suitors who are so hideously unattractive that everyone is supposed to agree that these are nobody’s suitable partners, and asks if this changes everything.

      I respond that the more interesting question is: A woman says “I am terribly lonely and want a partner (who is not in the bottom X% of the population as I would rank such things). A man says “I am terribly lonely and want a partner (who is not in the bottom Y%…)

      On average, is X greater than, less than, or equal to Y, and what does that change?

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      • The thing is, it’s not just that the evil sex-crazed nerds are unattractive, it’s that they’re creepy… they’re threatening.

        I think this gets to the more interesting question as to why women have an easier time finding dates than men do. It’s possible that men may desire sex more than women do, but it seems unlikely to me that men desire love, companionship, romance more than women do. So that can’t be the cause.

        (TW)

        I think a big part of it is fear. (The other part is probably slut-shaming.) The biological reality is that men are stronger than women and more prone to violent impulses. Any woman who goes alone to a man’s house is, unfortunately, taking a risk. Therefore women must be a little more selective in the partners they choose.

        So which is better, having no options, or being overwhelmed with options, all of which are unattractive and scary? Is it worse to feel pathologically unwanted, or constantly in threat of violence?

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        • John Schilling says:

          I think “likely to rape me if our relationship goals turn out to be different”, would be a pretty strong negative factor in the general evaluation of attractiveness, so I’m not sure we really disagree here. But I do think there’s more to it than that, because I think the “creepy, totally undateable, eeeeww” reaction is coming up in some contexts that nobody would plausibly consider a rape risk, and I think that in some other contexts it is being implemented in a manner that would likely increase the rape risk (e.g. using gratuitous insult or ridicule in rejecting a proposition).

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          • I think the “creepy, totally undateable, eeeeww” reaction is coming up in some contexts that nobody would plausibly consider a rape risk

            I feel like the “this guy is creepy” reaction is an emotional one, not a rational one… but even in situations where it makes no sense, the root cause is still this sort of fear, more often than it’s “eew, this guy is too low status for me” rationalized.

            What triggers the creepy factor? There are obvious traits like lack of respect for a woman’s boundaries, arrogance, seeing women as a sex object…. all these traits are in fact rape-y and threatening.

            But then there’s also stuff that isn’t obviously threatening like… seeming overly invested in the woman’s reactions (awkwardness is one form of this), social abnormalities, immaturity.

            However, I would argue that these behaviors all in fact are kind of threatening in their own way. If you go on /r/creepypms on reddit there’s tons of examples of dudes sending messages like “I love you, I want to be with you forever”, only to be followed by rejection, upon which they start saying “I hope you die, you slut” and stuff like that. So we can see how over-attachment can turn into rage. And then there’s the fact that if someone is extremely odd then they might be someone who doesn’t understand the proper way to act in society, which includes respecting women. Finally, immaturity is a trait that often yields rage.

            So I guess the fear doesn’t come from “this guy seems like a rapist” but “I can’t predict that this guy will act normally, and he’s a lot stronger than me”. If that makes sense. Men don’t have this problem – if a girl starts acting weird, then whatever, she’s acting weird. We don’t have the threat of violence lurking in the back of our minds.

            IDK I’m pretty much talking out of my ass here since I’m a man so I can’t really know how women make these decisions, but this is sort of how I see it playing out in my mental picture of the world. If a woman wants to tell me how it really is then that would be cool.

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          • veronica d says:

            I think the “creepypms” stuff is important to talk about. Like, when Scott says, ”No nerds I know are like this,” I wonder — like, is this selection bias? Or can he just not see? To start with, he’s surely the sort who chooses better friends, but these guys definitely exist, and many are nerds or “nerd-adjacent.”

            Like, remember the whole thing (last year I think) where everyone started talking about shitty dudes in the 1st-person shooter scene, like, dudes who were being terrible to women. These dudes were certainly nerds. Some were absolute jerks.

            (I recall during that conversation a bunch of men were defending this one fat bearded guy, saying, “Hey! If he were hot she wouldn’t mind.” Dudes were saying that. This was nerd-space.)

            (Does anyone remember the exact incident I’m talking about? It got lots of attention. Anyone have links?)

            Anyway, I basically agree with Scott. I’m anti-Marcotte/Jezebel style nerd shaming. I speak out about it. (Sometimes. When I can. It’s complicated.)

            But there is stuff that happens to women by nerds that really sucks. We gotta talk about that too.

            (Like, I want to talk about it productively, not Jezebel style mindkilled stuff.)

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            Veronica D – The rampant abuse problem in gaming has been an issue for several years now, possibly more than a decade. I remember Penny arcade first pointing it out probably ten years back, and it’s only gotten worse since then. I’m solidly allied with the reproductively-viable worker ants, and I’d wholeheartedly agree that there’s a serious toxicity problem in gaming that the industry should be working directly to fix, at least to the extent that solutions are available.

            I probably don’t agree with you on everything, but it seems obvious to me that there’s a load of low-hanging fruit in the interface between male and female nerds to make life better for both. It’s also pretty clear that we can’t pick any of it if we’re busy trying to wipe each other out.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I actually dislike when people go straight to the “women are scared of rape” arguments, because I think it passes over many other very real things I am scared of.

          In the dating scene, I am scared of being used for sex, by someone who isn’t actually interested in me as a person (If you’re a guy thinking “I’d be happy to be used for sex!”, consider how you’d feel about hiring a prostitute, who is obviously using you for money, and that might be a better referent). I am scared of dating someone who isn’t sex-positive, and is therefore judging me for sleeping with them. etc.

          Also, as a point of fact, I am a relatively attractive female with pretty good social skills, and really good relationship skills, and I HAVE been having trouble finding a relationship within the “unnamed community of people interested in certain topics, most of which read SSC”. I actually consider myself to be LOWERING my standards that I’m going outside the community, and getting on OKC where I can find more conventionally attractive people, but who are less likely to “get” me.

          So yeah, being a woman means I have an easy time working my way into cuddle puddles, and would have no problem finding a quick fuck, if that’s what I wanted. And it probably makes finding a relationship easiER, but it’s still not actually easy, and I’m somewhat put-off by the assumption that being inundated by offers of sex makes it easy to find a meaningful relationship.

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          • Sophie Grouchy says:

            Blarg. The above was by me.

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          • Thanks for the input. So what you’re saying is that women can find casual sex more easily than men, but not relationships. This makes sense with the hypothesis that men desire casual sex more than women do, but both sexes desire romance equally.

            In the dating scene, I am scared of being used for sex, by someone who isn’t actually interested in me as a person

            This seems like a strange thing to be afraid of, per se. Like, from a male perspective, I can see how that would suck, but not to the point where it causes fear. Personally I would be very unlikely to turn down sex for this reason, so this is hard for me to relate to.

            I wonder if the reason women feel like this is because of slut-shaming, or maybe patriarchal stuff in general. Like the idea that if a man has sex with you he has taken something from you, and he is the victorious one.

            (If you’re a guy thinking “I’d be happy to be used for sex!”, consider how you’d feel about hiring a prostitute, who is obviously using you for money, and that might be a better referent).

            At least personally, I would feel bad about hiring a prostitute not because of this, but because it’s a pathetic thing to be so unable to find sex you have to pay for it. Also, I think it would be unpleasant to have sex with someone who isn’t enjoying it, I would feel unattractive, and also guilty.

            Sorry if this post has a weird tone of trying to unduly read the minds of women… I am just trying to penetrate the core issue as to why women find it easier to find dates, because it’s a really interesting question imho.

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          • Sophie Grouchy says:

            I don’t know if this quite answers your question, but:

            The idea of being used for sex by a random guy makes me feel gross. On the contrary, casual sex with a member of the more sex-positive circles of the rationality community (especially someone whose social circles interlock with mine in ways that pretty much vouch “this is a good guy”) does NOT feel gross.

            So it isn’t JUST the idea of casual sex that feels gross. It’s the idea of being used. I think perhaps a part of it is the dehumanizing aspect that is involved in the first instance, but not in the second.

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          • Pluviann says:

            FWIW, I agree that as a woman I am not often thinking ‘he might chop me up and bury me under the floorboards and then rape me’ when considering getting together with a guy.
            I think it might be more helpful to discuss dating in terms of getting ‘orgasms’ rather than ‘getting laid’. I’m pretty sure that men are right when they complain that any woman can get laid anywhere at any time just by asking. I am equally sure that if I actually had sex with a randomly selected stranger it would be at best awkward and at worst painful. It is better not to have sex then to have awful, painful sex.
            I think that ‘not wanting to be used’ is an emotional/social problem: I cannot really enjoy interacting with someone who treats me with contempt, but it is also a physical problem: I cannot enjoy a sexual encounter that consists of a man just putting his dick in me, thrusting until he orgasms and then stopping.

            Often in these discussions, I see people saying that women want relationships and men want sex because women like hugs and romance and men like orgasms. I don’t know if it’s true for women in general, but for me, I want relationships because they are the surest route to orgasms. (I mean, I also like all the other wonderful stuff that comes with relationships, but even if my selfish sexual desires were my only motivation, relationships would be the best way to fulfill them).

            tl:dr: Getting laid /= getting sexual satisfaction

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          • Anonymous says:

            @GBN,
            a better hypothesis might be that men desire casual sex more than women do, while women desire romance more than men do. Who is the market for romance novels?

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          • veronica d says:

            This is good stuff.

            Keep in mind, people who feel “led on” can react very badly. And in nerd spaces you encounter a variety of men. Some are the Scott-types, super shy, but actually really sweet guys. But you encounter other kinds of men also. Some can get shitty when you blow them off. Other can be, well, just — I’m looking for a good term — full sad-pandas and that’s its own little shit sandwich.

            Like, we can brush dudes off, say no, or whatever. But what we cannot do is just be ourselves in a relaxed, natural way. Cuz we know dudes are hyper scrutinizing us, but we’re not sure exactly who or how or how each thing is being read in what way, and what dude is going to decide we like him when we do not and then go sad-panda on us.

            And then his problems get dumped in our lap and once again we have to do emotional labor, while both sides negotiate the hell that is the “friendzone.”

            Anyway, blah. Scott is right. We need to stop demonizing dudes for this. You ain’t a bad person cuz you wanna fuck women.

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          • @Anonymous:

            Who is the market for romance novels?

            At least in Japan they also have those weird waifu dating sim visual novel games for men, so perhaps this is partially a cultural thing. (Not sure how popular those actually are though.)

            IDK, personally it seems hard for me to imagine that there’s a huge population of men out there who don’t deeply desire the validation and companionship that a romantic relationship implies, especially because men in general have less intimate friendships than women. But maybe this is just typical mind fallacy.

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          • “and I HAVE been having trouble finding a relationship within the “unnamed community of people interested in certain topics, most of which read SSC””

            This strikes me as a problem not with being a woman or being a man but with being far out on the tail of a distribution and only interested in other people about equally far out. It drastically reduces the pool. The smaller the pool, the harder it is to find someone who meets whatever other requirements you are looking for.

            I’m male, and happily married for 30+ years. One of my search criteria after my first marriage ended was a woman with whom I could have a conversation about ideas without feeling as though I needed a translator—the sort of conversation I could have with only a small minority of my male colleagues. By great good fortune, I eventually found one.

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        • Anonymous says:

          So which is better, having no options, or being overwhelmed with options, all of which are unattractive and scary? Is it worse to feel pathologically unwanted, or constantly in threat of violence?

          This question strikes me as unanswerable, and irrelevant. Under what circumstances would the answer to this question matter?

          Even if we did come to a conclusion that one sort of pain was worse than the other, it would be heartless to say that the other sort of pain was irrelevant. Eg, it may well be that it is worse to suffer migraines than eczema, but I would be very unimpressed with a doctor that, when my eczema flairs up, said to me “Well, migraine sufferers have it worse, so go home and stop whining.”

          Therefore women must be a little more selective in the partners they choose.

          But often women aren’t that selective, or, if they are selective, are selective in the wrong way.
          Take Scott’s story of ‘Henry’.

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        • Markus Ramikin says:

          “So which is better, having no options, or being overwhelmed with options, all of which are unattractive and scary? Is it worse to feel pathologically unwanted, or constantly in threat of violence?”

          Wait, why is that a useful question? What rests on deciding who has it worse? Both are problematic, and if not-having one of these problems is a form of priviledge, I don’t see why not-having the other wouldn’t be.

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          • I wrote in a post further down the page that it feels to me like a lot of these debates seem to implicitly revolve around the vague, unanswerable question of “who has it worse, men or women, and to what extent?”

            I feel like the answer does sort of have implications. Like if it turns out that women definitely have it much, much worse then even some extreme forms of feminism seem justified. But if women and men both have problems of roughly equal magnitude, then it feels like much of the feminist mindset is wrong-headed and a more even-handed attitude should take its place.

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        • veronica d says:

          So which is better, having no options, or being overwhelmed with options, all of which are unattractive and scary? Is it worse to feel pathologically unwanted, or constantly in threat of violence?

          Well, I’ve experienced both. Which is worse?

          It’s complicated.

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        • Anonymous says:

          GBN: “The thing is, it’s not just that the evil sex-crazed nerds are unattractive, it’s that they’re creepy… they’re threatening. ”

          There are certainly lots of situations where everyone would agree that someone is being threatening, and there are some situations where, leaving threatening aside, most would agree that someone was being creepy.

          However, one of the things that makes discussion of this difficult for lots of us males is that there’s a truly gigantic middle ground of actions which are only creepy or threatening if it turns out that the male is unattractive to the female. Half the romantic movies ever made portray behavior as endearing that a woman would find creepy or threatening in the case that she already finds the man unattractive. (To take this to its mainstream limit, as far as I know, the character in 50 Shades is LITERALLY THREATENING, and it’s part of his charm). This encompasses most of the most successful strategies for approaching women: they’re either wildly successful or wildly unsuccessful, and they can only be used, therefore, if you’re already confident and well-adjusted and able to shrug off accusations of piggery, OR if you are a misogynistic pig.

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          • Half the romantic movies ever made portray behavior as endearing that a woman would find creepy or threatening in the case that she already finds the man unattractive.

            I feel like the reality is more like “half the romantic movies ever made portray behavior as endearing that a woman would find creepy or threatening in the case that she is a real person and not a character in a romance movie”.

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      • Partisan says:

        I take your point, but I think I didn’t convey the meaning of my thought experiment very well.

        You write:

        All [attractive women] have to do is answer an email from one of the “evil sex-crazed nerds” begging to be their partner. Who probably isn’t actually evil.

        In my fictional world, these “evil, sex-crazed nerds” really are evil and sex-crazed. (I don’t think that this is consistent with the real world, but I’m assuming it for the thought experiment)

        I was trying to use this thought experiment to illustrate that Scott hadn’t made a good case for his argument in section III. Fortunately, he’s now edited it to be much more defensible.

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        • John Schilling says:

          I think thought experiments of the form, “What if for every decent member of community X, there are a dozen monsters who do a really good impersonation of members of community X”, are likely to do more harm than good. Particularly when evaluating policies that are harmful to community X.

          If you want to argue that it’s actually true, fine. Otherwise, well, what if there actually were a cabal of wealthy Jews trying to take over the world?

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    • arthur stanton says:

      horrible nerds

      I hope you enjoy slinging around insults like that, and ignoring everything in the original blogpost, so that you can throw around insults like that.

      You do not get to a priori slur an undifferentiated mass of men for being horrible. You get to read the blogpost, realize that people like you drive other people to suicide, then stop doing that.

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      • Partisan says:

        Assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that this is serious: a better way of criticizing someone would be to say something like “I [agreed / disagreed] with you point. Given that you clearly did read and agree with the blog post, as your first paragraphs mention, I think you failed to take part of its message into account. Specifically: [your criticism]”.

        Assuming bad faith (this “you are a bad person who enjoys slinging insults and driving people to suicide” business) is usually not conducive to productive discussion.

        So. I have read your comment. I don’t agree with it. My comment is calling a specific person or actual group of people horrible; I’m explicitly referring to a fictional world.

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  8. toto says:

    The problem with these many-thousand words essays is that it’s easy to get lost in the argument. Including for the writer.

    What is the actual question here? What is the proposition being debated?

    The posts on Scott’s thread (from both “sides”) were mostly very thoughtful and deeply moving, but it seemed to end up into some kind of misery competition. “I have it worse than you – No, *I* have it worse than you!”. Somehow this post seems to do the same.

    If someone can summarize what exactly I’m supposed to agree or disagree on I’d be quite grateful.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Part XII is exactly that summary.

      Report comment

      • Alex Richard says:

        The reason I feel like this post is meandering is that it conflates two different arguments: ‘You should not dehumanize people, even if they are members of a terrible group’ and ‘my ingroup is not terrible’.

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        • Tracy W says:

          The thing I like about Scott Alexander’s posts is that they do meander, and cover more complex issues than that can be fitted within a tweet. It’s like Montaigne’s essays, and he was the original essayist. Judging by the number of commentators, I’m not the only one who does.

          I will add that I also like many examples of the tightly-structured, one key message, genre. When it comes to writing styles, I’m a big fan of diversity.

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          • 27chaos says:

            Meanderings should have a natural flow to them. This essay feels like it jerks me in one direction and then in the opposite direction a few seconds later. It was still a good essay, but that put me off balance.

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      • James Babcock says:

        It might be a good idea to put a note at the top, telling people that if they aren’t going to read the whole thing they should skip to the summary and where the summary is.

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  9. blacktrance says:

    Whether we’re “mouth-breathers”, “pimpled”, “scrawny”, “blubbery”, “sperglord”, “neckbeard”, “virgins”, “living in our parents’ basements”, “man-children” or whatever the insult du jour is, it’s always, always, ALWAYS a self-identified feminist saying it.

    Maybe in your Blue-Tribe bubble – and when you’re in a bubble like that, “feminists use slurs against nerds” is the effect of selection, rather than necessarily a problem with feminism as such. Who’s going to use the most slurs against people who disagree with them? People who are passionately dedicated to the issue. In a Blue/Grey bubble, who’s likely to be the most passionate about politics and culture on the non-nerd side? Heavily SJ people. And so, conditional on you seeing slurs, you should expect them to come from dedicatedly SJ people. But that is very much an effect of filtering out many types of people (e.g. the Red Tribe), and if you had a more representative sample of political/cultural positions, you’d find that nerds are hated by a variety of people for a variety of reasons. You just see the feminists because you don’t see (to use a personal example) people like the guy who used a homophobic slur against me for reading in class.

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    • Desertopa says:

      This is a true and important point, which also occurred to me while reading the article. But I think there’s a distinct possibility that nerds in general tend to take more seriously the cultural messages of the Blue Tribe than the Red Tribe. Even if nerds meet Red Tribe members on a day to day basis, I expect that they tend to have much less interaction with them in terms of exchange of ideas. So even if Red Tribe hostility against nerds is equal or greater in magnitude, it’s likely lesser in effect.

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      • The Dancing Judge says:

        Can you provide an example of any Red Tribe group that particularly picks on nerds (except maybe highschool jocks)?

        I hang out with many Red Tribers when i go see my family and i cannot remember this ever coming up. Hanging out with my regular Blue Tribe friends, classmates, and coworkers in college and now in work, i see plenty of nerd hating.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Can you provide an example of any Red Tribe group that particularly picks on nerds (except maybe highschool jocks)?

          Church ladies, soccer moms, a certain archetype of businessperson (the kind who cares a lot about etiquette), the less financially successful of the adults who were jocks in high school.

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          • nydwracu says:

            Wait, really? A lot of my family is church ladies, and they consistently treat me as an actual human, unlike the Blue Tribe side.

            (Admittedly, the Blue Tribe side has serious issues and the church ladies are all completely mentally stable, but…)

            Unless they treat nerds and intelligent people in general differently — the Blue Tribe thing is targeted at all intelligent people [who don’t go out of their way to hide their intelligence], not nerds specifically. (I’m not sure which side of that I fall on, since my mother tried very hard to make me into a nerd, but it didn’t take. I still haven’t read LOTR, even.)

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          • blacktrance says:

            A lot of my family is church ladies, and they consistently treat me as an actual human, unlike the Blue Tribe side.

            Based on other things you’ve said here on SSC, being a neo-reactionary, etc, you aren’t the typical image of the nerd.

            Also, it’s more than a little uncharitable to say that the Blue Tribe thing is targeted at intelligent people – there are plenty of intelligent people even among SJWs.

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          • Agreed with nydwracu, the stereotypes in my head don’t match your claims and I wonder if you could somehow clarify.

            To me the red-tribe stereotypes who I imagine might pick on nerds are High School Football Coach Guy, or Blue Collar Guy Who Drives a Pickup Truck and Values Working With His Hands.

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          • blacktrance says:

            Those are probably better examples of Red Tribers who dislike nerds, but I stand by what I said about church ladies. First, nerds are more likely to go atheist, or at least to abandon the church. Second, they have hobbies that church ladies disapprove of, such as playing video games and reading fantasy novels. Third, they tend to be less dedicated to their local community, which is anathema to church ladies.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Second, they have hobbies that church ladies disapprove of, such as playing video games and reading fantasy novels.

            The closest thing to this I can recall in my rich and textured experience of the sort of conservative Southern Christianity that advocates homeschooling is parents asking for their children in a (homeschool co-op) English class not to read The Time Machine because it portrays evolution as being A Thing.

            Perhaps my family’s particular brand of Christianity is not what you’re thinking of, but I have no idea what you could be and am curious to learn.

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          • nydwracu says:

            Also, it’s more than a little uncharitable to say that the Blue Tribe thing is targeted at intelligent people – there are plenty of intelligent people even among SJWs.

            I’m talking about my own experiences, though I expect that they’re mirrored elsewhere.

            FWIW, the part of my family that lives in the Bible Belt (they moved there from California, but that was because they didn’t want to raise their children out there) does dislike video games (and TV, and they didn’t have a computer in their house until one of my cousins needed it for school), but not enough to ban them outright. Last time I visited, my cousins had GBAs, but they weren’t allowed to play them for more than an hour or so (or maybe it was that they weren’t allowed to watch TV for more than an hour?), and multiplayer was encouraged.

            And if my father has ever gotten shit for having a lot of fantasy novels, I haven’t noticed. But I’m not sure how central my family is here — I mentioned the possibility of moving to Texas, and both he and my grandfather (who is very active in his church) told me they were too religious down there. Also I’ve never even met a Southern Baptist — that part of my family is Presbyterian, except one of them is converting to Lutheranism…?

            (There is in fact a conversion process for that. I hear there are classes, in addition to the obvious Bible study.)

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          • blacktrance says:

            Anonymous:

            Perhaps my family’s particular brand of Christianity is not what you’re thinking of, but I have no idea what you could be and am curious to learn.

            I grew up in the South, and the parents of my best friend in elementary and middle school actively discouraged him from reading Harry Potter because they thought it was anti-Christian. They were conservative Christians – I don’t know what denomination, but they were statistically most likely to be Southern Baptists. Fantasy books in general were criticized for being “not real” and not dealing with real human issues, encouraging rebellion and ungodly fantasies, etc.

            nydwracu:
            When I think of nerds (and I think other people use the term similarly), it’s heavily associated with Grey Tribe and to a lesser extent with Blue – a Red Tribe nerd isn’t quite a contradiction, but it is difficult for one to exist.

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          • nydwracu says:

            When I think of nerds (and I think other people use the term similarly), it’s heavily associated with Grey Tribe and to a lesser extent with Blue – a Red Tribe nerd isn’t quite a contradiction, but it is difficult for one to exist.

            Well, I at least want to be part of a synthesis of the best traits of all tribes, so…

            (What do the Greys have that the Reds haven’t had for a while, besides the hacker ethic stuff? Engineering is pretty Red.)

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          • Jiro says:

            (What do the Greys have that the Reds haven’t had for a while, besides the hacker ethic stuff? Engineering is pretty Red.)

            It’s not what the greys have, but what they don’t have. Nerds are likely to be averse to religion (if for no other reason than that they are more intellectual and that doesn’t go well with religion). And grey is what you get when you take red and remove the religion.

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          • Harald K says:

            Sounds like these “church ladies” (who, by the way, are quite far from what I associate with church ladies) do not so much hate nerds as fear them.

            And yeah, I can sort of relate to that. I knew a young woman who was worried that another young woman would go to university, because “a lot of people drift away [from church] when they do that”. But the worrying woman also had nerdy and fringe subculture friends who were also Christians – on her own behalf or on behalf of those established friends, she didn’t much worry about “worldly influence”. It’s like her attitude was, “nerds can be OK, but please don’t risk becoming one unless you absolutely must”

            Either way, that is very far from Marcotte-style sneering contempt.

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          • Jos says:

            For what it’s worth, my mother didn’t let me get a weija board (as a result of which I never bothered to learn the spelling) because she thought there was a risk I would literally come in contact with demonic powers which would harm me.

            That’s where I put the Harry Portter and D&D stuff – if you ask me, it’s not directed at nerds as nerds, but at apparently mistaken beliefs about some specific activities. I have trouble imagining church ladies mocking nerds’ appearances, or bullying them.

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          • blacktrance says:

            grey is what you get when you take red and remove the religion.

            We’re probably thinking of different archetypes of “grey”, because I think they’d be more accurately described as what you get when you take Blue and remove SJ and the hipster aesthetic.

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    • John Schilling says:

      I work in the defense/aerospace industry, so I see an awful lot of interaction between Red Tribe and the subset of nerds who are competent STEM professionals; there’s essentially no nerd-hate going on there. Blue tribe usually keeps a low profile, but when it lets its guard down I have seen a clear SJW profile in places.

      I have also seen Red tribe ridicule stereotypes of non-STEM-competent nerds, and occasionally a few specific individuals, in their absence. Rarely if ever in their direct presence.

      More generally, I think Red tribe is better at making alliances with outsiders than Blue tribe, and so less likely to preemptively dismiss potentially useful allies. But that’s a broader claim harder for me to defend from personal experience.

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      • Dave says:

        For some reason, this seems to be generally true. Even on the anti-authoritarian side of things, right-wingers seem better at working with diverse groups of people (my experience with the ron paul campaign showed me that people from suprisingly ideological diverse backgrounds were able to co-operate) whereas my experience with the radical left showed that people were much more obsessed with ideological purity and factionalism. I hold an unusual position as someone who has sympathies with both camps. I could come up with possible reasons for this, but I’m wary of letting my political and personal biases color my perception.

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      • “More generally, I think Red tribe is better at making alliances with outsiders than Blue tribe, and so less likely to preemptively dismiss potentially useful allies.”

        At a considerable tangent … . This fits the pattern of libertarians having long been part of the conservative coalition, despite holding more extreme anti-conservative views (most obviously legalization of drugs) than most liberals. Somewhat less true now—but the national level politicians who most clearly identify as libertarian are Republicans.

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      • nydwracu says:

        More generally, I think Red tribe is better at making alliances with outsiders than Blue tribe, and so less likely to preemptively dismiss potentially useful allies. But that’s a broader claim harder for me to defend from personal experience.

        My experience has been that it’s more a political thing than a tribal one. Apolitical Blues, political Reds, and rightist Blues are all generally chill about shit, but many leftist Blues aren’t.

        I’m not sure how much of this is because I’m a rightist Red (though a highly atypical one, and I don’t have problems with apolitical Blues), how much is because leftist Blues are the obviously-powerful tribe in most places I’ve been and assholes like power, how much is because leftist Blues are the obviously-powerful tribe and anyone out of power has to be generally chill about shit*, and how much is a selection effect where people who are not generally chill about shit but can’t or won’t join leftist Bluedom become Nazis instead and spend all their time getting blind drunk and punching out Slavs or whatever instead of doing visible things like the leftist Blues do.

        * This is probably a similar concept to this, though that’s from 2011 so it probably sucks.

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  10. Deiseach says:

    I’m not at all sure I should be leaving a comment at all, and I’ll completely understand if this gets tossed after moderation. I didn’t go near Gamergate, and I don’t get involved in abortion debates, because those topics are radioactive and the same with this.

    However, being too stupid to keep my trap shut, here goes:

    (1) As I’ve mentioned, I don’t consider Amanda Marcotte representative of anything (save being a shrieking harpy). She may or may not be mainstream, she may or may not be influential. As I also mentioned, her attempt to break out and interact with a wider audience in the John Edwards campaign, and how that went down in flames, gave and gives me unseemly pleasure. I have no idea how she’d be received if she tried the same thing today by attaching herself to another politician, but I rather think she would still be deemed too risky to be taken on board. That she blogs for the dear old Grauniad does not make her mainstream.

    (2) Insults about virginity don’t affect me. Being Catholic really helps with this. So does being asexual. We will rise up and crush amatonormativity! So when anyone thinks they’ll get kudos or status or even a laugh for mocking someone for being a (putative) virgin, they automatically make my hackles rise and get me offended. I do hope and wish the sex-positive people will get on this; the right to say ‘yes’ includes the right to say ‘no’ and neither should be shameful.

    (3) Yes, I did notice the anti-Semitic cartoons you included and I was going to go “Um, hey, those are not – ” but you got there first. Spot the deliberate error, eh?

    (4) Also, I’m old enough and had my head filled with enough historical novel nonsense to get the raised-hackles response when someone attacks chivalry. As I also mentioned before, that line in “The Ball and the Cross” about “I give my word” makes my heart sing, so anyone sneering at “honour” and dissing men raising their hats, opening doors, etc. makes me wanna bust ’em inna snoot. Then again, I also have the notion that women, too, can have a sense of honour and act honourably, and I was raised that door-opening, etc. was not a peculiarly male to female act, but that it was a matter of common politeness: you don’t slam a door in someone’s face, you don’t leave someone carrying bags or with their arms encumbered to struggle with a door, if you and someone else arrive to go through a doorway at the same time it’s polite to yield the way (and not a question of who has higher or lower status), and you do it automatically for older people. Also, if someone holds a door open for you, you say “thank you” because it is rude to refuse courtesy and respond with insult.

    (4) Okay, here’s where we start wading into the piranha-infested waters. I rather wish you hadn’t included that Clark and Hatfield study, because I don’t think it says what you think it says, or perhaps not for the reasons you think it does. I clicked the link to check what went on and yep, it sounds as if “volunteer researcher walked up to people in public space”.

    I can tell you I am not one bit surprised the results were 0% of women took up the men’s offer. And it’s not because women are privileged over men in being fussier or choosier about accepting offers.

    Scott, if you’re considering accepting an offer from a person who asks you out, when that person is a stranger, how often do you factor in “what are my chances here of being raped and/or murdered if I accept this?” And before you go “not all men!”, yes, I know. Let me just say here that the one time I ignored that “don’t encourage them don’t respond be careful” response that I can safely say most women get taught from childhood on, that I went to myself “Oh come on, all men aren’t like that, he’s just being friendly, be friendly back!”, it resulted in A Bad Experience and I really don’t want to say anything more. So yes, anecdote is not data, but that’s the kind of experience women do have and that underlies what they say about privilege and oppression.

    Unfortunately, Bad Guys rarely come with tattoos on their forehead saying “don’t trust me”. These studies were 1978 and 1982, and that’s about my era for being a teenager/young adult. And if those women were anything like me, they had it drilled into them to be careful.

    A stranger walks up to you in a public space where you are for a particular purpose.
    (a) that place is a bar or nightclub at the weekend and you are out on the pull with your mates.
    (b) that place is a city street, bus station, college campus, grocery store and you are there to catch a bus, do your shopping, or go to class.

    Stranger makes a remark about finding you attractive and hits on you. Possible response?
    (a) That’s exactly what I’m here for, yeah of course – but wait till I let my friends know where I’m going and who I’m going with.
    (b) What the hell? I came out to buy a box of washing powder, I’m not looking for a date! And I don’t know you or the sky over you so how can I tell what your intentions are? Do you really expect me to head off with some unknown person back to his home when the 70s are the hey-day of American serial killers?

    Particularly when Ted Bundy is operating with the M.O. of “approached women in public and pretended to be an authority figure to lure them away to their deaths.”

    Yeah – no reason there a woman might say “no” to a man who walks up to her and tries to get her to come home with him!

    I don’t believe in “blame all men regardless for all crimes against women” and there is a lot in various strands of feminism I robustly disagree with and I am sorry for all the shy, uncertain boys and girls who were socially awkward and in agonies over trying to fit in with the culturally mandated image of what a popular, normal person would be like.

    But the whole tangled mess is complicated, and saying “Feminism has gone too far and is actively persecuting men” is as broad-brush and simplistic as the “in days of yore we were all happy when the matriarchy ruled before the patriarchy took over with brutality and violence” opposite narrative.

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    • Crimson Wool says:

      I can tell you I am not one bit surprised the results were 0% of women took up the men’s offer. And it’s not because women are privileged over men in being fussier or choosier about accepting offers.

      You’re reading it the wrong way around. Look at it in the opposite direction. For reasons which are – for this particular point – irrelevant, women can easily walk up to strangers and have a high probability of, within thirty seconds, receiving consent to go somewhere for sexual congress. Men who walk up to strangers cannot repeat this feat, at least not nearly so easily.

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      • Deiseach says:

        Yes, for the reasons I mentioned: that men don’t consider, as part of their response, “is this person likely to murder me?” and women do.

        We can argue about why that is, we can argue about if that is, but we can’t argue if I am saying “oranges” and you are saying “apples” when we’re supposed to be talking about “bananas”.

        It’s not about “do women or men find it easier to get laid?” It’s about “are there risks – social reputation, pregnancy, threats to life – that women face that men do not, or not in the same way?” and from that “do such risks have an effect on how men and women respond to sexual invitations?”

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        • Crimson Wool says:

          It’s not about “do women or men find it easier to get laid?” It’s about “are there risks – social reputation, pregnancy, threats to life – that women face that men do not, or not in the same way?” and from that “do such risks have an effect on how men and women respond to sexual invitations?”

          You are doing the unilinear thing. Women are in a worse position in romance therefore women are always in a worse position therefore anything unpleasant that happens to men but not women is actually about how bad women have it. C does not follow from B does not follow from A.

          Women have an easier time in approaching and being approached. They may very well have a far more difficult time in “being able to trust someone,” or whatever else is a necessary part of romance, but in the particular aspect of getting started, women are much more likely to be approached by men than men are by women, and their approaches are much more likely to be accepted (or treated courteously if rejected) than men’s are. This is something that feels, to me, to be really obvious based on everything I have ever read, seen, or experienced.

          Are you arguing that the fear of (the potential danger of) men is so severe that it completely overwhelms all the clear advantages? Because when you’re talking 69% versus 0% and 500+ versus 38… there would have to be a very severe level of fear to outdo that, one that I find rather implausible, on the face of it. Women, in general, would have to be so afraid that they reject 92+% of all approaches out of hand, due to fear, across all women, including those women who say that they’ve never felt sexually menaced by a man in their entire lives.

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          • Harald K says:

            I’m quite sure fear lies at the ultimate root of it, but I agree with Scott above when he says, “certain small innate differences become ossified into social roles that then magnify the differences immensely”.

            Think about the experiment again, but suppose everyone involved (men and women) knew the outcome of experiment. This was something everyone in society knew. Would that change anyone’s behavior?

            Probably not. Put yourself in the shoes of an woman approached by a man, and imagine that she likes his looks, and actually wouldn’t be uninterested in sex with him. Would she then say yes? No way. Why would she? Although the risk of the man being a serial killer etc. may still be small, it’s still a risk not worth taking. She herself can expect a 69% success rate if she’s attracted enough to take the initiative, and there are plenty of fish in the pond.

            So, this is a self reinforcing gender norm. Concerns for safety or various biological causes may lie at the root of it, but whatever the reason, once it’s there you have nothing to gain from deviating from it, and much to lose. You’d expect these norms to persist long after whatever reasons they appeared for had changed.

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          • Anonymous says:

            ” Are you arguing that the fear of (the potential danger of) men is so severe that it completely overwhelms all the clear advantages? Because when you’re talking 69% versus 0% and 500+ versus 38… there would have to be a very severe level of fear to outdo that… “

            The secondary effect of “women find it easy to have sex, men find it hard” is something I think it is very important to note:

            Lets say that 500:38 is a reliable estimate of the relative advantage that women enjoy in being approached. Lets also say that this is EXACTLY reflects the relative expected value of sex between men and women such that the expected value of sex minus the expected value of rape for a woman in a casual encounter is about 13 times that for a man.

            Women(sex-rape) : Men
            (sex-rape) = ~13:1

            We know that a lot of feminist discourse talks in various ways about how the expected value of rape for women is way too high, and I grant them every point. But the final ratio is also effected by the other three elements.

            Obviously, the very high ratio of approaches in favor of women ALSO serves to make sex cheap for women and expensive for men.

            As a (non-celebrity) straight man, sex is fairly hard to find and so your subjective value for having sex can get crazy high. In my own single life, there were times when sex was both more and less common. When it was at it’s scarcist, when months might go by without a glimmer of female attention, I would estimate that the value of sex to me was about equivalent to winning a small lottery jackpot, getting a free ride to a high-status college, or being cured of a life threatening illness. In other words, a new sexual partner felt like a life-changing big deal, and I probably would have thought it completely fair to, like, engage in gladiatorial combat to the death if an appealing girlfriend was the garanteed prize. Certainly, in that frame of mind I could have said something like “…500+ versus 38… there would have to be a very severe level of fear to outdo that…” Sex was, at the time, about as good as severe violent assault was bad (I can’t speak to the badness of rape, specifically), I certainly would have accepted a few dice rolls’ chance of death as a fair trade.

            Even in those portions of my single life when sex was more plentiful, I don’t think there was ever a time when I would not have placed sex in the highest class of goals, and been willing to prioritize it over most other uses of my time (at least in the short run).

            On the other hand, if during my whole life since puberty I had been offered sex randomly throughout the day in every manner of settings, I would probably value it about as much as I would mundane pleasures such as a good meal or a comfortable pair of shoes. It wouldn’t have zero value, but it would be something trivial that could find anytime I cared to, and certainly nothing I would risk getting raped or even embarassed and inconvenienced over.

            When I look at it this way, I am kind of suprised that women still approach men at 1:13.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          > It’s about “are there risks – social reputation, pregnancy, threats to life – that women face that men do not, or not in the same way?”

          Social reputation? Depends on exact community. Certainly the risks to men have a greater chance of flooding the entire internet, but the risks to women may have a greater risk of turning one’s own parents against you.

          Pregnancy? Pretty dangerous to both. Maybe a little more to women. OTOH, women have a lot more resources for minimizing that risk.

          Physical danger? Any intimate partner is *capable* of killing their partner. Men are more likely to be violent, but not overwhelmingly so.

          The risks seem kind of balanced. The real difference is that society demands men never show fear and women always do. Which sucks on both sides, since there is an optimal amount of fear to have and it’s somewhere in between.

          None of this negates the original point.

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        • Tracy W says:

          Yet, despite those risks, very many women do wind up having romantic and sexual relationships, including myself. Even multiple such relationships. Now, sometimes that happens because the woman in question initiates things, but not always.

          So the risks don’t mean no woman ever dates a man. It’s like the fact that tens of thousands of people die each year on the roads around the world doesn’t stop most people from driving cars.

          And, even though women do face more danger from going off with a stranger, being rejected all your life does hurt.

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    • FacelessCraven says:

      Hey you! yeah, you! The Ball and the Cross is awesome! Thank you for the recommendation and the big quote from MacIan’s dream to get me interested!

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    • I don’t think anyone’s saying women are necessarily wrong for turning down random propositioners. They’re quite likely doing the “right” thing (though probably overly cautiously, even accounting for risk preference–since it’s well studied that everyone overestimates risk of violence from strangers.)

      Scott isn’t saying “women are prudes, and thus it’s harder for men to get sex if they want it”, he’s saying “for , women are more cautious and withdrawing w/r/t obtaining sex, and thus it’s harder for men than women to get sex if they want it.”

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    • grendelkhan says:

      (4) Okay, here’s where we start wading into the piranha-infested waters. I rather wish you hadn’t included that Clark and Hatfield study, because I don’t think it says what you think it says, or perhaps not for the reasons you think it does. I clicked the link to check what went on and yep, it sounds as if “volunteer researcher walked up to people in public space”.

      I came to the comments to complain about this as well. (Because, damn it, this is a good post, and I want it to be better.) Men in that situation have a high probability of being creep-shamed; women in that situation have a low probability of being murdered. (Which is, as you point out, made worse by men implicitly signaling that they’re deviant.)

      There’s been some more recent work on this, trying to disentangle the reasoning involved. If you filter out the reasons of “I think they might kill me” and “I think they might be bad at sex”, women don’t seem nearly as picky. (Here’s an interview.)

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      • Max says:

        Scott wasn’t making a normative claim there about whether it’s a bad thing that women and men respond differently to these advances. He was pointing out that because they do, many shy awkward men feel the way he and the other Scott described. Assuming for the moment it is true that a significant part of the reason that women are less likely to accept an advance is because of the chance of being hurt, one possible improvement to the status quo is to explain to men why it is that women are not very likely to accept their advances. Then they will understand that it is not their own characteristics that cause this, but rather the characteristics of the (statistically) few men who abuse or hurt women. But Scott’s point is that this is not what Marcotte is doing; rather, she’s making the nerds feel bad for being in the same category as the men who abuse or hurt women. (At least, according to him. I didn’t read her piece.)

        By doing this, the nerds can start to think that we are the ones who are at least partially responsible for the way women feel, and it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy: because some feminists are talking about how awful nerds are to women, then nerds will become even more afraid of approaching women, and women will become more afraid of the advances of nerds. We need to heal that divide, not widen it. Scott’s argument is at least weakly positive on this issue, because he’s calling out someone who is actively widening that divide.

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  11. Sniffnoy says:

    <applauds>

    (Well, I’m not so sure you’re exactly right about the “m’lady” stuff, but I can nitpick later.)

    (Actually, let me nitpick now: Several of your links are broken due to a missing “http://”.)

    (Also, it’s worth noting that Alicorn pointed out the “your pain doesn’t qualify for this ontologically distinct category of pain which is much more important” response in TAPAICAL: Electric Boogaloo..)

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    • Deiseach says:

      Depends on whether the person is addressing the other person as “m’lady” or Milady, perhaps? 🙂

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    • Randy M says:

      I was going to comment on the milady thing, but he more or less got it right. I was overcompensating for shyness in college time to time by adopting slightly archaic norms on the basis more or less of having an affection for medieval norms based on period games, movies, and books, on the one hand, and being told that deference towards women was a way of attracting them. I don’t think it particularly helped or for that matter, was noticed.

      (I did end up with a happily ever after.)

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    • Thanks for the link to TAPICAL.

      I react to murderous fantasies about any group I’m in (like boomers) because I’ve spent a lot of years obsessing about the Holocaust. I have no idea whether this counts as real suffering.

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    • Nornagest says:

      Yeah, I don’t think the m’lady thing, for most of the people that do it, comes primarily out of a desire to be seen as nonsexual. The nerd preoccupation with being seen as gentlemanly — which I hasten to add isn’t universal among nerds, but is common enough and exclusive enough to that community that it deserves comment — is actually pretty complicated once you start digging into it, but I think some of the following are involved:

      1. Nerds get a lot of their socialization from media, often media that covers past or future or imaginary periods. In extreme cases, this can lead to poor calibration against present-day social expectations. Generally they’re going to notice when a character’s actions are cast in a positive or a negative light, but they aren’t necessarily going to fully understand the social context informing that, or to recognize the subtler genre tropes as tropes rather than as facets of real-life culture.

      2. Nerds often desire to be seen as unusual, and especially as distinct from non-nerds, whom they see as dull, excessively conformist, and often vaguely threatening. There’s a strong streak of exceptionalism running through geek culture: compare “fans are slans”. This can manifest itself in dress or in behavior.

      3. Nerds tend to be highly scrupulous in their behavior, but express this in diverse ways. Some dismiss the subtler norms of social interaction as dishonest — I could write ten thousand words about how honesty norms interact with geek culture — but others are attracted to highly formalized patterns of etiquette.

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  12. Dan Simon says:

    I sympathize with pretty much everyone in this story, but I also believe they’re all pretty much lost in the weeds. To put it bluntly, Scott Aaronson didn’t become a pathologically shy loser nerd because of feminism, any more than Amanda Marcotte became a shrill man-bashing harridan because of feminism. We can be pretty sure of this because feminism is a free-floating idea pattern permeating our entire society, and yet only a tiny fraction of people end up like Scott or Amanda.

    A more likely explanation is that two people with very complex, specific sets of inherent personality traits experienced two very complex, specific childhood environments, influenced primarily by parents, siblings, adult authority figures and peers. The people they became had very complex, specific emotional reactions to the opposite sex, which caused them each in turn to be drawn to, and to latch onto, particular aspects of feminism, and to feel the need to use it as a blueprint for understanding their relationships with members of the opposite sex.

    Now, the vast majority of people use a completely different set of blueprints, ones that have little to do with the theoretical foundations of modern feminist ideology. But to Scott and Amanda, the feminist blueprints they use(d) aren’t merely the ones their own personalities and experiences have driven them towards; rather, they’re universals which shape everyone’s lives equally–that is to say, to an enormous extent. And since the blueprints they both adopted clearly caused Scott a great deal of personal pain and gave Amanda a great deal of personal comfort, Scott views them as deeply pernicious and Amanda views them as practically sacred.

    But if we–or they–really want to understand why Scott had so much trouble relating romantically to women, or why Amanda has so much free-floating rage towards men, it simply isn’t enough to shout “feminism”, as they do, imagining them to be a passive victim and passionate adherent of an abstract ideology, respectively. Rather, we must understand them both as individuals, with unique personalities and experiences, struggling through one of life’s most central and most difficult challenges in their own idiosyncratic ways. And when we do, it should become much clearer that feminism plays only a peripheral role in their personal romantic histories–or anyone’s personal romantic history, for that matter–however much importance they might prefer to attribute to it.

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    • cassander says:

      Plenty of people, because of a very complex, specific set of inherent personality combined with very complex, specific childhood environments, like eating fish. But when the catholic church was able to get away with mandating that everyone in europe eat fish on fridays, a lot more fish got eaten than would otherwise have been the case. No one is saying that feminism caused either Aaronson or Marcotte, but it is definitely worth asking if feminism encourages or discourages their behaviors, and whether or not that encouragement is a good thing.

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      • Dan Simon says:

        Well, yes, if “feminism” had the power to mandate anything, I might well be concerned about the effects of such mandates. But my point is precisely that virtually nobody adopts a behavior (in their personal lives, at least) because feminism so dictates–rather, they embrace feminism because it provides an ideological framework which matches their pre-existing intuitions and instincts, and then use it as post hoc justification for what they’re moved to do, say and think regardless.

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        • cassander says:

          You can’t be serious. Feminism is a massively successful political movement that frequently gets its tenets encoded in law. And if you are going to accept the idea that only explicit force is counts coercive, then you have to throw out most of modern feminism, because the patriarchy hasn’t been encoded in law for a long time now.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          On the contrary, it can easily run both ways. Group identifications are sticky. You join up because you agree with what you hear, then you’re exposed to more of what they have to say and you come to believe that as well because it’s what the good people believe. Motte-and-bailey in action. It’s not so easy to say “Hey, maybe the good people are wrong”, especially when they’re threatening to abandon you to the bad people if you don’t go along.

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          • Dan Simon says:

            I understand that people come to believe all sorts of bizarre things in the abstract, in order to conform to some moral principle or social norm to which they feel ideological allegiance. What I question is whether people’s romantic/mating choices–that is, the behaviors that are among the most urgent concerns of the little helices in our cells, and of the more primitive, unreflective portions of our brains–are more mediated by our choices of ideological allegiance, or vice versa. To me, if you’ll pardon the expression, it’s a no-brainer.

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    • Anonymous says:

      only a tiny fraction of people end up like Scott

      I’m not sure a casual guess would be accurate. Sexually repressed nerds may underreport, there might be a correlation with social anxiety and loneliness, or some other factor might throw off a random guess.

      Anecdotally, I felt similar to Scott Aaronson when I was younger. At one point I stopped taking testosterone supplements in order to kill my libido. That degree of terror probably isn’t common, but it’s interesting to see someone else has had a similar experience.

      But if we–or they–really want to understand why Scott had so much trouble relating romantically to women, or why Amanda has so much free-floating rage towards men, it simply isn’t enough to shout “feminism”, as they do, imagining them to be a passive victim and passionate adherent of an abstract ideology, respectively. Rather, we must understand them both as individuals, with unique personalities and experiences, struggling through one of life’s most central and most difficult challenges in their own idiosyncratic ways.

      I agree that individual people are complicated, and that ideologies are even more so. However, feminism being a movement with many good points, it might help to isolate the elements of it which sometimes lead to sexual repression in people attracted to women (as experienced by Scott), or the elements which sometimes lead to angry lashing out (as perpetrated by Amanda). If harm is caused by a certain set of blueprints, a discussion can be had about their relevance and continued use.

      It is difficult to find dating advice for men which is simultaneously effective and non-exploitative, as Scott Alexander noted in radicalising the romanceless, and this might be an area for cheap gains. Maybe greater coordinated feminist outreach could be shown towards men suffering from problems such as rape and domestic violence, or maybe some of the less radical MRA groups and feminists could work together on these issues. It would be a shame to miss solutions just because the problems in question are rare, complicated, or hard to generalise about.

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      • Shellfish says:

        “Anecdotally, I felt similar to Scott Aaronson when I was younger. At one point I stopped taking testosterone supplements in order to kill my libido.”

        One wonders what made you start taking the supplements in the first place.

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        • Anonymous says:

          One wonders what made you start taking the supplements in the first place.

          Pituitary problems totally unrelated to gender, for which my doctor prescribed several hormonal supplements to bring me back to near-average levels.

          Refusing to take testosterone supplements was a Very Bad Idea in my circumstances, and I started taking them again within a couple of years. The whole thing had much the same effect on me as taking Depo Provera (or another means of chemical castration) would have had on Scott Aaronson, but Scott was already suicidally unhappy.

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    • arthur stanton says:

      If you were interested in understanding people as people, you’d listen to what they have to say, instead of rejecting everything they’ve said in favor of making up your own more pleasing story about them.

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  13. Steve Johnson says:
    I’m talking about a guy that wears a fedora (or maybe any other hat) and does things like tipping it to you, says things like “m’lady”, stands up when you enter the room or exit the table, kisses your hand, etc.

    So of course feminists mock these people as disgusting rapist monsters SUPER SUPER hard (1, 2, 3) and make up stories about how the only reason they do it is to secretly show contempt for women and express that they don’t really believe they are people.

    I really don’t understand why you believe that feminists are expressing the real reasons they’re disgusted with this behavior from men.

    They’re women – their sexual attraction isn’t something they explicitly understand.

    Short summary – women are approached and choose. Men approach. Evidence? The entire history of mankind. As a result women generally don’t even have to understand their own feelings in sexual matters for them to work. Get approached – go with it if it turns you on – reject if the approach doesn’t. Pretty simple and very non-conducive to having the ability to systematize what you find attractive and why you find those traits attractive. More evidence – women attribute all kinds of positive traits to a man that she’s attracted to that he clearly doesn’t have – and no, this isn’t the halo effect where good looking people are thought better in all areas – that’s actually reasonable as good looks are a reflection of high genetic quality.

    These women don’t find nerdy men attractive because they’re women so they don’t find lack of timidity and lack of masculinity attractive. They’ve been marinated in feminist teaching for their whole lives so when they reach for a framework for why they feel this way – well that’s what they come up with.

    Simple explanation that fits the facts and what basically everyone should understand about human nature.

    As a reminder – PUAs explicitly have systematized what women’s attraction triggers are and no one argues that they’re wrong – just that maybe they’re evil or something.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      >Short summary – women are approached and choose. Men approach. Evidence? The entire history of mankind.

      What? Have you seen the entire history of mankind? (Well, I guess not, but you know what I mean.)

      Women haven’t had much choice for … quite a lot of history.

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    • Pluviann says:

      Umm… I think a lot of people say that PUAs have discovered the triggers for manipulating pretty girls with low self-esteem who hang out in bars. Being manipulative is generally considered unethical.

      I agree with MugaSofer that there have been many societies in the history of mankind where men gave their daughters in marriage, and the woman in question had absolutely no say in the matter.
      It’s also the case that when a man approaches a woman, he chooses which women to approach. In this model, a woman can only accept/reject the man who approaches here. A man can approach as many women as he wants.

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    • PUAs explicitly have systematized what women’s attraction triggers are and no one argues that they’re wrong – just that maybe they’re evil or something.

      I personally think PUAs are at least sort of wrong in important ways, partially because they’re trying to generalize insights gleaned from the environment of flirting with strangers at a club to all of human history.

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  14. Karmakin says:

    This is one of those pieces that I think hits soooo many points it’s hard to pull them out. But you do what you have to do.

    I’m a Feminist. But as I explain to people..I’m strongly anti-something. And that something is the sort of one-directional power dynamics that is talked about at the core of all of this. I’m so strongly against that people call me a MRA sometimes. (Quite frankly that happens to everybody who is aghast at one-directional gender politics) Whatever.

    To the other “good” feminists. I think one thing those of us need to understand is how much one-directional language is in modern feminist culture and dialogue. There’s a lot. I mean the obvious big ones are how patriarchy and privilege are used. If we’re going to fix the problem that language and culture needs to well….go. I’ve actually been around online social-media feminism for a long time. Quite frankly, it really wasn’t always this way. It’s origins, IMO are really ugly I think and quite frankly do involve a certain Vogon. Honestly, I do believe we’re talking about someone who helped basically form all this stuff.

    But this is a larger issue. There’s a certain sexism and yes, even misogyny contained in the one-directional model. I always compare it to a gilded cage. It looks really nice…but it’s still a cage. You know, intersectionalism and all that. (And yes, intersectionalism and one-directional power models are opposing concepts)

    Anyway, thank you for this article. I feel better now. I’ll just say one more thing. My major concern isn’t myself. I went through it..kinda on the other side? I’m dealing with it. My major concerned is the kids coming down the pipe. My nephew kinda has my personality type. We can already see the scrupulosity in him. And considering the continuing worsening tone of this sort of thing…I’m very concerned for him. And others like him of his generation.

    I don’t think this is unreasonable.

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  15. The people suffering from these stereotypes are pretty much in agreement that feminists are the ones who push them a lot of the time, and that a small but vocal contingent of feminists seem to take special delight in making nerds’ lives worse.

    Do you have any evidence for this at all, other than that the non-random group of nerds you know, are mostly people who agree with you on this?

    Because I’m a nerd. I’m far more crippled by physical unattractiveness (judging from photos) and shyness than either you or the other Scott. You both have wonderful long-term romantic partners, something that I don’t expect will every happen to me.

    And let me make this clear: I don’t agree with you, at all. You don’t speak for me, at all. You don’t give a fuck about my pain, at all, other than (I suspect) secretly taking joy in it.

    You make it clear that you think people like me are demon nonhuman nazi scum who deserve to die under a bus. You don’t speak for me. And in my experience (of people I know and talk to, so not a representative sample) there are a hell of a lot of shy nerd boys you don’t speak for at all.

    I’d argue more, but you’d only treat me with hate and contempt, and life’s too short.

    Scott, what you are doing – both with your hateful attacks on feminists, and in your false claim that you speak for shy nerd men in general – is contributing to making my life miserable.

    Now that I’ve told you that, are you going to stop it?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Before I respond to this, is this really your considered opinion of how you really think I view you, or your parody of what I am saying about feminists?

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      • Scott, your question (unintentionally, I’m sure) presents a false dichotomy.

        Of course in my previous comment I am mirroring your writing style.

        I withdraw the statement that you secretly take joy in my pain, and also that you’d only respond with hate and contempt; I don’t believe that’s true, although I certainly did believe you hated me that much immediately after I read your post the first time.

        It is my considered opinion that it’s logically wrong to say or imply that your position represents that of all or most shy nerds, when you have no legitimate evidence for such a claim.

        (I also find it ironic that you put so much importance in how much men like you and the other Scott have suffered, when – measured by the ruler you seemingly find most important – some of the people who you hate and find worthless, like me, are much worse off than either of you. However, to be honest, I should admit that I don’t think that particular ruler is as important as you seem to; in fact, I think treating that ruler as if it were all-important is actively harmful to shy nerds who aren’t as romantically successful as you and Scott.)

        It is my considered opinion that – judging from your writing – you genuinely loathe people like me (meaning feminists, not shy male nerds – although clearly the two categories overlap). It is my considered opinion that, although you don’t literally consider me a demon, that you consider me just about as worthless as any human being can be, and “demon nonhuman nazi scum who deserve to die under a bus” is a reasonable (albeit non-literal and hyperbolic) characterization of what you think about people like me.

        (I do admit that it’s possible that you are someone who doesn’t write what he means, and that you don’t hate me as much as your rhetoric suggests you hate me. I hope this is the case; I find it plausible that this is the case. But this opinion is based on my desire to like you, and on that I know Ozy is friends with you, and I’ve met Ozy and think highly of them; it is not an opinion based on your writing.)

        I do believe that what you write, in concert with what many other similarly hateful anti-feminists write, is contributing to making my life miserable in some ways. If you’re going to be consistent in your views, I think you should stop writing hurtful posts like this

        However, I don’t believe that you should be consistent with your stated views about that. I don’t think you have an obligation to stop writing your views, just as I don’t believe feminists have an obligation to stop criticizing misogynistic nerds or creepy men. (Not even if you or others finds reading such criticism hurtful).

        Although consideration of other people’s feelings is a good thing, for me to say, in essence, “shut up and don’t ever speak your views because for you to express your opinion hurts me” is taking that principle to an unfair extreme.

        What I would prefer is for you – and SJWs, and others – to find a way to express your political views without being so amazingly hurtful in how you write your views, especially since so many people clearly admire you and consider you a role model of sorts.

        It is my considered opinion that you, in concert with hundreds of thousands of other people – including, to be sure, a huge number of SJW types – have turned our political culture into a hatefest, by the use of rhetoric so hateful and exaggerated that it gives the impression that the writer is engaged in a fight with subhuman demons. And that really DOES make me miserable, and a lot of other people miserable, too.

        I really see little difference between what you write here, and what SJWs who write about “neckbeards’ do, except in the targets of the hate, and in the far greater force your rhetoric contains because you are so exceptionally eloquent.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          With all due respect I think your position is ridiculous.

          It is possible to very strongly disagree with something that a big part of a group is doing without believing that group to be “demon nonhuman nazi scum who deserve to die under a bus”. I assume you yourself feel this way about, for example, Republicans.

          That is, if you have absolutely zero objection to anything Republicans have ever done and have never called them out about it, that would surprise me.

          And if you thought literally all Republicans, including nice Republicans who have always treated you well and don’t participate in the worst abuses of conservative philosophy and mostly just hold principled positions about the economy are “demon nonhuman nazi scum who deserve to die under a bus”, that would also surprise me.

          I would not be surprised if you have, for example, gotten genuinely upset when some Republicans say something racist, and you’ve phrased in in terms of “This thing Republicans are doing is really horrible and they need to stop.” This isn’t totally exculpatory – there would be an element of “…and so Republicans are bad” – but that element would not at all be strong enough to say that you “think all Republicans are scum” or “are hateful towards Republicans”

          In fact, poking through your blog archives, when people insult you and your friends, you say things like “Those hatebags have directed abuse at me personally…the ever-moving hatefest is stunning in quantity and vileness.” Well, people are insulting me and my friends, and I’m saying things that are maybe fifty percent that mean.

          When you see people doing things you consider bigoted, you describe it as “appalling, disgusting, and misogynistic as hell. They should be ashamed. ReedPop, who runs NYCC, should be ashamed, embarrassed, apologetic, and falling all over themselves to explain how they’re going to fix this”. Well, now people are doing things I consider bigoted, and again I’m being about fifty percent that mean.

          When people disagree with you about affirmative consent laws, you portray them as awful-looking people screaming about how if rape is illegal they won’t get to fuck unwilling women. I…don’t think I’ve ever done anything that nasty.

          I really think you’re doing that “mistake being contradicted for being persecuted” thing.

          I have asked you permission before writing about you, I’ve praised you a bunch of times, I’ve kept your blog in my sidebar and linked to you approvingly. If you still want to believe that I hate you and think you’re scum because I wrote an article calling people out for genuinely being really mean to me using about one tenth the average volume in this area and in many cases less volume than you…I think that’s a really weird belief.

          Yes, the nerdy men I know have told me that they agree feminism is causing these problems. Yes, this is a sample less than 100% of the population. But I have to ask you – do you have the same objection when feminists say “Women are creeped out by rape jokes?” Do you say “Well how do you know if women are creeped out by rape jokes? Maybe all the women who told you that they were made up a biased sample. You’re not allowed to make that statement until you’ve got a double-blind study proving it.” Or is this an isolated demand for rigor?

          I tried to qualify all of my negative uses of feminist in the article with “some feminists” or, when I absolutely meant it, “most feminists”. Since you reminded me, I have gone back and qualified all my uses of “nerds feel” with “some nerds feel” or “a majority of the nerds I’ve talked to feel”. On the other hand, is this convention in this genre? Did you grate when you read Penny’s article and saw it said “nerds feel entitled to…” rather than “some nerds feel entitled to?” Or is this an isolated demand for rigor again?

          “I really see little difference between what you write here, and what SJWs who write about “neckbeards’ do”

          Okay, let me help you out then.

          Number one, I’m not body shaming them. Like, the use of the word “neckbeard” is a pretty big distinction right there. If I kept calling them bitches and sluts, then we’d have something to talk about.

          Number two, I’m not denying their pain or saying I’m more oppressed than they are. Compare my “The reality of Prof. Aaronson’s problem does not for one second diminish the reality of Ms. Penny’s sadness as well” to literally anything in the Marcotte article.

          Number three, I have never written an article taking advantage of some person’s personal tragedy to make a political point without asking them. You know I asked you before I blogged about your personal experience. Do you think Marcotte extended Aaronson the same courtesy?

          Number four, I have as above made an effort to say “some” or “many” whenever talking about members of a large dishomogenous group. I specifically say some feminists are on the right side of this issue and have been on the right side of other issues.

          Number five, I have given a bunch of praise and said that I appreciate the other side’s efforts, for example “Laurie Penny is an extremely decent person”. I have agreed Penny is trying to solve the same problem I am and their desire to solve it comes from a good place.

          Number six, I try to find common ground. I say I’m 97% on board with Penny’s program – can you imagine the “neckbeard” people saying they’re 97% on board with the program of Gamergate?

          Number seven, I’m not making any accusations without doing my research homework. Compare this to “nerds are keeping women out of Silicon Valley” and the general culture of “say anything that will stick”.

          Number eight, can you imagine Marcotte even conceiving the thought of seriously, not as a trap, trying to help Prof Aaronson with his romantic problems?

          Number nine…do I really need to continue this?

          Report comment

        • haishan says:

          Hi Barry,

          It is my considered opinion that you, in concert with hundreds of thousands of other people – including, to be sure, a huge number of SJW types – have turned our political culture into a hatefest, by the use of rhetoric so hateful and exaggerated that it gives the impression that the writer is engaged in a fight with subhuman demons.

          I would suggest that both people like Scott and the more hateful SJW types are engaged in fights with subhuman demons. Except the subhuman demons aren’t Amanda Marcotte or {some awful dude involved with reproductively viable worker ants}; they’re the forces that make Marcotte and the reproductively-viable-worker-ants people do what they do.

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        • drethelin says:

          This is the perfect example of exactly how evil your ideology is. You literally cannot interpret someone trying to point out how it can SOMETIMES do something bad as anything other than an all-out condemnation. And instead of counter-argument, instead of any attempt to reconcile, you simply attack, emotionally, and insanely. How is anyone supposed to compromise with this? Despite being a cry about how sad anti-feminists make you, you provide a perfect justification for anti-feminism.

          Scott’s rebuttal is perfectly apt and polite, so perhaps mine is unnecessary. And perhaps it is unkind. But I think you need to take a long, hard look at why you believe what you believe about people, and about yourself.

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      • CaptainBooshi says:

        It’s not that much of a parody, since you have compared feminists in the past to Voldemort and vampires (two different forms of soulless evil creatures), and in this very article, directly accuse him (as a feminist) of:
        -being focused way more on nerd-baiting than actual feminism
        -throwing weaponized shame at nerds
        -being directly comparable to anti-semites
        -being part of a movement that isn’t only contributing but actually led the efforts to stigmatize trans people, discriminate against sex workers and kinky people, and fight against recognizing and helping male rape victims.

        When you call feminists evil, you shouldn’t be very surprised if they take you at your word. I personally believe that you don’t really mean it that way, and it’s more your personal damages speaking.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Can you talk about what quotes you’re using?

          Like, I do say feminists led the attempt to stigmatize transpeople, but that’s not saying Barry, as a feminist, did that.

          Compare: “White people led the Nazi Party” versus “Barry, as a white person, led the Nazi Party”.

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          • ShardPhoenix says:

            If someone said “white people led the Nazi party” without context I would generally assume they were a raging SJW/white-hater. In the same way, it’s not too surprising if a feminist gets offended by being loosely compared to a Nazi, even if you emphasize that the comparison isn’t meant to be 1:1.

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          • onyomi says:

            I just want to say that, in my opinion, Scott already bends over backwards (as in, verging on the superfluous) to be charitable, polite, and careful about over-generalization, and that I hope reactions like these don’t discourage him from posting on these topics in the future.

            Report comment

          • Randy M says:

            Seconded. Scott linked several feminists favorably in the piece, including the one so outraged.

            Report comment

          • JohnMcG says:

            I’m more sympathetic to your position than Barry’s, but I can sort of see his point.

            If I build a blog post around how Nazism (which everyone agrees is wrong) is a product of White Male Thinking, it would not be absurd to believe I am trying to associate a Bad Thing with white males.

            On this blog, you are associate feminism (yes, often carefully qualified) with nerd shaming, which most of your readers regard as a Bad Thing, and the effect (intended or not) is to associate feminism with nerd shaming, and thus lower people’s opinion of feminism.

            Since I’m not a particular fan of feminism (at least of the Jezebel/Marcotte variety), I don’t mind, but I can imagine how those who identify as feminists might take offense.

            Report comment

          • onyomi says:

            Take offense to pointing out something obviously horrible some of their members do?

            To be analogous, if I write a blogpost about how Nazis are terrible because they support genocide, then a Nazi can logically respond either: “no, you see, we don’t actually support genocide/that’s only a few bad apples,” or else “yes, we do support genocide, but here’s why genocide is necessary sometimes.”

            It would be stupid for the theoretical Nazi to say “It really hurts my feelings for you to point out how we support genocide,” as if “support for genocide” were just a tacky thing to point out, like a weight problem.

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        • >-being part of a movement that isn’t only contributing but actually led the efforts to stigmatize trans people, discriminate against sex workers and kinky people, and fight against recognizing and helping male rape victims.

          Speaking as a sex worker, it is absolutely the case that feminists have done much more to harm sex workers than any other group save perhaps the Christians. This seems to me like an empirical question, and one which, from this sex worker’s view, is completely settled.

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    • Erik says:

      You don’t give a fuck about my pain, at all, other than (I suspect) secretly taking joy in it.
      You make it clear that you think people like me are demon nonhuman nazi scum who deserve to die under a bus.
      I’d argue more, but you’d only treat me with hate and contempt, and life’s too short.

      I’m fairly sure that this fails both the “true” gate and the “kind” gate for posting here set out in the comments policy, and I would strongly urge you to reread Scott’s post and reconsider your position in light of, for example, Scott stating he’s not saying nerds have it as bad as Jews in Nazi Germany. I’m also confident that our host is sufficiently friendly he wouldn’t treat you with only hate and contempt for arguing more, and even were he suddenly unfriendly, I’d still expect you to get less hate for arguing your position more than you’d get for your current post which seems to be less argument and more flame.

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    • Hainish says:

      I used to read Marcotte regularly when she blogged at Pandagon and remember her explicitly advocating making fun of people who have dorky hobbies. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that was almost her exact wording.)

      I remember her insulting her critics by saying that they lived in their parents’ basement. (I was living in my parents’ basement at the time.)

      So when Scott says

      There is a growing trend in Internet feminism that works exactly by conflating the ideas of nerd, misogynist, virgin, person who disagrees with feminist tactics or politics, and unlovable freak.

      …I would like to point out that, yes, he’s diagnosed the problem exactly.

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    • arthur stanton says:

      IDK about Scott, but I’m going to tell you that you are obviously trolling, and not acting in anything resembling good faith.

      I will go on to say that the difference between someone like the owner of this blog and someone like you, is that the owner is acting in good faith, and you don’t even know the difference between good and bad faith, and why the difference matters.

      Report comment

    • This gives me an opening to say that I decided I wasn’t going to identify as a feminist long ago when I read some Mary Daly and realized she hated men. I found out when she died that at least a high proportion of feminists don’t see this as a problem. What the sample of feminists I saw wrote was either pro-Daly or anti- because of her transphobia.

      However, while I’ve gotten used to men who are probably of good will hating feminism, my initial reaction to “Yuck! Feminism!” is “this person may not be on my side.”

      Anyone else have this sort of ambivalence?

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    • Elissa says:

      You don’t give a fuck about my pain, at all, other than (I suspect) secretly taking joy in it.

      You make it clear that you think people like me are demon nonhuman nazi scum who deserve to die under a bus. You don’t speak for me. And in my experience (of people I know and talk to, so not a representative sample) there are a hell of a lot of shy nerd boys you don’t speak for at all.

      I’d argue more, but you’d only treat me with hate and contempt, and life’s too short.

      I would like to know why you think this, because I find it very surprising, which suggests that there is something for me to learn about human experience here.

      Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      I cannot imagine a possible world in which someone who authored a post like this in response to Scott’s writing is not either trolling or suffering from some form of mental instability.

      In the former case, you are cordially invited to fuck off and never return. You have taken the most virtuous and admirable parts of Scott’s character and crafted an attack tailor-made to strike at him along those vectors. Regardless of what he may secretly feel I most certainly do wish for you to suffer for it. This is utterly inexcusable and you are an execrable human being.

      In the latter case, please seek help. You don’t have to live your life under the constant cloud of paranoia or a persecution complex.

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    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      I’m far more crippled by physical unattractiveness (judging from photos) and shyness than either you or the other Scott. You both have wonderful long-term romantic partners, something that I don’t expect will every happen to me.

      Not with that attitude! Okay, predictable platitudes that you’ve probably heard before aside, you’re a pretty popular writer and cartoonist, surely one of your many female fans would consider you as a potential partner? Or have you tried that already?

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  16. Walking Dude says:

    The whole thing isn’t hard to understand. Many, many women will openly stomp on men who admit weakness in order to scare the herd; anyone like him will hopefully get the message, and not think that they have a place in the mating pool. That’s why women tell men seeking help in dating to “be themselves” (they’re obviously weak, so let them display it), while simultaneously encouraging men to share their “feelings” and “hurts” and the like. It’s a winnowing process — they want to limit the men available to the “best” (whatever that might be), and to somehow have those “best” men be attracted to them even after such vogonish displays (which is more than unlikely, but you’ll never convince them of that).

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    • blacktrance says:

      That’s more easily explained by a desire for honesty and a sincere emotional connection. You wouldn’t want to date someone who is intentionally deceiving you about who they are so you’d date them, and you want your partner to rely on you when they feel emotionally bad.

      Report comment

      • Walking Dude says:

        Rabbits do not give wolves good advice on catching other rabbits.

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        • blacktrance says:

          That paints an excessively adversarial image of romantic relationships.

          Report comment

          • nydwracu says:

            Yeah, and?

            In the implicit ‘face’/’mask’ contrast here, the ‘face’ consists mostly of negative things. This is obviously necessary: why would anyone portray themselves as worse than they are? Even if you have a crab-bucket/Jante-law drive to represent yourself in a way you think is worse than you really are — say you consciously avoid signaling high intelligence in order to prevent other people from trying to force you into a Big Bang Theory character / trained monkey social role — it’s because representing yourself as ‘worse’ is socially better.

            In what circumstances, then, would revealing your ‘true face’ be a good idea? The ‘face’ quality will only be better than the ‘mask’ quality in high-variance / Jante cases, where you’re hiding a trait that the other person would disagree with society in general about. But there are many more cases of the ‘mask’ genuinely being better than the ‘face’ than there are of cases like that.

            (I’ve been pressured by past sexual/romantic partners to reveal my ‘true face’ many times. I had to learn the hard way not to do it.)

            My father had a saying about manners being the glue that holds society together and the grease that allows it to work. Manners are a clear case of mask over face — especially codifications of etiquette, which get called “inauthentic” and too complicated.

            (See also: the drive to escape fashion/style signaling by wearing plain clothes. One of those Soylent stories mentioned that Rob Rhinehart always wears a plain black T-shirt. I think that drive is similar, but not quite identical.)

            But codifications of etiquette are probably a good idea, for reasons related to the Aaronson thing. If etiquette is codified, it’s clear what you should be doing, everyone knows it, and it’s much harder to learn the rules imperfectly and end up with crazy ideas like “it’s always immoral to signal sexual/romantic interest in any context whatsoever”.

            (The closest analogy I can think of here is linguistic style. If you have a linguistic academy that codifies the language, do you get conflicting style advice? English certainly has conflicting advice; does French? And does French do it only about things that haven’t been codified, or is there a serious and taken-seriously contingent that disagrees with the codifying authority?)

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          • blacktrance says:

            In what circumstances, then, would revealing your ‘true face’ be a good idea? The ‘face’ quality will only be better than the ‘mask’ quality in high-variance / Jante cases, where you’re hiding a trait that the other person would disagree with society in general about. But there are many more cases of the ‘mask’ genuinely being better than the ‘face’ than there are of cases like that.

            What does “better” mean, in this context? Better for starting relationships, perhaps. But being a relationship-maximizer is a recipe for misery, because you have to be dishonest and hide yourself and the person who acts as if they liked you really likes the person you’re pretending to be, and because you’d be starting relationships with the kinds of people who don’t like you for the way you really are. It’s like faking your credentials to get a job you hate, except it makes even less sense because you don’t need to be in a relationship to survive.

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          • Nick T says:

            In what circumstances, then, would revealing your ‘true face’ be a good idea?

            In theory: signaling trust; giving someone a better model of you so they can better cooperate.

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          • Andy says:

            “Excessively adversarial” is IMO a charming understatement. If you see your dating pool as any kind of Rabbits/Wolves dynamic, you are doing something terribly wrong.
            Walking Dude, I noticed that I started getting a lot more dates when I started looking for women who were looking for someone like me. Which required a few base assumptions:
            A) Women (and men) can be very different, not fitting into a single conceptual space like “rabbits” or “wolves.”
            B) The dating marketplace is a marketplace, not a killing field, as the rabbits/wolves analogy suggests. Different people are looking for different things in partners – some are looking for a quick fuck, some are looking for a long-term emotional/sexual relationship, some are looking for the emotional relationship without the sex. Some are looking for someone to go to sportsball games with, some are looking for someone to raise a couple kids with, some are looking for someone to go to comic conventions with. People are looking for different personality traits; some people are picky; some don’t really care so long as they have a good time.
            Which is where the “be yourself” is actually good dating advice of sorts – accurately represent the product/partnership that is dating you to potential partners. Then expose that to as many potential partners as possible. Don’t worry about “making” a single person want you, and don’t get hung up on rejection (MUCH easier said than done) because sooner or later you’ll find someone who wants you for you.
            There’s a lot more optimism in the above than there really should be, but it’s essentially the mindset that got me from single and despairingly lonely and generally perfect PUA-mark material to not-single and fairly happy in the space of about three years.

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          • Walking Dude says:

            Andy writes:

            I noticed that I started getting a lot more dates when I started looking for women who were looking for someone like me.

            And I noticed that I started getting a lot more dates once I *stopped* looking for women (especially particular ones) and focused on living my own life. That’s the sweet spot — deciding who you’ll let on board, or *if* you’ll let them on board, and keep on going the same way you were before they signed on.

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          • blacktrance says:

            Depending on what “looking for women” entails, those positions aren’t mutually exclusive. Focus on living your own life – and if you decide to let someone onboard, make sure they’re looking for someone like you, by being honest about what you’re like.

            Report comment

          • llamathatducks says:

            nydwracu:

            The reason a “face” might be better than a “mask” is that the owner of the face may be wrong about what the other person wants to see. Like, some guy might think that I’ll laugh at him if he paints his nails, or confesses to having anxiety about something, or plays Magic: The Gathering, whereas in reality none of those things are turn-offs for me.

            I have a relevant memory from about sixth grade, when I went to some camp-type thing where I and some other girls slept on one side of a large room and some boys slept on the other side. One guy, who typically projected an image of himself as a tough guy who doesn’t seem to care about other people’s feelings, was opening up to his male friends about some feelings he had for a girl. He pretty eloquently shared how deeply he felt about her and how much it hurt him that she didn’t pay attention to him. I was struck by how much this humanized him and made him into a more appealing person than he normally was, and I tried to suggest to him that he might want to tell the girl how he felt and generally be more of the person he was revealing himself to be at that moment. He told me to fuck off.

            Clearly his mask wasn’t working for him, and he had no idea.

            [edit: rest of comment was replying in the wrong place]

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        • Jadagul says:

          One of the most toxic ideas about human sexuality is the idea that when a man and a woman have sex, this is the man somehow winning a victory over the woman. Sometimes women like to have sex! When a man acts in a sexually appealing way and then a woman is sexually attracted and chooses to have sex with him, this is not “the man defeating the woman.” This is two people engaging in a mutually beneficial and pleasurable interaction.

          Rabbits don’t give wolves good advice on catching rabbits. But coworkers sometimes give good advice on being a good coworker.

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          • Walking Dude says:

            Women do like to have sex — but not (except for outliers) for the sake of sex itself, as many men do. You’re right that it is toxic, when the long view is taken (as it should be), to see sex as a “victory” for the man — the wolves/rabbits comparison was to make the point as pointed as possible. But there is truth behind the idea of victory, as women know that they have much more to lose should things go wrong (i.e., he *is* a wolf), or should there be issue from said sexual relations — thus the whole dance of relationships, just as with so many creatures in the wild, is much more akin to the chase, the hunt, than it is to some sort of cooperative effort. The man who gets a woman to willingly mate with him has passed far more tests for her than she ever would for him. Sex for fun doesn’t exist, except (perhaps) within a functioning relationship.

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          • Lee Kelly says:

            The corollary is when the woman “wins a victory” over a man by getting him to commit to a marriage and children. In this case, the man has been ‘tamed’, ‘pussy-whipped’, or in some other way emasculated by the woman to become her financial or domestic slave, usually with sex being summarily withdrawn shorty after the commitment has been secured.

            The reason is because men want more sex than women are supplying, and women want more commitment than men are supplying. Therefore, metaphorically, women bargain with men by offering sex, and men bargain with women by offering commitment. If a woman is perceived to have given sex away too cheaply (e.g. to an inferior man), then the man is perceived as winning a victory over the woman, and vice versa is the man gives away commitment at too high a cost (e.g. further sexual exploits).

            It ain’t pretty, and I don’t condone it, and there are many outliers, but these trends probably aren’t going to be acculturated-away any time soon.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Lee Kelly

            I’m pretty sure that the whole thing about women wanting sex less than men and using sex as a tool to get commitment is bunk. The actual explanation for women being choosy about sex is that they are more likely to find the experience unsatisfying.

            In this context a man is treated as a victor because he has successfully convinced a woman that he will satisfy her, which is a difficult thing to do.

            Note that this theory does not contradict the standard ev-psych prediction that women should evolve to be choosier than men. The only change is the mechanism that causes the choosiness. The old theory was that choosiness was programmed into women as a terminal value. The new theory is that women are simply designed to be harder to satisfy, choosiness is an instrumental value. Personally, the new theory seems more likely to me, both because of evidence, and because it includes fewer moving parts.

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          • llamathatducks says:

            last Anonymous:

            Based both on personal experience and on a study some people in another subthread are linking, I agree with your model of women’s choosiness, except I’d add to it. Most women really do like sex, but (1) good sex is not necessarily easy to get, and (2) there are other things that get in the way.

            [content note: sex, TMI]

            Currently I am a single and non-sexually-active woman who would in principle quite like to be sexually active. I like orgasms a lot, and I miss having orgasms involving other people. But I really don’t want to have casual sex because the dominant model of sex (PIV) is unappealing and scary to me, and while other kinds of casual sex are possible, they’re not really part of the main cultural ideal of what it is. On the other hand, that’s only part of the issue: I’m bi, and it’s pretty clear that if I were to have casual sex with a cis woman or other person without a penis, PIV wouldn’t be expected, but I don’t really want that either, the reason why being basically body shame and shyness. Of course those things aren’t exclusive to women, but it is my impression that our society has much stricter body standards for women than for men, so it’s not unlikely that my body shame is greater than most men’s would be.

            So the only route to sex that I can see for myself is to start dating sometime soon and get into a relationship with someone who I really trust and who really values making me happy, so that I can feel comfortable having sex with them and so that I can expect that they will try and make me happy during sex. Too bad I’m an introvert so dating is a chore!

            (I should also note, though, that it’s not like I’ve been getting lots of offers of sex and rejecting them because of my choosiness. I’m not that attractive. But I’m sure that if I got on Tinder or something I could have a sex partner faster than I could get into a relationship. I just don’t want to, despite wanting sex.)

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      • nydwracu says:

        Experience says the opposite: if she wants to know whether you feel emotionally bad, it’s because she wants to know if she should jump ship.

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        • blacktrance says:

          I’m sorry about your negative experiences, and that they’ve caused you to feel this way. But at least you dodged a bullet.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          Has anyone seriously studied which women do this? It’s clearly a nontrivial fraction, but also not all. The number of men who report either “all” or “none” is too many for chance, so this behaviour must either be clumpy or linked to other attributes.

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          • Anonymous says:

            That the men say “all” or “none” is probably not correlation between the women those men have encountered, but bias in them men’s perceptions or understanding.

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          • Ghatanathoah says:

            I am one of the “all” people and one factor that immediately comes to mind is that I do not date women unless I have already known them for a long period of time (by which I mean at least a couple months). So all the women I have ever been romantically involved with were women I knew were decent human beings.

            I imagine that men who pick up women in bars, or do speed-dating or Internet dating or something, would have very different experiences.

            I personally once found the very idea of a blind date to be baffling. When I was young I kept hearing people criticize fictional romances where characters took a short time to fall in love as unrealistic. I concluded from this that you cannot fall in love with a person unless you know them for a while, and decided to only date people I knew for a while. I initially assumed people who did otherwise were crazy or desperate. I now understand that it was because I had completely internalized a norm that I probably wasn’t supposed to.

            Another reason was that I thoroughly internalized the “romance is about finding the right match” meme completely, and thought it was stupid to gamble on a romance with someone for whom there was little evidence they’d be a good match. I still believe it to some extent, I find the idea that there could be such a thing as being “out of someone’s league” to be wrong-headed.

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          • nydwracu says:

            I am one of the “all” people and one factor that immediately comes to mind is that I do not date women unless I have already known them for a long period of time (by which I mean at least a couple months).

            Your implicit prediction is accurate in my case.

            But I think it’s because I’m more aware of the face/mask dynamics than most people are — I was specifically trained to notice these things, and I’m an outsider almost everywhere so I have to anyway. I suspect this is a case where this isn’t useful: if you’re not aware of all that, your efforts at controlling others’ perception of it won’t be conscious.

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          • ATairov says:

            I want to know, too. Clearly something is going on here, and it should be studied.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Could be. On the other hand, I’ve had both kinds of experiences, sometimes from the same woman.

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          • 27chaos says:

            I’ve never heard anyone say “none”.

            Report comment

          • Ghatanathoah says:

            @nydwracu

            But I think it’s because I’m more aware of the face/mask dynamics than most people are — I was specifically trained to notice these things, and I’m an outsider almost everywhere so I have to anyway.

            I have also been training myself to discern people’s inner motivations and desires. What I find is encouraging. Most people are nice and have goodwill towards other people. Most of the time people seem like they are behaving negatively toward you because one is attributing malice to stupidity.

            Many things that seem like a person consciously choosing a malevolent strategy are actually caused by them by not being consistent with their strategies and not having enough willpower to always be altruistic.

            Generally the masks people wear represent their authentic vision of who they want to be, and their negative behaviors are caused by them failing to live up to that ideal, rather than their “true self” showing through.

            This is one reason why I despise the SJW concept of “microaggressions.” Nearly every concrete example of a “microaggression” that I’ve ever read about has been a statement or gesture that was willfully and purposefully interpreted as malicious, even though other valid interpretations of it exist that are probably closer to the truth. These so-called “microaggressions” are just people attributing malice to stupidity, or projecting negativity onto neutral statements.

            I try my best not to be a mean-spirited person who projects the worst onto other people. That is why I will never be a redpill MRA, or a SJW.

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        • Ghatanathoah says:

          @nydwracu

          My experience has always been that if a woman wants to know if I feel emotionally bad it’s because she wants to help me. Maybe it’s because I’ve never dated a woman I haven’t known for a while, so all the women I know are pre-screened for awfulness.

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      • arthur stanton says:

        Many, many women will openly stomp on men who admit weakness

        followed by

        That’s more easily explained by a desire for honesty and a sincere emotional connection.

        I mean, the feminist argument here really doesn’t even bother to try to fit the observed facts.

        Like, here: When feminism comes out and says it’s wrong for women to stomp on men who admit weakness, and police against women who do that, I’ll give a fig for feminism.

        Failing that: Nah, you can have that and, hey, good luck if and when you ever have a problem.

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        • blacktrance says:

          People do want honesty and a sincere emotional connection, but if when you’re being honest, you reveal yourself to be a terrible person, it’s completely understandable that people react negatively to that. Also, some people are terrible and lie about what they want, which is why it’s a good idea to get to know them well before opening up to them.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’m pretty sure this requires more self-awareness, strategic thinking, and coordination than women (or men) in general possess. I think the “be yourself” advice comes primarily from extrapolating from their own experiences wherein all they need to do to get dates/sex is to “be themselves” and perhaps slap on a bit of makeup and a tight dress before a party.

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      • Anonymous says:

        It doesn’t have to be conscious to work.

        They just need to sincerely want men to be honest.

        They they’re sincerely repulsed by the results of that honesty when it reveals weakness.

        That way they guard the eggs from weak sperm.

        All the feminist stuff is just cover for that.

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        • Andy says:

          All the feminist stuff is just cover for that.

          Really? Really? All of feminism – not wanting to be catcalled or stalked or harassed or raped, wanting to be able to get an education or a job based on qualification and not what’s hanging between someone’s legs, all that is just cover for “that way they guard the eggs from weak sperm”?
          Thppppppppppppt.

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          • Anonymous says:

            All the feminist stuff about nerds being x when not only are they not x they’re the least x people there are is.

            Nerds are icky. This is the language that women who call themselves feminists use to describe icky men.

            Any other meaning to the words is entirely irrelevant.

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      • I think “be yourself” is rarely useful advice, as it’s confusing and almost tautological, but is also probably accurate advice, when properly understood. I think it comes down to something like

        1. as mentioned above, you want a partner who is compatible with you, and you should present yourself accurately so this can happen. Personally I believe that our brains are pretty good at matching people up, and so the people who are the most attracted to The Real You are likely to be very attractive to you as well.

        2. You should understand that sex and romance is a natural thing that happens between human beings and you don’t need to do anything extraordinary to make it happen – if you’re thinking about it too much, you’re probably getting in your own way. My friends IRL are always giving dating advice of “just be normal”.

        3. Women like men who are unashamed of their flaws and who they are, as it implies confidence and high-status

        4. Dating should be fun, and if you’re constantly worrying about what to do or constructing this alternate persona, you’re probably just making yourself miserable

        (Personally, I have a pet hypothesis that “be yourself” is good advice to socially average people who are looking to be socially excellent, but bad advice for socially awkward people. If someone has a basic understanding of the laws of social interaction, then purging their insecurities, acting more on their desires, and reveling in their eccentricities will lead to confidence and charisma. Perhaps they are at the point where they can define their own rules. But if someone doesn’t understand the rules, then they should probably try to spend some energy figuring them out, question their own beliefs, be normal and tone down the quirks until they can get up to speed.)

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        • Anonymous says:

          Personally, I have a pet hypothesis that “be yourself” is good advice to socially average people who are looking to be socially excellent, but bad advice for socially awkward people. If someone has a basic understanding of the laws of social interaction, then purging their insecurities, acting more on their desires, and reveling in their eccentricities will lead to confidence and charisma.

          +527
          (Edit: Comment by Andy, Chrome boofed up somehow.)

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        • veronica d says:

          Right. “Be yourself,” but not necessarily if you have shit social skills. If your skills suck, then be yourself but with slightly better social skills. Which is something to work on.

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        • Anonymous says:

          > You should understand that sex and romance is a natural thing that happens between human beings and you don’t need to do anything extraordinary to make it happen

          Has this ever been true in the history of ever? Relationships require work.

          Sometimes one party puts in all the work, and then it might “just happen” for the other, but anyone seeking advice can safely assume they aren’t going to be that other.

          > Dating should be fun

          Once a relationship exists, it should be fun, but the initial phase? The trying to connect to someone new phase? Maybe there’s someone out there for whom that can be fun, but it doesn’t seem plausible enough to optimize for.

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    • I think “be yourself” is much more kindly meant than that– the underlying premise is that the person being given the advice is basically alright except for their fear of not being alright.

      This advice is problematic for a few reasons– if someone has been frightened for a long time, then they may think of their fear as a fundamental part of themself. It’s extremely likely that it’s going to be hard to become less frightened, and any advice which begins with “just” is downplaying the difficulty of following the advice.

      They may actually have some traits which aren’t going to go over well.

      However, I don’t think it’s usually advice which is given to set people up for failure. Some people probably are cruel enough to do that, but are there reasons to think it’s common?

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      • orangecat says:

        However, I don’t think it’s usually advice which is given to set people up for failure.

        Right. My theory is it’s largely a result of women trying to be supportive, but not having a systematic understanding of what they find sexually attractive in men. So when a female friend says “just be yourself”, she’s thinking something like “he’s really a great guy. Too bad I don’t find him attractive, but that’s just a random quirk of my brain. Surely lots of other women will want to date him, because he’s a great guy.” The problem is that it’s not a random quirk; she’s subconsciously picking up on the indicators of low status that he’s projecting, and so will other women.

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  17. cassander says:

    I think you very much misunderstand where the nerd approach to women comes from. I don’t think it’s weird archaic notions of sexual relations, I think it is someone trying to behave towards others the way they would want people to behave towards them. They do this because, generally not having much empathy (in the sense of being good at understanding what other people are thinking and feeling) the only way they can figure out how to interact with others is to induce from their own case. Later they read feminist books that say “treat women like people” and all they can think is that’s what they’ve been doing all along. Reactions at that point vary.

    That said, and this will be much more controversial, I think there is a more fundamental problem with feminism. In my experience, there is a strong inverse correlation between empathy and self awareness. That is, the more people understand what other people are feeling and how to make them feel that way, but the less they understand (or at least the less they tend to question) their own feelings. I can think of a number of reasons for this relationship, but the mechanism doesn’t really matter if you accept that it’s generally true. feminism, as a movement, seems to turn this relationship up to 11.

    People are, always and everywhere, are extremely good at coming up with arguments to justify their emotional priors. Feminism’s empathy has made it incredibly successful at changing the attitudes of others, it has a gift for hitting where it hurts and getting results. The problem is that the commensurate lack of introspection means the movement has no internal brakes, nothing to stop it from becoming little more than an endless quest to justify the feelings of the faithful. And I think it is quite clear that this is what is happening. Critiques, even those as mild as Aaronson’s, are met with insanely hyperbolic, responses like Marcotte’s for daring to suggest that feminists examine themselves.

    I have a sister that’s bi-polar. As kids, she would work herself up into incredible emotional reactions over minor incidents in order to get her way. She once begged, threatened, screamed, and weeped for a half hour about whether or not the car was going to stop at mcdonalds. It was terrifying because these emotions were unquestionably real, but would vanish literally the instant she won the argument. She is what feminism has become, utterly convinced of its own righteousness, willing to do anything to achieve its righteous ends, and unable or unwilling to question itself.

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    • DiscoveredJoys says:

      While not the ‘answer to everything that is wrong’ I think your comment makes a good and substantial point, particularly about the most vocal Feminists.

      Nowadays whenever I read a ‘Check your privilege’ comment I wonder how a reply of ‘Yes, let’s both check our privileges’ would be received. Whenever I read a ‘Patriarchy’ comment I wonder how a ‘and its social twin, the Matriarchy’ would be received.

      If such counter comments are mocked or shouted down then you have good reason to think that at least one of you in the conversation is not as self aware as they think. Which one though?

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Laurie Penny is an extremely decent person

    Really?

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    • Rob says:

      Yeah, really.

      I’ve been reading her stuff for years, and she’s certainly a good person. Good people do sometimes get things wrong, and I think she gets Scott Aaronson wrong. In the better bits of the OP, Scott Alexander makes a good case for there being a double-standard in how Laurie has approached this, and I suspect that she would acknowledge this herself, despite enormous tribal incentives not to do so.

      If we’re going to take Laurie Penny as being on the side of evil, then we’re drawing the category of ‘evil’ far too broadly. She’s someone who actually thinks about stuff and responds thoughtfully to criticism (in my experience), so people like her are much more likely to be part of the solution than part of the problem. I appreciate that ‘not actually evil’ may sound like I’m damning with faint praise, so I’ll go further and say that she is one of the people who has helped me (as a nerdy male somewhere in the Scott A cluster of personspace) to feel better/healthier about my attitudes towards women and relationships and feminism. That is why I’m pretty disappointed by some of the things she said in her post, but nobody’s perfect and if we judged people by the contents of their worst blog posts then we’d have to start hating pretty much everyone all the time. Let’s not do that.

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      • Jon H says:

        “Good people do sometimes get things wrong, and I think she gets Scott Aaronson wrong.”

        I think a lot of that is probably the “MIT Professor” part, which is being taken to represent a huge amount of privilege (which it is, in many aspects of life) but being back-dated as if he was *always* a high-status MIT professor. Which, of course, he wasn’t. And he didn’t know he’d eventually be one later in life.

        This may not be a conscious factor in her writing, but it’s probably there. Perhaps exacerbated by deep-seated English class assumptions.

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        • Not Robin Hanson says:

          There’s also the other horn, which is that if he were not a MIT Professor (or comparable), he would not have been heard in the first place.

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  19. Carlos says:

    Your post kept going back to privilege not being one-dimensional, and ozymandias’s post mentioned axes, which made my mind instantly think of this as a model:

    Privilege is a vector.

    You can’t put vectors in sensible total orders, unless you have a covector that makes a nice inner product.

    Situations are covectors.

    Fix a situation and you do get a total order of privilege (over people); fix a person and that’s the same thing (but over situations).

    (Sorry if this is obvious, and Box’s warning about models applies. but this model seems much better than privilege on the real line, and it’s a short phrase, easy to remember. it also gives the sensible interpretation for easy cases like why we expect that, all else being equal, black women have it worse than women; and gay black women have it worse than black women, etc.)

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    • Cute metaphor (and I like it) but using vector/covectors here effectively generates a hell of a lot more linear structure than I expect the space has.

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      • Carlos says:

        I was going for a pithy statement that made it clearer that the picture looks deceptively simple if you fix this one huge aspect of it (which in my mind is a lot like what happens with vectors-covectors.) But phraseology, like humor, is best left to professionals.

        For whatever it might be worth, that was why I hedged my statement with Box’s maxim.

        But yes, you’re right, I agree with you, and should have been clearer.

        “Privilege is multi-dimensional” might be less technical — and better — in the right way. It uses a less-precise word to better reflect the imprecision of the idea itself.

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      • Psy-Kosh says:

        Might be possible to apply the Kernel Trick so that you can still use the linear formalism even though the thing isn’t all that linear.

        (Because taking metaphors and running with is fun.)

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        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Or possibly just use integral curves on a manifold.

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          • Psy-Kosh says:

            How so? That is, it’s not obvious to me how you’d use them to allow one to keep the linear formalism for this non linear situation. What did you have in mind exactly?

            (Oh, wait, did you mean using the solutions for some linear differential equation as the vectors?)

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          • Raph L says:

            Not to get too geeky here, but I was reading up on intersectional feminism a year or so ago, trying to wrap my head around it, and the model that came to mind was the difference between a pure Bayesian model (for example, a spam classifier) in which the variables are assumed to be independent, and something like a forest of decision trees machine learning model (a deep convolutional network would do too). In other words, something that explicitly models the nonlinearity, which unfortunately your co-vector would not quite do.

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  20. Nestor says:

    Gosh that was long and somewhat uncomfortable to read.

    I observed a while ago that most online feminist activism seems to be pointless in that the intersection between men who will say, catcall women on on the street and men who will read an article on a blog chiding them for it is rather small.

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    • elementary_watson says:

      You do not chide those who misbehave the most. You chide those who actually care about not getting chided.

      Actually, I guess that you don’t and that this is just my misanthropy talking, but these issues bring forth my misanthopy like nothing else.

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  21. SJW from hell says:

    Thank you for listening, or at least trying to listen. It can’t be a thankful task. Many people on my side are not trying to communicate, reach out or create understanding. We vent our righteous anger because it feels good.

    I don’t disagree with anything in this post, any differences of opinion are too subtle to merit being called real disagreements. There are parts with which I agree emphatically.

    Aaronson made the mistake of inadvertently signalling assholery. He used specific arguments and keywords that predictably cause people on my side to disregard any message he might be trying to convey, treat him as an enemy and assume he is saying the same things we’ve heard from enemies before.

    This case makes me wonder what would happen if a male nerd wrote about being unwanted and rejected, without implicitly or explicitly accusing women, carefully avoiding references to the ongoing debate, and then published the text in a context that also does not link it to any of this. I would like to think most of us would have empathy.

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    • Chris says:

      Aaronson made the mistake of inadvertently signalling assholery. He used specific arguments and keywords that predictably cause people on my side to disregard any message he might be trying to convey, treat him as an enemy…

      Important question — what arguments and keywords in particular were you referring to? (Aaronson’s OP seemed “well-enough hedged” at first glance to me, and also sufficiently explicit about how it wasn’t accusing women-in-general of anything, to avoid that kind of response. I may need your help recalibrating; Ivwould not be surprised if this applied to others.)

      EDIT: Or to put that another way, until you implied otherwise I would have described Aaronson’s post as exactly an example of “a male nerd [writing] about being unwanted and rejected, without implicitly or explicitly accusing women, carefully avoiding references to [any] ongoing debate, and then publish[ing] the text in a [standalone context]”.

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      • Rob says:

        I don’t think it was well-enough hedged, because I could tell that he was going to get a negative response as soon as I read it.

        The bit that didn’t work for me was when he talked about ‘neanderthal’ men who were having more romantic success than he was. That can sound rather like the argument that either a) women don’t know what’s good for them or b) by merely refraining from neanderthal behaviours, he deserved sex and women were not holding up their end of the social bargain here. I don’t think that’s what he meant, but the interpretation was left slightly too open.

        I think what Scott was getting at is the dissonance between the suggestion than men should be less entitled, and the fact that actually existing women seem to prefer the attentions of men who display a greater sense of entitlement. Women say men should be less entitled, then sleep with the really entitled men – this makes no sense! If you think that entitlement, or lack thereof, is really the most important factor in how women see men then this is deeply and legitimately confusing, and that confusion needs to be resolved somehow.

        One way of resolving it is to simply assume that women are liars or hypocrites, and all of this stuff about entitlement is just some kind of political power-play that is used for policing male behaviour (and since it’s easier to police weaker people, the people who end up on the receiving end of the policing are the nerds). This is a fairly shitty argument, and the great shame of Amanda Marcotte’s brand of feminism is that they come close to making it look true.

        A better and simpler argument that does not rely on conspiracy theories is that there are other variables here. The ‘neanderthals’ are not simply more entitled, maybe they’re more extraverted, physically fit and/or attractive, have higher social status, have other skills or talents or whatever and, crucially, were not suffering from any inhibitions in their social interactions. In that case, it’s still possible for women to prefer them despite their entitlement. They’re just a lot better at marketing their positive attributes than Scott was at marketing his, and entitlement (or lack thereof) really doesn’t have much to do with it. Thus, whilst entitlement is a bad thing, you cannot understand the entirety of human relationships through the prism of entitlement and this is why Andrea Dworkin is not a good source of dating tips.

        I don’t think Scott quite explained how he resolved the confusion in his own case. Assuming that he went with the ‘women are liars and hypocrites’ explanation is a remarkable assumption of bad faith that reflects badly on the people who made that assumption, but I can’t say it’s exactly surprising, as assumptions of bad faith are what keep the internet in business.

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        • LTP says:

          Or the feminists and the hypocrites are different women. Or, some mix (some feminists are hypocrites, some aren’t, and many women who date “assholes” aren’t feminists).

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          • Rob says:

            In reality, I doubt the existence of any substantial number of actual hypocrites, in the sense of people who say “I want X” when they really want Y.

            When you see a divergence between what people say and what they do, there are two possible explanations. One, traditionally favoured by economists (amongst others, but that’s where I know it from), is the notion of ‘revealed preferences’: whilst you might say that you prefer certain kinds of goods, when given a choice you tend to choose something else. In this context, your economic relationships are taken as the measure of your true desires because they have real consequences in your everyday life, whereas talk is cheap. It’s easy for people to either lie or succumb to social pressure, and thus say things that are convenient but untrue, as this comes with very low costs; it’s a lot harder to get people to make actual decisions based on a falsification of their own preferences. If we find someone saying ‘I don’t want to date assholes’ and this person dates assholes then we might conclude that they are somewhat of a hypocrite (though we might excuse them on the basis that admitting to liking assholes is socially harmful).

            The other explanation is the polar opposite: peoples’ decisions are constrained by all kinds of factors beyond their control, but their speech is not, so it’s the speech that tells you their true preferences. If the only people asking you on a date are assholes, then you’re probably going to end up dating assholes even as you say ‘I don’t like dating assholes’.

            Some of you might recognise the two explanations above as, respectively, the ‘Exit’ and ‘Voice’ mechanisms outlined in Albert Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty. ‘Exit’ is regarded as a good measure of preferences in a very competitive marketplace in which consumers have many choices, low cost of switching and are not otherwise overly constrained. ‘Voice’ is regarded as being a better measure in less competitive markets (with monopoly being a situation in which voice is the only option, exit being impossible as there’s nowhere else to go). So, which is the dating market more similar to?

            I think our problem here is that some men assume that women exist in a hyper-competitive dating market in which basically any man will sleep with them, so if we want to know what women’s preferences are we should just look at who they date and ignore anything they might say. Their speech is likely to be constrained (by, say, political correctness or a desire to maintain a certain image), but their dating choices are much more free and therefore a better representation of their preferences. In other words, the Exit model is being applied.

            What Laurie Penny points out in her article is that women’s choices are, in fact, very constrained in many cases – if not exactly as constrained as Scott Aaronson’s, then at least at the same end of the spectrum. This strongly implies that Scott is going wrong when he tries to work out what women ‘really think’ by trying to observe their dating choices. If you want to know what women think, ask them (this may be easier said than done, but it’s not an unreasonably utopian suggestion either).

            So, what we have is a case of nerd men assuming that the constraints that apply in their lives cannot possibly apply to women, and nerd women assuming something similar in return. Both are picking examples of the opposite gender’s behaviour as the true measure of their preferences, treating their speech as being either in bad faith or so unreliable as to be useless. My guess is that this is precisely the wrong model for examining the dating market, at least as it applies to nerds. There may be people – celebrities, the very wealthy, the truly unscrupulous – for whom the exit model holds more explanatory power, but these people are a minority. Interestingly, they’re a very salient minority in terms of how our society thinks about dating and sex, which may be why we end up over-applying that model.

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          • Tracy W says:

            If the only people asking you on a date are assholes, then you’re probably going to end up dating assholes even as you say ‘I don’t like dating assholes’.

            Or you could try asking someone out yourself. Subtly, or not so subtly (the non-subtle version worked for me). Or not date any one.

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        • Vaniver says:

          Trigger warning: abusive parenting.

          I don’t think it was well-enough hedged, because I could tell that he was going to get a negative response as soon as I read it.

          So, there’s this style of abusive parenting where nothing is ever good enough, but the child internalizes the belief that if they were better then it would be good enough, and thus the negative reaction is all their fault.

          I think the analogy to feminist critics is pretty clear. I don’t think it matters how polite or well-meaning or careful someone writing about male suffering at the hands of feminists is; the part that attracted the feminist ire is writing about male suffering at the hands of feminists, and the lack of politeness or ill intentions or lack of care is the claim that will be made to justify the ire. This is adaptive behavior because it distracts the opponents and changes the subject- instead of discussing the facts, we’re discussing the tone. (Note that feminist theory has a term for this diversion, with an exemption specifically carved out for when they use it.)

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    • FacelessCraven says:

      Is there a way to register disagreement with the Social Justice narrative without signaling assholery to its adherents?

      http://amptoons.com/blog/2014/08/27/mras-and-anti-feminists-have-ruined-complaining-about-being-single/

      …This person seems to do it by framing the discussion explicitly as an attack on Feminism’s most loathed outgroup, and doesn’t touch the issue of privilege at all. Okay. Given the well-documented Feminist “Nice Guy” narrative, that seems ever-so-slightly Stockholm Syndrome, but at least it’s a way to talk about a personal issue. But what about the charge that feminism is actually causing harm? Is there any way to say THAT without invoking Danger Close?

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      • DES3264 says:

        Another example of someone phrasing the problem in a way which gets sympathetic responses from feminists, including Amanda Marcotte herself https://web.archive.org/web/20050910085224/http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/dilemma_of_the_.html (scroll down to July 13, 2005 04:06 PM .)

        I think the key here is not activating any anti-tribal reaction: Neil doesn’t say “feminism tells me such-and-such is wrong, and I want to know feminists propose as an alternative”, he says “such-and-such IS wrong, but I’m unsure what the better alternative is”. Scott Aaronson describes himself (and I believe truthfully) as 97% onboard with feminism, but that doesn’t sound as convincing as framing your argument in language that directly accepts feminist views.

        Alternatively, it is possible that the key is to have this conversation in 2005 :(.

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        • ShardPhoenix says:

          >Alternatively, it is possible that the key is to have this conversation in 2005 :(.

          I think this is sadly correct – even in the comments there you see famous lefty blogger Matt Yglesias attacking the OP, and leftism in generally has gotten far more aggressive in the last 10 years, at least in my perception.

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        • Karmakin says:

          I was a reader of Pandagon back then (You might even find my comments on the thread, I used the same nick)

          The Marcotte of 2005 is not the same Marcotte of say 2009, at all IMO. I could be wrong on that and be looking at it through nostalgic eyes, but I don’t believe it’s the same. I feel like there was a very real change from a gender roles hurt both men and women and that’s the problem we have to deal with to the whole men oppress women stuff that you see today.

          You have to realize she went through several well..things that may have radically changed her views. The whole Duke Lacross thing, being dumped from the Edwards campaign, accusations of racist imagery in her book (they were racist) and more downkey, there was a time where her economic progressiveness was really in question over gentrification.

          I do think that moved her (and her supporters) into a much more tribal “us vs. them” style of feminism. I’d actually go as far as to say that’s the “seed” that grew much of the structure that you see on social media today.

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          • Protagoras says:

            Sounds right to me. I remember I used to be a really big Marcotte fan, but it does seem like much less of what she posts is of any interest these days, and she posts awful stuff that I don’t feel like she used to post (like the item under discussion here).

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      • birdboy2000 says:

        I love that when they talk about a torrent of online aimed at prominent female feminists abuse they highlighted Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti, and Anita Sarkeesian.

        I would propose that insofar as Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti have abuse directed at them it is almost entirely because they direct abuse at other people – at times large groups of other people, at times individuals – some of whom responded in kind, and gender and ideology are at best very minor contributing factors.

        With regard to the abuse Sarkeesian has faced, we do in fact have a control group – an individual who raised many of the same criticisms while being a male and a Christian fundamentalist. I invite anyone who believes Anita Sarkeesian was threatened for being a feminist woman to google “Jack Thompson” and “death threats”.

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        • Pluviann says:

          I don’t think Sarkeesian and Thompson are comparable, though. Sarkeesian just does criticism. It’s pretty standard criticism of the sort that is routinely applied to books and films and anything with a story. She’ just describing themes and tropes.
          Thompson was an activist who believed videogames caused school shootings and who tried to have games banned and censored.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Two situations are very rarely exactly comparable, but I think the comparison is close enough that it at least casts doubt on the assertion that she gets abuse because she’s a woman and for no other reason.

            This is especially the case considering many of those who defend Sarkeesian are happy to abuse those in the outgroup (including women in the outgroup). To paraphrase one fairly well known internet personality “There are no bad tactics, only bad targets”.

            And I’m uncomfortable with any implication that Thompson was worse and therefore somehow deserves the abuse he got more than Sarkeesian. No one deserves death threats.

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          • Karmakin says:

            I think it’s a bit more than that actually. I don’t think Sarkeesian “just” does criticism. Or she does in the same vein that Marcotte “just” does criticism.

            There’s actually a lot of loaded terminology in her work that assigns negative motives to not just the creators, but to the audience as well.

            But there’s actually more than that, and I think there’s a very real parallel here. One of the things she says, is that you can criticize things, you can understand why they’re problematic and harmful and still enjoy them.

            And just speaking for myself, although quite frankly this issue probably is a strict parallel in terms of personality type. No, just no.

            If I thought games encouraged sexual/domestic violence or the oppression of women over and above baseline levels in society at large, I wouldn’t play them. I couldn’t play them. They would squick me the hell out. I’d feel guilt for enjoying that sort of thing. Games that are borderline in that, I don’t play (luckily I don’t believe there’s that many of them).

            There’s that divide again, between the personal and the political. Sarkeesian states (but quite frankly, her partner McIntosh doesn’t want any part of that divide, he IS pro-banning) along with others should be there.

            That’s not an option for me. And probably not an option for the Scotts. And for many others. The personal IS the political. That’s the message we internalized. Our own individual decisions, even if they don’t directly (or indirectly even!) affect anybody else STILL defines our character and moral/ethical worth.

            Like..I don’t know, asking someone out on a date? Very normal action, but the concept that we’re even considering such a thing makes us feel like we’re violating people.

            That’s kind of the divide here. There has to be a happy medium. Because I don’t see the other side…the side that happily has their Somebody Else’s Problem glasses on as being a good idea either.

            That’s not to say that anybody deserves death threats. But you know how you reduce them? Make people feel less powerless. I bet if we had more mainstream criticisms of that sort of post-modernist analysis it would help the situation greatly.

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          • Pluviann says:

            @anon I don’t mean to say that anyone deserves death threats at all!
            I think if we go any further into this we might end up debating reproductively viable worker ants, which is wildly off-topic for this post.

            @Karmakin Thanks for the comment, I find your thoughts on ‘personal is political’ very interesting and I’m gonna think about it.
            I’m not sure that ‘death threats’ are caused by feeling powerless. I mean, I’ve felt powerless a lot in my life but I never threatened to kill anyone about it. Can anyone really believe that Anita Sarkeesian wields any power over them, or that their powerlessnes would be improved by her death?

            ETA: thinking about it, the times in my life where I felt utterly powerless, when my life seemed pointless and I knew that there was nothing I could do to save myself, those were the times when I wanted to kill myself not other people.

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          • TealTerror says:

            @Karmakin: Sorry for butting into a thread on the far side of the column, but I found this very notable:

            If I thought games encouraged sexual/domestic violence or the oppression of women over and above baseline levels in society at large, I wouldn’t play them. I couldn’t play them.

            Do you use an iPad? Do you ever eat chocolate? Do you live in the Americas? Do you happen to be a white American?

            The sad fact is that all of us participate in and benefit from structures of oppression every day. It’s not something you can avoid. That’s why they’re so hard to fight.

            I mean, if you think you’d be a bad person by playing video games that play into harmful cultural narratives, then the only way you couldn’t be a terrible person would be by living by yourself in the wilderness. And I mean that quite seriously.

            While the personal is indeed the political, the solution is not to pretend that your own activities are completely cut off from systems of oppression. It’s to fight those systems while recognizing that you personally benefit from and can’t help but contribute to them. (Disclaimer: I don’t do nearly as much of this as I should, so yeah, stones, glass houses, etc.)

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        • FacelessCraven says:

          @ Pluvian – Can anyone really believe that Anita Sarkeesian wields any power over them, or that their powerlessnes would be improved by her death?

          The latter is obviously barbarism and beyond the pale, but Sarkeesian unquestionably has a very great deal of power. She has the ability to hurt a lot of people, and isn’t real shy about using it. Ditto for her allies. They are the establishment, and the establishment is by definition powerful.

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    • Ben says:

      I’m curious, as someone who doesn’t travel in online feminist circles what did Aaronson say that inadvertently signal assholery? I ask so I, and others who care about this issue, can make sure to avoid it in the future so our arguments don’t get dismissed out of hand.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Aaronson made the mistake of inadvertently signalling assholery. </blockquote?

      I don't see this; I see a man bending over backwards to assuage the concerns of feminists and SJWs. If you read his comment and think he's signalling hostility to your tribe, then your assholery detectors are enormously over-sensitive.

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    • James Miller says:

      “Aaronson made the mistake of inadvertently signalling assholery”

      As a nerd who occasionally teaches about signaling at a feminist women’s college I would be grateful if you would elaborate.

      Report comment

    • SJW from hell says:

      @ Chris, Ben, James Miller:
      It’s just a bad idea to ever go from a discussion between feminists and men about sexual harassment to discussing men’s difficulties in dating. I’m not sure how to describe exactly what it sounds like to someone coming from my point of view, I can’t think of what to compare it to, but doing so will antagonise them against you, instantly. They will most likely accuse you of something else, but bringing it up at all was the point when all hope was permanently lost. I’m not minimising or censoring the problem and I get that from some people’s perspective it’s relevant to the topic, but this is the absolute worst context to ever bring it up in. It will be taken as a sign that you are not listening at best, and that you are actually as bad as you will be accused of being at worst. Save it for another time. Introduce the idea that men are sometimes fall victims to collateral damage from feminism only after it’s been established you’re not out to get them.

      Many of us will stop listening if you express skepticism about male privilege. Aaronson does not mean to do that, but he comes close enough.

      He uses scare quotes when mentioning microaggressions. Small thing, but makes a difference.

      If at some point you find yourself explaining the predicament of an unwanted male nerd to a feminist, be extra careful about how you’re going to frame that part about other guys being successful with women. In fact don’t mention it, unless it’s central to what you’re trying to say. It will overwhelmingly likely sound like “women like jerks”. Aaronson does not avoid this pitfall.

      @FacelessCraven:
      Is there a way to register disagreement with the Social Justice narrative without signaling assholery to its adherents?
      I don’t know, probably.
      But what about the charge that feminism is actually causing harm? Is there any way to say THAT without invoking Danger Close?
      Not if you’re some argumentative nerd guy on the internet. People who can be won over by rational arguments (by people they don’t like) or enjoy debating as a mental exercise are rare. If you know an SJW personally and think you have their ear, well, you’re the one who knows them personally. Judge on a case by case basis.

      @Anonymous:
      I know he isn’t and yes, we can be very susceptible to hypersensitivity when it comes to things we’ve heard a million times before.
      This is exactly what I find so sad about this case. There was absolutely no reason for disagreement. The guy is obviously thoroughly decent and doing his best to communicate with us. He made a very small mistake. It’s a little bit sad that despite all his effort he still didn’t get it well enough to know better. (One wishes understanding between people would come more easily.) It’s a lot sad that people got angry at him instead of appreciating what he was trying to do.

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      • Rob says:

        He uses scare quotes when mentioning microaggressions. Small thing, but makes a difference.

        Those were not scare quotes, those were “I have read a lot more of the literature than you probably have, and what follows is a jargon term that I am going to put in quotes to indicate that I am quoting it from somewhere and not just inventing my own portmanteau word for something” quotes.

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        • SJW from hell says:

          That is clearly what he meant, but only if you choose the reading that assumes he is actually sympathetic to feminists. If you believe he isn’t, it looks different and confirms your suspicions.
          The clarity potentially gained from using quotes when introducing a jargon term is not enough to make risking the wrong interpretation sensible in this case.

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      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        > He made a very small mistake.

        If that’s what he got in response, that doesn’t speak well for “you, plural.”

        A general comment: I wish more communities tried to learn each other’s language/social protocol/faux pas.

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        • SJW from hell says:

          In my feces-flinging monkey horde’s defense: Aaronson’s small mistake was looking like an enemy. Yes, it would be better if people in arguments generally listened more carefully and thought things through instead of quickly jumping on board with their system 1 reaction. But that’s not a realistic expectation.

          Aaronson was trying to reach out to a hostile group. That’s a very difficult task.

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          • FacelessCraven says:

            @ SJW From Hell – “Aaronson was trying to reach out to a hostile group. That’s a very difficult task.”

            …Since you appear to be attempting the same thing, I’d like to personally thank you. As someone who is pretty hostile to SJWs, the world would be a better place with a lot more people like you in it.

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          • SJW from hell says:

            @ craven:
            Thank you for the kind words. They are completely undeserved though. You folks are not a hostile group. You’re a bunch of reasonable thoughtful people who seem sincerely interested in learning what they can do to help end the problem (or at least become absolved from any personal involvement with it).

            I’m not really even reaching out to you because frankly, I don’t think you have any reason to improve your opinion of us unless we improve first. I don’t have a particularly flattering opinion of us. As things stand, I don’t think we can offer much to people like you. Aaronson’s case has proven, once again, that we might not receive you well if you tried allying yourself with us.

            It would be nice if you began to associate us less with the worst things the worst of us do, but it’s not fair to ask or expect that. We do those things, and we should expect to be judged by them.

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      • Thomas Eliot says:

        >If at some point you find yourself explaining the predicament of an unwanted male nerd to a feminist, be extra careful about how you’re going to frame that part about other guys being successful with women. In fact don’t mention it, unless it’s central to what you’re trying to say. It will overwhelmingly likely sound like “women like jerks”.

        I’m confused by this. Speaking as a jerk, women definitely absolutely do like jerks. I have never had any trouble whatsoever in getting laid. I’m also a huge nerd, and much better at understanding body language and such than most of the nerds I hang/hung out with, and this is painfully obvious. Consequently, in college I was much better able to get laid than most of them. Nowadays I don’t slut it up nearly so much, and they’ve discovered polyamory and thus are banging each other, so it’s less pertinent now, but in general, yeah, nerds are not nearly as good at getting laid as jocks are. It baffles me that anyone disagrees with this.

        Women do like jerks. This is well established. If you don’t believe me, replace “jerk” with “narcissist” and reread the OP.

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        • llamathatducks says:

          Your experience does not prove that women like jerks, at least not the way I understand “women like jerks”.

          As I understand it, “women like jerks” means “being a jerk is attractive”. (Therefore “be more of a jerk” is good dating advice.)

          Whereas your experience is consistent with “being a jerk is unattractive, but not as unattractive as having poor social skills.” (In which case “be more of a jerk” is bad advice, but “learn better social skills” is good advice.)

          Or perhaps “being a jerk is not sufficiently unattractive to stop most women from having casual sex with jerks, although they will probably avoid romantic relationships with them; having poor social skills is sufficiently unattractive to stop women from having casual sex with people with poor social skills”. (In which case “be more of a jerk” is neutral but unhelpful advice for having casual sex and terrible advice for finding relationships, and “learn better social skills” is good advice.)

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      • MugaSofer says:

        If at some point you find yourself explaining the predicament of an unwanted male nerd to a feminist, be extra careful about how you’re going to frame that part about other guys being successful with women. In fact don’t mention it, unless it’s central to what you’re trying to say.

        This is really important advice. (Although I doubt it would have saved Scott.)

        For the record, I think the fundamental issue is that Scott was saying straight white cismales were being bullied – and that would mean that “which person isn’t a straight white cismale” doesn’t work as a heuristic for determining which person is the bully. Which it doesn’t, it’s a terrible idea, but that’s increasingly the Outgroup we define ourselves against.

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      • Mariani says:

        Many of us will stop listening if you express skepticism about male privilege.”

        The issue is that you’re begging the question that a specific type of privilege that is relevant to the discussion at hand definitely exists. If you’re actually interested in having a discourse (are you?) and not just pushing dogma with its loaded words, you can’t just say “well it counts way less than X, because he has privilege/isn’t structurally oppressed.” What exactly is privilege? A unique set of assumptions that everyone projects onto you? Because every single human being has that. What is structural oppression? Is it non-falsifiable? Then you can’t really use it to lead to useful truth and solve problems where people want to castrate themselves or kill themselves.

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        • SJW from hell says:

          I don’t endorse this reaction. I’m informing you it happens and you should take precautions against it if you want to avoid it.

          Intersectionality is a big thing for us and everyone on my side pretty much takes it for granted. We expect men to understand they still have male privilege even when they are experiencing painful consequences from their disprivilege. Privilege isn’t hard to figure out, in fact I can’t believe it isn’t intuitive to anyone even remotely intelligent who gives any serious consideration to the concept for 1.5 minutes. I believe my SJW brethren have similar feelings. If we are to believe this, then it follows that you don’t understand privilege and intersectionality simply because you don’t want to. You’ve either never listened to anything people like us have tried to tell you, or you think it’s right and just that you should get to keep your privilege and therefore rationalize it. Obviously there is absolutely no point in talking to you, there is not enough common ground and you are in fact a shitlord.

          Again, I don’t think this is a reasonable attitude to adopt toward another human being. But don’t ever expect us to be reasonable. If you want to achieve something by talking to us you accept realities as they are and work with them.

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          • Drew says:

            Intersectionality is a big thing for us and everyone on my side pretty much takes it for granted. We expect men to understand they still have male privilege even when they are experiencing painful consequences from their disprivilege.

            Doesn’t this conflict with ‘intersectionality’?

            Like, I thought the notion of intersectionality came around when black female scholars started to point out that race influenced gender expectations.

            For instance, they pointed out that the ‘women are seen as weak’ norm only really applied to white woman.

            So, the oppression of “black & female” is very different than the simple sum of “black” plus (separately) “female” and needed to be studied as its own thing.

            The place I’m getting lost is that you’re using the word “intersectionality” to deny the effect of this sort of mixing.

            If you’re intersectional (as I understand the term), then a man who’s disprivileged in some way could have a very different experience of maleness (and thus male privilege) than most other men.

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      • LRS says:

        This comment is truly excellent. Seldom have I seen such a good analysis of specific mistakes made by male writers that alienate feminist audiences. The analysis is immediately actionable, in that anyone who wants to communicate with a feminist audience can immediately strengthen their message by taking it into account.

        Other commenters claim that these communication pitfalls should be taken as an indictment of feminists and as evidence that they are closed-minded and uncharitable. Regardless of whether that’s true, male writers who are trying to communicate with feminist audiences can do a better job by being conscious of these pitfalls. Every human who listens to you, by virtue of being human, brings their own set of biases, prejudices, baggage, and other weird shit going on in their head that makes it hard for them to evaluate your point fairly. As someone trying to persuade them, your job is to take that baggage into account and try craft your message in a way that reaches them in spite of all the baggage. This is harder than throwing up your hands and writing them off as unpersuadable. But if you honestly want to reach them, you should do your best to take their flaws into account, rather than writing to persuade the theoretical frictionless perfectly spherical feminist.

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      • This attitude honestly feels like victim blaming to me. This math professor gets excorciated for a deeply personal, vulnerable comment on his personal blog, and you say “well he should have been a perfectly effective communicator who understood all the subtleties of the cultural context and intricacies of the female mind”. I mean, yes, if Scott Aaronson had done x y and z differently his post might have been better received, but… you shouldn’t have to tiptoe on eggshells rigidly adhering to this impossible, unexplained code of conduct every time you want to make a point.

        Is there a way to register disagreement with the Social Justice narrative without signaling assholery to its adherents?
        I don’t know, probably.

        I think there might not be, at least when it comes to the worst sort of SJWs. The typical strategy is to say something like “I emphatically believe that women are people and I am 97% on board with feminism and I know I am privileged but I really have a slight suspicion that…”. But most of the time this doesn’t work and is met with something like “lmao you’re derailing the conversation and reeking of privilege, take a seat”. Then you can either give up and completely back down, or double down on your disqualifications “I’m sorry, I know I am privileged and I know I can never understand the intricacies of oppression, but I really feel like in just this one particular instance… but like I said feminism is great overall, and women’s problem greatly outweigh my own…”, and basically increasingly prostrate yourself in front of the idol of Social Justice, hoping for forgiveness. Scott Aaronson is doing something sort of like this, and it isn’t working.

        Not if you’re some argumentative nerd guy on the internet.

        How can you argue with a feminist on the internet without being some argumentative nerd guy on the internet? I mean maybe you could use emotional appeals rather than logical and therefore avoid the “nerd” aspect, but this hardly seems any better.

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        • SJW from hell says:

          How can you argue with a feminist on the internet without being some argumentative nerd guy on the internet?
          Establish rapport, build trust, make yourself into someone whose words matter to them. I don’t think there is any other way to influence people.

          I mean maybe you could use emotional appeals rather than logical and therefore avoid the “nerd” aspect, but this hardly seems any better.
          Definitely use emotional arguments, if we’re talking about a nerd guy who wishes feminists would see his point of view. You want them to empathize with you, rational arguments won’t help you there.

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    • birdboy2000 says:

      I’ve dealt with cyberbullying – nothing nearly as severe as Aaronson’s, but nothing nearly as high-profile either – for nothing more than suggesting that a derisive word for anime fans was in fact offensive, that too many people suffered because of the negative stereotypes associated with that word, and politely requesting people stop using it. At the time I was a known, fairly active and respected poster in said community.

      I do not doubt that some of my words were not the single most effective way to express to SJWs that this particular thing was wrong. I also made no specific references to gender at any point in the conversation (except to take offense when the group’s attack post, despite my using a male username, felt the need to describe me as “hir”, for which I was called a misogynist.)

      Did I make a comparison to race? Yes, although it was later into the conversation to address in-group/out-group usage. Was it a snark community? Yes, but it typically at the time snarked actual web crackpots, and I was foolish enough to think they had enough integrity to not equate “please don’t be mean to anime fans because too many people I know are miserable because of that attitude” with the crackpot ranting on livejournal about the horrors of adoption.

      But I fully believe these imperfections were not the genuine reason for their reaction, and had they not found those reasons to take issue (and if not the particular form of outrage they chose, then plenty of others could have potentially applied, because we are in fact talking about a highly academic movement that defines many words differently than outsiders do and are offended, often selectively, by many more behaviors) they would have found some other reason to do so.

      I believe this because six years after this event SJWs are still running nerd-shaming dreck like this and there are no shortage of nerds on the internet far more eloquent and versed in raising these points in an SJW-friendly way than I am (this blog among them, which is why I started reading) – or for that matter no shortage of nerds being smeared for resisting this behavior.

      I frankly do not believe there is a way to address SJW nerd-shaming without being attacked, let alone in a way which will actually make them treat those filthy brony neckbeard fedora weeaboos like fellow human beings.

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    • Tracy W says:

      Aaronson made the mistake of inadvertently signalling assholery. He used specific arguments and keywords that predictably cause people on my side to disregard any message he might be trying to convey, treat him as an enemy and assume he is saying the same things we’ve heard from enemies before.

      This is a pretty damming assessment of your own side. I hope you’ve called your own side out for this.

      This case makes me wonder what would happen if a male nerd wrote about being unwanted and rejected, without implicitly or explicitly accusing women, carefully avoiding references to the ongoing debate, and then published the text in a context that also does not link it to any of this.

      That’s a testable prediction. How about you write an article on this, and post it on a new blog, free from all this context, and see what happens?

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      • FullMeta_Rationalist says:
      • SJW from hell says:

        I hope you’ve called your own side out for this.
        I very rarely spend time in those places where the unpleasant feminists gather, for reasons you undoubtedly understand. I do not personally know any rabid feminist (all my feminist connections are annoyingly perfect) or other nerd-shamer, and none of them know me so I don’t have any feminist cred to spend on this. If I criticize them, they’ll think I’m the enemy and stop listening. I wish I could do more. I will, if I figure out how to do it effectively or somehow find my way into a network of tolerable SJW who regardless need to be taught this.

        How about you write an article on this, and post it on a new blog, free from all this context, and see what happens?
        I wouldn’t presume to speak for an unwanted, rejected male nerd. If an unwanted, rejected male nerd wants to write about his feelings I will help him edit out everything a SJW could get mad about for legitimate SJ reasons (or do my best at least).

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    • arthur stanton says:

      I don’t disagree with anything in this post, any differences of opinion are too subtle to merit being called real disagreements. There are parts with which I agree emphatically.

      I would like to know what particularly in the post you do, as someone of “your side” agree with.

      I would especially like to know about those parts with which you agree emphatically.

      You have made clear something you don’t disagree with but, no, I would like to know exactly what it is you are saying that you believe, that aligns with what the author believes.

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    • jsalvatier says:

      I like it when people acknowledge good will!

      Report comment

  22. Differences between male and female preferences might explain a low percentage of female computer-science majors. It does not explain a decline. The current percentage of female computer-science majors is about half the percentage it was back when Reagan was president.

    One possible theory: The attempts by feminists to recruit girls into scholarly occupations also has the effect of recruiting girls from STEM interests into those scholarly occupations favored by feminists.

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    • Protagoras says:

      This seems to continue to have the problem that Scott repeatedly brought up, that whatever is directing women away from STEM seems to happen before high school. Most of the recruiting of girls into scholarly occupations by feminists surely happens in college.

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Everything in this article seems both plausible and consistent with my thesis.

      Report comment

      • John Schilling says:

        I believe the title of that article is false and misleading; that the absolute number of women coding / earning CS degrees has increased fairly continually since 1980. Unfortunately, I am finding it difficult to find definitive statistics, as just about everyone talks only about the percentages.

        That said, the general thesis of the article seems plausible.

        I think a shorter and simpler version would be, before ~1980, “Computer Science” meant “Computer Science”. After 1980, it meant “Computer Science plus Hacking”. Women who decide to become college-educated professionals at all, are about as likely to become scientists in general or computer scientists specifically as their male counterparts. But girls are much less likely than boys to become hackers, and very few people become hackers after reaching adulthood.

        If this is true – and I don’t claim anything more than plausible – then it may reflect a deficiency in pre-college education, or it may reflect a fundamental difference between boys and girls. In either case, Ordonez’s case suggests some colleges might need to relearn the art of teaching computer science to people who aren’t hackers, not just out of a sense of fairness but because we still need actual computer scientists.

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      • Blue says:

        Roughly my impression is that the absolute number of women and men studying CS increased in the early 80’s, but men got involved faster so the percentage that was woman went down. Then there was a crash, and the percent women went down again.

        What we see here is an economic phenomenon where CS became the new hotness, full of high-risk high reward opportunities. Men in our society are drawn to that like flies to an electric buzzer, and women are discouraged. Which doesn’t mean “women don’t sign up for CS” just, they don’t sign up as fast as men do. Instead society funnels them into more stable, upper-middle class professions like med school, law school, or being a librarian.

        Anyone who’s seen the aftermath of high-risk, high-reward fields (acting, professional sports, finance) understands that in general it’s a good idea to avoid those fields. The exploitation is rampant (QA, anyone?). In this case, the expected value of getting into CS is still probably net positive, but these economic-cultural mores are pretty strong.

        Unfortunately in order to command the heights of this country, you have to make some high-risk, high-reward decisions, so the groups encouraged to do that end up being BOTH exploited, and in charge.

        As someone very aptly put it earlier in this thread “Moloch has victims, not allies.”

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        • John Schilling says:

          Is CS perceived, from the outside, as being inherently high-risk? Has it ever been?

          To the extent that I follow non-geek media, the impression I get is that STEM is perceived as the safe path to a good career, and that STEM is seen to mean CS plus a bunch of similar stuff. Founding a dot-com is obviously high-risk, but I question that the same is perceived to be the case of CS careers in general.

          That we all know a bunch of unemployed coders and other STEM professionals is mostly irrelevant; it’s how the field is perceived from the outside that matters.

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          • Blue says:

            It’s perceived as high-risk in the sense of “a few of you will become superstars”. There’s not much public awareness of the failures (QA flunkies, startups that max out their credit cards and go nowhere, etc) but this is true for most superstar fields. (People rarely discuss what happens to 98% of college basketball players, but it’s not getting your own shoe line.)

            The point is more than men in our society are encouraged to pursue those “superstar” fields much more than women, and concomitantly, you see the percentage of women in that field drop (even if the absolute number of both increase.)

            And there’s certainly awareness of the risk the first time someone tells you for a job offer “We can’t pay you, but there’s stock options.” Those who take that offer are generally men, and they usually end up with nothing, but they very rarely sometimes become billionaires.

            It is not a good system.

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          • Anonymous says:

            John, the huge swings in number of graduates should be pretty strong evidence.

            Report comment

          • Emile says:

            Blue: but I don’t think that most people who enter STEM fields expect to become superstars – at least, not at the same ratio people entering football do.

            Most people entering STEM don’t expect to become superstars, so they don’t try to become superstars (usually, by taking part in a startup, except maybe as a learning experience which is perfectly sensible and the same kind of tradeoff in going to college), and the non-superstar paths are pretty cosy. This stands in stark contrast to music, sports or novel-writing where entering the field *is* trying to become a superstar, and there aren’t nearly as many cosy fallback plans for people who didn’t try to become a superstar, or who failed.

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          • Scott Alexander says:

            I doubt this is the explanation.

            First of all, assuming I’m right about the young boys tinkering with BASIC more than young girls, I don’t think they’re analyzing the vagaries of the job market at that age.

            Second of all, my perception was that computer programming was actually a really stable career choice, one in which at least some crappy job was all but assured. This is why I’ve been encouraging friends to go to App Academy – it’s a heck of a lot safer than making them do the job search thing as an English major or a physics grad student looking for professor positions or whatever. I might be wrong about that, but if I am I’d expect other young people to be equally wrong.

            Finally, a lot of the men in computer science (I don’t know as much about the women) seem kind of, um, obsessive. Like it’s really hard to imagine them going into acting instead if acting were the big bubble. They are people who eat, sleep, and breath computers, and I’m not sure the market affects their jobs in the slightest. In fact, from eyeballing (I admit large risk of stereotype here) I would say there is a bigger gap between men and women among this super obsessive nerd type than among the people who just work 9 to 5 to pay the bills.

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          • Daniel Speyer says:

            I started undergrad in CS in 2001. We had a ton of people who weren’t really into computers but thought they’d get rich. They failed Algorithmic Analysis and became business majors. The people who graduated with CS degrees were obsessive about computers.

            The curriculum was deliberately set up so that those people would fail early, giving them a chance to graduate in four years.

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      • The spread of personal computers might possibly explain the relative decline in female computer-science majors in the late 1980s. It does not explain the more recent decline. If anything, there should have been a recovery once personal computers became ubiquitous enough for girls to have them as well as boys.

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      • Wesley says:

        See http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2014/10/23/so-where-did-all-the-women-coders-go/. The NPR blog/cast was pretty horrible in its anecdote=evidence flailing.

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    • Anonymous says:

      >Differences between male and female preferences might explain a low percentage of female computer-science majors. It does not explain a decline

      The decline does not exist. The bulk of jobs in computer science held by women in the 70s and 80s were actually data and program entry jobs.
      The title of “programmer” originally described the job of manually loading a program (written by someone else) into the front panel of a computer.
      The percentage of women involved with computer science declined because program entry disappeared entirely in the 80s and and data entry stopped being perceived as a “computer science” job as computers became more widespread.

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    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Also, I’ve never found data on this, but in my very-low-n, not-remotely-random personal observations, female programmers in America are very disproportionately from other countries. If this is true, then the statistics in Section VIII change somewhere along the line.

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  23. Nick T says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    Something I almost never see brought up on this topic (and when I do, it’s almost always by someone playing word games with ‘patriarchy’) is that the bad ideas here aren’t exclusively feminist. ‘Male sexuality is aggressive/gross/unwanted’, ‘women are pure and don’t want sex’, ‘women need protection’ are old ideas — either patriarchal (in the sense of being part of systems of gender norms that give more power and agency to men), or part of pre-feminist partially-reversed-stupidity reactions to patriarchy — that still have a huge cultural presence. It seems to me that there’s much less telling men to reject these ideas than telling them to reject sexual aggression and hostile sexism, and what there is focuses on the harm that benevolent sexism does to women and so reinforces the message that protecting women is what good people do. I think that even if nerd-shaming and explicit male-sexuality-shaming didn’t exist, this thing would still be doing a lot of the same kind of harm.

    (Incidentally, it seems to me that ‘women are [by default] more pure and virtuous than men’ and ‘male sexuality is gross and unwanted’ are significant exceptions to the — still often justified — claim that benevolent sexism is just part of patriarchy / the other side of misogyny.)

    Also, something like ‘sufficiently low-status people, especially men, don’t deserve sex and, if they seek it, are disgusting and should be punished’ is almost certainly innate and would be causing some people suffering in any culture that didn’t go out of its way to fight it. (And shapes memes, like the ones we’re seeing here, to justify itself.)

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    • caryatis says:

      Great point! Feminists themselves are influenced by older patriarchal ideas (like the idea that being hit on is an insult). We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

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    • JohannesD says:

      This is a great point that I, as well, would like to see explored much more than it actually is.

      (Incidentally, it seems to me that ‘women are [by default] more pure and virtuous than men’ and ‘male sexuality is gross and unwanted’ are significant exceptions to the — still often justified — claim that benevolent sexism is just part of patriarchy / the other side of misogyny.)

      I’m not sure if I read you correctly here, but I think this is very much a two-edged sword and arguably a contorted version of patriarchal views of control. Saying that women are pure and virtuous places restrictions on how a woman is supposed to behave in order to be socially acceptable; similarly if men are “gross” in the popular narrative it gives them a certain degree of freedom to behave badly – hey, boys are boys, right?!

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      • Andrew says:

        Being “gross” also restricts behavior. And how much the restriction cuts depends entirely on how much the restricted party wants to get into the restricted zone.

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    • Nornagest says:

      I have a feeling that the “gross” in “nerds are gross” and the one in “men are gross” mean very different things, and that part of the problem here is that they’re being conflated.

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  24. Daniel Speyer says:

    A while back, I contemplated pushing the idea that antisemitism is the control group for social justice. I decided against it because I’m afraid it’s more likely to produce antisemitism than moderate anything. I’ve seen “Washington DC is Israeli-occupied territory” banners in anti-war protest marches. It’s not looking very scary yet, but let’s be careful in what we unleash.

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  25. Zach says:

    I think you make good points with regard to the anguish felt by the nerds who have been beaten into the ground by feminist rhetoric. I agree with you that much of that rhetoric is counter-productive and overly aggressive. Obviously Aaronson (and you) had genuine emotional problems, and that was caused and/or exacerbated by feminist rhetoric. That’s a problem with feminist speech that should be fixed!

    But I also feel like most of this article is making the same mistake in two areas: conflating the sub-group with the super-group. Both in conflating the people like Amanda Marcotte with feminists in general, and conflating the specific sub-group of nerds that are being mocked with nerds as a whole. And that conflation is probably caused in part by the rhetoric and it makes sense emotionally, but it’s analytically nonsense. Crudely put: if you’re not entitled, maybe the entitlement-mocking isn’t about you. And no, I don’t think that’s a motte-and-bailey argument — I’m nerdy, I don’t have a girlfriend, I don’t get a lot of female attention, I fit many, many of the defining characteristics they talk about, but I also realize they’re not actually talking about me (or at least not me-as-I-am-today). They’re talking about a specific subset of nerd culture.

    What strikes me is that as foreign as all these accusations feel for you, Scott (and other Scott), they strike so close to home for me. The nerd who was all “why won’t women like me while they like that asshole”? Totally me. The nerd who didn’t see all of the quiet, not conventionally attractive girls in high school at the same time? Also totally me. The nerd who was attracted by PUA? Also me. The nerd ranting about what was wrong with women? Yeah, me. I was just too shy to actually put it into practice. And all of that also applies to some of my nerdy friends, some of whom have not actually changed.

    Maybe that’s why I don’t see the issue with this form of mockery, because the person they’re talking about does exist. I’ve encountered him a ton. I saw him in the mirror. That was me. That was my friends. That was many, many of my fellow computer science students. I have seen the face of nerd sexism, and it does really exist, and it is really a problem.

    I think that feminists pointing that out are perfectly justified, and I do genuinely think that they’re pointing out something fundamental about Scott Aaronson’s post: he claims to be a feminist, but he also shows repeatedly that he hasn’t actually understood the points much of feminism is making, and that misunderstanding has basically caused all of his problems. And yes, I think much of that misunderstanding is rooted in seeing women as a different class of human beings. So is that misunderstanding common? Can we fix that with better, more accessible explanations? That’s a question worth asking.

    Finally, I think many of the issues you have with nerds being picked on more than others is a specific result of the kind of media you consume. The sexism of Silicon Valley is much talked about, but so is the sexism in politics, or that in banking, or that in athletics. Most of the discussion about rape and sexual harassment centers on college campuses, frat houses and athletics — and not at all on nerd culture. Consider that perhaps there’s a combination of selection bias and confirmation bias going on here — and that you’re simply more sensitive to critiques of nerds and nerd culture, but that those critiques are maybe not actually disproportionate.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’m in kind of the opposite boat, personally. I started out not feeling attacked or threatened by discussions of misogyny or toxicity in nerd culture because I was convinced they weren’t talking about me, an active feminist who didn’t express any of the traits they were talking about. My feelings changed when I found that more and more, I was personally being attacked by being associated with these things that didn’t describe me at all. The idea that as long as I didn’t actually fit the behaviors being mocked, I wasn’t subject to the mockery, gradually lost credibility.

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      • FacelessCraven says:

        this was my experience as well.

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      • haishan says:

        This seems like a very common pattern, and it might be useful to name it (if it doesn’t already have a name). It’s sort of like a motte-and-bailey, and it’s sort of what having a superweapon trained on you is like, but I’m not sure either of those is exact enough.

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        • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

          Scott’s way ahead of you. He’s named it the non-central fallacy. E.g. Martin Luther King Jr was a criminal. Criminals are generally evil. Therefore, Martin Luther King Jr is evil. QED.

          Personally, I just call it stereotyping.

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          • haishan says:

            Yeah, I thought the WAitW might work, but it’s a little bit broader than the pattern I have in mind. Better than no name at all, I guess.

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          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Hm, then maybe I’ve misunderstood. What other associations are you drawing? Other things that come to mind are collateral damage, McCarthyism, closing rank, misclassification, head hunting, false alarm, big red nuke button, premeptive strike, “gingers don’t have souls”, early dismissal, punching bag, and “evil triumphs when good men do nothing”. Also, maybe this is toxoplasmosis, since femenists are polarizing rather than prosyletizing.

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      • MugaSofer says:

        This is me, too.

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    • Nick T says:

      Crudely put: if you’re not entitled, maybe the entitlement-mocking isn’t about you.

      A large problem with a lot of (not all) entitlement-mockery and (especially) talk about Nice Guys is that it rounds off a wide range of things to the worst thing in that range, and so is ambiguous as to whether or not it’s about me.

      In the past, I’ve been a typical Nice Guy in some ways — had the (not very explicit, not under conscious control) idea of girls being attracted to me because I was nicer than other guys; had crushes on friends but not acted on them, engaged in magical thinking, and created some awkward situations as a result; been focused on one person and not noticed (though partly for reasons related to the OP) others who were interested in me and who I might have been happy going out with. But I’ve never, as far as I can tell, thought that I was entitled, in any sense of that word I’m aware of, to a girlfriend, or blamed anyone or women as a whole for not going out with me. And, in my experience, talk about Nice Guys often doesn’t have any room for people like me to exist; it assumes that anyone who falls into the Nice Guy cluster must display all the worst traits of that archetype.

      (Also, incidentally, I almost never felt like I cared much about sex rather than about being in a relationship. This is relevant not because caring about sex is a vice, but because ‘only cares about sex’ is another part of that archetype that I couldn’t relate to at all.)

      I suspect that if I had encountered more sympathetic discussion that I could relate to my own experience, and less discussion talking only about the worst thing and heavily shaming it (the former thing does exist, there’s probably a lot of it, but the latter is too common and it’s what stuck with me more), I could’ve realized the things I was doing wrong earlier, and changed them more quickly and with less pointless embarrassment.

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      • Anonymous says:

        This matches my experience pretty perfectly (so perfectly I could have written it), particularly the part about not really caring about sex.

        The idea that men are only interested in sex and therefore Nice Guys are only nice to women because they want sex from them seems extremely patriarchal. It is part of the same set of gender roles that feminists keep telling me they are trying to fight.

        I have noticed that feminists are happy to use stereotypes and uphold patriarchal ideas when it suits them (see also the insistence on women being the real victims in any situation, or the reluctance to discuss male victims of domestic violence in any serious way) and this is just one such example, as is the neckbearded fedora wearing nerds living in their parents’ basement who can’t get sex (as if any of those things are bad things).

        I have deliberately overgeneralised feminists without hedging here to make a point. If you were reading that thinking “well I’m a feminist and I don’t do that” or “not all feminists are like that” then I agree with you. The response you usually see when men or nerds complain about being generalised like this is “crudely put: if you don’t display this undesirable behaviour, you’re not being attacked.” If your heckles were raised by my over-general use of the word feminists above, think about then when mocking others for their dislike of being generalised.

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      • Anonymous says:

        To add to the crowd, this is exactly my experience. I know I’ve spent vast amounts of time and effort on being a nice guy. And I’m quite sure my thought process has never for a second been anything other than “if I just work a bit harder and stop being such a terrible person I might be more successful”, which is like … the opposite of entitlement.

        I then read a whole bunch of stuff and realised, yep, I’m totally a Nice Guy. You’re absolutely 100% talking about me in particular when you’re talking about anything other than my motivation, my attitude towards women, my risk of violence towards a partner, and generally how disgusting I am.

        … but other than that I’m a dead ringer ….

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    • Caleb says:

      Crudely put: if you’re not entitled, maybe the entitlement-mocking isn’t about you.

      Note that this argument may be applied to Scott’s OP: If you are a not a Vogon-feminist, then maybe the Vogon-feminist criticism isn’t about you.

      …he claims to be a feminist, but he also shows repeatedly that he hasn’t actually understood the points much of feminism is making…

      There’s a difference between “not understanding” and “disagreeing with.” It’s a strong rhetorical move to claim that someone is wrong because of ignorance rather than faulty reasoning. It moves the burden onto the opposing party to acquire the relevant knowledge. Otherwise the burden would rest on the claimant to demonstrate the fault. This move should only be used in the light of flagrant misunderstanding and ignorance, with strong evidence to show the precise area of knowledge lacking. It should not be used as a short-cut to undermining a well-reasoned argument.

      Aaronson has shown a very strong intellectual grasp of feminist principles, and has outlined where he agrees, where he disagrees, and the reasons for his disagreement. He has more than demonstrated his knowledge of the relevant principles. Heck, he agrees with most! (97% was his number) If he hasn’t understood much of feminism, do you think he would agree with most of it? The fact that he has such a narrow, fine-tuned, and incisive critique of the ideology (as opposed to just chucking the whole thing) tells me that he understands it better than most.

      You don’t get to pull the ‘my-opponent-doesn’t-understand-my-argument’ rhetorical judo trick just because someone refuses to drink the Kool-aid.

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    • Tracy W says:

      Crudely put: if you’re not entitled, maybe the entitlement-mocking isn’t about you.

      Or maybe it is about you, even so. And how does mocking become any better if you do it to someone who is entitled?

      I can get doing mocking to someone who has posted something arrogant and stupid, but mocking someone who is talking about their own pain is nasty behaviour, no matter how entitled that person is.

      he claims to be a feminist, but he also shows repeatedly that he hasn’t actually understood the points much of feminism is making, and that misunderstanding has basically caused all of his problems

      Aren’t you here conflating the sub-group with the super-group when it comes to feminism?

      And how does misunderstanding something justify mocking the person doing the misunderstanding? Did you spring forth from your mother’s womb already knowing and understanding everything?

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    • arthur stanton says:

      Crudely put: if you’re not entitled, maybe the entitlement-mocking isn’t about you.

      NOPE. nope nope nope.

      You don’t get to do that.

      If you don’t mean me, you specify that you don’t mean me.

      I do not make my safety contingent on assuming you have good intentions that you don’t consider important enough to state.

      Either I matter enough for you to state those intentions, or I cannot trust you with my safety.

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    • Crudely put: if you’re not entitled, maybe the entitlement-mocking isn’t about you.

      Scott argued against this mentality in this post from May.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree the pattern you’re pointing to exists. But I think I’m taking all possible precautions to avoid falling into it.

      But I don’t think “if you’re not entitled, the entitlement mocking isn’t about you” is sufficient. This was kind of what I was trying to get at in Ethnic Tension And Meaningless Arguments. If only a small number of nerds are entitled, but people consistently try to get the public to associate “nerds” with “entitled”, then all nerds lose out from the increased animosity against them. Compare this to pretty much any other stereotype (“MUSLIMS ARE VIOLENT TERRORISTS – but hey, don’t get offended, if you’re not a violent terrorist this isn’t about you.”)

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  26. Sniffnoy says:

    By the way, I’m a little disappointed this wasn’t titled “Stuff”. 🙂

    (Unless “untitled” was used because of the sound similarity to “entitled”?)

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  27. Lizardbreath says:

    Yesterday, in response to your link to Aaronson’s post, I wrote but did not yet post this:

    No way, Scott. Yours is better. Maybe that’s just because it’s longer and therefore has an opportunity to be clearer. But it is.

    Yours is far harder to shoehorn into “bitter Nice Guy(tm),” whereas his isn’t just *possible* to, it to some extent *lends itself to* it.

    Though his doesn’t really perfectly fit that stereotype, it does wallopingly miss the point of Dworkin/feminism/women’s POV in a way that yours does not. And so his comes off as “weird” and inhuman/unempathetic in a way that yours does not.

    Your series is better. Yours is still the best–by far.

    And I was also working on a response to Scott Aaronson. (Who I feel for, and would like to communicate with.)

    But, the internet’s too fast for me, and especially you are. What can I say, I just prefer to think everything through *forever* before acting. 😉

    OK but…

    Unlike ALL your previous posts…

    Yeah.

    THIS one is discouraging. This one strikes me as more aggrieved, less careful, less empathetic than all your previous posts on this topic.

    Oh well.

    There are a lot of things I’d like to reply to in this post. More than my typing hands can take; they’re already sore. So I’ll just pick some.

    Maybe you and/or some of your readers would like to reread this long-ago post by one of your readers. I completely agree with it. 🙂

    Yes, I noticed the neo-Nazi propaganda images.

    I don’t agree with Amanda Marcotte on much. I think she’s a sellout. I also notice shse’s being attacked here with gendered insults: “shrieking harpy,” “shrill…harridan.” I’m not a fan of that (directed at *anyone*), and I’m saddened that that’s acceptable again when, for a moment in the ’90s, it seemed like it really wasn’t, and wouldn’t be ever again. AFAIC Marcotte is a sellout who’s harming both feminism and nerds–not a “harpy” or “harridan.”

    Imagine that Scott Aaronson gets mauled by bears.

    He writes a short note saying he really doesn’t like being mauled by bears and hopes that zookeepers do a little better job keeping their cages secure in the future.

    The New Statesman publishes an article saying that yes, being mauled by bears is probably painful, but Professor Aaronson needs to remember that he is entitled, and that being mauled by bears is not a form of structural oppression. Also, nerd culture sucks and nerds are ruining Silicon Valley. Also, he needs to acknowledge that he has privilege.

    Accept, for the moment, that being mauled by bears is indeed not a form of structural oppression, nerds are indeed privileged, all of this is true. One might still consider this insensitive – or at least a non sequitur.

    That isn’t what happened.

    This is:

    I might react icily to the claim—for which I’ve seen not a shred of statistical evidence—that women are being kept out of science by the privileged, entitled culture of shy male nerds, which is worse than the culture of male doctors or male filmmakers or the males of any other profession. I believe you guys call this sort of thing “blaming the victim.” From my perspective, it serves only to shift blame from the Neanderthals and ass-grabbers onto some of society’s least privileged males, the ones who were themselves victims of bullying and derision, and who acquired enough toxic shame that way for appealing to their shame to be an effective way to manipulate their behavior.

    IOW:

    “I really don’t like being mauled by bears, and I hope that you now understand why I can’t believe women are being shut out of STEM. Also if you say they are, you’re trying to shame us.”

    I have summarized/shortened Aaronson here in a way that might strike you as uncharitible. My goal was not to be uncharitable but rather to point up the…I can’t really say “flaw in his argument,” because it’s not an argument, it’s an understandable emotional reaction which deserves sympathy. It’s just that *as* an argument, it does have that flaw.

    As others commented under Aaronson’s post, his “only mistake” (to quote one commenter) is in connecting his painful experience to the problem of “women feeling shut out of STEM.” In using his experience as a reason ours “can’t be true.” That’s why he gets replies that the two aren’t connected or that his experience wasn’t structural oppression. It’s *not* a non sequitur–it’s a response to his “argument.”

    Still, he’s not–quite–actually arguing that our experience can’t be true. He’s just asking us (well: Amy) to understand why he has the *emotional reaction* that it can’t. I can sympathize with that. I just also don’t want him to allow it to keep him from hearing us when we discuss our experiences.

    As I was in the process of writing to Aaronson, Laurie Penny said two things I very much agree with.

    This just plain describes my experience too:

    “Unlike Aaronson, I was also female, so when I tried to pull myself out of that hell into a life of the mind, I found sexism standing in my way. I am still punished every day by men who believe that I do not deserve my work as a writer and scholar. Some escape it’s turned out to be.”

    I’ll write more to him. Under this new, less-empathetic post of yours, I’m not quite comfortable being as open as I’ll be to him. (Sorry. Still like ya and all.)

    And this next part is something that didn’t hit me as directly as it does most nerdy girls, just due to chance (I don’t feel like explaining further right now). But I was aware of it, and it hit my mom and others I know hard:

    “We were told repeatedly, we ugly, shy nerdy girls, that we were not even worthy of the category “woman”. It wasn’t just that we were too shy to approach anyone, although we were; it was that we knew if we did we’d be called crazy. And if we actually got the sex we craved? (because some boys who were too proud to be seen with us in public were happy to fuck us in private and brag about it later) . . . then we would be sluts, even more pitiable and abject. Aaronson was taught to fear being a creep and an objectifier if he asked; I was taught to fear being a whore or a loser if I answered, never mind asked myself. Sex isn’t an achievement for a young girl. It’s something we’re supposed to embody so other people can consume us, and if we fail at that, what are we even for?”

    And you seem in this post as if you’re trying to explain that experience away. Some will call that “mansplaining”…I’m more focused on the fact that this is the first time you ever really have… 🙁

    I’ll remind myself that that’s probably not “really” your intent; probably “really” you’re just looking for some objectivity. But you don’t do the right experiment so…and I don’t have the energy to discuss it in more detail right now.

    OK so…similarly…here’s a piece of…uh middlebrow I guess…culture that when I heard it, I recognized my mom:

    Blithe smile, lithe limb
    She who’s winsome,
    She wins him.
    Gold hair with a gentle curl,
    That’s the girl he chose
    And heaven knows,
    I’m not that girl.
    Don’t wish, don’t start
    Wishing only wounds the heart,
    I wasn’t born for the rose and pearl,
    There’s a girl I know,
    He loves her so,
    I’m not that girl.

    None of the smart boys wanted her. None of her academic competitors and intellectual and societal peers, wanted her. They wanted hott girls.

    It really hurt her. (She’s not ugly, just nerdy. Me, I mostly escaped that kind of pain, through chance influences that led me to have different expectations/wishes; I was just lucky.)

    Some of the resentment of so-called “Nice Guys(tm)” is coming from that place. I don’t even have to guess at that, I know that, because sometimes they *say so*–they say, “You Nice Guys(tm) complain, but you only go for ‘hot’ girls,” or “…for girls out of your league” and “You overlook your fellow nerds,” etc. And–as you acknowledge in the end; thanks–that kind of resentment and pain is just as justified as yours. And yours is as justified as theirs, too–as “feminist critics” types argue. As Warren Farrell did–and I’m still living in the past times when he was accepted as a feminist. 🙁

    Have you read through Amy’s discussion with Aaronson?

    It seemed to me that they had a really good discussion. That they communicated really well. They had it handled, I thought. (So what happened?)

    Pick any attempt to shame people into conforming with gender roles, and you’ll find self-identified feminists leading the way…. (“But nowadays in 2015 most feminists are on the right side of every gender issue, right?” Insofar as your definition of ‘the right side of a gender issue’ is heavily influenced by ‘the side most feminists are on’, I’m going to have a really hard time answering that question in a non-tautologous way. Come back in 2065 and we can have a really interesting discussion about whether the feminists of 2015 screwed up as massively as the feminists of 1970 and 1990 did.)

    I don’t subscribe to what John Michael Greer calls “the religion of progress.” So I don’t agree with your apparent implication that everything we believe today is automatically righter, or that everything today is automatically better, than in 1970 or 1990; or that what we believe in 2065 will be automatically righter or things will be better than what we believe and have today.

    Your point about the changing definition of “right” is one I agree with; but here you are saying feminists have always been on the “wrong” side. (I know, I’m oversimplifying; go with it for a minute.) I don’t think feminism (the general center of the movement) has always been on the wrong side; I think instead that it has often lost–

    And lost so thoroughly that its very arguments have been defined out of existence. Have been redefined. Redefined as you’re doing here: away from their um “arguments of origin” and into a newly-invented paradigm, a paradigm in which their only imaginable meaning is–not what *we* imagined it was back then; *that* is no longer imaginable–but is, instead, just: “Shaming people into conforming with gender roles.”

    From where I sit: That’s how thoroughly feminism has lost. Lost and been coopted by the pro-gender-role cultural zuggernaut (I don’t see it as any kind of conscious conspiracy).

    …I think I just basically rewrote the Newspeak section of /1984/. 😉

    I’m probably being very unclear here, so I’ll drop this subtopic. Either I’ve managed to communicate or I haven’t. In any event, it doesn’t apply to nerds. (It applies far more to, of course, trans.)

    Check out this article:

    So everyone’s defenses are up. The incentive when one of these pile-ons is starting with someone in your tribe at the bottom is to denounce those doing it as “a lynch mob,” to undercut the perceived moral high ground that is a crucial part of their momentum. Thus do members of every tribe focus on the worst members of every other tribe–and in time, to think that they represent whole tribes. The biggest trolls, assholes, and bullies set the trajectory of many controversies and start to distort our notion of what most people in the other tribes are like. It doesn’t help that it’s perversely satisfying to gaze at those other tribes, the ones with whom you did not associate yourself, and to imagine that they’re inferior.

    But it isn’t true. Their tribe has its thugs. So does yours. When you treat their thugs as if they represent folks “on their side,” rather than as anomalies transgressing against widely shared values, you’re helping to give all bad guys more influence. The reflex may be understandable, but we’ve got to stop giving in.

    The only place I disagree with him is: If, as he says, the problem with “their thugs” is not that they’re theirs but that they’re thugs…

    Then they *are* a lynch mob. Nothing wrong with thinking so.

    I wouldn’t normally toss this out there so quickly, but I feel time pressured, so. There are some thoughts.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you. I have edited the part about the dating experiments to be much shorter and less confrontational.

      I know it was wrong to include that, but I am only human. When people keep saying “MY EXPERIENCE IS TOTALLY WORSE THAN YOURS IN EVERY WAY”, and it isn’t, it makes me kind of upset and want to prove it. I am almost sure Penny was never suicidal in the same way Aaronson was, and there was an excellent reason for that.

      My strategy of posting very angry things, then feeling like I have expressed my anger and gradually editing them into a nicer form before most people see them continues to pay off.

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      • Rob says:

        I am almost sure Penny was never suicidal in the same way Aaronson was, and there was an excellent reason for that.

        I think it behooves us all to be a bit less ‘sure’ of those kinds of things. Just when you think you know something, people can surprise you.

        (That, and speculation over which of two people you know from the internet was more or less likely to have tried to kill themselves at some point in the past has a slight ick factor).

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        • Not Robin Hanson says:

          And perversely, if either had actually killed themselves, they would not be able to write today and would lose (in the practical sense) by default.

          Speaking of ick factor: A Modest Proposal for Determining Relative Levels of Suicidalness and Conviction: A game of chicken (the deadly sort) between Aaronson and Penny?

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      • “My strategy of posting very angry things, then feeling like I have expressed my anger and gradually editing them into a nicer form before most people see them continues to pay off.”

        I’m uncomfortable with this– at a minimum, it means that anyone who argues with the earlier version who doesn’t quote what you said looks as though they’re making things up. This might even be true for those who *do* quote.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I’m not sure there is a reasonable alternative to this other than something which looks a lot like an atomized and decontextualized twitter feed of the small diffs in someone’s current thoughts of the world. And that has almost no value to me. A well edited but passionate argument has substantially more value to me.

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    • Ben says:

      I’m uncomfortable with the argument that the solution for folks like me (and both Scotts) was to look at the nerdy girls because I think it misses the key point. Scott recounts the story of running away from a girl in 7th grade twice in the above post and it speaks to a very important part of the experience. HS was a while ago for me but I remember a few times that I thought I was getting some signals but I never acted on them. The downside of potentially misreading, being called a creep and the associated social ostracism, wasn’t worth the potential upside. It wasn’t a matter of acting on attraction to “nerdy” girls or “hot” girls (I also think that’s an overly reductive dichotomy) but that any acting on romantic/sexual interest wasn’t worth doing because of my internalized view of the risk vs. reward tradeoff.

      They key issue, and the issue that seems to get lost in the discussions over male entitlement is that we’re not complaining about lack of romantic/sexual success, at least not directly. The complaint is about how a combination of some feminist rhetoric and often bad experiences, lead to a deeply seated, and probably unreasonable, fear about acting on ANY romantic/sexual interest. That does generally lead to lack of romantic/sexual success but thats the effect not the cause.

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    • Liskantope says:

      I’ll see how I feel once I’ve slept on it, but after spending half an hour reading this while I should have been going to bed, I can’t help reacting with a similar deeply uneasy feeling. (I felt some of this uneasiness in response to “Radicalizing The Romanceless” as well, though.) I agree with some of your points here (others I’m getting too sleepy to entirely get the gist of).

      I definitely want to hear more testimony from female nerds who had trouble getting into romantic relationships. It seems that the struggles of low-status women in nerd culture often seem to have gotten ignored in the whole “nice guy” debate of the last few years. My perception of that debate is that the two main opposing sides have overall been comprised of socially high-status women and socially low-status men, the main conflict arising in part from the fact that the women involved are very attractive to the men involved. So I’m not sure I understand your assertion that a lot of the debate involves said men not wanting to date said women because they are not “hott” enough. I would appreciate if you would elaborate a bit on this, as I’m sure I would benefit from more female nerd perspectives on this issue (apart from those of the “nice guy” accusers themselves, which I’ve already heard plenty of!)

      At any rate, my experience with male-dominated nerd culture differs considerably from the way Scott sometimes portrays it, so that I do see some of where the criticism of sexism is coming from (while of course not contending that nerd culture is overall misogynistic). But that’s a slightly different point, and maybe it would be better to write my own post about that after I get some sleep.

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      • Tracy W says:

        My own experience: I asked the guys out. Didn’t always work well, but did so in the end.

        But then I’m a New Zealander born and bred, not an American, and for various reasons I’m generally willing to give these sorts of things a go, much more so than the normal New Zealander.

        I went to engineering school, and what’s more did electrical engineering which was about 90% male, so I made a number of platonic male friends. From talking to them, and from what I know from my own teenage years, there is I think a massive coordination problem, in that there’s all these people who would like a relationship, but mostly aren’t willing to risk it, partly out of fear of being teased by the cool kids at school, so there’s a lot of loneliness. I don’t have a solution to that one.

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        • Anonymous says:

          More formal social structures for courting, maybe even matchmaking and even arranged marriages, were probably good for some subset of the population.

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      • Jennifer says:

        I’m afraid that this isn’t the testimony that you’re looking for, since I’m a (more or less) female nerd who has had plenty of success in relationships. I have almost exclusively dated male nerds of one flavor or another because that’s what I find most sexually attractive.

        That said, my experience suggests that the Scotts have a point; I almost always have to make the first move, because male nerds hardly ever take the initiative. Twice, I have had to literally start taking my clothes off and initiate physical contact in order to get past the “I must be misreading this; she couldn’t possibly be into me. Maybe this is all a cruel practical joke” mental barrier. This is really, really a bad thing; I should not have to risk criminal charges to convince a nerd that I want to date him. I am not convinced that a significant proportion of female nerds suffer from the same level of insecurity, but I don’t have nearly as much data on female nerds, since I’ve never hit on one.

        (Edited to add: My experience is American, substantially at an approximately 60% male engineering school or in gamer geek communities.)

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    • lackadie says:

      Thank you for writing that. Your comment made me (woman-ish person in STEM) feel less unreasonable about having a pit in my stomach after reading the OP.

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    • Anonymous says:

      >Your point about the changing definition of “right” is one I agree with; but here you are saying feminists have always been on the “wrong” side. (I know, I’m oversimplifying; go with it for a minute.) I don’t think feminism (the general center of the movement) has always been on the wrong side; I think instead that it has often lost–

      >And lost so thoroughly that its very arguments have been defined out of existence.

      So … you’re a neoreactionary feminist? Huh.

      Well, I think we can agree that the mainstream feminist position – the position held by most nerd-shamers – is that those people were wrong, yeah?

      >None of the smart boys wanted her. None of her academic competitors and intellectual and societal peers, wanted her. They wanted hott girls.

      >It really hurt her. (She’s not ugly, just nerdy. Me, I mostly escaped that kind of pain, through chance influences that led me to have different expectations/wishes; I was just lucky.)

      But … geek girls are hot!

      Funny thing, though; as I went to type that sentence, I reflexively started going “no, wait, girls don’t want me to say I’d totally do them, that’s not a compliment”. And yeah, I usually wouldn’t have written that sentence. But I think that may have been the problem – the guys most attracted to you and your mom, the guys who would find the idea of sharing geeky things with you an awesome prospect, were also those least likely to express it.

      … or not. Could have been something else. But-

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  28. Emily says:

    When I was in high school and college (10-20 years ago or so), identifying as a feminist was not a popular option at all. It definitely marked you as weird. It was not a thing that people with social power were doing. And I was at institutions where I strongly suspect that now, many people with social are doing it. A lot has changed in the last decade.

    I don’t doubt that the sexual shaming of nerds was widespread then. And I don’t doubt that a whole lot of it is now happening by feminists, and justified using feminism. But where were all of these men now in their late 20s or older when they were coming of age, such that there was the kind of culture around feminist-nerd-sexual-shaming that currently exists? Were they getting this from the Internet?

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    • Nick T says:

      The Internet, progressive upbringing, and feminist and non-feminist cultural background that’s there independent of identifying as feminist being popular or unpopular.

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    • John Schilling says:

      I went through high school before the commercial internet, so that wasn’t it for me. A lot came down from above, from adult authority including teachers and including pre-internet media. Unfortunately, I was not then sophisticated enough to understand the tribal loyalties of my teachers, and spotty on the media, so I can’t really help there.

      At the peer level, I think it was divided roughly evenly among three sources. Cliques of girls who would I think today be labeled “Mean Girls”. Cliques of girls who would probably today self-identify as “Feminists”; I think that term was more narrowly applied then.

      And cliques of boys who I think would today be labeled “Bros”. Their message was a bit different, “If you aren’t as suave and successful as us, you’re a loser and should just give up because the girls will just laugh at you and so will we”. Which made for very effective reinforcement of the proto-feminist message.

      I would be very interested to know how that last dynamic might or might not have changed in the last couple decades; I can think of several plausible evolutionary paths it might have taken.

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    • Karmakin says:

      Hi. Let me give you my story.

      I’m in my mid-30’s. So I’m in about that demographic (or a bit older). Here’s how I picked up on that stuff. When I was in Grade IV, we did this big questionnaire/test thing. A lot of weird questions I thought at the time. Various puzzles, what things influenced you, what do you want to do, and so on.

      Apparently it was an application for an enrichment class, a kind of a pilot project for new and different ways of thinking, and handling what they thought were the “best and the brightest”. Myself? I wasn’t a dumb kid, but I figure in retrospect I was a bit of a “quota” fill. See, I was actually very Conservative at the time, I.E. Rush Limbaugh watching level conservative (I got better! Really! I promise!) I put on the questionnaire how much I respected Ronald Reagan for setting forth the conditions that tore down the Berlin Wall (it happened around the same time).

      No really.

      So I was exposed to those ideas in that enrichment class. I was in it for several years. It’s something I enjoyed at the time. But some of the topics we went over had a bent. Sexual violence, domestic violence, etc. Even a unit on the health results of incest for some reason. (That one sticks with me).

      I don’t think it was indoctrination per se. I really don’t. I think it was more…we had boys and girls in the class (of course) and these would be the topics the future feminist leaders would need to learn about. (Which yes, is probably sexist on multiple levels) .

      I suspect people like myself and Aaronson are a bit of a “thin edge”, and this is actually a quickly building social problem in our society that we’re going to have to deal with eventually in some fashion.

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      • Pat says:

        OK, I’m going to jump in here because of the age and generation comments.
        I’m mid 40s, male, and yes, the last time I was referred to as a nerd was 4 days ago.
        Clearly I’m from an older group than most of the other commentators.
        And, this whole “terrified of expressing any desire for a woman thing” is exactly what I went through, up until when I finally met my wife at age 33.

        I can’t point to feminism as the underlying basis. I was never a feminist and certainly never heard of a lot of the feminist theory that seems to have led to so much angst for the younger guys.
        I was coming from a catholic background, and I clearly remember being taught in grades 3 and 4 that
        -women hate being propositioned by guys they don’t want to go out with
        – making unwanted advances is aggressive and wrong
        – good boys don’t

        (It’s possible that the teachers were coming from at least a partially feminist background, but this was being taught as Catholic teaching.)

        While not quite as explicit, this sort of message was kept up all the way through school. (Note, it was an all boys school, it’s not like I had any opportunity for making advances on anyone.)

        THEN, I got to university. Away from home, alcohol in abundance, women living in the various colleges next door and with regular social events. And the first thing that happens is that we are all sat down and given an hours lecture that told us, in quite threatening terms, that everything I was brought up to believe was “somewhere between very rude, and an outright sin” was now an actual offence and the legal structures would jump down our throats if we stepped out of line.

        Sure enough, I was now absolutely terrified of making any forward remark to any lady who I was not absolutely sure would welcome my advances. And I had absolutely NO IDEA whether they would or not.

        Somehow I managed to get a girlfriend for for a couple of months early in the first year, (“Hey, this stuff isn’t too hard.”) then she broke it off by disappearing and not talking to me for a month. (“Err. Maybe it isn’t.”)

        (To be clear, neither she nor I had any idea what we were doing. Not her fault, and I never resented it.)

        And that was it. The rest of my 4 years were a time of me wishing I could get somewhere with a number of women, and nothing at all happening because I couldn’t say anything unless I knew they wanted me, because an unwanted advance was BAD. And I had no skills in detecting if they did want me.
        The analogy to arachnophobia was spot on. I could logically work out that I needed to make the first move, I could look around and see that nobody was actually charged with sexual harassment for making an unwanted pass. I could logically argue it… but I couldn’t bring myself to risk upsetting and horrifying someone who (clearly) I actually liked.

        I did, eventually, build up enough courage to ask out a classmate. She turned me down in a straightforward way (which was cool) and I never brought it up again. But I did later find out that she complained to other classmates about my advance.

        (I’ve since had a female friend from that time tell me that a friend of her’s was quite interested in me, and wanted me to ask her out. I still don’t know who it was.)

        By the end of my honours year, a postgraduate student decided to give me a body language signal that she was interested. She grabbed me and kissed me. Even I could work out that hint and so I finally got a girlfriend. (technically she was my tutor and this was sexual harassment on her part. I didn’t report her.)

        Over the next 12 years of postgrad work, contract work, and a real job the story remained much the same. Unless a lady sat on my lap, threw her arms around me, and stuck her tongue in my mouth I was stuck without being able to make a move, because I didn’t know if she wanted it, and I could not bring myself to “make an unwanted advance” (the lap/tongue thing only happened 3 more times in 12 years, I’m fairly sure if I wasn’t above average in size and athletics it would have been zero)

        Eventually I discovered internet dating (which just wasn’t an option when I was in undergrad) and it made a WORLD of difference. On an internet dating site, every woman, every single one, has made a huge, explicit, action to show that she wants guys to ask her out.
        My blocking phobia was cured. Or at least bypassed. I had many more dates in that year than my entire 15 year adult life up till that point. It was fantastic.

        The comment about needing a safe area in which one can make mistakes in order to learn resonated here. On-line interaction was safe, there was no risk of her making a scene, she was safe and so unlikely to be upset. I could finally start trying to learn.

        Of course, once I was on a date, I still had no idea how one progressed from coffee to say kissing. That would be another unwanted advance. Maybe. And so once again it took a woman with the guts to grab me and start a kiss before I could be sure that she was not going to resent and be disgusted by me trying just that.
        At this point I decided that the whole issue had only one solution, so I married her.
        Problem solved.

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  29. Ryan Carey says:

    Excellent article. A couple of issues that give me pause.
    Qualitatively speaking, I agree that feminist shaming of nerds exists. But I never experienced any of it, and talked to a lot of nerds who also didn’t experience it. When mining these relevant comment threads and Twitter conversations, that kind of experience is going to be pretty radically overrepresented. And much fewer male nerds read feminist literature than women. You could imagine a world where a small fraction of male nerds read much feminist literature and a yet smaller fraction are shamed by it, while it’s very helpful for a bunch of women who encounter it. In fact, I basically feel that that’s the world that we’re in. I just get the feeling that you think the shaming thing happens to most people, and so this misses the mark a bit for me.

    My other comment relates to this: “When I was in medical school, there was an extremely creepy incident of sexual harassment/borderline attempted rape involving a female medical student and male doctor at an outlying hospital where I worked. Nobody put it on the front page of Gawker, because the doctor involved wasn’t a nerd and no one feels any particular need to tar all doctors as sexist.”

    I mean, that’s kind-of unfair to people who have experienced rape and didn’t report it. It’s kind-of unnecessarily triggering, even though you’ve got a trigger warning. There are a lot of reasons, like rape, embarassment, the higher status of the doctor, professional ramifications, et cetera that prevent it from being reported, so I think this is not really fair.

    Having said all that, I think the basic arguments are right, and that people should basically cede the point that the excesses of feminism lead to basically the exact kinds of problems that it is designed to prevent. A lot of feminist discussion has become that kind of damned train-wreck.

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    • Ben says:

      In the internet era you can pretty easily be exposed to feminist ideas about male entitlement and “creepiness” without needing to read feminist literature. For me it came from early 2000s internet forums, go on some nerd centric forums (for me gaming and generalized tech forums) in the early 2000s and there were a lot of young male nerds talking about a lack of sexual/romantic success and you’d occasionally have a feminist pop in and excoriate us for the latent sexism in many of these discussions (and these feminists were probably right in most cases).

      In the modern internet era you don’t even have to be looking for feminist discourse to be exposed to it. If you come from a liberal background and are reading liberal blogs and news sources you will be exposed to these feminist ideas and be inclined to listen to them because they are coming from people who you generally agree with.

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    • Daniel Speyer says:

      > There are a lot of reasons, like rape, embarassment, the higher status of the doctor, professional ramifications, et cetera that prevent it from being reported

      Seeing as Scott knew about it, presumably it *was* reported. It just wasn’t reported *in the international mass media*.

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    • Harald K says:

      “Qualitatively speaking, I agree that feminist shaming of nerds exists. But I never experienced any of it, and talked to a lot of nerds who also didn’t experience it.”

      I take it then, that they were either never exposed to the likes of Amanda Marcotte, or they were, but did not identify with the people she savages. There are a lot of programmers and engineers who do not identify the slightest with people who lack confidence or are terrified of offending women. But in this context, that is pretty much what nerd means.

      Other people, though they may not have written a line of Javascript in their lives, have no choice but to say: that’s me you’re describing there. I was that loveless loser, and I’m not like that.

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    • arthur stanton says:

      When mining these relevant comment threads and Twitter conversations, that kind of experience is going to be pretty radically overrepresented.

      No, pretty obviously not.

      What’s actually much moreso the case is that the people with those experiences are going to UNDERrepresent themselves, because they are already massively ashamed, and then if they speak up at all, people like 1. amanda marcotte, 2. Laurie Penny, and 3. you, leap up to shame them and/or deny they exist.

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  30. Anon256 says:

    I agree with about 97% of this post, but what reaction would it reading it cause in (e.g.) a high-scrupulosity woman who was concerned that to ever express dissatisfaction with how men treated her would be intolerably rude and imposing? Your meaning well and being right are not sufficient to avoid triggering and hurting people. (You did at least include a trigger warning.) I realise that this applies to my own comment too and risks becoming a fully general counterargument, but don’t know how to resolve this bravery debate.

    I found this post by unitofcaring a good and concise crystallisation of a related conflict and why it resists simple resolution even in the presence of good faith and factual agreement; there are many other conflicts like it.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Is there any chance I could make to this post to solve the problem other than just not talk about it?

      Report comment

      • Daniel H says:

        If so, knowing about it would require knowing several things Anon256 admits ignorance of. However, I think the answer is “not much, but some”:

        If you say “x is bad”, then on the margin there are people who feel (rightly or wrongly) that they won’t be able to tell x from the neutral-or-good y and who are high-scrupulosity enough to just avoid x and y completely. This can be partially mitigated by having a guide for distinguishing x from y, which if it’s a good enough guide should make the margin small enough that any prevented ys would be borderline xs anyway, and would have fewer of y’s benefits and probably some of x’s problems. However, some people who want good-or-neutral w will say “well, w certainly isn’t y, so it must be x”; providing a guide to distinguish xs and ws would give diminishing returns at best and might confuse the issue at worst. However, there is probably some amount of way to draw approximate borders around the bad x that helps but doesn’t run into diminishing returns.

        Note that a lot of Aaronson’s problem was from hearing that his x was all-encompassing (being told that any interaction with women is harassment). If some non-infinite borders were drawn around acceptable vs unacceptable behavior, I believe he would have been in much better shape.

        There is no way to eliminate all harm from any post that talks about what people should or should not do. On the margin, some people will be harmed. However, the goal is to create a larger margin of people who will be helped, and to minimize the margin of harmed people. I think most or all (relevant; I doubt the one about English chemistry did much either way) SSC posts achieve this goal.

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      • 27chaos says:

        Scott, it’s clear that you’ve been dying to do it. So go ahead and write up the Anti-Feminist FAQ already. (But do multiple drafts! Strive for the same tone of reasonableness and cooperation you had in the Anti-Libertarian FAQ.)

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    • arthur stanton says:

      I agree with about 97% of this post, but what reaction would it reading it cause in (e.g.) a high-scrupulosity woman who was concerned that to ever express dissatisfaction with how men treated her would be intolerably rude and imposing?

      The hypothetical woman can come forward and say so and other people can respond to her civilly instead of viciously attacking her for voicing her concerns.

      Then we can talk to each other like human beings.

      The same way I’ve just done in response to you, and the way Amanda Marcotte did the absolute opposite of.

      This is very simple.

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    • Vaniver says:

      I agree with about 97% of this post, but what reaction would it reading it cause in (e.g.) a high-scrupulosity woman who was concerned that to ever express dissatisfaction with how men treated her would be intolerably rude and imposing?

      I feel like grokking the Fundamental Attribution Error is the way out of this, which involves focusing more behaviors and situations than people and innate characteristics.

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  31. Noah Siegel says:

    “When a female researcher asked a man to come back with her to her apartment, she said yes 69% of the time. When she asked him directly for sex, he also said yes 69% of the time.”

    I think the “she” after “apartment,” should be a “he.”

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    • Noah Siegel says:

      “(people often talk about how young girls do better than young girls in math class, which is true,”

      one of those “young girls” should be “young boys”

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  32. Thank you for another lovely article.

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  33. Morgan says:

    This seems to me like one of those situations where everyone is addressing the wrong audience. Some people go through a nerdy adolescence, and come out repressed and over-cautious, and would like feminism to turn the volume down on the issue. Some people go through a nerdy adolescence, and come bitter and predatory. And then people in the first group become collateral damage in feminism’s fight against the second.

    Other than the click-baited-up headline and sub-header*, I found Laurie Penny’s piece wasn’t hugely objectionable, except that it was talking entirely past the main thrust of Aaronson’s point (and addressing group two-ers who wouldn’t be reading it).

    * editors gonna edit.

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    • Harald K says:

      “Some people go through a nerdy adolescence, and come bitter and predatory.”

      Citation needed on that. In my experience, bitter and predatory does not come together at all. If you’re predatory, you have too much confidence, to the point that you think every woman wants you, they just don’t know it yet. But if you have that much social confidence, you are no longer a nerd in the relevant sense.

      Bitterness, and even actual misogyny, can come with a radically bad experience the other way. But that’s not the kind of misogynist who makes unwanted advances.

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      • blacktrance says:

        Redpill seems to be a movement that is simultaneously bitter and predatory.

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        • Anonymous says:

          People drawn to redpill are often bitter, for obvious reasons. Redpill ideology is very, very against bitterness, as anyone with more than a surface level understanding of it can tell you. Basically the point of redpill is to be someone who is as confident and competent as possible when it comes to any sort of relationship, and anything that gets in the way of that needs to be discarded. Which obviously includes bitterness – this is both implicit in the redpill ideology and explicitly said by redpillers over and over.

          The redpillers who succeed in approaching the redpill ideal might fit the bill as predatory, but certainly not bitter. Those who haven’t succeeded will be bitter, but probably not predatory.

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          • Mark says:

            They’re not bitter in the same way that someone who says, “I’ve learned to forgive black people for being violent thugs, because it’s in their savage nature and they can’t help it” isn’t bitter. Which is to say they continue harboring intensely negative beliefs about their counterparts which are indistinguishable from an embittered person’s, but sometimes put on airs of stoicism about it.

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          • Daniel Speyer says:

            I think redpill could be summarized as “women are defectbots so learn to defect back”. It’s not the most bitter thing, but it’s still pretty bitter.

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          • blacktrance says:

            They’re predatory because they’re bitter. Their attitude is something like “Women are terrible and have mistreated me, and now I’m going to treat them in the only way that gets results, because, unlike me, they’re not people.”

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          • Jaskologist says:

            women are defectbots so learn to defect back

            That strikes me as an excellent summary, especially of r/redpill. Other parts of manosphere, not so much. There is broad agreement on “is” and a lot of divergence on “ought.”

            For that matter, heartiste is much closer to a feminist than a traditionalist. He too believes that women should be allowed complete sexual autonomy, because he knows how to turn that into funnel straight into his bed.

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        • 27chaos says:

          Perhaps the lurkers, but I’m skeptical many of them apply it.

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  34. Dain says:

    It’s fascinating, watching in slow motion as not just the economic strength but every other aspect of nerd-dom is implicitly targeted for being norms of the new ruling class. But I digress.

    Part of the problem is that Scott is writing as a male in an environment ruled by females, namely education/psychology/pop intellectual media. The feminists he criticizes are aiming their gaze at more math-heavy and male-heavy environments. He’s in the wrong set. It must all seem so much worse from that (disad)vantage point. By declaring one’s self one of them, but voicing disagreement, it invites censure.

    I’m guessing plenty of guys who don’t even call themselves feminists, and who work in Tech, are dating some of these women. The SOMA guy with the Tenderloin or Mission non-profit or social worker. They get along swimmingly by him asking smart questions that maybe suggest disagreement, but don’t necessitate it. Of course this works out better if you’re only interested in sex, not soul mates…

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    • Harald K says:

      It’s a grave mistake to think nerds are “the new ruling class”. Just like men’s successes in general, successful nerds got where they were by buying an expensive lottery ticket. Or maybe being born with, but paying for, anyway.

      For every Scott Aaronson who became a tenured professor, there are a lot whose career trajectories – if they ever existed – were shot down by the very psychosocial problems they’ve described. It’s only in a narrow set of circumstances that “nerdy” traits are an advantage, and even then you’ll be paying for it in other ways (such as being a virgin until 30).

      I’d kind of like to not draw attention to it, since the people in question have wisely stayed out of the online gender war. But there are two extremely nerdy brothers who made a critically acclaimed niche computer game, who are a more realistic portrayal of where these mental characteristics can leave you. Obviously they are themselves extraordinarily successful in their own oddball way, but the way they just withdrew from society is probably the more likely outcome for the majority of people like that. Thinking nerd=economically successful is a lot like thinking autist=prodigy genius.

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  35. Alyssa Vance says:

    “This isn’t about little Caitlin who wouldn’t return my eye contact in seventh grade, this is about Amanda Marcotte, Jezebel, Gawker, and an entire system that gets its jollies by mocking us and trying to twist the knife.”

    Gawker (Jezebel is owned by Gawker) just hates hates hates nerds, in any context, sex-related or not. To anyone who thinks otherwise, I present Exhibit A, “Look Who’s Gawking: Inside Nick Denton’s phony, hypocritical class war against tech workers”:

    “CENTCOM for this fake-class-war-by-drone is Nick Denton’s Valleywag [owned by Gawker] gossip blog which, despite its name, is safely situated in Manhattan, thousands of miles from the battlefront. Having regenerated more times than Doctor Who (but without the likable main character or crisp writing), the current incarnation of Valleywag has one clear mission: to grab hundreds of millions of monetizable clicks through an endless barrage of outraged posts about the entitled jerks who work in the technology industry. (…)

    Biddle was given new marching orders: go after the tech workers, not their bosses. Today a Valleywag search for, let’s say, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, garners precisely one result: a post which says almost nothing about the eBay founder’s wealth or what he’s spending it on. Contrast that with the eight results for the word “cafeteria,” reflecting Valleywag’s current obsession with the subsidized lunches supplied to “coddled” tech workers, or the 25 results for “asshole”, an epithet that Biddle has applied to a programmer who offered to teach a homeless man to code, and a seven year old child who washes cars for pocket money. (…)

    Today, Biddle spends his days searching the social media accounts of junior startup employees, looking for any Tweet, blog post or YouTube video that might fit his narrative of arrogant rich kids gone wild. And with an estimated 250,000 tech workers in the bay area alone, it’s easy for him to find one each day who is monstrously, entitledly struggling to transport a Christmas tree, or twelve techies packed into a “luxury” shared house, or a guy with a car that Biddle hopes will soon be vandalised. (…)

    While presenting itself as the champion of the working classes, the fact is Denton’s Gawker empire is guilty of almost every crime it accuses the tech industry of committing, and several it doesn’t. Denton, who now encourages others to sneer at Silicon Valley’s elite social clubs, made his own millions as co-founder of “First Tuesday,” an elite social club which spanned Europe during the first dot com boom. While crying foul at the off-shore tax dodging of San Francisco tech companies, Gawker Media is registered in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying US taxes, an arrangement which the New Yorker described as “like an international money-laundering operation.” As Valleywag howls that “Google interns earn more than you,” Gawker Media is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit over its earlier refusal to pay its own interns a dime for their labour.

    And how about Valleywag’s mockery of lavish Silicon Valley workplaces? Why not ask Denton about that when you visit his “steampunk” office, featuring “a lounge area that looks like it’s straight out of the blue pill/red pill scene in The Matrix,” an “office surfboard” and a rooftop party deck? Business Insider claims it’s one of the 15 coolest offices in tech. And while you’re there, make sure to also ask him about Gawker’s “Privilege Tournament,” a smug little contest in which Gawker readers were invited to vote on which “underprivileged” group (choices include: black, blind, transgender, people with AIDS, the homeless, “overeducated,” and fat…) should “win” by virtue of its “sweet, sweet moral superiority” — or as Salon’s Katrina Richardson called the tournament: “a shamefully racist, sexist, homophobic and classist attempt to silence large swaths of people.””

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  36. Sophie Grouchy says:

    Random tip (the section about chivalry and “milady” made me think of it):

    If you are a nerdy type that is interested in interacting with other nerdy types, the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism- a large group that does medieval/Renaissance reenactment stuff) is pretty great for it.

    -There’s a good gender balance (the men tend more towards activities like heavy weapons fighting and blacksmithing, while the women tend more towards activities like weaving and dancing, but even in those sub-fields the split is more like 70:30.)

    -There’s no nerd-shaming (everyone’s a nerd), and (almost) no slut-shaming. A stupid joke is that SCA stands for “Society of Consenting Adults”.

    -Social etiquette and hierarchies are relatively explicitly laid out, and what you need to do to gain status is also explicit and obvious (and usually nerdy, like “get really good/knowledgeable at some skill”)

    -Chivalry is expected and appreciated (though we know it’s all a game, and don’t actually enforce any gender roles)

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  37. Chris says:

    Hm, reading this post makes me feel like you’re replying to a version of Aaronson’s argument which is not what he wrote, while Laurie Penny is replying to his actual words. Most specifically here:

    Guy opens up for the first time about how he was so terrified of accidentally hurting women that he became suicidal and tried to get himself castrated.

    I don’t see any kind of fear about hurting women expressed in any part of Aaronson’s Comment #171. It’s all self-absorbed fear about punishments he will receive for expressing sexual interest. He says “I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison”. That’s not a phobia of hurting women; it’s a phobia of receiving unfair and extreme punishments.

    When Aaronson does describe the emotions and behavior of real non-phobia women, we see phrases like:

    The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!”

    These words seem pretty disrespectful towards women. They suggest to me the “objectifying and entitled” attitude you find unfairly applied; viewing women as people who exist to give you the sex you deserve, and who are mistaken when they don’t. It’s hard to argue that “dating Neanderthals” is a totally valid act of female agency when you’re literally using the noun of a lesser species to describe the people they decided to date instead of you.

    I think this was a somewhat fantastically thoughtless thing to say, too:

    My recurring fantasy, through this period, was to have been born a woman, or a gay man, or best of all, completely asexual, so that I could simply devote my life to math, like my hero Paul Erdös did.

    A thoughtful person who has this lament should surely be wondering if, had they been born a woman, they would have made it through the fortunate set of conditions that are required for one’s interest in math to be nurtured all the way up to a professorship at MIT.

    So I tend to agree with Laurie Penny that his actual words make him look self-absorbed, full of unrealistic phobia, and unempathetic towards the women he grew up with.

    I feel sure he doesn’t have these attitudes now, and maybe he didn’t even have them back then as a young man. He’s written some followup comments and posts that make his argument more thoughtful, and explain that he would have used different words if he knew he was writing for a world full of people who otherwise know nothing about him. That’s good enough for me. But I don’t know that it’s especially unfair to fault feminists for engaging with the words he wrote — rather than replying to the high-scrupulosity psyche that you describe, but which seems to me to have been not at all on display in his writing.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think it takes a highly uncharitable reading of Scott Aaronson’s words to take it as indicating a lack of concern about the feelings and worth of women. I can see how someone could, potentially, read it that way, but for such a reading to be the assumed default within any cultural group is, to me, a rather frightening thing.

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    • Tracy W says:

      A thoughtful person who has this lament should surely be wondering if, had they been born a woman, they would have made it through the fortunate set of conditions that are required for one’s interest in math to be nurtured all the way up to a professorship at MIT.

      A thoughtful person with access to Google would decide to conduct some rudimentary checks and come up with Ann Graybiel, Barbara Liskov, and Sheila Widnall, who are women and institute professors at MIT, the highest rank of professors there apparently.
      And therefore they can stop wondering.

      (Obviously, there is still a massive disproportion in numbers between the genders, but the odds of any given high school student becoming a professor at MIT are very very low anyway, so low that it would be silly to refuse to change your gender on that basis.)

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    • Adam Casey says:

      In what world is

      viewing women as people who exist to give you the sex you deserve, and who are mistaken when they don’t.

      a valid interpretation of

      The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!”

      The words he uses are really clear. What he’s saying is:

      1) I feel like “girls” are going to aggressively punish me if I look at them.
      2) I feel like those same “girls” would react very favourably to a “crude advance”, (which, lets be clear here, means an advance that does not give two figs for consent).
      3) If someone is happy for some thug to aggressively hit on them then clearly they want lots of sexual engagement, and are happy to indulge and encourage such behaviour.
      4) I feel like “girls” hate it if I engage with them, but love to be engaged generally, even in awful and aggressive contexts.
      5) This means I am a terrible person, and that people hate me.
      6) People telling me I’m privileged when I’m in a clearly terrible situation seems dickish as all hell.

      Please. Point to the part where he says that any women OUGHT to have slept with him. I’ve read that paragraph a few times now, and it just doesn’t seem to be there. Please point where in that paragraph it says that the purpose of a women is to have sex. Please explain what combination of sentences here implies that women who fail to sleep with the Scots are morally failing.

      At no point have either of the Scots said any sentence, or combination of sentences that state or imply that any women OUGHT to have sex under any circumstances. Maybe I’m just bad a reading, but really, could you please point me at where in the text it says that.

      And if not can we PLEASE stop using this idea that the Scots are demanding sex, or they think women are “for” sex. They absolutely, unambiguously 100% are not doing that in any way shape or form. It just screams bad faith argument to me.

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    • AD says:

      I don’t see any kind of fear about hurting women expressed in any part of Aaronson’s Comment #171. It’s all self-absorbed fear about punishments he will receive for expressing sexual interest. … That’s not a phobia of hurting women; it’s a phobia of receiving unfair and extreme punishments.

      Perhaps the following can pass muster for not focusing on reactions, but rather the assumed dangers of the act itself:

      meant being consumed by desires that one couldn’t act on or even admit without running the risk of becoming an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.

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  38. Josh says:

    So a large number of my female friends have mentioned experiencing sexism which negative affects their decision to go into tech industry. It’s obviously unfair to blame nerds as a category for all of that, and I’m also skeptical of the claim that nerds are especially worse than doctors, but you do seem to veer into claims that virtually nobody who is a nerd is sexist. Nerd-dom is larger than you, and Scott Aaronson. I do agree with the general point about the failure to understand multiple ways in which people can feel being used as an excuse to attack low status people and do actually buy that there is some latent anti-semitism here, but when lots of reasonable people who are my female friends who are not obviously pre-biased in this manner (say, by having major issues with the social justice movement/saying positive things about the men’s rights movement) say they heard rape jokes directed at them at tech companies, It does seem to be arrogant to say “but I don’t engage in that and I haven’t seen my friends who are pre-selected to engage in that level of dickishness engage in that, so I’m going to extrapolate from us”. Silicon valley and nerddom aren’t a monolith, but there are certainly corners where misogyny is tolerated and even encouraged, you seem to be denying this here though I suspect you aren’t actually trying to make the claim as strong as you did. (In particular, I would hope you would agree that nerds are often sexist and nerd culture may have some sexist tropes in it, which is different from saying it is abnormally or especially sexist). I also think you over-localize the problem a little bit, the difficulty in finding a partner who is both a reasonable person and who will date you clearly has a gendered component, but I’ve experienced a lot of what you have as a gay man, so I don’t think it’s purely about women (I would also be surprised if it was orders of magnitudes easier for straight than for gay men, I wouldn’t make a guess off-hand about which is statistically easier for socially marginalized persons).

    I also want to note that there is clearly a difficulty in language here, Aaronson denied having male/straight etc privilege because he felt miserable, the term privilege is a god-awful choice of term precisely because of this reaction but, given the reasonable use of the term, he clearly did have certain advantages that go with them, that doesn’t mean he had it any easier than most women/queer people do, I would posit he almost certainly had it worse, but it’s not unfair to say he didn’t understand the concept when he now admits he didn’t.

    I agree that Amanda Marcotte is god-awful and insufferable, that Aaronson is obviously a good faith actor, and that the response was hideous, but the response was hideous because people were making bad faith assumptions and generally being dicks, not because of the nitpicking.

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    • Karmakin says:

      See, that’s the problem. It’s the notion that “privilege” or advantage or whatever you want to call it is this universal thing. That it always goes in one direction. That’s simply not the case. For sure there are vectors that are more one-sided than others (race and economic class as two prominent examples) but even those are not strictly one-sided. There’s a reason why that is brought up multiple problems in the OP.

      I don’t think Aaronson was saying that he had no privileges. What he was saying is that in situation X he was not privileged. That is a massively different thing to say. Again, the core of the issue IMO really is the concept that gender power dynamics are unidirectional.

      For what it’s worth, I’ll add it in here. This stuff doesn’t come from nowhere. There’s a webpage I see linked in feminist and feminist-leaning circles on a regular basis as a way to “educate” newcomers to this sort of thing.

      https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/the-faqs/faq-roundup/

      This is actually fairly old. March 2006. It was a group project in the feminist blog community, of course which Marcotte was a leader of at the time. There’s a lot of problematic unidirectional text in that, a lot of what I would call bad feminism..or maybe 101 level feminism (While quite frankly we need to be 301 or 401 at this juncture).

      That’s a bit of ground zero right there. That’s one of the big resources that are educating the current wave of younger feminists.

      With obvious results.

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  39. jjj says:

    I’d appreciate it if someone would reply to this comment.

    Do you think it’s possible that shaming of male sexuality could drive a cis man to pursue gender transition? This is relevant to me personally.

    In my freshman year of uni I had never had a girlfriend, or even many platonic friends. I was the quiet awkward shy male type. I tried reading a book on evolutionary mating strategies, and I was heartbroken when I learned about Bateman’s principle (female sexuality is a resource that males must compete for). I wished my sexuality was a resource people would compete for.

    The next year I read a story about a college woman who moonlit as a stripper. She earned $300 on a *bad* night. I was working a minimum wage food-service job and couldn’t afford to away from my parents. I immediately googled for gay strip clubs, but I could find any within 500 miles. Then I tried to find a lonely gay man on Craigslist who would be willing to pay for my company, but that didn’t work either. I was really jealous of the woman who could use her sexuality to earn a living wage.

    A few months later I started fantasizing about being a woman. Not that I thought women had it easier than men, I still defended feminism on the forums I visited. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would be happier as a woman. After about five years of fantasizing I was a woman, I read Ozy’s post that said something like “If you want to be trans, you’re trans.” So now I’m on the path to transition.

    Now I will also not that I showed some signs of being trans before I read about Bateman and the stripper. Like I would choose female characters in video games, and I grew my hair long in high school, and my ring and pointer fingers are about equal length.

    But I’d appreciate an outside perspective here. Do you think being ashamed of male sexuality might be driving my dysphoria? And if so, is that a reason not to transition?

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’m totally not an expert in medicine, gender studies, transitioning, or anything relevant, but it seems to me that if you have any doubts about whether transitioning would make you feel happier or more true to yourself, then you should probably err on the side of caution, if only for the medical risks involved in surgery, hormone replacement, etc. (Note: I’m NOT saying “if you really feel, deep down, you belong to the opposite gender identity, but worry about transitioning because of the effect it will have on family and friends, then don’t do it,” I’m saying “If you’re not sure it’s the right thing for YOU, then err on the side of caution.”).

      To cite a personal example: I am a slightly androgynous, heterosexual, cisgendered man whom many have mistaken for gay, probably due to body language, the pitch of my voice, etc. Growing up, I often picked, and even identified with, the female characters in video games. I liked to wear my mom’s clothes and jewelry sometimes. I viewed women as the more graceful, enlightened, cultured, powerful sex. I envied the ease with which women could attract sexual partners, and the obvious power of their sexuality.

      It never really occurred to me to think I was transgendered, perhaps because I don’t think I even knew such a thing existed, but it did occur to me to think I was gay or bisexual, even though I had always been sexually attracted to women, and had even had a few enjoyable sexual encounters with women.

      This eventually led me to actually experiment with giving and receiving oral sex with a few actual men whom I met on Craigslist and the like (and has someone who has met both women and men for casual sex through the internet, believe me, it is 1000000% easier to find men for this purpose).

      I did not enjoy it, and determined that, despite my effeminate intonations and hand gestures, despite my easy identification with powerful women, despite the fact that I liked porn with muscular men and big penises, despite the fact that my own brother is gay, and despite the fact that I liked dressing as a woman as a child, I was simply not gay or bisexual. (I do sometimes wonder whether my parents have some sort of recessive “gay man” gene, and I only got one copy, while my brother got two, with one copy resulting in “effeminate heterosexual man,” to vastly oversimplify what I’m sure is way more complicated than that).

      But anyway, unlike trying out gay sex to see if you like it, you can’t chalk up mistaken gender reassignment surgery to youthful experimentation. It would be nice if we would allow people to just experiment with dressing and living as the opposite gender first, and then not judge them too harshly if they decide it’s not for them, but I’m not sure most people are there yet, culturally (not that most people are culturally totally comfortable with transgender in general), though hopefully they will be soon.

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      • jjj says:

        Ok so if I can just summarize you, it sounds like you’re saying I need to make sure I really want to transition, but you don’t seem to be saying I should worry about why I’m transition if transition is what I really want. A fair summary?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Well, I’m not sure I’d say the “why” doesn’t matter at all, because if you think the “why” is a result of some trauma with the potential for healing, rather than as a more fundamental aspect of who you are, then it might be worth first exploring whether you’d feel differently if you fully worked through those feelings.

          That said, it’s hard for me to imagine a cisgendered man fantasizing about being a woman for five years. I guess to me the difference is between “I find certain aspects of femininity fascinating and wonder what it would like to be a woman” (something I, a cisgendered man have experienced) vs. “I feel very strongly, deep-down, that I am supposed to be a woman.”

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      • Daniel Speyer says:

        If I recall correctly, hormone replacement therapy is pretty safe, including it mostly goes away if you stop taking it.

        Surgery is more dangerous and irreversible, but that’s usually the last stage in the process.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Social transition is extremely easy to reverse; all you have to do is say “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Hormones are, as Daniel Speyer said, fairly reversible, particularly within the first few years.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think that there’s a good chance being ashamed of male sexuality is at least a component in your desire to transition. I don’t know if I could really describe myself as ashamed of my male sexuality, but at the very least I feel that my cultural environment has made it hard for me to value it at all.

      As for whether this is a reason for you not to transition, I think you should consider whether you’re okay with transitioning knowing that it’s likely a motivation, and given that transwomen probably tend to have their sexualities valued less than ciswomen. If, having given these things consideration, you believe that you want to transition, I don’t think there’s any reason your motivation should be considered less appropriate.

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    • Emily says:

      I’ve known a couple of men who reported strong wanting-to-be-female feelings that I think came from a similar place as what you’re describing. They came to be (I believe) reasonably happily male-gendered people once their context changed, including finding female partners who were happy they were male.

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      • caryatis says:

        Totally! Most people who struggle with their gender identity get over it as they get older and wiser and enter stable relationships. Sounds like jjj is pretty young. I think it would be a terrible idea for anyone to start committing to the idea of “being transgender” before they have time to grow up.

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        • Emily says:

          Hmm. I wouldn’t offer “you’ll probably get over this” to your generic, early-mid-20s person who was thinking “maybe I’m transgender.” It’s the specific reason for the concern that makes me think there could be an easier way to remedy the negative feelings.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Same anon as before:

      I had forgotten this, though thinking about my history of slightly atypical gender performance, I recall a period when I had very long hair and earrings, waxed my body hair, and wore a lot of rings and stuff. I never consciously attempted to look like a woman; early-twenties me thought I was being some sort of hip Marilyn Manson-esque rebellious goth something or other.

      However, in retrospect, I can’t help but think it may have had something to do with my long time aesthetic preference for what I perceive as the elegance, beauty, and power of femininity (I also wonder if there wasn’t some sort of strange manifestation of “typical mind fallacy” going on, where, because I was attracted to women with features like long hair, smooth skin, etc. I tried to replicate those features in myself).

      This actually resulted in a number of people mistaking me for a transgendered woman, or maybe even as a cisgendered woman; I recall one case of someone referring to me as “she,” though I don’t know if this was because she perceived me as a transgendered woman whose identity she wished to respect, or because she really just saw me as someone with two xx chromosomes. There were also cases of men, whose fetish I seemed to have unintentionally become, asking me out. None of this pleased me, since I’ve always identified as male, and continue to do so, but it is interesting to think back on now, as an example of how complex and not-always-binary these things can be.

      I guess if I had been secretly pleased by being mistaken for a woman, then that might have been a sign I was transgendered. I think the reality, however, is that I’m a slightly greedy, narcissistic man who wants to continue being a man while somehow absorbing all the positive attributes of the feminine gender, and keeping none of the negative of the masculine. I’ve always been fascinated by androgyny, and tend to be attracted to slightly more masculine women. Though I’m happy with my current body and identification, it is, in some ways, easier for me to imagine being a masculine woman than being a hyper-masculine man.

      It is also interesting to me that esoteric religions like Buddhism, Daoism, and Hinduism often emphasize androgyny (see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardhanarishvara), and I have always been interested in them, though not originally for that reason, at least not consciously.

      By all of this I mean to say, in a slightly roundabout and navel-gazing sort of way, that it may be perfectly natural even for a cisgendered, heterosexual man to be very fascinated with certain aspects of femininity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be happier as a woman.

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    • Daniel Speyer says:

      As a transwoman, you will not enjoy all the advantages ciswomen do, but you will enjoy some of them. Also, bigotry against trans people does happen, though how much depends a lot on what culture you’re surrounded by.

      The important question is how this will all balance out for you. We can’t answer that for you. My advice is to try things and see what happens. Identify as genderfluid. Experiment with reversible things. Take notes.

      Good luck!

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    • Anonymous says:

      But I’d appreciate an outside perspective here. Do you think being ashamed of male sexuality might be driving my dysphoria? And if so, is that a reason not to transition?

      Yes. Your mindset seems very unhealthy to me. If it were me personally, I would wait like two years or so between deciding that I want to transition and actually doing it just to make sure I really wanted to. This is what I plan to do if I ever get an idea for a tattoo I want, and changing genders is a MUCH bigger decision, not something to do because you want to feel sexy.

      To be perhaps overly honest, I can relate to the attitude in this post, as I sort of had similar thoughts in high school, as a bit of a loser. I also choose female characters in video games, have long-ish hair (I always wanted long hair but I never actually made it there), my pointer finger is longer than my ring. Now that I’m in college and I have a solid group of male friends and am fairly romantically successful, it seems appalling to me that I ever felt this way.

      I can talk more in-depth with you if you want.

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    • ozymandias says:

      Oh, hey, I inspired someone to transition!

      That said, if past me said that if you think you’re trans, you’re trans, past me was wrong. 🙂 There are lots of people who question their gender and turn out to be cisgender, and that is perfectly fine. However, thinking that you’re trans is good Bayesian evidence that you might be trans and that it is worthwhile for you to explore gender further (as you are doing).

      Does shaming of male sexuality cause people to be trans? God knows! It’s really hard to get honest discussions of the causes of people’s gender dysphoria, because we all have to pretend to cis people that we were Born This Way Baby or they’ll decide we’re all really men. But I also don’t think that’s important; if you’re happier as a woman, who cares why?

      I would also like to gently bring up the possibility that some of your gender issues are, in fact, a *product* of gender dysphoria. It is perfectly normal for dysphoria to manifest as a weird and complicated way of relating to gender; it is totally possible that you’re ashamed of your sexuality because of your dysphoria.

      I think the most important thing is whether transitioning makes you happy. When you look at the steps you’ve taken so far, do you feel doubtful or uncomfortable? Or does it fill you with happiness? If the latter, then don’t worry about why it fills you with happiness.

      I’d also like to push back a little against the “transition is unchangeable!” comments. Social transition is perfectly changeable and I encourage everyone who thinks they might be trans to socially transition and see if they like it. Hormones are somewhat reversible; a detransitioner assigned male at birth is in no worse a position than a trans man, and most trans men assimilate perfectly well. It’s a pain in the ass and it’s expensive, but it’s livable.

      I wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide.

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      • jjj says:

        Your reply makes me think that I should transition, because all the steps I’ve taken so far (femme-dressing, presenting as female on the internet, coming out to my friends and even my unsupportive parents, buying a feminine water-bottle) have all made me feel happier. And when my girlfriend calls me “pretty” instead of “handsome” I feel better. So I think I will keep going doing this road, climbing the tree to pick the higher fruit.

        Although….I think you misread my comment, because I quoted you as saying “If you want to be trans, you’re trans.”, not ““If you think you’re trans, you’re trans.” But anyway, thanks for the perspective.

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    • Stargirl Princess says:

      If, after five years of thinking, you believe transitioning will make you more fulfilled then transition. For people with a certain personality being male must be hellish. Both socially and sexually. I especially imagine people who desire close emotionally friendships or physical touch must just be totally fucked. (unless they live in a bonobo rationalist bubble).

      Transitionisng is a big decision. But you thought about it long enough. Just go for it imo.

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    • vernon rickard says:

      Do you think it’s possible that shaming of male sexuality could drive a cis man to pursue gender transition?

      Yes, absolutely, beyond a shadow of a shred of a doubt.

      That’s all I have to say about it.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can’t answer your general point, but I feel like I was pretty sexuality-shamed and “I wish I were a woman” only came up in the most abstract and counterfactual way.

      A lot of what you’re talking about – strip clubs, Bateman’s principle – doesn’t even really sound like shaming.

      From my (limited) experience with trans people, a lot of them first realized they were trans in weird ways very different from the classic “I have known it obviously since birth”. Your story doesn’t really sound too far outside the norm, though trans commenters can correct me if I’m wrong.

      I don’t think you have to worry about this. And even if that is what’s driving your transition, if you think you’d be happier with transition than without it then I don’t think that learning a reason for it is a dealbreaker.

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      • onyomi says:

        I’m curious, Scott, whether you can provide an example or two of the “weird” ways in which people come to realize they are trans? (to the extent you can without divulging confidential patient info, of course) I do not personally know any trans people well enough to ask them about that process.

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        • Brad says:

          I can perhaps give an anecdote here, which I *keep deliberately vague* for privacy’s sake:

          I once corresponded with a trans person who (as I recall – it’s been a while, grains of salt should be in hand) attributed their commitment to the idea of being trans to a dream they had which caused them to “realize” they were trans.

          I just saying, a major life decision being made on the basis of a dream, is by most conventional measures, strange, I think.

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  40. Emily H. says:

    Two small things.

    I took a computer programming class in high school. I was good at it; not startlingly talented, but good at it. My decision not to take the next class in the sequence was about 80% because the class was dominated by loud, aggressive boys (not nerds, I wouldn’t say) who made me feel… squeezed out. I don’t know if it’s overreaching to draw a line between how I felt then and the sexist environments that other people speak of in Silicon Valley.

    I opened up to an ex boyfriend about being harassed by a young man. He said, “Well, that’s bad, but it happens because men don’t know how to talk to women because feminism has taught them that they can’t.” And then my harasser kept on harassing me for the next four years. That is the climate in which these discussions happen. That is why a lot of feminists might have oversensitive trip wires when it comes to things like entitlement. I’m not trying to raise this into “who has it worse” point scoring, really. Maybe my point is that almost nobody can come together to make things better when they feel like they’re under attack – and sure, that goes for male nerds as well as feminists.

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    • George says:

      “He said, “Well, that’s bad, but it happens because men don’t know how to talk to women because feminism has taught them that they can’t.””

      Typical mind fallacy. This was probably true for your ex boyfriend but not your harrasser.

      Anyway, I’m sorry you were harrassed.

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    • jsalvatier says:

      Obnoxious boys in programming class sounds very irritating indeed, I’ve heard it can be a common problem in intro programming classes. I hope its something you get to revisit if you want to.

      Also, your ex is shitty at empathizing. It brought to mind the Ring Theory of Kvetching which I really like.

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  41. Excellent throughout, Scott. Reading that Marcotte piece Tuesday just left me despairing for the world and any chance I’ll ever have, and it’s nice to see I’m not the only person who saw her as vicious and hateful.

    But I worry if the state of affairs is actually worse than Scott Alexander (god Scott-A’s are going to get wonderfully confusing here) lays out here. Let me very briefly summarize (a very small part of) this sequence: Scott Aaronson used to think, partially because of feminism, that his potential sexual interest in women was evil, and if he were to ever reveal it he’d regret it forever. Cue loathing and depression. He now knows better and is happy but regrets how much unhappiness this caused. (We then move on to Amanda Marcotte et al in fact reviling him for feeling this way, but that’s another point.)

    Here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure old-Scott-Aaronson was _right_, if not about his sexual interest being evil, but at least that his interest was unwanted and would be treated despicably had any of his admirees known.

    This is not an attack on Scott Aaronson. I’ve met Scott (he wouldn’t remember me, it was at a seminar in grad school.) I like Scott–he’s brilliant, writes well, is generally extremely nice. But he was an extremely low status nerd, and as this post goes into great detail proving, that’s the kiss of death for, well, kissing.

    But it got better for Scott Aaronson as he learned to face his fears and try anyway, right? So it was all in his head (not meaning fake or stupid, just not well-representing reality…) and we mostly just need to encourage other Scotts to try? This is not dissimilar from CBT theories of how to fix anxiety or depression; you’re not thinking clearly (for understandable reasons), you can’t see it, but if we force you to confront the implications of your beliefs and how they don’t line up with reality, you’ll update and the anxiety will be gone.

    I sort of doubt it here, though. Because in roughly the same timeframe, Scott became a tenure{d,-track} (depending on timing) professor, well known throughout the CS world and the internet as a whole. I grew up in high school reading his blog posts and thinking I wanted to be a theory professor like him. (I since decided I like certain other things more, but that’s not the point.) This isn’t high status in the world at large, but it’s high status in a decent chunk of it, and that’s where (to my limited understanding) Scott Aaronson has done most of his dating. I worry–in the nicest to Scott way that I possibly can be–that’s a major reason for his success: women in STEM think he’s a cool rockstar quantum computing badass. Which is reasonable of them to think and reasonable of him to make use of…but means that I’m pretty sure old-Scott-Aaronson would indeed find cold reactions to the same interest.

    So now (and here comes the whining of the entitled nerd, hah) this leaves me feeling pretty helpless. I am, if I’m allowed to say it, pretty successful, more than I have any reasonable right to hope for: I have a stable, interesting career, paid well even for people in the Silicon Valley bubble. I live in a beautiful city, I have fun hobbies–pretty much everything worked out. But I’m still incredibly low status, exactly that sort of loser nerd everyone enjoys mocking, and I have no way of fixing that. It’s too late to try to win an academic tournament (and I didn’t much like grad school anyway). I have something of a badass rep at work, but not like a famous professor (and no one outside work knows it, naturally.) I’m too bad at normal social interactions to make the normal high status Business Careers, I’ll never be a pro sportsman…I sing pretty well, but well enough to get work in amateur theater, not well enough to become a famous musician. I literally can’t think of any path by which I could not be that dweeby loser in the corner who everyone mocks.

    And so if I express interest in any woman who I’m not absolutely certain is throwing herself at me, I risk her in fact chewing me out, calling me out on the internet, and starting a campaign to have me fired as a misogynist asshole, because that’s what actually happens to losers who show interest to women. And Amanda Marcotte will laugh with glee.

    Or put more simply: sometimes anxiety and depression aren’t cognitive deceptions. Sometimes I’m really just a loser who no one will love.

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    • SFG says:

      Maybe.

      I’ve found a little self-deception is useful here–ironically, this is one of the few cases where having accurate mental models of the universe is not useful, as confidence is attractive even if unfounded. Or, as they said in ‘Boiler Room’, ‘Act as if’. Eventually fake confidence becomes real confidence.

      My suggestion to you would be to (a) work out to increase muscle mass, as this is one of the few forms of increasing attractiveness requires no psychological manipulation to work and (b) go out on OKCupid or something similar and get rejected by 100 women. Usually one of them says yes before you get to 100.

      Oh, and ignore everything you’ve been told about men and women. 😉

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      • FWIW, I lift rather a lot (inching closer and closer to a 2x bodyweight squat soon.) Though it’s definitely good advice in general.

        And my point is that I can’t just ask 100 women out: some of them will get angry, and can ruin my life. Fake it til you make it is only good advice if you’re in the CBT regime of cognitive deception, and I’m pretty convinced I’m not.

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        • Jon H says:

          “And my point is that I can’t just ask 100 women out”

          I find this very difficult as well. I’m not good at making conversation with a stranger, so meeting women in bars and such doesn’t work well. I am much more at ease with women I meet through work or school and have spent some time around.

          But that’s a very limited pool of women to ask out, since most will have boyfriends or husbands, and there won’t be new faces very often. Plus asking someone out at work is rife with problems even if there isn’t a supervisory relationship making it coercive.

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        • Mike Lewis says:

          I can’t help but think that you’re massively overestimating the chances of your life being ruined as a result of being asked out. That’s a really, really, really out-of-proportion response to even a major non-future-implication-having event. Certainly there are things that can exacerbate the risk – I wouldn’t suggest asking out a coworker without some very strong signals, to the extent of having some intermediary tell you unprompted that she’s interested – but asking someone out on a dating site is pretty much a de facto guarantee that they won’t ruin your life just for being asked out.

          From what I know of you, you’re probably more desirable than I was when I met my wife, and she is implausibly higher status than I am. Unexpected things happen.

          If you ever want to grab virtual lunch and talk about this, ping me on Hangouts at work.

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        • veronica d says:

          Hi Andrew,

          So, I’m trans. One of the thing about being trans is this: we have an endless supply of grievance literature about the horrible things that happen to trans women who try to date. (I mostly date women, and while the grievance lit does focus on horrible men, it includes plenty of cautionary tales about dating horrible women.)

          Okay, so for trans folks, this stuff includes some pretty hard shit. For example, it includes plenty of trans women murdered by dudes after they fuck us.

          This shit happens often enough that we need to be concerned. And sometimes the dudes get away with it, according to the “trans panic” defense. Like, OMG my girlfriend is a dude! Must kill her!

          Or something. Anyway, this stuff happens. I can provide links.

          But a lot of time it’s just lesser shitty stuff. Like dudes who want us to be their secret shame. Like, they want to date us, but only in little out-of-town trysts in dumpy hotels.

          Needless to say, this is not dignified. Most trans women do not want this. We talk about it.

          We need to talk about it. It’s real.

          But there is this other thing that happens: we talk about it so much that we forget we actually can date normally. We have a burden. We have to deal with shit. It is harder for us. But we can get past this and find good partners and have successful romantic lives.

          So we need to share those stories also. We need to be aware of how it is hard. But we also need to know about how sometimes we succeed. Cuz if we only hear the bad stuff, if that becomes the only narrative model we have, then we live diminished lives.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Well, there’s your problem. As Brent Kim tells us…only benching matters.

          http://mopeilitywod.com/2013/12/19/only-benching-matters/

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        • Doug S. says:

          And my point is that I can’t just ask 100 women out: some of them will get angry, and can ruin my life.

          You missed the part that said

          go out on OKCupid or something similar

          There’s a big difference between asking someone out randomly and asking someone out in a context where people are deliberately inviting people to ask them out…

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      • caryatis says:

        Seconded re: ways to boost your status. Plus, Andrew, if you want a relationship with a woman, it matters little what “women” as a monolithic conspiratorial group think about you. As long as you find *one* woman who likes you, even if she is unusual, you will have succeeded. I am with a fairly low-status man myself, and it works great–his weirdness coincides with mine.

        Plus, most women are really pretty nice in person. If anything, we are too unassertive. A rejection is more likely to be “sorry, I don’t think so” than a hate campaign.

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        • Jon H says:

          “A rejection is more likely to be “sorry, I don’t think so” than a hate campaign.”

          We may understand this rationally, but we may continue to irrationally expect the woman to respond as if the Elephant Man popped out of hiding, exposing himself and masturbating.

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          • caryatis says:

            The parallel case would be a straight woman who refuses to date any men because she knows there is a tiny chance a man would end up beating & murdering her. We shouldn’t live our lives dominated by fears of unlikely catastrophes.

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    • Here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure old-Scott-Aaronson was _right_, if not about his sexual interest being evil, but at least that his interest was unwanted and would be treated despicably had any of his admirees known.

      This is only tangentially related, but I wonder if part of the whole thing is, like… in general you’re not supposed to be overly forward to a woman unless she’s showing signs of interest, right? And if you do then you risk being called creepy and evil and harassing. But if you’re really awkward and insecure around girls and also unattractive in general, those signs are never really going to come out. So you end up not understanding when it’s appropriate to make a move.

      I literally can’t think of any path by which I could not be that dweeby loser in the corner who everyone mocks.

      I mean, you could just level up your social skills, physique, fashion sense, etc. right? What exactly about you is dweeby?

      And so if I express interest in any woman who I’m not absolutely certain is throwing herself at me, I risk her in fact chewing me out, calling me out on the internet, and starting a campaign to have me fired as a misogynist asshole, because that’s what actually happens to losers who show interest to women. And Amanda Marcotte will laugh with glee.

      Soulless feminist bloggers make up a very low percentage of women. I think the risk of this happening is pretty low.

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      • > Soulless feminist bloggers make up a very low percentage
        > of women. I think the risk of this happening is pretty low.

        I’d rather not put the details into a public record but suffice to say that {WELL KNOWN FEMINIST BLOG} has in fact written a post about how awful I (personally, not people like me, actually me) am, and how I clearly was trying to date rape {POST AUTHOR’S FRIEND} (which I, hope would go without saying, is not true in any possible sense.) They proceeded to write a few pages about how awful I am and I should never be allowed to exist in public society.

        Thank god the woman in question decided not to report my name (I noticed uniquely identifying details in the anonymous story)–I honestly don’t know why, given how much she clearly hated me. But I’m not in a mood to take a second chance dodging the bullet–and this was with a woman who enthusiastically went out on a date with me. Imagine if I had approached the same woman as a stranger in a bar.

        (A few people who know me might see this comment–please do not deanonymize this story any further.)

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        • Oh my god, that’s terrible, I’m sorry.

          I guess I would still say that such a traumatic event still seems atypical to me, and I would try not to let it color your expectations of dating for the rest of your life?

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          • nydwracu says:

            I was similarly targeted because some Tumblr communists got mad that a few of their friends were listening to me. I’ve seen it enough times since then that I suspect it’s common among feminists.

            (The thing to do is probably to avoid everyone who identifies with feminism, and filter strongly enough that none can slip through the cracks. Stereotyping: it works.)

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          • I feel like your situation is at least a little atypical given that you interact with Tumblr SJWs and they have a reason to try to smear you.

            The thing to do is probably to avoid everyone who identifies with feminism

            I don’t know about this, I know a fair amount of feminist people in real life and I’ve never really encountered the “if he hits on you, he’s a rapist” mentality outside of the internet.

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          • James Miller says:

            I agree, you are probably more likely to get killed in a car accident on a date than have something like this happen.

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        • SFG says:

          I have no clue who you are, so I’ll press forward, because I’ve been in a similar situation.

          I’m not going to give too many details, for a similar reason, but I simply avoided that social network and no further problems ever resulted.

          I’ve used OKCupid–others using other sites may have their own comments–but you can use their questions to filter for things you don’t like. Personally I’d avoid anyone using the word ‘feminism’ in their profile, if only because their grievance meter is likely to be easy to fill…but that’s your choice.

          Anyway,notice you actually had to meet her to get in trouble. Sending out 100 messages on a dating site is pretty harmless (and response rates are low for men, so be prepared to do so…and be sure to use your CS-brain to find ways to optimize this, it’ll make it fun!)

          You might also consider investing in a hidden audio recorder if you’re that worried. 😉

          Good luck.

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      • Jon H says:

        ” But if you’re really awkward and insecure around girls and also unattractive in general, those signs are never really going to come out. So you end up not understanding when it’s appropriate to make a move.”

        Yes, exactly this. Also even if there are signs, you may not recognize them, or may dismiss your interpretation of them as wishful thinking, etc.

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      • vernon rickard says:

        you could just level up your social skills

        Okay cool, he can just go hit monsters until he levels that up.

        Wait, no, you’ve given no actual useful information on how to do that. As your sort never do, because your advice is never anything but empty platitudes.

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        • simaetha says:

          You gain exp by getting out and interacting with people. As someone who was once cripplingly shy and clung to the idea that social skills are learnable like a lifebelt, I have been there and done that.

          Joining some sort of group where you can talk to people but have a Thing To Do so you don’t feel super awkward if you have trouble starting a conversation is helpful.

          My uni Amnesty group was pretty good for this, in that if you couldn’t manage to talk to people you could be writing letters on behalf of victims of injustice instead, which is surely a win on all fronts.

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        • I might suggest

          – Deliberately throwing yourself in many social situations, especially those outside your comfort zone
          – Reading literature on social skills, both online and in print
          – Developing a degree of self-reflection regarding one’s own behavior, making a conscious effort to improve
          – Meditation
          – Perhaps doing a PUA style routine where you deliberately regularly “practice” flirting in clubs
          – I’ve seen Toastmasters recommended often in the LW-sphere, I’m not really sure exactly what it is myself though

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          • vernon rickard says:

            No. You are telling me to throw myself off a cliff and hope I bounce. No. Stop that.

            Go back and read the article. That is the entire point – I cannot just go out and be social, because anything i do wrong will – WILL – will be treated as “creepy” or “weird” or “threatening”. There is literally nothing I can do about this, because I do not have the skills you are telling me to have that would allow me to avoid this.

            No. Stop pretending you are helping anybody. You are hurting other human beings for your own amusement. Stop.

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          • Nornagest says:

            @Vernon —

            That is an unfortunate consequence of living in a world where you need a particular skillset to get by. You’re not going to develop those skills without a certain amount of practice, and everyone starts from zero. Your average non-nerd gets past zero when they’re young enough that they have a social license to be unskilled, but you, from the sound of it, need to do it without that social license.

            Yes, this means a risk of coming off as creepy or weird or threatening. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, in an appropriate context, that risk is lower than you may have been socialized to believe. What sounds better: taking a few minor risks in an appropriate context, or a lifetime of suffering? ‘Cause you’re not going to change the entire culture around this.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            @vernon,

            You’re not exactly wrong, but there are a few things here that should perhaps be made explicit:

            -It’s not really a cliff. The consequences you fear aren’t actually that bad. You will survive the fall. Learning a bicycle is going to involve some scrapes and bruises, too, but these are all survivable.

            -Skills require practice. There is no other way you are going to acquire them. So yes, you need to jump off the cliff.

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          • I cannot just go out and be social, because anything i do wrong will – WILL – will be treated as “creepy” or “weird” or “threatening”.

            Yeah, I feel like to go from a state of awkward but harmless to socially adequate you have to first pass through an intermediate valley where you end up doing off-putting and unpleasant things. I went through this stage myself.

            But I still think you are over-estimating the risks of being judged. For one, being treated as “threatening” and “creepy” only really comes up in romantic contexts, so you can mitigate the risks by mainly trying to practice these skills on strangers – for example at a club like the PUAs do, or via online dating.

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        • James Miller says:

          Any shy nerds interested in leveling up their social skills should consider working as a volunteer petition signature gatherer. In the U.S. at least, to run for a political office you often need to get a huge number of people to sign a petition. If you are one of the people getting signatures you have to approach strangers, quickly pitch your candidate, and then ask for a signature. This is a great, socially acceptable way of overcoming shyness plus you can help out your political tribe. To do this, contact a local branch of the political party you most support and offer your services.

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          • Nornagest says:

            Fair warning to anyone considering it: this is a remarkably shitty job. It’s boring, it’s repetitive, it can be physically uncomfortable if you do it in the wrong time or place or aren’t used to standing for long periods, and it’ll expose you to more rudeness than you probably thought possible. You probably won’t get paid for it, and if you do it’ll be a pittance.

            But it will probably improve your social skills, and no one will think you’re a creep for it. Just an annoyance.

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          • James suggests working as a petition collector. I think a more general version of that is to practice social skills in contexts other than romantic courtship. Join a church/SCA group/political campaign/animal shelter/… some group that uses lots of volunteer labor. Help do things, run things, whatever the group is about. That gives you practice interacting with other people in a context that shouldn’t raise the sort of problems being discussed.

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    • DB says:

      “I literally can’t think of any path by which I could not be that dweeby loser in the corner who everyone mocks.”

      Have you considered looking for a way to work in East Asia? Or, at minimum, a way to move out of Silicon Valley? It sounds like you may come out significantly ahead in quality of life by doing so even if a large pay cut is involved.

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    • Dear Andrew: for the sake of my mental health, I promised myself I’d stop commenting on this affair, but I would hate for any shy male nerd to take away the message from my story that the only way out is to become a “rockstar badass” (thanks, btw 😉 ) in some little corner of science. It’s true that my first girlfriend was, at the time, a theoretical computer science grad student (I was a postdoc), and that the woman I married was a theroetical computer science postdoc when we started dating (she’s now a professor). But between those two, I also dated a law student, an international relations student, a corporate employee, a physics student, and a few others, and I think only the physics student could count as “star-struck” in any way. 🙂 So it really was mostly just a matter of a more confident, relaxed attitude, and (crucially) more experience, with which to judge (for example) when your date would respond well to a kiss, or a request for a kiss. I could then look back over the “depressed” phase of my life, and think of at least 15 or 20 girls who acted just as interested in me at first as the ones I later ended up dating, but with whom my own insecurities prevented me from even trying to take things any further.

      Based on what you write in your comment, it sounds to me like you’ll likewise do fine, as soon as you learn the “confident, relaxed attitude” part.

      So once again, this is not at all a matter of “blaming women for not wanting to date nerds” (the charge for which I’m now falsely accused by half the Internet?). As it turns out, plenty of women do want to date nerds, as soon as the nerds are able to take the initiative. Rather, precisely as the other Scott A. said, the blame falls on a certain part of our culture—maybe initially a “patriarchal” part, but now best exemplified by Amanda Marcotte—that makes shy male nerds feel that they’re horrible people, who’d become even more horrible if they ever dared to take initiative in these matters.

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    • Harald K says:

      I sing pretty well

      Just a tip. I’m almost ashamed to admit how much this has mattered to me in my relationships, and also on my general outlooks on attractiveness, but if you can sing, you’re effectively gorgeous to me. I’m straight, but even men who can sing automatically go up several notches in general spectacularity. I know I’m not alone in this.

      not well enough to become a famous musician

      Bah, who cares about that. Natural, “untrained” voices can be the best. In general, you sound like you’d be a catch for the right kind of woman – economically secure, can sing, what’s not to like?

      How about the (admirably Jewish) solution Scott Alexander proposed to Laurie Penny – that of matchmaking? Any trusted friends you can talk to about that?

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      • Short of formal matchmaking, have a network of non-romantic friends who know you are searching for a romantic relation and can try to put you together with suitable candidates from their network of friends. It isn’t quite the same thing, but I met my current wife as a result of a colleague’s wife suggesting that there were a lot of nice girls at folk dancing (university context).

        During the after dance socialization I overheard her explaining calculus to someone—well and clearly—and fell in love on the spot. Or so I like to claim.

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    • Tracy W says:

      But I’m still incredibly low status, exactly that sort of loser nerd everyone enjoys mocking, and I have no way of fixing that.

      Succeedsocially.com.

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    • roe says:

      Hi Andrew – please take the following in the spirit which it’s intended (ie. nice and hopefully helpful):

      You seem smart enough to think your way right past CBT and straight into self-limiting beliefs, doing an end run around CBT, as it were.

      This strikes me a