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Black People Less Likely

[Content warning: Polyamory, race]

I.

The best reporting on social science statistics, like the best reporting in most areas, comes from The Onion:

CAMBRIDGE, MA—A Harvard University study of more than 2,500 middle-income African-American families found that, when compared to other ethnic groups in the same income bracket, blacks were up to 23 percent more likely. “Our data would seem to discredit the notion that black Americans are less likely,” said head researcher Russell Waterstone, noting the study also found that women of African descent were no more or less prone than Latinas. “In fact, over the past several decades, we’ve seen the African-American community nearly triple in probability.” The study noted that, furthermore, Asian-Americans.

I thought of this today because a bunch of people have accosted me about the article There’s A Big Problem With Polyamory That Nobody’s Talking About. “Scott, you’re polyamorous! What do you think of this?”

As per the article, the big problem with polyamorous people is:

…their whiteness. And that standard of whiteness not only erases the experience of people of color; it reflects the actual exclusion of these people in poly life and communities. […]

A white, affluent image that reflects a troubling reality: A 2013 survey of polyamorous people from online groups, mailing lists and forums found that almost 90% of the participants identified as Caucasian. People of color, especially black polyamorists, report feeling “othered” and excluded in poly environments such as meet-ups, with women feeling especially at risk of being objectified and fetishized as an exotic sexual plaything.

“I interviewed a black couple who went to a poly group, and they were definitely preyed upon, in a sense,” said Marla Renee Stewart, Atlanta-based founder of Velvet Lips, a sex education venue.

The article constantly equivocates between “the problem is that polyamory is too white” and “the problem is that the media portrays polyamory as too white”, which is kind of a weird combination of problems to be discussing in a media portrayal. But it seems to eventually settle on a thesis that black people really are strongly underrepresented.

For the record, here is a small sample of other communities where black people are strongly underrepresented:

Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%).

Can you see what all of these groups have in common?

No. No you can’t. If there’s some hidden factor uniting Wall Street senior management and furries, it is way beyond any of our pay grades.

But what I noticed when I looked up those numbers was that in every case, the people involved have come up with a pat explanation that sounds perfectly plausible right up until you compare it to any other group, at which point it bursts into flames.

For example, Some people explain try to explain declining black interest in baseball by appeal to how some baseball personality made some horribly racist remark. But Donald Sterling continues to be racist as heck, and black people continue to be more than three-quarters of basketball players.

Some people try to explain black people’s underrepresentation on fanfiction websites by saying that many of them have limited access to the Internet. Okay. Except that black people are heavily overrepresented on Twitter, making up double the expected proportion of that site’s population.

Some people try to explain the underrepresentation of blacks in libertarianism and the Tea Party by arguing that these groups’ political beliefs are contrary to black people’s life experiences. But blacks are also underrepresented in groups with precisely the opposite politics. That they make up only 1.6% of visitors to the Occupy Wall Street website is no doubt confounded by who visits websites, but even people who looked at the protests agree that there was a stunning shortage of black faces. I would have liked to get current membership statistics for the US Communist Party, but they weren’t available, so I fudged by looking at the photos of people who “liked” the US Communist Party’s Facebook page. 3% of them were black. Blacks are more likely to endorse environmentalism than whites, but less likely to be involved in the environmentalist movement.

Some people try to explain black people’s underrepresentation on Wall Street by saying Wall Street is racist and intolerant. But Unitarian Universalists are just about the most tolerant people in the world – nobody even knows what they do, just that they’re extremely tolerant when they do it – and black people are in Unitarianism at lower rates than they’re on Wall Street.

And the article on polyamory suggested that maybe polyamorists’ high-flying lifestyle and expensive play parties price out black people. Forget for a moment that I’ve been poly for three years and had no idea this high-flying lifestyle existed and kind of feel like I am missing out. Forget for a moment that as far as I can tell “play parties” are a BDSM term with no relationship to polyamory. In my experience polyamory draws from the same sort of people as atheism, and atheism is very white even though not believing in God doesn’t cost a cent.

This entire genre seems to be a bunch of really silly ad hoc arguments by people who aren’t talking to each other. I would guess most of the underrepresentation of black people in all of these things are for the same couple of reasons.

First, some of these things require some level of affluence – I know I just said that didn’t explain polyamory, but I think it explains some others. For example, bird-watching requires you live somewhere suburban or rural where there are interesting birds, want to waste money on binoculars, and have some free time. Swimming requires you live in an area where the schools or at least the neighborhoods have pools.

Second, Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs says you’re not going to do weird things to self-actualize until you feel materially safe and secure. A lot of black people don’t feel like they’re in a position where they can start worrying about where the best bird-watching is at.

Third, the thrive-survive dichotomy says materially insecure people are going to value community and conformity more. Polyamory is still pretty transgressive, and unless you feel very safe or feel sufficiently mobile and atomized that you don’t care what your community thinks about you, you’re not going to feel comfortable making that transgression. Many of these things require leaving the general community to participate in a weird insular subculture, and that requires a sort of lack of preexisting community bonds that I think only comes with the upper middle class.

Fourth, black people might avoid weird nonconformist groups because they’re already on thin enough ice in terms of social acceptance. Being a black person probably already exposes you to enough stigma, without becoming a furry as well.

Fifth, we already know that neighborhoods and churches tend to end up mostly monoracial through a complicated process of aggregating small acts of self-segregation based on slight preferences not to be completely surrounded by people of a different race. It doesn’t seem too unlikely to me that a similar process could act on hobbies and interest groups.

Sixth, even when black people are involved in weird subcultures, they may do them separately from white people, leading white people to think their hobby is almost all white – and leading mostly white academics to miss them in their studies. I once heard about a professor who accused Alcoholics Anonymous of being racist, on the grounds that its membership was almost entirely white. The (white) professor had surveyed AA groups in his (white) neighborhood and asked his (white) friends and (white) grad students to do the same. Meanwhile, when more sober minds (no pun intended) investigated, they found black areas had thriving majority-black AA communities.

Seventh, a lot of groups are stratified by education level. Black people are only about half as likely to have a bachelor’s degree. This matters a lot in areas like atheism that are disproportionately limited to the most educated individuals. Polyamory also falls into this category – the most recent survey found 85% of poly people had a college education, compared to 30% of the general population (!). 30% of poly people had a graduate degree compared to only about 10% of the general population and only about 3% of blacks. There has to be a strong education filter on polyamory to produce those kinds of numbers, and I think that alone is big enough to explain most of the black underrepresentation.

Eighth, people of the same social class tend to cluster, and black people are disproportionately underrepresented among the upper middle class. Most of these fields are dominated by upper middle class people. The nickname for weird self-actualizing upper middle class things is “Stuff White People Like”, and this is not a coincidence. [EDIT: Commenter John Schilling says this better than I – a lot of these groups are about differentiating yourself from a presumedly boring low-status middle class existence, but black people fought hard to get into the middle class, or are still fighting, and are less excited about differentiating themselves from it.]

So I think positing that black people feel “fetishized as an exotic sexual plaything” in the poly community is unnecessary. Black people are underrepresented in the poly community for the same reason they’re underrepresented in everything in the same vague circle as poly. Heck, black people are even underrepresented in the activity of complaining about black people being fetishized as exotic sexual playthings – check out Tumblr’s racial demographics if you don’t believe me.

II.

The eight points above add up to a likelihood that black people will probably be underrepresented in a lot of weird subculturey nonconformist things. This is not a firm law – black people will be overrepresented in a few weird subculturey nonconformist things that are an especially good fit for their culture – but overall I think the rule holds. And that’s a big problem.

A few paragraphs back I mentioned that Occupy Wall Street was had disproportionately few minorities. Here are some other people who like to mention this: Michelle Malkin. The Daily Caller. American Thinker. View From The Right. New York Post. American Renaissance.

All of these sources have something in common, and it’s not a heartfelt concern for equal minority representation.

Likewise, you know who’s got an obsessively large collection of resources on the underrepresentation of minorities in atheism? Conservapedia (Western Atheism And Race, Racial Demographics Of The Richard Dawkins Audience, Richard Dawkins’ Lack Of Appeal To The Asian Woman Audience, etc, etc, not to mention the very classy Richard Dawkins’ Family Fortune And The Slave Trade.)

Here it is easy to see that “you have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for “you suck”. So here’s the problem:

In theocracies ruled by the will of God, people will find that God hates weird people who refuse to conform.

In philosopher-kingdoms ruled by pure reason, people will find that pure reason condemns weird people who refuse to conform.

And in enlightened liberal democracies where we “tolerate anything except intolerance”, people will find that weird people who refuse to conform are intolerant.

And if blacks are underrepresented in weird nonconformist groups, and nobody mentions that this is a general principle, that’s making their job way too easy.

So here’s why this article annoys me. In the midst of black underrepresentation in everything in the same ontological category as polyamory, people bring up black underrepresentation in polyamory and suggest it’s because poly people are “objectifying” and “preying on” them, positing that “there’s a problem” with “a standard of whiteness that erases people of color” in the polyamory community.

We know from OKCupid statistics that (mostly monogamous) white men are very reluctant to date black women, but monogamous people don’t have to listen to well-meaning friends going up to them and saying “So, you’re mono, I hear the monogamous community has a racism problem.”

But now I and other polyamorous people are going to have to answer one more round of annoying questions about “You’re polyamorous? Isn’t that a bunch of racist nerdy white dudes?”

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475 Responses to Black People Less Likely

  1. Anon says:

    Wow. Just… wow. The article that this is reacting against seems really sort of depressing almost.

    Is this the start of a “YOU KNOW WHAT NOBODY HATES EACH OTHER ABOUT YET? POLYAMORY”?

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    • Samuel Skinner says:

      It isn’t as bad as it sounds. From the article:

      There is a socioeconomic element at play when it comes to exclusion. Those people of color with lower income can feel marginalized by poly community culture’s financial demands, which can include dishing out cash for a fancy play party[19] or a plane ticket to Burning Man[20]. The Behind Closed Doors party[21] this Valentine’s Day in Manhattan, for example, is charging single ladies $95 for tickets, while couples’ tickets begin at $275. The cost of actively participating in the community can be an intimidating barrier.

      Sheff and Hammers found evidence of such exclusion in their 2011 study[22]. “Scarce funds can deter people with low incomes from participating in kink and poly community events,” they wrote, acknowledging the difficulty of potentially being “one of the very few people of color or with low socioeconomic status in a group composed primarily of educated white people with professional jobs dressed in expensive fetish wear.”

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      • Wes says:

        My experience is the exact opposite. I’m in the Philadelphia area, and my local community is mostly poor millennials – highly educated, yes, but often broke. There is a range of socioeconomic statuses, but it trends toward the low end. It’s definitely very white, though, so I don’t think you can blame the racial disparity, at least in my community, on people’s finances.

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      • Deiseach says:

        The cynical part of me is inclined to say, re: polyamory, that lower-class and/or poorer people just called it “shacking up” or didn’t have a particular name for it e.g. recent case I’ve heard of at work about an ex-colleague of my colleagues who had a wife, a girlfriend, and another girlfriend (who was a work colleague and whom he has just got pregnant with twins) on the go at the same time – this isn’t being called “polyamory”, it’s being referred to as “How the hell did he manage that?”

        Whereas better-educated (whether affluent or not) young people – who, yes, tended to be college-educated, middle-class and white – clapped a name on it: “I’m not a slapper, I’m polyamorous!” and then all these rituals, unwritten rules, and appendage organisations that smell a buck to be made sprang up around it.

        Some people try to explain black people’s underrepresentation on fanfiction websites by saying that many of them have limited access to the Internet. Okay. Except that black people are heavily overrepresented on Twitter, making up double the expected proportion of that site’s population.

        I think the problem there is less to do with access to the Internet and more with the general problem of representation. Off the top of my head, thinking of popular fandoms: Harry Potter? Background minor characters of colour, not the main three or their allies/enemies. Doctor Who? One companion who was a British black woman (Martha Jones) and Micky (again, background support) who have since been replaced by white characters. Firefly? Zoe is African-American, and a main character, but the verse background could quite easily be accused of Orientalism rather than true acculturation. BBC Sherlock? Ha ha ha, just take the first season episode “The Blind Banker” and look at the response to it – it truly was dreadful for stereotypes and clichés. CBS Elementary? Much better, but I have no idea on the participation there. BBC Musketeers? This time round, they’ve made Porthos a person of colour (possibly in acknowledgement of Dumas’ parentage), and within fandom everyone loves Porthos to bits, but again – Athos and Aramis and even d’Artagnan get main storylines, Porthos’ storyline tends to get shoved into a ten-minute section of the episode. On top of that, it’s a minority fandom. Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit? I know one person who is developing Dwarven culture and society, since Tolkien left so much there to be expanded upon, by taking the Five Houses of the Dwarves that have not been described much and making the Orocarni Dwarves persons of colour (as well as expanding on LGBT and explicitly trans and non-binary culture) but again, very very minority in the wider fandom. Star Trek? Slightly better, though for TOS people tend to look down on Lt. Uhura as “she only answered the phone” and the like, and if we’re talking Reboot Trek, I’ve excoriated it myself for its appalling attitude to women. It may have boosted Uhura’s character to being one of the main three (by displacing McCoy), but it regressed by reducing the three canonical woman characters (Uhura, Chapel and Rand) to one (and making Chapel the butt of a nasty joke to explain her absence), never mind the “Alice Eve in her underwear” scene.

        Frankly, if you’re reading (and not writing yourself) fanfiction, then unless it’s in a niche fandom, the Big Beasts will be the fandoms where the main characters are majority or even solely white, and likely to be mainly male. So I’m not surprised the proportion of black participation on websites is so low.

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        • Randy M says:

          “appendage organisations”
          Pun intended?

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        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve found, although I don’t have any statistical evidence for it, that not being the target audience for media increases fandom, rather than diminishes it. Consider the large number of female-dominated fandoms for works with primarily male target audiences in that list of yours. The only comparable (in terms of fanworks) male-dominated fandom on the Internet I know of is My Little Pony, for which the fans are obviously not the target audience. I can’t really think of any good reason why this gendered phenomenon would not also apply to race.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >not being the target audience for media increases fandom

            This doesn’t sound right. Let’s rephrase it: “being the target audience for media decreases fandom” (relative to not being the target audience). Sounds wack. If you’re not the target audience, you’re more likely to be a fan?

            >. The only comparable (in terms of fanworks) male-dominated fandom on the Internet I know of is My Little Pony
            Ignoring whether fanwork is a good metric of fandom, there are MANY male-dominated fandoms which produce fanworks. Consider any fantasy series, most video games, most board games, …

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          • ii says:

            >This doesn’t sound right. Let’s rephrase it: “being the target audience for media decreases fandom” (relative to not being the target audience). Sounds wack

            Seems like internet fandom and main consumer base don’t mean the same thing. It would seem obvious that adults who like a show for children would have a larger web presence etc.

            Also having a large periphery demographic for a show in which the main cast is entierly composed of the opposite sex doesn’t seem like it needs to be elaborated upon.

            It’s also worth mentioning that fanfiction is a particular subset of fandom that’s mostly focused on romantic relationships and written erotica. Both predominantly female pastimes. It stands to reason that the particulars of what the fandom is about or that its focus demographic is different don’t matter so much as that it’s popular and gives enough material to work with in those two pursuits.
            The stereotypical fanfiction reader in my mind would be a teenaged girl with access to a personal computer who watches anime/drwho/supernatural on tv and likes related posts on tumblr. If there is any barrier of entry here it would be that they either don’t own a computer, spend a lot of time on it or don’t watch the same shows.

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          • Silver2195 says:

            Counterpoint: Nasuverse fandom is clearly mostly male and based on clearly male-targeted media (although there are still more female Nasuverse fans than you might think).

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        • Anonymous says:

          My knowledge of polyamory is limited to what you pick up reading Dan Savage once in a while, but I don’t think it’s got THAT much in common with shacking up and other common forms of non-monogamy. It’s supposed to be a way of engaging in sex/romance/intimacy where everyone’s fully informed, okay with what’s oing on, and any qualms or quibbles are aired fully and hashed out.

          A dude shtupping a bunch of ladies doesn’t really count, in other words, unless the ladies are all fully informed and okay with the situation.

          Correct me if I missed something important?

          A nice fictional representation of a polyamorous non-couple can be found in the webcomic “Leftover Soup.” (I guess I have a second source for my knowledge!)

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          • Deiseach says:

            Which is why it’s the kind of negotiated, talking about it, everyone on board and singing from the same hymn sheet stuff that, frankly, only a certain segment of the population will be interested in or bothered with.

            Strikes me as something the same as student politics; the vast majority of students in a university or college don’t care about the machinations that go on with the Official Students’ Union representatives (except for when they call a walk-out about Topic of the Day and the student body uses that as an excuse to skip lectures and go down the pub*); a small minority of students are interested in politics, get involved in the electioneering and nitty-gritty of how the Union works, and often take up careers in politics afterwards.

            So I think (a) you need to work out ‘what percentage of the national population are currently identifying as polyamorists?’ and (b) work out further ‘given that the black population of the U.S.A. is a certain percentage, what percentage of that percentage would we expect to identify as polyamorists?’ and (c) ‘do our sets of figures match – the projected ones and the actual ones?’ and (d) people may be polyamorists de facto but not identifying as such de jure because it seems a bit silly to be havering over primaries, secondaries, and all the associated jargon.

            *At least, that was how it worked back in my day 🙂

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          The cynical part of me is inclined to say, re: polyamory, that lower-class and/or poorer people just called it “shacking up” or didn’t have a particular name for it e.g. recent case I’ve heard of at work about an ex-colleague of my colleagues who had a wife, a girlfriend, and another girlfriend (who was a work colleague and whom he has just got pregnant with twins) on the go at the same time – this isn’t being called “polyamory”, it’s being referred to as “How the hell did he manage that?”

          So did the women talk to each other about something other than a man?

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      • Andrew says:

        “The Behind Closed Doors party[21] this Valentine’s Day in Manhattan, for example, is charging single ladies $95 for tickets, while couples’ tickets begin at $275.”

        And how much for single men? $180? More?

        Isn’t it odd that the price for men wouldn’t even be mentioned here? Was the author uncomfortable passing on the fact that it costs men more?

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        • Setsize says:

          It’s just what it says. No ticket price for unaccompanied men, because no tickets for un-vetted, unaccompanied men.

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        • Furrfu says:

          It’s common, though not universal, for sex parties to not admit men who come by themselves. Of course, this creates a perverse incentive to hire a prostitute to accompany a man who would otherwise not be able to enter. I’ve corresponded with a woman who considered it nobody’s business that the guy she came with was paying her, and of course Dominique Strauss-Kahn is notorious for claiming he had no idea some of the women at the orgies he attended were prostitutes.

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          • Setsize says:

            It’s common for the kind of swinger parties that are so brazen as to advertise tickets, largely for reasons of supply and demand (but with some other variously good and bad reasons.)

            It’s also a non-representative example for the writer to pick, since many people who use the “polyamory” label try (sometimes overly) hard to distance themselves from the hetero swing scene. Most poly people I know don’t go to sex parties, and a club like cspc.org is more representative of the scene for those who do.

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          • Furrfu says:

            Agreed, Setsize. Thank you for the correction (?)

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    • blacktrance says:

      It’s countersignaling radicalism within SJ. Polyamory is generally disapproved of, so the normal culturally liberal thing to do is to defend it. But if you’re beyond a certain threshold, then you can make yourself look more radical by criticizing it.

      It’s kind of like what happened to colorblindness. It was once a radical position, but now it’s seen as conservative and racist.

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      • houseboatonstyx says:

        It’s kind of like what happened to colorblindness. It was once a radical position, but now it’s seen as conservative and racist.

        Seen by whom? Like, are anti-colorblindness and pro-colorblindness people even talking about the same thing? Are the same people who were and are pro-, just keeping quiet now, or are the anti’s a whole new generation? When was the transition, who pushed it, and with what arguments?

        I guess it would take a whole blog post to answer all that, so I’d appreciate a lead.

        I’m really curious.

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        • As I understand it, colorblindness is now considered a way of ignoring that race has a connection to personal experience and culture. I’ve seen it phrased as “Not seeing race is not seeing me”.

          Saying that you don’t see race will get you attacked by SJWs.

          I think something like only seeing race when it’s appropriate is a better goal than either being colorblind or thinking that race is affects everything about people

          I also think that someone who says “I don’t see race” in the middle of a conversation about racism being a problem is rather missing the point.

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          • Anonymous says:

            If people stopped seeing race as important, then what would race and SJ activists do? They would lose a thing that gives their lives a narrative, they would lose a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves (which is often a reason why people join movements or communities). They would have to find other meaning to their lives to replace that particular part of their identity or get used to living a more boring life.

            Some people say that some drug companies have conflicting motivations, should they release a new drug that would cannibalize the profits of the old drug by the same company? Some people even go on and say that some drug companies allegedly avoid creating drugs that would cure a disease and prefer to treat symptoms instead. Of course, one argument against this is that drug companies compete against each other and if your old drug that alleviates symptoms of a chronic illness is to be replaced by a new one, it is better to develop it yourself instead of allowing your competitors to do so. At least this way you get something instead of nothing.

            Somewhat similarly, race and SJ activists have conflicting motivation, because the sense of belonging to something greater than yourself is a motivator similar to money. They might be motivated to achieve temporary victories, but they do not necessarily have motivation to make race unimportant, therefore they move to the next racial thing, as if they are on some kind of “SJ treadmill”.

            Well, I agree that an analogy between a conspiracy theory about drug companies and this particular kind of activists is not perfect, but what I’m trying to say is that in former, companies have incentives that the pain their chronic patients feel returns to the same level, and in the second case, activists also try to make that level of outrage about injustices and level of perceived importance of race returns to the same level even if the situation has changed.

            It is somewhat interesting to think whether it is unavoidable that things are this way (whether this situation is desirable is a related but non-identical question). Would it be possible for SJ to somehow have direct competitors, that would promise to reduce the perceived importance of race quickly and permanently? How would that look like? Of course, SJ activism has competitors in a “things and movements that provide people a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves” market and there is a competition here, but it is mostly an indirect competition.

            Therefore, I think that SJ will continue to try to make race important unless either some kind of direct competitor appears, or competition in “things and movements that provide people a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves” market somehow forces them to.

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          • Not THAT anonymous commenter says:

            Another anonymous person said:
            “If people stopped seeing race as important, then what would race and SJ activists do? ”

            You have a point. (The blog host makes it all the time.) SJ attracts sociopaths/idiots/misinformed converts/hucksters/add your category.

            But I read your comment as saying that outrage is a kind of sinecure. People cry racism (even when there’s no racism) because crying racism fulfills some need, and they’ll never stop even when racism is a solved problem.

            I think this is a ridiculous – and harmful – overstatement of the situation.

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          • Michael Watts says:

            @Not THAT anonymous commenter:

            Not only is it not a ridiculous overstatement of the situation, it’s an idea you can find SJ advocates expressing for, and about, themselves. Here’s a long quote from Joseph Bottum’s An Anxious Age:

            But my own experience was that the [Occupy Wall Street] protestors were, on the whole, astonishingly good people, if the word good is used in a somewhat special sense. There around Zucotti Park, down near Wall Street, a few hundred of them had gathered for deeply felt moral purposes they could not name with any precision — for moral goals they often refused, as a moral principle, to specify.

            Claiming to speak for the “99 percent,” the impoverished majority of the world, the Occupy protestors clearly desired wealth redistribution of some kind, and yet they repeatedly rejected any attempt to issue a set of policy demands to achieve that end. “We want change,” a sweet young man and his girlfriend tried to explain to me after I’d brought them coffee and Danish pastries early one morning. “Just change.” But when I asked what change in particular, he picked at the raveled cuffs of his hoodie for a while before rambling through a tirade that amounted to little more than a wish that his own moral outrage would shame America’s wealthy malefactors into a reformation of the heart.

            Most of all, he said, “we want people to know about the wrongness in society the way we do. We want them to see us as the ‘moral vanguard of change’ ” (repeating a catchphrase from a meeting the night before). “Exactly,” the young woman with him added. “We want people to see how brave we are, and to know that they can be brave, too.”

            […]

            “Demands cannot reflect inevitable success,” as an Occupy manifesto declared in a wonderful blast of chiliastic rhetoric. “Demands imply condition, and we will never stop. Demands cannot reflect the time scale we are working with. [this emphasis mine; earlier emphasis original]

            This is talking about people from Occupy Wall Street, obviously, but Bottum explicitly identifies those and all the other SJ movements as being basically the same phenomenon, and I agree. What we have here is a bunch of people telling the world that (1) the world is evil; (2) the world should get it together; and (3) we’re not going to make specific demands, because if we did that, it would foreclose us from carrying on the protest movement if those demands happened to be fulfilled. What we want is for people to see how brave we are. That’s not a political opponent making a farcical characterization of their statements, it’s them describing themselves. I think we can reasonably draw the conclusion that they’re protesting because protesting fulfills some need, and they’ll never stop even if their cause becomes a solved problem — that’s what they’re telling us about themselves.

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          • pneumatik says:

            [Edit: I didn’t realize I was at the comment nesting limit. I was trying to respond to Nancy Lebovitz at 6:38 am.]

            This pretty literally happened to me, except everyone was pretty calm about it. But yeah, I didn’t see her because I didn’t see her race.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Good questions, and you’re right, it would take a lengthy blog post to answer all of them. I will answer one of them now, though – usually, anti-colorblindness and pro-colorblindness people are talking about different things. Pro-colorblindness people want to abolish race similarly to how gender abolitionists want to abolish gender – they want a world in which race is no more important than hair or eye color, and they want to get there by de-racializing current society whenever possible. Anti-colorblindness people think that colorblindness means ignoring actually existing racism. But even when pro-colorblindness people clarify their position, many anti-colorblindness people say something like “Colorblindness is assimilationist” or “People’s races are important to them”, and so they reject it anyway.

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        • Paul Brinkley says:

          My impression of race blindness is that it isn’t so much willful denial of the link between race and life experience (as Nancy describes above), but rather an earnest attempt to do just what culture in the 1980s advised us to do: avoid judging anyone as incapable of doing something on the basis of race alone. And the first behavioral adjustment in the textbook was to utterly disregard race as a factor in hiring.

          Lately, this form of affected blindness got vocal in the presence of affirmative action – which is functionally the exact opposite of dismissing race as a factor in hiring – and then doubly vocal in the presence of the notion of privilege, which manifests functionally as a claim to factor race into practically everything else as well.

          SJWs look at cases of institutional racial bias as support of their cause. However, unless they aim that cause specifically only at actual racists, or at the very least, only at the complacent, they end up further antagonizing people who went out of their way to scrupulously root out personal bias. To the earnestly race-blind, a person’s experience is a result of many factors, and factoring in their race to the satisfaction of an SJW is seen as a rejection of that person’s other qualities, and very often is as damaging to that person as the original racism.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      To be fair to Moloch, lots of people already hate each other over polyamory.

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  2. Somebody in the Effective Altruism Facebook group posted the question “how come there aren’t more black people in EA?”. My answer was going to be “because it’s mostly programmer-or-philosopher-type people and black people are underrepresented in that empirical cluster in personspace”, but this provides a more complete answer.

    EDIT: I just realized something. Hypothetically, if you wanted to have more black people in EA, you could try to attack either of those two representation problems (expand EA beyond the philosopher/programmer cluster, or get more black people into that cluster). The former seems like the easier approach, and indeed has benefits aside from racial representation, but this post illustrates that it’s pretty unlikely to increase the proportion of black people very much. If you branch out into neighboring empirical clusters in personspace, odds are that black people are also underrepresented in those clusters, for the reasons you laid out. You have to go pretty far afield before you find clusters where black people aren’t underrepresented.

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  3. Matthew says:

    and atheism is very white even though not believing in God doesn’t cost a cent.

    This is true only in a very narrow, literal sense. Well, believing in God, maybe. But membership in organized religion comes with a lot of social support benefits that the poor need more than the affluent.

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    • Michael Watts says:

      Atheists have a long tradition of being members of organized religion anyway. There’s no requirement to believe in god if you want to participate in organized religion. (There are often nominal requirements that you don’t talk about it, but often not even that.)

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      • Irrelevant says:

        There’s no requirement to believe in god if you want to participate in organized religion.

        Though they might refuse to teach you the secret handshake.

        Which is to say, if you’re participating for general social something-to-do-on-the-weekends reasons that’s one thing, but getting the more tangible benefits of in-group membership usually requires more commitment. Religions have their own class structures, navigating them can be quite tricky and ideally you’re born into them. Or maybe I’m just from a weird religion.

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      • Liz Calkins says:

        It does feel kind of dishonest, though. I really miss the social aspects of being raised Catholic and didn’t really mind the experience in general, but feel like being agnostic is still a bar against going back to it.

        I don’t feel like I can develop a sincere social bond with people if I’m busy faking an interest in something they genuinely believe in.

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        • Irrelevant says:

          Hmm. I don’t get a feeling of dishonesty, but I was always heavy on the theology and history and light on the personal application, and found those insights appreciated. So there are many subjects I don’t need to feign interest in. Oh, and my denomination are annihilationists who don’t believe in eternal souls. So I’m guessing my priorities and worldview shifted less than yours.

          Of course, if you bring potential future children into the equation I have no idea what to think. “Raise them like I was” vs. “don’t teach untruths” is a tough debate.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            Well, by interest I more meant, having to pretend I believe in God when I don’t, while they actually do. It’s not a good foundation for an honest relationship, platonic or otherwise.

            I don’t think my actual priorities and worldview changed all that much, thought, honestly. I grew up in the Western New England variety of Catholicism, which was heavy on the charity and social work and doing good deeds angle and light on the hating the unbelievers and gays angle.

            I just discovered somewhere along the line that I wasn’t wired to be able to have faith in anything that wasn’t empirical (or at least rigorously logical).

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          • TheTinfoil says:

            We take our kids (and ourselves) to a Quaker meeting as a way of navigating the “raise them like I was” vs” don’t teach untruths” conundrum. In an effort to not be like my parents, I don’t want to dogmatize atheism into my kids, but I also don’t want them learning a bunch of crap. So, Quakerism. They get the community benefits of organized religion (with heavy focus on values we agree with like pacifism and The Principle of Charity), without an insistence that they actually believe anything they’re being told. Then again, when I requested membership into the meeting, my atheism freaked some people out. So, yes, tough debate.

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      • Nicholas says:

        When a local priest said, on pulpit, that he couldn’t figure out “Why atheists choose to be in league with the dark forces that cause school shootings” I began to feel unwelcome.

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    • Wirehead Wannabe says:

      Also, I feel like there’s an important difference between “not believing in God” and “identifying as an atheist.” The latter definitely can cost you in terms of social disapproval, even more so than simply not attending church.

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  4. Satanforce says:

    What an interesting blog this is turning out to be . Scott, while I have bee studying “Untitled”, I am sure there are posts that I sh0ld read from you. What would you say are the post that define you ideas?

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  5. Michael Watts says:

    You do see a lot of people saying “the monogamous community [“society”] has a racism problem”, but you don’t see them individually calling other people out, as members of society, for having a racism problem. I’d say that’s an example of people intuitively understanding that possessing a very common trait can’t be informative as to a rare trait, but I know that can’t be it because nobody gets that in other contexts (most famously, school shootings / playing video games).

    In this case I’d give a lot of weight to the idea “people claiming the label ‘polyamorous’ are drawn from a demographic that is already not black”. Now I’m pretty curious what the demographics of “has multiple simultaneous sex partners” look like.

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    • HeelBearCub says:

      Now I’m pretty curious what the demographics of “has multiple simultaneous sex partners” look like.

      I think that demo is going to be fairly representative of the population at large.

      But the demo of people who have multiple partners simultaneously and everyone is OK with it, that’s different.

      😀

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      • Randy M says:

        “I think that demo is going to be fairly representative of the population at large.”

        It is certainly diverse, bit I’m going to hold off on wagering just how perfectly representative it is until someone has data.

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          Fair enough. I thought you hadn’t properly specified and hadn’t meant to include run of the mill philandering (i.e. I was just poking a little fun at you.)

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          • Michael Watts says:

            Run-of-the-mill philandering is within the scope of my question. If you want to count it, I’m willing to bet that males are heavily overrepresented there relative to females.

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          • Run-of-the-mill philandering is rarer than you think it is, I’ll wager, unless you’re going to count everyone who has ever cheated on their girlfriend/spouse even once. If we’re counting all one-time cheaters in the group, then yes, the population of “philanderers” is probably a significant fraction of the total sexually active population. But the people who make a habit of having multiple sexual partners at the same time is much smaller.

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          • Michael Watts says:

            No, I’m interested in the population who do it habitually or are doing it currently, not the population who have ever cheated. Still willing to bet that philandering is quite far from being representative of the population as a whole.

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    • Deiseach says:

      I think polyamory is something that is intentional, and if you’re going to describe yourself as a polyamorist, then you already have a commitment to the philosophy and practice.

      Whereas the ordinary man (and woman*) who has several partners on the go doesn’t care about signing up to a particular group (particularly with all the guidelines about honesty, openness, and emotional support etc.) don’t want to be bothered with all that, they just want to get their end away, and see absolutely no reason they should refrain from sleeping with B if the chance presents itself, even though they’re in a relationship with, or at least already sleeping with, A.

      *More anecdotes from work: not unusual to get women updating their applications with “I’m pregnant again/I have another child”, who answer the question “Who’s the father?” with “So-and-so”. “But you said you broke up with him.” “Yeah, but he came round to my place and it was his birthday/I felt sorry for him because his granny died/we were drinking and we went to bed together”.

      So-and-so may have a new girlfriend at the time, but this didn’t stop him taking up with old girlfriend. Now, in many cases, ‘break ups’ aren’t that ‘broken up’ and the pair are still together, only not admitting it for reasons. But in other cases, both parties have new partners or casual paramours but still have sexual encounters from time to time, and they don’t call it or think of it as polyamory, just “that’s what happens”.

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  6. Atheist Statistics says:

    “Atheists (1%)”

    How did you calculate this? In the linked survey the figure I see is that 1% of blacks identify as atheist or agnostic, with ~1% agnostic and <0.5% atheist. Did you report that instead of the share of atheists who are black?

    The corresponding numbers are 4% and 2% for the overall population, and 5% and 2% for non-Hispanic whites. With 11% of the general population being black, that would seem to indicate the black share of atheists or agnostics would be around 2% rather than 1%. Depending on what <0.5% means, the share of atheists might be 2% rather than 1%.

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  7. caryatis says:

    I would challenge the idea that being in a group in which black people are underrepresented, even though they are free to enter, equals being racist. Or equals any sort of problem.

    Edit: Now, there are some cases in which seeing that a group is underrepresented in X might lead us to believe they do not have free access to X. If we found that black people in a given town were significantly less likely to call the police, or go to the grocery store, we might think there’s an access problem, since we know black people eat and are victims of crime at least as much as whites.

    But in cases where X is not a necessity, but rather a fringe interest, why should we assume that every group is equally interested and would participate equally if they could? For instance, birdwatching and basketball are very different pursuits. Why should we expect birdwatchers and basketball players to be demographically identical?

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    • Vulture says:

      I’m inclined to agree with your viewpoint here, so I’m going to play the devil’s advocate.

      I was actually just having a conversation earlier today about the underrepresentation of black people in Unitarian Universalism (possible causes brought up: Unitarian churches are boring and smug and black people have way better churches anyway, education, network effects). The person I was talking to point out that a community like a church (even a Unitarian church) can serve as a power center where networking, politicking, etc. occur. If there are no or few black people in such a community, especially when that networking/politicking feeds into the governance of an area with lots of black people (as in the case I was discussing today), then that could be a problem in terms of effectiveness of governance. This is all very tenuous as a generality, but in the particular case we were discussing it all seemed to apply (or everything causally prior to “ineffective governance”, that is).

      This kind of reasoning can be extended to the general case: tight-knit groups can become self-perpetuating power nexi (the crystallized expression, which is very useful, is “old boys’ club”, but that has a little bit of baggage, esp. in this context). The lesswrongosphere is an excellent example of this: On a couple of occasions I have observed lesswrongospherians helping each other out with silicon-valley job-seeking connections, not to mention tips and tricks and so forth. There’s nothing wrong with this per se (‘helping your friends is Good in general’ is fairly incontrovertible), but the network effects mean that any incidental features (demographic or otherwise) of the community will be weakly transmitted into any power structures it is associated with, the strength of the transmission obviously varying with the hegemonery of the community within the structure. Usually this is pretty harmless, but demographic features such as race and gender can have negative, or just in-a-direction-uncorrelated-with-effectiveness, effects on the effectiveness of the institutions involved.

      Hopefully that makes sense. I didn’t edit it before posting, which could be rationalized in a number of ways but is in fact the result of laziness and having other things to do 🙂

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      • Irrelevant says:

        I agree in principle, but in practice the churches and alumni associations and clubs and such that we have appear to mostly be as influential as they’ll ever be, and actively getting weaker for obscure cultural and demographic reasons.

        What they do offer, though, is a route by which well-intentioned anti-discrimination policies can badly backfire. An obvious and recent example is that if you’re a small business owner who thinks (some or all) birth control is sinful to buy, the easy solution is to selectively hire members of your church who share that belief. Less obviously but more insidiously, the more laws there are about making you hire fairly exist, the higher your inclination to short-circuit the process and hire a first- or second-degree personal contact is. Good news if you know people, bad news if you’re a policy maker trying to promote opportunity and economic efficiency.

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      • I’ve heard from a couple of sources that Christians are somewhat unwelcome among Unitarians, and if black people are more likely to be Christians, then that’s another factor.

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      • Deiseach says:

        I’m white, and the idea of joining a UU church makes me want to jump into the sea 🙂

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      • Anthony says:

        tight-knit groups can become self-perpetuating power nexi

        They certainly can. However, one power nexus can displace another, and a diversity of power nexi, populated by different types of people, may make that transition more likely to happen. Concrete example: In Oakland, the political power nexus is the Allen Temple Baptist Church. The change from a city run by white Republicans to one run by black Democrats probably was more effective because those black Democrats had their own institution, rather than trying to get into the Knowland Park Golf Club (or whatever the actual power nexus for the previous establishment really was – I’m making that name up).

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    • Harald K says:

      I would challenge the idea that being in a group in which black people are underrepresented, even though they are free to enter, equals being racist.

      Yes. Schelling’s segregation model provides a one great example illustration of why. Social justice types love the Schelling model when using it to argue for quotas and/or mandatory diversity. But you can also argue from the model that racism isn’t really the problem, and attempts to make people less racist are unlikely to provide big gains even if very successful… and I don’t see many of them make that argument.

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      • social justice warlock says:

        It depends on the type of SJ-type. Those more towards the liberal end of the spectrum tend to place a great deal of emphasis on changing subjective attitudes, whereas those on the left end of the spectrum tend to assume that the attitudes will follow structural changes and material incentives rather than the other way around. Both obviously have some truth to them, but the difference in emphasis entails a difference in strategies.

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        • Harald K says:

          Maybe, but I can’t say I see it. In particular, the people who made that great interactive demo are not willing to deviate from the self-righteous SJW strategies very much.

          They link to the Petrie multiplier post and say “The Petrie Multiplier shows why an attack on sexism in tech is not an attack on men.”

          But that is not what the model says! What it says is that “attacking sexism in tech” is a waste of time compared to just making the gender ratio more equal.

          If you believe that model is accurate at all, you have to increase gender diversity in tech to reduce experienced sexism, not the other way around! The other way around will simply never work, if you believe that model.

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          • Nita says:

            If you believe that model is accurate at all, you have to increase gender diversity in tech to reduce experienced sexism

            Um, I’ve seen no indication that they’re against that approach. But obviously the number of sexist experiences could also be reduced by reducing sexist attitudes.

            Their point was that the relatively high rate of women’s experiences of sexism in male-dominated spaces should not be taken as evidence that men are more sexist than women.

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          • Harald K says:

            “But obviously the number of sexist experiences could also be reduced by reducing sexist attitudes.”

            Not remotely effectively. It suggests that if you could halve the number of sexists/sexist incidents, it would still only result in a very small reduction in experienced sexism.

            Halving sexism is already ridiculously optimistic. Going from 1% sexists to 0.5% sexists – remember, this model does NOT assume everyone is sexist, but only a small minority – is obviously not going to be easy.

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          • Harald K says:

            Nita: http://what-if.xkcd.com/imgs/a/124/kennedy.png

            But seriously. We have a hard option, and we have an easy option.

            The hard option is also costly. If those sensitivity trainings, against all odds, succeed at getting sexism from 5% to 2.5%, you bet they’re going to cause a lot of Aaronson-style neuroses in the process. Prescribing medicines with serious side effects into a population that’s mostly healthy, that’s not a good idea. (Reminder: the model concedes that the population is mostly healthy.)

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        • Anonymous says:

          Initially I was like “huh? One end is liberal and the other end is…left? Is it a U-shaped bar?” and then I realized that the SJ bar is to the left of liberalism. Shudder…

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    • Darryl Williams says:

      Your argument is fundamentally the wrong way around. Absent a reason, there’s no reason a sample shouldn’t reflect the population. In fact, much of our understanding of demographics, polling, sampling, statistics, and science in general relies on this assumption. Unless you propose some inherent difference in the birdwatching/basketball aspects of a person based on race, then yes, they should be the same. If they are different, something, either intrinsic or extrinsic, is making them different. The default, I hope this comes as no surprise, is to assume black and white and whatever other people are the same. And then we identify the causes of any observed differences. (Obvious examples, melanin => sun, sickle cell anemia => malaria)

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      • Unique Identifier says:

        While it is somewhat curious, when subpopulations don’t match the population as a whole, racism and sexism are at best one-in-a-million of the possible explanations absent a real mechanism. There is no reason they should be the default, and there is no reason there cannot be an entirely benign explanation for a skewed representation.

        And the truth is that these explanations are not really defaults, they are short-circuited arguments only when convenient. I rarely see people default to sexism (in for instance healthcare), to explain why women live longer than men. I rarely see people default to racism to explain the success of blacks in basketball. There are barely limits to the sort of idiotic claims you make, if you take skewed representation as proof of discrimination.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          I rarely see people default to sexism (in for instance healthcare), to explain why women live longer than men. I rarely see people default to racism to explain the success of blacks in basketball.

          Height and lifespan are clearly facts, and are sufficient to explain those discrepancies. A discrepancy in, say, high finance, has no such obvious physical mechanism. Sexism is known to exist in that world, and could account for that discrepancy; so by Occam’s Razor, there is no need to multiply entities by claiming that women lack Financial Phlogiston.

          Not that any default should be very firm,
          or that any single cause is more likely than a combination of factors. But we can’t rule out sexism altogether as one of those factors, unless other more clear mechanism/s are found.

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          • Irrelevant says:

            Occam’s Tweezers would be more apt, you’re picking one potential cause from an issue known to be multivariate and focusing all your attention on it.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            Sexism could explain male-female discrepancy in finance, so by Occam’s Razor it cannot instead be because of innate differences between the sexes?

            This is the most perverse misunderstanding of Occam’s Razor I think I have ever seen.

            [Less importantly: the fact that women live longer still needs to be explained. In this case, I assume it has to be because of innate differences between the sexes and cannot be because of sexism…]

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          • Anonymous says:

            @ UI:
            I’m fairly sure the argument would be more accurately paraphrased as:
            Sexism in finance DOES explain male-female discrepancy in finance.

            Unlike innate gender differences in financial ability, sexism in finance is known to exist and is a clearly observable phenomenon. So there is no need to posit innate gender differences in financial ability to explain male-female discrepancy in the finance industry.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            Clearly observable phenomenon? Do elaborate.

            (I have seen similar claims for any number of other fields, and they consistently fail to check out.)

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          • Anonymous says:

            Oh well then. If you don’t believe the many, many people who’ve reported sexism in the the software industry or the engineering industry or whatever you’re not going to believe people who’ve seen it in finance. Also, talking to you is a waste of time because epistemic closure.

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          • Cauê says:

            >(I have seen similar claims for any number of other fields, and they consistently fail to check out.)

            I second this. It’s worrying how much these discussions rely on anecdotes, but especially worrying given how often those anecdotes are automatically and authoritatively interpreted in one particular way, ignoring several different and usually more plausible explanations, even if we take the stories at face value.

            But, to me at least, the saddest part is still this “oh well if you don’t believe it there’s no point talking to you”.

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          • pneumatik says:

            @Anonymous at 12:02 pm: Scott already had a post about the (imho strong) evidence that women are diverted away from math and hard sciences when they’re still in elementary and middle school. It seems reasonable that this could also drive women out of finance. Or that a similar process that pushes school age women out of serious competition, like they might experience in sports, and this results in fewer women wanting to go into finance. It certainly seems rational to want to see if this hypothesis is true, at least.

            None of this is to say that women in finance haven’t experienced terrible sexism. But that sexism could as easily be due to a small number of aggressive, narcissistic men who have enough social capital to get away with anything.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymous at February 12, 2015 at 7:50 am

            @ UI:
            I’m fairly sure the argument would be more accurately paraphrased as:
            Sexism in finance DOES explain male-female discrepancy in finance.

            That would be over-simplifying of course, but yes, that’s the way Occam would point between these two factors in this case.

            Unlike innate gender differences in financial ability, sexism in finance is known to exist and is a clearly observable phenomenon. So there is no need to posit innate gender differences in financial ability to explain male-female discrepancy in the finance industry.

            Thank you. Perhaps I should have said, by Occam we should not multiply theoretical entities, when known entities can explain the fact. Here we can explain the discrepancy by known factors such as sexism, without having to posit an unknown entity which men have more of, such as Financial Phlogistan.

            To look wider than finance, we know that in the wide world sexism does exist. We do not know* that such an entity as an innate ability for math, ie Math Phlogistan, exists at all, anywhere.

            *Pace a hypothesis supported by IQ tests recently discussed here.

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          • anon says:

            Maximum lifespan for both men and women is well above 100 years, and is thus not the end-all-be-all factor that decides average life length. Both men and women usually die for reasons unrelated to having reached that lifespan. Maybe you could say that men generally are born with weaker immune systems or a propensity to get themselves in danger more often (with a biological aka non-social cause), but that’s not as trivial as saying that blacks are on average taller than whites.

            You assume that women/POC-favoring factors are clearly and trivially biological, while men-favoring factors are probably socially-constructed. The opposite side thinks that women can’t get in tech because of obvious biological differences while the (choose MRA talking point) is caused by society privileging women over men.

            Hell, one of the MRA talking points is about how women living longer than men is obviously sexism.

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          • cypherpunks says:

            Nothing is as trivial as a false statement like “blacks are on average taller than whites.”

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        • Anonymous says:

          Sexism in healthcare would push in the opposite direction; that’s why it’s not generally considered as an explanation re life expectancy.

          A couple of starting points:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/health/research/20disp.html?ref=health
          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27disp.html?_r=2&amp;

          sorry no journal links, I spent a while reading about this topic a few years ago but these here are is the result of a quick google search. Those links are tip of the iceberg though. There’s a lot of evidence that medical professionals tend to intervene less aggressively to save the lives of elderly women than elderly men.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            Unfortunately, it pulls overwhelmingly in the other direction. See for instance prostate vs breast cancer funding for a particular example.

            Women receive more expensive care per capita, by a whopping 34% (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361028/).

            As the feminists would say; your inability to perceive society’s biases in favor of women is itself proof of the misandric undercurrents which permeate our society…

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          • Nita says:

            @ Unique Identifier

            Note that about 40% of that difference is due to longer time spend in old age, and some of the rest is probably due to pregnancy, childbirth and other sex-specific care.

            But it is pretty likely that women get more involved in their own healthcare, both in good and not-so-good ways.

            The awareness campaigns for prostate cancer have started only recently, so hopefully it will catch up soon. Although there are some other differences, too: breast cancer happens to younger people, progresses faster, and the results of surgery are pretty good (at least physically).

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            But keep in mind the larger point. I’m not overly concerned with male-female life expectancy, but the eagerness to read skews in data as sexism is our midst.

            Women live longer than men, but this is okay because it’s maybe biological. Women, even after adjusting for life expectancy, are provided with more expensive care, but this is okay, because maybe we can make the difference disappear if we correct for stuff.

            Compare and contrast with the mythic ‘wage gap’, which disappears when you correct for hours worked, level of education, field of work, etcetera. It is consistently paraded around as proof of discrimination, without any real sort of explanation.

            This sort of double standard is not merely common, but ubiquitous. When women are poorly represented in engineering, it supposedly proves that it’s a misogynistic boy’s club. When male suicide rates are roughly twice of those for females, hands are wrung, the data cannot be trusted, the topic is shunned.

            Which ties in with the topic of the post itself – where an article regards under-representation of blacks in a community as indicative of racism.

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          • Anonymous says:

            No one says the data on suicide can’t be trusted. Data on attempted suicide is also pretty reliable.

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          • Nita says:

            Women live longer than men, but this is okay because it’s maybe biological.

            No, it’s not OK. First, there are obvious social components (unhealthier lifestyles, more dangerous jobs and recreation, and less healthcare). And second, we should ameliorate injustice imposed by biology where possible.

            And of course we must correct for stuff in comparisons, but we also should observe what that stuff is, and whether it can be helped by intervention.

            For instance, there are two things we can correct for in healthcare comparisons: “life expectancy” and sex-specific needs. Increasing men’s life expectancy is probably easier than giving everyone the same reproductive organs, so that’s one avenue of attack on the problem.

            And after corrections, we’re left with the effect of patients’ and doctors’ behaviour, which is the other thing we can improve.

            The exact same reasoning applies to the wage gap — we should correct for different career paths, but we should also investigate how people end up in those paths, and whether there are any improvements we can make.

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        • Anonymous says:

          @UI Quick recap: I showed you evidence that women get less, and less competent care, when comparing like care with like.

          Your response to that was to say that when you compare like with unlike more money is spent on women. That isn’t evidence of sexism. (Unless you think that money spent on ameloriating the horrendous health consequences of pregnancy and childbirth is misandrist. Which I guess is possible round here. )

          You were called on that, so you went to “keep in mind the larger point.”

          You are not arguing in good faith.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            If you didn’t alternate between posting as Anonymous and Nita, I maybe wouldn’t be treating you as two parallel conversations and everything would be much simpler.

            You posted two extremely inconclusive cherries pointing vaguely in one direction. Nobody, including the experts quoted in the articles, have much of an inkling of why the data skews the way it does. I presented a cherry in the other direction, to demonstrate how easy and inconclusive this is.

            I also proceeded to destroy your overall point, by showing that -very significantly more resources are invested in care for women, in health care as a whole-. It is difficult to cherry pick the whole of the tree. Money to money is like to like.

            And also, you are stupid-head, seeing as tossing in gratuitous insults is your way of doing things.

            [And again: I am not saying that health care is sexist. I am asking for the same sort of eagerness to explain away the data skew, as displayed in this case, to be applied to the wage gap, disproportionate representation, etcetera.

            If skews in the favor of women, in healthcare, can be reconciled with no actual sexism, then I have made my point.]

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          • Anonymous says:

            >If you didn’t alternate between posting as Anonymous and Nita.

            To clarify: not doing this. Again, you are not in good faith. I wouldn’t have responded but I felt it necessary to clear this up.

            And since I’m posting anyway: It’s not cherry picking to compare like care with like. It’s actually essential to do that if you want a comparison to be meaningful. Since you’re calling people stupid now, I feel it’s worth pointing out that a comparison which only makes sense under the assumption that men and women have the same healthcare needs is very, very stupid indeed; so stupid as to be almost beyond mockery.

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          • Darryl Williams says:

            Near as I can tell, many studies which do indeed try to explain the wage gap without asserting sexism (e.g. level of employment, different jobs) consistently leave a 6-7% gap unexplained.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            So you are not Nita, you are merely chastising me for replying unsatisfactorily to not-you? Because explaining what points I am and am not defending is dodging the question? Even better.

            And if men and women are no longer ‘like to like’, the whole feminist programme falls apart. Whenever anybody brings up the wage gap, I will simply tell them they are comparing men to women, that’s not like to like.

            Here’s a curveball: if women have so different health needs, that they require roughly 20% more health care after adjusting for life expectancy, perhaps this is why employers pay them less? Certainly this amounts to costlier health insurance and more sick days?

            [I also like how you feel perfectly justified to assume – by powers of mind reading, I assume – that I am arguing in bad faith, and then get upset to be called a stupid-head.]

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          • Anonymous says:

            …comparing like care with like care. I thought that was obvious but have clarified in case anyone other than you was confused.

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          • Anonymous says:

            …comparing like care with like care. I thought that meaning was obvious but have clarified in case anyone other than you was confused.

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      • haishan says:

        Unless you propose some inherent difference in the birdwatching/basketball aspects of a person based on race, then yes, they should be the same. If they are different, something, either intrinsic or extrinsic, is making them different.

        But there are so many extrinsic forces acting differentially on races/ethnicities/genders/sexual orientations/classes/IQ levels/whatever. All of which are typically compounded by Schelling and the nature of social networks — if white people start leaving Myspace for Facebook, further white people are going to join Facebook preferentially over Myspace. Lots of communities fail the null hypothesis that their makeup reflects the makeup of the larger society, but the correct alternative hypothesis isn’t “this community is racist/sexist/classist/whatever.” You need much stronger techniques to demonstrate that.

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        • Darryl Williams says:

          Aye, to be clear, and as an atheist graduate-degree-getting poly black person, I never posited ‘Assume racism’. But ‘why can’t they just be different’ isn’t ever an answer unless you’re assuming innate differences. There may be a million possible reasons, but there’s at least one having a real measurable effect.

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          • caryatis says:

            “Absent a reason, there’s no reason a sample shouldn’t reflect the population.”

            That’s true if you take a random sample. But the groups of people who self-select into a basketball/birdwatching activity are not randomly selected. Hook is right–it’s about culture. I don’t think it’s a controversial claim to assert that black and white Americans have different (albeit overlapping) cultures, which mediate the kinds of activities they tend to enjoy, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, dialect they speak, church they go to, and so many other things.

            I’m not sure why you assert these cultural differences have to be innate.

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          • Darryl Williams says:

            Culture is in itself a thing which needs to be explained. We didn’t all line up and pull cultures from a hat, and culture is not an intrinsic aspect of a person; so you haven’t finished explaining. Why should black culture be different from white culture? Call me deterministic, but absent black people isotopes and white people isotopes, any proposed difference has to be traceable to some cause associated with our definitions of Black and White

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          • Irenist says:

            “Why should black culture be different from white culture?”

            Well, some of it’s racism obviously, and I suppose it’s possible some of it could be innate somehow.

            But a lot of it is probably just isolation (due to segregation, etc.) leading to random drift–like Galapagos finches or small tribal languages with complicated case systems.

            Take genetically pretty similar people (Irish/Scots, Poles/Russians, Flemings/Walloons) and have them speak different languages, join different religions, live in different polities, and you’ll see differences.

            Racism led to segregration, segregation to isolation, and isolation to differentiation. But once the cultures are differentiated, I’m not sure that lingering racism (which I’m not denying the existence of, btw) is required to maintain differentiation. (I’m also not sure that it’s not; I’m just skeptical generally on this.) Whites from Wyoming and New Jersey have rather different cultures, but it’s not because of racism; it’s because they’re geographically distant.

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          • Cauê says:

            “Why should black culture be different from white culture?”

            It might be interesting to point this out here: I absolutely cannot tell the race of a Brazilian by the way they speak, their name, their clothes, their preferred activities, preferred food, music, or whatever. I’ll tell you the region and social class they came from, but not their race.

            The US and Brazil have similar enough histories in this aspect, and I find this difference curious. I also think it could be useful to study when looking at race and culture in the US.

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          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            Re: Irenist, adding another potential explanation…

            ““Why should black culture be different from white culture?”

            Well, some of it’s racism obviously, and I suppose it’s possible some of it could be innate somehow.”

            Group contrast effects.

            Have any of you read Judith Harris? The Nuture Assumption? She posits – and gives examples that I find quite convincing for – a human tendency first to identify with a group, then to shift your group behavior to distinguish yourself from other groups. Her strongest example is the Robber’s Cave Experiment, where boys picked to be very similar and have no pre-existing connections to each other were divided into two groups and set up in a campground – and, once the groups became aware of each other, they immediately started picking different parts of their shared heritage to emphasize, to distinguish themselves from each other. That’s got to be relevant here. If people identify as blacks and whites, they will tend to purely from that fact prefer to act more like members of their group and less like members of the other group; if there are not pre-existing differences they will develop some. That has to be relevant when we’re discussing why there are differences between social groups.

            (Note: this is a very quick explanation from memory, Judith Harris does it much better. I do think it’s a real pattern though. Humans are competitive, and I’ve certainly noticed myself going from identifying with a group I am perceived as part of to “Well X is a virtue of this group so I should try to emulate it” even if, sans group membership, I probably would have gone after a virtue I was better at instead.)

            (Note 2: Lack of this pattern in other countries could reflect people identifying less strongly along racial grounds, and more as part of other groups. Which could be a reflection of racism (being more of a major thing here, thus pushing people more into identifying based on race), or of the fact that race is very, very politicized here (hence harder to think of yourself as “a cellist” instead of “a black cellist”.)

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      • Hook says:

        Rather than a biological analogy like sickle cell anemia, a cultural analogy like language is more appropriate here. There is a clearly non-biological reason that the vast majority of Cantonese speakers are Asian. Someone’s native language is not drawn from an urn independent of all of their other characteristics, and neither is bird watching.

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      • Tom Scharf says:

        I think we can justifiably conclude that birdwatchers are vastly underrepresented in basketball.

        And it is certainly due to the anti-birdism that plagues our society. What else could it possibly be? Don’t even get me started on the stereotype of Cardinals that is put forth by Louisville. This has got to end. Now.

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      • Jeff H says:

        “Absent a reason, there’s no reason a sample shouldn’t reflect the population. In fact, much of our understanding of demographics, polling, sampling, statistics, and science in general relies on this assumption.”

        No, it relies on the assumption that a RANDOM sample should reflect the population. There is no assumption that a sample self-selected for some trait, even a seemingly unrelated one, will do the same.

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    • Deiseach says:

      But I do imagine that there is a social price to pay for black people who come out as being polyamorists that is not there for white people, quite simply because there are already cultural stereotypes about black people being hyper-sexual, promiscuous, etc.

      So while it may be regarded as eccentric or quirky, even if it’s regarded disfavourably, there are still fewer social, economic, career and so forth risks for white people who openly identify as polyamorists than there are for black people.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Did you link to unvisit because it omits the big picture at the beginning (something you often complain about)?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      No. I used Unvisit because I’ve heard (plausibly) that the entire reason news sources publish pieces like this is so that people will be outraged, link to them with the caption ISN’T THIS OUTRAGEOUS YOU SHOULD READ THIS AND BE OUTRAGED, and then the site gets lots of page views and advertising money. I want to make sure I’m not contributing to that.

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      • Thanks Scott says:

        Unvisit sounds like a great idea. It seems like an almost perfect partial counter to the problem you described in the Toxoplasmosis of Rage, in the sense that by feeding a viral story through Unvisit (the way you did), you raise awareness of Unvisit. So the solution adapts perfectly to the shape of the problem, and people stop feeding ad revenue to exactly those stories they want to respond to without endorsing. Do you think it might be a good idea to highlight the fact that you used Unvisit in the post?

        (And link to your Toxoplasmosis of Rage post while you’re at it… honestly, every social justice post on the internet, whether from the right or left, should probably include a mandatory disclaimer that says “MEMETIC HAZARD: the problems discussed in this post, however legitimate, are not being addressed using an especially useful modality below… see Nonviolent Communication, Toxoplasmosis of Rage, [more links follow]” Maybe I should create a Google Chrome extension that does something like this, because I know this well but I need to do better at remembering it.)

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      • Geist says:

        That’s just giving unvisit the incentive to increase the number of outrage articles on the internet so they can show their own ads.

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        • Thanks Scott says:

          😉

          So if someone creates an ad-free nonprofit that does the same thing as Unvisit, problem solved?

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          • Philip says:

            Unvisit has no ads, and is operating at a net loss because of this. The net loss also allows me to have a small defence against copyright claims, as they cannot state that I am stealing ad revenue.

            I should know, I built the thing 😉

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      • Not That Scott says:

        Another option to unvisit is archive.today, which has the added benefit of preserving the page in amber (useful if it is likely to be edited or if comments are likely to be deleted).

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        • Thanks Scott says:

          If an outragist wants to delete their ill-conceived blog post, I say let them. (That said, archive.today seems better than a direct link for the time being… just not perfectly ideal. Also, does archive.today archive and re-broadcast ads?)

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  9. John Schilling says:

    Can you see what all of these groups have in common?

    They all appeal to people who imagine themselves superior to the norm of middle-class America, or want to be seen as such? OK, maybe that’s a stretch for the furries and the fanfiction readers. But mostly I see highbrow intellectual hobbies in a country that still has a strong anti-intellectual streak, conspicuously health-conscious athleticism in the land of sedentary obesity, super-enlightened religious and social philosophies in a mostly Christian nation, and nominally altruistic political activism by self-appointed shepherds on behalf of the sheeple.
    And the Wall Street managers, obviously.

    Hypothesis: Blacks are mostly either trying to climb into middle-class American society from below, or if already there to maintain what they see as a tenuous position. Because middle-class American society is in almost every way better than where they came from, where their immediate ancestors were forcibly kept, where many of them still are and others fear falling back to. White people are trying to climb above middle-class American society because they feel they can or ought to be better – and if they really aren’t, they’ll settle for standing off to the side and trying to tilt the reference frame. Blacks may also feel they have the potential to be better than middle-class America, and justifiably so, but for most of them the obvious path runs through the middle class rather than around it.

    This may just be a restatement of your points 1-4 and 7.

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    • Another example of a group where blacks are underrepresented relative to their share of the population … .

      I have been involved for a very long time with the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that does historical recreation from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. As best I can tell, there is no significant discrimination against blacks in the group, at least the parts I have been involved with. During the early years, the seneschals (roughly CEO of a nonprofit) of two of the first three SCA kingdoms were black, and there are a fair number of other examples of blacks in high status roles. But, again by casual observation, blacks are a considerably smaller part of the SCA population than of the national population.

      The explanation I have heard is that the parents of blacks are less tolerant of frivolous activities, activities that divert time and money away from serious matters, than the parents of whites. The parents in question would presumably be middle class but, as some here have suggested, less secure in that position and less willing to see their children put staying in the middle class at risk than the parents of whites.

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      • Jaskologist says:

        Seems like this could also be well-explained by the fact that the history being re-enacted is not that of blacks. It doesn’t seem strange that white people would be more interested in European history than non-whites.

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  10. the_other_guy says:

    I’ve wondered for a little while now… are people who don’t date outside their race / identified group, basically racist?

    And I come at this from two angles. One is, are you racist if you are not attracted to someone of a different race?

    The other is from a purely Bayesian standpoint. If you are attracted to persons in both (or more technically, all) races approximately equally but don’t deal well with rejection, should you allocate your time to persons where you have a prior belief of X that they’ll be interested, or persons where your prior belief is ~0.1X that they’ll be interested?

    (this is the other side of the coin from the fairly well documented phenomenon whereby black women don’t date / seek long-term relationships outside their race http://www.economist.com/node/21532296 )

    Closing this out, I’ve also wondered whether someone who only dates persons of a certain sex, is sexist.

    I suspect a core issue in all this is very poorly defined words plus affect heuristic (aka emotive and non-constructive responses from people).

    (My sense is that this blog is really trying to deal with more constructive responses on tough issues. A bit more thought on words packed with different meanings, aka suitcase words. might be useful though.)

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    • This is the second time in two days that somebody has asked something like this, and I get to respond by linking to theunitofcaring’s extremely excellent post on this very topic!

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      • Matthew says:

        I agreed with half of that post. There is a definite difference between [not being attracted to X] and [loudly proclaiming “I’m not attracted to X (and you shouldn’t be either)]

        The claim that attraction is all culturally mediated veers in the direction of a false consciousness claim. The correct response isn’t “I don’t know what to do about this;” it’s “we should not be trying to do something about this.” There is a never a context where it it okay to imply that someone’s preferences are inauthentic.

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        • “There is a never a context where it it okay to imply that someone’s preferences are inauthentic.”

          If they enjoy something in secret, I think it’s reasonable so say that their public preference is not their real preference.

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          • John Schilling says:

            It would be true to say this, and it would almost certainly be unkind. When is it necessary?

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          • Tracy W says:

            Well if someone is going on publicly about how appalling people are for doing X and how the government should be trying to do more to stop people doing X, then pointing out that they’re doing X may well be necessary, for a lose definition of necessary.

            (Eg the Guardian newspapers owners are engaged in tax-dodging).

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      • Randy M says:

        “Preferences are culturally mediated! There are lots of people who would totally be attracted to trans people and to fat people and to disabled people and to every other constructed-as-undesirable category of people if they asked themselves about it!”

        So, gay guys get to be born that way, but I have to feel guilty for my preferences? Good luck with that sell.

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        • Thecommexokid says:

          How did you jump from “Preferences are culturally mediated” to “I have to feel guilty for my preferences”?

          Ten years ago, I thought big glasses with thick plastic frames looked really stupid. Then they came into fashion. Now I frequently find them hot. I have no doubt that my surrounding culture is what was responsible for this dramatic shift in what I do and don’t find attractive.

          Countless times, I have witnessed in myself that culture can influence my preferences dramatically. Do I think that this can be problematic? Sure. Do I think I should feel personally guilty about it? No. It may be problematic, but it’s not a problem I was personally responsible for.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            If hotness is not a property of the glasses, but a whole face or figure, there is an alternate hypothesis, where what has really changed is that the glasses are now more often worn by fashionable, attractive people, whereas previously they were worn by people who didn’t care much about their appearance. If so, the effect of the glasses on your perceived hotness need not have changed at all, you just see them more on people who can actually pull them off.

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          • Randy M says:

            The sentence after the one I quoted: “We should be angry about this! ”

            This implies that the current preferences of those he’s talking about, the more exclusionary (“obnoxious”) ones, is bad. Frankly, I don’t think I should be angry about it.

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        • Tracy W says:

          Which language you speak is culturally mediated. And lots of people could learn another language. Does that mean you have to feel guilty about not putting all your time into learning foreign languages?

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          • Randy M says:

            No, but this does imply something to that effect:

            “There are even more people who would [speak English] if they hadn’t been raised saturated by media messages about what [the best language] is! We should be angry about this!”

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          • Tracy W says:

            What language kids should learn is indeed often a matter of bitter cultural dispute. See Ireland, Wales, Basque Spain, Singapore, for examples.

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      • anon says:

        “Preferences are culturally mediated! There are lots of people who would totally be attracted to trans people and to fat people and to disabled people and to every other constructed-as-undesirable category of people if they asked themselves about it! There are even more people who would be attracted to those groups if they hadn’t been raised saturated by media messages about what beauty is!”

        Or it could be that treating people’s preferences as the result of brainwashing is at best incredibly obnoxious, at worst inviting the obliteration of private life through the assumption that preferences can and should be changed

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        • Aaahh, the default assumptions on tumblr and here are so different that I’d make the argument from an entirely different framework (which isn’t to ask that people not link my content to SSC, just to observe that it predictably does not translate well at all.)

          Some preferences are fixed, some are culturally mediated, some are fixed for some people and culturally mediated for others (sexual orientation is in the latter category, I’m happy to bite that bullet.) No one is under any obligation, ever, to question their attraction preferences, any more than picky eaters are obligated to try new foods or than people living in rural Indiana are obligated to try moving to a big city.

          I suspect that it would often make them happier. In particular if you have preferences that rule out a big share of your potential dating pool, it seems to me that from a purely selfish viewpoint it’s worth poking those preferences and examining them and trying to determine what other assumptions they’re grounded in. This is because the investment is pretty minimal and the return on information is very high.

          Therefore, I think that an average person would likely find it worthwhile to spend a little bit of time poking their preferences, because from anecdotal evidence they are more malleable than you might be assuming and having more options is nice.

          I think you are pattern matching this argument to one that you are ethically obligated to examine your preferences, and that it’s the latter you find ‘incredibly obnoxious’ and ‘i have to feel guilty’ and ‘inviting the obliteration of private life’ and so forth. But, just to be clear, I don’t endorse you feeling guilty or having your private life obliterated so if you read that into my writing you are reading far, far too much.

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          • Tracy W says:

            Out of curiousity, when you’re unpicking a preference and trying to decide whether it’s culturally mediated or not, what do you look at? What observations raise or lower the Bayesian probabilities of either sort?

            Because we know historically a number of things thought to be natural turned out to be cultural and vice-versa (on the latter, eg, picking a gender for interssexual people often doesn’t work).

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      • Okay, responding to everybody at once here.

        Are you guys claiming that preferences aren’t always culturally mediated, or that they’re never culturally mediated?

        If the former, then the post you’re criticizing already made your argument for you. You may have reacted defensively to the mention of preferences being culturally mediated, and not paid particularly close attention to the rest of the post, including the part where she talks about people reacting defensively to the mention of preferences being culturally mediated. I recognize that the whole “you’re proving this argument correct by arguing against it!” shtick is obnoxious, but in this case I think it’s pretty justified.

        If the latter, then I disagree. Do you really think the proportion of white Americans who think they’d never find a black person attractive is the same now as it was in 1850? And yes, I think it’s fairly likely that some ostensibly-straight men would be attracted to men if they asked themselves about it, and more would be if we lived in a culture where everyone was assumed to be bi. (Perhaps a concept of straight-by-default, analogous to cis-by-default, would be useful.)

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        • Randy M says:

          I’m claiming that people of certain political preference use which ever argument they think will allow them to score points by painting the other tribe as bad.
          “Homophobic American’s aren’t letting gays fulfill their innate, unchangeable urges! It’s impossible to change someone’s preferences!”
          “Straight/racist/transphobic men aren’t reconsidering their culturally enforced preferences! Feel bad that we aren’t trying to change their preferences!”
          When the inconsistency is a convenient weapon it is suspicious.

          Further I’m making the argument that if only finding white women who’ve always been women sexually appealing means I am a bigot by your definition, what happens is not that I have a new bias to purge, but that I no longer consider bigotry, by your definition, something I need to purge. I feel no moral obligation to be xenophilic, etc., and I find the argument that this one was, if not making explicitly, than leaning up against, quite creepy, in the “try to get you to have sex with someone you think is gross” way that women use it.

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          • I’m getting the bingo-card feeling here. The post taymonbeal linked argues that if you say something like ‘preferences are culturally mediated’ then people will understandably feel like you’re trying to make them have sex with people they don’t want to have sex with, and that this is obviously really bad.

            If someone saying ‘gosh it’s hard to talk about how preferences are culturally mediated without people understandably feeling like you’re trying to pressure them into changing theirs, this is a problem’ makes you feel pressured into changing your preferences, then this problem is even harder to fix than I thought it was. If ‘this issue is hard to talk about without falling into the failure modes I’m about to list, but…’ is on the bingo card then there’s really no possibility of constructive engagement.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            You are getting the bingo-card feeling, because you are trying to have your cake and eat it too. You cannot both criticize trans-averseness and pretend to be non-judgmental about people’s sexuality at the same time. Pretending ‘transphobia’ is a societal ill to take the individual responsibility out of it doesn’t cut it.

            Furthermore, ‘culturally mediated’ doesn’t mean much, until you can tell which parts of human culture are ultimately determined by biology – culture is, of course, biologically mediated – and which are not.

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          • drethelin says:

            Unique Identifier: You can be non-judgmental about someone’s preferences even if you think they’re in some sense wrong or socially contingent.

            Consider this: someone spreads a lie that person x has AIDs. You no longer want to sleep with them. I think that your position on sleeping with person x is a totally reasonable position for you to have, even if it’s based on false information, and that you might change it if you learned more.

            Similarly: You can say “You can be attracted to whoever you’re attracted to, but at least part of who you’re attracted to is based on you living in and among people with certain habits and culture.”

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            That whole argument relies on the assumption than the enlightened progressives understand people’s sexuality, better than they do themselves. While theoretically possible, it should be extremely well substantiated, before one sets out to educate the barbarians.

            If you want to open the flood-gates for people to second-guess the sexuality of others, you will have a hard time fending off the conservatives who similarly know that homosexuality is just a phase people will grow out of, and then they will regret not having a normal family and kids.

            Both groups think they are doing the individuals a favor by butting in, as well as society as large. Personally, I prefer the solution where consenting adults sort their own business out.

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          • Randy M says:

            “You can be non-judgmental about someone’s preferences even if you think they’re in some sense wrong or socially contingent. ”

            “Wrong” is a judgement. Unless you pick value of things out of a hat, you are being judgemental in ascribing them. Please note, though, I don’t so much object to judgement, so much to what it is in this case.

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          • Tracy W says:

            You can be non-judgmental about someone’s preferences even if you think they’re in some sense wrong or socially contingent.

            I don’t see how you can be non-judgmental while thinking someone’s preferences are wrong in any sense.

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          • Cauê says:

            There must be some typical mind problems here as well, at least some of the time.

            For instance, I have a gay friend who is convinced that everyone is naturally attracted to both sexes, and straight people just suppress it. I made an effort to convince him this wasn’t true in my case, but I’m not sure I succeeded.

            If that truly was the case, then it would be somewhat reasonable to identify unwillingness to consider the possibility of same sex relationships as the result of prejudice.

            So, when a second friend gets mad at men in general for not liking fat or body hair in women (or men in the case of gay men), I can’t help but wonder how much of this comes from she herself not minding fat or hairy men much, and assuming that other people feel about the same way.
            (and she does see this as a moral failing that should be blamed on society and rectified)

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          • ozymandias says:

            Rationalists: “It is very important that we consider HBD, even if it encourages racist aliefs or otherwise hurts black people, because the truth is more important than political convenience. How dare you suggest that sexuality might be culturally mediated! That will encourage people to guilt me about my sex life!”

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          • Nornagest says:

            @ozymandias — Or there are multiple different rationalists with different views on the importance of truth relative to political/social convenience. Some of them might even have biases! Gasp!

            Myself, I find both the race thing and the sexuality thing boring as shit and would rather we not talk about them, because they always lead to either a circlejerk or endless unproductive debate depending on who’s participating. But I regularly get outvoted on both counts.

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          • Raichu says:

            @ozymandias – In the context of a society with both compulsory sexuality and rape culture. I would consider any argument that can easily be construed as either pressuring people, or enabling others to pressure people, into engaging in sex they don’t want. As unjustifiably harmful.

            Lets assume that sexuality is in fact culturally mediated and that we can change our sexuality. That still in no way changes the reality that having sex you do not want is worse than having fewer potential sex partners.

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          • ozymandias says:

            Nornagest: Yep. People are biased. I am being snarky in how I point this out. I do think the SSC social norm in general is in favor of saying things you think are true that might also have negative social consequences, and I like that norm, and I would prefer people continue to stick to it.

            Raichu: Yes, but it seems to me that the solution is not “this thing might be true, but it is always and everywhere wrong to say it!” The solution is saying “sexuality is culturally mediated and changeable, but also you shouldn’t have sex with people you don’t want to have sex with”, which literally everyone on the pro-culturally-mediated/changeable side is saying.

            Not talking about things has bad consequences too. It makes it a lot easier to conclude that the reason people don’t want to fuck black people is because black people are just sort of inherently unattractive. We can’t try to figure out strategies to culturally mediate people into being attracted to a wider variety of bodies. People who would quite like to change their sexualities don’t know that this is an option. For that matter, it means that people who independently notice that sexuality is culturally mediated and are like “oh god! That means I have to have sex with people I don’t want to have sex with!” have no one to talk to about it, because that conversation requires admitting that sexuality is culturally mediated.

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          • Raichu says:

            @ozymandias – Well if talking about how preferences are culturally mediated was just about explaining how culture can influence someones sexual preferences I would be fine with it. But its not.

            Invariably when people argue this point they follow it with a statement like “And you should “consider” “examining” your desires”. With the strong suggestion that this is obligatory.

            The problem with such statements is that they imply the following:

            1. There is something wrong with having limits with who you are willing to have sex with.

            2. That their is a moral imperative that everyone who is at least not asexual should make themselves sexually available to as many people as they possibly can.

            3. That other people should be able to decide for you what sexual limits you should have, if any, and whether or not they are moral.

            4. If you do not have sexual limits that fit into a particular moral framework you are a immoral person.

            5. That your sexuality exists for others benefits.

            6. That other people are allowed to inquire into your sex life and make moral judgements based on who you are willing to have sex with.

            7. That your sexuality exists for the benefit of someone else.

            All of these ideas are harmful.

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          • Nita says:

            @ Raichu

            There is a difference between obligatory thinking (about your desires) and obligatory sex.

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          • Raichu says:

            @ Nita – Not a meaningful one. Our thoughts influence our behavior.Statements like “You should consider examing your desires” functions as a way to guilt people into changing their desires against their will. If people feel guilt over their desires their going to try to alliviate that guilt through behavior. And one way to do that is to have sex with the people they feel obligated to desire.Whether or not that is the intended outcome is irrelevant to that being the oucome.

            Besides it’s still an unwanted intrusion into someones private sexual life.Its still dictating to people what they should think and feel. It’s still guilt tripping.Its still treating peoples sexuality as a tool for someone elses use.

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        • Wirehead Wannabe says:

          I wish to point out that “culturally mediated” and “immutable” are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Just because my preferences in who I find attractive are a product of society does not necessarily mean that they can be undone. It especially does not mean that they can be changed at the drop of a hat. I wish people would realize this and stop equivocating culturally determined preferences with willful racism.

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            Culturally mediated is such a useful word, because -nobody- knows what it really means. Thus, its meaning can change, like a chameleon, as it suits the user.

            For instance, I doubt whether people will agree on whether men-stand, women-sit with regards to urination is culturally mediated or not (or to which degree).

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          • Randy M says:

            Pretty sure that taking it personally what others do is culturally mediated, though.

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    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s kind of pointless to dwell on whether you are subconsciously racist. You can’t just make yourself not racist through willpower, especially when it comes to who you are attracted to.

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      • Irenist says:

        Not necessarily pointless. Consider akrasia and procrastination: you can use pre-commitment devices to beat these problems sometimes, if you know they’re an issue for you.

        Likewise, if I think I might be subconsciously racist, I can’t make myself less subconsciously racist anymore than an evangelical teen can hope for success if he tries to pray the gay away, but what I can do is use pre-commitment devices to beat it. E.g., if I’m concerned I might be sub-consciously racist or sexist, and I’m a hiring manager, I can try to set up processes to make sure that I don’t know candidates’ race or sex before I make a hiring decision–or at least, not until the final interview, if not knowing it all isn’t feasible.

        So no, I don’t think it’s pointless to reflect on this stuff, because even if the subconscious racism is for practical purposes immutable, being prompted by reflection to try to route around the cognitive bias leads to useful improvements.

        ETA: This might even be true in the dating arena. A couple could first meet online, then interact and fall in love via phone, and then meet in person. By the time they meet in person, they might be so in love that they can overcome otherwise present aversions to race, body type, etc. If you were really worried about expanding your dating pool beyond a narrow “type,” that might be a strategy to pursue?

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    • Ghatanathoah says:

      There are two separate ways we assign value to someone. There is Moral Value, where we determine whether a person’s rights should be respected, whether their desires should be factored into utilitarian calculations, whether is it virtuous to help them, etc. And then there is Personal Value, where we assign value to how much we would personally value associating with such a person, romancing them, being their friend, etc, as part of their self interest. (These values are commensurable, when we perform utilitarian calculations our Personal Value is what we plug into the part of the utility calculation that stands for “you.”)

      I would say that anyone who fails to assign sufficient Moral Value to someone because of their race is racist. That is the horrible, awful racism that people rightfully complain about all the time. However, someone who does not assign Personal Value to associating with someone because of their race is not necessarily racist, and I don’t think their behavior is necessarily problematic.

      This model is complicated by the fact that genuine racist who does not assign Moral Value to other races may feel morally obligated by this fact to not assign any Personal Value to them either. I suspect most people who have unusually strong personal preferences to avoid friendship or interaction with other races came by them in this fashion.

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      • HeelBearCub says:

        You wouldn’t deny that, whether because of “moral” or “personal” values, the net effect is remaining segregated, though, would you?

        And, from a utilitarian perspective, the continued segregation of blacks from everyone else seems like a net negative, and not just net in all communities, but net in each community.

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        • Randy M says:

          Right. Allowing everyone to sort themselves by preference clearly is a net negative.

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        • Vulture says:

          And, from a utilitarian perspective, the continued segregation of blacks from everyone else seems like a net negative, and not just net in all communities, but net in each community.

          This is sufficiently non-obvious that I would appreciate hearing your reasoning laid out more explicitly.

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          • haishan says:

            Yeah, I think it’s really hard to defend if you don’t have diversity as a terminal value. Some points, not all of which I endorse:

            * People have revealed preferences — and often open preferences — to live near other people of the same ethnicity, or where this is not possible or meaningful, of the same race. Schelling tells us that this leads to self-segregation. Integration would mess with a lot of peoples’ preferences, which is a clear negative in the utilitarian calculus.

            * Robert Putnam’s research shows that increased diversity fosters isolation and distrust, not just between ethnic groups/thedes, but within them. Putnam argues that the benefits outweigh the costs in the long run, but these benefits mostly seem to come from increased diversity from immigration on a large scale (say, the scale of a country) and not on a small scale (a city or neighborhood).

            * Blacks commit crimes at a higher rate than whites, have lower IQs, and make less money. It’s certainly plausible that adding such people to a mostly-white community tends to destroy wealth by driving down property values and producing other negative externalities (by affecting school quality, for instance).

            I think, at a bare minimum, if I’m a white person living in a mostly-white community, it’s defensible to claim that I’m better off — and the community is better off — keeping it mostly white.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            My reasoning boils down to my belief that living “side by side” with an out-group is extremely stressful on both groups. Inter-group and commons problems will be seen as zero sum or ignored, resources will be directed into defending vs. the out-group.

            And there is copious evidence that the legal subjugation and segregation of the black populace in the U.S. has resulted in poor outcomes. The long term best solution to any negative of affects those outcomes visit on the broader community is to address the root cause, rather than symptom.

            Emperically, we can demonstrate that poor outcomes in other “non-white” immigrant populations went away once they were able to integrate (Germans, Irish, Italians, etc. )

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      • Wes says:

        “someone who does not assign Personal Value to associating with someone because of their race is not necessarily racist”

        No, that’s still pretty racist. It’s one thing to say “I don’t find that skin tone attractive.” That’s an personal preference, and while it may be a result of internalized racism, it might just be an aesthetic thing.

        It’s quite another thing to say “I don’t want to be his friend because he’s black.” I’m pretty sure that’s the same kind of horrible, awful racism that people are always complaining about.

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        • Tracy W says:

          But friendship and dating are rather different actions. Sex hits the “we might have babies together” bits of the human psyche, which are pretty fundamental (after all, until the invention of IVF, that’s how all of our ancestors got born). To equate friendship and sexuality strikes me as a mistake.

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          • Wes says:

            I agree. I was responding to a comment that claimed it wasn’t really racist to determine “how much we would personally value associating with such a person, romancing them, being their friend, etc.” because of race.

            However, it’s a fact that racism can influence our sexual preferences. It’s just not the only factor.

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    • Tom says:

      I suspect, depending on your definition of racist, this is racist. That aside, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. In essence, another instance of the “worst argument in the world”.

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    • Richard Metzler says:

      “I’ve wondered for a little while now… are people who don’t date outside their race / identified group, basically racist?”

      Depends, as you suspect, on your definition of “racist”. If you take one strict definition, “discrimination” (as in, “treating differently”) “due to race”, yes. If you take another strict definition, “having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another” – probably not. You can subscribe to “different strokes for different folks” without believing that one is superior.

      If the real question is, “are people who don’t date outside their race / identified group, basically racist and therefore morally bad”, my answer would be a clear “no”. What you morally owe other people is the same basic respect regardless of race, age, gender etc. if you don’t know them, and to treat them as individuals, based on what you know about their character, not your stereotypes about their race etc. if you do know them and interact with them as individuals. You don’t owe any stranger romantic or sexual attraction, and saying “I don’t feel attracted to people of group X” is fine. (IMO, it becomes problematic if someone says “I don’t date people of group X, because they’re all horrible/ gross/ the oppressor”, or if someone feels an attraction to a person of group X, but doesn’t follow up on it because for whatever reason they made a resolution to never date an X.)

      Also, it’s not like one can change one’s preferences to conform to some ideal through sheer willpower. Decades of futile “pray the gay away” programs should have demonstrated that. What you can modify is your behavior; but if someone demands dating behavior from you that conflicts with your preferences, they should have a REALLY good reason (e.g., “no, sex with prepubescents is really not okay”, or “dating drug-addicted psychopaths with page-long criminal records is really not in your best interest”. Not, “think of all those poor lonely overweight people of color! Why aren’t you dating one of them, you ableist racist POS!”)

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    • Tracy W says:

      One is, are you racist if you are not attracted to someone of a different race?

      If you are, then what are you if you’re not attracted to someone with a certain type of hair colour/jawline/nose shape/etc?

      And, I have a rather racist great-uncle in terms of what he says, mostly directed at Maori. And yet he married a Maori woman and had two children, who clearly look far more Maori than he does. He clearly managed to be attracted to Maori women, does that make him non-racist?

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    • Dennis Ochei says:

      I’d say yes and yes. Here’s why:

      If dating/marriage was solely about having a sexual partner, there would be no problem with having a an exclusive racial or gender preference. There’s nothing wrong with lusting after a particular appearance. And it’s not apparent that you really have much of a conscious say in what’s important to you in a sexual partner’s physical appearance.

      However, that’s not all romantic relationships are about. They also entail finding a long-term companion who augments your life and that you love in a platonic way as well. Physical appearance simply isn’t relevant to someone’s capacity to do this.

      Societally, and for most of us personally, we tell ourselves that love strictly dominates lust in looking for a long term partner. If someone told their SO that the primary reason they are together is sex, that would likely be detrimental to the relationship.

      But that is exactly what a strong gender/racial preference says. It means that no matter how perfect someone is on all the love based criteria, if they don’t look at certain way they are immediately out of the running.

      It is racist and sexist (meaning unfair discrimination) to love someone solely based on race and gender. So either one must concede that dating and marriage are primarily about sex (in which case it is fine for lust criteria, i.e. appearance to dominate) or, if one cannot stomach that, one must concede that they are unfortunately bigoted and cannot love someone who is perfect in every relevant respect because of gender or race.

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      • disgusted says:

        you realize how completely mad this attitude is, right?

        as a guy who is attracted to women of many different races and had my longest ltr with a jamaican girl i can sort of get behind the idea that narrow preferences are superficial. although even then it’s hardly any great sign of moral enlightenment on my part just because i happen to be easily satisfied

        but it is completely unacceptable to say that people are obligated to enter into relationships against their preferences

        how would you feel if that were turned around, that gay guys were misogynists for not having romantic relationships with women? or that attractive women must ‘concede they are bigoted’ for not considering shacking up with any nice incel guy who wants a relationship?

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        • Dennis Ochei says:

          I never said people are obligated to choose against their preferences. I’m saying something a little more nuanced, although i suspect you might still disagree. I’m saying if gender and race considerations always trump “soul-mateyness” then either sex trumps love, or your being racist/sexist.

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          • disgusted says:

            if you have an intimate emotional bond with someone who you aren’t sexually or romantically attracted to… congratulations, you’re friends. all of those ‘soul-matey’ factors will enrich your friendship and as an added bonus neither of you will be compelled into sex acts with a partner they aren’t attracted to

            i think the real confusion here is that ‘love’ is a really awful word which means everything and nothing. one word shouldn’t have to carry four distinct meanings

            romantic love is essentially erotic. pressuring people to convert nonsexual relationships into romantic ones with the threat of social ostracism is a recipe for disaster

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            disgusted,

            If romantic love is primarily erotic, then there is no issue in prioritizing appearance.

            But I think society pushes ‘soul-mateyness’ as the end all. Of course, I may just watch too many movies/shows.

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      • Nornagest says:

        Societally, and for most of us personally, we tell ourselves that love strictly dominates lust in looking for a long term partner. If someone told their SO that the primary reason they are together is sex, that would likely be detrimental to the relationship.

        I think this is a bad model.

        What I see when I look at people’s long-term relationshipping is more like them using physical attraction as a factor to satisfice, if not necessarily to optimize. And society seems fine with that, at least in the initial stages of a relationship: after you’ve gotten married and had a couple of kids society will look down on you if you choose to dump your partner because you’re no longer physically attracted to them, but that same society would be only mildly disapproving of the same behavior if you’d been dating for a year, and would expect, even applaud it on the first or second date.

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        • haishan says:

          +1.

          I suggest Dennis (assuming he’s straight; if he’s not, substitute “woman” with “man” or whatever else) imagine choosing between a woman who can satisfy his every intellectual, emotional, and spiritual desire, a true soul mate, but who is physically repulsive to him; and another woman, who is slightly less compatible on an intellectual/emotional/spiritual level, but who looks like Jennifer Lawrence or whoever.

          At a bare minimum there is a tradeoff between love and lust, and I think the more realistic model for many people is that there’s a “lust floor” below which a romantic relationship just won’t work. Which is, um, exactly the model he says is implied by strict race/gender preferences.

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            You’re example doesn’t really apply to what I’m saying. I’m not saying that sexual attraction and compatibility cannot commingle for a final ranking. I’m saying that if race/gender or other physical features (say being blonde) trump any amount of compatibility then yeah, you either care more about sexual attractiveness or you’re being discriminatory.

            I think something is seriously off if literally nothing matters about a person beyond their being blonde. That no matter what features they might have if they aren’t naturally blonde it’s a nonstarter. Unless appearance is our main criteria, in which case that makes sense. But if it’s not then this is an instance of unfair discrimination. Blondeness is no different than race and gender.

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          • Nornagest says:

            I’m saying that if race/gender or other physical features (say being blonde) trump any amount of compatibility then yeah, you either care more about sexual attractiveness or you’re being discriminatory.

            Motte sighted!

            Not that it’s a particularly good motte: among other things, you’re still assuming a linear model. If instead you have a model where you’re satisficing physical attractiveness and optimizing emotional compatibility — you know, the one I presented in the grandparent — then not only isn’t this true, but it isn’t even really coherent to talk about which you care about more. It depends too much on the circumstances.

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            Nornagest,

            I don’t know why you saying I retreated from my argument into a ‘motte,’ I’ve been arguing the same thing the whole time.

            The optimizing/satisficing model is a good rebuttal, but I’m still considering whether I find it interesting because it’s right, or because I want to be shallow, claim not to be shallow, and be internally consistent. So I’ll think about it

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          • Nornagest says:

            Well, the optimizing/satisficing model is probably an oversimplification too, although I think it’s closer to how people actually act than any linear model. What I actually think is going on is that everyone has a different function for what they’re looking for in a long-term partner, based on perceived emotional compatibility, perceived attractiveness, potential for social status and physical or economic security, and who knows what else.

            These are all going to be nonlinear in different ways for different people, and some people will have different deal-breakers than others. Some of them will involve physical attractiveness. Some won’t.

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          • haishan says:

            Societally, and for most of us personally, we tell ourselves that love strictly dominates lust in looking for a long term partner.

            Maybe you didn’t mean to imply this, but it’s easily read as “we tell ourselves that we sort potential partners lexicographically by (love, lust).”

            I think something is seriously off if literally nothing matters about a person beyond their being blonde. That no matter what features they might have if they aren’t naturally blonde it’s a nonstarter.

            These are not equivalent statements. I don’t speak Malagasy and have no desire to learn it; if someone from Madagascar speaks no English, then that’s a nonstarter romantically. Concluding that “nothing matters about a Malagasy beyond their ability to speak English” seems a stretch, as does concluding that I’m biased against the country of Madagascar. Nor indeed is English-speaking ability my main criterion for a romantic relationship; it’s just one of several necessary criteria.

            It is the case that, as far as a romantic relationship with me goes, none of their features matter if they don’t speak English. (This is the motte.) What’s much less clear is that this is unfair or ought to be changed.

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            I was implying that “we tell ourselves that we sort potential partners lexicographically by (love, lust).”

            I was also saying that although we tell ourselves that, we really sort by (lust, love)

            Lastly, I was arguing that we cannot hang on to the fiction of the first model without also admitting that excluding on the basis of gender and race is discriminatory.

            But, my model assumed that everyone has a rank. I hadn’t considered that someone might be set to negative infinity or not-a-number based on certain criteria.

            I also feel like there’s a continuum of shallowness in this exclusion from the running

            Only blondes

            Only a certain race


            (Lots of space in here)


            Only a certain gender



            (Lots and lots of space)



            Only a certain language

            I also think the (love, lust) sorting is better and in Kurzweil’s utopia, when we shed our bodies and merge with the machines (come on, just believe!) it would be tenable.

            I do feel restricting the pool to just blondes is silly but that you shouldn’t have to learn Malagasy. So perhaps some criteria are more discriminatory than others and the “this is prejustice” line isn’t so clear.

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          • haishan says:

            Okay, well, I think both lexicographic models are wildly unrealistic and silly, but you don’t seem terribly attached to them anymore (except maybe normatively, and I’m fine with that). So no point in arguing that.

            I do agree that, practically speaking, there is a lot of space between “must speak same language” and “must be $RACE.” I still think any attempt to rationally explain why the latter is Bad must account for why the former isn’t.

            I think you do raise a good point that you can’t have your cake and eat it: if you do insist on only dating people who are $RACE, you have to admit that lust is a strong influence for at least some range of attractiveness, or else you’re being discriminatory.

            All in all, I’ll chalk this up as a win in the “hey, sometimes talking DOES change minds and bring people together!” column.

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            Awesome, I agree with everything you just said.

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      • Anonymous says:

        “…one must concede that they are unfortunately bigoted and cannot love someone who is perfect in every relevant respect because of gender or race.”

        well uh sounds like they’re obviously not perfect in every relevant aspect if they’re a race or gender you lack attraction for lol

        i agree with “disgusted” about how this sounds really wild. not to be rude but did you think through any of the implications of this?

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        • Dennis Ochei says:

          That is why I spent time arguing that for a major dimension of romantic relationships, appearance should not matter.

          I’m saying a romantic other is a linear combination of friend and sex partner, friend foremost who is also a sexual partner, or a sexual partner foremost who is also a friend. If you disagree with this model then of course you’ll disagree with my conclusion.

          Now, I’m saying that only in the last category (sexual partner that happens to be a friend) is it not discriminatory to let appearance unilaterally filter out candidates.

          I think you can see why I say that. If you said you would never be friends with a person of a certain race or gender that’s clearly bigoted. I’m saying the same thing applies to romantic relationships if you have certain priorities in dating.

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          • Anthony says:

            You’re still wrong, though. Most people don’t qualify someone as a potential “romantic other” or spouse or whatever by (internally, subconsciously) adding up the other person’s “sexual attractiveness” and “compatibility as a friend” scores and having a single cutoff for the combination. Assuming that they do (even subconsciously) this sort of scoring, which I think plausible, most people establish separate cutoffs on each attribute, then look for the highest combined “score” among the people who meet *both* requirements.

            (In SAT terms – it’s not enough to have a combined SAT of at least 1000 – you have to have at least 500 on each subtest or you don’t make the cut.)

            And even if the model I’m presenting isn’t as common as your model, it’s still not bigoted to use such a model.

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            Anthony,

            I’m inclined to think that your alternate model undercuts my argument.

            But that makes me wonder can both “sexual attractiveness” and “compatibility as a friend” top out? Is one or both unbounded? (At least for practical purposes) I feel like attractiveness is bounded and compatibility can go much much higher than what we see in the wild.

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      • Tracy W says:

        However, that’s not all romantic relationships are about. They also entail finding a long-term companion who augments your life and that you love in a platonic way as well. Physical appearance simply isn’t relevant to someone’s capacity to do this.

        Why isn’t physical appearance not relevant to someone’s capacity to augment your life and that you love in a platonic way? If I buy a painting and hang it on the wall becuase I think it’s beautiful, and every now and then I look at it and admire it, presumably my life is augmented, even if I never shag the painting.
        Ditto with the physical appearance of humans. Orlando Bloom is gorgeous and his appearance augments my life even though I never expect to shag him.

        If someone told their SO that the primary reason they are together is sex, that would likely be detrimental to the relationship.

        But if someone tells their SO that they’re not physically attracted to them at all, that would likely be detrimental to the relationship as well.

        Societally, and for most of us personally, we tell ourselves that love strictly dominates lust in looking for a long term partner.

        I don’t think society does really tell us this. There aren’t a vast number of popular romantic movies and books in which the hero or the heroine has a really bad case of acne, or severe facial scarring. (Note there are some cases of this, but they’re far outweighed by the number in which both hero and heroine are very beautiful by the standards of their culture). And it’s not just modern culture, old fairy stories regularly have people falling in love and getting married just based on looks, consider Cinderella, or Romeo and Juliet (which makes sense, in a society where unrelated men and women are normally kept apart, what else do you have to fall in love on apart from looks?)

        It is racist and sexist (meaning unfair discrimination) to love someone solely based on race and gender.

        And also, at least for the more common races and genders, impractical. One can’t date millions of people at once.

        So either one must concede that dating and marriage are primarily about sex

        Not necessarily. “Essential” is not the same as “primary”. Let’s take a simple example, say you’re looking to buy a winter coat. Now, there are at least three things you need in a winter coat: that it fits, that it’s warm enough for the weather you expect to face but not too warm (a coat that would take you through a Siberian winter would have you sweltering in a Tasmanian winter), and that it’s affordable.
        So, if you only have $100 to spend, and there’s a coat that costs $1000, you wouldn’t buy it. But if there’s a winter coat that costs $10 but sized for a 1-year old, and you’re a vaguely normally-sized adult, you wouldn’t buy it either. Size and cost and warmth are all essential, but none are primary.

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  11. how do you respond to this from an HBD perspective without making a statement that could be misconstrued as racist?

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    • Vulture says:

      If you don’t want to be misconstrued as racist, then “responding to [anything] from an HBD perspective” is probably not the activity for you. :/

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    • social justice warlock says:

      Just say whatever racist thing you want to say; then it won’t be a misconstrual.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      The most interesting HBD angle on this would be looking for racial differences in Five Factor Model’s Openness To Experience, which is moderately heritable. I did look for those, and there are none. All races scores about the same on all five factors.

      This doesn’t fit my stereotypes at all, but it seems to be well-replicated. Score one for the “have fewer stereotypes” crowd.

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      • Steve Johnson says:

        The most interesting HBD angle on this would be looking for racial differences in Five Factor Model’s Openness To Experience

        …and IQ floors.

        Personally I think polyarmory is an unbelievably stupid thing to get involved with but it’s exactly the type of unbelievably stupid thing that you need to have a certain level of intelligence to get involved with.

        Besides – if you look at more conventional measures of “polyarmory” – like women having children with multiple fathers, having overlapping lovers, etc. – black people are actually over represented as polyamorists. They just don’t use the term.

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        • Vulture says:

          I think “voluntary on the part of all parties” is kind of what distinguishes polyamory from plain philandering, semantically speaking.

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        • Randy M says:

          Similarly, Atheists aren’t as smart as they think they are, if they include “no religion” people into the mix.

          It takes a certain degree of metacongnition to be surveyed into the right category sometimes, even if one fits the criteria.

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        • blacktrance says:

          if you look at more conventional measures of “polyarmory” – like women having children with multiple fathers, having overlapping lovers, etc.

          Serial monogamy and cheating aren’t polyamory, but both would show up if you looked at those measures.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Are you using “polyarmory” as some sneak insult? If so, I don’t understand it. If not, it’s “polyamory”, no “r”.

          Some of the black people I talk to seem to have some complicated consensual nonmonogamous arrangements, but they don’t make a big deal about it or “identify” as polyamorous.

          I wonder if there’s a distinction here kind of like with those people who will admit to being attracted to men on Kinsey surveys, but don’t identify as “gay”. Identifying with a community implies things beyond just meeting the criteria for membership.

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          • Steve Johnson says:

            Are you using “polyarmory” as some sneak insult? If so, I don’t understand it. If not, it’s “polyamory”, no “r”.

            Nope, just a misspelling.

            Neither show up in the spellchecker.

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          • anodognosic says:

            Maybe one of the things white people like is identifying as stuff.

            (Definitely one of the things white people like is identifying as stuff.)

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          • Deiseach says:

            I wonder if there’s a distinction here kind of like with those people who will admit to being attracted to men on Kinsey surveys, but don’t identify as “gay”.

            It may be that they consider themselves to be bisexual or pansexual, rather than gay (which has the connotation of “solely attracted to same-gender”). Or they may be able to find members of their own gender attractive, while preferring to have sex with other-gender persons. Or they may have had same-gender sexual encounters in early adolescence or in situations where other-gender partners were not available (prisons, the Navy, etc.)

            So I don’t see that “yes, I can find members of my own gender sexually attractive” automatically means “you are gay/lesbian and don’t deny it”. I mean, I can contemplate the notion of having sex with my own gender without it sending me into shrieking fits of horror, but I’d class myself as heterosexual because my preferences are definitely for members of the opposite gender (all this being complicated by the fact that I’m asexual and don’t want to actually have actual sex with anyone in reality).

            Come on now, Scott, interact more on Tumblr and get yourself educated! 😉

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          • Mengsk says:

            Anecdotally, I think there is a difference here. I dated a black girl for a good portion of high school and the first two years of college (I’m white). We started monogamous, but in the last 6 months before we broke up, we decided to “open” our already long-distance relationship. During this time, she also came into her own as a genderfluid bisexual and became very involved with SJW activism. Separately, after we broke up, she told me that she had decided to “give up on monogamy” and was committed to loving as freely and completely as she wanted to, which led to many interesting relationship tangles, including one deeply romantic relationship with a guy in an open marriage (which, because we stayed in touch, I got to hear all about). I bring this up because of what happened when I brought up polyamory in conversation with her. I had recently made friends with several Poly couples, and I was considering trying it out. However, her reaction when I brought it up, was “ugh polyamory… you mean that thing that white people do?”

            Her response absolutely baffled be at the time, because I had figured that it was pretty much exactly what she was doing. (It also annoyed me because, having had a lot of first hand and second hand knowledge of the way she conducted non-monogamy, I was pretty sure my poly friends were doing it way better than she was). But it is true that there is a very “white” flavor to the Poly community, in the sense that white can be a code word for the sort of blue-tribe, affluent, liberal that SJWs are perpetually needling with criticism. So in this sense, I feel like the criticism of the poly community is better understood as part of a broader narrative in which one (of many) villains is the affluent liberal elite. So I’m not sure I agree with Scott’s suggestion that accusations of racism are an excuse to attack “subculturey nonconformist things”. There are plenty of subculturey non-conformist things that SJWs don’t criticize (like beat poetry, body art, and hip-hop dance, to list the first things that come to mind). For that matter, there are plenty of subcultury things that political conservatives don’t criticize (hunting, for example). But what these two groups have in common is a narrative in which affluent blue-tribe liberals are villains.

            I guess what I’m saying is that a post defending polyamory by saying that “black people are also under-represented in all of these other sub-cultry things that affluent liberals like to do” could easily be missing the thing that drives the criticism. Hell, it might even reinforce it. These critics don’t care about polyamory per se; they only care in so far as polyamory can serve as an avatar for their political outgroup.

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        • I think it’s definitely possible that polyamory requires some level of intelligence to get involved with. It necessitates the ability to think through a short sequence of logic, something along the lines of “Only things which harm others should be immoral, and loving multiple people does not harm anyone, therefore it should be considered morally neutral. Also, just because society says something is wrong does not make it wrong, society used to say e.g. interracial marriage and divorce were wrong.”

          It’s not much, but I kind of feel like the people at the very bottom of the bell curve almost never use elementary logical analysis like this and instead rely entirely on social cues, so it necessitates a certain degree of intelligence to be able to fight past the gut reaction of “ew, that’s so weird”.

          (I’m not trying to claim that intelligence is the reason for lack of black people, or that polyamory is intelligent, it’s just a thought.)

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          • Deiseach says:

            Or maybe it requires a certain kind and level of intelligence able to sling bullshit about how such-and-such a choice makes one so much more sophisticated than the common herd?

            I don’t want to make personal attacks on you, general, and I hope I don’t come across as doing so. I would request everyone please don’t drag “it’s for smart people only” into this, it’s already got more than enough opportunities to turn nasty without that.

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          • Nita says:

            Yeah, as poly person, I’m going to agree with Deiseach — intelligence enables you to rationalize your urges, not to overcome internal resistance. To a poly person who’s never heard of polyamory, being poly feels like running into a lot of tragic love triangles, not like “ew, weird stuff”.

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          • Deiseach: I’m not a polyamorist and I don’t think polyamory is intelligent, so that’s not where I’m coming from.

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          • Nicholas says:

            Object level objection to the claim that loving multiple people universally does not hurt any of those people.

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          • Anthony says:

            Not quite. Being polyamorous, in the sense that the polyamorous community normally sees it, requires a certain level of intelligence (and a certain amount of empathy) to pull off decently well. I’m not sure that floor is above about IQ=100, based on some personal acquaintances (who aren’t very bright, but manage to keep their relationships from blowing up in typical-to-polyamory failure modes).

            But it’s not about the logic needed to understand or accept the ethics, it’s about communication. Polyamory requires lots of communication to work well. Dumb people generally can’t communicate as well as smart ones.

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          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think poly takes intelligence so much as… well, I’m tempted to say “wisdom”, but half the people here will think I’m making a D&D joke, so I’ll say “emotional competence” instead. I know some very bright people whose poly relationships exploded into Michael Bay-level fireworks of drama because they were bad at feelings, despite repeated attempts at communication. Perhaps counterintuitively, being bad at introspection is a bigger red flag than being bad at reading other people — my guess would be because any idiot can understand “I’m feeling [jealous, neglected, etc.]”, but not every idiot can recognize those feelings in themselves.

            Conversely, I know some not-especially-bright people who manage multiple relationships just fine thanks to being sensitive and easygoing by temperament.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >It necessitates the ability to think through a short sequence of logic, something along the lines of “Only things which harm others should be immoral, and loving multiple people does not harm anyone, therefore it should be considered morally neutral. Also, just because society says something is wrong does not make it wrong, society used to say e.g. interracial marriage and divorce were wrong.”

            You really think polyamory REQUIRES this level of moral reasoning? Do you think even a majority of practicing [polyamorists???] are poly as a result of following such reasoning? What about all of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy#Contemporary_religious_attitudes_to_polygamy ?
            (if you don’t consider polygamy a form of polyamory just ignore that part. p.s. if you don’t you’re wrong)

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          • Nornagest says:

            if you don’t consider polygamy a form of polyamory just ignore that part. p.s. if you don’t you’re wrong

            Don’t be a dick. When people mention polyamory in contexts like this one they aren’t talking about traditional or religious polygamy, they’re talking about a largely secular, largely Western sociosexual movement with its own set of ideals. You are of course free to use your own weird mutant definition if you want, but don’t act like everyone’s using the same one.

            (This doesn’t apply to polyamory construed as an orientation-like aspect of sexual psychology, which shows up elsewhere in this thread; but that clearly isn’t what we’re talking about here. I’m only mentioning it because it’s such an obvious thing to equivocate on.)

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        • Troy says:

          I believe that Satoshi Kanazawa has suggested that higher IQ people tend to seek out novel experiences and endorse novel viewpoints. (As a way of signalling? To relieve boredom? Not sure.) This would explain many (though not all) of Scott’s examples.

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          • Paul Crowley says:

            I mainly think of Satoshi Kanazawa as “that guy who likes to be in the press and causes my friends to think that evolutionary psychology is stupid”. If you can link me to something that argues that contrary to my usual rule of thumb one should not always ignore everything Satoshi Kanazawa says, I’m keen to read it.

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  12. Noah S says:

    It is worth pointing out that “black man as sexual threat” is a very old iteration of anti-black racism. I wonder what percentage of hetero white men in the poly community are not comfortable with black men as metamors.

    I am NOT in any way implying that polyamorous men are more likely to be racist than monogomous men. There is simply no corresponding situation in monogomous communities, so the problem doesn’t come up.

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    • Evan Þ says:

      There is simply no corresponding situation in monogomous communities

      Hmm… Going way far afield here, but gynecologists? What’s the racial breakdown there?

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      • Nita says:

        How would that work? Hetero white men can veto their partners’ potential partners (in some relationships) or be unwelcoming to them in meetups, but that doesn’t apply to gynos (or at least I hope most women don’t need anyone’s permission to see a particular doctor).

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  13. Jiro says:

    And the article on polyamory suggested that maybe polyamorists’ high-flying lifestyle and expensive play parties price out black people… In my experience polyamory draws from the same sort of people as atheism, and atheism is very white even though not believing in God doesn’t cost a cent.

    In other words, “it costs money” is a bad explanation.

    First, and most obviously, some of these things require some level of affluence.

    In other words, “it costs money” is a good explanation.

    I don’t think that goes together very well.

    Also:

    A few paragraphs back I mentioned that Occupy Wall Street was had disproportionately few minorities. Here are some other people who like to mention this… All of these sources have something in common, and it’s not a heartfelt concern for equal minority representation.

    Well, yes, but what these sources *actually* have in common is that being reds, they are likely to use a “hoist by your own petard” argument against blues. They don’t need to care about minority representation themselves in order to point out blue hypocrisy about it.

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    • Peter says:

      Longer-but-still-short quote: “First, some of these things require some level of affluence – I know I just said that didn’t explain polyamory, but I think it explains some others.” Note “some”.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    And in enlightened liberal democracies where we “tolerate anything except intolerance”, people will find that weird people who refuse to conform are intolerant.

    Yes, but that’s not what’s happening here. That’s what’s happening in the atheism example, but not in the polyamory example. Or in the birdwatching example. No one is looking for an excuse to attack bird-watchers! The critics are either bird-watcher themselves, doing self-criticism, or frantically looking around for someone else to sacrifice to the monster. Any group will do, no matter how conformant not, though small size makes it more likely to demographically diverge; and there are more small groups to look at.

    (Nothing wrong with two related phenomena, but don’t conflate them.)

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  15. Blue says:

    Scott, your class analysis is spot on, though the article itself is (to me) as much about media representation as it is about actual segregation within the interested community. And while casting well-meaning people as racist is sensationalist, I’m sympathetic to “it’s hard to be the only racial minority in a polyamorous meetup” for a variety of reasons, including exoticization. Getting past that tipping point is hard.

    The media representation argument though (that there have been black people with non-standard family and romantic lives for a long time, and their experience is often ignored in these trend pieces) I think is spot on. The national media loves writing trend pieces about young, upper-class people. It _really_ loves writing trend pieces about the sexual exploits of young, upper-class women. The incentives for this is obvious, but we let them get away with it because such trend pieces lampshade it all with an attitude of detached analysis. Whatever, it’s just lifestyle porn.

    So, we’ll see lots of articles about what kind of sex the young, upper-class women are having this year. Because of the upper-class component, this will lean white (even if I bet the writers would love to have more diversity in this coverage, see: prurient reasons.) And so cultures that aren’t represented in the upper-class will feel left out, and that bites. I sympathize with that.

    The problem of course, is that we get lifestyle porn of the upper class and it is sold to us as dispassionate analysis of “new trends in America”.

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    • anodognosic says:

      Well, upper class lifestyles do tend to trickle down. They’re a good bellwether for the middle class ten or twenty years in the future.

      Also, while the few racial minorities trying to break into polyamorous circles might often feel uncomfortable, I’d argue the causal arrow goes the other way – white people only know how not to make minorities uncomfortable once they have enough experience spending time with said minorities, which means that, in that respect, getting more minorities into polyamorous circles is the solution to its own problem.

      Plus, when you have a critical mass of a minority wanting to join a group, they’ll do it even if the majority is kicking and screaming — what say you, Log Cabin Republicans?

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  16. Jiro says:

    Hypothesis: It’s randomness.

    Some groups are going to, by happenstance, have different racial balances simply because that they spread based on some random set of circumstances and that will lead to some of them being whiter than others.

    Also, there’s the anti-intellectualism possibility: Becoming an atheist is likely to be something you do after a lot of thought, and this kind of thought is discouraged when getting good grades in school is associated with “acting white”. Likewise, fanfiction requires a lot more sitting down and thinking than twitter does.

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    • anodognosic says:

      If your hypothesis is correct, you’d expect to see roughly even distribution of racial makeup (that is, the average tends towards proportional to the racial breakdown of the population) in various social groups. I don’t have thorough statistics on hand and maybe there’s some kind of selection bias at play in the statistics that we normally see, but this seems far from true.

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      • Jiro says:

        No, because

        1) It may not be the only factor.

        2) Even if it is, the results would depend on how segregated society is. If people get their friends and family to join something, and their friends and family are mostly one race, the group’s racial balance will not change much as it grows.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Likewise, fanfiction requires a lot more sitting down and thinking than twitter does

      The reference was to fan fiction readers, not writers, and I maintain that at least part of it does involve the problem of representation.

      I’ve mentioned Star Trek already, and I’ll give you an instance here: I’m Irish. They’ve had some Irish characters (notably Chief O’Brien in “Deep Space Nine”) and a few Irish-themed episodes. TOS had “The Naked Time” where Reilly (or, as they spell it, Riley), under the influence of the MacGuffin disease, locks himself into Engineering and broadcasts himself singing, over and over again, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” (a doleful emigrant ballad). Not the worst, if not exactly the most edifying example of Irishness.

      In “The Next Generation”, we have Miles O’Brien who gets introduced as a bit-part extra but eventually is promoted to transporter chief. And we get the Irish-themed (at least in part) episode “Up The Long Ladder”, where one section are the Bringloidi, settlers of the colony in the Bringloid system. Bringloid is the Irish word for “dream”, so this translates out to something like “the dreamers”, very appropriate for early colonists.

      But Holy Mother of God, do we get the pig in the parlour stereotypes ladled on thick and fast, including the Bringloidi trying to get a still going aboard the Enterprise. Because the Irish are a nation of piss-heads, of course. Oddly enough, this is not the worst episode for national stereotypes of my nation; I reserve my ire for a different Trek series.

      O’Brien moves on to “Deep Space Nine” and there’s one episode (“If Wishes Were Horses”) where fairytale characters come to life; in O’Brien’s case, it’s Rumplestiltskin (allegedly, this was going to be a leprechaun – more stereotypes! – until Colm Meaney put his foot down and it was changed). O’Brien gets treated pretty well as a character, even if his internal history is a little inconsistent (you’re telling me a man with a Dublin accent is from Killarney? Yeah, right, when he should be sounding like this).

      But the absolute worst ones, the ones I can’t even critique properly because I’m reduced to waving my hands and babbling “The thing! And the thing! And the other thing!” are the “Voyager” episodes “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk”, written about a holodeck programme set in an imaginary Irish village and the adventures of the crew in the programme. If I discuss these anymore, I’ll burst out sobbing, start tearing out my hair, and beating my head against the wall.

      Now, if I were seeking out “Star Trek” fan fiction featuring Irish characters, and my only choices were stories set in the “Fair Haven” setting, I would not read them. And this is only me being Irish, when I can identify very strongly with most of the main cast in most fandoms.

      Were I a person of colour and looking for material representing me and my culture in main roles in fan fiction, how much do you think I’d find? How much time do you think I’d spend on fan sites? And you really put forward as a reason that this is because it would take more time and effort for me than going on Twitter?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Strangely enough (or perhaps not so strange, given their obvious difference), the AA characters — Worf, George, Guinan — were not subjected to such stereotypes. Oddly enough I think in TNG at least O’Brien is the only such character. It’s unfortunate they had to pick someone distinctly of a culture (rather than simply a Federation citizen) to be the whipping boy.

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        • Deiseach says:

          What’s quite interesting is that aliens or non-human characters get much more development and treatment than the human characters. The one thing that stood out for me where “Deep Space Nine” was different in this was baseball. Sisko loves baseball, is up on the history of it, even has a baseball on his desk.

          Now, unlike most series where even non-American characters are fully au fait with American pop culture trivia, sports, food, slang and so forth, in the 24th century baseball is more or less- even in America – a forgotten sport. So when Sisko is putting together a team to play a Vulcan team, everyone – both Human and the non-Human aliens – has to learn the rules and jargon of something that is completely unfamiliar to them.

          I liked that 🙂 But “Deep Space Nine” is pretty unusual in that it really did go a bit deeper into the stories of the characters, the races, the Federation, everything.

          Conversely, I’ve read fan fiction set in British fandoms obviously written by American writers where the characters are British in name only – one which had me pulling at my hair was set in the BBC Sherlock fandom where John Watson (canonical rugby player) had a favourite American baseball team!!!!!!!! (the amount of exclamation marks is to convey the depths of my incredulity).

          If you really want to get into a nasty tussle, there’s “Pacific Rim” fandom where one of the characters has a canonical, but not on-screen, wife who is black/mixed race. The amount of erasure, ignoring, or denigration of her character so that this character can be shipped with another fan favourite is apparently something fearsome.

          But there’s an example – “Pacific Rim”, where the two lead characters are very plainly the Japanese woman and the Black British man, not the blond blue-eyed American (coughplayedbyaBritcough), and yet even there, you get people arguing that the real heroes were Raleigh and Chuck? That Mako didn’t do anything? That Stacker didn’t do anything?

          Yeah, getting off with ‘leprechauns and póitín’ representation as an Irish person is getting off lightly 🙂

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          • keranih says:

            The amount of erasure, ignoring, or denigration of her character so that this character can be shipped with another fan favourite is apparently something fearsome.

            It is also neither unique to PR nor to non-Caucasian characters. I would go so far as to say ignore the cute lead male’s wife/gf is the default fandom setting.

            (The only obvious counter example I can give is White Collar, where a significant number of fans are invested in a poly relationship between the two (male) leads and the wife of one of the leads, rather than just the two leads.)

            Fandom also has the default setting of pairing two Caucasian males over any het couple or a Caucasian male with a non-Caucasian male. (Again, exceptions exist – but they remain exceptions.) In fact, given the options, the (young) Caucasian male lead will be paired with the most-Caucasian-like male, over (more or less in order) a Hispanic/American Indian/Asian male, a Caucasian female, a non-black/AA female, a black/AA male, and a black/AA male.

            This can be tricky to tease out in lone-lead/those two guy movies/series, but really jump out at one in ensemble movies/comics/tv shows. For example: The Walking Dead, The Losers, Agents of Shield, StarGate, and so on.

            Even vocal activists for more roles for non-Caucasian actors tend to default to these preferences (and to the shows which most easily path to these preferences) unless the activist in question is themselves non-Caucasian – and even then it doesn’t always hold.

            The heart has reasons which reason does not know.

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  17. Jaskologist says:

    For example, bird-watching requires you live somewhere suburban or rural where there are interesting birds, want to waste money on binoculars, and have some free time.

    I dispute!

    Pigeons are fascinating! I’m not a bird-watcher, but I think I would be if I were still a city boy. They have such a variety of color morphs that one could easily be kept busy studying the genetics of that alone. It’s really intriguing to see what colors start popping up once predator populations are removed.

    Or not, now that the peregrine falcon is returning to the city. But the selective pressures introduced there are interesting in their own right. If the wife somehow convinces me to go back to the city post-retirement, I’ll probably devote a good chunk of time to studying the ways in which species are adapting to this very different environment we have built. It would be nice to settle down into doing some light science, and I suspect this is an under-investigated area.

    tldr; Bert was right!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Right, telescopes are much more popular in the city than in the countryside.

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    • Nita says:

      The central members of the birdwatching community (“birders”) engage in activities like “listing” and “twitching”/”chasing”. Of course, they can also enjoy what you describe, but it’s not competitive enough for measuring status (see also: “true gamers” vs “casuals”).

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  18. HeelBearCub says:

    Hmmm. I think the most obvious place to look would be at point five, we live in an extremely segregated society.

    Many (although certainly not all) of the activities/groups you list are ones that seem highly cultural. Choice of leisure activity, choice of exercise activity, choice of “moral” activity all seem to be the types of things that are subject to substitution.

    How many US born people play cricket? If you go find a pick-up cricket game in the US, who will be playing it? I don’t have data, but I will tell you the answer is Indian born males between 20 and about 40 years of age. I was invited to play a few times, but I had young kids and never made the time. It is completely expected that an ex-pat community would find a culturally binding leisure activity and engage in it and be “over represented” in that activity. And, there will be a bunch of other culturally specific sub-groups to be found as in that broad cohort as well.

    All of which is to say, that until we can stop being segregated generally, it shouldn’t be surprising when we see evidence of that segregation popping up everywhere. 400 years of legally enforced segregation doesn’t go away easily. At all.

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    • Richard Gadsden says:

      … and yet cricket is a coded-white sport in England, which shows that it’s path-dependence and cultural development, rather than anything intrinsic to cricket and/or particular races.

      See the father character in Bend it Like Beckham for an illustration of the white-codedness of English cricket.

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      • Irenist says:

        Likewise for soccer. Quite popular among Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Brazilians, and Afro-Europeans, inter alia, but coded SWPL in the U.S.

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t know, I think of soccer in the US as something people from outside the US like. Mostly from Mexico and various Central and South American countries. Unless you are talking about youth soccer, but that is a whole different animal. Youth soccer doesn’t translate into liking to watch or play soccer as an adult.

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  19. ari says:

    For example, some people try to explain black people’s underrepresentation on fanfiction websites by saying that many of them are poor and have limited access to computers. Okay. Except that black people are heavily overrepresented on Twitter, making up double the expected proportion of that site’s population.

    80% of Twitter users are on mobile, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the proportion was even higher among black people. (Also to be a bit annoying about it, please don’t say in one paragraph that the explanation that they’re poor doesn’t make sense, and then in a later one say that you guess the explanation that they’re poor makes sense)

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    • JK says:

      Some data on internet access differences between races here. The diffs are too small to explain much of anything.

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    • N says:

      More specifically, he says that poverty doesn’t really lead to black people being unable to use the internet. It seems plausible that poverty could still prevent them from partaking in more expensive hobbies like bird-watching or what have you.

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  20. social justice warlock says:
  21. Atheist Statistics says:

    This list is interesting, but hard to interpret without the general population percentage for comparison, which was 11% in that Pew poll. I would add that to the main post.

    “Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%).”

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  22. CaptainBooshi says:

    I thought this was a really good blog post, Scott. That Onion article is the funniest thing I’ve read all week.

    I know it was probably just an offhand comment, but what do you think that the “few weird subculturey nonconformist things that are an especially good fit for [black] culture” are? The first obvious one that comes to mind has to be music. Black culture has long had a history of being on or beyond the cutting-edge of music, at least in America and that I’m aware of. Other than that, I’m lost since I have practically no knowledge of black culture, and I was wondering if you found any articles talking about this while making up this blog post? It just seemed like an interesting aside and I’m curious.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      The example I was thinking of was the civil rights movement. I mean, maybe too obvious to bring up, but it’s still a very nonconformist subcultural group which was almost entirely black and so deserves a mention.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Is ‘be involved in the civil rights movement’ conformist or non-conformist for the black/African American population?

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        • Nornagest says:

          Is “be vegetarian or environmentalist” conformist or non-conformist for upper-middle-class white people?

          Or the Tea Party, if you’re talking Red Tribers instead of Blue.

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          • Anonymous says:

            (not the anon you replied to)

            Are you getting at:

            A) It’s not really either?

            B) The question doesn’t make much sense?

            or something else?

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          • Nornagest says:

            More like “it’s not relevant to the topic”.

            Though now that I think about it, I think I took the wrong tack there. Some of the stuff Scott listed is countercultural (definitely furries, bikers if we’re talking Hell’s Angels rather than my dad’s cycling club, arguably BDSM and Occupy). Some is kinda weird but not widely stigmatized (Buddhism, fanfic). Some is totally mainstream (running, swimming, bird watching). Civil rights activism could fall into any of those categories and still make sense in context, as long as it makes up a coherent group — and I’m pretty sure it does.

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          • keranih says:

            (The anon you are replying to, yes)

            I would hold that “shop organic” is conformist for Portlandians, yes.

            Likewise, ‘vote democrat’ is conformist for the black/AA population, and ‘pro-environmentalist’ is probably the ‘college student’ equivalent of ‘civil rights movement activist’ for the black/AA population as a whole. In otherwords, not at all non-conformist, even if not including a majority of the sub-population.

            All this, of course, depends on not assuming that ‘non-conformist’ applies to a specific subpopulation, and not to the population as a whole. Otherwise, things which are very typical for a subgroup get called ‘non-conformist’ (ie, military haircuts for men) when they are in fact very conformist for that group (current and former male military members.)

            (If I’m using the terms wrong, please advise.)

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      • CaptainBooshi says:

        Well, I don’t think it was too obvious to bring up, since it didn’t cross my mind at all. Once you pointed it out, of course, I felt dense for not seeing it in the first place.

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    • Irenist says:

      “few weird subculturey nonconformist things that are an especially good fit for [black] culture”

      Among religions, I can think of:
      *Black Hebrew Israelitism
      *Nation of Islam
      *Yoruba-derived spiritualities like Ifa, Santeria, Voodoo/Vodun/etc.

      These are all either ethnically restrictive in membership, or directly derived from ancestrally black religions in the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. But they’re also pretty darned nonconformist on multiple axes. At least as nonconformist as more stereotypically SWPL minority religions like UU or Wicca.

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      • Satanforce says:

        Don’t forget Rastafarianism. When was gaining ground in the ’50s and ’60s, it was actually seen as a very dangerous threat to the Power Elite of the time. This was especially the case with more radical sects, such as the Boboshanti and the Nyahbinghi.

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      • Anthony says:

        Afro-centrist history, too. (The Egyptians were Black kind.)

        I was in the house of a fellow who teaches this stuff and leads tours to Egypt, and related activities. There’s enough of an audience for it for him to make a comfortable living at it, though he’s not rich.

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      • CaptainBooshi says:

        That’s a good one, and definitely subculturey and nonconformist. Thanks for responding to my question!

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    • Satanforce says:

      You forgot hip-hop. A Latin American Gang (the Ghetto Brothers) decides to hold block parties as a peace offering to black gangs and the black community. From their, you get the start of the hip hop subculture, with the oral element (MCing), aural (Turntablism – see the documentary “Scratch”) a combination of the first two (beatboxing), physical (breakdancing /b-boying) and visual (graffiti art).

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  23. DrBeat says:

    I don’t think it even takes this much work to defend polyamory from this accusation.

    Every accusation like this, that membership of some group does not fit the speaker’s standards and thus proves the group is prejudiced, is every single time without fail an attempt at creating a kafkatrap.

    All kafkatraps are valueless garbage and should be utterly disregarded. They require no response beyond “fuck you, you lying piece of shit.”

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    • Unique Identifier says:

      I don’t think it quite lives up to the (strictest) definition of a kafkatrap. A kafkatrap should be impossible to falsify. The commonest form is that any refusal to admit guilt is taken as proof of guilt.

      ‘Why are there so few x in your group? Is it because you shun them?’ – is certainly a loaded question and probably leads to a true kafkatrap if you answer ‘No, really, you see … ‘ – but isn’t itself a kafkatrap, as far as I can see.

      Regardless a very relevant term, and the coining article is easily available through Google.

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  24. suntzuanime says:

    So I think you failed to notice your confusion in favor of complaining that everything is confusing: Twitter is designed primarily for use on a phone, which explains its popularity among a group of people that spend relatively little time on a computer. Phone twitter is a much more full-fledged experience than phone tumblr.

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  25. BillWallace says:

    I was really with you for most of the setup, but then when you got to the list of explanations I was really shocked not to see the fairly obvious explanation of culture. Or to put it another way, the personal choices that people make about how they want to spend their time and money…. self selection. There are subcultures that are ‘black’, and subcultures that are ‘white’, and you could have people self-selecting into one or the other for literally no other reason than because other blacks or whites tend to do so.

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  26. Harald K says:

    There IS one common factor. And that is that if, at some point in time, some activity A came to be dominated by X, and you’re Y, then you don’t want to do A.

    First of all, you probably like being Y, and although you’ve got nothing against X, you don’t want people to think you’re not Y. You don’t want people to think that you’re “too good for Y”, “ashamed of Y”, “Y on the outside but X on the inside”. Nor that you’re “appropriating Xness”, “pretending to be X”, or “politely humoring X”.

    That’s the concern about what people in X or Y may think about you for doing A. But there’s also the more immediate problem of how you feel around A-ers. You stand out. Maybe you get extra attention, positive and negative. Maybe it feels like everyone is tiptoeing around that you’re an Y. Regardless, when doing A you become acutely aware that you are an Y. And you don’t like that. Sure, you like being Y, you’re not ashamed of being Y, but when you’re doing A suddenly being Y feels like such a huge part of you. And maybe it is, in some ways. But you don’t want to be thinking about that, you want to be thinking about A!

    I have heard that on conference speaking, 40% is a sort of magic limit, at least when it comes to gender. If your gender is represented with 40% or more, you go from being a female computer scientist (or a male nurse) to just being a computer scientist (or nurse). Likely it’s different for other attributes such as race. Probably it depends on how big the categories looms in our minds.

    Maybe it would be possible to measure how “big” various identity categories are in our minds, from trying to pin down the thresholds for “flight”. Schelling’s segregation model gets linked all the time in these threads, but I haven’t heard of anyone trying to use it empirically to determine various groups’ outsider-tolerance.

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    • Irenist says:

      Yeah, I wonder how often Schelling’s model could explain the whole effect, viz:

      “Why don’t you want to move to SWPL Hills? It’s a great neighborhood.”
      “Yeah, it is, but there are no black people there.”

      vs.

      “Why don’t you like birding/UU/polyamory? It’s great.”
      “Maybe. But there are no black people there.”

      Here’s what I’m getting at. Even in the absence of the sort of legally mandated segregation that has stained U.S. history, Schelling’s model predicts that areas can become de facto segregated into white and black neighborhoods due to relatively chance factors. Whitesville and Blacksville may not (again, on Schelling’s model, not on the brutal realities of US history that are very much still with us, IMHO) have anything to distinguish them in terms of topography or desirability other than that a critical threshhold of each group clustered there at some point.

      Now a weakness with this is that I, at least, can think of very few activities, other than a few religions, that are mostly black in the way that Scott’s list is mostly white. There are heavily black interests like basketball and hip hop, but white people don’t shun them the way black people appear to shun birding or whatever. Of course, SWPL countersignaling status games may be at work. Every time a group of black people invent a new activity, some SWPL will presumably show up to try to “gentrify” it–thus, the white hip hop fan is a more common cliche than, say, the black person really into country music. Contra the SWPL gentrifier on a quest for authenticity and distinctiveness, as John Schilling pointed out upthread, just being conformist middle class, and thus signaling not being in the lower class, is more than enough status signaling for people just climbing out of poverty, thanks. (Or, to add to John Schilling’s point, also more than enough status for people whose families have been comfortably part of the black middle class for generations but who get assumed to be lower class just because of racism anyway.)

      Still, I think activities could be uncomfortably too-white just by Schelling-like chance in a lot of these cases.

      ETA: I know this was Scott’s fifth point. My only reason for commenting is that I think it might surprise us how often this one is sufficient explanation by itself.

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      • Jiro says:

        There are heavily black interests like basketball and hip hop, but white people don’t shun them the way black people appear to shun birding or whatever.

        Who’s to say they don’t? There are lots more whites than blacks, so the same proportion of shunning should lead to different percentages of whites in originally black interests and blacks in originally white interests. If white people actually didn’t shun those heavily black interests, you’d expect those interests to become supermajority white. Seeing something that is 60% black or even 40% black is perfectly consistent with being shunned by white people.

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        • Irenist says:

          That’s a good point, Jiro.

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        • John Schilling says:

          Hmm, math time. The groups Scott listed, where the data is available, average 2.6% black. The US Census Bureau gives the nation’s demographic mix as 78% white, 13% black, and 9% other.

          For the entire racial disparity to be due to blacks shunning SWPL activities, the average shunning rate would have to be 82%. Seems plausible. If we reverse that, and apply an 82% shunning rate to white people contemplating Stuff Black People Like, the SBPL activities would wind up with a 39% white membership, 36% black, and 25% other.

          This assumes the 9% “other” demographic isn’t shunning anyone. If they shun both SWPL and SBPL at the common rate, the shunning rate has to go up to 84% to explain the 2.6% blackness of SWPL, and the SBPL groups will now be 46% white, 49% black, and 5% other.

          I hadn’t expected it to come out that way, but yes, even activities that are shunned by everyone except blacks may wind up mostly non-black.

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          • Harald K says:

            I don’t quite follow your math, but I thought maybe I should tip you about this: In the course I took where I first learned about a model, there was a rather neat little modeling tool called NetLogo, which can be used to test all sorts of models. It comes with an implementation of Schelling’s segregation model, and it’s supposed to be easy to use for non-programmers (I can confirm that it’s pretty easy to tweak the models it comes with anyway).

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  27. Satanforce says:

    I have noticed that in these sorts of discussions people of colour = “black”. Do Asians have same issues with polyamorry?

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  28. EoT says:

    With regard to swimming, there’s an interesting anatomical explanation for why blacks tend to avoid swimming: black people tend to sink rather than float. Blacks tend toward longer limbs and shorter torsos–the ideal swimmer has a long torso and short legs(think Michael Phelps). Blacks also have higher bone density and lower levels of subcutaneous fat, which contributes to an overall tendency to sink like a stone. Unsurprisingly the percentage of black kids who drown in swimming pools is much higher than white kids–in spite of the fact that white kids spend more time swimming and are more likely to have backyard swimming pools.

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    • Satanforce says:

      That does not seem to be a problem where I am from/am right now. All the fishermen, lifeguards, soldiers , scuba divers, etc. in my area are black, yet drowning isn’t that big an issue.

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    • Vulture says:

      Yeah, or maybe that there are persistent cultural and geographical (lack of pool access!) factors discouraging/preventing many or even most American blacks from learning to swim. This is a pretty well-documented phenomenon, no biological explanation necessary.

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      • EoT says:

        That’s a braindead ignorant reply Jackal, but sadly typical. You know nothing about this topic, so of course you feel you must reply with pabulum.

        African-Americans are 3x more likely to drown in swimming pools than white Americans (according to the CDC). African-Americans are more likely to report low/no swimming ability than whites of the SAME income level. This isn’t comparing rich white kids with swimming pools to poor blacks.

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        • Irenist says:

          African-Americans are 3x more likely to drown in swimming pools than white Americans (according to the CDC). African-Americans are more likely to report low/no swimming ability than whites of the SAME income level. This isn’t comparing rich white kids with swimming pools to poor blacks.

          There are a few things to disentangle here.
          1. The low/no swimming ability self-reports are apparently broken down by income level. But are the CDC drowning reports?
          2. If segregated swimming facilities led to a cultural disconnect from swimming as a hobby, wouldn’t that be expected to have lingering effects? E.g., Irish-American girls are way more likely to be into step dancing than, say, Swedish-American girls of the same income level, but it’s not because the Irish have different leg bones or something, it’s just because step dancing is part of Irish-American culture, so we encourage our daughters to try it out, whereas Swedish-Americans generally don’t. So if segregation severely reduced the popularity of swimming in black culture due to relative lack of access, then generations of black parents would be less likely to pass it down to their kids as a thing to try. The initial difference in access to segregated swimming facilities wouldn’t even have to be that large for it to magnify itself in a Butterfly Effect and/or Schelling segregation sort of way over the decades.

          I’m not some SJW emotionally invested in being anti-HBD. I honestly don’t care very much. If you happened to be right, I’d just file it away with other nonthreateningly morally neutral HBD facts like “Inuit people tend to tolerate cold better than Masai people” without getting upset or anything. You’re just not being sufficiently convincing is all.

          I just don’t think the CDC data and the swimming ability self-reports are nearly as compelling as evidence for some HBD hypothesis as you seem to think. We know slavery and segregation were things, so it seems simple enough to default to those as explanations for this swimming thing. Are people from western and southern Africa famously bad swimmers? That might buttress your case. Certainly, some additional data would be more compelling than just calling people brain dead.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          “That’s a braindead ignorant reply Jackal, but sadly typical. You know nothing about this topic, so of course you feel you must reply with pabulum.”

          Finally I get something clear-cut enough to let me ban somebody!

          Poster EoT banned for two weeks

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      • Anthony says:

        You haven’t examined all the consequences of your hypothesis. Stipulate that blacks don’t have the same access to swimming pools or nice beaches that whites do. (Also, for various reasons, blacks joining the military are more likely to join the Army instead of the Navy relative to whites, where learning to swim might be required.)

        So – fewer blacks learn to swim. Pretty obvious.

        But wouldn’t blacks also be therefore less likely to engage in aquatic recreation? First, they have less access, and second, they’re less likely to know how to swim, people who don’t how to swim are less likely to choose recreations where swimming is part of what you do.

        Lots of drowning deaths occur during various aquatic recreations, so a group which is less likely to choose (or have access to) aquatic recreation should have a somewhat lower rate of drowning. Maybe not a lot lower, if “unable to swim” doesn’t translate that strongly into “prefers dry land recreation”, but 3x higher?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Indeed, blacks tend to drown not when they’ve gone out of their way to swim, but in swimming pools attached to hotels.

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          • Anonymous says:

            And to this, I want to add a response to a common objection to the argument (not that I agree with the argument, I haven’t really heard about it until recently): It is true that lower body fat and higher bone density is pretty insignificant in regards to learning to swim and swimming proficiently, but it has a much higher impact when comparing two individuals that don’t actually know how to.

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      • anon says:

        I find it odd that you rank biological explanations above societal ones in simplicity. We only start suspecting biology is a thing after all possible societal confounders have been taken care of?

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    • Anonymous says:

      From the perspective of a European, “black people can’t swim” seems to be one of those North American stereotypes, alongside fried chicken and watermelon, that people outside of North America only learn about through watching Scrubs or Chris Rock.

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      • ckp says:

        Black people in Europe tend not to be from the same regions as black people in America. We get more Eastern Africans here, for all I know they might be better swimmers and it throws off the average.

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      • Irenist says:

        Well, African Americans are mostly descended from people who lived in places with segregated swimming pools. I don’t know much about the stereotype, but I always figured that “there’s only one nice pool in town, and you’re not allowed in it” would tend to reduce any group’s cultural connection with swimming. Reduce it enough, and even after segregation ends, the sport is so white that black people feel like tokens when they try it, and end up not liking it. That’s always been my guess about that, assuming arguendo the stereotype is true. (Is it? For all I know, it’s complete nonsense, and black Americans swim just as well as anybody.)

        ETA: I see Vulture already made this point.
        ETA2: EoT’s drowning stat is depressing. I suppose there could be some effect of bone structure or whatever. But I’d want to look for confounders first. E.g., are black kids more often swimming in poorly maintained, inadequately lifeguarded urban pools relative to the white kids? Are the pools and YMCA’s in black neighborhoods less able to be choosy about which lifeguards they hire, for wage or location reasons? Etc.

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      • EoT says:

        So people from lily-white countries, who have much less history with black people, are less likely to know something about black people. Shocking.

        Of course, African-Americans also rate their own swimming ability lower than white Americans. And the CDC reports black children are 3x more likely to drown than white children.

        Ah but African-Americans and the CDC must just be racists, unlike enlightened Europeans. Better to ignore all those black kids who are drowning.

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    • Troy says:

      Steve Sailer has written about some of the causes of blacks avoiding swimming and being more likely to drown: http://www.unz.com/isteve/more-on-blacks-and-swimming/

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      • Irenist says:

        Typically engaging iSteve. I note that while he mentions the biological stuff (body fat %, etc.) favored by EoT, Sailer also mentions lots of cultural factors. Although deeply anecdotal, I think it’s a pretty thoughtful treatment of a sensitive topic. Thanks for linking it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Total tangent, but I love the cartoon this essay analyzes: http://acephalous.typepad.com/acephalous/2008/11/black-people-cant-swim-c.html

      (Apologies for not html-coding the link. It’s an analysis of the “Peanuts” storyline where the character Franklin is introduced. At the beach. In 1968.)

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  29. Tom says:

    In this “Stuff White People Like” link, the (current) most recent post is about soccer. That seems crazy, unless white somehow includes all of Europe, South America, Africa and most of Asia.

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    • EoT says:

      It probably helps if you understand that the main joke of SWPL is that whenever they say “white people” they are exclusively talking about North American, liberal/cosmpolitan/upper-middle class/urban white people. All other white people are “the wrong kind of white people.”

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    • Irenist says:

      Like EoT said. They mean “the white people on Portlandia,” not white people generally.

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  30. James James says:

    “Can you see what all of these groups have in common?”

    The g factor?

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    • Irenist says:

      Runners, bikers, furries, Occupy & Tea Party people, birders, and swimmers? You think the g factor is a best-fit explanation for those?!

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      • Unique Identifier says:

        I would expect spending enough time on nearly any activity, to the point where it can be called a hobby, is fairly strongly correlated with IQ/g.

        Very passive and / or social hobbies would likely be an exception, such as watching sports and movies and clubbing.

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        • Irenist says:

          So would playing and practicing sports, or engaging in pursuits like dominoes, mancala, and chess hustling be correlated with IQ/g in a similar way?

          In particular, is carefully honing one’s basketball abilities more or less correlated with IQ/g than, say, running or swimming?

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          • Unique Identifier says:

            First paragraph: yes, but you get a double effect if the activity itself is g-loaded.

            Second paragraph: it’s hard to see any meaningful difference between the three, as far as honing one’s abilities goes, but note that recreational basketball has far stronger social / competitive dimensions than recreational running and swimming.

            [Educated guesses at best, no citations can be given.]

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        • Multiheaded says:

          I would expect spending enough time on nearly any activity, to the point where it can be called a hobby, is fairly strongly correlated with IQ/g.

          Again, I am amazed at how racists don’t seem to think that music exists. Black people, as noted above, have been at the absolute damn cutting edge of popular music for a century now.

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  31. Liz Calkins says:

    My reaction to polyamory is more one of envy. As in, “these people get to have multiple people who like them at the same time, while I can’t even find one”.

    Which makes me wonder if that contributes to the white affluence bias, now that I think about it. I would think people who match the societal norms of attractiveness and thus have a wide availability of partners are more likely to be open to polyamory than people who have to cling to every rare lover they find.

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    • Corwin says:

      Seems like the wrong way around. If any poly person I’d be attracted to, liked me, I’d happily be their Nth partner. Polyamory means everyone stays dateable even if they already date.

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      • onyomi says:

        My problem with polyamory is I can’t escape wanting a “poly for me, but not for thee” attitude, especially with respect to my more serious partner (and probable future wife).

        Like, I don’t really have time or desire to have a super-close intimate partnership with more than one person at a time, but it would be fun for me to be able to have sex with people other than my super-close intimate partner now and again, if only for variety, and possible deepening of non-primary-partner-level friendship. The problem is, I’m pretty sure my future wife would not be okay with that, especially if I’m not going to extend her the same courtesy (which I’m not really comfortable with doing).

        I feel pretty confident I could sleep with other women on occasion without it detracting from my feelings for her (though one never knows what new feelings will arise once sex enters the picture), but I don’t feel comfortable with her doing the same with other men, especially considering what a heavy emotional component there is to sex for her. In other words, I’m only comfortable being a hypocritical polyamorist, meaning I’m not really comfortable with polyamory at all.

        Now I can certainly conceive that there are some people who are so comfortable with themselves and their partner, so non-jealous, or perhaps, so able to keep physical intimacy and emotional intimacy separate, that they can happily be polyamorists without anyone’s feelings getting hurt. But I have to say, I don’t even consider myself very jealous. In fact, I’d say both myself and my girlfriend are significantly less jealous than most people I know. She has lots of male friends and I have no problem with her spending significant chunks of one-on-one alone time with them, and I have lots of female friends, and she extends me the same courtesy. But sex? I don’t think we could handle that.

        I recall one time she admitted having made out with a male friend when I was out of the country for a few months. I wasn’t exactly furious, and was glad she was honest with me, but I wasn’t thrilled either. It never became a big issue, and it was very understandable, especially considering my extended absence, but if it happened frequently or went much further I would definitely not be okay with it, and yet I think this still ranks me among the less jealous, more trusting category of men.

        Do polyamorists cultivate super-human levels of non-jealousy or are their relationships seething vats of brewing hurt feelings, unrequited love, etc.? I think the popular view of polyamory is that it MUST be the latter. I’m willing to accept that it may not be, but better explaining why it doesn’t have to be seems to me to be a key to gaining wider acceptance for it.

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        • Nita says:

          so able to keep physical intimacy and emotional intimacy separate, that they can happily be polyamorists

          You might be thinking of swingers or open relationship people. Polyamorists are usually emotionally intimate with their partners.

          Also, you and your girlfriend soooo unjealous that you even allow each other to spend time with opposite-sex friends? That was amusing to read 😀

          See, I can’t wrap my mind around this feeling you describe about your partner having sex with other people. I have experienced slight jealousy relating to friendship and other social engagements, but not sex. But my partner definitely feels it, at least when it comes to men.

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          • onyomi says:

            I think if you surveyed the general public with the question: “are you comfortable with your partner/spouse spending significant one-on-one alone time with close friends of the opposite sex” you would receive a more than 50% negative response rate.

            I do see the difference between polyamory and swinging, but from what I understand it’s still common for polyamorists to have one person whom they consider their most intimate partner, perhaps whom they live with, and then one or more other partners who are not as close, if still much closer than a casual fuck buddy.

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          • Nita says:

            it’s still common for polyamorists to have one person whom they consider their most intimate partner, perhaps whom they live with, and then one or more other partners who are not as close

            Yes, it’s common, although not universal, and sometimes controversial. This is the same system as the one most people use for friends and relatives.

            edit: That is, different levels of closeness are common. The number of primary partners may vary.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Polyamorists cultivate extreme levels of non-jealousy and their relationships are heavy on drama.

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          • onyomi says:

            See, this is precisely it, for me, at least:

            Some people (not sure whether this applies to most polyamorists or not) say “monogamy is not natural.”

            To which I reply, “no, it’s not natural. But then, horrific relationship drama IS natural.”

            My desire to be physically intimate with more than one person is weaker than my desire to avoid relationship drama.

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        • greenshackle says:

          I don’t feel jealousy. It’s not something I cultivate, I’ve been like that for as long as I’ve been interested in romance. When I learned poly existed it immediately seemed like a good idea to me.

          ‘Jealousy’ is a bit vague. There was a comment on the SSC thread, “Which universal experience are you missing” IIRC, that talked about the ‘mate guarding instinct’. That, specifically, I don’t have.

          Some polyamorists, including Scott, have reported the same thing. Others have reported long and difficult struggles with jealousy. My experience with poly has been similar to Scott’s account in Polyamory Is Boring.

          Emotional and physical intimacy, and affection, are closely entangled for me. I find it difficult to be really close friends with someone if I can’t touch them. That’s exactly why I like poly. It lets me cultivate close emotional intimacy with multiple people. It’s mostly not about the sex, I think I could be happy in a mono relationship if I had a partner who was very non-jealous and open to me having close friendships with others.

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          • onyomi says:

            Maybe this is why polyamory doesn’t much appeal to me: physical and emotional intimacy feel very separable to me. I feel very close to my brother emotionally, but we hardly touch each other at all–maybe a brief hug if we haven’t seen each other for months.

            Conversely, there are people I’ve had sex with many times whom I hardly talk to anymore. Not because of an acrimonious breakup, just because we grew apart.

            And this is very stereotypically male, of course, but I can happily jump right into having sex and then turn right around and do something completely different once it’s over; for my girlfriend, however, the cuddling afterward is as important as the act. Not that I don’t enjoy it also, but I don’t really need it and my desire for it certainly fades much faster than does hers.

            For me, the line between physical intimacy of any kind and full-blown sexual activity feels somehow rather thin, and that may be partially why I don’t tend to have very close physical relationship even with friends I’d consider very close emotionally–to me it feels like “if we don’t want to have sex, then why are we touching?” Not that all touch inevitably leads there, but somehow it subjectively feels like a slippery slope, maybe because I have a dirty mind, don’t trust myself on some level, am even more afraid than most people of social awkwardness, or something else.

            I certainly understand there are a lot of benefits to touch and closeness other than the pleasure of sex. But for that I kind of just pet my cat. Less potential for misunderstanding.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            I think I could be happy in a mono relationship if I had a partner who was very non-jealous and open to me having close friendships with others.

            Isn’t that most people? I mean, I have no issue with my significant other having close friends because, like, they’re still just friends. Kind of surprised that other people do have an issue with it.

            Friendships serve different needs than romantic relationships. You can (and IMHO should) be friends with your romantic partner, but there’s still many benefits to having one or more friends that you’re not also tangled up with on a romantic and sexual level.

            I don’t know, maybe having lots of friends with the opposite sex over the years, including some close ones, has made it easier for me to delineate the emotional differences between romantic relationships and even close friendships. It’s pretty much the difference between your spouse and your favorite sibling, for me.

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        • ozymandias says:

          To me, this question makes as much sense as asking “how do people have more than one friend? Do they have superhuman levels of nonjealousy or are their relationships seething vats of brewing hurt feelings?” …Neither? I just… have more than one friend. I really don’t know what to tell you. I genuinely do not understand why this would be an issue.

          I mean, neglecting one’s partners is an issue, but you can neglect your monogamous partner for work or to take care of your children. I gather from monogamous people that they object to their partners falling in love with other people for some reason that is totally unrelated to the risk of partner neglect, and also unrelated to the ordinary insecurity about being left for someone sexier that goes away when it is obvious no one is going to break up with you. I do not understand why monogamous people have this preference, so you understand why I have a hard time explaining why I don’t.

          …In the interests of complete disclosure my relationships have sometimes been seething vats of brewing hurt feelings, but this is basically never because of polyamory but instead because of things like “all four people in this relationship have severe and untreated mental illnesses they have no insight into”, which I feel would also be a recipe for disaster in a two-person relationship.

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          • onyomi says:

            I can see how it is theoretically possible to treat romantic relationships like friendships, and maybe for some they really are no different, but there is a major psychological difference for most people.

            This is because romantic relationships, to my view, are not just really good friendships, nor are they friendships of a different sort, they are, instead, friendships+something else.

            That “something else” is mutual sexual attraction, and sexual attraction is a notoriously difficult emotion for most people to deal with because it involves a much higher degree of visceral, biological level judgment. When I am deciding whether or not to be friends with someone I am basically just deciding whether or not he/she is pleasant to be around. When deciding whether or not I’m attracted to someone, I’m deciding (generally at a mostly unconscious level) whether or not she is a functional, attractive, healthy, immunologically compatible potential carrier of my babies (not that I explicitly think so much about those things, but that’s what biology seems largely to base the feeling on).

            Being accepted or rejected romantically, therefore, is a lot more serious, biologically speaking, than not being the best friend of a particular person. It implies an acceptance or rejection of a person at a very deep, biological sort of level–a judging of them as an evolutionary success or failure, even–one that most people feel very intensely about. Arguably the friendship should count for more, if we were disembodied consciousnesses, but since we’re not, most people find it a lot harder to keep drama out of romantic relationships than friendships (though obviously drama does occur among friends as well), because the evolutionary stakes are so high.

            I often compare dating to job hunting. This analogy is pretty much perfect in my experience, from the high hopes to the crushing disappointments to the mutual period of judging “fit,” etc. Now imagine after you have a job you like, your employer hires someone else who does the same exact thing you do, even though there’s no particular indication you’re not already doing as much of x as the company needs. Maybe this is no reason to be concerned, but maybe the boss is trying out your replacement. It’s hard to avoid some insecurity in such a case.

            I’m not saying romantic relationships are as transactional as employer-employee relationships, but there is also a lot more at stake in them, as getting fired is usually a bigger problem than growing apart from one particular friend.

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      • Liz Calkins says:

        @Corwin

        onyomi got it in one regards being on the wrong end of the “poly for me, but not for thee” stick.

        I just know I would grow to resent the situation where my girlfriend or boyfriend is my one and only that gets all my love and lust while I’m just one of many for them. It would make it feel completely unequal and like I’m just someone’s second-rate (or third, or fourth-rate…) pity screw. Not to mention that I’d be sitting there twiddling my thumbs with no one to spend time with whenever they were off with one of their other partners.

        I don’t think polyamory is a good fit for any relationship where it’d be essentially completely one-sided because there’s a wide difference in “sexual market value” (as someone else here put it) between two of the partners, unless the person with the lowest SMV is basically at total doormat levels of low self-esteem where getting a pity screw now and then is better than nothing. I’m not that far gone yet personally.

        And yeah, there’s also the jealousy angle. Let’s face it, when you have low SMV, you tend to be really paranoid about the one person you could have deciding to leave you for someone better.

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        • Corwin says:

          Well, for me, it’s too late, I’m totally there.
          The other thing is, there’s that funny effect where being in a relationship is the one thing that has proven to make me attractive at all. So if I ever luckily end up in one with someone who’s poly, as long as that effects the same changes as being in a nominally monogamous one, they probably won’t be my only one for long.

          Also, there’s something else. I find that monogamy is inherently abusive. At least, demanding monogamy is. It takes away agency from the loved person, usually backed by emotional blackmail : “I will feel lots of pain if you ever [get intimate] with someone else”, or total non-sequiturs like “What we do together and what we feel in those times can be rendered meaningless by [any intimacy] you share with someone other than me”.

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          • disgusted says:

            is toilet training ‘inherently abusive’ as well? after all it takes away agency from the child and those who defecate outside proscribed areas are ostracised and may even be subjected to fines or incarceration

            i realize that analogy is a bit crass but hopefully it makes the point. we give up the unlimited freedom of the mythical ‘state of nature’ to enjoy the benefits of civilized society. the word obligation has the root word for tie or bind in it after all

            it’s hardly abusive to ask someone to hold up their end of a bargain. especially one they agreed to and can freely exit at any time

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          • Tracy W says:

            I find that monogamy is inherently abusive. At least, demanding monogamy is. It takes away agency from the loved person, usually backed by emotional blackmail

            On the assumption that the demander is saying “be monogamous or I’ll dump you/cry a lot”, and not “be monogamous or I’ll beat/kill/bankrupt/etc you”, I don’t see how this is abusive without making a lot of other things abusive. Having children with someone takes away agency. Being an ethical doctor takes away agency (eg patient confidentiality limits what a doctor can talk about).

            Report comment

          • Liz Calkins says:

            I find that monogamy is inherently abusive. At least, demanding monogamy is.

            If someone considers me so inadequate for their sexual and romantic needs to the point of considering it an abusive chore to stay committed to me, then… yeah. I’m not far gone enough on the self-esteem spectrum to need that sort of relationship either.

            I mean, for me personally monogamy is easy. If I’m in love with someone, I can’t imagine why I’d need someone else romantically. And any fleeting sexual desires outside of my girl/boyfriend would be easy to ignore until I can get home and satisfy them in other ways with said significant other.

            If some people just can’t be happy unless they’re playing the field, it’s their life and I won’t begrudge them for it. But I’m really tired of this growing trend of claiming how it’s so universally unnatural or hard and oppressive to be monogamous.

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          • Nita says:

            If I’m in love with someone, I can’t imagine why I’d need someone else romantically.

            I don’t think I fall in love because I “need” someone. It seems more like a predictable result of mutual attraction, compatible personalities and spending time together.

            Also, the infatuation fades in a couple of years for most people, so I don’t base my relationship choices solely on being “in love”.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            Also, the infatuation fades in a couple of years for most people, so I don’t base my relationship choices solely on being “in love”.

            Love =/= infatuation. I mean, infatuation can be the beginning of love, but love also encompasses the time when you’ve just become comfortable and content around each other and sexual contact is more about the intimacy than the lust.

            If anything, I’d think I’d find that comfort stage more appealing. IMHO the stage in a friendship or relationship where you’re tiptoeing around trying to impress them and feel out what they like and what annoys them is completely exhausting versus reaching the stage where you already know all that and feel more comfortable being yourself around them within their limits you already are aware of. And having just one romantic partner to me means not having to worry about going through it all again.

            So maybe the divide here is that there’s people who are completely opposite and find that initial getting-to-know-you phase exciting and feel stifled and bored once it reaches the comfort phase? So of course they have to keep seeking out new people from time to time.

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          • Nita says:

            the stage in a friendship or relationship where you’re tiptoeing around trying to impress them and feel out what they like and what annoys them is completely exhausting

            No, the mutual infatuation takes cares of that. You’re too busy shaking with excitement and disbelief at having found this amazing perfect person who likes you so incredibly much to be exhausted by mundane worries.

            Of course, any kind of exhilaration is difficult to imagine when you’re in a depressed mental state.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            @Nita

            Then I guess I’ve never experienced the infatuation part of love, because the foremost thought in my mind is always sheer panic, in the sense of, “I really like this person (whether romantically or platonically), so how do I figure out how to hold a conversation with them and convince them to continue liking me and not accidentally chase/scare them off?”

            And then the continued fear that the second I start letting myself relax a little and just being myself, they’ll bail for some reason. (Because that’s actually happened several times.)

            So… yeah. It’s exhausting. Less depression, more the difference between people who fit social norms with ease and those who don’t.

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          • Deiseach says:

            I find that monogamy is inherently abusive. At least, demanding monogamy is. It takes away agency from the loved person, usually backed by emotional blackmail

            And saying to someone “If you want to be in a relationship with me, you have to accept I am not sexually/emotionally monogamous” does not have an element of emotional blackmail? Some people don’t have the strength of will to say “There’s the door, have fun and go fuck yourself” to that kind of ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum and will put up with an emotionally abusive relationship because half a loaf is better than no bread.

            If being monogamous is abusive for you, then don’t be monogamous. But don’t label other people who want to be monogamous with you and are not willing to have an open or polyamorous relationship as abusers. I encounter the results of real abusers in my work, and expecting mutual fidelity is not one of their hallmarks (explosive jealousy, controlling attitudes, physically, verbally and psychologically violent, expecting that they can fuck whom they like but their partner shouldn’t even look at another person – sure. We’ll both be sexually and emotionally faithful in a loving, supportive relationship – no.)

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          • ozymandias says:

            Liz: FWIW, I’m poly and I have a similar experience of new relationship energy to yours, so I am pretty sure that is not the primary poly/mono difference.

            To me, from this sort of conversation, it seems like the primary difference is that monogamous people seem to genuinely only want one partner and/or a partner who is only dating them, while poly people tend to want multiple partners and/or be indifferent to whether their partner is dating anyone else (or actively value it).

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            @ozymandias

            I guess it’s being OK with the indifference part that amazes me. I actually like someone to feel just a little bit jealous over me, because it means they actually care about having me around.

            I would feel like anyone who was utterly indifferent to me having other partners, it it would mean they didn’t give a hoot whether I left or not.

            (Seeing as how my friends always give me that impression as it is, where they just let me be around them to be nice to me and do me a favor versus actually actively wanting me around.)

            Maybe it goes right back to my OP; whether you’re desirable enough in comparison to your partner to get to feel secure that someone will actually want to stay with you even while, ah, sampling the other goods, versus being distracted away from you permanently for that someone else or treating you as being just a distraction yourself. (Especially when you’ve already had one or both of those things happen.)

            If you instead have high SMV, or at least a matching SMV level to your partner, then you don’t need to worry that they’ll be tempted to leave.

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          • Anthony says:

            Reply to Ozymandias (and Liz Calkins):

            monogamous people seem to genuinely only want one partner and/or a partner who is only dating them, while poly people tend to want multiple partners and/or be indifferent to whether their partner is dating anyone else (or actively value it).

            “Indifferent” is the wrong word, in my experience. Poly people are willing to accept their partner dating other people. In my experience, they generally care about *who* the other partner(s) are, for a variety of reasons. Most polyamorous people allow their (primary) partner a significant say over their other partners.

            This also leads to one of the more common failure modes for polyamory – the partner who is never pleased with her partner’s other partners. In the particular case I’m most familiar with, she wanted deeper, emotionally-involved relationships with all her partners, and wanted her primary to have those sorts of relationships, too. Meanwhile, he just wanted to fuck other women while being indifferent to whether deeper relationships evolved out of those flings.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            @Anthony

            That just feels worse somehow. “Hey yeah, all these people think I’m hot, which one do you think I should sleep with?” Meanwhile, of course, this is coming from the one person in existence who finds me attractive at all and still doesn’t find me good enough to satisfy them without still wanting other people. It’s like rubbing my nose in that fact.

            I guess after all these replies I still don’t really understand how poly people handle this sort of social power imbalance without simply expecting the person on the low end to just put up with it or not care.

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        • Deiseach says:

          Hmmm – I could see a polyamorous situation as you describe it working for someone with a low libido or who, for whatever reason, was either uninterested or unable to have as much sex as their partner wanted. If you know the people they’re going to be with, and it’s been negotiated beforehand, it may be preferable to them going off and having affairs in secret or even openly.

          Some people are quite happy if their partner has other affairs as long as they remain the primary focus (which I imagine is what you are saying in part?) The late British politican Alan Clarke who was notorious amongst other things for his various adulteries was facilitated by his wife, Jane, who seems to have taken the attitude that while he was a bit of a hound, the women involved were no serious threat to their marriage:

          While involved in the Matrix Churchill trial he was cited in a divorce case in South Africa, in which it was revealed he had had affairs with Valerie Harkess, the wife of a South African barrister (and part-time junior judge), and her daughters Josephine and Alison. After sensationalist tabloid headlines, Clark’s wife Jane remarked upon what Clark had called “the coven” with the line: “Well, what do you expect when you sleep with below stairs types?”, and referred to her husband as an “S, H, one, T”.

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          • onyomi says:

            I will say that our culture has moved in an extreme direction of taking any and all adultery/cheating/mistress-taking to be a supreme betrayal, when it’s clear it isn’t really always that. In many cases it seems like the social pressure to tell people they shouldn’t accept it is much stronger than the internal motivation not to accept it.

            I forget where the quote came from, but it was something like “if you are married to your wife for fifty years and she only cheats on you once, that should be considered an example of unusually successful monogamy.” The assumption in the current culture seems to be that any and all cheating is an automatic relationship destroyer, and that seems extreme.

            I will say that my girlfriend and I have agreed many times, at least in theory, that we will be open and honest about it if something should happen with another person, since I don’t think it has to be a deal breaker. Like, there’s a big difference between “I was drunk and lonely” and “I have been emotionally closer to this person than with you for the past year.”

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          • Anonymous says:

            What do you mean by “our culture”? America? The Anglosphere? The West?

            America is definitely way too literal and absolute about everything. I’m not sure that has changed with time, though it may be applied to different topics at different times.

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          • onyomi says:

            I meant the popular culture of the United States.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            I will say that our culture has moved in an extreme direction of taking any and all adultery/cheating/mistress-taking to be a supreme betrayal, when it’s clear it isn’t really always that.

            To me it is.

            I just honestly don’t understand why people act like it’s so hard to just say no thanks or not initiate (depending on the situation) when presented with the opportunity to cheat. People always make it sound like cheating is some herculean effort to not do.

            I already have to ignore sexual urges completely because nobody else is interested; it seems like it would be ten times easier to ignore them if I actually had a significant other at home to displace any stray urges for other people onto. Especially since I’d just be jeopardizing a relationship I was extremely lucky to find for… what? A fleeting moment of novelty?

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        • Anonymous says:

          I just know I would grow to resent the situation where my girlfriend or boyfriend is my one and only that gets all my love and lust while I’m just one of many for them.

          YMMV, but I actively seek out this situation. I don’t have the time to devote to being anyone’s “one and only.” I’d just like to be with someone every once in a while, and have it be mutually beneficial, without the pressure of maintaining the only relationship for both of us.

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          • Liz Calkins says:

            I’d just like to, for once in my life, actually get to have a relationship where someone cares about me as much as I care for them.

            Especially since I’ve had one too many male friends try to treat me as a “better than nothing” “booty call girl” for whenever their girlfriend/main crush wasn’t interested, to be then dumped like a hot potato when their main girl likes them again, then come crawling back to me when they’re on the outs with the main girl again. I’m never anyone’s first choice, just a weird sort of security blanket.

            That’s pretty much the fate of low SMV people in a poly relationship, and it’s like, ugh, no thanks.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ll tell you the same thing I told Laurie Penny – this is a really gender-skewed community and I think more people will be interested than you think.

      If you want help finding people, post an OKCupid profile or just where you live here, I’ll signal-boost it, and maybe it’ll get somewhere.

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      • Liz Calkins says:

        I was more just saying there’s other reasons to reject polyamory as a choice for yourself other than just being prejudiced in some way against “sexual deviancy”.

        And, I live in rural Western Mass; most people here don’t even have internet. XD (Also most people here are over the age of 50.)

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  32. Nita says:

    check out Tumblr’s racial demographics if you don’t believe me

    I’d love to! And not because I don’t believe you — just out of curiosity 🙂

    So, would you recommend a source? All I could find were rumours like this:

    – “Hispanics and African-Americans make up 29% of Tumblr’s audience”
    – “There are 2x more Hispanics than the internet average”

    …and I don’t even know what they mean by that “2x more” bit, let alone where these numbers come from.

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    • Anonymous says:

      http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/02/14/social-networking-site-users/

      That’s from a 2012 survey; the most recent version of said survey doesn’t include Tumblr and I imagine things may have changed. But on that survey the racial demographics look roughly representative of Internet users with a skew towards more Hispanics. It’s not great information though; there weren’t a lot of Tumblr users surveyed.

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      • Nita says:

        Thanks! You’re right, those Tumblr numbers are tiny, and they say the results may vary by +/-2.6 percentage points. Also, they only provide the demographics of internet users.

        But, if we ignore those caveats, it does seem like Tumblr is more representative than Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter — and about on par with Facebook?

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  33. If polyamory takes more time than monogamy, then there could be a correlation with how well off people are.

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    • Paul says:

      That might make intuitive sense, but you’ll find that working hours actually increase with income–Consider that investment bankers commonly will work well in excess of a 40 hour week, as might lawyers or doctors with their own practices.

      It takes a lot of money to buy leisure when you’re at the top of the income distribution.

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      • Nita says:

        Some things that take up time don’t count as working hours and aren’t compensated: childcare, household chores, dealing with various institutions, applying for jobs, helping family members.

        So, we might expect polyamory to be more common among middle class people with few or no children.

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      • Well says:

        This is a great argument in favor of being poor.

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  34. JayMan says:

    For the record, here is a small sample of other communities where black people are strongly underrepresented:

    Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%).

    Can you see what all of these groups have in common?

    I can! They are all either very WEIRD things and/or require a high IQ (Wall Street – but maybe that’s more Jewish, but that’s another discussion) or are the hallmarks of certain clannish Whites/implicitly anti-Black groups (Tea Party, bikers). But the primary thread in WEIRDness.

    This can be easily elucidated by looking at the World Values Survey:

    http://twitter.com/ValuesStudies/status/559818162129338369

    See that Africans are located near a pole directly opposite the WEIRD countries (actually, the 5th wave data is a bit more clear, since is notes non-Muslim Africans are a distinct cluster from Muslim peoples, but close to them).

    See here:

    Western liberals are the WEIRDist – The Unz Review

    Those Who Can See: There’s Something About Teutonics

    Be sure to see my comments at both.

    Eighth, people of the same social class tend to cluster, and black people are disproportionately underrepresented among the upper middle class. Most of these fields are dominated by upper middle class people. The nickname for weird self-actualizing upper middle class things is “Stuff White People Like”, and this is not a coincidence.

    Actually, SWPL is a term common in the HBDish-sphere to describe a type of White liberal that is primarily from WEIRD populations. You’re basically discovering what HBD Chick (and others) have pointed out a long time ago.

    Likewise, you know who’s got an obsessively large collection of resources on the underrepresentation of minorities in atheism? Conservapedia

    Actually, this goes right back to the religiosity axis of the World Values Survey data. But you know who else has talked a lot about this? Yours Truly:

    The Atheist Narrative | JayMan’s Blog

    And if blacks are underrepresented in weird nonconformist groups, and nobody mentions that this is a general principle, that’s making their job way too easy.

    Well, it’s a lot more comprehensive than that, and as should be obvious, some people have given it a lot of thought. In fact, I’d suggest seeing here:

    start here | hbd chick

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  35. JayMan says:

    I left a comment that seems to have gone to spam (lots of links). Could you fish it out, please? 🙂

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  36. ckp says:

    To me the explanation is simple.

    When you’re low IQ it’s called polygyny.
    When you’re high IQ it’s called polyamory.

    Plus I don’t think black people tend to have the low time preference and empathy required to sustain the kind of relationships that poly is ostensibly about – that is, open, consensual, minimizing jealousy and friction.

    Also if we’re worrying about how white poly is, we should also wonder whether it’s relevant that a certain tribe of white people is over-represented compared to other whites. I doubt there will be Salon dot com articles written about that though …

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    • Peter says:

      Polygyny has a specific meaning, which doesn’t match the practises of most of the poly people I know. For a start it doesn’t cover people with multiple non-female partners. With polygyny, you get star-shaped relationship graphs, with polyamory, you get all sorts of exciting stuff. The word “polymer” often seems to come up.

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    • Nita says:

      I don’t think black people tend to have the low time preference and empathy

      And what makes you (not) think that? I’m especially interested in the empathy part.

      Report comment

    • Irenist says:

      ckp,

      If you’re referring to the Tribe I think you are, then I think that Jewish Americans’ relative affluence is enough to explain over-representation in any SWPL activity you’d care to name. Nothing sinister (or Salon-article-worthy) about it.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Exactly, totally the sort of comment that I expected to see immediately after reading the post’s title 🙁

      Report comment

  37. stubydoo says:

    Bemoaning the fact that some SWPL activity is too full of white people is the most SWPL activity of all

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  38. Scott H. says:

    “You have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for
    “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for
    “you suck”

    I think you have the PG version here. To my recollection it should be:

    “You have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for
    “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for
    “you’re evil”.

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    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      When it comes to the named conservative sites I believe the chain of, uhh, reasoning is a bit different, though not necessarily any better:

      “You have low minority representation”, plus
      “In any other context you assume low minority representation means racism”, equals
      “You’re hypocrites– therefore, I don’t need to even consider the possibility that you’re right anyway.” (This last move being universally popular nowadays.)

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      • DrBeat says:

        Is the last move really wrong?

        I mean, when things that look like arguments are used as attacks, which they are, pretty much fucking constantly, you need a way of defending yourself against attack. “You don’t even believe the thing you are saying, so I don’t have to accept your framing of the situation and I don’t have to scourge myself for the sins you accuse me of” seems like a pretty sensible one.

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        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          That’s an OK argument as far as it goes. It’s only bad if it becomes the pretext for ignoring the unrelated argument that all those white people are actually interested in pushing.

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  39. Sternhammer says:

    Bird watching is a really interesting question, but polyamory is trivially easy. The explanation is competition from substitutable goods. You can make a pedantic distinction between cheating and serial monogamy and polyamory, but all of them are forms of having multiple sexual partners. Calling it polyamory is most common in the racial and social groups in which having multiple partners is most disapproved: upper middle class whites, which have the highest marriage rates, the lowest divorce rates, and the strongest expectations of companionate marriage. Here’s a good test of this theory: I would also predict that there are very few lower middle class white polyamorist, because marriage norms in that demographic are weak (tho stronger than among back folks). I would expect representation numbers in polyamory to go white upper middle > white lower > black upper middle > black lower.

    Then there is another factor. Scott, in discussing this I am not trying to be insulting, but I expect that it will make people unhappy. Sorry about that, but I think this is an important part of the empirical question.

    Polyamory seems to be more common among people who don’t do well in the monogamous mating market. I don’t know a whole lot of polyamorists, so I am mostly going by what I see on the internet, but I don’t see a lot of people in polyamory who seem like they would have a high sexual market ranking in the more traditional market. Again, I could be mistaken. But I am not only observing this, I think there is a strong theoretical reason for the prediction. People who do well in a socially approved market have much less reason to pay the costs to go to a non-traditional market. I propose this test of the theory: of those US blacks and asians who do participate in polyamory, I predict there will be more black women than black men, and more asian men than asian women. Does that match up with your experience?

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    • Fnord says:

      The alternate explanation for the same evidence is the countersignaling/”can’t afford to signal weird” one. Polyamory only flourishes when in demographics with high compliance with high-status cultural norms about sex. An upper-class, educated, white poly person gets “category error”, and at least sometimes gets a chance to explain “The Ethical Slut”. Someone from those less popular demographics just gets labelled “slut” before they have a chance to explain the ethical part.

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  40. Rogue says:

    I would be very interested in a post which analyzes the reasons why some people identify and act poly and some not. I have a gut feeling it may have a lot to do with supply and demand and people´s sexual market values. Of course it also has something to do with personality differences, but perhaps not so much as some people seem to think. I emphasize that the following is founded purely on my general knowledge of men and women and human relationships. And basic logic. The actual empirical knowledge you polyamorous guys have could easily prove my assumptions wrong.

    My main problem about the idea that poly/mono divide would be mostly about personality differences is, that it seems obvious that most men don´t have “having multiple female sexual/romantic partners” as a realistic option. If that was a realistic option, I´d guess many more men would choose it.

    Also, I suppose most people would prefer a situation where they have multiple sexual partners to a situation where they´ve got only one partner they are sharing with other people.

    So if there is a guy whose sexual market value is very low proclaiming his polyamorousness, could it many times be the case that it´s just the best sexual strategy he could come up with in his current situation? If his SMV is low enough, he could have big trouble even finding any girl for a monogamous relationship. BUT, if he knows people from a polyamorous subculture, he might have an ok chance to get to be one of the guys sharing a girl from the community.

    Then again, if you´re a guy with high SMV, it´s not really a surprise for anybody if you´d like to make use of that value and have multiple sexual partners. And if there is a thriving polyamorous community nearby, why wouldn´t you use it for your purposes (supposing there are enough sexually interesting women in the community) instead of scamming supposedly monogamous girls into one night stands etc.?

    What about women then? First thought that comes to my mind is, that I would bet it´s really really hard to get any high SMV women into polyamorous relationships (at least if we are not talking about Eyes wide shut-style high status secret groups of elite people ;)). Women seem to be sexually more comfortable in monogamous relationships than men, so they probably have less pure sexual incentive here. I could imagine some subgroup of women enjoying a male harem as it could in many ways act as an egoboost. But most women would probably get bored of it after a while and/or the social stigma would be too much to take.

    And I just can´t see many high SMV western women choosing the role of 4. wife voluntarily.

    For bisexuals It´s easier to see the incentives (independent of SMV), but my comment is already long enough so I won´t go there.

    I know I´m completely ignoring the romantic side of the equation here and it may solve some of my confusion. But I would guess the points I made apply more or less to the romantic side also.

    These are just some quick thoughts that come to my mind. Would be interested to hear opinions from Scott and other polyamorous people here.

    Edit: Just noticed Sternhammer before me has partly the same idea…

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    • ozymandias says:

      Poly people are geeks, which confounds the attractiveness issue, because geeks are, how do I put this delicately, not known for their high achievements in the realm of conventional attractiveness. But it doesn’t seem to me like polyamorous people are any more or less attractive than demographically similar monogamous people.

      I am unclear why– granting “men want sex, women want commitment” for a moment– women would not want commitment from a lot of men. I am celebrating Valentine’s Day TWICE! 🙂

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  41. Why are blacks underrepresented in finance and other STEM fields? They do poorly in math, for one. In my own personal experience, blacks in school tended to fare well as well as non-blacks in subjects outside of math, but is math is a disaster for them.

    There are 4x more Polish mathematicians alone than there are black ones

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African-American_mathematicians

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Polish_mathematicians

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    • Tracy W says:

      In the UK, blacks on average do about as well in both English and Maths as white European students (see page 23).

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      • There is some selection bias in choosing UK blacks, who tend to be smarter than US blacks. It’s well established that blacks (Nigerians, Kenyans, etc) who immigrate to predominantly white countries ted to do better than native blacks.

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    • Irenist says:

      Poland, with its present borders, is a nation of 38 million. There are 42 million African Americans. So it’s not like Poland is an especially small comparison group: it’s not like saying, look, even Poles by themselves have outdone blacks as a group. For one thing “African Americans” doesn’t include any non-American black people.

      Further, the first prominent Polish mathematician, AFAIK, was the scholastic philosopher Witelo (fl. 13th c.), whose contributions were mostly related to optics. So the Polish list could contain figures from as early as the 13th century. (I’m not bothering to check the dates on all Wikipedia’s listed Polish mathematicians in that category, but I assume at least some of them are from the 18th and 19th centuries, at least).

      Meanwhile, the first African was brought to the Thirteen Colonies in 1619. So if the Poles had any great mathematicians from 1200-1619, that’s a bit of head start, since the African American category doesn’t exist until 1619.

      Now, Poles have historically been a rather oppressed people. But I think it’s fair to say that the barriers to a career in mathematics faced by African Americans between, say, 1619-1865 were, um, rather high?

      From 1865-1965, roughly, the barriers are still pretty high for African Americans, as a matter of law. This was also a lousy century for Poles (1939-45 was especially bad, of course), so it’s murkier here.

      From 1965-89 or so, we’re comparing the lingering aftereffects of American segregation to the (AFAIK, pretty strong) STEM educations offered in communist Poland.

      From 1989-present, we’re comparing two “nations” (Poland and African Americans if they were a country) in which Polish per capita GDP ranked 49th in the world, and African Americans, counted as a country, 46th. In the real world however, Poland has all its social roles, including STEM jobs, filled by Poles, whereas African Americans live among white people, and are channeled for all sorts of socioeconomic reasons (education, income, connections, etc.) into certain positions.

      TL;DR: I think the comparison with Polish mathematicians is too full of possible confounders to say anything interesting.

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    • swanknasty says:

      The UK almost-non-existent black-white gap explodes most any strong genetic hypothesis on group differences. It is not explained by immigrant selection or first-world ‘benefit.’

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      • Jiro says:

        It doesn’t have to have anything to do with actual intelligence. Just being anti-intellectual would have similar effects. Of course, I’d then expect that in countries where blacks are not anti-intellectual, the same thing wouldn’t happen.

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  42. Tarrou says:

    I’d like to elaborate a little on something several commenters have touched on, and that is the impact of self-selection and tribal impulses. Specifically, the way in which perceived power differentials create tighter subgroups (do note “perceived”, not necessarily actual power diff.).

    Anyone who has spent serious time in another country can easily tell you about the thirst for contact with someone, anyone, who speaks your language, understands your cultural touchstones, who is easy to connect to. This is basic human connection. It is made simple when you share a context with another person. In the expat communities, one is always closer to people of all races, genders whatever, provided they share enough characteristics to be part of “your” tribe.

    This is because of the threat of being isolated in a wider culture. When a subgroup feels its identity threatened, it binds itself together more powerfully, exalts group membership and polices behavior much more closely. Think of the Jews throughout history. In America, the dominant culture is white, western european. So white western europeans have no cohesive cultural identity. They are feminists, hipsters, ravers, punks, liberals, conservatives, rationalists, buddhists, atheists etc. Because there is no racial or cultural identity threat, they create their own by subdividing into smaller groups and doing cultural battle.

    For minorities, however, who feel disadvantaged in some way, they can only protect themselves and increase their leverage by solidarity. Blacks may feel they cannot afford freethinking or cultural taboos lest they lose both political and cultural cachet. Note that most distinct cultural minorities vote very close to a bloc (Orthodox jews, blacks, arabs etc.). In a prime example, the black community, though staunchly democratic, voted heavily for Prop 8 in California which banned gay marriage. The dems had to blame it on the evil white Mormons to hold their coalition together. Put another way, homosexuality and bisexuality were common and winked at in upper-class Victorian society, but the rise of the middle and lower classes in the 20th century created very stringent discrimination only recently dismantled.

    As a thought, it is my opinion that worsening discrimination signals progress. It usually gets worse just before it gets better. The KKK didn’t form until threatened, and didn’t re-form until the civil rights movement was well under way. The institution of slavery was made worse, temporarily, by the cultural solidarity of the Enlightenment. But this is also what eventually would end it for good. The Defense of Marriage Act wasn’t passed until gay marriage was a potential possibility that had to be combated.

    TL:DR – Tolerance is for the dominant culture. It is the only section of society that will be truly tolerant, all the rest are jockeying for position. Should its position as dominant ever be truly threatened, that tolerance will disappear like the morning dew.

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  43. J. Quinton says:

    Ironically, the swing dance scene (at least, here on the east coast USA) has very few black people. At a usual dance event, I can count the number of black people (in a 50 – 100 person event) on one hand. A conversation I was having with an organizer of a scene a few years ago included him fretting about this, and he asked me how we could get more black people (re)interested in the scene (I told him I have no clue, since I’m an exceedingly unrepresentative sample).

    This is sort of a hidden, thorny issue in the dance scene because it’s an extremely Blue Tribe scene; DC especially has a lot of SJ-types. The last thing they would want to think was that the dance scene is racist.

    At least going by the type of guys who get interested in swing dance, there are a lot of STEM-types who get interested in dance for some reason. If the pool of people who *would* be interested in swing dance in the 21st century comes from the college educated STEM crowd, then already there would be a low probability of a black (male) getting involved in swing dance. Confirmation bias alert: I’m a black male in a STEM field, so my existence proves my hypothesis :).

    The women in the scene come from a more diverse background, but still from the college-educated/affluent subsection of America.

    Overall though, the dance scene seems to fit the overall trend of “racist” communities: The prerequisite for even getting interested in this offbeat hobby/scene is being educated and/or affluent.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This occurred to me as well. I started going to my school’s swing dance club a while ago, and was kinda taken aback when I googled “swing dancing,” took a look at the swing dancing subreddit, etc., and found a bunch (well, not that much, but quite a bit more than I expected) of handwringing on the Internet about minority underrepresentation. I remember thinking at the time, what exactly do you guys think is going on here that’s worthy of self-recrimination? Cops at the door beating the shit out of one in three black men ages 19-34 who try to enter?

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  44. Jos says:

    Two unrelated comments:

    1) I made the mistake of clicking through to the OKCupid article, and then reading the comments. Now I feel like I need to brush my teeth.

    2) I think the reason that the conservative sites like to point out the non-diversity of various lefty groups isn’t so much to argue that those groups are actually racist as it is to argue that in their opinion, non-diversity isn’t very good evidence of racism.

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  45. I wonder if a ninth reason for lack of black participation in weird subcultures is because black communities tend to have more social cohesion. Therefore there will be fewer people who feel estranged from the dominant culture and feel the need to join a weird subculture to make up for this.

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    • Irenist says:

      Interesting. One way to test it might be to look at relatively more cohesive white ethnic communities, and see if it checks out. Of course, controlling for income (since cohesive often means immigrant and/or blue collar) would be important.

      Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      my completely unsubstantiated ad hoc explanation: blacks are already a subculture and so don’t match whites in seeking out these subcultures.

      Report comment

    • Black social cohesion is actually in a poor state as evidenced by high incidence of out of wedlock births, black on black crime, single moms, etc. Unless you mean cohesion in a different way….

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      • Smeltid says:

        Social-identity cohesion. “Black” is a sufficient identity, one that says enough, one that can hold you when your others all flee or fail. “White” currently is not a workable social identity. White people in fact compete to identify as not it, point at the other/Other guy and insult him by calling him white/White.

        “Stuff White People Like” white people are the white people winning that competition. That’s why it’s fun and important (if futile, because they’ll always win) to call them White People, in (futile) hope that “White” might become a special insult just for them. Hey, they started it.

        “Black” has its stigma(ta), too, but “White” is stigma.

        Can you see what all of these groups have in common? No. No you can’t.

        Why can’t you?

        It’s a list of white people’s “White”-substitute identities. They weren’t made to represent, comfort, or stiffen up the spines of anybody else. With some nerdy exceptions, non-white people know this and stay away from those identities. They don’t need more anyway.

        They’re Black (or other)!

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  46. CzerniLabut says:

    I’m always entertained by articles that deal with low penetration of black people across different communities, since I’ve never come across one so far that includes an inspection into ice hockey. Becoming pro in the NHL could probably fit into being a ‘white’ thing considering the low percentage of black players (2-3%) though there are conflicting measures for the demographics of the fan-base ranging from ~3% to ~8% Another interesting point is that looking at the wikipedia entry for the current NHL roster of people of black descent, you’ll find that a good number of hockey players on that last are biracial. Just some food for thought…

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    • Irenist says:

      I wonder how quick some people will be to look for an HBD explanation of the hockey thing, rather than noting that Canada and adjacent U.S. states tend to be rather white.

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  47. Responding to a side-point you made near the end:

    A few paragraphs back I mentioned that Occupy Wall Street was had disproportionately few minorities. Here are some other people who like to mention this: Michelle Malkin. The Daily Caller. American Thinker. View From The Right. New York Post. American Renaissance.

    All of these sources have something in common, and it’s not a heartfelt concern for equal minority representation.

    […]

    Here it is easy to see that “you have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for “you suck”.

    Coming from the more conservative parts of the Internet, I suggest a slightly different explanation:

    The “‘few minorities’ = ‘you’re racist’ = ‘you suck’” argument (feels like it) is used heavily against conservatives—but “we” know we’re not racist and so the argument must be invalid. And the easiest way of demonstrating this invalidity is to turn it around on “them” whenever the opportunity arises.

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    • Don Frye says:

      That, and rank hypocrisy tends to ruffle feathers. It’s amusing to see, say, Vox churn out a Salon.com-with-a-few-scatter plots article slamming Google and Facebook for poor minority representation in the workforce and then see a picture tweeted out of the Vox staff in reply.

      In general, the excuses the media make up for their own lack of diversity in hiring is quite entertaining.

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  48. Elizabeth says:

    Some black people at a gender/sexuality conference I went to a few years back said that #6 is true of poly – when black people do poly, they often just call it cheating (although everyone involved knows and is happy about it)

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    • houseboatonstyx says:

      A. The higher zis status, the more syllables zie uses for a lot of things.

      B. How long has the practice in effect been going on in one’s immediate culture? Did zie learn about it from reading, or by observing zis own grandparents?

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  49. Anonymous says:

    I’m going to be a whiny nit-picker and ask: what about the billions of people outside the United States? Why not check them out?

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    • Nornagest says:

      There are people outside the US?

      Snark aside, though, the racial dynamics at play here are a peculiarly American sort of thing, so I think an America-centric approach is justified here. That’s not to say that racism doesn’t exist elsewhere — it totally does in the parts of Europe and Asia that I’ve been to, and I’m assured the same is true elsewhere — just that the cultural circumstances underlying our brand of it are unusual.

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  50. K. says:

    It’s not hard to find out why black people are underrepresented as swimmers – there’s a historical basis. The idea that everyone should be taught to swim in childhood is a fairly recent notion, and the early activists who campaigned to provide swimming lessons to kids were not terribly interested in black kids. Furthermore, black kids were (and are) much less likely to have access to pools – not just because they were poor, but because they were often actively banned from public pools up until quite recently. Although some of those problems have now gone away, black parents who never learned to swim growing up are less likely to think of it as something their kids really need.

    These issues gave ride to the belief, mentioned by EoT above, that people of African descent are biologically unsuited for swimming – a popular superstition that has little to no scientific support, but is widely believed by both African-Americans and other Americans (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more widely believed by African-Americans these days), and works to discourage African-Americans from attempting to learn to swim.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If we’re interested in the dynamics of African-Americans and swimming, it would seem a natural choice to investigate a diverse organization that is heavily invested in both African-American representation, and swimming.

      Enter the United States Marine Corps. We got any jarheads in the crowd?

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      • keranih says:

        Not jarhead, but neither the USAF nor the Army require swimming tests. Navy & Coast Guard do, as an annual requirement. All Special Forces units require it, including Army Rangers (not technically SF) but the Navy/USMC SEALS have a much larger emphasis on simming ability. USMC standard swim requirements are more geared towards ‘jump in the pool with all your stuff and don’t drown’ drills.

        While Black/AA service members are over-represented in the military compared to the population as a whole, they are under represented in SF/SEAL/Ranger units – and the perception is that a non-trivial part of this is poor swimming skills on the part of that population. In contrast, Hispanics are more over represented in the select branches than in the military as a whole.

        Data on general military demographics can be found here:http://www.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Reports/2012_Demographics_Report.pdf

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        • Meredith L. Patterson says:

          The Army does require swimming proficiency for all officers. (Source: I was one, briefly.) You don’t graduate OCS/LDAC (or whatever they’re calling the month-long ROTC training school these days) without passing a USMC-style “jump in with all your gear and don’t drown” test. Also, if you fall off the zipline over the lake at Ft. Lewis, you get to swim to shore. (That’s how I ended up with the nickname “Nemo”.)

          It’s a little outdated, but the Office of Army Demographics has a report from 2008 on black participation in the military, both enlisted and officer. The comparison to the general population isn’t quite the same as what we’re talking about here, since they’re comparing a smaller civilian age demographic (18-39) with some extra constraints on top (“with a high school diploma”, which is required to enlist, and “with a college degree”, which is a requirement for commissioning). Still, I note that at the time of the report, 13% of officers were black, which is parity with the general population including those not able to enlist/commission due to age or education.

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  51. swanknasty says:

    ‘Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%).’

    All those activities require extra time that blacks (and I’d guess most poor individuals) don’t have.

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  52. Anonymous says:

    I don’t actually see the article as being about a real problem, or at least not one that white people can do much to fix. But I still think you’re reading way too much hostility into the article.

    As Chen told Mic, “The reason I put pressure on the poly community is because of its general mentality and philosophy of radical inclusion.” If any group can do it, it might as well be one predicated on acceptance.

    The author seems to be pro-poly. Why don’t you believe them? The tone is quite measured. (I know “being preyed upon” seems like strong language, but feelings around sexual stuff are often strong, and feeling objectified is legitimately horrible. It seems entirely believable that black people might get objectified more than white people at poly meetups, even if there is no racism problem in polyamory more than in society at large.)
    There’s nothing clickbaity about the article, except to the extent that absolutely anything that relates to SJ and sex and race is going to get clicks. I would guess that author to be a poly person navelgazing, not someone attacking the culture from the outside. I think the concern raised in the article is not a huge deal, but the annoyance you anticipate in your last paragraph sounds like even less of a big deal, to be honest. It seems possible to me that you have a mental model of situations where everyone else gangs up on the weirdo nerds, and you’re over-applying it.

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  53. Jacob Schmidt says:

    We know from OKCupid statistics that (mostly monogamous) white men are very reluctant to date black women, but monogamous people don’t have to listen to well-meaning friends going up to them and saying “So, you’re mono, I hear the monogamous community has a racism problem.”

    Maybe because monogamy can’t be called a community? It isn’t a subculture. It isn’t an identifiable group.

    But more than that, racism in sexual attraction is talked about all the time. Fetishization of minorities is criticized very often, and almost always is done assuming some form of monogamy. Racist laws about who could marry whom have a long history of being challenged. Shitty attitudes about interracial dating have been fought against. Again, all under the presumption of monogamy.

    Polyamoury is not alone in being criticized. I’m baffled that you could even seriously suppose such was the case.

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  54. stillnotking says:

    Seems to me we don’t need to reach for any explanation beyond the fact that racial groups (and therefore racial interests) tend to cluster. What the specific interests are could be completely arbitrary — the social equivalent of genetic drift. Perhaps there’s a parallel universe where black people are super into polyamory, but everything else is exactly the same.

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  55. Lila says:

    Just a friendly reminder to put content warnings on polyamory, infidelity, etc.

    Echoing someone else’s comment, when high-SES people do it, it’s called BDSM. When low-SES people do it, it’s called domestic abuse.

    Some people are going to get nitpicky and say that BDSM involves explicit contracts and stuff. Translation: BDSM is practiced by highly verbal, educated people who are accustomed to the rituals of a particular community and have names for things.

    I’ll hedge a little by saying “some BDSM resembles some domestic abuse”. In particular, the extreme type of BDSM in which the dom controls the sub’s life, and the type of domestic abuse in which someone repeatedly returns to abusive relationships, despite having many opportunities to leave or find a different type of partner.

    This is an anti-BDSM message, not pro-domestic violence.

    Report comment

    • ozymandias says:

      No, when low-SES people do 24/7 BDSM it’s called complementarianism and it’s totally ethically fine except for the sexism.

      Report comment

    • Nornagest says:

      Some people are going to get nitpicky and say that BDSM involves explicit contracts and stuff. Translation: BDSM is practiced by highly verbal, educated people who are accustomed to the rituals of a particular community and have names for things.

      Explicit contracts are uncommon (at least in the California kink scene; I don’t know how it works elsewhere), though not unheard of; but explicit contracts are just a way of formalizing consent. It’s consent that’s the main thing that distinguishes BDSM from physical and/or emotional abuse, just as consent is the main thing that distinguishes a boxing match from some guy beating up some other guy in an alley. All the associated rules, formalism, equipment and so forth are just to make things easier, safer, and more fun.

      Now, the obvious rejoinder is that domestic violence victims who come back to their abusers are implicitly consenting to their abuse. This is false. You could make an argument that they’re consenting to the relationship on whatever terms they reenter it under, but these generally do not include abuse: hence the cliche about buying obviously bogus claims of change and so forth. Whereas the bottom in your average D/s relationship is very explicitly looking for what they get; when the relationship exceeds those bounds, that’s when it becomes abusive.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not sure if you’re trolling, or if you’re not trolling, or if this is a subtle allusion to the portrayal of BDSM in 50 Shades of Grey what with the movie coming out tomorrow.

      Are you one of the people who learned about BDSM from 50 Shades and is now confused as to what it entails? If so, good news! You are correct in what you believe to be abuse, incorrect in what you believe to be BDSM, and there are thousands of people on Tumblr who are very worried about you and very keen to explain the difference to you! Have fun.

      Report comment

      • Jiro says:

        I don’t think he’s either trolling or referring to 50 Shades of Grey. It sounds like he’s referring to the sentiments expressed at the start of this comment.

        Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          I think they were actually talking about the “polygyny” comment,not the one you linked.

          But anyway, there’s a deep degree of confusion about BDSM here that seems most easily explained by trolling. The specifics of the confusion suggest it could also be due to 50 Shades. Cultural osmosis tells me there was a contract and a 24-7 relationship that was indistinguishable from abuse in that.

          (Or maybe you know this commenter? I wouldn’t assume a Lila was male. If so then I’m sure you know his motives best. )

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  56. Decius says:

    Does this explanation yield a testable prediction about what subcultures blacks would be overrepresented in?

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    • Irrelevant says:

      I’d doubt it, because having a whole bunch of social traits that are non-obvious from the basic description of the interest involved is what makes subcultures subcultures. Nothing intrinsic I could tell you about, e.g., the games of Go and Chess would lead to predicting a racial gap between the composition of their subcultures. You have to know specific pieces of history for that.

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      • Decius says:

        Those social traits are predictable bases. Which social traits would result in overrepresentation by blacks?

        Report comment

        • Irrelevant says:

          I disagree, the social traits are historically contingent. Go enthusiasts are not predominately Asian because there is anything uniquely appealing to Asians about Go.

          The only trait that would reliably predict overrepresentation in a subculture by blacks is the subculture having emerged from within a black culture or from an interface between two cultures, one of which was black.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If SES is the significant or leading indicator, then I would guess any subcultures associated with low SES.

      Report comment

  57. David Condon says:

    “Second, Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs says you’re not going to do weird things to self-actualize until you feel materially safe and secure. A lot of black people don’t feel like they’re in a position where they can start worrying about where the best bird-watching is at.”

    Is this a joke? Or do you actually believe in Maslow’s Hierarchy?

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    • Nornagest says:

      Can’t speak for Scott, but while i’m pretty sure Maslow’s hierarchy per se is utter bullshit, the idea that if a tiger’s chasing you you won’t stop to compose a poem on its stripes is not.

      Report comment

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I endorse this comment.

        Report comment

      • keranih says:

        Then I am confused about the regular all-day horseshoe games and all night poker parties in my (largely AA & very low SES) neighborhood.

        And about the explosion of art (hip hop, rap, etc) which comes out of similar low-SES communities.

        It is not at all clear to me that wealth or stability is required to regularly engage in social pursuits, and that assuming that people who are poor don’t engage in these is inaccurate.

        Or am I misunderstanding the point?

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        • Nornagest says:

          I can think of a couple ways of approaching that.

          The first is that there may not be a tiger for the poker players and hip-hop artists, if not for everyone in, or even necessarily a majority of, the community. Saying so is a mild faux pas in some circles, but it really isn’t unreasonable; a community can be relatively less physically or economically secure than another without everyone in it literally spending all their time trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. We’d still expect to see underrepresentation as long as more of them are, and in proportion.

          The other’s a little more abstract. “Self-actualization” is a fuzzy word, but if we take it to cover things like activism for far-mode causes — a definition, I’ll confess, that excludes half of Scott’s list of stuff white people like — I think it’s describing stuff that’s far out on the “thrive” end of the thrive/survive continuum. Groups that’re poorer on average, and groups acculturated into survival mode if not necessarily poor, should therefore be underrepresented compared to those that’re richer on average or acculturated into thrive mode if not personally rich.

          I think these are both true to some extent, though I’m having a much easier time finding counterexamples to the latter.

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          • keranih says:

            Okay, I can see this – except that now we’re in the ‘less’ category rather than in the none – and again – people in low SES situations *are* egaging in art, song, and recreation, frequently to rarified forms. Just not in the categories – or forms – listed above.

            Which comes back to ‘why these groups and not other’, which is, I think, part of Scotts original question.

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  58. maxikov says:

    “Here it is easy to see that “you have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for “you suck”” – that was easy to see couple of paragraphs above, right here: “the big problem with polyamorous people is: […] heir whiteness.” Try to make this this statement about something predominantly black, for example: “the big problem with basketball players is their blackness.” Oops, we just created a sentence that probably even Conservapedia would agree is racist. So unless “low minority representation” is synonymous with “you suck,” this wording won’t work.

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    • Nita says:

      “the big problem with polyamorous people is: […] heir whiteness.”

      Yeah, but the first half of that sentence is Scott’s creative retelling. Here’s the original:

      What’s great is the ubiquity of polyamorous relationships in the media and pop culture. But there’s a prevailing problem that cannot be ignored: their whiteness.

      In other words, “a big problem with poly relationships in pop culture is their whiteness.”

      What an evil journalist — calling the rising popularity of poly relationships in the media “great”, and even contributing to this alarming trend!

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  59. Pingback: Things I read today | Draw Me This

  60. Pingback: Black People Less Likely – When “you have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for “you suck.” | Official site of DJ Michael Heath

  61. Adam Casey says:

    I feel like there’s a more general rule here: Before trying to come up with a reason why a statistic takes the value it does, look at the things that feed into that statistic and find out if there’s actually something that needs explaining.

    A good number of posts seem to fall into this same category.

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  62. Furrfu says:

    Unitarians are not actually especially tolerant.

    Unitarians are very tolerant of things that are popular among upper-middle-class white liberals (yoga, vegetarianism, Buddhism, going camping, drum circles, modern art, french-kissing their dogs, supporting Palestine or Israel) and really want to solve problems that affect people who aren’t in that category (racism, unfair immigration law, education inequity) but aren’t actually very tolerant of things that are common among African-Americans, like Christianity, assertively flirting with women, talking during movies, having been in jail, open sexism, having kids instead of or before going to college, anti-gay attitudes, openly expressing appreciation of wealth, and showing off flashy expensive things. Similarly, most African-Americans aren’t particularly tolerant of a lot of things in the first list, but if they go to a UU picnic they are going to have to be confronted with them; and when they talk about their uncle going to jail, they’re likely to be confronted with very off-putting expressions of Deep Concern, plus glares or worse if they start to flirt with a UU woman.

    It’s not that Unitarians (or atheists, or Buddhists, which are three groups with a very substantial intersection) actually want to exclude African-Americans, but they have attitudes that, in practice, have that effect. Of course there are African-Americans who aren’t Christian, don’t hit on women (after all, more than half of African-Americans are women, mostly het), think it’s rude to talk during movies, have never been in jail, etc., but because of historical segregation, on average, we have different social norms among black people and white people in the US, and people who have internalized those norms tend to perpetuate that segregation, without even meaning to.

    What makes white UUs worse than average white people is that many of them consider it a great virtue to Get Offended and Call Out people who say things that are Unacceptable. But of course anyone from a different culture or even different subculture will say Unacceptable things without meaning to.

    So what happens is that UUs want to be tolerant, but in practice they aren’t very good at it, because they don’t know what it involves, and some of their norms are intolerant of actual cultural variation. Fredrik de Boer has written a little bit about this phenomenon in a non-UU context.

    Chris Rock’s comedy and the SWPL blog are two good sources for learning more about these subcultural differences.

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  63. strangerhere says:

    In theocracies ruled by the will of God, people will find that God hates weird people who refuse to conform.

    Well, actually, people will find in theocracies that some ::people:: who represent the Judeo-Christian God hate weird people who refuse to conform. That’s a common failing of human beings who like to flock together for safety, but it’s not God’s. Both Old and New Testament are filled with accounts of God calling people to say and do weird things that challenge social norms.

    Loved the Onion quote.

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  64. Jon H says:

    For what it’s worth, I think there’s one variety of Buddhism in America that has had more success attracting black people than others: Sokka Gakkai.

    It’s a kinda weird, kinda cultish offshoot of Nichiren Buddhism. Buddha doesn’t play much of a role. It’s all about constant chanting of a particular line of scripture. Adherents do their chanting in front of a wall-mounted display of a scroll with the scripture on it. It’s kind of like “The Secret” in a way; chant enough and you get what you want/need. The introductory booklet is titled “The Winning Life”.

    They’re from Japan, and have a political party there. A friend and coworker (in Boston) tried to recruit me, so I went to a couple events. One was a big meeting where the congregation (for lack of a better term) watched the leader’s big annual speech. It reminded me a lot of North Korea. Most of what the leader said, that I recall anyway, was just a series of quotations by famous people.

    Famous African-American members of SGI include Congressman Hank Johnson, Ron Glass, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Anthony Lee, Wayne Shorter, and Tina Turner.

    The events I attended definitely had a sizable % of black attendees. I suspect the attraction to SGI, compared to other forms of Buddhism, may be that focus on “winning” and concrete improvement in life. It’s sort of like the Prosperity Gospel of some Christian churches. In contrast, other forms of Buddhism tend to focus on vague abstractions, which are probably more attractive to those people with more of Maslow’s hierarchy nailed down.

    Or to put it simply, “I don’t give a damn about bullshit like the sound of one hand clapping or mindfully eating rice one grain at a time; I care about how the heck I am going to pay for a new set of tires.”

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  66. Matt says:

    “Fourth, black people might avoid weird nonconformist groups because they’re already on thin enough ice in terms of social acceptance. Being a black person probably already exposes you to enough stigma, without becoming a furry as well.”

    Not the best example, furries are disproportionately queer. Over 30% bi and over 15% gay. Source: https://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Sexual_orientation. Although maybe furries are just more open minded and there is some element of choice in sexuality. Interestingly, some people have also suggested the exact contrary to what Scott is saying: non-hetero folks have less to loose for being weird. I tend to think there is also a strong historical factor (i.e. friends inviting friends to parties, etc).

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  67. thedufer says:

    Parable of the Polygons is such a good explanation of your fifth point that I expected the linked “aggregating small acts of self-segregation” to go there. It’s a fantastic visual walkthrough of Schelling Segregation Model and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it before.

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  68. My googling must be inept, because I cannot find a decent numerical analysis of class and race in the US. For example, if polyamory is primarily practiced by people in the top economic quintiles, knowing how many members of those quintiles are black might help explain whether it’s meaningfully racist.

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  69. Marshal says:

    Likewise, you know who’s got an obsessively large collection of resources on the underrepresentation of minorities in atheism? Conservapedia (Western Atheism And Race, Racial Demographics Of The Richard Dawkins Audience, Richard Dawkins’ Lack Of Appeal To The Asian Woman Audience, etc, etc, not to mention the very classy Richard Dawkins’ Family Fortune And The Slave Trade.)

    Here it is easy to see that “you have low minority representation” serves as a stand-in for “you’re racist” serves as a stand-in for “you suck”.

    To me the obvious meaning of “you have low minority representation” is “quit calling me racist when your “evidence” consists entirely of circumstances that equally apply to you”. The disappointing thing about your comment is that you exonerate yourself from this very accusation while supporting it against others.

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  71. Roger says:

    I think all of your 8 points have validity, but I think you dismiss too quickly the “fetishized as an exotic sexual plaything” argument. In existing (white) groups like the ones you describe, there will nearly always be a element that treats any black newcomers as a curiousity. “Oh how wonderful that we have a black birder in the group now!”

    The ironic thing is that I think a large percentage of the white members of these subcultures are looking for a way to stand out and be “interesting.” Blacks in America achieve this level of “interesting” just for showing up. You get to choose who and when you mention being Poly to. I’m sure it makes for an interesting conversation to have once in a while. Being black and middle class obligates a particularly patronizing form of that conversation. They don’t get to choose when, it always happens, and it gets old real quick.

    So joining some bullshit subculture for the sake of subculture… I’ll pass.

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