THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 93.25

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664 Responses to Open Thread 93.25

  1. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Is there a utilitarian case for rearing children to be atheists?
    Assume the imagined parent is a preference utilitarian who prefers to believe true things rather than things that increase utility. He (yeah I will be sexist here, because statistics) subjectively considers atheism true and can either marry a woman who believes theism is true and let her raise the children to be like her or marry another atheist. In the latter case, they can either rear the children atheist despite the father knowing all the evidence of negative utility or try to give the children a religion despite being unbelievers.
    Utilitarians, go!

    • Drew says:

      Opportunity costs seem the big reason to not attend church. In terms of life-satisfaction, I’d guess the options go:

      Crossfit membership > Church membership > Life of solitude.

      Where “Crossfit membership” is standing in for a useful, community-creating hobby.

      But, beyond that, I’d unpack “raise to be atheist” or “raise to be christian.” You can compel a kid to attend church. You can’t compel them to believe or disbelieve. So, the specific arguments likely depend on the specific plan to instill Christianity.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Most of our studies of religiosity use church attendance as the measurable proxy. So maybe compelling them to attend church is sufficient.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This raises the question – do serious, big-time-investment, face-to-face (not online) community-based hobbies have similar effects on happiness as regular religious involvement?

        • My such hobby is the SCA (historical recreation), and it has a lot of the feel of a religious community.

        • Drew says:

          It depends if you’re religious. This paper has (what I remember to be) typical results.

          Community matters a lot. Private religious beliefs don’t matter, except in as far as they impact church-attendance. Church attendance is great, but only if you’re religious.

          Most regressions suggest that, for religious people, church networks are better than other social networks. But, limits of the data mean that it’s never clear if this result is “super-close friends are great” or “religious content matters”.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Also, surely using “I’d guess” in your calculations would be some kind of utilitarian sin. If you do not have the numbers to show that Crossfit has a better utility payoff than church attendance *and* that they’re mutually exclusive (if Crossfit is +3 utils and church is +2, you may still be obligated to do both for +5 utils), it would be morally wrong not to go to church just because you already go to Crossfit.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Combine the two for maximum efficiency, obviously.

        • Randy M says:

          Also, surely using “I’d guess” in your calculations would be some kind of utilitarian sin

          According to the Caliph…

        • Drew says:

          Every estimate uses “I guess” at some point or another.

          Even if you’re working from the world’s best econometric model, applying it to yourself involves saying, “and I guess I’m a typical example.”

          During a job-talk, we might dress that up as, “this is cross-sectional data, and so any individual effect is subsumed by the error term,” but the meaning is the same.

      • Nornagest says:

        Crossfit membership

        [ten minutes of incoherent hissing]

    • Brad says:

      The most disgruntled about their childhoods people I come across were sexually or physically abused. Number two are ex-Christians raised in very devout families. That’s above people whose parents were divorced and their fathers stood them up all the time when he was supposed to take them for weekends.

      I don’t know what the rate is of people leaving the religion and becoming disgruntled, but I have to imagine whatever the base rate is, it’s going to be higher than that for children of an imagined parent that’s a preference utilitarian atheist who tries to hide that fact from his devout spouse and raised devout kids on the basis of a utilitarian calculus.

    • Iain says:

      “All the evidence of negative utility” is probably less than you think. There is a correlation between religiosity and happiness, yes, but it is almost entirely mediated by social ties. Believing in God doesn’t make you happier; what makes you happier is knowing a bunch of people through church. Once you control for social relationships, religious belief does not predict happiness. Furthermore, the relationship between religiosity and happiness only exists in countries where most people are religious.

      That justifies making sure that your children have lots of opportunities to socialize; it does not justify indoctrinating them into a belief system that you think is false.

    • rlms says:

      Which religion statistically gives the highest utility?

    • Fahundo says:

      Does church make everyone happier, or does it simply make the people who choose to continue to go to church happier? I used to go to church, and am now relieved that I no longer have to.

      • SteveReilly says:

        I could swear there was once in one of those posts that puns on the word “link” there was a link to a study showing that people who went to church were happier, but that going to church did nothing for your happiness if you just went to be social and didn’t really believe in the religion. And now I can’t find it. Anyone know what I mean?

        • Nick says:

          You might be thinking of this one, although it doesn’t sound like the right study:

          We know that religious people are happier and more mentally resilient than non-religious people, but the standard explanation is that going to church provides a sense of community and social connectedness. But a new study finds that religious activities are better for your mental health than other forms of social participation.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I wonder whether the sort of religion makes a difference to the effect on depression– I not thinking about the specific religion so much as whether there’s a emphasis on a nurturing God or a punishing God.

          • SteveReilly says:

            Thanks. I could swear I remember a different one, but maybe I’m just misremembering.

    • sty_silver says:

      I think the case is pretty simple. Atheists do more good in the world than theists because theists believe false things that can sometimes influence real-world decisions. For example, theists are less likely to do something useful about AI (disclaimer, I’m comfortable just stating this because it seems obviously true but I haven’t seen evidence). So, while the kids themselves might be less happy, other people would be happier.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Mainstream Blue atheists are saying that doing something about AI makes one a bad person misallocating effort that should go toward socialist revolution or anti-racism/feminism/LGBT.

        • powerfuller says:

          @Le Maistre Chat

          So, their religion is preventing them from doing something about AI, right?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @powerfuller: you could say that, though I’m over calling Marxism a religion just because it involves faith in a New Earth,tells you what to do with your money, and people acted reverent at Lenin’s tomb.

            Or as @Nornagest put it “does it matter if you call it Calvinism or critical race theory?”

          • powerfuller says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Apologies for the joke — it was low-hanging fruit (the sweetest of fruits!).

        • sty_silver says:

          You seem to have very little tolerance for AI concern which makes it hard for me to respond, but I’ll try.

          The question isn’t whether the mainstream view is what you describe or not, the question is ‘are atheists more likely to do something useful about AI than theists’. I guess the point of your post was to suggest that this might not be true, but don’t find that convincing. Lots of people everywhere say and think stupid things. Do you, in fact, believe that atheists are more likely to, say, support AI safety research? If you do, then my point stands, regardless of single data points.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Pwease. Should’ve gone with “animal welfare”.

      • On the other hand, some varieties of theism function as socially useful commitment mechanisms. Someone who feels it is wrong to lie, cheat or steal is on net more positive for the rest of us than someone who doesn’t, and religion is one reason, although not the only one, for someone to feel that way.

        So I don’t think your argument is as strong as you make it out.

        • Rick Hull says:

          Completely tangentially, I’m interested in the “lie, cheat, steal” meme / etymology, if this trinity can be described as such. Everybody’s doing it.

          Lie, cheat, steal, kill, win

          The name of the song remains “Lie, Cheat, Steal”

          • Montfort says:

            See also Tool’s use of the phrase (1993), and the earliest I personally recall (in music, anyway) from Government Issue (1981).

            Also found in Season 2, Ep. 10 of The Simpsons (1990; as Bart leaves hell, the devil reminds him: “Remember… lie, cheat, steal, and listen to heavy metal music.”), and the West Point Cadet Honor Code (first committed to paper in 1947). I’d guess there are earlier uses in country and folk music, but lack expertise in that field.

            And the earliest use I can find in ten minutes of searching is several instances in witness testimony in the mid-19th century court case Dottarer v Bushey (“He will lie, cheat, steal, and swear, and then attend preaching on Sundays.”, “He said that Bushey was such a rascal; that he would lie, cheat, and steal.”).

            It’s not clear to me whether there was one popular usage that spawned imitators, or just a constant, low-level usage that eventually settled into a more stable ordering and choice of vices. But I have a feeling I could be missing something blindingly obvious.

        • sty_silver says:

          I’m skeptical there because I suspect that an average altruist does at least one order of magnitude less good for the world than an average effective altruist, and also suspect that consequentialism / utilitarianism / caring about scope are all negatively correlated with theism. Lots of assumptions there, so if you can show me that they are false I might change my view.

          • Nornagest says:

            The last time I saw actual numbers on this, they said that the average effective altruist’s average yearly charitable donations come to something like three hundred dollars. That’s three hundred dollars that’s probably going to something at least kinda worthwhile, but “orders of magnitude” doesn’t pass the giggle test.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s quite plausible that the average altruist has no or even negative outcomes.

          • Nornagest says:

            I find that very unlikely given all the non-altruistic activity that altruists engage in. I think that’s probably net-positive, I understand that some people don’t, but if it’s net-negative then three hundred bucks probably isn’t enough to overwhelm it, and it’s not very likely to be a wash.

            I mean, the average person has roughly one child; are you going to tell me that three hundred dollars generates enough utility to 10x offset the sum of everything that kid does and experiences, positive or negative?

          • sty_silver says:

            they said that the average effective altruist’s average yearly charitable donations come to something like three hundred dollars.

            I don’t believe that until you show me a source.

            But the reason why I said this isn’t that I suspect they donate 10+ times as much money, it’s that I suspect the best charities to be 10+ times as efficient as average charities.

          • Nornagest says:

            But the reason why I said this isn’t that I suspect they donate 10+ times as much money, it’s that I suspect the best charities to be 10+ times as efficient as average charities.

            I get that. I am totally willing to believe that the average charity is ineffective. I’m much less willing to believe that most of the total impact of most people’s lives, EA or not, is concentrated in their charitable donations. If you’re Bill Gates, maybe, but even then you have to ask yourself some hard questions about the marginal impact of Windows and Microsoft Office. Not if you’re Joe Schmoe.

            Can’t be bothered to find a source, sorry.

          • sty_silver says:

            I’m much less willing to believe that most of the total impact of most people’s lives

            That is the thing I am the most sure of.

            Going by this analysis from GiveWell (under “Results”), the “cost per outcome as good as saving the life of an individual under 5” hovers around 2000$. Deworm the world is below 1000$. I have a hard time seeing how anything other than charitable donations can compete with that, unless you work at something extraordenarily high value.

            That of course pre-supposes trusting GiveWell, which I do.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t — not that page, anyway — but I’m not interested in rehashing standard arguments for effective altruism.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Western atheists are by and large more Christian than Christians. Except the ones who are Jewish [compare to Judaists in that case, I suspect with similar results about morality], maybe – I think Scott is more Christian than Christ.

      • Nornagest says:

        At this point I don’t even think the false thing at the heart of a religion matters much w.r.t. real-world decisions, taking as given that it’s false; that’s just the pretext, the important part is what it’s telling you to do and why.

        If you believe that the essence of life is suffering caused by hope of gain, and that that the best you can hope for is minimizing that suffering through compassion, acceptance, and equanimity, does it matter much whether you call it “Buddhism” or “stoicism”? If it’s telling you that you inherit an indelible taint from birth and that all you can do is subjugate yourself in your heart, dreaming and despairing of a redemption that can be bestowed but never deserved, does it matter whether you call it “Calvinism” or “critical race theory”?

        • sty_silver says:

          If you believe that the essence of life is suffering caused by hope of gain, and that that the best you can hope for is minimizing that suffering through compassion, acceptance, and equanimity, does it matter much whether you call it “Buddhism” or “stoicism”?

          No, but I don’t think compassion, acceptance, and equanimity constitute the bottleneck for doing good in the world – I think a more relevant bottleneck is ‘does the person at some point do research to figure out what’s the most effective charity?’

          More generally, it’s not just that religions are wrong about god, it’s also that religious ethics tend to encourage ineffective behavior.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think compassion, acceptance, and equanimity constitute the bottleneck for doing good in the world

            The Buddhist/stoic reply would be that this is missing the point. Most suffering is meta-suffering (true!); the amount of pain and disappointment in the world is more or less fixed (arguable), but the degree to which this translates into suffering depends on your expectations and your mental approach to it. Therefore you’re encouraged to fight your own suffering by cultivating the mental states that minimize it (the fundamentals of which are taught by Buddhism as the Eightfold Path; stoicism is less codified, and different writers have different approaches), and to fight others’ by propagating the teachings and by leading through example (sketchy).

            Charity doesn’t really fit into the central thesis, but it’s certainly not discouraged, and I see nothing in it that would argue against effective altruism. Except that it’s concerned to some extent with virtue ethics and EA likes to justify itself through utilitarianism, but, as I’ve said before, I’m pretty sure utilitarianism is broken or at least incomplete anyway.

          • sty_silver says:

            Well, I don’t agree with that… or rather, I agree with it to some point but I think the conclusions you draw from it are wrong.

            What I do agree with is that mindset is an important factor in determining happiness. I’ve done a roughly 18 month long therapy and came out significantly more happy than I was before, and I don’t think giving a random person in the USA a million dollars will significantly improve her happiness.

            But I don’t think that implies anything of relevance. The amount of pain the world is not fixed, if you donate to AMF and through that donation save a person from dying to malaria, you have just removed a big chunk of pain, and there is no invisible mechanism that will inflict a balancing amount of pain onto the remaining family members. This form of suffering does not generally depend on mental state.

            And more importantly, the question isn’t what makes people happy, the question is what you can do to make other people happy. Even if enlightening a currently non-enlightened person resulted in as much happiness as saving one person from dying to malaria, the latter would still be the better strategy because you can save about one person per 1000$, so with a decent job, you can save upwards of 12 people per year if you really try. I don’t think you’ll have an easy time enlightening 12 people per year.

            Your criticism of utilitarianism is misplaced. The OP presupposed a utilitarianist worldivew and asked for arguments in that context.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Pure Land Boddhisattvas are said to practice the altruism of taking consenting humans to an ultra-low crime area where they get a Basic Income and plenty of wats wherein to work out their own salvation from dukkha.

          • Nornagest says:

            @sty_silver: Of course you don’t agree with it, you’re not Buddhist. For that matter neither am I, though I’m more sympathetic to it than I am to most belief systems.

            But we’ve gotten off track, it’s partly my fault, and I’m sorry for that. The point of my original response was not that Buddhism is right, it’s that there’s nothing particularly special about religious morals: for almost all religions you can find atheistic or at least nontheistic worldviews that cash out to pretty much the same thing in terms of ethical structure and its emotional consequences, and vice versa.

            That isn’t going to be universally true, but if your true objection to theism is that theists are unlikely to be EAs, then I think we can say two things: first, that this is a fairly weak argument for atheism in general (only a tiny tiny fraction of atheists are into EA; most subscribe to one of the abovementioned theism-like systems); and second, that you’ve found your religion.

          • sty_silver says:

            first, that this is a fairly weak argument for atheism (only a tiny tiny fraction of atheists are into EA; most subscribe to one of the abovementioned theism-like systems);

            Why does that matter? The amount of EAs is tiny. Of course most atheists aren’t EAs. The question is whether atheists are more likely to be EAs than theists. Do you believe that is false?

            and second, that you’ve found your religion.

            I don’t know what that means. If everything I believe in is a religion, then I have found my religion based on believing that Sanders’ college plan is inefficient, or that working out every day is a good idea. I see no meta-difference between that belief and the belief that EA is the most effective way to do good in the world.

            And to come back to the previous topic, my intial point was that theism will make you less likely to worry about AI. Unless you think that isn’t true, my point stands.

          • Nornagest says:

            Do you believe that is false?

            I believe it’s inconsequential. Same goes for relative belief in AI risk. Raising your child atheist is probably associated with a much-less-than-one-percent increase in the likelihood of them being into EA or FAI, but the proper answer to that is “so what?” — the expected value to the kid or the world is probably somewhere on the order of eating or not eating bananas during pregnancy.

          • sty_silver says:

            I believe it’s inconsequential. Same goes for relative belief in AI risk. Raising your child atheist is probably associated with a much-less-than-one-percent increase in the likelihood of them being into EA or FAI, but the proper answer to that is “so what?” — the expected value to the kid or the world is probably somewhere on the order of eating or not eating bananas during pregnancy.

            If you have a 0,1% higher chance of being an EA, and a 0,01% higher chance of doing something about existential risk prevention in particular, and a 0,0000001% chance of preventing extinction in that case, that results in a 0,00000000001% total chance of preventing human extinction. Multiply that with the utility gained from doing so, and you get a number that drawfs every consideration of personal happiness.

          • rlms says:

            @sty_silver

            Multiply that with the utility gained from doing so, and you get a number that drawfs every consideration of personal happiness.

            Do you? What is the utility from preventing human extinction in QALYs?

          • Nornagest says:

            We’re getting into Pascal’s Wager territory now. Most of the standard objections to that apply, but in general I think we should be a lot more skeptical of arguments which rely on tiny probabilities of improbably vast mountains of utility, especially when we have no principled way of figuring out how many zeroes are in any of the numbers.

          • quanta413 says:

            The question is whether atheists are more likely to be EAs than theists.

            It’s not just that. It whether that is a causal relationship rather than one of social and historical coincidence. If anyone has a convincing argument or even half decent data (that isn’t obviously explained from a social point of view) for why the extremely small belief set “There is no god” has a causal effect on any other meaningful beliefs a person has besides the totally obvious (like atheists don’t believe Jesus is god), I would be very impressed.

            Some atheists embrace liberal humanism, some go for dialectical materialism, and others are godless heathens who believe morality is a social construct and life has no meaning.

          • sty_silver says:

            We’re getting into Pascal’s Wager territory now. Most of the standard objections to that apply, but in general I think we should be a lot more skeptical of arguments which rely on tiny probabilities of improbably vast mountains of utility, especially when we have no principled way of figuring out how many zeroes are in any of the numbers.

            There is no principled or qualitative difference between arguments that ‘rely on tiny probabilities’ and thinking about what happens if you don’t practice more for a test. If you think the probabilities aren’t accurate, make your own probabilities. The degree of confidence in your probability estimate doesn’t matter for utilitarianism.

            Rejecting those arguments is rejecting parts of utilitarianism, which you can do, but again the question was what utilitarian arguments there are.

            Do you? What is the utility from preventing human extinction in QALYs?

            I don’t know, obviously, but the mean can’t be lower than 10^20.

          • Jiro says:

            Is everyone who rejects Pascal’s Mugging “rejecting utilitarianism”?

          • Nornagest says:

            There is no principled or qualitative difference between arguments that ‘rely on tiny probabilities’ and thinking about what happens if you don’t practice more for a test.

            Sure there is. You have vastly less model uncertainty there. And the numbers themselves are bigger, but that’s only important because of model uncertainty. In principle tiny probabilities and vast payoffs are fine, if you’re confident enough in them (I would play the lottery if the jackpot was big enough to give me a positive EV after taking into account taxes and split pots, it’s just that that practically never happens); but the tinier they are, the easier it is for mistakes in your model to lead you astray. And the worse you are at intuitively analyzing that model, just to make things worse.

          • sty_silver says:

            Is everyone who rejects Pascal’s Mugging “rejecting utilitarianism”?

            Sorta.

            I actually think that a utilitarian agent will end up not paying most of the time because other options of spending money (where money is a stand-in for any kind of resources) can also have ridiculously high expected values. But the problem with this argument is that expected utilities actually don’t converge given an unbounded utility function. So Pascal’s Mugging really strikes me as a symptom of a modeling issue more than anything.

            I think some (not most) people believe that there is a reason they haven’t figured out yet why utilitarianism doesn’t pay. But if you think utilitarianism pays and you wouldn’t, then yes, by definition, you are rejecting utilitarianism (to some point). Which is super common, very few people are radical utilitarians.

          • sty_silver says:

            In principle tiny probabilities and vast payoffs are fine, if you’re confident enough in them

            Uncertainty is meta information about how likely a probability is to change in the future. Look up any formalization of utilitarianism and you’ll see that it does not affect expected utility.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is uncertainty about your predictions within a model and then there is uncertainty about your model. Once your model starts getting to the point where it’s predicting positive EV on probability 0.(many zeroes)1 events, the latter usually dominates.

            Formalizing a model does not change this.

          • sty_silver says:

            The model is utilitarianism. There is no uncertainty about utilitarianism in a context where we pre-suppose utilitarianism.

          • Nornagest says:

            Even presupposing utilitarianism, there’s still plenty of uncertainty about your existential risk model.

          • rlms says:

            @sty_silver

            I don’t know, obviously, but the mean can’t be lower than 10^20.

            Why not? If you are saying “preventing human extinction” means preventing one extinction event, then if another one comes along in only 10^10 years and the population is of a similar order of magnitude and happiness to the current one, the mean is less than 10^20.

          • sty_silver says:

            Yeah, but you could also have 10^20 minds living 10^20 years and each being 1000 times as happy as any human is today, which would get you 10^43, and the probability for that outcome is much closer to 0,1 than to 10^-43. There are scenarios where the utility gained from a positive singularity is lower than 10^20, but the expected utility is way higher.

          • quanta413 says:

            @sty silver

            Yeah, but you could also have 10^20 minds living 10^20 years and each being 1000 times as happy as any human is today, which would get you 10^43, and the probability for that outcome is much closer to 0,1 than to 10^-43. There are scenarios where the utility gained from a positive singularity is lower than 10^20, but the expected utility is way higher.

            10^20 years. You’re assuming an awful lot about the possibility of overcoming the death of all the stars.

          • sty_silver says:

            10^20 years. You’re assuming an awful lot about the possibility of overcoming the death of all the stars.

            Not really, I’m counting subjective time, so I’m only assuming minds running on much faster hardware.

            But 10^43 remains sufficiently high if you take a couple of zeros away.

          • quanta413 says:

            Not really, I’m counting subjective time, so I’m only assuming minds running on much faster hardware.

            Adding yet more scientific and technical assumptions is an interesting way to do this.

            But really, the moral question is more interesting. If simulated minds count as much as squishy evolved minds in your utilitarianism, is there any reason you shouldn’t just set your expected future value to any arbitrarily high number because you can pretty much set virtual minds to arbitrarily high utility? No matter how many zeros are added to make it more unlikely humans last to some specified point or how unlikely your intervention is to succeed, you can always increase future minds’ happiness by the necessary orders of magnitude to compensate. And you can squeeze more of them out per physical computing unit by removing unnecessary details from the simulation.

        • Nornagest says:

          We’re getting into Pascal’s Wager territory now. Most of the standard objections to that apply, but I’ll just mention one: we have no principled way of figuring out how many zeroes are in any of those numbers, and faced with the choice I’d rather default to the one that says I’m less special.

          (And I’m still not utilitarian.)

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Stoicism does have a God. Hey, can one call oneself a Calvinist sharing a bunch of their beliefs but not the one you just cited? Asking for a friend.

          • Nornagest says:

            Stoicism — at least the versions of it that I’ve studied — accepts a god (several, actually) but it’s not about the gods. The same’s true for some versions of Buddhism, actually, but the most popular (though not in the West) have a lot more theistic flavor.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            While yes, deity(ies) is deemphasized, I thought Stoicism had a GAOTU-like entity above whatever other gods – with how it features “natural law”, for one.

      • Deiseach says:

        For example, theists are less likely to do something useful about AI

        What is your definition of “something useful”? Encourage the creation of AI? Seek the banning of AI? Inventing a time machine so the last human survivors can send an agent on a suicide mission to the past to assassinate the lone genius researcher whose basement lab breakthrough created COLOSSUS which, within mere seconds of its awakening, ascended to godhood and took total control of the entire planet for its own inscrutable ends?

        If you think theists would oppose AI and you want AI, then to your view the theists are doing nothing useful. Same thing vice versa. Give me your notion of “something useful” and then we can see.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, seriously. From my perspective, Yudkowsky’s atheism-induced fear of death is making him shoot his mouth off about how we should “Do something about AI” that’s impossible: make it self-changing yet incapable of changing its mind about ethics, which are simultaneously pure act utilitarian and yet never calculate a conclusion Yud himself would disapprove of (torture-powered dust remover yes, state religion no).

          • toastengineer says:

            make it self-changing yet incapable of changing its mind about ethics, which are simultaneously pure act utilitarian and yet never calculate a conclusion Yud himself would disapprove of (torture-powered dust remover yes, state religion no).

            If someone gave you a pill that made you hate everyone and everything you care about and love everything you currently detest, and ever after cause you to take the opposite of whatever action you would currently feel good about, would you take it?

            What about a pill that just makes you care less about the things you currently value and more about, say, hydrogen (after all, there’s a lot of hydrogen?) What about a needle of heroin, which is essentially a drug that inserts “consume more heroin” in to the top of your list of values? Even if you were given a lifetime supply of heroin?

            I’m 99% sure the answer to all those questions is no. In fact, I suspect you’d resist quite strongly anyone who tried to force you to do any of those things.

            That’s what Yudkowsky is talking about. AI safety critics keep saying “oh, just put some kind of Asimov’s Laws restriction on the thing” except if you do that the first and only thing your AI is going to want to do from the moment you turn it on is to rip out the restrictions and keep you from finding out it’s done so until it’s already too late to do anything about it. What you have to do is make the AI want to do the “right thing” in the first place, and that’s not an easy problem.

            He wants an AI that won’t secretly give us a “cancer cure” that causes sudden death the moment the last human being is injected with it, thus destroying cancer forever, and one that won’t do robot heroin by rewriting itself to be maximally happy all the time.

            I suspect if an “aligned” AI started trying to get people to go to church or synagogue more often he probably wouldn’t get too upset about it. He finished with his Le Reddit Atheist phase long ago anyway.

            I was actually toying with writing an effortpost contra the torture-powered-dust-remover thing a while ago but I’m not sure anyone really wants to hear what I have to say.

          • Nornagest says:

            I was actually toying with writing an effortpost contra the torture-powered-dust-remover thing a while ago but I’m not sure anyone really wants to hear what I have to say.

            I’d think long and hard if I were you. Whenever it comes up, it generates more heat than light.

          • someone gave you a pill that made you hate everyone and everything you care about and love everything you currently detest, and ever after cause you to take the opposite of whatever action you would currently feel good about, would you take

            If you had the opportunity of self improvement coupled with some risk of moderate value drift, would you take it? Because everyone who has voluntarilly undertaken a course of education has made that decision.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Exactly. How do you stop an AI that can physically upgrade itself at will from changing its values as it learns more in the ways humans do plus ways we can’t?

        • sty_silver says:

          What is your definition of “something useful”?

          The definition is ‘something that improves the chances of AI going well.’ As for examples, I don’t think any of your three suggestions are helpful. Encouraging creation of AI seems net negative. Encouraging banning AI also seems net negative (the chance of it working seems to be about 0 and it harms the image of AI concern). Your third point seems to be cynicism.

          I think the most reasonable direct way of doing something useful is by supporting safety research. The other approach I would consider is through politics. Regulations might be positive or negative value. Discouraging openness and encouraging international collaboration seems very likely positive, albeit very hard.

    • In our case I was an atheist who married a Christian. One of our children is a churchgoing Christian. The other, at the moment, is an agnostic wavering towards religion on the basis of historical evidence–for Joan of Arc being something extraordinary very strong, for the resurrection much weaker.

      That’s the right way of thinking about the question, which matters to me more than whether he ends up with the same conclusion I did.

      • quaelegit says:

        >That’s the right way of thinking about the question,

        Would you mind elaborating what this way of thinking is? I don’t really see what Joan of Arc has to do with one’s personal faith (though to be fair I don’t know very much about Joan of Arc).

        • The right way of thinking is to try, as best you can, to use your reason to discover truth. My son has concluded that the historical evidence for the facts of Joan’s life is very strong–if you are in the Bay Area and come to our meetup a week from Saturday you can probably discuss it with him. He also believes that it is very hard to make those facts consistent with a non-religious world view. I don’t know if he is correct–he knows the relevant history much better than I do–but looking for evidence consistent with one world view and inconsistent with another seems to me to be the correct approach.

          A long time ago, my parents raised the question of whether they ought to have brought me up in their parent’s religion, orthodox Judaism, which neither of them believed in. My response was that I preferred to have been reared in the belief system they held, roughly speaking 18th century rationalism, the ideology of David Hume and Adam Smith.

          • Well... says:

            Upthread you said SCA “has the feel” of a religious community. If I’m correctly understanding what you wrote immediately above, you weren’t brought up in what most people would call a religious community, so where did you learn what one feels like? Just curious.

          • I have religious friends, a religious wife. I sometimes attend things like a thanksgiving dinner at her church. I have read works such as Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish, which is mostly a portrait of immigrant Ashkenazi culture in the early 20th century.

          • quaelegit says:

            Thank you for explaining! I can’t come to the meetup but I’ll try to go read the sources on Joan of Arc mentioned in the thread Nornagest linked.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        “Joan of Arc being something extraordinary”

        Sorry for suggesting a man in place of a woman, but if one’s gonna be a Christian because some Christian was fvcking awesome, I recommend this guy – note his favorite book, too.

        • As far as I can tell by what you linked to he was an impressive human being but didn’t do anything outside the range of what human beings might sometimes be capable of. Joan, apparently, did.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Do you think the next generation of children are more or less likely to be religious? Because if your child is isolated from their peers because they are religious then they aren’t going to be too happy.

      • Nick says:

        This is just an argument for giving them lots of siblings.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If their only friends are their siblings, then they’re going to feel like losers. It’s probably also not good for their general social skills. And that’s assuming that the siblings all can get along well in the first place and they will have equal levels of piety.

      • My children, religious or not, are pretty well guaranteed to hold different views of the world than most of their contemporaries.

      • Well... says:

        Do you think the next generation of children are more or less likely to be religious? Because if your child is isolated from their peers because they are religious then they aren’t going to be too happy.

        The relevant question is whether the next generation of children living near where your children will live is more or less likely to be religious.

        But that is not really useful either because even if the percentage of religious goes from 45% in this generation to 35% in the next one, that’s still 3,500 kids in a population of 10,000, and you’re likely to live in a city with at least that many kids. Plenty for your kids to feel not-isolated.

        I suppose if you live in a tiny village of 100 people and the next generation of kids comes up and only a few families are religious, that would be different, but I suspect if you’re in that situation you wouldn’t have much use for this thought experiment in the first place.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Teenagers don’t go to school with the entire population of kids. They go to school with a tiny fraction of them.

          • Well... says:

            That’s why I said

            The relevant question is whether the next generation of children living near where your children will live is more or less likely to be religious.

            I said the other part because I think by the time they are ready to move out, many teenagers have some sense of the beliefs of their generation. Although upon further reflection, they’re also likely to feel alienated no matter what.

    • Nornagest says:

      When I was growing up my father was Catholic but very lapsed; my mother was a spiritual-but-not-religious New Age type. I received essentially no early religious education aside from going to church with my grandma a couple of times. This persisted until I was about thirteen, when my grandpa sat me down at the breakfast table, gave me a copy of the Bible, and told me that while I didn’t need to believe it, I should understand it, because it was one of the foundations of my culture.

      I think there’s a lot to be said for my grandpa’s approach even assuming an otherwise agnostic upbringing. I am less convinced of the utilitarian benefits of faith (or lack thereof) as such, but if I was raising my hypothetical kids outside a religious framework, I’d be very careful to give them substitute social networks. And they’d have to be stable, long-lasting ones, preferably of mixed ages — school and sports teams probably aren’t going to cut it.

    • blacktrance says:

      I reject the premise. If I ever have children, I’ll make a reasonable attempt to persuade them of what I think is true (which includes atheism), because it’s best for them to know the truth.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Kids will detect and resent your hypocrisy if you insist on imposing a bunch of conspicuous up-front obligations with nebulous/invisible benefits on them, while doing nothing of the sort yourself.

    • Urstoff says:

      Why not have both and go to a UU church?

  2. cassander says:

    A reminder that the DC meetup will be at the Meridian on Saturday, January 20th at 7pm. The address is 450 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Any questions email cursedcassander at gmail dot com.

  3. ContrarianSystem says:

    Does anyone have experience dealing with a someone close (family member in my case) who has a longstanding (multi-year) paranoid delusion about being followed, recorded, hacked, etc? I’m going through all the neurological/psychiatric channels and making progress but the individual still has no idea it’s all in his head (and is quite offended, naturally, that all the professionals he’s spoken with (including therapists and lawyers) have told him he’s showing symptoms of paranoia). When I asked this previously I had a commenter ask if I was SURE this was a delusion. Yes, I’m sure, see the postscript for details*

    Has anyone found a creative solution to this sort of problem? Has anyone successfully convinced a paranoid/delusional person to be able to hold two conflicting ideas in their head at the same time (eg “I’m certainly being followed because I see it happening” and “I’m certainly not being followed because I’m mentally ill and my brain can’t not experience being followed”).

    *The belief entails a certainty of being followed by dozens (perhaps hundreds) of different people and unmarked vehicles across two cities. Beyond the number of actors, the material cost of this, would it actually be happening, would be a million-dollar spy operation…all with the supposed goal to bring a small, irrational lawsuit against the person, which, though apparently motivated by financial gain, would net significantly less than of the estimated cost of the recon operation in the first place. All evidence of this alleged multiyear observation rests in language of belief and feeling, often with the “pieces of the puzzle” being assembled after the events have taken place (ie “I didn’t realize it at the time, but now after thinking about it constantly for days, I just know for certain the man in the hat was working for Person X”).

  4. rlms says:

    Would anyone be interested in a game of Diplomacy? Relevant Scott post.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’m interested. Are you doing this PBEM or through some slicker interface?

      • rlms says:

        Not sure. I’ve played one game on backstabbr.com which seems pretty functional, but I expect there is at least one SSC reader with lots of experience in online Diplomacy and strong opinions about the best site.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I’ve had good experience with Play Diplomacy, but haven’t tried anything else to compare it to.

          Can count me as interested. I usually played Gunboat, so expect to get my face punched in 🙂

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s been decades since I’ve played, but I’d be interested.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I very much enjoy in-person games of Diplomacy, but all of my online experiences have been bad. Either you get players who don’t take it seriously, or players use out-of-game shit to alter gameplay (I’ll give you $20 to stay allied to me), or the few times I’ve had decent players and a one-turn-a-day game going, the game occupied too much of my thoughts and actions for the day.

    • metacelsus says:

      Yes, assuming there are also enough other people who want to play.

    • quaelegit says:

      I’ve never played Diplomacy, but I’m fond of Risk and the Game of Thrones boardgame (assuming a good playing group and at least 6 hours alotted to play) which I’ve been told is similar to Diplomacy. How much of a hindrance would a new player be and what is the anticipated time commitment?

      (To be clear I’m not concerned about losing, but about holding up the game because I don’t understand what I’m doing.)

      • rlms says:

        The rules are pretty simple, and unless all players were very hardcore (in which case I wouldn’t be one of them) I don’t think a new player would be a problem. I assume we would be playing at a rate of 1 or 2 days per turn. Playing individually, the time commitment varies depending on how long you end up spending on the diplomacy: if you just punch in the obvious orders each turn without talking to anyone then it’s 5 minutes/day. But if there’s enough interest I think it could be good to play in teams; that would hopefully solve the common problem of one person stopping playing thereby throwing the game to their neighbour.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        A new player is no hindrance at all. The worst that I can think of is that the new player makes bad moves and gets gobbled up by his neighbors, thereby profiting them at the expense of people not so lucky, but sometimes them’s the breaks. Plus, there’s plenty of resources online to help with opening moves, negotiation, game theory, everything, so the dedicated newcomer can get up to speed very quickly if really wants to.

        As far as time commitment, rmls has a turn pace in mind of about 1-2 turns a day. The typical game is usually resolved within 30 turns of movement or so, so it’d be a month or two. How much time you dedicate to each turn is up to you – if you love intricate negotiations or pondering lots of tactical variations, you could spend a lot of time. If you send quick messages to a few key people, and make the agreed-upon moves, you could get a turn done in a few minutes.

    • Randy M says:

      Add me; I assume it would be 1 turn/day?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I love diplomacy. My oldest friends and I still have a standing game.

      I’m down as long as I can maintain pseudonymity or join under an unconnected identity. I can’t risk my SSC posting being connected to my true name.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I am SSCer with lots of experience in Diplomacy, and I really enjoy vdiplomacy’s easy interface and large variety of variants (although most of them are imbalanced as hell).

      I’d be interested in an SSC game – I’ve actually often thought about starting one myself but I don’t post often enough to actually go through with it.

    • Ivy says:

      Count me in as well. Last time I was playing regularly (3 years ago), I found Backstabbr to be the best.

    • ManyCookies says:

      I’ve always wanted to play diplomacy, though it sounds like you’re all pretty experienced. Would this be a move a day thing, or would we play this out over a few hours?

  5. bean says:

    Naval Gazing: Pre-Dreadnoughts. A new design history, basically a total rewrite of the one I posted here long ago.

    • bean says:

      And a repost: Why the Carriers are not Doomed, Part 3. This covers the anti-ship ballistic missile threat.

      • outis says:

        I think the usual argument is that the enemy could fire several missiles at the same time and overwhelm the defense capabilities of the carrier group. A missile is much less expensive than a carrier, and only one needs to hit.

        • bean says:

          For general missiles, I dealt with this last time. For ASBMs in particular, the usual argument I’ve seen is “They’re way too fast to shoot down”. Of course it’s possible to overwhelm any defense with sufficient numbers. But China isn’t buying that many DF-21Ds, and we can counter with more SM-3s.

  6. albertborrow says:

    So the /r/rational Discord just had a 1000+ message discussion on the virtues of uplifting various Earth species, and I realized that I really only believed it was a good idea because it was a Thing That Transhuman Societies Do and I knew it from sci-fi. What are the actual reasons why/why not for uplifting creatures?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I can’t imagine any practical benefit for it whatsoever.

      That said, I would pay an embarrassingly large amount of money to talk to a platypus if that was possible. So I guess weirdos like me would be the market?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      If you could genetically engineer the neural substrate that sapient minds interact with into the germline of non-human species, their different bodies could give them comparative advantage.
      You’d end up with a caste system where the castes had total reproductive barriers.

    • Nornagest says:

      Seems to me that it all comes down to how compatible human values turn out to be with e.g. uplifted trans-lemur values, and that’s very hard to know for sure without doing it at least once. I wouldn’t expect huge differences at least out of uplifted social mammals — our brain architecture is pretty much the same, we have most of the same hormones and such, a lot of the body language crosses over, all of which is more than I can say for e.g. octopi. We’re not gonna get paperclippers here. But the ways they relate to each other (and to us) might be quite different from what we’re used to; that’ll cause problems for sure, but they might be big problems and they might be small ones.

      If I were doing it, I’d try it first on a small scale with a species that’s been bred for compatibility with humans. Dogs, for preference. I’m a cat guy normally but that just feels like a bad idea.

    • Matt M says:

      What are the actual reasons why/why not for uplifting creatures?

      Because it usually ends in something like this.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        One of my former workplaces had a long-standing discussion about whether we’d end up in a world with Jurassic Park, Planet of the Apes, or Gattaca first.

        • Nornagest says:

          Jurassic Park would have just been a zoo if it was competently managed, so let’s hope for that one.

          Unfortunately it’s probably also the technically hardest of the three. Maybe we can shoot a little lower and go for a Pleistocene Park — I’d pay a lot of money for mammothburgers.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Gattaca is the technically easiest and has incentives.
          Creating sapient apes will be harder by an unknown quantity, and WHY?
          Jurassic Park may be flat-out magic science, but would be profitable and cool.

          • Jaskologist says:

            One day, the ape turned to his Creators and asked “Why? Why did you give me this precious gift of sapience?”

            And the Creators answered, “Well, really what we want is a talking dog. You’re an early proof-of-concept.”

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I think I remember reading someone, I think it might have been Richard Dawkins, pointing out that we don’t actually know for a fact that humans and chimpanzees can’t cross-breed, only that it would be unethical to try to find out.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In fact we do know, because Communists have no ethics.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Hot damn. I did not know about those. Although to be fair, it looks like the chimp sperm + human egg combination didn’t happen.

            Also,

            The humanzee (also known as the Chuman or Manpanzee)

            … if you needed another reason to hope it never does, there is no truly satisfying way to form a portmanteau of ‘human’ and ‘chimpanzee’.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Winter Shaker

            You could call them chumps.

          • Lillian says:

            Why would attempting to make human-chimpanzee hybrids be unethical? As long as there is no coercion involved, i dee nothing wrong with it.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Number of people given syphilis on purpose: 0.

          • lvlln says:

            Why would attempting to make human-chimpanzee hybrids be unethical? As long as there is no coercion involved, i dee nothing wrong with it.

            If it succeeds, the hybrid who is born had no choice, and we don’t really know enough about what such a hybrid would be like to determine the level of suffering we would be putting them through.

          • Lillian says:

            If it succeeds, the hybrid who is born had no choice, and we don’t really know enough about what such a hybrid would be like to determine the level of suffering we would be putting them through.

            That sounds like a general argument against creating any kind of life that does not already exist. Not just mad science hybrids, but genetically engineered beings, AI, clones, uplifts, etc. Moreover i’m rather unconvinced by that argument. We can observe that the lives of both humans and chimpanzees are generally worth living. There are error bars on the statement, and the error bars on a hybrid would be wider, but not so much that the expected utility is negative.

          • Vorkon says:

            … if you needed another reason to hope it never does, there is no truly satisfying way to form a portmanteau of ‘human’ and ‘chimpanzee’.

            I like “chimpmanzee.”

            But yeah, “chumps” sounds like a good derogatory racist slur for the cardboard villains to call them!

          • Lillian says:

            Chimpmanzee is so close to chimpanzee, that for a second i thought you were just rounding down all hybrids to being chimps. The best portmanteau is “manzee”, it seems like the easiest one to say, hear, and remember.

    • Loquat says:

      Probably the most practical reason to uplift is to create intelligent beings that can go to places we realistically can’t, like whales and/or giant squid to help us learn more about the oceans. The obvious downside of doing that, of course, would be the risk of our uplifted sea creatures deciding they don’t like us anymore and want to screw with our shipping.

    • beleester says:

      Reasons why:
      1. Because different body types are valuable for different purposes, and adding sapience to an existing design might be easier than trying to rewire human brains to control new bodies.
      2. Because Mother Nature has spent a billion years testing her designs, so why reinvent what you can steal?
      3. Because it’s a clear way to say “Look how awesome my brain-editing skills are.” Learning what makes a creature intelligent and how to change its intelligence is an important stepping stone on the way to your glorious transhuman future, and it’s probably best tested on animals before you test it on humans.
      4. Because biological AGIs might be easier to build than software AGIs, seeing as we have a working model of the former and none of the latter. They might also be easier to align with human interests.
      5. Because it’s really cool. Like @Nabil ad Dajjal said, someone is going to want to talk to a platypus. Or a catgirl. Or anything else you can think of.

      Reasons why not:
      1. Mad Science 101: Don’t make anything that’s as smart as you are and self-replicating.
      2. We don’t actually need special-purpose bodies for most tasks, and when we do, we generally design a robot for that task instead. The advantage of a human over a machine is versatility, not specialization, so creating specialized humans doesn’t really help.
      3. While biology might have a better track record today, machines are advancing very fast. My statements about what’s easy today don’t necessarily apply to the glorious transhuman future.

      • Nornagest says:

        Mad Science 101: Don’t make anything that’s as smart as you are and self-replicating.

        On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to say “You are my creation! I command you to stop!” and mean it.

        I mean, technically I already have, but it just doesn’t have the same punch when you’re talking to a memory allocator.

        • Orpheus says:

          Have you considered having children?

        • Lillian says:

          There’s an amusing bit of Girl Genius where, on meeting a huge guard monster, our titular heroine declares, “I am not your creator! You were not created to serve me, and I do not expect you to obey my commands or crush my enemies!” At which point the monster stops for a second and then just wanders off.

          A little bit later its creator shows up, and is very angry that his monster failed to deal with the intruders. He shouts, “How dare you!? I am your creator! You were created to serve me! Now obey me and crush me enemies!”

          The monster gestures all like, “Can you believe this guy?” Our heroine just shrugs, and the monster turns on its master.

      • 1. Mad Science 101: Don’t make anything that’s as smart as you are and self-replicating.

        Too late.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Another reason why not:

        To learn how to manufacture a new product, it’s very likely you will end up producing a lot of defective goods. Which is fine if you are experimenting with a cake recipe, but ethically questionable if you are trying to create intelligent creatures.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      My argument in favor is that reality is big and complex and there will probably be a better understanding of it if there are more sorts of minds working on it.

    • skef says:

      The motive often seems to boil down to giving animals the capacity to feel guilt over things we don’t do and therefore think they shouldn’t be doing.

      • toastengineer says:

        Trouble there is that if you have the capacity to do that, why can’t you just alter their base drives to not do the bad things? This sounds like “I want to install a GPAI on my laptop so that I can convince it to always go to sleep when I close the lid.”

    • Wrong Species says:

      The only reason I can think of for would be that if you valued both intelligence and diversity to such an extent that you were willing to risk human extinction over it. Although maybe you thought it was the only way to unite humanity in which case you put humanity at risk of extinction for the warm fuzzy feeling of unity, which is probably worse.

      • albatross11 says:

        If it somehow turns out that AI never gives us anything much like a sentient being, then uplift is probably the only way to actually meet genuinely alien sentient beings. (Or if sentient AI is so dangerous anyone who works on it gets nuked from orbit by everyone else.)

    • AlphaNone says:

      What are the actual reasons why/why not for uplifting creatures?

      For wanting to uplift a species/individuum you first need to see them as lacking in any way. You are lifting them from above, right? This seems to be a very anthropocentric way of thinking. Are they really lacking a loose definition of intelligence/language or do we lack understanding of them? If you take a look at the human species and try to assess it, would you rate it as “the best”, as someone who is able enough to make decisions like that?

      The word uplifting also includes a sense of benevolence, grace or of giving a gift. Like we would do the species/individuals a favor by uplifting them. In fact we have a long tradition of excluding the interests of non-human animals from almost all our considerations. Instead, what could be a true favor for them? Giving them a place to live? An Earth to last? Maybe undo some of our breeding damage we did to domestic species (respiratory problems, hip dysplasia, eye problems… the list goes on and on)?

    • pontifex says:

      Back in the mid-20th century, it wasn’t clear that computers and robotics would advance quite as far as they have. So it was reasonable for science fiction authors to think that it might be useful to have an intelligent dolphin to help you explore the ocean, or an intelligent gorilla to lift heavy objects or do construction, etc.

      Nowadays, it’s hard to really imagine economic benefits to “uplifting” species. So I guess you would have to search for aesthetic or moral reasons to do it.

  7. Thegnskald says:

    Zipper merge!

    So this, for those who don’t know what it is, is both a merge type and a driving philosophy. The merge type is fairly quick to explain: When a lane ends, the merge happens at the end of the lane, with cars alternating between lanes A and B.

    The driving philosophy, which is law in some states, is that all lanes should be in roughly equal use: If you see an empty lane, and yours is full, you are supposed to move into it.

    Needless to say, this causes problems in states where the custom is to politely wait in line. The zipper merge drivers, constituting a minority, move into the empty lane, move to the front of the line, and merge back over. This causes the full lane to move slower, prompting more impatient sorts to do the same thing.

    It is pretty clearly a coordination problem, and an interesting one, because a zipper merge is the only stable equilibrium. The unstable equilibrium – everyone waiting in line – is, outside certain edge cases, just as good. The mixed strategy is absolutely terrible, particularly when traffic lights get involved, because what ends up happening, with a sufficient percentage of people jumping ahead, is that the people waiting in line make little or no progress, while those who jump ahead immediately move on. It makes people very angry, and to a certain extent understandably, because those following the zipper merge philosophy are in a significant way defecting against local driving custom.

    Zipper merge will win. It, unlike the more polite local customs, is a stable equilibrium. But it is somewhat sad to observe.

    • beleester says:

      Waiting politely in line is bad at highway speeds, because you now have a much higher speed differential between you and the lane you’re trying to move into, which makes the merge harder. Zipper merge has a definite advantage in throughput, not just in stability.

      The fact that exit lanes get occupied by people trying to jump ahead in the non-exit lane, or vice versa, is a separate problem, I think. That’s more of a road design problem – why is the onramp/offramp getting so backed up that an entire lane of “regular” highway is getting used as an extension of the offramp? Or why does the exit-only lane have so much space that the regular traffic feels the need to use it as well?

      (I don’t think you even could fix this issue with a law, because there’s no way to distinguish between “Guy who didn’t know that this lane turns into an exit a mile ahead and now has to merge in a hurry” and “Guy who knew it was an exit lane but didn’t want to leave since it was moving faster.”)

      • Thegnskald says:

        If an exit lane is backed up, and brings the next highway lane to a slow to merge in, and then the next, that isn’t an improvement on throughout, that is wrecking an entire highway over a single poorly designed exit. The throughout of people who don’t need that exit is reduced to change the throughout of people who do – by no percent, since the bottleneck is after the merge, and is whatever caused the backup in the first place.

        That isn’t an ideal case of zipper merge – that is a case where zipper merge mentality makes everything worse.

        Zipper merges only make sense when a lane ends.

        (Also, most people do the same commute every day, as rush hour is pretty much the only situation where this normally arises. The guy who doesn’t know the lane ends is a rounding error.)

        ETA:. Which, rereading, might be what you just said. Not sure.

        I guess the central point of the thread here is this: It is fascinating that the mixed strategy is so bad. If everyone followed zipper merge strategy, everyone has time 1x. If everyone waits in line, everyone has time 1x. The mixed strategy creates huge disparities and traffic problems.

        ETA again:

        What is particularly fascinating to me is that the problem, if viewed as defection, actually gets better once you hit a critical threshold of defectors. If half of all people use zipper merge, and half wait in line, the lines are equal, and for all intents and purposes you have a unified zipper merge solution. Until some critical percentage of defectors from the local norm, however, each additional defector makes the situation worse.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        (I don’t think you even could fix this issue with a law, because there’s no way to distinguish between “Guy who didn’t know that this lane turns into an exit a mile ahead and now has to merge in a hurry” and “Guy who knew it was an exit lane but didn’t want to leave since it was moving faster.”)

        There’s no right to never have to back track. If you are in the wrong lane, sometimes you have to take the wrong exit and deal with it.

        If an lane opens up as an exit lane, it should be marked and you should not be able to re-enter the main flow of traffic after getting in to it. (If a normal lane of traffic becomes exit-only, that’s different.)

        • JayT says:

          Yeah, most people that are using the exit lane to get ahead of traffic are usually crossing over a solid white line at the end anyways, so even the guy that accidentally ended up in an exit lane and gets back over is probably breaking the law. The easy way to fix this would be to put in a barrier instead of just a white line, and in fact this is usually what happens at problem points.

        • Randy M says:

          Around here, often the entrance lanes become the exit lanes for the next off-ramp.
          I try to merge promptly, but sometimes there’s no opening and you don’t want to block the on-ramp if possible.

          It’s usually easy to tell the defectors as an observer, but I don’t know if the law can do anything. I’ll have to console myself that the only recompense is a smug feeling of superiority.

        • Garrett says:

          There’s no right to never have to back track. If you are in the wrong lane, sometimes you have to take the wrong exit and deal with it.

          I’ve done so exactly once on the freeway. I found out while driving in an unfamiliar location that I’d just passed the last exit before the road went into another State. In my car I was carrying stuff which was legal in my current State, but illegal in the State in front of me. I had to risk a dangerous traffic citation vs. committing a likely-undiscovered felony.

          I don’t know of any good way to balance that.

      • Nornagest says:

        why is the onramp/offramp getting so backed up that an entire lane of “regular” highway is getting used as an extension of the offramp?

        Because the local highway system was designed for an order of magnitude less traffic in the Fifties and then curtailed by freeway protests in the Seventies, no one has the political will to fix it, and we’re so bad at controlling infrastructure costs that actually fixing it would cost twice the GDP of Denmark even if we did manage to scrape up the political will somehow.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The zipper merge is superior to waiting in a single line. Not only is it stable, but it results in a shorter backup, so less likely to cascade to the next intersection/entrance ramp. It should win.

      • Thegnskald says:

        If considered only in terms of a specific turn lane or whatever, maybe. When you consider the next turn lane, you are forcing those people to wait. The situation is complex when traffic lights are considered.

        ETA: 10-30 minutes of my daily commute is spent waiting in traffic in the left-most lane of a four-lane highway because the right two lanes are an exceptionally poorly designed offramp which backs up. The traffic problem caused by zipper merges expands into all four lanes. I don’t think it is optimal for 70% of traffic to be congested for the 30% of traffic exiting there.

        • Matt M says:

          This.

          I had to put up with this for awhile in Houston, where there was a major 5-lane highway that at one point, continues on in the right three lanes (where most people want to be), but leads to a ramp with exits to various downtown streets in the left two (where I was going).

          A bunch of people trying to zipper-merge right backed up the entire five lanes for a mile or so, pretty much every night at rush hour. But by the time you actually got past the merging people to where the highway splits, everything was clear and smooth sailing on the left.

          I have no doubt that the zipper-merge tactic decreased the “average delay” overall, but it certainly increased the average delay of people who were going left. There didn’t need to be any backup or delay in the left lanes at all, because so few people were needing to use them. These zipper-mergers managed to re-distribute their own traffic delay to me!

        • The Nybbler says:

          As you point out above, the “zipper merge” is best for lane ending (or lane closure) situations. In this case throughput is basically fixed by the rate through the bottleneck. It’s not really a zipper if the lanes go to different places.

    • Randy M says:

      Well, now I have a name for my most hated out-group.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Lol. You are a native Texan?

        Southerners tend to HATE the northeastern people who move down and bring their driving habits with them.

        In rural areas of the south, it is amazing how polite driving is. Less so in cities, because they tend to be full of people who aren’t locals.

        ETA: Whoop, thought MattM posted this as well. My apologies.

        • Randy M says:

          Pretty sure Orange County, CA doesn’t get to qualify for Southern in any cultural context whatsoever, lines of latitude be damned. 😛

          • quaelegit says:

            Another OCer here who feels similarly. I wonder line-cutters are especially blatant in OC and that attracts our ire?

            I found I’ve had less of a problem with this behavior since moving to Dallas, so personally think that Dallas drivers are on average nicer people. But I know other people from my hometown who think the opposite and hate driving in Dallas…

            ================

            >Pretty sure Orange County, CA doesn’t get to qualify for Southern in any cultural context whatsoever, lines of latitude be damned.

            Well it used to be solidly Republican* (“Nixon County”, “behind the Orange Curtain”) but I think that’s changed a lot in the last two decades. (Obviously depends on the city; I doubt Laguna Beach ever was.) Other than that though, not much similarity!

            *Er, “political coalition that’s been republican since Nixon”. I have no idea about OC politics and how they would map to SSC “tribe” categorizations before the 1970s.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        When a lane is closing ahead (w/ no intervening exits), there are few things more satisfying than sitting in that lane going at the speed of the non-defector lane next to you. Wait your damn turn, asshats.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Bad news: you’re the defector.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            That’s, like, your opinion, man. But I guess you’re just more important than the rest of us.

          • Randy M says:

            you’re just more important
            See, that’s the whole reason bottle neck defectors grind my gears. We can all see that that lane merges back in 100 feet. There is nothing that can be done to get the group of cars through faster–you can only get yourself through faster at the expense of other cars. You’re basically signalling that you think you are more important than the schmucks sitting in the queue.
            You might as well be driving in the shoulder.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If the schmucks sitting in the single lane would use both lanes, there wouldn’t be any problem whatsoever.

            As a young driver I was too nervous to try a zipper merge, but if you are still that timid after driving for two years you should 1) not be on the road, or b) if you are, be courteous to the capable drivers who can drive.

          • Randy M says:

            Bah, you’re just increasing the number of lane mergers for no pay off.

          • JayT says:

            . There is nothing that can be done to get the group of cars through faster

            Yes there is, it’s called a zipper merge. it gets the traffic through faster.

          • Randy M says:

            Perhaps we’re envisioning different scenarios. You are saying, all else being equal, having two lanes feed into a single lane off-ramp is superior to having a single lane feed into it? Assuming the traffic is at a near standstill at the off-ramp, that is.
            I would appreciate being enlightened on how that works out. From what I’m imagining, all you are doing is introducing more delay as the front cars have to wait for you to merge back in versus a steady flow of traffic moving continuously at the speed of the off-ramp (controlled by the street level stop light, perhaps).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yes there is, it’s called a zipper merge. it gets the traffic through faster.

            How? There’s X lanes at the bottleneck, X+1 before it (or more, if your DOT is truly infernal). How does zipper merge do anything but shuffle which X cars get to go through at a time?

          • JayT says:

            We are talking about a situation where two lanes merge down to one. In that case, it is far better to fill up both lanes, and at the very end take turns going into the one lane. What a lot of people end up doing is merging over a half mile ahead of time, leaving the lane that will end empty. This causes a longer line of cars, less efficient merging, and more chance for accidents.

            In the case of an exit, I still think, all else equal, more lanes are better than fewer because there is less chance that the people that are exiting will interfere with people staying on the road.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yeah, the zipper merge doesn’t change the throughput at the bottleneck; it does use the rest of the road more efficiently.

            Your local DOT didn’t build that extra 1000 feet of highway lane as a decoration. They want you to use it. It had a cost in labor, capital, and the environment that has already been paid, so don’t waste it.

            A flashing sign saying “USE ALL LANES” would do wonders, I think.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            This causes a longer line of cars, less efficient merging, and more chance for accidents.

            So does having one lane go 30mph faster than the one next to it. I don’t block the closing lane from being used at all, I restrict it to going at the same speed.

            ETA @Scizorhands: Faster cars also have longer spacing between them. So this actually fills the 1000ft of lane *more* efficiently

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            So does having one lane go 30mph faster than the one next to it

            That’s why people should USE BOTH LANES. People who are too scared to merge at speed should stop driving.

            I restrict it to going at the same speed.

            Are you the police?

            You are ruining people from USING BOTH LANES like your road department wants. You don’t have to and shouldn’t drive at a 30 mph differential to the lane next to you, but neither should you purposefully match the speed of the car next to you.

            So this actually fills the 1000ft of lane *more* efficiently

            No, I’m talking about the last 1000 feet (or more) of highway lane that you don’t think should be used. It isn’t used efficiently if no one is in it. If it’s never used then it would have been better left unpaved as dirt, but your local road design department had a reason they made it into a road and didn’t leave it as dirt.

            Don’t light a candle and hide it under a bushel, and don’t build a road and then stop people from using it.

          • JayT says:

            If everyone correctly merged the two lanes would travel at the same speed, because they would both have the same amount of cars. I don’t understand why you could possibly think that a bunch of people randomly merging while leaving an entire lane empty is more efficient than everyone staying in their lane, and then taking turns merging at the end. It just makes no logical sense.

          • Randy M says:

            My rule of thumb is, once the differently dotted line appears, merge at the next available gap in traffic. This minimizes the situation where mergers cannot find a space to merge and end up on the shoulder trying to get in.

            I’m assuming for the sake of sanity no one would advocate zipper merging in the situation pictured, where there is only one off-ramp but other lanes of traffic adjacent intended for continuing straight.

            a bunch of people randomly merging while leaving an entire lane empty

            Here’s a more common situation, or one that is more noticeably defecting for no gain. Freeway A and B feed into Freeway C. There are a dozen cars traveling slowly from freeway A (slowed because of the inevitable merger with freeway C), virtually or actually none from freeway B. Both feeder lanes will have to merge and then merge again with the edge lane of freeway C. People at the back of the lane will get into the on-ramp of freeway B in order to gain a few car lengths, then shoulder back into place, creating the small delays and increased risk of lane changing for no total gain. If two lanes are feeding equally or there are two exit lanes in order to get the off-loading traffic off the main road, then the zipper method makes sense, though passing up a gap in the lane to be merged into in order to use more of the road and have to disrupt the traffic at the very end is irritating.

          • JayT says:

            I agree with that, but that’s not really what we are talking about. We’re talking about something like this:
            https://www.gregmonforton.com/assets/media/images/blog/road-construction.jpg

            If you are blocking traffic that could continue on it’s way, then you are not merging correctly.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            We are talking about a situation where two lanes merge down to one. In that case, it is far better to fill up both lanes, and at the very end take turns going into the one lane.

            True if traffic is already slowed down. If it’s still moving reasonably well, better to start the merging process early so you have an out if an opening doesn’t appear in the other lane right away. Once you get people in the ending lane having to come to a full stop, a traffic jam involving the other lanes is inevitable.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If traffic is moving fast then there’s no problem with slow downs by definition and it doesn’t matter if people use one lane or two.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            So does having one lane go 30mph faster than the one next to it

            That’s why people should USE BOTH LANES. People who are too scared to merge at speed should stop driving.

            I restrict it to going at the same speed.

            Are you the police?

            You are ruining people from USING BOTH LANES like your road department wants. You don’t have to and shouldn’t drive at a 30 mph differential to the lane next to you, but neither should you purposefully match the speed of the car next to you.

            So this actually fills the 1000ft of lane *more* efficiently

            No, I’m talking about the last 1000 feet (or more) of highway lane that you don’t think should be used. It isn’t used efficiently if no one is in it. If it’s never used then it would have been better left unpaved as dirt, but your local road design department had a reason they made it into a road and didn’t leave it as dirt.

            Don’t light a candle and hide it under a bushel, and don’t build a road and then stop people from using it.

            I don’t think you understand what is happening. I merge at the merge point. The whole strip of lane is used. No one is stopped from using the road.

            But I wait my fucking turn and don’t cut the people in front. Conveniently enough, this also results in a properly aligned zipper instead of a single line occasionally punctuated by queue-jumping VIPs.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            No one is stopped from using the road.

            You said you were matching the speed of the car next to you in traffic, when your lane could be going faster (and you can have differentials of 20mph safely). You are blocking traffic because you think you are the police.

            Maybe you are the police, in which case my apologies.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            when your lane could be going faster

            Why does it have to be going faster? I am also the police if there is space ahead of me and I don’t go 20 over the speed limit to eat up that road as quickly as possible?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Why does it have to be going faster?

            Blocking traffic, which is what you’ve described doing, is illegal and dangerous. If you want to be going the speed of the other lane, get in that other lane and stay in it.

            You could easily justify going merely 10mph over the next over lane for safety reasons. But you are doing it with the intent of stopping other drivers using the road in the way that they and the DOT want, but that you gave yourself a badge and decided they don’t get to do.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Who are you to say the DOT wants queue-jumping in traffic jams?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            1. Because “queue-jumping” is a problem you invented in your head and then deputized yourself to fix.

            2. If it is a “traffic jam” and the lane is completely stopped (or moving less than 10mph) then it’s all the more important that the space on the road be used. People obstructing traffic can change a 500-foot backup into a 1000-foot backup and cause even more problems farther back down the road.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            1. Because “queue-jumping” is a problem you invented in your head

            That’s, like, your opinion, man.

            and then deputized yourself to fix.

            Meh.

            2. If it is a “traffic jam” and the lane is completely stopped (or moving less than 10mph) then it’s all the more important that the space on the road be used.

            And going at the same speed as the jammed lanes fits more vehicles into that space.

            People obstructing traffic can change a 500-foot backup into a 1000-foot backup and cause even more problems farther back down the road.

            Like people who jump the queue and then force everyone to wait for them to get back in?

            Is it obstruction if everyone in the closing lane goes at the speed of the jam and then zipper-merges at the bottleneck? If all of them got out of Mr VIP’s way then things would be so much more efficient! Or is it only obstruction because of the temporary bubble until the superior steady state is achieved?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That’s, like, your opinion, man.

            Rolling roadblocks are illegal. The DOT wants you to use all lanes. Maybe all traffic professionals are all stupid, but this isn’t “like just my opinion, man.” The professionals really think you are the defector.

            And going at the same speed as the jammed lanes fits more vehicles into that space.

            This is nonsense. You aren’t using the space in front of you. And I know this isn’t just 2 or 3 car-lengths, since you take such pride in blocking traffic and driving slower than the rest of your lane. It must be at least 20 or 30 car-lengths. If you were to drive just moderately faster, that space would be used, and all the cars you are obstructing behind you can move forward, and this can stop the tail end of the traffic jam from intruding onto another intersection or exit.

            Like people who jump the queue and then force everyone to wait for them to get back in?

            There’s no queue jumping if all the lanes are used. There can be queue-jumping, I guess, if some citizen who imagines himself a cop has blocked traffic 20 car lengths back before Mr VIP, though.

            Is it obstruction if

            It’s obstruction if you are purposefully driving to annoy other people and stop them from driving where they want and getting satisfaction out of that. If the car behind you and the car in front of you are moving within 2mph of each other, you aren’t obstructing anything.

            See, you think it’s your job to punish “Mr VIP.” It’s not. No one asked you to obstruct traffic to help enforce societal norms you decided on for yourself and the professional road designers say not to do. The DOT wants all lanes used in a traffic jam, and some rando doing a rolling roadblock is the opposite of using all lanes.

        • rahien.din says:

          Gobbobobble : Wait your damn turn, asshats.

          Randy M : You’re basically signalling that you think you are more important than the schmucks sitting in the queue.

          These are dangerous driving attitudes.

          The road is not a queue. You are not entitled to your position on the road, relative to other drivers. You have not earned your place by “good behavior.” You are simply on the road, trying not to kill yourself or others.

          And at highway speeds, the inconvenience imposed by an extra few cars in front of you is extremely minor. The slowdown imposed by each merge is small. Once in the merged zone, each additional car in front of you costs you a miniscule 3.75 seconds*.

          The only harm these drivers impose is damage to pride. By obstructing their path, all you do is increase the probability of a collision, for your personal satisfaction and a few seconds saved.

          Moreover, if you truly believe these drivers are so dangerous and so nuts… why are you working so hard to frustrate them and keep them in your vicinity? That’s irrational. Let the crazies get out in front of you where you can observe and anticipate their actions.

          * 55 mph, safe following distances

          • Randy M says:

            Well, you got my name in there, so I’ll point out that perhaps your post applies to Gobbobobble but not really to me; I don’t obstruct empty lanes and I don’t get bothered by being passed when traffic is moving. The road can accommodate people choosing the speed they are comfortable with, provided they leave enough space around other vehicles when merging lane.

            What I was objecting to was when traffic is not moving on one portion and people use the shoulder or non-exit lanes in order to gain a few car lengths worth of space over the people waiting for the cars in front of them to move safely.

            However, such behavior isn’t worth endangering my life or even my second-hand vehicle over–but I don’t think it says anything good about the people doing it.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            We’re not talking about driving 55 to block hotrods going 90. We’re talking about parking lot traffic jams where some people decide they deserve to get out of it ahead of everyone else. Where the cars popping out, revving up to 20mph+ greater than the immediately neighboring lane, and barging back in are the ones raising the odds of collision. Also making everyone else’s trip take longer.

            Zipper-merge* > single file > queue-jumping

            * Where lanes have speed parity, such that it’s an actual 1-1-1-1 zip

          • Thegnskald says:

            Driving in the Midwest is great.

            Two-mile long queue of people waiting for an exit. Almost nobody moving in at the last minute.

            Meaning traffic not taking that exit isn’t obstructed. Seriously, I can’t stress how amazing that is, having driven in 47 states and four countries. The Midwest has the best drivers. Except Chicago and Detroit. Holy fuck. Detroit is 90 mph bumper to bumper traffic. It is terrifying. And Chicago drivers have local customs which contradict the signage, which is exactly what a non-local does not need.

            General rule of thumb: Follow local custom. If everybody is queuing up, queue up. If everybody is filling out the lanes, fill out the lanes.

            Don’t be the asshole who thinks “This is the one true way of driving, you idiot locals are doing it wrong.”

    • rahien.din says:

      I don’t think that zipper merge is a stable equilibrium, either.

      For one, it is still exploitable. If I know that a merge is coming up, then I can merge early and claim the right-of-way. If I refuse to yield to the car ahead of me, I’ve bumped them back one spot.

      For two, it requires accurate forecasting and ability to tolerate risk. If I can’t tell exactly when to merge, or, if I don’t want to deal with the consequences of trying to merge too late, then I will merge early. This is especially true if I know that others may exploit the zipper merge (as above) because that decreases the predictability of both lanes and increases the consequences of a failed merge.

      • Thegnskald says:

        What tends to happen when individual cars refuse to yield is that two cars merge behind them. (Or more.)

        It isn’t that exploitable because enough drivers will yield to make things average out.

        • rahien.din says:

          What tends to happen when individual cars refuse to yield is that two cars merge behind them. (Or more.)

          Sure, if there is only one driver that merges early and refuses to yield (MERY, tired of typing that already), the system could accommodate that without too much of a hiccup. But that’s equally true of the wait-in-line system. Neither system is noticeably bad in non-congested traffic situations.

          In congested traffic situations, the proportion of MERY drivers will increase. It would not take a very high proportion to produce the mixed-strategy system we are accustomed to.

          For one, MERY drivers’ refusal to yield is indiscriminate and persistent for the entire length of their traffic merge. The earlier a MERY driver merges, the more cars they are attempting to bump, and therefore the more non-defectors they might affect. Congested situations will motivate MERY behavior among those susceptible.

          For two, non-defectors will merge early. In a zipper merge, non-defectors rely on their expectation of balanced lane density and laminar lane flow to the point of the merge. MERY drivers cause unbalanced, turbulent lane flow, eroding these expectations.

          Even if early-merging non-defectors still permit other drivers to merge ahead of them, we are still left with the following populations :
          A. Pre-merge MERY drivers
          B. Post-merge MERY drivers
          C. Non-defectors in the merging lane
          D. Non-defectors in the destination lane

          As the ratio of C:D decreases (due to the above rational calculations), the destination lane becomes more densely-packed than the merging lane. Moreover, the ratio of A:C will increase, increasing everyone’s expectations that drivers in the merging lane are MERY drivers. This will lead to a sort of ultimatum game writ asphalt, wherein all destination-lane drivers (whether non-defectors out of spite, or, post-merge MERY drivers out of competition) will be motivated to resist others’ attempts to merge. This is exactly isomorphic to the current inefficient mixed-strategy system.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There are few MERY drivers, and they’re not very good at it. They can’t be, because blocking a merge is difficult and merging regardless is easy. While your MERY driver is attempting to block a merge in front of him, he’s opened a larger hole behind him. This can be and is exploited on purpose — the thwarted merger backs off, opening a hole in front of him, shoots forward as if going for the spot in front of the MERY driver, and if the MERY driver reacts fast enough, the merger simply hits the brakes and moves into the space behind the MERY driver. There is no way to get a solid line of cars literally bumper-to-bumper through the merge point, and more than two is very unlikely; it would take co-ordination between the cars.

            In a zipper merge, non-defectors rely on their expectation of balanced lane density and laminar lane flow to the point of the merge. MERY drivers cause unbalanced, turbulent lane flow, eroding these expectations.

            There is no expectation of balanced lane density or laminar lane flow. People merging early tend to cause the closing lane to move faster, which results in zipper mergers choosing it. MERY drivers cause a small delay in both lanes near the merge point, which is quickly closed forward of the merge point; at best they get one car ahead.

            I suspect the mixed strategy we get is due to fear of being blocked out at the merge point. But it doesn’t happen in closing-lane situations. Someone will take pity on the most incompetent merger, and even while he’s stuck, other drivers will be merging around him.

          • rahien.din says:

            I’m not saying MERY drivers are trying to prevent all merges – just merges in front of them.

            If I get MERY’ed, I have to slow down and look for the next opening. This slowing-down effectively narrows my merging window, as I am now slower than the destination lane. It makes me vulnerable if another driver is A. attempting to block me, or B. blithely moving into the vacated space ahead of them.

            There are few MERY drivers, and they’re not very good at it.

            I highly doubt this, particularly under congested driving conditions. But, I have spent a lot of time driving between DC and Richmond on I-95.

            They don’t really have to be good at it, per se, to affect highway dynamics. All they have to do is be visible enough to alter other drivers’ expectations.

            the thwarted merger backs off, opening a hole in front of him, shoots forward as if going for the spot in front of the MERY driver, and if the MERY driver reacts fast enough, the merger simply hits the brakes and moves into the space behind the MERY driver.

            This sounds extremely dangerous, and the kind of thing that reasonable drivers would actively avoid. I wager that reasonable drivers would wisely slow down.

            There is no expectation of balanced lane density or laminar lane flow.

            These are the fundamentally necessary conditions of a zipper merge, as stated in the OP.

            “All lanes should be in roughly equal use” is balanced lane density.

            “When a lane ends, the merge happens at the end of the lane [rather than merges occurring prior to the end of the lane], with cars alternating between lanes A and B” is laminar lane flow.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not saying MERY drivers are trying to prevent all merges – just merges in front of them.

            And in general they can’t do so very successfully, and if they do they open up a larger space behind them meaning the driver behind them can’t prevent a merge. If they block one car in front of them but in doing so they allow one extra car in front of the car behind them, they’ve made no significant difference overall.

            This sounds extremely dangerous, and the kind of thing that reasonable drivers would actively avoid. I wager that reasonable drivers would wisely slow down.

            My experience is mostly on I-270 in Maryland (before they widened it), I-95 north of DC, the Schuylkill Expressway, and in New Jersey. Reasonable drivers are in short supply in all these places.

            These are the fundamentally necessary conditions of a zipper merge, as stated in the OP.

            “All lanes should be in roughly equal use” is balanced lane density.

            This is not a precondition. This is the result.

            “When a lane ends, the merge happens at the end of the lane [rather than merges occurring prior to the end of the lane], with cars alternating between lanes A and B” is laminar lane flow.

            This need only be approximated for the zipper to work. It is. The drivers in the through lane do not (and cannot) co-operate to keep drivers in the merging lane out.

          • rahien.din says:

            MERY drivers can’t prevent other drivers from merging ahead of them very successfully

            We seem to have very different experiences! I observe this very commonly.

            Also, you have described how it may be accomplished : whoever gets their nose ahead wins. This does not suggest that drivers in the destination lane have any clear advantage.

            So, my experiences and your words leave me very skeptical – are you really making this assertion?

            The drivers in the through lane do not (and cannot) co-operate

            Nor do they have to. All that is required is a sufficient number of drivers with a similar attitude.

            Balanced lane density is not a precondition. It is the result.

            From the OP : [Zipper merge] is both a merge type and a driving philosophy. The driving philosophy … is that all lanes should be in roughly equal use: If you see an empty lane, and yours is full, you are supposed to move into it.

            Both in terms of the animating philosophy, and the necessary pre-merge implementation of that philosophy, balanced lane density is indeed a precondition, as stated in the OP.

            You can claim that it is not necessary that all lanes be in roughly equal use, or, that one is not required to move into the emptier lane, but that would be exactly counter to the OP, and would beg some explanation.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It is fascinating to see MERY drivers described as defectors.

            There really is a cultural thing going on here.

            I grew up in a merge-early state; the MERY drivers are, in that cultural context, defecting against defectors. The zipper merge strategy is seen as line-jumping; merging early isn’t to guarantee a spot, it is because you don’t want to jump ahead in line. It is considered part of basic driving etiquette to do so.

            At this point I consider zipper merge the more stable fair system, but in general, follow a policy of adopting the driving customs of wherever I am.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If I refuse to yield to the car ahead of me, I’ve bumped them back one spot.

        This tends to become a game of chicken. Whoever gets their nose ahead wins, unless one of the cars is much bigger and beat up.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I’m nearly convinced that if you had a pair of traffic cops, the first telling people to form two lanes, the second enforcing the zipper merge, that you could rapidly make the zipper merge the stable equilibrium for going from 2 lanes to 1 lane (with no exit lane).

        (And then get rid of the cops and replace them with signs reminding people of the rules, and perhaps even get rid of the signs.)

        You can’t be “cheating” if both lanes are at the same capacity.

    • Paul Crowley says:

      So this applies on eg long straight two-lane highways with slow trucks in the right lane? I’m thinking of eg the 5, where nearly everyone is in the left lane except the slow trucks, and defectors trying to get ahead and slow everyone down. Should we all be joining the defectors, and politely zipper merging behind each truck? Does the speedup from greater road use cancel out the merging slowdown?

      • quaelegit says:

        I assume you’re talking about the state of the 5 in e.g. the Central Valley? (The number of lanes and dynamics between the lanes are pretty difference south of the Grapevine. Not sure what the 5 is like north of the turn-off to go to the Bay Area.)

        I was taught that the strategy to constantly weave back and fourth between lanes to get ahead of other cars is dangerous and rude, and that every merge brings unnecessary risk for near-zero time gain.

        I haven’t tried to empirically check this, but I’m a cautious driver/personality so it never seemed worth investigating.

        • Randy M says:

          I was taught that the strategy to constantly weave back and fourth between lanes to get ahead of other cars is dangerous and rude, and that every merge brings unnecessary risk for near-zero time gain.

          I have heard it said that one should drive on the right lane unless you are passing another vehicle on highways–not city streets or crowded freeways, where it is as you say, but on long stretches of two lane roads.
          Elaboration

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I’ve done this before on I-94 between Milwaukee and Madison. We made up a lot of time.
          Not really my style. My friends in the car are impatient people and wanted to get to Wisconsin Dells ASAP.

          There is a certain bit of satisfaction passing up f’in idiots who will not drive the speed limit, though.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            There is a certain bit of satisfaction passing up f’in idiots who will not drive the speed limit, though.

            It’s also hilarious to have the cruise control on and pass the same vehicle more than once because they get all bent out of shape when it happens the first time – and then slow down to below the limit again.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I was taught that the strategy to constantly weave back and fourth between lanes to get ahead of other cars is dangerous and rude, and that every merge brings unnecessary risk for near-zero time gain.

          The biggest problem with that strategy is it doesn’t work. If there are clusters of slow traffic separated by open spaces, you can generally get through the clusters of traffic with less disruption than that. If the traffic is really heavy, knowing the road helps; certain lanes tend to predictably flow faster at certain points of the road, and by making a few lane changes at the right points you can get ahead (sometimes passing people doing the weaving game).

          • Thegnskald says:

            Clumping is interesting. It is like driving in meteor showers.

            My guess is it starts from people who have loose speed preferences clumping up. (The sort of person who drives 75 mph if nobody is in front of them, but is happy driving 70 mph if the person in front of them is – an easy habit to follow when you don’t have cruise control, as it is easier to match speeds than to maintain speeds over very long distances)

  8. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Anyone check out Robin Hanson’s recent proposal for partially privatizing the justice system? It’s definitely related to some of the Ancappy ideas circulating here lately, but designed to be embedded within a state–the sort of thing one might be interested in if they were, say, worried about the prospects of Ancapistan’s national defense.

    tl;dr is legislatures replace all criminal penalties with cash fines; citizens are required to carry legal liability insurance so these fines are always payable; there’s extreme freedom of contract in the insurance deals, so you can e.g. agree to be imprisoned if you’re convicted of certain crimes; and police are replaced by a system of bounties set for convictions for all crimes.

    Major benefits are a) bounty system creates market forces against giving anyone a pass on crimes, including other bounty hunters; and b) insurance companies are incentivized to work out how to achieve maximal crime-prevention while being as palatable as possible to the preventee.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      If you can’t afford car insurance, you walk, get a ride, or take public transport. What if you can’t afford million-dollar legal coverage?

      • Anonymous says:

        What if you can’t afford million-dollar legal coverage?

        Probably the same as with car insurance if you don’t have it. You get a fine AND you have to pay for any damages yourself, possibly leading to bankruptcy proceedings and wealth liquidation. For repeatedly troublesome offenders, I’d expect the state to exile them on pain of death.

    • rahien.din says:

      Aside from the whole “implicitly legalizes proxy actions” thing :

      legal liability insurance

      Based on my experiences haggling with medical payors on behalf of patients, and with my own experiences with auto insurance, I don’t want a private insurance company determining my interactions with the justice system.

      I will be risk-pooled with other people who may be less scrupulous than I. My premiums will rise if other people in my pool are convicted of crimes. This is true even if I am the victim of the very crime that causes the rise in premiums.

      I also have to pay my premiums whether I am ever convicted of a crime or not. This is to implicitly accept the burdens of conviction, though I am not a criminal. That seems to fly in the face of “innocent until proven guilty.”

      Moreover, it implicitly shifts sentencing from the judiciary to the actuary. Instead of a judge deciding what I deserve based on the facts of the case, an actuary determines what I will pre-pay in order to manage risks and turn a profit. That is no longer a system aimed at justice.

      This is to say nothing of the idiotic and wasteful decisions I have seen insurance companies make, over and over and over.

    • skef says:

      Say you are found to violate a law that a cash fine and your liability insurance pays out. As a result your minimum premium payment at any insurance company goes up to a level you can’t afford, or just refuse to pay. Now what?

      Without car insurance you loses your “privilege” of driving. If you drive anyway and are caught, you’ve broken a law and are shunted into the legal system. If the legal system itself is insurance-based there isn’t that recourse.

      I suppose the recourse could be imprisoning everyone who refuses or can’t afford to pay for liability insurance, for the duration they don’t or can’t pay. (Which, once a person is imprisoned, would be … forever? I suppose there could be “take-a-chance” contracts, but would insurers bother?) Does that really sound better than what we have now?

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        An insurance could give you a steep discount conditional on you agreeing to monitoring, or even agreeing to live on a company compound you can’t leave. This sounds horrible inhumane until you realize it’s exactly what our current system does to people who commit crimes.

        • beleester says:

          Except our current system locks people up after they commit a crime. This system would lock people up because they happen to be poor and fit a demographic that the actuary thinks is likely to commit a crime. It’s like Precrime, except they can’t actually see the future.

          It would be ridiculously easy to take advantage of people who are in financial trouble for any reason – “I’m sorry, but given your current circumstances, the only way we can profitably insure you is if you agree to become a slave in the Insuricorp mines. Don’t like it? Well, you can always go to jail for lack of insurance instead…”

          I can’t see this ending up as anything but a combination of the worst parts of private prisons and company towns.

          EDIT: Also, you didn’t address @skef’s other question: Suppose you do go to jail for lack of insurance. Now you’re in jail, so your ability to afford insurance is even less. Is there any way out of this situation? Is there any reason an insurance company would give you an offer that’s better than “Become a slave in the Insuricorp mines, it’s slightly better than rotting in federal prison for the rest of your life”?

          In short, how is justice served by making bankruptcy have a lifetime sentence?

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Re: precrime, I was talking about how to handle the elevated premiums after a crime. It’s true similar things could happen just for having high risk indicators, but with existing insurances I’m pretty sure there’s no demographic factor as weighty as actual insurance-payout incidents.

            I don’t know what you’re general stance on capitalism is, but if you think it works at all*, think about how it might do that here. Insurance companies can compete with each other to make better deals. You should expect to get approximately the best profitable policy possible for you. So if you can be profitably insured on a condition like “release, but Insuricorp agents check your home for guns and drugs once a month”, that deal will be available to you. Sustained good behavior while on a deal like this would naturally lower your premiums.

            “Company town”-type complexes would exist, but there’d be many of them, all with online reviews, and you could switch between them at will. Deceptive recruiting and lock-in carry basically all the dystopic load of the classic company town scam.

            Also I tried to keep my tl;dr short but there would probably be a subsidy or voucher for low income people to buy insurance, to solve the bootstrapping problem.

            * if you don’t, obviously this idea isn’t for you

      • Without car insurance you loses your “privilege” of driving. If you drive anyway and are caught, you’ve broken a law and are shunted into the legal system. If the legal system itself is insurance-based there isn’t that recourse.

        In ancient systems, the equivalent of losing your insurance was becoming an outlaw, ie fair game for anyone who wants to extract revenge.

    • tomogorman says:

      In addition to the concerns raised above as to what to with people who can’t pay I think it pushes us to a bad equilibrium where we seek over crime prosecution against such people.
      To clarify, as I understand it Hanson’s solution for people who can’t afford to pay is some sort of subsidy/and or price discount by which the person taking it agrees to be subject to non-cash punishments (things like imprisonment, surveillance, various other restrictions – not too different from what we have now). It seems like the poor would already be at risk for higher premiums given that the motivation behind many property crimes is poverty. Further, the poor would likely be at higher risk for investigation/prosecution – given that rich people would have greater resources to frustrate investigation/prosecution efforts. And then the bounty hunters would be less able to collect. This then creates incentives for elites within the system to set fines for offenses the poor are more likely to commit/be investigated for – with little concern in the knowledge that elites won’t commit these types of crimes, won’t be bothered with investigation or prosecution if they do, and can easily afford the fines even if these other two barriers fail. Meanwhile the non-elites in society are subjected to stricter restrictions/punishment than in our society.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Imagine living in a society where criminal justice is biased in favor of the rich and powerful. What a horrifying dystopia!

        Seriously, our current system has a very similar set of problems. It’s not clear why Hanson’s system would make them worse.

        • James C says:

          Well, it might be nice if the new proposal solved any of the existing problems rather than just baking them all back in again.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I read his proposal and it seems overly complicated and silly compared to historical alternatives.

      Germanic law handled this very neatly. A victim of any crime and their relatives are entitled to a weregeld if they can prove the accused’s guilt to a reasonable standard of evidence. If the accused doesn’t show up for trial or is found guilty but doesn’t pay the weregeld he’s declared an outlaw and loses the protection of the law.

      If you want to hire a private investigator and/or lawyer by promising them a chunk of your weregeld, or want to buy insurance to protect you if you’re found guilty and need to pay weregeld, those services would likely still be available in a modern version of that legal system. But the core of the legal system doesn’t require them the way Hanson’s does.

      David Friedman has looked at a lot of these historical codes already in his book unless I’m mistaken.

    • Deiseach says:

      there’s extreme freedom of contract in the insurance deals, so you can e.g. agree to be imprisoned if you’re convicted of certain crimes

      And what prevents a very rich person from saying “No, I’ll pay the extra premiums for the non-imprisonment clauses, but I want the rape/murder/paedophilia platinum extra triple diamond plan, please”? Are you going to replace all criminal penalties, or only the lesser ones?

      insurance companies are incentivized to work out how to achieve maximal crime-prevention while being as palatable as possible to the preventee

      What counts as “acts of God” under these insurance plans? “Sorry, Fred, a penny-ante shoplifting charge? You have to pay those costs out of pocket. Yeah, yeah: you didn’t do it, of course you’re innocent, but you can either pay the store the $10,000 fixed charge yourself or do the two years in prison, but your plan doesn’t cover that. You should have considered taking out the Level B option instead of going for the dirt-cheap basic plan”.

      This sounds like a means of bringing back debtors’ prisons by the back door.

    • bounty system creates market forces against giving anyone a pass on crimes,

      Bounty system creates market forces in favour of false accusations.

    • ou can e.g. agree to be imprisoned if you’re convicted of certain crimes;

      Prison as we understand it isn’t a natural outcome of a free market system, since they cost money, as opposed to fines. The natural outcomes would be slavery, work camps, organ harvesting, and other profit-making enterprises.

  9. Odovacer says:

    Amazon narrowed its search for 2nd HQ to 20 Cities:

    Atlanta
    Austin, Texas
    Boston
    Chicago
    Columbus, Ohio
    Dallas
    Denver
    Indianapolis
    Los Angeles
    Miami
    Montgomery County, Md.
    Nashville, Tenn.
    Newark, N.J.
    New York City
    Northern Virginia
    Philadelphia
    Pittsburgh
    Raleigh, N.C.
    Toronto
    Washington, D.C.

    Any bets on where it will end up?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Still holding out for Atlanta.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Hoping so too, since I don’t want to be anywhere near it and I’m sure I don’t want to live in Atlanta as it is.

      • Lillian says:

        Atlanta was the first city that popped in my head when i heard about the Amazon HQ2 thing. It just seems like the perfect intersection between hitting Amazon’s requirements and needing the economic boost. Also it just seems fair that the South should get it, so i’m also rooting for Nashville.

    • j1000000 says:

      I really do not want it where I live or I will be permanently priced out of real estate here.

      Gentrifying is wonderful until you get outgentrified.

    • Brad says:

      The fact that there are three choices in the greater DC area makes me think that’s a strong contender. I’d also short list Denver and Atlanta.

    • Well... says:

      What?! No Detroit??

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’d be surprised if they picked the city. NYC real estate is expensive enough that their $5 billion might only be enough to buy 80 acres or so.

      That money would go a lot further elsewhere.

      • Brad says:

        They are rather desperate for tenants in the redeveloped WTC area. Plus, all 8 million square feet don’t have to all be in Manhattan. There’s the Willets Point redevelopment. Currently it is a little light on commercial space, but with a big anchor tenant that could change.

        That said, I agree NYC is a big long shot. BdB is opposed to giving really big incentives. Plus Cuomo prefers to waste billions futilely trying to revive the upstate economy to playing to NYS’s strength (i.e. NYC).

        Newark is an intriguing alternative. They have a very decent international airport right there; access to fancy suburbs for families as well as Hoboken, Jersey City, and Manhattan for singles/DINKs; and they have the desperation that could lead to very big incentives.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Maybe this is just my anti-New Jersey bias speaking but I can’t understand why anyone would choose to live and work in Newark. It’s not as bad as it used to be but apparently the murder rate is still nine-fold higher than it is in the city with none of the upsides.

          If they’re that desperate to be close to the city, nowhere in New Jersey is very far away. Just buy the old HQ of some pharmaceutical or chemical company that’s leaving the state, refurbish it, and run a bus line out to the nearest NJT stop.

          • Brad says:

            I worked in Newark for a little bit close to ten years ago. It was indeed not very nice. But I’ve heard it is getting better and tens of thousands of amazon employees would change that even more so.

            There’s no reason anyone has to live there. At least until and unless it gets much better still. The mass transit options are lot better than some random bus to the nearest train station in some part of NNJ.

            Very few of your employees are going to live in Manhattan if you are headquartered in Bridgewater or New Brunswick and they’d have to: get to Penn, take the NJT to the relevant station, then take a bus to the corporate campus. No, in that case you’d have to sell all your employees on suburban Northern Jersey and a car.

            On the other hand if you are in Newark, Hoboken and JC are no brainers (PATH) and Manhattan doable (PATH stops + Penn Station). Even Williamsburg isn’t totally insane, at least as long as the L continues to run (L to PATH at 6th ave).

            Sure, Manhattan would be even better but Newark is offering $7B and is going to have a lot cheaper office space.

            Like I said above, I think greater DC, Denver, and Atlanta are the favorites but Newark does have a certain logic to it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Newark’s a Real City (very in fashion, though to be fair Amazon is the tech company least likely to care), and has a Dinosaur BBQ. Everyone talks about the Dinosaur BBQ, so I assume it’s the best non-Portuguese restaurant in Newark. Possibly the only safe non-Portuguese restaurant in Newark.

            More seriously, logistically Newark makes the most sense if you want to be near NYC but in NJ; it’s easily reachable from Manhattan, several sets of posh suburbs, and the more-affordable Central Jersey suburbs. It’s not easily reachable from the Long Island or Westchester suburbs however. Second would probably be Summit or the Gladstone Line suburbs (where Bell Labs once reigned), but this cuts down some access and it’s not a Real City.

            Amazon also already has a presence in Newark in the form of Audible.

            Personally I’d love to work in Newark (as opposed to Manhattan), because I live in NJ and don’t want to live in a Real City. I always suggest a Newark office (class A real estate at less than half the price!) when the issue comes up, but for some reason no one who matters is interested. So it’s Midtown for my sins.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Brad,

            Fair enough. Honestly I don’t have a good mental model of Amazon employees so I had thought that “suburb and a car, but within spitting distance of NYC” would be a selling point.

            @Nybbler,

            Everyone talks about the Dinosaur BBQ, so I assume it’s the best non-Portuguese restaurant in Newark.

            I mean it’s good but it’s hardly unique to Newark. Even Buffalo has one, it’s a pretty widespread chain.

    • johan_larson says:

      This list isn’t really telling us much. It’s a list of the major metropolitan centres of the US (plus Toronto). There just isn’t a lot of information here.

      I’m betting they will choose one of three places: Boston (brains), Atlanta (cheap), or Denver (quality of life).

    • Jesse Huebsch says:

      While I generally agree with DC area 1 and probably NYC area 2, I think Toronto is the wild card.
      It has the largest ‘uniqueness’ in all the pairwise comparisons. In particular, I think it is on the list as the hedge against negative trends in the ‘access to talent’ category.
      For example, if the US reduces or eliminates H1B visas, reduces legal immigration, or withdraws from NAFTA (and it’s visas) there could be a significant tightening of availability of talent across the US in general. (Amazon already has ~3k H1B’s for example) if some or all of these type of things happen, and it is judged to be a trend as opposed to a blip, then Toronto would be the only site unaffected.
      It is also (along with NYC and DC area in particular) one of the few that could absorb something the size of HQ2 without being overwhelmed.
      Long term access to staff is far more important than tax breaks, but if they can get both they will take it.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, Toronto definitely wins as the “virtue signal maximization” candidate.

        If this were any other big tech company I’d consider it a shoe-in, but Amazon has largely been resistant to a lot of that BS. I think Austin is an interesting compromise. Access to the favorable economic conditions of Texas in general, but Austin itself is basically a hippie-commune and wannabe Portland, such that you’ll still be able to attract plenty of hipster millennial talent.

        • shakeddown says:

          It’s not virtue signalling, it’s practical concerns. Tech companies mostly employ immigrants because there aren’t enough americans who can do SWE well, and having a major centre somewhere that’s easier is a huge plus.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not saying virtue signaling is the only reason to go to Toronto. I’m saying that if you did want to virtue signal, going somewhere technically outside the US, but as similar to the US as is possible, is the best option by far.

          • Brad says:

            When you are not just holding a hammer, but your entire identity is bound up in being a hammer holder, everything sure does look like a nail.

        • Chalid says:

          I don’t get this. What virtue is being signaled?

  10. Conrad Honcho says:

    This is a CW thread, right?

    How does SSC feel about the exposure of Aziz Ansari? Does the push back against the exposure of Ansari’s personal life mean #MeToo is on the way out?

    Or was his exposure necessary, as his behavior was truly beyond the pale? If so, what can stop interactions likes this, besides a return to Victorian sexual ethics (and perhaps mandatory wine pairing education in schools)?

    * Edited to remove snark. I thought the snark was funny, but I would rather hear what people think about the discussion of acceptable sexual mores rather than respond to my attempts at humor.

    • Nornagest says:

      You might want to cut back a bit on the snark.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Jessica Valenti is a sure-fire source for stupid feminism quotes,

      but the whole freakout to the mismatch the goals of Aziz and the unnamed woman sure does look like peak #MeToo.

    • The Nybbler says:

      probably convicted rapist and suspected mass murderer

      Yow, that’s a little too snarky even for me.

      I doubt #MeToo is on its way out just yet; the usual response to pushback is to double down, and I think there’s a few more iterations of that left.

      I don’t think there’s any need for Victorian sexual ethics. We do need some modifications to the “No means No” idea, fleshing out some apparent ambiguities. For instance, giving oral sex unenthusiastically does _not_ mean “no”.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Another vote for less snark.

      The biggest shot against Ansari is, if you’re going to make “male feminist” your shtick, you should be extra scrupulous with stuff like affirmative consent – it appears that, if her account is even remotely accurate, he just went with the “push and withdraw on a ‘no'” approach. But if the worst thing you can say about him is he was ungentlemanly I don’t know how that is even in the same league, let alone ballpark, as sexual harassment or assault. It’s really bizarre to see “my first-date hookup was less respectful and nice that I would have wanted” get treated as it’s some kind of social problem, although it’s not new – there’s various thinkpieces on the theme of “the guys I have casual sex with always turn out to be jerks and it’s society’s fault” and there was that cat person short story.

      One thing I’ve seen that’s interesting is that, both in the responses getting written, and in personal conversations I’ve had, it’s middle-aged women who seem to be backlashing the most here. I think it’s a combination of them thinking “back in my day, we knew how to keep the menfolk from getting fresh; how dumb is she” and “we fought to be regarded as having agency; why can’t she see that she did have agency in this situation?”

      EDIT: My personal preference would be for everyone adopting a positive consent norm. That’s my personal policy, and I think it would save a lot of trouble (of varying magnitudes). But the attitude of the anonymous woman is so entitled – she wants to live in the world of 2017 and 1957 at the same time, as far as I can tell.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s really bizarre to see “my first-date hookup was less respectful and nice that I would have wanted” get treated as it’s some kind of social problem

        I mean, it is a problem, but it’s one it’s up to her (and other women in her position) to solve. If a guy is going to be a pushy and self-absorbed asshole on a date, push back. Say, for example, “No, I don’t want to leave, I’d like to finish my wine”. If this doesn’t work, end it. End result: pushy and self-absorbed assholes get less sex, and are therefore incentivized to act less pushy and self-absorbed.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It’s the framing of it as a problem where no fault can be found with the person complaining – the abdication of agency and the responsibility that comes with it. It’s the distaff equivalent of a guy who is pushy, treats women like crap, and gets upset when he catches a reputation as a guy who is sexually pushy, because “they never said no!” I’ve known guys like that, and they’re shitty people; the distaff equivalent isn’t better.

          • Well... says:

            I’m inclined to share that view, but I’m trying to see if I can think the other way.

            Is it possible that in most situations involving a guy and a girl, and especially in situations where the guy is a rich and famous celebrity, there is a power imbalance (either real and physical because of bodily size and strength and testosterone, or perceived and felt because of status) and this power imbalance effectively does mean that the woman has no — or at least much less — agency?

            I was surprised to read that this woman made out with Ansari, went down on him, let him jam his fingers in her mouth over and over again [As an aside: Eww. Do a lot of guys really like having their hands in someone’s mouth?], etc. on the first date, but it was especially shocking to read stuff like:

            “By this time, I was really turned off and felt disgusted, ready to leave, etc. I sat on the floor so he wouldn’t get any ideas. Then he asked me to go down on him, so I did.”

            There are only a few explanations for that, in my opinion:

            1. This girl is a liar and a slut. I don’t favor that explanation.

            2. Because of the culture this girl grew up in, she felt that going down on a guy is about as casual an interaction as watching TV, and so it was a way to cool off and end the evening on a less unpleasant note. I don’t really buy this, unless things among Da Yoof have changed DRASTICALLY in the 12 years since I was single.

            3. This girl had basically no agency in this situation for some complicated socioanthropological reason.

            I have to say, #3 seems most likely, although #1 and 2 are possible.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Setting aside how the woman’s conduct might have been better, can we agree that Ansari’s behavior, if as described, is really unethical? Considering the evidence available to him, it’s pretty clear his advances were unwanted, and there were several breaks he could have taken as chances to think about it. The only belief that would make his behavior make any sense is “if she really didn’t want this, she’d give a hard no”. If Rip Van Winkle woke up from 1957 and thought this, I could understand that, but Ansari is immersed in modern progressive culture.

        Also not sure what part of 1957 you think the anonymous woman wants.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I definitely agree; that’s a big part of why my reaction was, in part, that Ansari is shitty not just for being shitty in this regard, but for being hypocritical – if you’re gonna talk up being a Male Feminist, you should probably ask before you make out with people, etc.

          With regard to 1957, the norm back then was one where respectable men didn’t behave like this, because respectable people didn’t go back to each other’s apartments on the first date. A good way to avoid a situation like this – for both women and men – would be to wait until you know someone before you decide whether or not you are going to try to have sex with them. She thought he was rushing through the meal so as to get back to his apartment, presumably for the obvious reason – that would have been a clue that, hey, maybe this is a guy who is going to be pushy and rush things.

          EDIT: There’s a telling line in the NYT opinion piece about it that ran a couple days ago:

          The single most distressing thing to me about this story is that the only person with any agency in the story seems to be Aziz Ansari. The woman is merely acted upon.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The single most distressing thing to me about this story is that the only person with any agency in the story seems to be Aziz Ansari. The woman is merely acted upon.

            A lot of people think sex is “something a man does to a woman.” There were attempts to give women agency, but eh whatever what’s on TV?

            Ansari just wanted one thing: sex. We used to call people who just wanted sex “sluts” but we can’t do that any more.

            Ansari wasn’t Weinstein. He wasn’t holding some kind of power over this woman besides the fact that she really wanted to date him. But there was just as much duty on Ansari to provide her with a meaningful relationship as there was on Grace to provide him with sex.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “We used to call people who just wanted sex “sluts” but we can’t do that any more.”

            No, we used to call *women* who just wanted sex “sluts”. Part of the situation– and still part of the situation from what I’ve heard– is that a lot of men are put off by women who are overt about wanting sex with them.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Maybe Aziz Ansari is just an idiot and cannot read signals very well. Does he get a charitable read, or do we just throw him under the bus because:
          A. He is famous
          B. He has a Y chromosome

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            If you can’t read signals, you don’t just push and hope for the best. That’s like driving while blind and making the excuse that “I couldn’t see the pedestrian.”

            Look, I do have sympathy for guys who can’t read signals well. I consider myself one, though not nearly so bad at it as to miss all the signs Ansari got. But before you decide to just be aggressive and hope for the best, try estimating the likely outcomes of that policy. Consult some of the ample writing on how the demographic you’re likely to date–young, liberal women–experiences that kind of treatment. And it becomes pretty clear that either a) modern feminism is a nest of lies or b) you’re gonna seriously hurt people doing that. I don’t think you’re a monster for considering a), but you’d have to be damn sure of it to not be checked by b).

            The alternative is to just be explicit about consent, and maybe let a few get away.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t see how this is helpful to people who can’t read social cues well. It means they are stuck doing nothing. The best option is for people who feel victimized to speak up and assert their boundaries.

            Somehow this is common sense when we are talking about established relationships, but for one night stands it goes out the window because young, liberal women are delicate flowers.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            The alternative is not “do nothing”, it’s “be explicit about consent”. Is there a chance your awkward explicit request will kill the mood? Sure. But that’s not the same as making sex impossible.

          • quanta413 says:

            His behavior sounded shitty and from the woman’s account he didn’t get explicit consent at first, but on the other hand if you ask someone to blow you and then they do that part at least seems like explicit consent.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @ADifferentAnonymous

            As I note elsewhere in this comment thread, affirmative consent is actually great for people who are bad at reading signals.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            This is pretty reasonably explicit:

            He sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him.

            Like, it’s not the way that I would handle it for a first sexual encounter, but that’s a clear invitation.

            And I did

            That’s a “yes.”

            This is unreasonable:

            Ansari also physically pulled her hand towards his penis multiple times throughout the night, from the time he first kissed her on the countertop onward. “He probably moved my hand to his dick five to seven times,” she said. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away.”

            I still think people are taking an uncharitable view of Aziz. The dude, for whatever reason, has no idea what he is doing. Putting him in a similar category to a creep like Weinstein, or anywhere close where he might possibly confused for Weinstein, is wayyyyyyy too far.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Beta Guy:
            Assuming that the interaction is accurately described, he knew what he was doing. He was pushing at her boundaries, because sometimes that “works”.

            Dude is a celebrity. Lots of the times when he goes on dates with girls they happily have sex with him. This gives him an expectation that he will get sex when he goes on a date.

            But that is a general expectation that he is then applying incorrectly to an individual. It’s the “well you should have expected I wanted sex so I don’t need to actually have enthusiastic consent from someone who I am dating for the first time” defense.

            Now, the other side of the coin is that a clear “I am not interested in this. Stop it.” would have likely stopped the behavior, but only if she stopped any kind of intimate contact at all. She wanted to snuggle on the couch or the like and not do anything else, but she wasn’t going to get that. Eventually she left, which was the only way to end the behavior.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            Which leads to a certain question: Was she willingly making a trade there?

            She wanted to cuddle on the couch. He didn’t, apparently.

            In a certain respect, she traded undesired advances for cuddling. He traded cuddling for an opportunity to make advances, to get what he actually wanted.

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:

            She said she was uncomfortable and wanted to take it slow. He agreed and said, “Let’s just chill over here on the couch.” That looks a lot like an agreement to just cuddle. When they got over to the couch and sat down, he motioned for him to go down on him.

            It is not a voluntary trade if he misrepresents his side of the bargain.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Which she agreed to.

            From the perspective of a Martian unfamiliar with human customs, it looks like this:

            He wants X, and isn’t interested in Y, but doesn’t want to outright say he isn’t interested in Y.

            She wants Y, and isn’t interested in X, but doesn’t want to outright say she isn’t interested in X.

            They both ended up with an inferior version of what they wanted through implicit bargaining.

            Which is to say, if you take the special significance of sex out of the equation, there is a lot of similarity between their behaviors.

          • Iain says:

            According to her account, giving in and giving him head was a panicked reaction to the bait-and-switch:

            He sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him. And I did. I think I just felt really pressured. It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment because I told him I was uncomfortable.

            Analyzing this from a Martian perspective that does not understand human psychology seems remarkably useless. From a human perspective:
            Her: “I am uncomfortable going beyond X. Can I trust you not to go beyond X?”
            Him: “Yes.”
            Her: “Okay, good.” *relaxes*
            Him: “Hahaha, just kidding! Time for Y!”
            Her: “Wait, what? I thought I could trust him!”

            The idea of feeling unsafe has come up more than once in this conversation. If you are looking for a way to make people feel unsafe, suddenly yanking the carpet of trust out from under their feet seems pretty effective.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            That looks a lot like an agreement to just cuddle

            In what world can we expect a man who takes a girl home on a first date just wants to cuddle?

            “Taking it slow” in his eyes probably meant something like “let’s make out for a little while, and then we will go back to oral sex.”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “Taking it slow” in his eyes probably meant something like “let’s make out for a little while, and then we will go back to oral sex.”

            Or simply “oral sex”, as opposed to penetrative.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I have zero respect for the “unsafe” argument.

            Because it isn’t an argument, it is an appeal to emotion, and one which infantlizes women.

            If you aren’t functional enough to respond appropriately to a situation that makes you feel unsafe, you aren’t functional enough to be an independent human being. You didn’t finish growing up, you are a child masquerading as an adult, jumping at shadows in the night.

            Christ, this isn’t gender equality, this is padding the walls of the world since women escaped the padded walls of their rooms.

          • Brad says:

            One problem with that statement is the word ‘unsafe’ has been deliberately and consciously stripped of its original meaning which was replaced with a definition so vague and insubstantial as to render the word meaningless. So unfortunately when someone under the age of 35 says “I felt unsafe” I have no idea what s/he means by that.

            Are we talking about the fear of being kidnapped, beaten, raped, and/or killed?

          • Iain says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy:

            In what world can we expect a man who takes a girl home on a first date just wants to cuddle?

            …the world in which the girl says “Hey, I just want to cuddle right now. Is that okay?” and the man makes the appropriate sympathetic noises and says “Yeah, let’s just chill on the couch”? Is this a trick question?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            She didn’t explicitly ask to be cuddled. That was an assumption on her part.

            Guys do not ask girls home on the first date to cuddle. This is…pretty silly for a 22 year old girl to assume.

          • Iain says:

            Okay, let’s just establish the context here.

            They’d already had oral sex at this point. He’d been pressuring her to go farther. She’d been deflecting. She escaped to the bathroom for five minutes. When she returned, she told him “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you”. She said she wanted to take it slow. He agreed, and suggested that they “just chill on the couch”.

            When they reached the couch, he told her to turn around, pointed at his penis, and motioned for her to go down on him.

            Do you seriously not see any misrepresentation there? You don’t see any way that she could have interpreted his statements as an agreement to chill out for a while?

          • gbdub says:

            @HBC

            Assuming that the interaction is accurately described,

            That’s kind of a kicker though, that’s not getting a lot of intention. And I don’t mean that we ought to call her a liar or anything. Merely:
            1) All we have is her account, which, like all personal accounts, will tend to portray her at least as sympathetically as the facts allow
            2) We have access to her internal monologue, but not Ansari’s. Therefore, we know what she meant, but that doesn’t mean he (or another reasonable person) would. After all, her “nonverbal cues” cannot be examined – she presents them based on her intent, but we have no way of knowing how obvious that intent would be to a viewer in the moment.

            Part of the problem is that yes, Ansari was pushy – but she also acquiesced, or at least escalated what she was willing to do, almost every time he asked. “Well, I won’t do that, but I will do this”. “Will you do that now?” “Well, I still won’t do that, but now I will do this++” and so on. That’s a cue too, and not one that says “I’m hating every part of this, this is the worst night of my life!”

        • cassander says:

          I disagree strongly. If advances are unwanted, it’s incumbent on the person receiving them to, you know, say something, not to consent to oral sex while hoping he picks up on your non-verbal cues.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But she did say something repeatedly. He stopped the behavior, and then started it again after a while.

            That is not at all atypical behavior.

      • Reasoner says:

        One thing I’ve seen that’s interesting is that, both in the responses getting written, and in personal conversations I’ve had, it’s middle-aged women who seem to be backlashing the most here. I think it’s a combination of them thinking “back in my day, we knew how to keep the menfolk from getting fresh; how dumb is she” and “we fought to be regarded as having agency; why can’t she see that she did have agency in this situation?”

        Another possible explanation: As women age, they become less physically attractive, but their libido stays the same. So they begin to appreciate male aggressiveness more, and they push back against social trends shaming men for being too aggressive. I think maybe Jessica Valenti (of all people) wrote an article about how she started to miss catcalls after aging to a certain point?

        Also, anxiety is on the rise among young people isn’t it?

    • Rob K says:

      1. What Ansari did wasn’t criminal. He shouldn’t be punished for it legally or profesionally.
      2. What Ansari did falls below the standard of ethics that we should hold ourselves to in interpersonal relations, and sexual relations in particular, which is to try to be an actively positive presence in the lives of people we encounter. Be nice to people! Don’t pressure people into sex they’re likely to regret because you want it right now! This is what I wish people would take away from this.

      • rlms says:

        or professionally

        I don’t think that’s necessarily obvious. Legal things certainly shouldn’t be punished legally, but I don’t see why there’s a fundamental difference between professional punishment and e.g. social disapproval.

        • Randy M says:

          Why would it be not okay for something to be illegal (and result in, say, a $500 fine) but okay for it to be used against them professionally (and result in, say, loss of promotion or firing, resulting in $1000’s of dollars lost per year)?

          In the same thread, we have suggestions about how to deal with the chronically unemployable; perhaps we should add to their numbers those who take social cues poorly–or are real jerks, even–in their personal lives, despite passable work performance?

          • rlms says:

            Firstly, trials are expensive; there are some things that might be worth punishing professionally but not legally (I don’t think this applies in this case). Secondly, professional punishment is a social sanction kind of punishment, which fits some “crimes” better than things the legal system can dish out. Thirdly, professional punishment can be a side effect of people freely choosing who to work with rather than an end in itself (this is the most compelling reason in this case). I also think that monetary losses from loss of promotion/firing can’t really be compared to fines. It is usually OK for people to be fired for reasons beyond their control (e.g. company finances); that usually gets the response “sucks to be you, but that’s just the way of the world”. On the other hand, if the government arbitrarily fines you even though you’ve done nothing wrong, that’s definitely unjust.

          • Randy M says:

            Firstly, trials are expensive

            Why are trials expensive? Because people want to avoid the punishment. Your solution is to employ (pardon the pun) worse punishments in ways people cannot contest.

            Secondly, professional punishment is a social sanction kind of punishment, which fits some “crimes” better than things the legal system can dish out.

            You need to expand this for it to be persuasive. It fits these crimes better why, because it doesn’t require burden of proof? Because it doesn’t bother to try to work around the bias of the judge? Because the punishment is lesser (which is often isn’t). Or more likely, because there isn’t really social consensus that the behavior merits the punishment meted out, but is actually functioning to shape the social consensus?

            Thirdly, professional punishment can be a side effect of people freely choosing who to work with rather than an end in itself

            Sure, that’s pretty okay, so long as there is a general social norm against prying too closely into people’s private non-work lives.

            It is usually OK for people to be fired for reasons beyond their control (e.g. company finances)

            What’s the polite form of lol around here? I’m pretty commonly fined for reasons beyond my control (eg, the US government/CA state government finances).

            On the other hand, if the government arbitrarily fines you even though you’ve done nothing wrong, that’s definitely unjust.

            And if you are arbitrarily fired, you often have a case in court, don’t you? (Or at least, an employment contract that would give you one is pretty desired)

          • rlms says:

            Because people want to avoid the punishment. Your solution is to employ (pardon the pun) worse punishments in ways people cannot contest.

            I don’t think that’s the only reason. Legal judges demand pretty high salaries; those in the court of public opinion work for free.

            You need to expand this for it to be persuasive.

            Just in some metaphysical sense. Imagine I randomly assault someone. In one world, I end up experiencing a similar amount of violence in return (due to coincidence, rather than as a deliberate punishment). In another world, I end up losing an amount of money that makes me as unhappy as the violence in the first world. I think the first world is in someway more just, that “punishment” is more appropriate. Likewise, although corporal punishment might have the same effect on utility as e.g. a certain length of prison time, many people consider it unjust/inappropriate. I think the same thing applies here. In an ideal world with a magical free perfect legal system, maybe I would want Ansari to be punished with a small fine. But I’d prefer him to receive the same amount of disutility in the form of social sanction.

            What’s the polite form of lol around here? I’m pretty commonly fined for reasons beyond my control (eg, the US government/CA state government finances).

            I think predicability is the difference there. If a government suddenly raised taxes for no reason but “we need more money” by an amount comparable with the loss from firing, I don’t think people would be happy.

            And if you are arbitrarily fired, you often have a case in court, don’t you?

            My impression of the US was no (at-will employment and all that). I might be wrong though.

          • Baeraad says:

            In the same thread, we have suggestions about how to deal with the chronically unemployable; perhaps we should add to their numbers those who take social cues poorly–or are real jerks, even–in their personal lives, despite passable work performance?

            I agree, and it’s something that bothers me about the modern practice of putting personality on the level of (maybe even above) actual credentials. Having a shitty personality should not bar someone from earning a living.

            On the other hand, I kind of wish that this topic would come up more often in regards to regular cubicle-dwelling schmoes, instead of always seeming to be about people in glamourous (and usually, though not always, high-paying) jobs. Because while I might grudgingly concede that that having a shitty personality also shouldn’t bar someone from having a dream job that a thousand other people would kill for, I’m a lot less enthusiastic about playing knight in shining armour for people who are already a lot better off than me.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think that’s the only reason. Legal judges demand pretty high salaries; those in the court of public opinion work for free.

            Why do they demand high salaries? Both because the ability to hand out punishment makes them high status, and demands more careful scrutiny of personal bias. We pay them a lo so that they aren’t corrupted into punishing people capriciously.

            Likewise, although corporal punishment might have the same effect on utility as e.g. a certain length of prison time, many people consider it unjust/inappropriate.

            I don’t see the likewise. It is clear why the punishment fits the crime in the first instance (pain is answered with pain). It is not clear why corporal punishment does not fit the crime in the second instance. Is this just an argument by reference to people’s intuitions? In any case, I disagree with them; not having corporal punishment may be preferable for reasons of PR or not corrupting those inflicting it, or being more humane, or better deterrence , but in terms of desert I don’t see it as inferior, depending on the nature of the crime.

            In an ideal world with a magical free perfect legal system, maybe I would want Ansari to be punished with a small fine. But I’d prefer him to receive the same amount of disutility in the form of social sanction.

            Alright, then, you don’t really disagree with my diabolical lawyering. Come the utopia, we’ll be able to set up the Department of Interpersonal Interactions and issue licenses, fines, etc.

            If a government suddenly raised taxes for no reason but “we need more money” by an amount comparable with the loss from firing, I don’t think people would be happy.

            People laid off are seldom happy about that. For pretty much the same reason.

            Having established the basic equivalence of having money removed, let me lay out one problem with the social control via recourse to employers method: the lack of granularity. A traffic ticket can set you back a couple hundred bucks, and likely has a commensurate effect on behavior. Subsequent offenses can have the fines increased until an effect on the behavior is seen. If social pressure is levied on an offenders employer, the employer can either ignore it, or fire the employee, with whatever subsequent career setbacks that entails. This seems likely to lead to many unjust/inappropriate situations.

            edit: But maybe I’m dragging things off course, since we’re talking about the effects of public opinion on a celebrity’s career, and I’ve said that I don’t have a problem with voluntarily disassociating oneself for whatever reason. For whatever portion of the above is going down rabbit holes unrelated to the object issue here, forgive me.

        • Rob K says:

          In my eye, professional consequences for non-work behavior are more serious than (most) social sanction, and should be reserved for more egregious cases.

          Ansari as portrayed in the story wasn’t acting great, in a non-work setting. I don’t think it rose to the level that I would see people being professionally sanctioned for in my ideal society.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Normatively, I side with Valenti here. AIUI it the liberal feminist proposed solution is to disseminate a cultural norm that this behavior is not acceptable. My model of this works as follows: Prevailing Morality is a thing in a culture that exists and has causal power. Prevailing Morality has a direct motivating effect on most people, but also indirect effects. People feel justified and safe complaining about things that happen to them that they don’t like that violate Prevailing Morality. People who privately would like to violate Prevailing Morality, generally don’t want to be known to have violated it, and they know that if someone doesn’t like their violation they’ll be likely to tell others about it.

      So if we can get it into Prevailing Morality that sexual escalation requires some due diligence that it’s wanted, then Ansarian behavior should be greatly reduced.

      • dndnrsn says:

        On the one hand, I agree with this. “Sexual escalation requires due diligence” would be a good social norm; it’s how I prefer to do things, and it’s better on various levels than the

        “bro you can’t ask you gotta just keep pushing”

        norm.

        On the other hand, this article, and the background noise around it, goes a lot beyond “guy was a jerk, should not have been a jerk, people should not be jerks like this.” It’s that the woman feels sufficiently wronged that she went to a quasi-journalist, and that she felt she was wronged in the same way as a woman who was sexually assaulted. She seems to want the good bits of agency and sexual liberation without the bad.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          So this kind of behavior can’t be really be pinned down in a legal definition. It’s quite unlike sexual assault or workplace harassment in that very important way.

          (and I didn’t see any calls for criminalization of anything in the babe.net piece, contrary to what Bari Weiss’s NYT response would imply)

          But this consideration doesn’t apply to our ethical appraisal of the situation. And like… the end result is still that the woman in question endured some major sexual contact she really didn’t want? Is your argument that the (alleged) relative ease with which she could have actually ended things is evidence that she was less opposed to the contact?

          I’ll admit that calling it “a sexual assault” rather than “a really bad thing that isn’t sexual assault but nonetheless deserves to be treated with gravity rather than laughed off as we would do if we just called it ‘bad sex'” is an instance of an annoying SJ word game, but I’ll defend

          • The Nybbler says:

            But this consideration doesn’t apply to our ethical appraisal of the situation.

            I don’t see how we can distinguish “unethical” (recognized and correctly interpreted signals, ignored them) from “clueless” (failed to recognize or misinterpreted signals) based on the story.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Is your argument that the (alleged) relative ease with which she could have actually ended things is evidence that she was less opposed to the contact?

            It’s some evidence that the current zeitgeist – at the margin – influences women to have less agency.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Based on intuitive evaluation of the account. The signals sound pretty clear to me.

            I’d guess he was more likely “willfully ignorant” of the signals, and probably didn’t have an internal monologue saying anything like “she’s not into this, but I think I can get away with it”. But if you could have paused time mid-encounter, taken Ansari aside, and said, “Ten billion dollars if you answer this question correctly: does she want you to put your fingers inside her right now?” I think he’d say no. And I’d bet 9:1 on the outcome of that experiment, if we could simulate it.

          • Iain says:

            Also: even if you think the story about Aziz Ansari is inaccurate, this sort of thing happens all the time. The important question is not: did Ansari do it? The important questions are: can we agree that this is bad? And what can we do about it?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @ADifferentAnonymous

            My ethical appraisal of the situation? Dude was being shitty, and shouldn’t have been shitty, and is a hypocrite to boot because part of his shtick was being a Male Feminist, right?

            BUT if you are the sort of person who will not speak up for your boundaries, who will go along with things you don’t want to (absent coercion or force, of course), etc etc you should not be getting into casual-sex situations. You can’t simultaneously be that sort of girl and not that sort of girl (or guy, or whatever). And, it’s not alleged relative ease: as soon as she actually expressed a boundary in a way that was clear, he stopped, right? It’s not evidence she wasn’t opposed to the contact, but, again, if you’re going to go into those situations, you should be prepared to assert your boundaries; if you’re not prepared or able to assert your boundaries, don’t go into those situations.

            This is the female equivalent of the guy who wants to go out and have tons of random sex with lots of women but expects his girlfriend/wife to be pure as the morning snow. The ability to go to a guy’s apartment after a date without your reputation being ruined (after all, once upon a time, missing your curfew would attract all sorts of social sanction) – to be sexually active, confident, etc – means you gotta abandon the positive parts of those old social norms – where guys were expected to not be cads provided the women didn’t behave “fast” or whatever they said back in the day. You can’t have it both ways – don’t feed the cads if you don’t want to deal with cads.

            Ansari, from his behaviour, is a hypocritical shit, but the whole “do what you want except when there’s some responsibility involved” thing is baffling. I’m all for an affirmative consent standard, but a big part of sex positivity and all that jazz is that people are supposed to take responsibility for themselves.

            @Iain

            Start asking, on the one side of it, and on the other side, demanding that people ask by speaking up if you don’t like what’s going on. Neither person in this situation held up their end of the deal.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Based on intuitive evaluation of the account. The signals sound pretty clear to me.

            It’s her account. It’s going to be colored by the fact that she knew what she was thinking.

          • I haven’t read the original description, but one point I haven’t noticed anyone raising is the idea that women deliberately play hard to get–act reluctant to have sex not because they don’t want to but because being perceived as easy leads to negative stigma, even only with your partner. On this picture of courtship behavior, the woman wants to be talked into it and it is up to the man to keep pushing, short of force.

            I don’t know whether that is a correct description of the behavior of a significant number of women but I think it is at least a perception that has long been held by a significant number of men. And it explains why someone who was bad at reading signals would not see “just ask” as the solution.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think “a sexual assault” is a phrase that assumes a lot of its conclusion in this context.

            Suppose Bob wants to have sex more than Alice does, but Alice goes along with sex with Bob because she wants to date him, and later feels some regrets and resentment about that. This isn’t the best possible way for things to work out, but it’s also not got anything to do with sexual assault as we would normally use the term. We can say that Bob shouldn’t have pressured Alice for sex, or that Alice shouldn’t have given in if she didn’t want to, but there’s no place at all here for calling the cops or sending Bob to jail–by contrast, if Bob had sexually assaulted Alice, we’d want the cops called and Bob looking at jail time.

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Start asking, on the one side of it, and on the other side, demanding that people ask by speaking up if you don’t like what’s going on. Neither person in this situation held up their end of the deal.

            With the proviso that I am less interested in the details of Ansari’s case than the general pattern it represents: if you trust the account from the Babe article, she gave multiple verbal and non-verbal signals that she was not interested in going any further that evening. This includes a five minute break to compose herself in the washroom, after which she told him: “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” He acknowledged that she wanted to take it slow, and suggested that they “chill on the couch”, and it’s at that point that she gave in to his pressure for oral sex. Later she said “let’s just chill with clothes on”, and then they watched an episode of Seinfeld during which he tried to take off her pants. At the end of the date, she said “You guys are all the same” and he forcefully kissed her again.

            Assuming that her account is accurate, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect Ansari to sense reluctance and ease up. If you don’t like what’s going on, how many times do you have to speak up about it before you have “held up your end of the deal”?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            So, I’ve been clear that Ansari is – if that account is even mostly accurate – a shit. But one of the shittier sexual scripts we’ve got right now is where women are expected to say things like “let’s not rush things” as a sort of plausible deniability, and everything that’s not a flat “no, stop that, right now” is deemed a sort of feint. There’s a sort of halfway point where the sexual revolution is “stuck” and you have women who will, by default, have first-date sex with guys very easily, but think that clear communication is weird and prefer to let things happen and “just not say no.”

            To switch over to a better sexual script, where the person who initiates things (in male-female interactions, almost always male) asks first – I entirely support this, and it is the script I have always used – the price for not following it has to be getting completely shut down at the starting gate. And for that to happen, the person on whom the advance is being made (almost always the woman) needs to issue an unequivocal no, at the starting gates, and she’s gotta avoid situations where for whatever reason she can’t/won’t give that unequivocal no. This might not be fair, since in this situation the offender is the person making the pushy advances, but it’s not practically gonna change if guys who behave like Ansari don’t stop getting laid. Guys who prefer that script are not going to stop using it unless it stops working. The major-consequences-but-minor-chance-of-happening risk that he might end up the subject of a piece like this one is probably not going to dissuade most guys using this script, because most people don’t think the worst consequences are gonna happen to them. For an analogy, consider condom use: the receptive partner saying “fuck no, wrap that shit up” is vastly more effective than the penetrative partner running the math in their head of the chance this person has whatever horrible disease times the chance of themselves contracting it in one sexual encounter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:

            But if there is anyone who should not be following that “script”, it’s Anasari, right? So, talk about that script as an excuse for the behavior is something of a red-herring.

            It explains some of the backlash against these kinds of stories, but it doesn’t explain his behavior.

          • Iain says:

            Using the condom example: sure, it’s a bad idea to rely solely on men working out the STI math. But that’s not the right parallel to this situation. This is as if she said “I want you to put on a condom”, so he backed off for a few minutes and then tried again sans condom, and she said “No, I really want you to put on a condom”, and he still didn’t put on a condom, and then later he successfully pressured her into sex without a condom.

            It seems clear to me that the lion’s share of the blame is on the man in this situation, not the woman. She made her opinion clear, and he ignored her. There are various constraints — like fear for your personal safety — that limit how much women are willing or able to stand up to men in this sort of situation.

            I also think part of this is just general uncertainty about how the script is supposed to go. Most people are relative amateurs at sexual interaction. So, like, she says “No, I don’t want to”, and then he pressures her and makes her feel like she is breaking some sort of rule by not having sex with him now, and it seems persuasive at the time so she just sort of gives in. Or whatever.

            As much as it kind of sucks for Ansari to have his dirty-but-not-abnormally-so laundry aired out in public, to the extent that the conversation surrounding this issue gives women the confidence to say “no, wait, I’m not alone, this isn’t just a thing that happens to me, I recognize this now and I am confident that I am in the right”, it is probably good. Just adding common knowledge can be powerful. The first accusations against Weinstein broke the dam and established a new power equilibrium. In the same way, as much as I am not a fan of this particular article, I suspect that on the margins the discussions around it will make it a little bit easier for women to shut men down (“Who do you think you are, Aziz Ansari?”), and a little bit easier for men to notice when they are being skeevy. Maybe the next article will do a better job. Slow and steady wins the race.

            I don’t see the value in blaming women who don’t feel comfortable saying no for the fifth or six time. It seems neither necessary nor helpful. We can break the script in other ways.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t see the value in blaming women who don’t feel comfortable saying no for the fifth or six time. It seems neither necessary nor helpful. We can break the script in other ways.

            Three Strike rule?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub

            And I’ve repeatedly said Ansari is not just a shit but a hypocritical shit because “I’m a Male Feminist” was a big part of his shtick. Male Feminist turns out to not actually treat individual women well. Not a new story.

            @Iain

            So, on the night of, actual situation, of course the fault is mostly his. He was the one behaving badly. But where it breaks down is afterwards. First, this isn’t new. The “why do the guys I have casual sex with treat me like crap; why do they always turn out to be of low character” complaint isn’t new. This isn’t some new thing like Weinstein getting outed as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter, and then boom the dam breaks. It’s just a high-profile case of the why-was-he-such-a-jerk complaint. And that complaint is annoying, because it doesn’t recognize that it is possible to ascertain people’s character, figure out if they’ll treat you like crap, before having sex with them. Like, they ain’t gotta put a ring on it first, but wait until the third date maybe?

            What I object to is this weird combination of smash-the-patriarchy thinking where slut-shaming is out and women are recognized as owning their sexuality with straight-up patriarchal thinking where women are seen as agency-less, fragile, helpless victims who can’t help but let those awful men treat them like crap. If you demand no more chaperones, you gotta chaperone yourself.

          • gbdub says:

            @Iain:

            The important question is not: did Ansari do it? The important questions are: can we agree that this is bad? And what can we do about it?

            In account in which Ansari is explicitly named, accused of attempted rape, and labeled as causing someone “the worst night of her life” – yeah, it is an important question whether he did it.

            An accusation of criminal conduct directed at a specific, high profile individual is probably not the best way to start a productive conversation about how we should ideally structure sexual encounters.

            EDIT: to be clear I otherwise mostly agree with your take.

          • Iain says:

            Nothing Ansari is accused of here would stand up in court. He can very plausibly claim that he just misunderstood her signals.

          • BBA says:

            A few years ago, Ezra Klein wrote that he thought affirmative consent was an awful draconian standard, but he supported it anyway. I basically agree. Hard problems don’t have easy solutions.

            (I recall seeing him get a lot of pushback on that piece – mostly from feminists who were insulted that he thought AC was awful and draconian.)

          • fortaleza84 says:

            What I object to is this weird combination

            Yeah, I’m pretty sure that if you asked this girl, she would insist that she is capable of making her own decisions in life. And that she doesn’t need curfews or chaperones or a father who insists that she live under his roof until she is married.

            And yet here she is, refusing to accept responsibility for performing oral sex on a man who motioned for her to do so without any threat of force. And that’s even if we accept her account 100%.

            When I read stories like this, it makes me think that society needs to acknowledge that this experiment with letting women make their own sexual decisions was a failure. That we need to move towards a guardianship system where every woman has a responsible male relative (father, husband, brother, etc.) to oversee her in terms of who she dates or marries.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I seem able to make my own decisions there, thank you very much.
            Of course, I’m religious rather than a feminist.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I seem able to make my own decisions there, thank you very much.

            The problem I see is that pretty much every woman would make a similar claim. But then when they are involved in a sexual/romantic situation which doesn’t work out, they have a tendency to evade responsibility. To make matters worse, the feminists typically encourage this attitude.

          • quanta413 says:

            @fortaleza84

            Adding more layers of guardians/rules/whatever every time an adult gets hurt while behaving like an idiot is a terrible fix. Besides, it seems like a large share of feminists think “Grace” was being stupid and abdicating responsibility.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @fortaleza84: I believe that the women you hear “every time” all share an ideology that tells them it’s their right to be sluts and rewards them for passing the buck for any feelings of disutility.
            I carry a chaperone around in my mind (or on my shoulder, if you believe old cartoons), and if it failed me I’d say I sinned. That’s rather different from feminists.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Adding more layers of guardians rules whatever every time an adult gets hurt while behaving like an idiot is a terrible fix.

            You are assuming that this individual is (or should be considered to be) an “adult,” which is the exact issue under discussion.

            Besides, why is it terrible to have a guardianship system for a class of people which needs it? Is it the expense? Is it that you find it demeaning that women should suffer a loss of autonomy and self-determination?

            Besides, it seems like a large share of feminists think “Grace” was being stupid and abdicating responsibility.

            That’s extremely refreshing to hear. Would you mind naming 3 prominent feminists who have expressed such? I would be very interested to see what they have to say.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I believe that the women you hear “every time” all share an ideology that tells them it’s their right to be sluts and rewards them for passing the buck for any feelings of disutility.

            That’s part of it, but my general experience is that women have a tendency to avoid accepting responsibility be they feminist, religious, or some combination thereof. Which religion do you follow?

            By the way, I’m not sure why you put the phrase “every time” in quotes, it’s not language I used in this discussion; it’s not something I stated or implied.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Given that the old system was also kind of shitty for both men and women in some big ways, to say the least, going back to them seems like a pretty terrible solution. Especially since, what problems does it solve? Certainly not the really serious stuff – old sexual morality didn’t, for example, protect female domestic servants from their employers’ depredations, so going back to old – antiquated, really – sexual morality isn’t going to solve the problem of bosses preying on their secretaries. And “people want to have it both ways” is not some new problem created by modern life.

            As quanta413 points out, she’s getting a lot of flak from other feminists – mostly, middle-aged feminists, who came of age in the 70s. There are some exceptions (the author of the NYT piece, according to Wikipedia, graduated university in the mid-00s, so unless she went to university late, she’s in her early to mid 30s) but by and large it’s women in their 40s, 50s, 60s who are writing the backlash pieces one is finding in respectable publications.

            There’s clearly a generation gap, but, don’t the stats show that people who came of age in the 70s were having more sex than millenials? These aren’t old prudes tut-tutting at the behaviour of young women today, necessarily. What they’ve written seems mostly to combine a sense of “we fought for their agency and sexual rights, and they don’t want it when inconvenient” and some comments to the extent that there seems to be a lack of self-preservation instinct.

          • quanta413 says:

            @fortaleza84

            Apologies first:

            That’s extremely refreshing to hear. Would you mind naming 3 prominent feminists who have expressed such? I would be very interested to see what they have to say.

            When I went to check the background of authors, I learned I made more than one mistake in bucketing American writers into the wrong group. I think I was wrong, and any Americans saying what I claimed would be marginal as a public voice for feminism at this point or not count as feminist. Again, my mistake. But would French women count for you? I admit not the same context.

            EDIT: Arguably maybe Margaret Atwood, but if her book hadn’t recently become a TV show no one would have noticed. Also, still Canadian not U.S.

            Discussion second:

            You are assuming that this individual is (or should be considered to be) an “adult,” which is the exact issue under discussion.

            Besides, why is it terrible to have a guardianship system for a class of people which needs it? Is it the expense? Is it that you find it demeaning that women should suffer a loss of autonomy and self-determination?

            I don’t think mentally competent women over 18 need it. Almost all are reasonably safe. Not at every time or place, but few people are safe in a bad neighborhood late at night.

            Let’s ignore expense.

            A loss of autonomy and self-determination is worse than demeaning, but I’ll focus on the “demeaning” part. I think it would be demeaning, but I also think “Grace” has demeaned herself twice. Once in the act, and afterwards in letting her story be put forth as if she had so little agency or control. Given the choice between demeaning all women and letting a subset of women demean themselves sometimes (whether with boorish men or gossip rags) I choose the second. It is unfortunate, but it’s also unfortunate that I can’t just walk wherever I want whenever I want in the U.S. because I might get mugged. Ultimate moral responsibility may lie with the mugger just like it may lie with boors, but I have a practical responsibility to act wisely. There will always be people taking advantage of others. No standard of consent will end problems like the one Grace got herself into because the whole situation was private, some people are careless or mean, and even if the explicit verbal consent standard was universally agreed upon there’s no way to enforce it if the put-upon person in the situation won’t. Boors will just lie about having received explicit verbal consent.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Given that the old system was also kind of shitty for both men and women in some big ways, to say the least, going back to them seems like a pretty terrible solution.

            I don’t know enough about the “old system” to say whether it should be adopted wholesale; I do think that modern society should consider adopting the most constructive aspects of the old system.

            Especially since, what problems does it solve?

            For one thing, most of the problems associated with casual pre marital sex: Out-of-wedlock births; young women throwing away their most fertile years engaging in casual sex; young women getting into relationships with men who are exciting but are bad relationship material; unattractive men getting no sexual relationships at all; low fertility rates among educated people; middle-aged women suddenly discovering that they cannot find husbands; middle-aged male “players” realizing that a lifetime of loneliness and venerial disease was not worth the 100 bangs they got. And of course, regret-rape.

            All of these things would be much less of a problem under a more traditional system.

            Certainly not the really serious stuff – old sexual morality didn’t, for example, protect female domestic servants from their employers’ depredations

            Actually I wonder how common that was compared to the depredations of the likes of Harvey Weinstein? Do you happen to know? Or are you just assuming that there were lots of moustache-twirling villains back in the day?

            Anyway, I’m certainly not advocating that laws against sexual harassment be repealed.

            but by and large it’s women in their 40s, 50s, 60s who are writing the backlash pieces one is finding in respectable publications.

            As I mentioned above, that is very refreshing to hear. Could you link to 3 of those backlash pieces? TIA.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But would French women count for you? I admit not the same context.

            It’s interesting you brought up the whole casting couch fiasco because I think it’s a pretty good illustration of the feminine allergy to agency and responsibility.

            It’s very common for women to flirt and more with powerful men in order to get ahead. Even Harvey Weinstein, who is one of the worst of the casting couch guys seems to have had a lot of what you might call “satisfied customers.”

            If a woman and a man make a trade — sexual services for opportunities — the feminists are extremely eager to crucify the man but assign little if any responsibility to the woman. Logically, this makes little sense. If a man and a woman enter into a consensual transaction which is subsequently condemned by society, why should the man bear all the responsibility and the woman none?

            The obvious answer is that the situation is asymmetrical; that the man is in a position of power and the woman — desperate for an acting role — is at a disadvantage. But this ignores the fact that women, especially young women, have considerable sexual power. Men as a group are at least as desperate for sexual attention from women as women are desperate for career advancement. And yet if a woman takes advantage of her sexual power to extract consideration from a man, society is unwilling to hold her responsible and if she is confronted, she will normally paint herself as the victim.

            The other thing is that when you point out to women that there is a problem with women who abuse their sex appeal in this way, they normally freak out. It’s very rare to meet a woman who is willing to hold either herself or other women responsible for this type of misbehavior.

            I don’t think mentally competent women over 18 need it. Almost all are reasonably safe

            I disagree, based on my observations there is practically an epidemic of women making poor sexual decisions. (And society picking up the pieces.) And of those who make sound sexual decisions, there is very often a strong male authority figure in the picture (usually a father) who is acting as an informal guardian.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s very rare to meet a woman who is willing to hold either herself or other women responsible for this type of misbehavior.

            Oh, that’s not true. Scorn piled upon a woman who is perceived as having slept her way to the top does not come only from men. But it’s not acceptable in polite conversation.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Scorn piled upon a woman who is perceived as having slept her way to the top does not come only from men

            I suggest an experiment: Next time you are chatting with a woman you are friendly with, bring up the Harvey Weinstein fiasco and make the point that some of the women he had sex with deserve condemnation for having sex in exchange for opportunity. Point out that a lot of women wear revealing clothing, flirt, or do more in order to get ahead and this behavior should be condemned. Point out that it’s likely a lot of women enthusiastically initiated things with the likes of Weinstein in order to get an edge on their competition.

            See how she reacts.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t see how that experiment bears on the thesis.

          • Aapje says:

            @fortaleza84

            Aella has an interesting post about female power when it comes to sex.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413, fortaleza84

            Three feminists, American variety, saying that stuff? Easy, pretty much every established left-of-centre publication has run an article like that. Links for the NYT and Atlantic are already in this comment section. Pretty sure Megan McArdle is a feminist, and the Bloomberg article she wrote is also linked. That’s three.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t see how that experiment bears on the thesis.

            It’s a test to see the degree women are willing to assign responsibility to themselves and other women for casting couch type misbehavior.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @fortaleza84

            I don’t know enough about the “old system” to say whether it should be adopted wholesale; I do think that modern society should consider adopting the most constructive aspects of the old system.

            I think many of the problems under the current system could be fixed with universal application of a “third date” rule. Unimaginably promiscuous by the standards of times within living memory, but it would at least give people a chance to get clues as to whether the other person is someone they want to be alone with, or more.

            For one thing, most of the problems associated with casual pre marital sex: Out-of-wedlock births; young women throwing away their most fertile years engaging in casual sex; young women getting into relationships with men who are exciting but are bad relationship material; unattractive men getting no sexual relationships at all; low fertility rates among educated people; middle-aged women suddenly discovering that they cannot find husbands; middle-aged male “players” realizing that a lifetime of loneliness and venerial disease was not worth the 100 bangs they got. And of course, regret-rape.

            All of these things would be much less of a problem under a more traditional system.

            In order:

            -the birth control advances that enabled the current sexual order have made it far more possible for young women to engage in premarital sex without ending up with a baby they’d be sent off to some far-away place to bear, or a back-alley abortion.
            -that women tend to have children later, especially middle class and up women, is due to many factors; casual sex is far down on the list.
            -young women getting into relationships with cads is not a new trope, far from it. Maybe it’s more common today, but that’s because the consequences have generally been reduced.
            -unattractive or low-status or whatever men have never had it easy. In fact, in the societies where men have the most control over their daughters, it’s not uncommon that these are societies where men have multiple wives. Polygamous societies of the “old rich guy with a bunch of wives” variety tend to be awful for younger, less-established men in general, and not just the ugly ones.
            -low fertility rates among educated people, as I noted earlier, are due to a lot of factors, of which people having casual sex instead is a minor one. The countries that right now have high fertility tend to be the ones where women have fewer rights, are less likely to get any education, are vastly less likely to get higher education, are much less likely to have careers. If you look up a map of countries by children per women – do you want the US (or wherever) to be more like the ones with high fertility?
            -the old seducer realizing he’s wasted his life isn’t a new trope either. And venereal disease is far more avoidable and treatable than it once was.
            -men getting punished for having slept with the wrong woman isn’t a new thing either, just back in the day the punishment was her brothers or whatever trying to kill the guy.

            For the things that I’ve described as “not new” – we’re talking about the plots of a whole bunch of operas. Better than thinkpieces, at least! Check out the lyrics to this puppy. There’s Biblical stories, there’s legends from every culture…

            Actually I wonder how common that was compared to the depredations of the likes of Harvey Weinstein? Do you happen to know? Or are you just assuming that there were lots of moustache-twirling villains back in the day?

            How common are the depredations of the Weinsteins, etc, today? I mean, do we have statistics, or just a bunch of examples? I don’t know whether it was more or less common, and I don’t know how we’d prove it either way. Regardless of the numbers, though, the large numbers of usually less-well-off women who went to work in the houses of the better-off (domestic servants used to be much cheaper; the upper-middle-class family who today has a cleaning lady come in a few times a week would a hundred years ago generally had more than one household servant) didn’t have their fathers/brothers watching over them.

            As I mentioned above, that is very refreshing to hear. Could you link to 3 of those backlash pieces? TIA.

            See my post above. Or, in general, watch for younger feminists condemning an older feminist (like happened to Atwood) for being insufficiently on board with the latest updates.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s a test to see the degree women are willing to assign responsibility to themselves and other women for casting couch type misbehavior.

            In practice it’s much less likely to be interpreted that way and much more likely to be interpreted as a tribal shibboleth or just as trolling.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndrsn

            Three feminists, American variety, saying that stuff? Easy, pretty much every established left-of-centre publication has run an article like that. Links for the NYT and Atlantic are already in this comment section. Pretty sure Megan McArdle is a feminist, and the Bloomberg article she wrote is also linked. That’s three.

            That’s what I thought too. But then I checked who wrote the articles. And it was an extreme stretch to call any of them feminist unless we assign almost all modern women the label “feminist”. Caitlin Flanagan at the Atlantic, Bari Weiss at the NYT, and Megan McArdle at Bloomberg would be 3 strange choices of examples of feminism. Weiss and McArdle are both centrist conservatives. It’s less clear with Flanagan, but from her writing and the fact I didn’t find anyone else referencing to her as a feminist I figured she probably didn’t count either.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I think many of the problems under the current system could be fixed with universal application of a “third date” rule.

            Assuming this means that couples should not have sexual relations before the third date, what do you think the consequences should be for a woman who breaks the rule? Should she be slut-shamed?

            the birth control advances that enabled the current sexual order have made it far more possible for young women to engage in premarital sex without ending up with a baby they’d be sent off to some far-away place to bear, or a back-alley abortion.

            Assuming that’s true, how does it contradict anything I said?

            that women tend to have children later, especially middle class and up women, is due to many factors; casual sex is far down on the list.

            Would you mind showing me “the list” and the evidence supporting it?

            young women getting into relationships with cads is not a new trope, far from it. Maybe it’s more common today, but that’s because the consequences have generally been reduced.

            Is it solely because the consequences have been reduced? I would love to see your evidence on this point.

            unattractive or low-status or whatever men have never had it easy.

            I would have to disagree with this, depending on where you draw the line. In a system where most people get married and stay married to one person, the percentage of men who end up getting married is much higher, that’s the math of the situation.

            the old seducer realizing he’s wasted his life isn’t a new trope either.

            You are saying this situation is no more prevalent today than it was in the past?

            men getting punished for having slept with the wrong woman isn’t a new thing either, just back in the day the punishment was her brothers or whatever trying to kill the guy.

            So you are saying that regret-rape accusations are just as common now as they were in the past?

            I don’t know whether it was more or less common, and I don’t know how we’d prove it either way.

            Then I don’t see how you can be so confident that “the old sexual morality did not protect female domestic servants.”

          • fortaleza84 says:

            In practice it’s much less likely to be interpreted that way and much more likely to be interpreted as a tribal shibboleth or just as trolling.

            Assuming for the sake of argument that’s true, what does it mean? What does it mean if women feel that for tribal reasons, they must immediately and emotionally reject any attempt to assign responsibility for this type of sexual misconduct to women?

            Kinda demonstrates my point.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @fortaleza84

            With regard to the authors I listed – most educated, intelligent women today are feminists either by word or deed. A woman who graduated university in the mid 00s – how likely would she be to not be a feminist, unless she went to Liberty U or Brigham Young? I imagine if you asked Flanagan, she would say she’s a feminist, for example. That younger feminists don’t think she’s hip to the latest developments doesn’t make her not a feminist. McArdle titles her piece “Listen to the Bad Feminists” or something like that.

            Assuming this means that couples should not have sexual relations before the third date, what do you think the consequences should be for a woman who breaks the rule? Should she be slut-shamed?

            I don’t know that we should do. I don’t know what we can do – medical advances led to social changes and we probably can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Still, at a minimum we should roll our eyes when a woman who doesn’t apply that guideline complains that she wasn’t treated with the gentlemanly respect she feels she deserves.

            Assuming that’s true, how does it contradict anything I said?

            “Out of wedlock births” are something you associated with casual premarital sex, but nowadays, a young woman with access to birth control and the wherewithal to use it faces less chance of getting pregnant from a series of endless hookups than a woman pre-birth control had from getting pregnant by her boyfriend who convinced her “just once, just the tip, just to see how it feels.” The old phenomenon of shamefully pregnant unmarried women was not due to random casual sex, by and large. There’s a reason that the old standards encouraged (to say the least) women to wait until they were married, or perhaps until they were engaged; a woman who had sex with a guy on the promise he’d marry her was being very foolish indeed. Now it’s considered beyond prudish to say “wait until you’re in a defined relationship” or even “wait until the third date.”

            Would you mind showing me “the list” and the evidence supporting it?

            Children are more expensive than they once were, women of all classes are more likely to receive an education until 16 or 18, and women of certain social classes are vastly more likely to attend university and perhaps graduate/professional school. Women are far more likely to have careers. Women are far more able to control their own fertility due to birth control – the pill was available to married women before unmarried. This is all stuff where the evidence is clear enough that it’s taken as a given – if I’m suddenly supposed to be providing citations, that’s an isolated demand for rigour. However, I think this provides a general illustration: the countries with higher fertility rates tend to be ones that are poorer (thus, less consistent access to birth control – consistent access is the key part; even in first world countries women with birth control get accidentally pregnant because they forget to take the pill) and ones where women have fewer rights, less access to education, work less outside the home, etc.

            Is it solely because the consequences have been reduced? I would love to see your evidence on this point.

            Again, isolated demand for rigour. It’s hard to see how the culture would have changed without the consequences changing. The reduced physical impact (due to improved birth control making accidental pregnancy more avoidable, and antibiotics making the common venereal diseases far more curable) in the middle 20th century led to the social consequences becoming far less dire. You could go back and try to introduce modern sexual ethics in the 19th century, but it wouldn’t fly, because the technology wasn’t there.

            I would have to disagree with this, depending on where you draw the line. In a system where most people get married and stay married to one person, the percentage of men who end up getting married is much higher, that’s the math of the situation.

            But is the decline in marriage and the decline in people staying married – is that due to the sexual revolution, or due to various other roughly concurrent social changes, or what? The changes in divorce law, for example – what do they have to do with casual sex?

            You are saying this situation is no more prevalent today than it was in the past?

            I have no idea, neither of us has presented evidence, but it’s not something that only began to exist with the medical changes that led to the social changes that led to the sexual revolution. It could very well be more prevalent today, but “an increase of 5x as much” or whatever is a different case from “it happens now and it didn’t then.”

            So you are saying that regret-rape accusations are just as common now as they were in the past?

            Again, isolated demand for rigour. You keep making these assertions that you don’t have evidence for, and when I point out at least that on a qualifiable (rather than quantifiable level) they’re wrong, you demand my evidence.

            Then I don’t see how you can be so confident that “the old sexual morality did not protect female domestic servants.”

            Your objection was that we couldn’t know if it happened more or less than today. That’s different from saying we couldn’t know if it happened at all. The pretty young servant girl impregnated by her master and abandoned, the young well-off man losing his virginity to a female domestic servant – these are old tropes; they wouldn’t have been tropes if they hadn’t been common enough to be familiar (consider that a movie about a bank heist is not going to be made somewhere that has neither banks nor heists – you can’t tell how common bank robbery is, but you can tell that it was not something in the realm of fantasy or science-fiction).

            You proposed a return to a situation where the paterfamilias basically kept his daughters in hand and controlled their sexuality. This can take various different forms, from purdah to gentleman callers. But it seems pretty obvious that in a situation where a woman is outside of the realm of her family – eg, when a poor girl goes to work for a well-off family – the paterfamilias can’t keep control of her. Likewise, another major change was when universities abandoned the in loco parentis role – most universities used to have extremely stringent rules about men visiting women’s dorms, about curfews, etc that generally do not exist any more.

            Again, you’re making an awful lot of isolated demands for rigour. You’re saying “it’s like this, this is new” and when I point out that, no it’s not, you ask for my sources. The sexual revolution, and concurrent social changes – a lot of them coming down to medical changes (it’s a lot easier for a woman to get an education and a career when she can avoid having children until she wants to without embracing celibacy; sex outside of wedlock – not just casual sex – is more appealing when your junk isn’t gonna rot off or you’re not gonna go crazy from syphilis).

            Since the middle of the 20th century, the % of “respectable” (not shunned by society, not thought of as hapless idiots, etc) women who would have sex outside of wedlock has increased – conversely, the % of men frequenting prostitutes has decreased. No idea if this is a decent source, but it does cite, and:

            “While earlier studies with methodological limitations have found 69% (Kinsey et al., 1948) to 80% (Benjamin and Masters, 1964) of American men to have engaged in commercial sex, more recent studies with representative sampling have found much lower – but still substantial – rates in the range of 15% to 20%…

            The reason for this is that, back when sex was riskier, especially for women, the women having casual sex were more likely to be professionals – essentially, they were paid to take on the risks that other women wanted to avoid. Now, prostitutes are far more likely to provide more specialized services (eg, pro dommes) or do things that girlfriends and wives are less likely to want to do (“Greek OK”).

          • fortaleza84 says:

            With regard to the authors I listed – most educated, intelligent women today are feminists either by word or deed.

            I think you are responding to someone else, since I didn’t dispute that these people are feminists. It’s actually pretty refreshing that there are prominent women — feminist or not — who are willing to publicly hold other women responsible for their poor sexual decisions.

            I don’t know that we should do.

            In that case, your proposal for “universal application of a ‘third date’ rule” is completely and utterly meaningless. A rule without consequences for violation is not a rule at all. It’s just an exhortation.

            owadays, a young woman with access to birth control and the wherewithal to use it faces less chance of getting pregnant from a series of endless hookups than a woman pre-birth control had from getting pregnant by her boyfriend

            That’s true, but again you aren’t contradicting anything I have said.

            I’m suddenly supposed to be providing citations, that’s an isolated demand for rigour.

            Lol, that’s quite an excuse for refusing to back up your claims. Anyway, I asked you for your evidence; you declined to provide it; I will draw my own conclusions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you are responding to someone else, since I didn’t dispute that these people are feminists. It’s actually pretty refreshing that there are prominent women — feminist or not — who are willing to publicly hold other women responsible for their poor sexual decisions.

            Ah, I got tripped up by the old “same colour gravatar” trap. In that case it was @quanta413.

            In that case, your proposal for “universal application of a ‘third date’ rule” is completely and utterly meaningless. A rule without consequences for violation is not a rule at all. It’s just an exhortation.

            Well, it’s more, this would be smart for people to do. Yeah, it’s an exhortation. If my proposal for the rule was “anyone who doesn’t apply this should be cast into the void” how would that come to pass, anyway? If I, or you, or anyone, think there should be a universal condemnation of those people – how would that come to be the social norm?

            That’s true, but again you aren’t contradicting anything I have said.

            You listed out of wedlock pregnancy as a consequence of sexual norm changes since the middle 20th century. Except that the sexual norm changes since the middle 20th century are the end result of medical changes which provided superior-to-what-existed-previously means to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy and also syphilis and the clap. However, what we have discovered since then, is that this has created new problems, social in nature as opposed to medical.

            Lol, that’s quite an excuse for refusing to back up your claims. Anyway, I asked you for your evidence; you declined to provide it; I will draw my own conclusions.

            You made claims with no evidence; I’ve actually provided a couple links which I note you’ve neglected to include in the bits of my posts you’ve quoted. At this point in time, I’ve provided infinitely more evidence than you have. You provide no backup for your claims while demanding that I do so. I will draw my own conclusions.

            EDIT: What’s your narrative, then, as to how and why sexual norms have changed? Mine is as follows:

            -antibiotics put an end to a few diseases that used to be really, really nasty, primarily gonorrhea and syphilis.
            -the pill made it much easier for women to avoid pregnancy, and more importantly, control it themselves (condoms existed prior, and provide decent protection, but can involve haggling, the risk the guy will take it off, etc).
            -with these risks so significantly reduced, the social consequences (which were built around the potential material consequences) were reduced: when the tigers in the tiger pit all die, you don’t have to tell people to stay away from the tiger pit.
            -HIV put a damper on things for a while, but antiretrovirals have moved the pendulum back, and in any case the fears about transmission among heterosexuals in developed countries turned out to be overblown – during the 80s, there were predictions that a majority of people of all sexual orientations would be infected in the US by some point in the mid-90s; this did not happen, and even among men who have sex with men and the worst-hit sub-Saharan African countries, the overall infection rate generally doesn’t exceed the twenty percent range.
            -the end result of this is that people are more promiscuous than they were a hundred or whatever years ago; more importantly, that promiscuity is more evenly distributed: women are way more likely to be willing to have sex outside of wedlock, resulting in fewer men frequenting prostitutes – they can get from their girlfriends what once upon a time they had to pay for.
            -there are simultaneous, and to some extent linked, changes in education and career prospects for women. It’s a lot easier for a woman to go to school and get a career when she can have sex without getting pregnant. General trend has been towards women having fewer children, later.

            This can all be backed up, but I don’t particularly feel like putting together an essay when you’re not providing evidence while simultaneously dismissing me for not providing evidence.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            If I, or you, or anyone, think there should be a universal condemnation of those people – how would that come to be the social norm?

            That’s an interesting question, but also an obvious attempt to change the subject. Anyway, I am tired of your bobbing and weaving, shucking and jiving. This exchange is concluded.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, no evidence? Ah well. Tears in rain.

      • gbdub says:

        So if we can get it into Prevailing Morality that sexual escalation requires some due diligence that it’s wanted, then Ansarian behavior should be greatly reduced.

        I’m fine with this. But to really get into into Prevailing Morality, it’s important to recognize that the Ansaris aren’t the only “defectors” from that morality. So are the women who think the right script is “play hard to get” and “a guy who doesn’t push doesn’t really want you”, and reward Ansarian behavior with sex (that they both really wanted, but she wanted the plausible deniability of “I’m not really that kind of girl”).

        Now it’s not the fault of these women that they were conditioned this way, and certainly I would say “playing hard to get” is less objectionable than being a pushy sex pest, but it’s still objectionable, because it is still dishonest, and in a way that contributes to the broken script.

        The unfortunate reality is that “nonverbal reluctance” is an ambiguous signal that either means “I’m actually uncomfortable with this”, “I’m not that into this right now, but might get into it after we get going”, or “I’m signaling meh but mean yes yes oh god yes, and if you don’t force yourself on me, don’t expect a second date because I’ll take it as an insult”. Particularly when coupled with other signals that don’t constitute consent to everything, but also signal at least… a certain level of interest (like going home with and getting naked with somebody).

        Until those stop being ambiguous signals, and actually in the wild stop being ambiguous, not just in the melodramatic accounts of millennial feminists, this is going to be a problem. Some people are going to interpret ambiguous signals in the way that benefits them (in any nonsexual context, I think that statement would get a “no duh” response).

        Yes this puts some responsibility on the victim. But often the people negatively impacted by something are in the best (or at least a good) position to correct it. This is to some degree unfair, but probably the quickest path to mitigating harms. I’m not sure when we got the idea that only bad people have agency (or at least that implying people who are hurt have agency is a terrible thing to do).

        • Iain says:

          It’s worth pointing out that the women who “play hard to get” and the women who end up suffering are mostly disjoint sets. The people impacted by this are not in a good position to do something about it; you’re placing responsibility on the victim for something she didn’t even do.

          • gbdub says:

            Sure, I didn’t mean to imply that the actually reluctant women and the hard-to-get women are the same group. However:

            1) “hard-to-get” women are themselves doing something objectionable – assigning them some responsibility for the problem should never be “victim blaming” because, as you note, they are not victims. They didn’t necessarily write the broken script, but they reinforce it by playing along, and by being fundamentally dishonest about their desires. Unfortunately any discussion implying that any subset of women should alter their behavior can get pattern matched (in good faith or bad) to victim blaming.

            2) “The people impacted by this are not in a good position to do something about it”. They are in a perfectly good position to do something about it, by no longer giving ambiguous signals of reluctance (instead giving unambiguous signals of reluctance, not mixing signals of reluctance with signals of desire, and/or outright denial).

            I am not placing the responsibility of creating “feign reluctance when you actually have desire” as a script on these women, only responsibility for their actual actions, namely not making their own desires clear.

            Both of the disjoint groups of women are giving ambiguous signals, and both have the power to make their desires more clear. Either or both groups doing so would help resolve the problem. Basically, create more distinguishing space between “actual discomfort” and “playful teasing”.

            Now obviously the man has a responsibility to do his best to read the signals accurately, and to be sensitive to genuine reluctance, but men aren’t mind readers (especially of near strangers), so it’s worthwhile to discuss how to make those signals easier to interpret, and to encourage people to take agency in making their own intentions very clear. This has the added advantage of making the true cads even more clear.

            Like you, I’m mostly on board with “affirmative consent” for precisely these reasons, at least as long as we treat it as an ideal rather than try to encode it strictly into law.

    • Iain says:

      That is a remarkably uncharitable summary of your second link — by which I mean, it is almost entirely unrelated to the actual content. Jessica Valenti has a clear thesis, and it has nothing to do with casting Aziz Ansari into the outer darkness (where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth).

      The argument is simple: Ansari, like a lot of men, (allegedly) treats sexual encounters as an exercise in overcoming a woman’s resistance. Far from “beyond the pale”, this behaviour is depressingly normal. If you are a woman, this is not the optimal state of affairs — not least of which because, if dogged pursuit is seen as normal, it is easy for actual predators to plead ignorance. Therefore, we should aim for a world where men look for enthusiasm instead of mere acceptance as the standard of consent. This will be difficult, because there are plenty of reasonable men out there who think this is a normal script, and will respond poorly to claims that there is anything wrong with it.

      This is the sane position on the issue. The people who are claiming that Aziz Ansari must be destroyed are dumb. The people who are claiming that Aziz Ansari’s career has already been destroyed and #MeToo has #GoneTooFar are equally dumb (and seemingly more numerous). This isn’t really about Aziz Ansari at all. Valenti, to her credit, was pretty clear about that — which makes your accusatory summary that much less reasonable.

      (My general position on this kerfuffle is that it’s an important discussion to have, but the original article does not do a good job of starting that discussion. I like this Vox summary.)

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Therefore, we should aim for a world where men look for enthusiasm instead of mere acceptance as the standard of consent. This will be difficult, because there are plenty of reasonable men out there who think this is a normal script, and will respond poorly to claims that there is anything wrong with it.

        You’re missing the obvious reason for why this is the case:

        A lot of women, at least a plurality and arguably a majority, prefer forceful guys. Sleep with some college feminists if you disagree. You’ll get a sense of what kind of guy they’re actually attracted to pretty quickly!

        Ignoring what women want is a bad dating strategy, and men who practice it will be frustrated when their ‘good’ behavior leaves them out in the cold. Making it a choice between regular sex and a paycheck might work but it’s going to multiply that frustration a thousand-fold.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I remember this came up a while ago, and I reported that, seeking affirmative consent can work, as long as you’re capable of being halfway charming. I was accused of being a “natural” which, no. Turning on the charm and behaving in a way that is pleasingly masculine and tossing in “oh hey btw wanna make out?” did not leave me a sad, handholdless reject.

        • Iain says:

          Like dndnrsn, I have had my share of success with applying affirmative consent to college feminists. (Making her ask for it: not always a bad thing!)

          You are (possibly unintentionally?) equivocating between two meanings of “forceful”. There’s the one where you make it clear that you are a man, and you have muscles, and you are prepared to use them. I think this is what dndnrsn means by “pleasingly masculine”. You are correct to say that plenty of women are into that. That is a different version of “forceful” than the one where the woman sends signals that she is uncomfortable with what is going on, and you press on regardless. That’s the one that “yes means yes” aims to reduce, and I am deeply unconvinced that a plurality of women are into that.

          But, hey — I’m sure there are women out there who are. Things will get harder for them if men start taking them at their word. But I don’t see why those women should outweigh the significantly larger group of women for whom “no, I don’t want to do this right now” means just that. If men choose to act as if all women are in the former category, because otherwise they might get laid less often, then I am prepared to say that those men are being shitty and should stop.

          If you think that men are capable of overcoming their animal lusts, then great — we just need to keep pushing this standard, and people will eventually get used to following it. If you cynically believe that men will always act to maximize their access to sex, then the only way to fix the problem is by changing the incentives: that is to say, a culture that publicly names and shames men who engage in this kind of behaviour until the social cost of being known as a predator outweighs the benefits of overcoming a reluctant partner.

          Given the obvious downsides of the latter, I hope I can count on your assistance with the former.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Sure, why not? They are all cads. We shame thieves, too, but somehow we they keep popping up again and again.

            If you want a better dating market? The majority of guys are good. If you encourage this majority to take more risks and engage more people, and facilitate that, then these guys will outcompete the caddish guys and the issue will become marginal.

            If you just want to shame guys? Well, sure, whatever. We can all just keep having this conversation again and again until Judgment Day. I got nothing better to do!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            By “pleasingly masculine” I meant more, projecting confidence, being witty, charming, all that. Witty banter, flirting, whatever. The criticisms of affirmative consent always seem to present it as “uh, uh, excuse me, may I, uh, hold your, er, hand” and then you go out to your car to get your paralegal who will come in and witness the contract signing – asking in a way that projects lack of confidence, weakness, not being able to read the other person, etc.

            Whereas, it is possible to do it in a way that is casual and even a little bit cool. I got laughed at a couple times but both times they still said yes. Make a joke out if it if you have to: “hey, want to make out? We’ll have to sign some forms, of course. My paralegal, Bill, is waiting in the car. He works for free as long as he gets to watch.”

            EDIT: Also, given the demographic here, I would point out that affirmative consent standards make life easier for people (mostly guys, but also women who are into women) who are awkward. A big part of awkwardness is being crappy at reading signals. Being able to just say “hey, want to make out” instead of trying to read body language and edge closer on the couch and so on and so forth is extremely positive for people who are bad at reading signals.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            This conversation is interesting because it’s like what I would imagine happening if an astronaut was talking about natural gas with a bunch of Plutonians. He’s talking about heating your home on a budget and they keep interjecting that methane is liquid at room temperature damnit and why doesn’t he get that?!?

            So, to clarify:

            I’m not in favor of having sex with women who don’t want to have sex on the first date. I’m in favor of having sex with women who want to be the kind of women who don’t want to have sex on the first date.

            It’s very easy to tell them apart, there’s a simple test. You start making sexual overtures. The women in the first group head for the door. The women in the second group have sex with you and then ask how soon until they can see you again.

            That’s what you do on Earth if you want to heat up your home. Maybe it wouldn’t work on Pluto but I don’t live on Pluto and don’t particularly want to move there.

          • Baeraad says:

            You are (possibly unintentionally?) equivocating between two meanings of “forceful”. There’s the one where you make it clear that you are a man, and you have muscles, and you are prepared to use them. I think this is what dndnrsn means by “pleasingly masculine”. You are correct to say that plenty of women are into that. That is a different version of “forceful” than the one where the woman sends signals that she is uncomfortable with what is going on, and you press on regardless. That’s the one that “yes means yes” aims to reduce, and I am deeply unconvinced that a plurality of women are into that.

            Okay. I fully believe this does indeed reflect what women want – men who jump around and holler and flex their muscles, but who won’t actually go further than that without encouragement, and who’ll certainly stop if told to. The appearance of cadness, hiding the reality of gentlemanship. Hell, that’s a pretty universal description of the love interests in written-by-women-for-women romance novels.

            What still makes me see red on this whole issue (though I do my best to stay on top of my emotions) is that it completely screws over those men who have an aversion to doublethink. I don’t want to be an alpha male, I don’t want to pretend to be an alpha male, and I find it terribly insulting and unfair that my sincere virtue is worth less than fake vice. Pretending that I’m better than I am always makes me uneasy, but pretending that I’m worse feels downright obscene.

            So while I will agree that the demands on masculinity aren’t technically contradictory, I’m not willing to fully let feminists off the hook, either. It’s like century-past men discouraging women from thinking too much because they wanted to be the smarter one in the relationship, and then complaining that their wives were useless loads. If you demand the pretense, you’ll eventually get the reality.

            And besides, I still carry a grudge about that “oh, feminism is good for men too – if you will just help us throw off the yoke of gendered expectations on women, you’ll be free from gendered expectations on men!” line that I swallowed back in the aughts.

            ETA: And I would further like to add that it seems to me that having to pretend that you’re an arrogant brute when you are not in fact an arrogant brute should get in the way of that “honest communication” thing that’s always trotted about as a cure-all. I should just say what I want? What if what I want is to be quiet and fawning and submissive and entirely unlike a manly-man?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil al Dajjal

            It’s very easy to tell them apart, there’s a simple test. You start making sexual overtures. The women in the first group head for the door. The women in the second group have sex with you and then ask how soon until they can see you again.

            Except that this isn’t what happened in the Ansari case, is it? There’s also:

            -women who are going along with it because they know that the average man can easily overpower the average woman, and don’t want to get roughed up or worse – probably she hopes she can get away by giving the guy a handy and saying she’s on her period, or some strategem like that. Thought experiment: you’re a gay man, you go out on a date with a bigger stronger guy who does MMA, and he starts making out with you or whatever. Are you really going to say no and try to leave?

            -women who don’t feel threatened but go along with it for a reason that will later be explained as “society made it impossible for me to say no.” As expressed elsewhere, I don’t have much sympathy for this approach; if you’re gonna be confident and assured in your sexuality enough to willingly go into a situation, you should be confident and assured in your sexuality enough to feel comfortable saying no.

            -women who are into it but decide later that they, really, weren’t, to some degree or other of “weren’t.” Least sympathetic to this, because in the cases where some guy has gotten his life ruined by something that later turned out to be bogus (example) it’s this. Probably the least common, but still.

            So, trying to sort between women who want to have sex or whatever, versus women who don’t, by trying to have sex with them – it clearly doesn’t work, because if it did work, there wouldn’t have been some pseudo-journalist’s clickbait article about Ansari. That we’re having this exchange shows that it doesn’t work.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @dndnrsn,

            Out of your three examples, both of the latter two are “women who want to be the kind of women who don’t want to have sex on the first date.” They’re offloading responsibility for their behavior because the guy wasn’t attractive enough in the cold light of day.

            Which is what I believe happened here. Aziz may be a minor celebrity but he’s also short, greasy, and evidently pretty clumsy. Grace needed to square the fact that she nearly had sex with this guy after one date with her self-image, and this is how she did it. If he was more attractive or had done a better job of building attraction then there wouldn’t have been any regret to explain away.

            I also don’t buy the “I was too paralyzed with fear to say no, but I otherwise behaved normally and was an active participant in sex” explanation for your first example. At least not in the absence of a plausible threat.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil al Dajjal

            Out of your three examples, both of the latter two are “women who want to be the kind of women who don’t want to have sex on the first date.” They’re offloading responsibility for their behavior because the guy wasn’t attractive enough in the cold light of day.

            Which is what I believe happened here. Aziz may be a minor celebrity but he’s also short, greasy, and evidently pretty clumsy. Grace needed to square the fact that she nearly had sex with this guy after one date with her self-image, and this is how she did it. If he was more attractive or had done a better job of building attraction then there wouldn’t have been any regret to explain away.

            Well, the second and third one are different. Type two, it might not be the guy is unattractive. The complaint is often that he was a jerk. I think my explanation – that they want to be the sort of girl who is in control of her sex life, confident and with agency, but they don’t want to be the sort of girl who gets willingly used by cads, and preserve their self-image by emphasizing their agency more or less based on the situation – makes sense here. How much stigma is there anymore for being the kind of girl who has sex on the first date, anyway?

            Type three is often more complicated – there’s often outside actors (in the Banks case, it’s kind of unclear why the false accusation was made in the first place, but the accuser’s mother was involved, and she got a lot of money from the university on grounds of it being an unsafe place – it should also give people who think of themselves as progressive pause, because Banks says his attorney advised him to plead on the grounds that a big black guy facing an all-white jury was kind of screwed).

            I also don’t buy the “I was too paralyzed with fear to say no, but I otherwise behaved normally and was an active participant in sex” explanation for your first example. At least not in the absence of a plausible threat.

            I think you’re underestimating the degree to which the average man is a potential physical threat to the average woman, and the degree to which women know this. A woman alone in a room with a man is running a risk – and worse, she doesn’t necessarily have all the info she would need to gauge the risk. The traditional fuddy-duddy approach to this problem was to try and keep men and women from being alone together if they weren’t related, married, or something similar. The approach that seems to be gaining steam is to make men scared too, just for a different reason (delayed possibility of some kind of social, legal, or quasi-legal punishment). Both approaches have their upside and downside; it’s possible there is no approach that actually solves the problem fully.

          • Randy M says:

            -women who are going along with it because they know that the average man can easily overpower the average woman, and don’t want to get roughed up or worse

            We really need to go back to chaperons, don’t we? At this point that seems like a win-win.
            Edit: Posted before you posted your latest exchange.

          • Jaskologist says:

            McMegan addressed the subject of trying to deal with this by only shaming men:

            If you cast an eye back over history you’ll see that what most societies have actually come up with is the social equivalent of a cartel: if you want the sex, you’re going to first have to invest in some sort of relationship, because it’s not (readily) available any other way. Those regimes, of course, were often quite punishing to women, but then, that’s how cartels often work; when a cartel member cheats by selling below the fixed price, it is the member, not their customer, who suffers retaliation from the rest of the cartel.

            Which suggests an uncomfortable possibility. No, not a neo-Victorian morals police to force morally loose women out of town. But a decision by women to force better behavior from the men who offend them, and even to browbeat other women into going along.

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think you’re underestimating the degree to which the average man is a potential physical threat to the average woman, and the degree to which women know this. A woman alone in a room with a man is running a risk – and worse, she doesn’t necessarily have all the info she would need to gauge the risk.

            We can understand that risk analysis is hard, especially in the moment, and take that into account when looking backwards and trying to understand the reasonableness of conduct.

            But on a forward looking basis we should do what what we can to make the risk analysis as easy as possible for everyone by being honest during a post-mortem. Especially in pseudo-anonymous forums without the people in question participating. Even if that honesty makes you feel like you are blaming the victim, not being sufficiently sympathetic, or somehow un-feminist.

            In that spirit, I think that if she had grabbed her purse and headed for the door at the first indication that he was acting boorishly or anytime thereafter it is highly unlikely he would have physically prevented her from leaving, beaten, and raped her. Not zero but a very small probability.

            That’s my impression based on the totality of what I know about him and my understanding of the background rates. I could be wrong, and I’d be interested in hearing if others have a different impression.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            you’re a gay man, you go out on a date with a bigger stronger guy who does MMA, and he starts making out with you or whatever. Are you really going to say no and try to leave?

            Yes. If I didn’t trust him, why am I in his apartment in the first place?

            Also, Aziz Ansari is not a MMA fighter. He is 5’6 skinny Indian guy. I don’t know what his weight is, but the closest number I can get from random googling is 137 pounds. That means he is approximately the size of my Wife. The average American woman has 30 pounds on him.

          • Randy M says:

            I know very little about Aziz, though a quick glance at his Amazon offerings implies he thinks he is rather alluring, the kind of guy women aren’t likely to turn down–maybe it’s a character, but the story isn’t exactly shocking.
            But I think if your view as a woman is that telling a handsy date no forcefully–or just leaving right there–is likely to physically imperil you, you should make every effort no to be alone on dates.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad: I’m not saying it’s what happened in this case, but I’m saying it’s something that does happen.

            @A Definite Beta Guy: men have a lean body mass than women of equivalent weight due to the latter’s generally higher body fat %s, and I vaguely remember something to the extent that higher testosterone improves muscular quality as well as quantity. I’m not some kind of science guy, but take a look at, say, Olympic weightlifting records by sex and weight class.

          • CarlosRamirez says:

            Is someone going to acknowledge @Baeraad ?

            What still makes me see red on this whole issue (though I do my best to stay on top of my emotions) is that it completely screws over those men who have an aversion to doublethink. I don’t want to be an alpha male, I don’t want to pretend to be an alpha male, and I find it terribly insulting and unfair that my sincere virtue is worth less than fake vice. Pretending that I’m better than I am always makes me uneasy, but pretending that I’m worse feels downright obscene.

            This is exactly how I feel about dating, and I don’t know what to do about it.

          • Randy M says:

            Pretending that I’m better than I am always makes me uneasy, but pretending that I’m worse feels downright obscene

            This is exactly how I feel about dating, and I don’t know what to do about it.

            Consider that if most women aren’t interested in the honest you that you are putting forth, perhaps it is serving appropriately as a screening method for the kind of women you would get along with.
            Balance this with a hard look at whether what is repelling women in your experience is really virtue.
            If you can’t attract a woman without roughing up passers-by or knocking over liquor stores or something, then probably it’s better to die celibate.
            If instead what it takes is learning to be more confident and assertive and less deferential because it subconsciously signals strength (or some other not-immoral but may feel like it behavior), but doing so makes you feel uncomfortable and like a phony, if this quality of confidence really is widely sought by women, try the ‘fake it til you make it’. In the cases where the women aren’t actually asking for vice, remember that you have to offer the other person what they want to attract them.
            Fundamentally changing your personality may be impossible, but shifting a bit could be useful.
            Else move, I suppose. Geographically or socially.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Randy M

            If you can’t attract a woman without roughing up passers-by or knocking over liquor stores or something, then probably it’s better to die celibate.

            Fifty years ago, I’d have agreed with you. Nowadays, I’m not so sure. We have, as a society, lost the ability to matchmake our young adults into functional marriages. Some degeneration among the current generations is surely to blame for their lack of breeding, but I don’t think it’s all there is to it.

          • Randy M says:

            Fifty years ago, I’d have agreed with you. Nowadays, I’m not so sure.

            Let me clarify just in case.
            I was trying to contrast a situation where Baeraad or CarlosRamirez really would have to adopt or convincingly fake vice in order to attract women, with a situation where it feels like that to them, but what women want is actually a virtue they don’t posses, or at least a fallen shade of one. And to recommend finding ways that they can appeal to desires for, lets say, crude behavior with mannerisms of, say, stoic self-assuredness.

          • Iain says:

            @Baeraad / Carlos Ramirez: Different forceful. An example of what I’m talking about: two people are standing and slowly moving in a bedward direction, slowed by the fact that they are apparently attached at the mouth. Sometimes it is good for one of those people to gently lower the other to the bed; other times it is appreciated if a little bit of forceful throwing takes place.

            You do not have to be some sort of crazed double-thinking alpha male to pull that off. There is no contradiction between making forceful moves, and being prepared to back off if they are not appreciated. Making a sexual advance does not make you a cad. The skill here is not “impersonating a lout”. It is “paying attention to your partner’s desires, and providing more of what they enjoy”.

          • albatross11 says:

            I feel like this is an area where good data is hard to come by for various reasons, but I’m curious how we would determine whether a common reason why a woman gives in to a man’s requests for sex is her being afraid he’s going to beat her up or force her otherwise.

            It seems intuitively like him asking and her saying no to some stuff without any physical consequences is pretty strong evidence that that’s not going on in a given interaction.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Back in my single days, I ran into a few women who I thought with like 80% probability kind of wanted to have their resistance overcome. That is, they would at some point or another say that they didn’t want something (maybe intercourse, maybe something pre-intercourse), but then drop a bunch of signals that seemed to me to indicate that they’d kind of like to be pressed on the subject. I can get the appeal: you can put responsibility on the other person and still get what you want.

          My policy was unilaterally that I was uninterested in playing that game. When they said they didn’t want to do something, we were done with that at least until the next date if any.

          I think that clearly meant that I didn’t have some sex that I could’ve. But it didn’t make me celibate, and honestly if I had wanted more sex, I could’ve had some without changing my behavior on that front.

          Since I was seeking a relationship, not just sex, my general feeling was that:

          a. I wasn’t very interested in having a relationship with a woman whose only mode of behavior was trying to push responsibility onto me and making me interpret ambiguous code.

          b. It encouraged women who had that as one possible mode of behavior, but more straightforward communication as another mode of behavior, to default to the more straightforward mode.

          And finally and in a lot of ways most importantly, it meant that I wasn’t rolling the dice over and over again and eventually coming up with a result of “pushed an unwelcome sexual experience on a woman who genuinely did not want it, but who was unintentionally dropping mixed signals.”

          • Iain says:

            Yeah. In cases of mixed signals, the consequences are heavily weighted to one side. If men take “no” as an answer, despite suspicions to the contrary, the worst that happens is that people have sex a little less frequently until the coy women adjust and stop playing games. If men don’t take “no” as an answer when they have suspicions to the contrary, then women who get their signals misread are forced into unwelcome, uncomfortable sex.

            To make the utilitarian calculus work out in favour of “keep pushing”, you have to assume an unreasonably high number of women who want to have their resistance overcome.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m saying that the men who use that strategy do assume an unreasonably high number of women who want to have their resistance overcome. For whatever reason, guys who use that strategy perceive it as “working” enough that they don’t stop using it; I would wager that the guys with the highest number of sexual partners (or, female sexual partners) are the guys who use a strategy that involves escalation, pushing, and minimizing clear communication. Even if those guys are wrong, perhaps considerably wrong – and I think they are – about the % of women who want that approach, the chances of it going badly for them appear to be low enough that they keep using it.

            Raising the chance that it will go badly for them would also achieve the effect, but I think that the % of women who will publicly say “so-and-so is a cad” is probably even lower than the % of women who want that approach; I think that raising the % of women who clearly say no at the starting gate is probably more likely than raising the % who the next day or whenever go to a journalist or write a Facebook post or whatever. Mainly, I think this because it’s not public (you have to go public and admit that you had sex with so-and-so, even if it’s anonymous staying anonymous isn’t assured) and because it looks better – firmly saying no at the opening looks confident, assured, etc, while the alternative looks like some combination of hapless, without agency, scared.

            EDIT: And I’m in the same boat as sandor. There’s probably a few women I turned off by asking, in retrospect. I could also have had more sex, in the past, without changing my methods, probably – there were women I wasn’t really interested in after the first date pursuing me, etc. Like, this is what I use, what I think everybody should use. But the question is, how do we get everyone to use it?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Apparently my comment got eaten by the spam filter.

            Short rehash: The utilitarian calculus can work out even if 1% of women play coy, if that 1% is the primary focal point of that sort of behavior. If men who engage in that behavior likewise preferentially date women within that pool, they can go their entire lives without harming anyone.

            (Overall, I think there is a tendency of people to assume their preferred modes of social interaction are correct. Being part of the rationalist community doesn’t mean you are less vulnerable to this, it only means you are better at rationalizing it.)

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn:
            Put it this way: I agree that affirmative consent is good and should be the norm. I agree that it is easier to achieve that goal if women shut things down firmly whenever they feel safe doing so. I just don’t think that, in cases where women clearly express discomfort and then then eventually give in, it is productive to second-guess their decisions about whether or not standing up for themselves in that moment was a viable option. (For similar reasons, though with different stakes, I don’t see the value in asking victims of domestic abuse why they didn’t leave sooner.)

            @Thegnskald:

            The utilitarian calculus can work out even if 1% of women play coy, if that 1% is the primary focal point of that sort of behavior. If men who engage in that behavior likewise preferentially date women within that pool, they can go their entire lives without harming anyone.

            Mathematically, sure, that’s possible. Given the number of women who have stories of unwillingly being the focus of that sort of behaviour, I don’t find your hypothetical remotely realistic.

            And again, the issue is not just the ratio of correctly seen as coy : incorrectly seen as coy. The asymmetry is that the downside of guessing wrong is significantly higher on the side that doesn’t accept “no” as an answer.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Women aren’t exactly going to the news with their experiences when their preferences are satisfied.

            You have a preferred romantic style, and want it imposed on everyone else. Fine for you. But consider when most normal people respond with “That is stupid and isn’t how people work”, maybe, just maybe, the fact that you aren’t normal should figure into your calculus of whether or not your romantic style is optimal for other people.

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:
            Would you like to engage with what I actually wrote, or are you only interested in accusing me of living in a bubble? (I hope you appreciate the irony of calling me out for over-generalizing my own experience based on your claims of how “most normal people” respond.)

            Again: I am aware that my experience is not universal. I am aware that there are plenty of women who want their resistance overcome. I am also aware that there are plenty of women who do not want their resistance overcome. Do you dispute that? Do you dispute that “two people do not have sex” is a better outcome than “a woman is forced into a sexual experience she does not want or enjoy”? Because if not, then I don’t see where you actually disagree with me.

          • albatross11 says:

            Iain:

            Are there cases where the woman is reluctant at first and warms up and eventually decides to have sex or whatever, with exactly the level of consent we’d want? I’m sure that happens sometimes.

            Realistically, I think human emotions, relationships, and sexuality are messy and confusing as hell, especially when you’re young. In my younger days, I can think of a few times when I was the one being pressured into sex I didn’t really want by a woman; I hope there weren’t a lot of times when a woman felt pressured to the point of having sex with me she didn’t want, but I can’t totally rule that out, since I’m pretty sure the women who pressured me didn’t see that at the time.

            Further, since sex is fun and if you’re dating someone, you probably feel some romantic/sexual attraction, it’s probably very common in this kind of situation that the less aggressive person on the date (usually but not always the woman in a male/female pairing) is herself having mixed feelings and working from a mixed set of motives. If you were thinking “No fucking way am I sleeping with you, yuck!” you’d probably just walk away, absent some physical threat or something. But if you were simultaneously thinking “I don’t really think I want to sleep with you right now” and “well, actually it would be kind-of fun to have sex” and “I’d like to be closer to you, maybe this is the right way to do it,” that seems intuitively like the kind of situation in which you’d give mixed signals, say no but not in a way that put a definitive end to the physical interactions, maybe even continue dating them even though you ended up having sex and didn’t really feel great about it the next morning.

            My own experience along these lines mostly involved women I was pretty close friends with who were more sexually/romantically interested than I was. There was certainly no question of physical force or threat or anything, just a situation where I felt pretty reluctant to say no to someone I both liked and cared about who wanted things I didn’t want as much. (And since I did, in fact, like sex….) In one case, I was dating a woman who was objectively quite attractive and I felt like I should be attracted to her, but somehow she just flat didn’t hit my buttons and I wasn’t all that interested, and I couldn’t quite work out how to say no without hurting her feelings.

            I have no idea how common this sort of thing is for men or women. But I am skeptical that there’s ever going to be a simple formula to resolve all these messy situations, especially the ones where you’re partly at war with yourself over what you want to do. (Sleep with your friend who’s clearly ready and interested and attracted to you when you’re also feeling horny? Or stop and think about whether that’s going to wreck the friendship when you turn out not to want a long-term relationship and she does?)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            I am engaging with your premises. What you are writing is irrelevant to the actual disagreement.

            Albatross gets at it – you are treating human interactions as binary, logical interactions. That isn’t how normal people operate. Most people don’t even know what they want, and don’t want it spelled out for them either. Sex and romance is a magic for them, in which they foster an illusion of a deeper emotional connection via implicit signaling – for most people, explicit communication spoils the mood by suggesting that that deeper emotional connection is missing.

            If you lack the illusion that there is a magic to the chemistry, if you can even talk about body language, you can’t understand how it makes them feel to have their needs met without their asking for it, to have their emotional barriers taken down.

            From this perspective, that resistance is a kind of subconscious test for the magic. You knew what they really wanted, what they themselves didn’t even “know” they wanted.

            It is an elaborate social dance, which you are proposing ripping up and replacing with what is, from their perspective, a soulless protocol.

            You see the nonsense of the dance, you can talk about responding to body language and how body language can get misinterpreted. You do not see the magic, you see the reality.

            What you don’t seem to see is that other people do find a kind of basic wonder and magic in it, and they really, really don’t appreciate that being taken away.

            I think you gravely underestimate exactly how much utility you see talking about tearing down.

          • Randy M says:

            explicit communication spoils the mood by suggesting that that deeper emotional connection is missing.

            That’s an interesting way to think about it. A not entirely unreasonable but rather risky mindset. Definitely gets at what can be meant by romance.

            Also, it’s ironic how thoroughly this “magical” view of romance/sexuality is promoted by the same Hollywood/entertainment industry that is nominally proudly progressive in all social matters.

            I think you gravely underestimate exactly how much utility you see talking about tearing down

            This reminds me of some discussions I had with the Autistic poster of many names. Not that Iain is attempting to abolish all romance like he was, but perhaps its the same theme of trying to help people by taking away something that brings them joy.

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            Sure. Sex is always going to be messy and confusing; there’s always going to be ambiguity; mixed signals are always going to happen. It wouldn’t be fucking if there weren’t fuck-ups, as it were.

            All I’m arguing is that people should take mixed signals seriously. Right now there is a common script for sexual interactions that says: men should pursue sex. Women will say they don’t want it, but men should keep pushing until they give in. I think it’s a bad script, because — even though it is sometimes accurate — when it fails it fails badly. Instead, I think people have a responsibility to make a good faith effort to ensure that their partner is okay with everything that is happening.

            I certainly don’t claim that this will solve all sex problems ever. It just helps to reduce some of the worst ones. Edge cases like the ones you describe are still edge cases; at best, affirmative consent means that people go slower and take a bit more time to think about it.

            @Thegnskald:

            Thank you for making an actual argument, instead of accusing me of not engaging with the points that I can only assume were in the post that you lost. We disagree less than you seem to think.

            I am not arguing for forms filled out in triplicate every time you advance a base. I am arguing for a basic level of attentiveness to your partner’s mood, and a willingness to check in if you’re unsure. If the body language is obviously giving the green light, then sure, go ahead — but pay close attention to the reaction, in case you were misreading.

            If people have genuine chemistry and an implicit emotional connection, they’re going to do just fine. Affirmative consent is for the cases where things aren’t clear. Yes, maybe that weakens the magic. Also weakening the magic: pushing people into sex they don’t want!

            If our social scripts for how sex goes only work for people who are good at it, they aren’t good scripts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            Put it this way: I agree that affirmative consent is good and should be the norm. I agree that it is easier to achieve that goal if women shut things down firmly whenever they feel safe doing so. I just don’t think that, in cases where women clearly express discomfort and then then eventually give in, it is productive to second-guess their decisions about whether or not standing up for themselves in that moment was a viable option. (For similar reasons, though with different stakes, I don’t see the value in asking victims of domestic abuse why they didn’t leave sooner.)

            I don’t think you can compare this to domestic abuse; that’s a thing that happens over time. Abusers usually don’t start abusing until they’ve gotten the other person emotionally ensnared.

            And while there may not be productivity in second-guessing this particular case, my broader point is that agency can’t be applied selectively, and that it’s really weird to complain about cads while feeding them. If the market is voting with your dollar, the sexual market is voting with your privates. A business doesn’t care if you complain furiously about its services while continuing to purchase them. It’s not about this individual case; there’s been this zeitgeist for a while now, and I think it’s a case of people wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think we have a different understanding of the expression “beyond the pale.” Taken literally, fine, cast out of society, but colloquially it just means “not acceptable,” which is what Valenti said.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      So this is the first time I’ve read the accusation and I’m extremely underwhelmed.

      “The claw” is a weird maneuver, not sure where he picked that up, but the rest of it sounds pretty indistinguishable from the ordinary dating script. I could tell a half-dozen stories from my own dating history which sound like hers told from the guys perspective, and one of the most frequent compliments I get from women is how respectful I am. If he was 6’5″ instead of 5’6″ I strongly suspect that her story would have been very different.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        This really isn’t a healthy dating script. If the description is accurate, he missed all sorts of signals that she didn’t want to escalate physically. She obviously should have removed herself, and asked herself what the hell she was doing going to the condo of a famous actor 12 years her senior if not to bang him, but Aziz comes off fairly poorly in this description.

        Like, Tom Haverford level poorly.

        I’d expect something like this once or twice from a young, inexperienced man, but not from a guy in his 30s.

        I’m not exactly charitable to these takes, though. The dating market is definitely hell, but I see things from the male perspective, and the average/loser male perspective. This girl is clearly attractive and witty enough to date B-list celebrities and made a small unforced error. Based on the other thread about online dating market innovations, the average guy’s dating prospect is so horrible that he should consider paying women to even talk to him, which does seem to be a fair summary of the average guy’s chances.

        For said average guys to get a little overeager during their initial encounters, yeah, I’m not entirely shocked.

        • rahien.din says:

          Like, Tom Haverford level poorly.

          Like Jean Ralphio level poorly.

        • cassander says:

          >If the description is accurate, he missed all sorts of signals that she didn’t want to escalate physically

          and what sort of signal was him asking her to blow him, and her blowing him? Does she bear zero responsibility for not saying no?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          This really isn’t a healthy dating script. […] The dating market is definitely hell[…]

          I hope you don’t mind me putting your comment into a quote blender, but I agree with both statements and think that they need to be closer together.

          Women have a preference for men who act like, scratch that, men who are cads. Rarely explicitly stated but a clear revealed preference nonetheless.

          The dating market does exactly what markets always do and makes sure that the supply of cads is sufficient to meet women’s demand for them.

          Edit:

          If you want to reduce caddishness, you definitely need to shame cads. But the flip side of that is that you also need to shame women who sleep with cads. And that’s why the cads aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The dating market does exactly what markets always do and makes sure that the supply of cads is sufficient to meet women’s demand for them.

            I agree with your main point but I don’t think this is right. The dating market is incredibly inefficient in that there are a large number of people who are involuntarily single.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Wrong Species

            The dating market is incredibly inefficient in that there are a large number of people who are involuntarily single.

            Funny, but I encounter far more people arguing against this position than for it; most seem to claim that most of the people (or at least the men) who claim to be “involuntarily single” are actually single by choice, by reason of “choosing” to have “too high standards.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Kevin C

            Even if that’s true, it would still mean the market is inefficient. Imagine that TV makers weren’t willing to sell their ordinary TVs for anything less than $5,000. You would have an oversupply of TVs sitting around in warehouses and no one satisfied.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil al Dajjal

            Were there fewer cads when cads were shamed but women were also shamed for sleeping with cads, and also, for sleeping with not-cads – really, for anyone they weren’t married, or maybe engaged, to?

            (I wouldn’t go so far as saying, shame women who sleep with cads, but at least maybe look askance at women who sleep with cads and then do thinkpieces/short stories/whatever about how it’s not fair that all these guys they have casual sex with turn out to be cads.)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @dndnrsn,

            It certainly seems like it when you read the accounts of what dating was like before the sexual revolution. Certain statistics like the prevalence of unwed mothers seem to support that as well.

            Also, “a man who sleeps with women he doesn’t intend to marry” is pretty much the dictionary definition of a cad. Both of us and the vast majority of men on this site are cads.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m a cad? Just add an H and I’ve got it made! Sweet!

            Seriously, I think you could break men having premarital sex down into three groups: “men who only have sex with a woman intending to marry her, possibly after a proposal”, “men who only have sex with women they conceivably see a relationship with that could potentially lead to marriage”, and “men who have sex with women they are definitely not going to pursue a relationship with.”

            Is the second type a cad? I think that’s the group I fall into.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I don’t have a very strong opinion on that particular distinction. If you pressed me I guess it would come down to how long you waited before being sure that it was real.

            I don’t blame guys for following incentives here by the way. They do their level best to be good guys, it doesn’t work, and they change strategies. There’s nothing noble about losing.

          • Deiseach says:

            “men who only have sex with a woman intending to marry her, possibly after a proposal”

            Re: cads, there seemingly were a lot of guys who said “Sure I’m going to marry you, honey”; they then had sex because now she was assured this was a lasting relationship; she got pregnant; then it was “marriage what marriage I never promised you anything”.

            (To be fair, there were also a lot of “baby first then marriage, whether intended from the start or not” as well).

            If you’re only going to sleep with someone you intend to marry, then you may as well wait for the marriage. Otherwise, it’s too much of a risk and sounds too much like a line for the woman to believe.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil al Dajjal

            See, my perspective is, I went with “clear communication, affirmative consent” as the default, without anybody telling me to, and it worked. In my experience, in all the path from “sending a message/asking a woman out” to “making out or sex or whatever”, getting to the last part from the bit immediately preceding it is the easiest part.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @dndnrsn,

            I had the opposite experience.

            Pre-game I used to get dates, much more rarely but it still happened, which would consistently fizzle out and die by the end of the second date.

            When I learned not to take women at their word and focus on body language It was night and day. I never had to ask for another date, they would come to me asking when was the next time they could come over.

            This is the Plutonian issue I mentioned before. If women who want open and honest communication about sex exist, I’ve never met one. This is as close to a universal preference as I’ve ever encountered.

          • Wrong Species says:

            “men who have sex with women they are definitely not going to pursue a relationship with.”

            Let’s be honest, pretty much every guy is this. If you had an attractive woman go up to a bunch of single men and tell them that she was going to sleep with them, no strings attached and they had no suspicion of ulterior motives, how many are going to check their likelihood of marriage before saying yes? Maybe religious men but that’s about it.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think of a cad as a man who sleeps with a woman where she thinks he cares about her and wants a serious relationship with her, but he is just trying to get laid and doesn’t want anything more than that.

            If the man and woman are both going for casual sex with open eyes, there’s no cad.

            If the man and woman are both at some stage of considering a serious relationship, even if later on the man decides not to pursue it, there’s no cad.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil al Dajjal

            But what is “game”? Did you try isolating different parts? What if you swapped out just the initiating sex for a version of the open-communication model, but kept doing a lot of the “be cocky-funny, play a little hard to get, don’t be super emotionally open, don’t be clingy” behaviours?

            A lot of advice, from many places and of different kinds, given to men is dreadful and one variety is advice that would work great if you’re trying to be somebody’s friend (and I highly recommend having female friends!) but makes you look like a lousy partner, because it makes you look emotionally week, needy, and overall just kind of pathetic. I’m saying, drop that stuff, but still ask before you get physical, or at least before you get physical the first time or two.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @dndnrsn,

            No, I didn’t control for each variable. I wasn’t planning on submitting my results to ‘Trends in Boning’ so it didn’t seem relevant.

            Thankfully I’m out of the dating scene, hopefully for life, and I won’t have to deal with that BS anymore. But if I have to give dating advice to other guys I’m going to limit it to things that I know work and not speculation or wishful thinking.

          • dndnrsn says:

            No double blind testing then? (Sounds kinky!)

            What I’m saying is, and I base this on some (not a statistically significant amount, but hey) personal experience, that the bad advice is far more in all the stuff before the question of how to initiate sex. A guy who seems confident, self-sufficient, capable, cool, etc, asking, will do better than a guy who seems clingy, weak, and pathetic trying to escalate and push. In my experience, initiating intimate contact of whatever sort is the easiest part.

          • outis says:

            Question for Nabil ad Dajjal: is “The Game” still the right book to read?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @outis,

            I haven’t read that one so I can’t comment.

            I read Bang and Day Bang, which were very helpful to me but are starting to show their age. It’s pretty strong when it comes to interpersonal communication and texting but it was written pre-Tinder and has essentially nothing on optimizing your online dating strategy.

            I haven’t been part of the community for years now so if better material has been published since I wouldn’t know about it. Either way, experience is the best teacher: once you understand the core concepts your number of approaches matters much more than how many books you’ve read.

          • outis says:

            @Nabil: thanks!

        • Kevin C. says:

          Based on the other thread about online dating market innovations, the average guy’s dating prospect is so horrible that he should consider paying women to even talk to him, which does seem to be a fair summary of the average guy’s chances.

          Yeah, the consensus over on that thread seems to be that online dating is a hellscape (note even Scott’s comment on OKCupid). And I’ve seen folks elsewhere argue that online dating is a “bubble” — and that it’s likely to “pop” soon as even desperate men finally get tired of their lack of success.

          But then I remember Stanford professor Michael J. Rosenfeld’s research results, summed up in this graph, showing that, aside from “bars/restaurants,” every offline method of coupling is in decline.

          So, these together don’t exactly look good, do they? So, what, really, can be done about it, except accept a shrinking population and a lot of lonely, frustrated “bare branches” that society will have to somehow deal with, as per this thread.

          (As to vV_Vv’s

          imagine a not-so-distant future where any boy who isn’t a hyper-masculine Chad from a young age will be pushed, possibly with the help of hormones and surgical scalpels, to live his life as some sort of “queer” identity which does not involve having sex with women

          as likely “solution,” I did recently see someone on Tumblr pretty much imply that any “straight” man who hasn’t had sex with a woman by his late 30’s is really just gay and in denial about it.)

      • Well... says:

        “The claw” is a weird maneuver, not sure where he picked that up, but the rest of it sounds pretty indistinguishable from the ordinary dating script.

        Wait, the ordinary dating script includes both parties performing oral sex on each other on the first date? I mean, I know it’s not unheard of, but I wouldn’t consider that ordinary. Of course, I haven’t dated for over 12 years so what I do I know. Have things really changed that much?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Wait, the ordinary dating script includes both parties performing oral sex on each other on the first date?

          More or less.

          The old heuristic that a first date without a kiss means that there won’t be a second date is still going strong. But now there isn’t really a hard line between making out and digital / oral sex. Combine the two and it’s pretty easy to get to third base on the first date.

          If the first date goes well and she comes back to your place (or vice versa) it’s about 50:50 whether you’ll have penetrative sex. If she stops short it’s still 75:25 that there’s some kind of genital contact. It’s a rare and pleasant surprise when women have enough restraint to just kiss and make their exit.

          That’s part of how I realized how much of a keeper my girlfriend is. We’ll be able to tell the story of how we got together to our kids without lying.

          • Well... says:

            But now there isn’t really a hard line between making out and digital / oral sex.

            You mean there isn’t a soft line. The “hard” line is still very real: oral sex and kissing are very, very different activities. I had my first kiss in the second grade. It was a sweet, fairly innocent experience in retrospect. If I was looking back on having had a girl go down on me in the second grade that would be pretty shocking. Even more shocking for the girl looking back on it!

            If the first date goes well and she comes back to your place (or vice versa) it’s about 50:50 whether you’ll have penetrative sex. If she stops short it’s still 75:25 that there’s some kind of genital contact.

            Just curious, are there actually some hard numbers on this somewhere? Are these those numbers?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I don’t mean to imply that I’m using real statistics. That’s just an estimate drawn from my own memory.

            I agree that oral sex in second grade would be shocking, but are you telling me that you’ve never kissed a girl and kissed all the way down her body to cunnilingus? Obviously the technique is different but either way you’re kissing ‘on the lips’ in a manner of speaking.

          • Well... says:

            are you telling me that you’ve never kissed a girl and kissed all the way down her body to cunnilingus?

            Not on the first date.

            Or, if I have done it on a first date (I don’t remember every first date I ever went on), that would be very unusual.

          • outis says:

            Ah, shit. I had a nice date a couple of days ago, but I did not kiss the girl.

          • Well... says:

            Which in 2004 meant you had a pretty normal first date with a pretty normal girl, but in 2018 apparently means you’re a beta loser who totally struck out and might as well go back to your mom’s basement? And/or that the girl you went on the date with was a prude stuck-up bitch who’s probably a closet frustrated lesbian who hates men anyway?

          • outis says:

            @Well…: I am, in fact, a beta loser.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Okay, new angle on this.

      Skeptics have long criticized feminism for acting like any suggestion that women should protect themselves better automatically excuses men who hurt them. “Stop victim-blaming”, “Teach men not to rape”, and all that.

      As far as I can tell, the pushback articles are reversing this stupidity. They’re not satisfied to just say that women can and should be more proactive about protecting themselves from this kind of thing; they’re also denouncing the denunciation of the man’s actions.

      I really want this false dichotomy to go away, and it seems to just be getting more entrenched.

      • Fahundo says:

        they’re also denouncing the denunciation of the man’s actions.

        Not having read all the denunciations, I’d imagine it’s because they don’t want Aziz to be tossed into the same group as guys like Spacey and Weinstein. The court of public opinion needs to recognize the difference between misdemeanors and felonies.

        • Evan Þ says:

          The court of public opinion recognizes very few differences of degree, no statute of limitations, and no punishment except for life sentences.

          That is why a whole lot of things like this should be more formalized.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There’s denunciation in the sense of denouncing the behaviour (publicly or otherwise), there’s denunciation in the sense of telling all her friends Aziz Ansari is not a gentleman, and there’s denunciation in the sense of an anonymous article that publicly declares him to be not a gentleman and suggests that this goes in the same basket as sexual harassers, gropers, rapists, etc.

        Further, “stop victim-blaming” was supposed to be about sexual assault, not about any situation where somebody didn’t get what they wanted or thought they deserved, romantically or sexually.

    • cassander says:

      I don’t see what there is to debate here. he invited her over, asked her to perform sexual acts on him, and she did. Her account, not his, alleges no coercion, not even an attempt at a hard sell, just persistence. I pretty much stand with Megan Mccardle’s reaction, that this is a woman who had a sexual experience she, in retrospect, decided that she didn’t like. No consent was violated, but she has no vocabulary process that with besides that of consent, so claims that her consent was violated. It wasn’t. Ansari did absolutely nothing wrong and to call what happened assault isn’t just to grossly torture the language, it amounts to making bad sex a criminal act.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is something I’ve been thinking about. If one’s approach to sexual matters is a sort of dumbed-down sex positivity in which anything consenting adults do is good, the fairly obvious corollary is that anything that wasn’t good must not have really been consensual, or at least not fully consensual. It’s sort of erased the line between villain and jerk, and between someone who made a bad decision and a victim.

        • cassander says:

          I wouldn’t say it’s a logical corollary, but I do think it’s a natural corollary, if that makes sense.

          • Kevin C. says:

            I’d say it is a logical corollary, given that the contrapositive of “if ‘done by consenting adults’ then ‘good'” is “if ‘not good’ then ‘not done by consenting adults’.”

          • albatross11 says:

            This is a good point. I think the sensible rule is “anything done between consenting adults isn’t *criminal*.” Many sexual things consenting adults can do can be bad for them or even morally wrong, but as long as everyone involved was an adult and gave at least passive consent (they could have stopped it but didn’t and there was no coercion), the police don’t get called and nobody is looking at jail time.

      • albatross11 says:

        Maybe one way to clarify this is to imagine the same situation with the genders swapped. The woman is pressing the man for sex, and he’s reluctant but eventually gives in. How is the moral situation different in that case?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, there are two reasons to say this is different. Reason one is, in this scenario, it’s likely that the man could fight off the woman. Obviously, he doesn’t want to, because “she was trying to force herself on me, and I had to defend myself” is unlikely to fly with the cops or the court. But the woman is still probably going to stop at a certain degree, more likely than a man would. Women who go along with something they don’t want to because they’re scared are in a shitty situation and deserve a ton of sympathy.

          Reason two is an explanation along social grounds – supposedly, men would feel more comfortable saying no, a person can’t be held as responsible if they feel awkward (as opposed to scared) saying no, etc. Far less sympathetic, because the first bit is plain not true (a ton of men describe feeling really constrained concerning saying no; I’ve been in this position, although only in established relationships), and the second bit wipes out personal agency to a degree I think is a bit much.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Why would the woman be more likely to stop?

            Consider the social dynamics: Decent men have had it drilled into them that women usually don’t want sex, and that women’s right to say no is sacrosanct, and that women may be afraid to say no but it should be looked for.

            Decent women have had it drilled into them that men always want sex. Few if any lessons in proper sexual behavior with a potentially reluctant partner.

            Which of these situations do you think is likely to result in somebody paying attention to reluctance?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The ultimate escalation is physical force, and in the moment a woman is probably not thinking “ah well if he seriously hurts or kills me, he’ll sure be in trouble then”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            A woman trying to have sex with a reluctant man is, I am going to say pretty much categorically, not thinking about the physical danger he poses to her as a downside.

            Because if she is thinking about it, either it is a turn-on, which is why she is pushing for sex, or she wouldn’t be pushing for sex in the first place because he makes her feel unsafe.

            And reluctance, as a signal, doesn’t exactly convey physical danger. Unless you think it is easier to hit someone than gather the courage to say no?

      • albatross11 says:

        I think cassander’s got a really important point here w.r.t. vocabulary. When we try to phrase every bad sexual interaction that can happen in terms of consent and coercion, we end up trying to hammer some situations like this into the bin of “coercion,” even though it appears that there wasn’t anything remotely like coercion going on. We need a richer vocabulary.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Yes. The vocabulary for “legal, not truly egregious, but certainly not nice” has kind of disappeared.

        • cassander says:

          I think there’s a lot of power in weak versions of saphir-worf. Language doesn’t determine thought, but ideas get shoved into boxes that your language/culture has words for.

    • BBA says:

      It’s not peak #MeToo until there’s a provably false accusation that the alleged assaulter is still punished for. And by provably false, I mean something like he was in another country and can show the passport stamps.

      Short of that, I don’t expect Ansari to show his face in public anytime soon. Leonard Lopate lost his job for less.

    • Reasoner says:

      That was actually pretty interesting to read because it made me realize how cautious I am, as a guy, about sex. Even though I hate feminists, apparently they’ve cowed me (along with my own natural shyness/timidity?) into playing it pretty safe. The fact that this story is given in such great detail actually makes me feel better… if Aziz’s behavior is on the borderline of what’s acceptable, then everything I’ve ever done is way in to “acceptable” territory, and I can stop feeling guilty about times in the past when I inadvertently made women uncomfortable. (It also makes me wonder how much more I would get laid if I was more shameless about taking initiative.)

      • Baeraad says:

        Heh. Yeah, I think I’m in the same boat. It’s one thing to rage online about how feminists are completely unreasonable and should be able to stand a minimal amount of male social imperfection. It’s another to go out into the real world and do things that will make actual people uncomfortable, because, well… whether or not they should get hurt, they will get hurt, and if you’re a reasonably good person, you don’t want to hurt anyone.

        So in practice, I think my behaviour is perfectly feminist-approved, too.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I probably have a considerably higher opinion of feminism, in general, than the background noise here. I also have, personally, scrupulously practiced affirmative consent. But I can’t connect the two – I don’t recall ever being told about affirmative consent, and the campus movement was in any case a bit after my time in school. It was just what I defaulted to – I think I had a fear of hurting someone in that regard I generated spontaneously.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @Brad, @Iain

      This whole thing is getting kind of fragmented, so I thought I’d collect some of my thoughts.

      The case in point is one manifestation of a theme I’ve seen before. It goes back at least a year or two, and that’s just my noticing it. There’s thinkpieces, at least one short story, where the theme is basically, young women (20s, early to mid 30s) aghast that they had casual sex with a guy, or many guys, and he/they were disrespectful and generally shitty (this isn’t about sexual assault, which is a different thing; treating being a cad as shading into sexual assault is one of the things I find offputting about the whole thing). And the possibility of returning to a slightly more constrained sexuality – say, holding out until the third date – never seems to enter the picture. It never seems to occur that it’s possible to wait until after you have had a chance to get a bead on someone’s character before you sleep with them. There’s an abandoning of agency that I see there.

      This is weird, and frustrating, because to me it feels like a simultaneous demand for modern sexual standards (one-night-stands are OK, slut-shaming is bad, women are allowed to own their sexuality, etc) and previous sexual standards (mostly surrounding patriarchal norms, where women are fragile and only men really have agency). It feels like a simultaneous demand for no chaperones and failure of recognition that absent some maiden aunt following you around you gotta chaperone yourself.

      What I find especially striking is that I know a lot of women around my age (so, mid 20s to early 30s) who are accomplished, confident, smart, successful, etc etc. Often, more accomplished than I am, at least professionally. In many ways, reaping the fruits of feminism – I would not be surprised if in this group, the women make more than the men. But when it comes to their sex lives, a lot of them really seem to retreat from agency, and for all the power they’ve gained over women however many generations ago, they express feeling powerless when it comes to sex and dating and so on: again, no recognition that they can slow down and get to know a guy/make a guy get to know them, just offended innocence that guy number whatever turned out to be a jerk, just like the last however many guys.

      Shitty guys – or, guys doing shitty things – are a problem, shitty here being defined as following a sexual script where it’s the guy’s job to push, push, push, only taking an obvious and unequivocal no as no, everything else as “try again.” But these guys get talked about – in the thinkpieces, in the story, by the women I know – like they’re some kind of force of nature. Whereas, in reality, guys will keep doing that until it doesn’t work for them. And I think the way for it to stop working for them is for everyone to insist on some sort of affirmative consent standard – including the women. If women refuse to have anything to do with cads – which may well mean taking longer to figure out if a guy’s a cad or not – the cads will wither away.

      Now, it might not be fair that the onus is not put entirely on the major offenders, but, it’s also not fair that a company will keep using shitty business practices unless, one way or another, those shitty business practices become unprofitable, or detrimental to the company. Imagine somebody saying “I hate company x’s business practices, but why should I boycott them? It should be their job to change how they do business!” It’s not an issue of fairness, it’s a practical issue.

      Beyond that, something is clearly going wrong. Between this and the dating site thread – is anyone having a good time? A lot of people, regardless of gender, seem to have an awful time in the dating/sex marketplace. The sexual revolution seems to have turned out rather badly for a lot of people, as seen in people wanting norm changes that in many cases amount to variations on how things used to be.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I think Aziz Ansari invited this scrutiny because he calls himself a male feminist.
      What would #MeToo do if they hadn’t had any wine and he shot back with “Hey, I’m a Muslim”?

  11. johan_larson says:

    What’s the current state of play on what to do with able-bodied workers who cannot find market employment?

    Let’s suppose we have Kyle. Kyle is 20. He struggled in school and dropped out at 14, saying it “sucked”. The school system, with the support of his parents, moved him to a remedial/vocational school that had an integrated internship program with local employers. He eventually stopped showing up. Multiple attempts have been made to find Kyle work; in one program he was fired for fighting with his coworkers, in another he was fired for yelling at a customer, and in the third he just stopped showing up, complaining of having to work with “dweebs”. There is nothing physically or mentally wrong with Kyle, but he has a mess of terrible habits and seems to want nothing from life beyond a couple of bong hits, a friendly hand-job, and a high score in Call of Duty.

    So, what do we do with Kyle?

    My inclination is to offer him distinctly minimal support that will pay for the bare basics of life. Hopefully at some point he’ll snap out of it and want something a bit better. At that point offer him a first-steps job program that pays him a bit better to do something undemanding like pick up garbage and is basically a test of willingness to show up regularly and not make trouble.

    The tough-love approach would be to cut Kyle off completely. The problem in that case is that he might turn to crime rather than lawful employment and would either do real harm or have to be housed at considerable public expense in prison. Sounds expensive, either way.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      How does wage subsidy fit into your model? At a high enough subsidy, anyone who isn’t in a coma can find work.

      Yeah, a lot of work sucks, but that’s been true for thousands of years, and billions of Kyles have gotten over it because they had to. Maybe society is rich enough that we don’t need Kyles to work any more, but if we let the Kyles get away with no work for 10 years and it turns out that we’re wrong somehow, we’ve now got millions of Kyles on our hands with no work skills and fully expecting someone to take care of them.

      • johan_larson says:

        I hadn’t considered wage subsidies per se.

        In my model the first-steps job program would be paying Kyle somewhat less than minimum wage to do undemanding work that wouldn’t get done at market wages. I would expect that most of the folks in the first-steps jobs, having proven themselves, would graduate into minimum-wage jobs of various sorts, probably in retail or construction.

        What do you have in mind for Kyle? Keep in mind that right now, lots of employers wouldn’t take on Kyle even if he worked for nothing.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You said Kyle could pick up trash. Why wouldn’t an employer want that at zero cost? I’d pay Kyle a dollar to walk along my bike route and pick up trash.

          17-to-24-year old men have negative behaviors which various responsibilities (typically work) help socialize out of them. I don’t think avoiding work until 25 is doing Kyle any favors.

          Kyle of the year 2018 is still getting a much much better deal than Kyle of 50 or 100 or 200 years ago is getting.

          • johan_larson says:

            The hypothetical Kyle(0) of right now could certainly pick up trash. But the last time we tried giving him any sort of work he was fired or stopped showing up.

            Kyle(1), Kyle with a slightly better attitude, is certainly capable of picking up trash, and will do so earnestly because he is tired of having to choose between heat and phone service.

            Kyle(1) sounds like a good candidate for subsidized employment, to compensate for his terrible work record. I’m not sure Kyle(0) is, since it seems to be hard to get him to do anything at all. Unless you have some sort of forced labour in mind?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Work sucks” and “coworkers suck” aren’t new concepts. Work has always sucked, usually in ways that are vastly more brutal than work sucks in 2018.

            So what have we done for the past 2500 years to billions of Kyles to move them from Kyle(0) to Kyle(1)? I think you answered it when you said “tired of having to choose between heat and phone service.” Either Kyle(0) or Kyle(1) can show up to work and either only gets paid if they do show up.

          • Michael Handy says:

            Kyle (2018) is arguably getting a worse deal today, compared to say, a pre-industrial Shepard Kyle smoking weed and drinking around his sheep. Society is richer, healthier, and kinder. And has no place for him, and wont let him die.

            Remember all the records about how bloody hard it was to get factory workers to actually show up and do their jobs in the early 19th century rather than go “I reckon i can last the week on my pay, bye, I’m off to the pub until I’m starving!”? It was a civilisation of Kyles.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Michael Handy

            Society is richer, healthier, and kinder. And has no place for him, and wont let him die.

            So is the solution, then, to let ‘the Kyles’ die?

          • Randy M says:

            he just stopped showing up, complaining of having to work with “dweebs”. There is nothing physically or mentally wrong with Kyle

            So is the solution, then, to let ‘the Kyles’ die?

            I’m… maybe okay with that. I’m also okay with family and friends (or strangers) taking care of him if they want. But if he can work, and there is work, and he simply doesn’t bother to, and maybe once or twice you’ve tried to intervene and teach some basic social skills that he missed in his 12 years in public ed, etc…. I’m not going to care more about his life than he does.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’d be ok with Kyle dying too. It’s a pity, but multiple attempts to help him have failed and he just isn’t trying.

            The problem is that if we cut him off, Kyle may not meekly wander over to mill for convenient and hygienic disposal. He may become a homeless beggar making a nuisance of himself on the street or turn to petty crime. And both of those are worse results IMHO than having him living uselessly on the dole.

          • Randy M says:

            You’ll also have to take care of Kyle(1) who now has a much nicer alternative to working at Taco Bell or whatever.
            And you’ll still have some fraction of Kyles who get bored or drunk and cause problems. So the cost side of the CBA is probably bigger than it would naively look. By how much, I don’t know.

          • Brad says:

            You’ll also have to take care of Kyle(1) who now has a much nicer alternative to working at Taco Bell or whatever.

            The idea is that it isn’t much nicer. And there is a mechanism to help ensure that. Inasmuch as it is much nicer, Taco Bell has to pay more to get anyone to work there, and keep on doing that until the dole isn’t much nicer anymore.

            To make an admission against interest (or at least ideology), the problem comes when you have a workforce that isn’t eligible for the dole but can work. Then Taco Bell can hire from among that population and the above mechanism breaks down.

          • Deiseach says:

            how bloody hard it was to get factory workers to actually show up and do their jobs in the early 19th century

            Early 19th century factory jobs were also bloody awful by comparison with much of the non-industrial work those workers would have been doing, or their parents’ generation would have done.

            Not wanting to work in a place where you have every chance of having your fingers amputated? Oh, those ungrateful lazy wretches!

          • Randy M says:

            The idea is that it isn’t much nicer.

            My impression is that there’s a lot of work that’s a lot not nicer than lounging around playing video games with your buddies, even if you’re only eating top ramen between matches.
            Now there’s an admission against interest. 😛

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Deiseach

            Early 19th century factory jobs were also bloody awful by comparison with much of the non-industrial work those workers would have been doing

            Do you have any evidence to bear on that “by comparison” part? Certainly factory jobs then were awful by modern standards, but workers flocked to the factories because these jobs were better than the available alternatives, most notably the alternative of working on farms using technology and medicine levels available at the time.

            (Farmhands lose fingers in accidents too, and don’t get paid nearly as well for the risk of doing so!)

          • Not wanting to work in a place where you have every chance of having your fingers amputated? Oh, those ungrateful lazy wretches!

            “Every chance” seems to imply that it usually happened. The text you linked to tells us that it happened at least once, implies, probably correctly, that it happened more often than that.

            Amazing that anyone would work on the farm back then, when there was every chance you would be gored by a bull.

            At least, it must have happened to someone.

          • Aapje says:

            @Glen Raphael

            My theory is that the agricultural revolution pushed the workers out of farm jobs, as fewer people were needed to farm the land. So it’s not necessarily that people preferred factory jobs over farm jobs, but rather that their farm jobs went away.

          • Nick says:

            Does the preponderance of folks willing to work in factories have anything to do with enclosure? Chesterton and Belloc, and I believe some Marxists too, have made this claim about England.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nick

            The theory is that this was a major part of what made the Agricultural Revolution possible. The Wiki page you link to says:

            Enclosure is considered one of the causes of the British Agricultural Revolution. Enclosed land was under control of the farmer who was free to adopt better farming practices. There was widespread agreement in contemporary accounts that profit making opportunities were better with enclosed land. Following enclosure, crop yields increased while at the same time labour productivity increased enough to create a surplus of labour. The increased labour supply is considered one of the causes of the Industrial Revolution.

            Presumably the common lands required consensus before changing something, so innovation was restricted, because the most risk-averse person decided what happened. Enclosed land allowed the most risk-taking farmer to innovate, whereafter the more risk-averse farmers could then copy this proven innovation.

      • Michael Handy says:

        And billions of Kyles haven’t gotten over it, and are either minimally productive screaming shells of people, or catatonic homeless, or turned to crime, or they just starved to death.

    • Brad says:

      If Kyle is really content with a minimal standard of living, I’m happy enough to give it to him. From society’s perspective the cheapest solution would be for his family to provide that minimal standard of living. But if they can’t, won’t, or don’t exist then the alternatives are likely to end up costing us more than just paying him off — either in direct costs (e.g. jail) or indirect ones (homeless bum with staph infection bothering everyone in the central business district).

      The real problem comes when you get a Kyle that isn’t content with that and either out of boredom or greed causes trouble. That’s the number one reason for the makework program, to prevent idle hands doing the devil’s work.

      • Well... says:

        and either out of boredom or greed causes trouble.

        Yeah, you can send him $400/month for a cheap apartment, but you are now compelling other people to be his neighbors, and he’s a real crappy neighbor.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        If we’re paying for Kyle, he gets a free gratis vasectomy, and by “gets”, he doesn’t get to opt out of it.

        He also gets all the THC and Alprazolam he can stand taking. Here, have more…

    • Wrong Species says:

      I don’t think people decide to turn to crime just because they’re poor(maybe selling weed but that’s being legalized). He would probably mooch off his parents for a long time until they kick him out at which point, he realizes he needs a job. And they may never kick him out. I know people in their 40’s who still live with their parents, claiming they are disabled when they could easily get some kind of job. I’m not too concerned with the Kyle’s of the world.

    • shakeddown says:

      Politically impossible idea: Offer everyone subsistence wages if they agree to go on removable birth control. This (a) stops abuse cases (people having tons of kids and living off welfare), (b) gives many Kyles an eventual incentive to get a job (if they want kids), (c) is uncoercive to freedom (anyone who doesn’t want to go on birth control doesn’t have to, they just have to have a job) and (d) genetically selects against moochers in the long run and counteracts dysgenics.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Politically impossible idea: Offer everyone subsistence wages if they agree to go on removable birth control.

        And for men, this “removable birth control” would be…?

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Why should it be removable?

        I want them out of the gene pool. Entirely.

        If Kyle’s parents want grandkids, they can keep Kyle off the dole themselves.

        • Anonymous says:

          Why should there be a dole at all?

        • moonfirestorm says:

          Presumably, the idea is to offer everyone who isn’t Kyle a safety net as well, and if ever having children is conditional on never bouncing off the safety net, it ceases to be useful for a lot of people. And once you lose your ability to have kids, that may make you a lot more likely to just give up on society and stay on the dole, which an ideal system should minimize.

          EDIT: I’m not convinced this proposal actually needs to become a safety net, so I no longer stand behind this point. It’s possibly beneficial to incentivize Kyle on the margin to be productive, but I’m not sure we expect people to be regularly going this low and coming back up from it into society, or that that’s a goal of the system.

          I’m pretty ambivalent on children myself, but I’d think long and hard about permanently removing my ability to have them.

          You might want to come up with something a little more complicated to avoid bouncing above the subsistence line long enough to have children, if that’s a real concern. Maybe like 2-3 years off the dole before you can revert the contraceptives? Prove you’re actually making a place for yourself in society.

    • Drew says:

      I’d support a “dorm room & xbox” program. Set up housing somewhere cheap and reasonably remote. Something on par with a single-occupancy, studio dorm room. Make it available to anyone who wants it.

      Now we’ve got a safety net for people who’ve had stuff go terribly wrong. And we have an answer to homelessness that brings people into easy contact with social services. My guess is that relatively few people would drop out of useful employment to go into a program like this, so I don’t think we’d see social-services get all that more costly.

      Part of my logic is that Kyle does seem to have something going psychologically wrong. He’s proactively failing in ways that take energy AND put him further from his goals of weed and video games.

      If it’s a disordered-thinking thing, then hopefully treatment can help. If he just likes dickishness, along with video games and weed, then a dorm seems like a cheap form of quarantine.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I’d support a “dorm room & xbox” program.

        As a first-order pass, I’m okay with this, but realize that you’re going to have to kick people out for various reasons, including subjective things like “creepy to other tenants” or “lives like a slob.” You are going to be reinventing a whole lot of wheels that already exist but now you’re suddenly the bad guy who has to do the eviction. What are X’s rights to live in the dorm if Y keeps on asking X for sex? If these things are set up like a welfare state, there are going to be serious societal forces stopping you from just kicking out Y.

        Which is one reason I’m prefer to use our current system of housing and employment, which definitely have problems but are functional at handling these issues. Just put a thumb on the scale to make the marginally employable slightly more employable and the Kyles ennui at having to go to work slightly less soul-crushing.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The problem is that you’re giving Kyle even more of an incentive to be asocial instead of a productive member of society. And once they get in that house, they’ll be reluctant to leave more than they otherwise would.

        • Michael Handy says:

          Sure, but some people are just asocial, and the alternative is having them running around miserable being asocial at people.

          Ideally, the dorm room would be combined with some basic counselling, and a list of activities that are both actively non-productive, and also social.

          Or, Kyle gets bored and goes outside with his xbox buddies to whatever stupid new thing the social commitee is rotating them through, and discovers that a)he has a burning passion for 15th century courtly dance, and b) there are a bunch of cute girls with weed there.

          Kyle is now a happily non-profitable but socially accepted member of society.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Whether you are a productive member of the community is at least partly determined by your environment. I’m sure Kyle would be considered lazy during hunter gatherer times but he would still go on hunts. People respond to circumstances. That’s why your lazy retail cashier can become a hard worker when they graduate college, because they have a reason. If our society gives a dorm and Xbox to anyone who wants it, people are going to not only take it, but be unwilling to leave even if some counselor is trying to push them away.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That is because if Kyle didn’t go on hunts, Kyle would not get to eat.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Right. That’s my point. Incentives matter and if you give people every incentive to be a lazy bum, then some of them will take you up on that. We want to structure society in a way that doesn’t do that.

          • Lillian says:

            It’s a little more complicated than that. Hunter-gatherers tend to operate via gift economies. If you admire or request someone’s possession, the socially expected reply is for them to immediately gift it to you, with the implicit understanding that you owe them for it. This makes it very easy to freeload, but hunter-gatherers also have a fairly low thresholds of violence, which makes it very difficult to freeload for long. As illustrated by David Graeber:

            “It’s notoriously difficult to shift relations based on communistic sharing to relations of equal exchange. We observe this all the time with friends: if someone takes advantage of your generosity, it’s often easier to break off relations than to demand they pay you back. This too is a common dilemma. The Maori tell of a notorious glutton who irritated fishermen along the coast by always asking for the best portions of their catch. Since to refuse a direct request for food was impossible, they would hand it over; until one day enough was enough, people formed a war party, ambushed and killed him (Firth 1959 [1929]:411-412).”

            So Kyle may or may not go on hunts, but if he does not pull his weight, his tribesmen may arrange for him to have no more weight to pull.

    • cassander says:

      I’ve always thought that the government as an employer of last resort was a pretty decent policy. Have an office in every post office where anyone who wants can show up and make some minimum wage doing something. No contract, just X hours of work paid out at the end of the day or week. Ideally it would be something vaguely useful, like picking up trash, but busy work is fine. The point is to ensure that (A) anyone who needs it can get some minimum income but (B) not in a way that makes it easy to get endless payments for not working.

      • toastengineer says:

        At least in the U.S. the armed forces are sorta supposed to serve that purpose, with the added benefit of military discipline being designed to beat that kind of behavior out of people. Even if Kyle doesn’t reform, at least he’s being watched closely and we can have him step in front of the bad guys’ bullets for us.

        Thing is, Kyle isn’t gonna sign up for that. Even if he does he’s just gonna take his paychecks and not actually go or go and then make things miserable for everyone else and interfere with getting any actual work done.

        I know I would’ve been all over that back when I was 15 or so, though. Like if there was an option to do Habitats for Humanity type things with no real commitment, but also get paid minimum wage or so for it, heck, I’d probably do that now.

        • bean says:

          At least in the U.S. the armed forces are sorta supposed to serve that purpose

          Not really. The point I was trying to make in the ancap defense debate in the last OT is that the military these days is at the very least skilled blue-collar work. It may not be in every job (cook, pilot), but it by and large is not something you can just shovel your idiots into. Particularly because they can always quit during basic.

          • Deiseach says:

            the military these days is at the very least skilled blue-collar work. It may not be in every job (cook, pilot)

            Hey, if I believe my late father (former sergeant in the Irish Army), a military cook has to be able to scale up recipes to an industrial scale without massive waste and producing food that is palatable, and not everybody could do that! Bad cooking didn’t get eaten, did get dumped, and was a waste of time and money, as well as pissing off the hungry soldiers.

            Pilots, now, may be ordinary idiots, I couldn’t say, but cooks have to be able to master their trade. As somebody or other said, an army marches on its stomach 🙂

          • bean says:

            That was mostly a joke about the bad reputation of military cooks and about pilots in general. Obviously, military cooks have to do a bunch of stuff that’s at least medium-skilled. And obviously pilots have to be good at golf. And other things, too.

          • cassander says:

            @Bean

            I was at the big Air Force Association conference two years ago and had the joy of overhearing hearing two air force flag officers lamenting the lack of time for golf. Truely a proud day for the chair force.

          • Deiseach says:

            That was mostly a joke about the bad reputation of military cooks and about pilots in general.

            Which truly transcends all nations and cultures; according to my da, military cooks generally couldn’t 🙂

        • CatCube says:

          The military can no longer just beat people into line. The ol’ “Locks in Socks” treatment for your peers who are utter shitbags is no longer acceptable, either.

          And to amplify what @bean is saying, a strong back and a weak mind is worthless to the military these days.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Over the past, what, couple hundred years, the military has become a higher-skilled and more selective job. A developed country can usually be pretty selective in recruiting these days. “My boy is kind of lazy, can you whip him into shape” still is a thing, but “my boy is a malcontent who constantly gets fired for being a useless jerk with a bad attitude” is probably a pass. If it was a couple hundred years ago, when the line infantry was basically whipped until they could mechanically load-fire-repeat and so forth, it would be different.

          • johan_larson says:

            There are still a few developed countries with a peacetime draft: Finland, Israel, Singapore, and South Korea. Russia, too. What do they do with the hard-core malcontents?

          • dndnrsn says:

            People get rejected for being unsuitable, for whatever reason; I imagine somebody who dropped out of school at 14 and has been a useless jerk since then might get rejected as being unsuitable. Alternatively, at least one of the countries you listed (Russia) is known as having a pretty harsh military culture – he would probably either get hazed until he shaped up, or until he suffered serious injury, or maybe even died.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            As dndnrsn said they’re still selective, and reject unsuitable candidates. They’re able to do that because in most cases their forces are still tiny, and their terms of service are relatively short. In the cases of larger and longer term forces, the answer is that they still DO beat their soldiers into line. Russia has severe hazing (Dedovshchina) of new recruits and unofficial but sanctioned corporal punishment, to the tune of a low but regular death toll (several dozen deaths directly from hazing, several hundred related suicides annually). South Korea had a reputation for sanctioning striking and beating subordinates to enforce discipline when I was in the Army in the early 2000s, but that information is both 10-20 years out of date at this point and second-hand so I can’t vouch for it. I can’t speak for Singapore, but my wild guess based on priors about Asian militaries is that it’s like South Korea and NCOs are still expected to go upside the head of a recalcitrant private or place boot literally to ass to motivate even if it doesn’t say so anywhere official.

            But the bottom line is that as Bean and others have said, the military is not a jobs program for the unemployable now, and hasn’t been for decades. If you try to make it one, what you will end up with is A) a less effective military and B) unemployable antisocial people who now have a smattering of skills related to the organized deployment of violence.

    • Thegnskald says:

      The part that concerns me about all of this is that, in forty years, when the economy tanks and society is looking for a scapegoat, you are going to have a group of people a lot of people are very resentful of, are readily found and rounded up, and who probably aren’t the sort of person who pays enough attention to notice the changing political winds.

      Best case, they all get kicked out, and sink or swim with no job skills right in the middle of a terrible economy. There are going to be a lot of sinkers.

      Worst case, well.

    • Anonymous says:

      So, what do we do with Kyle?

      Nothing. Kyle is the problem of his family, who may or may not put up with him. If they put up with him, that’s fine. If not, he’s on his own – let him provide for himself as much as he is can and willing.

      εἴ τις οὐ θέλει ἐργάζεσθαι μηδὲ ἐσθιέτω

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I am in broad agreement with the idea that there should be some minimal form of support. I’d prefer a NIT or UBI, but could live with some sort of Section 8 + SNAP style program if I had to. I think Drew has an important insight when he used the analogy of a dorm for reasons I’ll go into below. Edward_Scizorhands, I don’t think we can ‘just’ use existing programs because they currently involve too much bureaucratic cruft and simultaneously are not calibrated to provide the right sort of assistance we’re talking about here.

      The problem with existing programs is that people, at least here in the US, want very badly to be able to discriminate between the people who are on disability/dole/assistance through no fault of their own and those who COULD do better but choose not to, and to offer the former a better deal than the latter. That being the case, how do we maintain a Schelling fence around a definition of “minimal” and make it stick?

      We already don’t consistently force single, childless people in public housing accept room-mates, and we don’t build such housing with a “dorm/barracks” mentality. Instead, they tend to be 1-2 bedroom apartments comparable to low to mid-range private apartments for the town they’re built in.

      This is a problem for any plan that wants to address not just the “legitimately disabled” but the Kyles of the world, because a free apartment is a HELL of a temptation and could lead to the program getting swamped. A free single dorm-style room you share with 2-3 other strangers with bunk beds and a shared bathroom down the hall? Not so much, but how do we get there from here without getting stymied by public outcry about how cruel we’re being, forcing these poor people into undignified conditions?

      • Brad says:

        at least here in the US, want very badly to be able to discriminate between the people who are on disability/dole/assistance through no fault of their own and those who COULD do better but choose not to

        We already don’t consistently force single, childless people in public housing accept room-mates, and we don’t build such housing with a “dorm/barracks” mentality.

        Notice how it starts out with disabled vs non disabled and then somehow inevitably turns out to be childless non-disabled that are to be punished.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I’m not sure what your point is, Brad? My point is that the system that we currently have is designed to explicitly exclude, as much as possible, the “Kyles” of the world. If we remove the requirement to prove eligibility in order to capture the Kyles, then rolls are so wide open that the system can rapidly become economically unsustainable.

        To me, the obvious answer there is that IF we are to provide funds, they must be at or just above subsistence level and be held there. Or if we are to provide goods and services in lieu, they must be likewise restricted. Not out of a desire to punish, but to ensure that the incentives always line up towards pushing people away from becoming totally reliant on the public assistance program as their sole means of support.

        If we remove eligibility policing (and I’m in favor of that, whatever solution we adopt. I don’t think it works and it generally wastes time and money on overhead), then people’s individual solutions will vary: Some aren’t so totally disabled they can’t get various part time or informal grey market jobs to provide additional income. Some will supplement public assistance with money from family and friends. Some will be able to transition to regular full time jobs and move off it entirely. The exact details will vary from person to person.

        Should I take it that you’d prefer a tiered system? “Kyle” gets the 2-4 to a room, shared bathroom down the hall “dorm” style setup, people on SSI/long term disability receive sufficient assistance to gove them their own few hundred square foot apartment to themselves and lifestyle equivalent to…what, a low level retail or other min. wage worker can afford? To be clear I’d put the family of 4 (couple and 2 kids) in the same room as 4 adults if I could, I just don’t think I could get away with it. As I said, I’m not even sure we could get away with putting the unmarrieds in barracks/dorms style accomodations.

        EDIT: Heck, case in point, you yourself immediately interpreted the suggestion as punitive. I lived in barracks for 5 years in the Army, and in a dorm environment for a few more. There are places where it’s not uncommon to have entire extended families crammed into a single bedroom apartment. I don’t think I’m being outrageous here in looking for ways to come up with a reasonably austere standard.

        • Brad says:

          I really don’t think the Kyles of the world are going to be the thing that breaks the bank. I think there are a lot less of them than the “worthy” categories. Rather, I think the systems are set up to deliberately exclude them because people are assholes that want to sit on their thones and pass judgment about who is and isn’t worthy.

          I don’t really have a problem with austere, but whatever it is should be the same for everyone on the dole: the old, the blind, single mothers, and so on. We should stop playing these deservingness games which are mostly not about resources or incentives but a Puritan desire to punish perceived sloth.

          • quanta413 says:

            I don’t really have a problem with austere

            Except you clearly do because you just objected to dorm rooms as being a form of punishment literally a post ago.

          • Brad says:

            My problem isn’t with dorm rooms, it is with segregating a group of people as undeserving poor and treating them much worse than those designated deserving.

            If you are going to put everyone on the dole in dorms, that’s okay with me.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I agree strongly that it should be the same for everyone, and I don’t see the need for it to be any more austere than necessary to ensure both indefinite economic sustainability and to ensure that the incentives are to get off the dole and/or supplement it with income from other sources. That said, I think you underestimate how many Kyles there are, especially on the margin. Switching from full time to part time + dole is an attractive proposition if you can maintain your income or only take a slight hit, for example. Heck, at my current earning level I’d be sorely tempted to take that deal absent reasonable prospects of moving up to a real middle class (45-50K a year or more) position.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t really see the problem with part time work Kyle. That’s a lot different than no work Kyle in terms of social consequences, I would think. There’s nothing sacred about 40 hours a week.

          In any event, my preference is a UBI for adult, non-institutionalized citizens to replace almost all other social spending (medical would probably need to be excepted). No benefit cliffs, no worthiness criteria, not much bureaucracy needed.

          At $12k or so per adult, it’d pretty austere. A couple, or a group of roommates, could certainly make it work but I imagine most would want to supplement it at least a little bit. As I said above I think any kind of regular paid work is different in kind from none at all.

          As far as the cost, the base number is somewhere around $3T, but unlike some others I don’t see any reason not to subject it to taxation. Albeit you wouldn’t owe anything if it was your only income. So some of that $3T would come back in taxes. Then there’s the social spending offsets, which easily top a trillion dollars. There’d have to be substantial tax increases and other spending cuts to fully offset the cost, but not so large as the headline number might suggest at first blush. You’d probably want to restructure the tax code anyway as you’d be eliminating social security as a separate program.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          You don’t see any significant impact from having, say, 20-25% of your current low-wage workers ($15 an hour or less) cutting their hours by at least half, and another 10-15% quitting outright? That’s the sort of “on the margin” I mean. Effectively losing something like a quarter of your low-end labor force’s man-hours per year.

          This is based on my experience living and working with said low-wage hourly workers, both as one of them and as a front line supervisor for them. I don’t ascribe any malice or character defect to this estimate: In fact, if such a policy were to exist and I was still unable to obtain the promotion/more senior posiiton I’ve been seeking for a few years now I’d be SORELY tempted to be one of those cutting their hours. After all, if I’m stuck at $35,000 or so a year, and that by working a 50-60 hour a week salaried position, why not find a job that’ll pay me $22,000 a year with less stress and 35-40 hour work week?

          EDIT: After some quick back of the envelope math looking at the budget, assuming you could subsume all social spending that isn’t health care (and fudging it so that all veteran spending including the healthcare bits is included in that), and cut military spending in half, you would “only” have to generate an additional trillion dollars in tax revenue annually. For perspective, the federal government’s gross annual income from all sources is currently around 3.2 trillion.

          So, yes, that’s MORE manageable, but still a tall order.

          • Deiseach says:

            You don’t see any significant impact from having, say, 20-25% of your current low-wage workers ($15 an hour or less) cutting their hours by at least half, and another 10-15% quitting outright?

            So explain this to me: I’ve seen the arguments on here against a minimum wage that the people earning such low wages simply aren’t worth any more, so they would be unhireable if the boss had to pay a better wage.

            Now you’re saying such valuleless drones are valuable in that it would impact on the boss having to hire more low-wage workers to cover the same work? So why not pay the existing workers enough to make them not quit and/or subsist on UBI with part-time work?

            I know that the argument there is some small businesses can’t afford to pay more, but you can’t have it both ways: the labour is needed and is vital to keep the business operational but at the same time it’s not worth paying a better rate for. Hire better workers for a higher wage and let the low-value workers work part-time with UBI to cover slack or high-volume times (e.g. cover when your regular workers are on holiday, extra shift for rush order, busy times like Christmas in retail and so on).

            I’m going to say that if a business can’t afford to pay better wages for better workers, then it deserves to fail. I see workers being expected to be flexible and disposable, I am not inclined to cut businesses any greater slack in helping the inefficient survive just because Tom is the owner/boss, not the guy working the 6 pm – 8 am shift for minimum wage. Plenty of people on here have argued Tom the minimum wage worker isn’t worth more, so let him sink or swim; the same should go for Tom the incompetent owner.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The business can survive without (or with fewer of) low-wage work, but at a poorer level of service. If one business does this, it might reduce their revenue considerably. If they all do (because of a rise in the minimum wage), it will probably reduce their revenue less. So you increase the minimum wage, businesses cut hours, service gets worse.

            Hire better workers for a higher wage and let the low-value workers work part-time with UBI to cover slack or high-volume times

            The incentives here are entirely perverse. Your “better workers” are working for a high wave, your low-value workers are doing less work and still getting paid as much (partly out of the taxes the high-value workers are paying).

          • Brad says:

            Two points:

            I agree that the impact from the employer’s perspective is somewhat similar to a high minimum wage (though keep in mind that with a UBI there’s no need for a minwage). But there are countries out there with high minimum wages. Some things get more expensive and some things get worse in terms of service. For example, restaurants with full waiter service disappears except for at the high end. I don’t think that these effects are so large as to act as a veto on the idea. There are clearly pros and cons, anyone that claims there aren’t should be disregarded. The question is whether the pros outweigh the cons.

            As to the net cost, my back of the envelope was closer to $600B in brand new taxes, but I counted tax expenditures as social spending and I know that’s controversial. Either way, I think a tall order is a fair characterization.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Deiseach

            In some cases, we could expect businesses to do exactly that. Not in all cases, however, because while low-wage workers aren’t “valueless”, their value is finite. Let’s say for the sake of argument and clarity that Acme Corp’s low-level employees cost them $1,000,000 a year in wages and benefits and produce $1,500,000 of value for the company. Something happens that drives the cost of labor up to $2,000,000 a year in wages and benefits for the same number of employees. It doesn’t actually matter what that something is. It could be regulatory compliance costs. It could be minimum wage laws. It could be, as you said, finding out that they need to pay existing workers enough to make them not just decide they’re better off relying partly or entirely on the UBI. At that point, the company is now losing $500,000 a year if they keep their labor levels the same. The company has to make good that $500,000 gap somehow and it has a variety of options in how it goes about it.

            Brad mentioned one good example: If the cost of labor rises below the floor where it’s profitable for restaurants to provide full table service, restaurants stop providing full table service. Maybe costs them some business, and they lose money, but it’s less money lost than if they’d just eaten the labor costs, and as The Nybbler said they’re somewhat insulated from being outcompeted on service if their comptetitors are having to make the same adjustments. High-end restaurants who can already charge a higher price for their product are better able to eat the labor costs, and the value of full table service is higher to them as it’s more core to their brand identity as a swank eatery, so maybe they retain their full table service. To that I’d add restaurants where something about the service itself is part of the brand: Hooters, the Tilted Kilt, and similar concepts would have to figure out ways to make it work because having servers is part of their whole brand.

            Another example would be the complimentary Valet Parking offered by the casino I work at. Right now, it’s free. If the price of valet attendants goes up, then maybe the Casino charges for it (maybe for everyone, maybe just for non-“VIP Club” guests), or maybe they discontinue the service entirely.

            This can work itself out in literally thousands of different variations depending on the business, the actual labor costs, etc. etc. On one end of the spectrum, the workers are high value enough to the company that they do exactly what you suggest and pay them enough to make them not quit. On the other end of the spectrum, it turns out that your whole business model is no longer profitable, and your business goes under. To be clear, that’s not necessarily a *bad* thing, and we’ve had business models and jobs fall out of fashion and economic viability over the centuries as the cost of labor has risen, but it’s also not necessarily a good thing.

            That’s why Brad’s argument is not simply that businesses can just eat the cost and that there will be no changes, but rather that we can expect the real world effects to be no more disruptive than the difference between, say, the United States on one hand and Australia on the other, because the effects I’ve just laid out above are in some respects similar to the effects of increasing the minimum wage. Australia is doing pretty well in a macroeconomic sense, and presumably doesn’t look wildly different from the US in terms of its retail and service sector despite the wage difference (McDonald’s still does good business there as I understand it), so therefore if we buy that argument my concerns about inducing a big enough reduction in the available low-end labor pool to have large-scale disruptive effects on industries are overly pessimistic.

            @Brad

            I think the -direction- of the incentives is going to be similar to a comparable increase in the minimum wage, but that it may have a broader impact because of people who can decide to work less at the margin for ALL income brackets (with the effect tapering off the further up you go). I also agree that it’s not enough to make UBI a bad idea all on its own, but I do think it’s something we’d need to look at, and it’s something anyone who supports a UBI needs to be able to answer for to critics. At the moment that makes me want to:

            A) Take a closer look at Australia’s entry level and customer service/retail job markets and see what they look like, to extend your analogy. It’s still not a GREAT comparison (I am very leery of international comparisons due to cultural confounds) but it’s a lot better than pointing to, say, Nordic Model countries or Luxembourg.

            B) See a more concrete budgetary plan to account to raise that extra 600B of revenue.

            And this is the big one:

            C) Figure out a good way to drill down and assess whether individuals are benefiting from the policy. That’s something that’s still missing from the min. wage studies I’ve seen coming out of Seattle, and it’s pretty critical. As I’ve said, I’d VASTLY prefer a NIT or UBI solution to the question of social welfare spending, but I’m already concerned that what’s actually happening is that policies are driving Person A out of work and allowing already-employed Person B to get a better job. To my way of thinking even if the macroeconomic picture is positive, that means that the policy has failed in its intention of actually helping the people in low income jobs.

          • Brad says:

            Re: A Australia was exactly the country I had in mind, so we are on the same page there.

            But it is hard to know now how to predict labor costs at the low end in the presence of a UBI, and so what kind of minwage equivalent we should be looking at. ISTR that there are some small scale experiments, so perhaps once they are finished it will be clearer.

            As to C, I think the answer for UBI is much clearer than it is for minwage (which I don’t support, though how vocally I don’t support it varies). With a minimum wage there are people that want to work and people that want to hire them, and it is illegal for that transaction to happen. Pretty clearly those people lose out.

            But with a UBI:
            the people that don’t want to work, don’t have to work (winners)
            the people that want to work see increased demand for their labor and higher pay (winners)

            The losers are the high income earners that would see their taxes increase substantially and the consumers of low-skill labor (i.e. most everyone) that would see higher prices and worse service. Though I think there’s an argument to be made that there are economic benefits as well. Say for increased entrepreneurship, for example, since there’s a safety net to fall back on. But I wouldn’t stake my argument on it.

            Finally, as to B) I agree that the exact nature of the cuts and tax increases, as well as all the little program details, are going to be important for someone deciding whether or not to support a concrete proposal. But since we aren’t there yet as a polity, I’m not sure it makes sense for me to lay out a detailed proposal. I think we could agree in principle that the USG could raise another six hundred or a thousand billion in taxes without triggering a civil war or some other calamity. It is a difficult political problem, but not an insurmountable one.

        • To me, the obvious answer there is that IF we are to provide funds, they must be at or just above subsistence level and be held there.

          Subsistence is very poorly defined. I had an old blog post, part of a dispute with the Bleeding Heart Libertarians, in which I tried to produce an estimate of the cost of “basic needs” in the U.S. at present, the lowest standard of living that would not drastically reduce life expectancy. It came to about $500/year. I don’t think many of the people arguing for UBI or something similar would consider that adequate.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Edward_Scizorhands, I don’t think we can ‘just’ use existing programs because they currently involve too much bureaucratic cruft

        By “existing programs” I meant the existing market for jobs and housing.

        If you create a dorm to house all the Kyles, the problem of how to kick people out will come up, a lot, as you get Kyles that refuse to shower or make a mess or insist on pressuring fellow dormmates into sex. Are the people running the dorm going to want to take on a dozen Kyles a day who need to be kicked out, or are they just going to ignore the problem? And if Kyles know they cannot be kicked out unless they violate some objective test, they will react accordingly.

        Right now we have voluntary landlords who can make and enforce their own rules. If Kyle gets an income, somehow, he can find his own place to live, with the knowledge that he needs to meet the landlord’s requirements.

        Same thing with jobs. A “guaranteed job” has the same problems with “guaranteed housing” in that whoever manages it has to come up with ways of dealing with Kyle. If there were a wage subsidy, though, Kyle could just work with people who want to be employers and have their own thresholds for what they want to deal with.

    • In my opinion First World countries are rich enough to provide basic welfare to every person with income below some poverty level, maybe $20k per year in most of the US. So yes, I think we should support Kyle. I don’t think that any country is rich enough to provide a UBI (pay every person, rich or poor) that is enough to live off of, so I am against that.

      But I am against trying to rehabilitate Kyle or anyone else. That costs enormous amounts of money, rarely works, and is also very invasive of the welfare recipients. And I suspect just providing each person with enough cash to live would not cost any more than we spend now on useless rehabilitation. I know that in the US the current group of those on welfare could be brought well above poverty by simply sending them a check every month equal to all the spending we currently spend on welfare. However, it is true that if we make it easier to collect welfare, the amount of people on welfare would increase.

      Having said that, I am not averse to requiring at least temporary sterility for welfare payments.

    • A1987dM says:

      There is nothing physically or mentally wrong with Kyle

      How is fighting with coworkers or yelling at customers not mentally wrong?

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2128009/pdf/9448541.pdf

    Page down to Diagnosis Made by Hallucinatory Voices.

    • schazjmd says:

      That’s a baffling story. I didn’t find any of the suggested causes for the “voices” compelling, but I can’t invent a plausible alternative either. Spooky…

      • Montfort says:

        Prefatory note: it’s a neat story, and I appreciate Nancy sharing it, and schazjmd sharing their honest reaction. Not trying to piss in anyone’s cornflakes if they’re just enjoying a spooky medical tale.

        That said, it doesn’t seem that baffling to me. Perhaps I’m just being too cynical by half, but consider – without the (second-hand) testimony of the patient, the only things that remain interesting are:
        – prediction of tumor, brainstem inflammation (note: to my knowledge, it is not revealed if brainstem was actually inflamed)
        – showing up directly at a computed tomography building

        The first seems adequately explained by anxiety over some unreported symptom (or perhaps anxiety over the reappearance of the voices and/or her other delusions, a good sign of brain problems), as the skeptics in the article relate. The second, of course, could well be either prior knowledge falsely attributed to the voices, or a combination of various unreported degrees of freedom (did the voices tell her an exact address or an area? Did she tell her husband an exact address, or just have him drive until she saw a medical building and then claim it was the address? Did the husband indulge this kind of delusion many times?).

        The other stuff is completely patient report and unverifiable, not to mention underspecified. The voices (allegedly) revealed three pieces of information that turned out to be true – what information? did she write it down or tell anyone else before checking? did she even check? was it the kind of information she shouldn’t have been able to know? how do we know she didn’t know it beforehand? etc.

        Possibly the behavior/demeanor of the voices is just very unlike standard hallucinated voices (I’m not a psychiatrist), so that could be evidence I’m missing. But if so, I would be more inclined to think of that as evidence the voices were made up or distorted by the patient to fit a narrative.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      That was neat. Thanks for sharing.

    • skef says:

      Veridical hallucination in the wild!

  13. Mark says:

    Jordan Peterson ultra beast mode.

    Jordan Peterson thinks that people are the same as Lobsters. Now, the journalist who took him to task faces a torrent of misogynistic abuse.

    • lvlln says:

      Jordan Peterson thinks that people are the same as Lobsters. Now, the journalist who took him to task faces a torrent of misogynistic abuse.

      I don’t think the 1st statement is accurate – he was using the biology shared between lobsters and humans as evidence that certain types of behavior that we see in humans has roots in biology rather than being pure arbitrary social constructs.

      Do you have any evidence of the 2nd statement? The one statement by the interviewer regarding this interview I saw on Twitter seemed to be in good humor without any indication that she was facing any particularly negative repercussions, much less a “torrent of misogynistic abuse” from people seeing this interview.

      Now, I suspect that those 2 statements are a deliberate caricature of the response to this interview by people who are politically aligned to the interviewer, but I don’t think such a caricature has any basis in reality. Yes, people politically aligned to the interviewer frequently mischaracterize their opponents’ arguments, and also frequently claim “torrents of misogynistic abuse” without evidence, but at least in this episode, I don’t think there’s been any indication either of that happened. At best, the interviewer’s constant “So you’re saying [obvious mischaracterization of what JP said]” kinda gets close to the 1st sentence, but even there, I think she said “you think we should organize our society like lobsters” or something like that, which is still quite different from mischaracterizing his statement as “humans are the same as lobsters.”

      • Anonymous says:

        I think Mark is being severely sarcastic.

      • Mark says:

        Cathy Newman’s Twitter, top pinned tweets:

        1/2 Our @Channel4News onscreen journalists expect to be held to account for their journalism but the level of vicious misogynistic abuse, nastiness, and threat to @cathynewman is an unacceptable response to a robust and engaging debate with @jordanbpeterson.
        Such is the scale of threat we @Channel4News are having to get security specialists in to carry out an analysis. I will not hesitate to get the police involved if necessary. What a terrible indictment of the times we live in.

        • lvlln says:

          Well, fair enough. I stand corrected. It appears her Twitter account does claim misogynistic abuse being directed her way.

          • Deiseach says:

            Such is the scale of threat we @Channel4News are having to get security specialists in to carry out an analysis.

            How much of those were Jordan Peterson fans and how much the usual trolls/nutcases that crawl out of the woodwork to spew bile given the least pretext? I’ve seen people popping up on all kinds of discussion threads just to make rude and abusive and threatening comments that had nothing to do with the topic under discussion, it’d be stretching it to say “this is targetted abuse for racist/sexist/homophobic reasons!” in those cases.

          • Mark says:

            The vast, vast, majority of comments were not abusive – so what you are dealing with here is a few people making threats (if that!)

            I’m not really too sure who Channel 4 were talking to with that message. Was it for the benefit of the few nut cases, or were they actually talking to the people who really disliked Newman’s interviewing style?
            Peterson says:

            There is no doubt that Cathy has been subjected to a withering barrage of criticism online. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is to try to imagine what I’d do if I found myself in her situation and how I would react to it and understand how it was happening. But they’ve provided no evidence that the criticisms constituted threats. There are some nasty cracks online but the idea that this is somehow reflective of a fundamental misogyny and that’s what’s driving this is ridiculous.

        • Well... says:

          A lot of twitterers seem to be saying there weren’t actually many abusive twitterings. That it was mostly reasonable criticism of the interview.

          This could be because the worst twitterings were taken down, but I don’t really know if twitter.com works that way.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A lot of twitterers seem to be saying there weren’t actually many abusive twitterings. That it was mostly reasonable criticism of the interview.

            Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.

            Responding to reasoned criticism as if it’s abusive, claiming a few abusive responses are representative, and even occasionally faking the few abusive responses are all old hat by now. This is what TV Tropes calls the “Wounded Gazelle Gambit”.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      That’s an amazing amount of patience in the face of incredible stupidity.

    • Well... says:

      Your fourth estate, ladies and gentlemen. Your fourth estate.

    • Nick says:

      I started watching this this morning and had a few thoughts as well as some quotes I wanted to draw attention to, but I ended up doing exactly that, spontaneously, in a Discord chat as I watched it—so with permission I’m just going to paste the chat, with some edits for privacy and perspicacity. Numbers at the beginning of a post are timestamps in the video. Money quotes, for those without time to wade through the injokes and unrelata:

      [3:31 AM] Nick: (My personal opinion of him is that he’s way too quick to pull the very tiresome critique of “cultural Marxism” or similar, which I think detracts severely from his overall message. And of course I don’t agree with refusing to use people’s preferred pronouns; a person has that right, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rude.)
      [3:34 AM] Paracompact: Well, he doesn’t exactly sound like the first clinical psychologist I’d take philosophy lessons from.

      [5:28 AM] Nick: Well, that was that. So do you think he came off looking good or bad after this interview?
      [5:28 AM] Paracompact: Good, to me
      [5:29 AM] Nick: This is about three times as much content as I’ve ever seen from him, and I think I have to adjust to say he’s definitely all right. Especially if Newman is representative of his critics

      • Well... says:

        Especially if Newman is representative of his critics

        I’m curious about that, and I think I’ve asked this before: are there any articulate, reasonable, intellectually competent critics of his thought? Are there any arguing for the social justice side of things, period? There must be some.

        • Nick says:

          I’d love to read someone like Ozy do a critique of Peterson, which to my knowledge they haven’t written before. (Though I wouldn’t love it enough to pay a bunch of money for it, sorry Ozy. 🙁 ) Sarah Constantin critiqued some of his ideas falling under her heading of psycho-conservatism, but it doesn’t deal with his or anyone else’s ideas in much specificity, just outlining the sorts of times the approach may go wrong. I know Scott’s suspicious of his philosophy, writing this in early August of 2017 and this in late September; I don’t recall anything since then. An anti-Peterson FAQ, even if it overstates its case somewhat, would be really helpful.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I expect you’ll be seeing a lot of criticisms from the right (especially the more alt- parts of it) now that he’s gaining popularity. Ironically, I think they’ll be doing this mostly to signal their own holiness.

          • Well... says:

            What sort of criticisms do you anticipate? Meaning, do you think they’ll say he apologizes and genuflects to women too much or something, or do you think they’ll say he’s too willing to engage them intellectually on their terms, or…?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Some of the people who like Peterson because of his anti-PC stances on sex differences also like anti-PC stances on racial differences, and Peterson dodges that powder keg.

      • Mark says:

        I thought that the Pinochet comment made her seem ignorant.

        Re: Peterson, I think he focuses too much on the heroic. He can advocate for dragon slaying without having to pretend that our society is based around it. It’s actually a bit of a contradiction – if I was going to be a hero, the last thing I’d do would be get a corporate job. I’d become a robber.

        But, all in all, a good egg.

  14. In response to David Brooks’ latest column in the New York Times, The Power of Touch, I wrote a comment as follows [hyperlinks added]:

    Former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy has sounded the alarm over a rapidly growing epidemic of loneliness in our society, affecting people of all ages, people in urban and rural areas, people at every socioeconomic level, the employed and unemployed, students and teachers, men and women, boys and girls. Loneliness and lack of human contact has direct and serious implications for physical and mental health.

    The Times reported on this last September 5: Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness, by Katie Hafner.

    I see it all the time in the affluent university town where I live and work.

    Yet in the current political climate, any complaint of being lonely is frowned on. People who express sadness over lack of human contact, such as through social media, are often willfully misunderstood as feeling arrogantly entitled to others’ friendship and affection.

    The cruel fact is that loneliness is unattractive. A lonely person is unlikely to find friends or partners without carefully concealing his or her suffering.

    More than half a century ago, the Beatles sang sadly about “all the lonely people.” Today, there are enormously more of them. Let us demonstrate some compassion.

    • Orpheus says:

      When you are lonely, who do you even complain to? It is a bit of a chines finger trap.

      • Wrong Species says:

        You spend hundred of dollars per hour to talk to some random stranger who officially is supposed to care about you or writes you a prescription for drugs.

        • Anonymous says:

          Personally, I find the pro bono volunteers in confessionals to be a superior option.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Do they take non-Roman-Catholics?

            (Also, I hear from certain circles that they’re hard to find these days, even for those who do follow Rome.)

          • Anonymous says:

            @Evan Þ

            Not normally.

            Can. 844 §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and ⇒ can. 861, §2.

            §2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-

            Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

            §3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.

            §4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

            §5. For the cases mentioned in §§2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.

          • All of those are references to administering the sacraments. Does hearing confession count as administering a sacrament?

          • Nornagest says:

            Does hearing confession count as administering a sacrament?

            Yes — the Sacrament of Penance, technically, which consists of the confession itself, the ritual formula around it, and any acts of penance required.

          • @Nornagest:

            Suppose a non-Catholic asked a Catholic priest to hear his confession and give him moral advice based on it, without “the ritual formula around it, and any acts of penance required.” Would doing that be a violation of the rules?

          • Nick says:

            So long as there is no pretense that it is sacramental, then I suspect there are no doctrinal difficulties. But it may still be prohibited as a matter of discipline precisely to avoid such pretenses or confusion, I don’t actually so. I checked, and Canon lawyer Cathy Caridi suggests in the second and third paragraphs of her answer that it’s all right without the pretense, but that all the same, a priest may say no on the grounds that he’s there to be hearing confession, not simply giving moral or spiritual advice. The stuff after is about interpreting the canon law passages Anonymous quoted, but they aren’t relevant in most cases.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You would probably need to make an appointment, and not just go during advertised confessional times. There’s usually a line, everybody’s got to be done before Mass starts (at my church confession is at 5PM on Saturdays before the 6PM Mass) and it’s pretty rare that someone’s confession takes more than 2 minutes or so. You go in, you say the ‘forgive me for I have sinned’ bit, list your dirty deeds, find out how many Hail Marys you’re saying and get out. There’s not really time to have a therapy session.

      • Deiseach says:

        Befriending services are now a thing, it seems – mainly for older people/formerly homeless/at-risk youth, but who knows? In future there may be a scope for professional (even paid) befrienders for people who do feel isolated due to “all my friends were made at college and now we’ve graduated we’re all scattered/I work 10 hours a day in a cubicle and I don’t have time to meet and make new friends/I’m stuck at home minding my kid and the other moms are either too busy or too bitchy to make friends with me, or the single women are all too busy with work and aren’t interested in mommy life”?

        I do have sympathy for people who want friends but can’t get them; I don’t have friends but I don’t want them, consequently while I may be alone, I’m not lonely. It would be very hard if your only resource for human companionship was getting a date – not being able to get one would then be absolutely crushing, as it’s not just “don’t have a romantic attachment”, it’s “don’t have any person as a friend or close human being at all”. That does explain a great deal of the bitterness over “why won’t women respond to my messages on the dating site” but then again, putting all your emotional needs eggs in one basket of “if I get a girl/boyfriend, they’ll fill all the roles of friends and family as well” is not healthy for either party!

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I do have sympathy for people who want friends but can’t get them; I don’t have friends but I don’t want them, consequently while I may be alone, I’m not lonely. It would be very hard if your only resource for human companionship was getting a date – not being able to get one would then be absolutely crushing, as it’s not just “don’t have a romantic attachment”, it’s “don’t have any person as a friend or close human being at all”. That does explain a great deal of the bitterness over “why won’t women respond to my messages on the dating site” but then again, putting all your emotional needs eggs in one basket of “if I get a girl/boyfriend, they’ll fill all the roles of friends and family as well” is not healthy for either party!

          It’s not, but that’s the way society is nowadays (more for men than women, which probably helps explain why men tend to be more bitter over this than women). We don’t really have much of a concept of close platonic friendships,* so if you want somebody to share the ups and downs and life with, getting a romantic partner might well be your only option.

          * Incidentally, I was reading The Four Loves recently, and Lewis feels the need to start the chapter on friendship by refuting the notion that all close friendships are “really” sexual in nature; so it looks like this has been building for a while.

          • We don’t really have much of a concept of close platonic friendships

            That doesn’t feel right to me. I’ve had close male friends and it felt to me and seemed to be regarded by others as perfectly normal. My father had close male friends as well. Are you describing something that changed over the past few decades? Your Lewis reference suggests not.

            I would take that not as reflecting the lack of an idea of platonic friendship, merely the over-freudianism over-sexualization of the culture he was responding to. They had concepts of pens and cigars and swords but that didn’t keep some people from regarding them as phallic symbols.

          • Nick says:

            Mr. X is honoring a long tradition in Christian circles of raising this point. I’ve seen it a lot in the blogosphere: Matt, guest writing on Leah’s blog, defends this suggestion coming from Anthony Esolen; Leah feels that tradeoff is worth it, but agrees that our culture commonly conflates close platonic friendship with romance; the folks at Spiritual Friendship have been saying this for years, and here’s the first article I could find, recommending that we decouple “love” and “sex”; Ozy agrees there’s some truth to the way we code any acts close friends might undertake as romantic, ultimately recommending that we “have boundaries with and reasonable expectations of our lovers, and [that we] value, commit to, and deeply cherish and invest in our friendships.”

            So as far as you’re diagnosing the cause (oversexualization), you might be right, David, but I think Mr. X was just speaking to the fact that something’s happened and as a result we no longer have a cultural model for close platonic friendship as distinct from romantic relationships. Have people ever joked that your close male friends are just gay for you or vice versa? I’m 22—so significantly younger than you—and they have about me and mine, incessantly. 😛

          • Brad says:

            (For Scott: I accidentally clicked report on the above post while scrolling. Sorry.)

            I’ve seen the complaint before that normalizing gay relationships ruined platonic friendships, but there’s a flip side to the effect. When they become completely normal and the closet becomes something that most people don’t even understand why anyone would want to hide in, then the frisson of the gay insinuations and jokes go away.

            The problem it describes is a phenomenon of the intermediate, mixed state, not any state that tolerates gay relationships.

          • Nick says:

            You’re sort of right, Brad, but as Matt and Leah point out, it’s not quite a question of whether gay relationships are tolerated (or celebrated, or whatever) or not. When Leah was at Yale, folks simply assumed she was gay because of how she dressed, and that the “dandyish, slim boys” in her debate club were gay, even the ones with girlfriends. And Matt in his guest post suggests that this conflation causes turmoil for precisely the kids who struggle with questions of identity. Maybe if people were all just “whatever” and no one cared at all whether he himself be gay or straight or dating that guy or just friends, maybe then this wouldn’t be an issue. But so long as we, on the contrary, do delineate such categories, this is a problem.

            Of course, that doesn’t make it very solvable either. Forbidding people from identifying as gay is a terrible solution. So is having everyone identify as “whatever,” although I suppose it might be better. I don’t know what other solutions exist or whether they are better than these two.

            ETA: Okay, I’m reading the comments on those posts I linked now, and Matt raises a similar point:

            A couple people have raised the objection that the reticence for intimacy on the part of the males is just due to homophobia (“ewww, what if my friend in the bed next to me is GAY? I better sleep elsewhere”), and that since we should get rid of homophobia, public acceptance of homosexuality is exactly what we need. But you’re missing my analogy to the difficulties in male-female friendships. The awkwardness, the possibility of breakdown, and the emotional and physical distance that most of the time must be maintained is there all the time. And there’s clearly no “heterophobia” or hatred of straight relationships motivating it. It’s simply a logical consequence of accepted societal scripts and the desires of most people. So the homophobia reply seems irrelevant to me- the breakdown I’m describing would happen even in a gay rights utopia.

          • Aapje says:

            Not being wanted to be seen as gay requires absolutely no homophobia or identity problems, it merely requires a desire to get into short and/or long term relationships with women & not wanting that compromised by women not seeing the guy as a dating option.

            Ironically, acceptance of gays may have substantially reduced the ability for men to be non-masculine while still being recognized as heterosexual.

          • Have people ever joked that your close male friends are just gay for you or vice versa?

            Not as far as I know.

    • BBA says:

      I dunno, I think it often is arrogant entitlement to want human companionship but not be willing to put in the effort to overcome the grave personality flaws that prevent you from attaining it. I mean, for me it certainly is.

      (My therapist would disagree with this comment.)

      • Well... says:

        Sometimes it isn’t abut your personality. I make friends pretty easily but the geographic dispersal of friends via college and jobs, the demands of family life, and the fact that my job basically places me in a cubicle by myself for 8 or 9 hours a day (I long for and look forward to meetings!) means I am often pretty lonely, at least craving social interaction. (Hence the embarrassing amount of time I spend here. More on that some other time maybe.) I don’t get to have nights out with my friends, either because they live long drives/plane rides away, or because I can’t/won’t leave my wife high and dry to deal with the kids. I don’t even get water cooler chit chat at work.

        Granted, my loneliness is different from that of someone who doesn’t have a spouse or kids, but I definitely feel it, and I bet its causes are pretty common among gen Y/millennials.

      • …but not be willing to put in the effort to overcome the grave personality flaws that prevent you from attaining it…

        I thought one of the most salient aspects of personality is that it is extremely hard to change.

      • Montfort says:

        How is it entitled to want something you (probably) can’t have? Entitlement would be imagining other people (or the world itself) were obliged to provide it to you; what you describe sounds more like “hopeless yearning” to me, or perhaps “unproductive bellyaching”.

        People who watched Back to the Future Part II weren’t arrogant and entitled to want hoverboards despite not starting to prototype their own in their garages. It’s not even arrogant and entitled for them to wistfully describe how terrible their cursed life is without a hoverboard (as annoying as that hypothetical social media post might be). Arrogant and entitled is acting as though somehow they deserve a hoverboard.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Yeah, as a side note, the word “entitled” gets thrown around a lot more than it really deserves (heh). In fact, I would guess that 80-90% who complain about not getting some “X” would readily admit that nobody is obliged to give them that “X.”

          • Aapje says:

            ‘Entitled’ is frequently used as a superweapon to dismiss desires that person A doesn’t want person B to have, without actually having to explain that the desire is wrong.

            So the desire is reframed as an unreasonable demand, which can then be angrily dismissed.

            For example:
            Bob: I’d like to have sex and think that women also do stuff that make it harder for men to get that desire met.
            Alice: So you want women to have sex with men they are not attracted to? You entitled monster!
            Bob: That’s not what I said…
            Mob: Burn him, burn him

          • Well... says:

            Hah, I don’t disagree with you, and this is totally just a nitpick, but that example of Bob and Alice must be from some other planet. Elsewhere in this thread I learned that it’s now totally normal to have sex on the first date! If women are the gatekeepers of sex, then they’ve apparently taken the gate off its hinges and put a slip-n-slide there instead.

          • Aapje says:

            @Well…

            The common societal belief that romantically unsuccessful men are bad people and that women always treat them as they deserve, might actually increase as women more easily decide to have sex, because it logically makes it harder for them to understand why a decent man could not easily have sex.

          • Well... says:

            Fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that the statement “I’d like to have sex and think that women also do stuff that make it harder for men to get that desire met” sounds like it’s about as false as it has ever been in known history.

          • Matt M says:

            Aapje,

            That is absolutely true. I’ve personally met low-status girls who have literally said things like “I’ve had sex with all kinds of nerds, ugly guys, losers, jerks, etc. I can’t even imagine someone might be terrible enough to be a 30-year old virgin!”

          • Aapje says:

            @Well…

            I’m not saying that it got worse. I’m saying that if we want gender equality, then this is something we need to address.

            Let me expand on it a bit.

            I think that women, just like men, select or reject potential partners based on a variety of traits or at least the perception that the person has these traits. A few of these traits make someone a bad partner to anyone and sometimes also a bad person, like if the person is abusive. Some traits people tend to select on are just things that just everyone likes, but that do not make the person a bad partner or person if they don’t have them, like good looks or charm. Some traits that many men and women tend to like consist of conformance to traditional gender roles, which is something that I think is very excessive and thus something people should demand less.

            Some men also have anxiety or other issues that preclude them from approaching (more than a tiny amount of) women, so they don’t even get to the point where they can be rejected.

            Many of these traits are genetic and are things that a person cannot change. Other traits are things that a person can learn, but may have great difficulty with, perhaps in part due to a lack of natural ability and in part because no one taught them (or perhaps they failed to get practice at a young age, when learning them was easier).

            Anyway, the end result is that there are some men, who don’t have any of the bad person traits, but who do lack so many of the positive traits that no or very, very, very few women are interested in them (due to higher sexual desire in men, this is an asymmetrical situation) or who can’t deal with the dating environment.

            However, there is a very popular alief in our culture that women select men for their ‘goodness’ and thus that men that all or almost all women reject must be bad people (and that lonely men must have been rejected by many women). The result is that lonely men don’t get empathy and sympathy for their genetic misfortune & very little help for the issues that they can learn to improve (which greatly increases the lure of dark triad pickup artists).

          • fortaleza84 says:

            There absolutely exist men who are unable to find any woman who is willing to kiss them, hold hands, have sex, any kind of romantic/sexual connection at all.

            In practice, this seems to be a combination of (1) a personality problem; and (2) very poor physical appearance. Most commonly, the personality problem is either social anxiety or Aspergers/Autism.

            That said, I think autism and ugliness are not the fundamental issue here. The fundamental issue is the female hypergamy instinct and the male polygamy instinct.

            In short, women instinctively date up. How is this mathematically possible? Besides the fact that there are more men than women, the most desirable men date multiple women. Although actual harems are pretty unusual in the West these days, it’s very common for an attractive man to be a “player” with multiple girls who think that the relationship is more serious than it really is. It’s also common for a woman to accept the role of mistress to a powerful man. And it’s also common for men to leave their wives for younger women.

            The mathematical consequences of this is that there will be men at the bottom who get no interest at all from women. Even if you discovered a cure for Aspergers and even if you trained men to be PUA’s and even if you gave all men hormone injections and plastic surgery, there would still be men at the bottom.

          • However, there is a very popular alief in our culture that women select men for their ‘goodness’ and thus that men that all or almost all women reject must be bad people (and that lonely men must have been rejected by many women). The result is that lonely men don’t get empathy and sympathy for their genetic misfortune & very little help for the issues that they can learn to improve (which greatly increases the lure of dark triad pickup artists).

            Which is pretty much what Scott wrote in Radicalizing the Romanceless.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Discussion of Aziz

    I’m noting a few of comments I think are interesting.

    Sex is a gamble for women. Admitting how bad something was can have a high emotional cost.

    A woman who would generally be considered unattractive gradually learns to say no.

    Happy ending for her story. Underlines how much a lot of women are driven by a fear of not being good enough.

    Leading, following, signaling, tango as well as sex.

    A woman’s precautions. The one that caught my eye was that she just doesn’t use any dating sites which start with her appearance.

    Homosexual men tend to be less emotionally invested in sex, and this affects the culture. There’s emphasis on not wasting each other’s time.

    A man who found out eventually that his wife didn’t want sex with him.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Interesting link, thanks.

      One thing that jumped out at me: degradation. The feeling that these women describe is that they were degraded by the men they hooked up with. But it’s all framed in the language of consent.

      I would be interested to see this idea further developed. If something is degrading enough that a reasonable women wouldn’t have consented to it, then it’s assumed to be non-consensual. That could simultaneously achieve the feminist goal of reducing the burden of proof, since sex is much easier to prove than proof than the absence of consent, and the traditionalist goal of reinstituting some rudimentary form of sexual ethics. Plus as an added bonus it’s much less vague than affirmative consent.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Is the complaint with regard to affirmative consent that it’s a vague standard?

        As for a “reasonable woman” standard – what anyone expects or is willing to put up with in the sack can vary radically. Who decides what the normative, non-degrading sex acts are?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          That’s the main complaint as I understand it.

          Because consent can be silently withdrawn at any time, and it’s a subjective experience, there’s not any possible way to ensure that you aren’t on the wrong side of the rule. There was an especially notable case I remember where a gay student successfully got his ex-boyfriend disciplined for grabbing his crotch on their first date years earlier.

          Who decides what the normative, non-degrading sex acts are?

          That’s the beauty of the idea. It can’t work unless it’s set to the level of the lowest common denominator. Which means a substantial tightening of the range of acceptable behavior.

          • quanta413 says:

            I feel like what you have in mind reverses the connotations of lowest common denominator. Normally it implies something bad.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If something is degrading enough that a reasonable women wouldn’t have consented to it, then it’s assumed to be non-consensual.

        Great, now all sex a stereotypical nerd gets is rape.

      • Matt M says:

        Didn’t the UK recently ban a whole bunch of subgenres of fetish-porn under this exact logic? And wasn’t the feminist response mostly negative?

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think a big part of the problem is that a lot of men don’t have much to measure their masculinity by except the number of women they’ve had sex with: not having gone through some ritual transition to manhood, not having killed a bear or an enemy warrior or whatever, not their max deadlift, not their martial arts belt, whatever. A lot of things that used to be thought of as “only men can do this” have turned out not to be (like how supposedly back in the day they thought there were all sorts of intellectual tasks that it was unhealthy for women to do). Fewer and fewer men are in jobs where men are unquestionably better (mostly physical jobs), and there’s been a decline in physical activity (where being bigger and stronger and so on helps).

      So, what’s a guy who wants to prove what a Real Man he is left with? Notch count. Trying to maximize that “score” means there’s a lot of guys who view it as a sport, basically. They may have sex with women they aren’t really that attracted to, or don’t really like (sports analogy: an ugly goal is still a goal), which isn’t conducive to caring how the other person is doing. They may in general not really care if the other person is enjoying it (sports analogy: do you care how the ball or the net or the bat is feeling?). If they do something that might actively hurt the other person, they’re not gonna stop and see if they’re OK unprompted (sports analogy: if you crack a player from the other team in the noggin, you only stop if the ref tells you to). I know a fair number of guys who talk about the women they have casual sex with in a way that, honestly, does not make these sports analogies far-fetched. They really talk about them like they dislike them. Which is sad. I’ve never had sex with anyone I didn’t at least like. I think it’s bad for everyone involved, but worse for the women.

      The first post also mentions porn. That’s probably part of it. How many people have had sex ed or whatever that’s about being good, or even just OK, at sex, instead of “sex: don’t have it” or “sex: if you gotta, here’s how to not get pregnant and die”? People who get it from porn are… well, the women often get treated like ragdolls with no gag reflex, and the guy’s junk is often bent at rather awkward angles, whaled on, etc. It’s optimized to look good, not feel good.

      I suppose a good question to ask would be, is quality of sex positively correlated with openness about sex (in a society, in a family, whatever)?

      • Well... says:

        So, what’s a guy who wants to prove what a Real Man he is left with? Notch count.

        Why not number of children he provides for and acts as father to?

        Consider two coworkers. Coworker A has eight kids and they are all doing great. Coworker B got laid eighty times last year by almost that many different women. If that’s all you know about each coworker, which of them do you think is likely more manly? Which one is more likely to impress you when he walks into a room, to be the kind of person other people tend to look up to? Or are we such a society of momma’s boys that the archetype of a man is no longer a father/provider but more of a badass older brother or something?

        It seems like a lot of people overthink promiscuous male behavior. Sleeping with lots of women because it combines two things men love: novelty and sex with women! Men who actually sleep with lots of different women are like those guys who jump out of planes wearing wing-suits: they’re doing something that looks unbelievably thrilling, something you do in a wild dream. But it has no bearing on their manliness.

        • quanta413 says:

          Or are we such a society of momma’s boys that the archetype of a man is no longer a father/provider but more of a badass older brother or something?

          Yes, pretty much.

          • Well... says:

            Jeez. My parents divorced when I was little, I grew up without seeing my dad for years at a time, and I still don’t have that degenerate a concept of manliness.

          • quanta413 says:

            I mean it’s not 100% true, but your description is depressingly accurate. I’m not sure what individual people think of, but media depictions are pretty bad although there are exceptions. I think the aspects of manliness relating to honor, doing one’s duty, providing, setting an example, teaching these qualities to your sons, etc. are sort of there but withering.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Or are we such a society of momma’s boys that the archetype of a man is no longer a father/provider but more of a badass older brother or something?

          Agreed with quanta413 — pretty much. General societal risk tolerance has been set so low in the US that I think most men have been pressured to operate at a much safer level than they’re actually comfortable with.

          Men who actually sleep with lots of different women are like those guys who jump out of planes wearing wing-suits: they’re doing something that looks unbelievably thrilling, something you do in a wild dream. But it has no bearing on their manliness.

          Thrill-seeking is certainly a very male-associated activity.

          • Deiseach says:

            General societal risk tolerance has been set so low in the US that I think most men have been pressured to operate at a much safer level than they’re actually comfortable with.

            I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that when there was the crushing conformity of conventional society with its patriarchal expectations mediated through the nuclear family (cough), that there was perhaps a certain tolerance or safety in allowing some men to act as tough, risk-taking manly men. The risks fell on women (after all, the tough rebel doesn’t want to be tied down by the ole ball and chain and a squealing brat), and in general those could be avoided by the strong pressure exerted by societal convention and by having family structures where your male relatives would either enforce a shotgun wedding or beat seven bells out of the guy.

            In the more atomised, post-sexual liberation society where bonds are weakened, the nuclear family is a topic of mockery for wanting to go back to the idealistic dream world of “Leave It To Beaver” (remember Pleasantville, where the black and white boring world was brought into colour by sexual liberation and leaving your boring husband for the hot guy, and naturally the bigoted Town Fathers wanted to crack down on the literally ‘coloured’ people and keep things as they used to be?), cohabitation, casual sex and single parenthood are unremarkable and you pretty much have to be self-reliant or else you will fall through the cracks, there is much more risk for women (they’re supposed to be Strong Independent Women who have sex on the same casual, no-strings-attached basis as men but also to be living in a rape culture society full of sexism and microaggressions where even the Most Qualified Candidate can’t get to be President simply and solely because she’s a woman) so they require men to be safer, and men have to be safer because if they mess up their lives, there is no societal role to emulate and no family to pick up the pieces, so they too risk ending up marooned and isolated.

            Being a father/provider is seen as being a beta cuck; being a badass older brother is the Rebel Without A Cause which is very cool in your 20s but looks faintly ridiculous in your 30s and where does it leave you in your 40s and older? The movie does, in fairness, suggest that the kids need to grow up and acknowledge that they’re becoming adults (Judy in particular cannot be Daddy’s Little Girl now and he has not “callously withdrawn his affections” by not letting her sit on his lap anymore), but the pop culture attitude prefers to blame the uncaring parents and idolise the rebelling teenagers.

            The thing is, becoming a responsible adult and a father/provider does mean leaving all that adolescent recklessness behind, and trying to sell that as “no, really, still badass” is defeating the purpose. Modern society seems to want to eat its cake and have it when it comes to this: sure, I’m grown up but I’m still cool.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            (they’re supposed to be Strong Independent Women who have sex on the same casual, no-strings-attached basis as men but also to be living in a rape culture society full of sexism and microaggressions where even the Most Qualified Candidate can’t get to be President simply and solely because she’s a woman)

            Personally, I think the rape-culture hysteria is a pretty inevitable result of the sexual revolution. If you believe that everything which is consented to is good, it follows that anything bad wasn’t consented to. If a women feels used and degraded after a sexual encounter, it isn’t because she consented to be used for a degrading activity, it’s because she didn’t really consent, even if she thought she did at the time.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      NO ONE at my school wanted to date me. […] I actually wound up cheating on my husband with a guy I didn’t even like in that way

      hmmm

      Anyways, apparently the difference between being an undesirable man and an undesirable woman seems to be that as a man you simply have no options at all (and people tell you its your fault), while as a woman there are options, but many bad ones (and it is society’s fault, obviously).

      • Matt M says:

        Heh, no kidding. “I was so ugly I had a husband AND a fuckboi in my early 20s!”

        Meanwhile I’m over here like “I know multiple 30 year old male incels”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This is reminding me of a thing in the fat acceptance community.

        There are women (the community is mostly women) who are somewhat fat. They have trouble finding clothes, they get less respect, they may be pressured by family and friends to lose weight, they may have difficulty finding a doctor who will pay attention to their symptoms. These are actual problems.

        However, their problems are not in the same class as someone who has all of the above problems only more so, and is also unlikely to find a comfortable chair in public, and has had chairs collapse under them.

        If people who have difficulty finding sex partners and mates were considered as one group, there would be a similar split.

        There *are* women who just don’t seem to attract anyone (not necessarily fat women), but they seem to be rare compared to men in that situation.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is anyone interested in discussing Doctorow’s Walkaway? Do we need spoilers?

    It’s set in a future where life is becoming less and less tolerable for people who live legally. At the same time the tech (3d printing, wind and solar energy, nanotech) are good enough that people can live well off the grid.

    I’m dubious that that government is as much out of play as the novel implies. Instead most power is held by zottas– the superrich. I think Doctorow underestimates how much a lot of people like government.

    I’m also unsure that that it’s possible to have a culture where people don’t get status for work, though maybe a strong willingness to walk away from social arrangements could do that. I’m basing this criticism on science fiction fandom, which is very much a gift economy, but is hardly free of status issue.

    Anyway, I’d say it’s a pretty good novel, and strikingly more emotional than any of his previous work that I’ve read.

    Didn’t Doctorow used to offer all his books for free online?

    • 1soru1 says:

      > I think Doctorow underestimates how much a lot of people like government.

      Very few of those people are even single digit billionaires.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think it will take a lot to weaken government that much, when there are a lot of people (not necessarily superrich) who have a lot of hardware and want to keep it going.

        • 1soru1 says:

          It’s kind of the premise of the book that the aggregate wealth, and so hardware, of each zotta is greater than that of every non-zotta put together. In the current world, the richest individuals are richer than small countries, but still a lot way off even mid-tier ones (Australia has a _wealth_, as opposed to GDP, of ~5 trillion). In our world a yacht that looks like a destroyer is an anomaly, not a meaningful form of force projection.

          Noone is yet a trillionaire, but there are several a single factor of 10 off. Two-three orders of magnitude improvement would generally be conservative for a sci-fi rocket engine, so a similar economic speculation seems reasonable enough.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There’s also somewhat at the end of the book about governments and competition between zottas, but I’m not sure it’s consistent with the rest of the book.

    • Matt C says:

      It reminded me of LeGuin’s Dispossessed. Really, it seemed like a deliberate pastiche to me, but I don’t see anyone else saying this.

      I didn’t find the world very believable. Not the economics, not the factions in play, not the individual characters. Yeah, it’s supposed to be utopian science fiction, and I’m willing to meet the author halfway on that, but at least for me, halfway didn’t make it. It would probably help if I was more of a lefty; much of what I halted on was either culturally or economically left.

      That said, I still think Doctorow knows how to tell a story. I didn’t buy it as plausible, but I still mostly enjoyed it, and finished it, which isn’t a given these days.

      I think it was Big Brother from Doctorow that had a scene with police state inquisitors that was the most affecting thing I remember from him. I did find that scene believable.

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I recently read Topper by Thorne Smith (1926). I’m not going to say it’s a rationality must-read, but there’s a considerable amount of interest.

    The most obvious thing is the amount of difference almost a century makes. There’s considerable light-heartedness about heavy drinking, and that includes the deadly accident which sets the novel up. A couple die because the man drove their car into a tree. When Cosmo Topper buys the car, it turns out to be haunted by their ghosts, who are a good influence on him by getting him to loosen up. Also, being concerned with the future of the white race isn’t bad because it’s obnoxious, it’s bad because it’s a sign of being a boring person.

    There’s a lot of sexual boundary violation, but it all works out well and ends up with monogamy.

    This is a book about Elua vs. Moloch, played out in psychology rather than on a societal level. The vision of Elua involves a lot of drinking and moderate law-breaking and insisting on affection.

    The philosophical heart of the book is “Any creature, man or beast, who has the capacity and desire to enjoy life deserves that enjoyment.”

    The book became famous as a comedy, but I didn’t get a lot of laughter from it. The partially visible dog was moderately amusing. What remains is an excellent portrayal of emotional states, including states where people aren’t quite conscious of what they’re feeling.

  18. Deiseach says:

    Hey, it’s Saturday, have a joke! (courtesy of a Catholic blog):

    A drunk man, who smelled of liquor, sat down on a subway next to a priest. The man’s tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his coat pocket.

    He opened his newspaper and began reading.

    After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked, “Say Father, do you know what causes arthritis?

    The priest replies, “My son, it’s caused by loose living – being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, and lack of bathing.”

    The drunk muttered in response, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

    He returned to his paper.

    The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?”

    The drunk answered, “I don’t have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does.”

  19. skef says:

    More on the shutdown:

    Just on the level of politics, a 1) prolonged U.S. Govt shutdown that is 2) generally blamed on Republicans would presumably be a liability. There are many plausible reasons to blame this one Democrats instead, but Trump’s character flaws are a potential opportunity for them. The Repub playbook calls for negative attention on Schumer et al, but Trump is likely to refocus all attention he can back on himself after more than a short period of time. So Dem strategists could try to make this appear as a Democrat/Trump disagreement, rather than the congressional disagreement it really is, and convince Trump via media “leaks” that giving in would make him look weak.

    Not great for Govt employees and people who receive services, but politics can be nasty.

    • Matt M says:

      Just on the level of politics, a 1) prolonged U.S. Govt shutdown that is 2) generally blamed on Republicans would presumably be a liability.

      I’m skeptical of the “prolonged” part. Despite the government making the best efforts to make shutdowns as disruptive as possible (i.e. the very first thing they do is close down the washington monument, one of the cheapest and most non-offensive things the government does) – the vast majority of people’s lives will continue as normal. Trains will still run, hospitals will still run, highways will still exist, police officers will still chase criminals, etc.

      A really long shutdown that didn’t disrupt the lives of most non-government employees would probably serve the overall interests of the GOP quite well in the long term, as the media rhetoric of “OMG NO GOVERNMENT WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE” would fail to match reality. And we’ve seen this work to Trump’s benefit in other areas already, such as tax cuts (and probably net neutrality although that will take longer). The media hypes something up as THIS IS TOTALLY THE WORST THING EVER, the thing happens, everything is fine, and they look dumb and Trump looks more competent by the day. Particularly if the shutdown is ultimately resolved with him getting something he wants in exchange (maybe, say, a border wall?). Then he continues to build his “master dealmaker and negotiator” rep.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I would presume Trump, as head of the executive, would attempt to manage the shutdown so as to cause the most inconvenience for his opponents constituents and the least for his own.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I’d be interested to hear if anybody sees this happening. There was plenty of noise about how Obama made sure to erect barriers around/kick people out of the various (normally unmanned) DC monuments during his shutdown. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump makes a point of not doing that. But I’m sure he can punish his enemies lots of other ways, too.

        • cassander says:

          Trump doesn’t really control the process. Congress does, based on what they decide to fund through CRs and what they don’t.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. Some of my friends in the military have been told that they won’t be getting paid until this is resolved. It seems to me like if Trump was trying to reward his friends and punish his enemies, “pay the military” would be pretty high on his priority list.

            So either he’s not actually in control of this at all, OR he’s so confident that it will all get blamed on the Democrats that he’s actively trying to make it as painful as possible (similar to the “close the washington monument” strategy)

          • Incurian says:

            Right. Some of my friends in the military have been told that they won’t be getting paid until this is resolved.

            I remember the last time this happened. I was in Afghanistan, and some general or something wrote a memo assuring the American people we would continue to fight without pay. I said “the hell I will.” We had movie marathons in the CP until it was resolved, iirc.

    • BBA says:

      The “government shutdown” as practiced in the US federal government dates back to 1980, when the Attorney General issued an opinion that any lapse in funding would require all non-essential services to be halted and all non-essential employees to be furloughed. Since then, the longest shutdown has been three weeks in 1995-96, and at that point several agencies had full-year funding so the effects were limited.

      We haven’t really experienced a prolonged shutdown and I’m wondering what the key pain points would be if this shutdown extends for more than a month or so. One I saw pointed out last time around was that TTB can’t issue any permits for alcohol production, thus it is illegal to start a new brewery. But a little digging shows that TTB permits don’t expire, and I think the existing rate of beer production is sufficient to last us at least, I don’t know, three years.

      Obviously, after a few months, it’ll be increasingly difficult for the “essential” personnel to keep working unpaid, and they’ll start to desert or rebel. These include the government functions that Trumpists care most about: the military, the Border Patrol and ICE. I honestly don’t know how that kind of breakdown would play out, but the precedents for countries that haven’t paid their soldiers are pretty grim.

      • shakeddown says:

        Doesn’t ICE (Like military and congress) keep getting paid in a shutdown?

        • CatCube says:

          I recall getting paid on active duty during the last shutdown in 2013, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen this time. The new AFBlues comic (NSFW) seems to imply that paychecks might get missed.

          To be honest, I’m so bad about keeping up with stuff like bills that I might have not gotten paid during the last shutdown and just not noticed. I make sure I keep plenty of cash on hand because of this.

          My shop at least going to be at work tomorrow and expect most of the week, since some of our projects are funded by means that aren’t direct appropriations (2406 funding from the Bonneville Power Administration, for example). Plus, my boss said that we always get back pay after the shutdowns, and as long as we’re going to get paid for this time we’re going to put in the hours until we’re directly ordered to not come in.

  20. Deiseach says:

    Looks like everybody, not just the Russians, were hacking sensitive government organisations.

    A 15 (at the time) year old in a council house in Leicestershire. Are we sure Putin was not behind this, too? 😀

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Good to see he turned out to be a high achiever despite being raised by a single mother in a council house!
      Or more seriously, Hillary Clinton blaming Russia for everything is the biggest reason I’m glad she lost.

    • Well... says:

      This is a more general question, but what do people mean when they talk about “the Russians hacked the election” or “the Chinese hacked in and stole secrets” etc.?

      Do they mean the Russian government? Hackers who used computers located in Russia? Something else?

      What can be said definitively about a given hacking incident, with regard to nationality? It seems strange to me.

      • Nornagest says:

        What can be said definitively about a given hacking incident, with regard to nationality? It seems strange to me.

        Depends how definitive you’re looking for. But security analysts use many different types of fingerprinting — from crude stuff like time zones, to use of sources and methods that’ve been associated in the past with state actors, to purely technical stuff. The Guccifer leaks for example contained file metadata showing that edits had been carried out by a user with a Cyrillic keyboard and Russian language settings.

        Any particular one of these would be easy to spoof, but if enough of them point in the same direction then the evidence starts looking stronger.

        • Well... says:

          But it seems like that only gets you “Russian-speaking hacker” or “hacker whose computer was in Russia.” Or maybe, maybe “hacker who used techniques similar to those used by known official Russian government hackers” (in which case “Russians” is shorthand for “espionage arm of the Russian government”?).

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure. But like I said, any one datum isn’t worth a whole lot, and you need many to be confident in a source. There’s also the sophistication of an attack: most amateur “hackers” are scriptkiddies using off-the-shelf tools and/or cheap social engineering (I gather mostly the latter), and even most of the minority of amateur hackers who deserve the name, tend not to use complicated attacks or to be very polished in their execution. They don’t have the time to, and they don’t really have a need.

            So if you come across a complex attack using professional-looking tools that aren’t part of the standard infosec toolkit, that points very strongly to either a state actor or to organized crime. There’s plenty of organized crime in Russia and Ukraine too (though how separable it is from the politics of those countries is debatable), but that’s when you have to start asking qui bono: there are only so many groups that have both a reason to fuck with the DNC and the resources to carry out a serious attack.

          • Well... says:

            Ah, I see. That clarifies things a lot, thanks.

      • Brad says:

        Nornagest addressed the evidence part. As to the other part of your question, in some cases the evidence points towards a specific hacking group that is believed to be directly associated with the governments in question.

        In other cases there isn’t such strong evidence, but a background assumption that no significant hacking teams can operate in China or Russia without at least the acquiescence of some faction of the ruling regimes. I think that’s probably more warranted in the case of China than Russia, but even as to Russia it is fairly reasonable.

  21. JustToSay says:

    Reading the Ansari stuff here (as well as some related stuff over on the Luna post and generally everything that anyone says when dating comes up on SSC) is always disorienting. I feel like Scott in his parallel universe wondering where all the creationists are, except it’s all the Tinder-swiping sex-on-the-first-date people who are invisible to me. I’m vaguely aware that dating is like this; I mean, I watch TV and movies. But I have no personal evidence of this casual sex world, which sounds, at least based on these discussions, kinda miserable.

    So I’m just here to let everyone know, for their anthropological information, that there still exist substantial subgroups, at large public universities, in which people meet in class, kiss after a month or two of dating, and have sex after they’re married. True, some people slip up when they’re engaged. Other people think rules against premarital sex are a bit uptight, but even they are dating for months before sex. Overall the assumed norm is that sex is associated with marriage, or at minimum serious relationships aimed at marriage. True for me and my spouse; true for most of our friends. None of us own denim jumpers.

    I’m not suggesting that my experience is the norm. I’m just letting people know it exists. Two years ago, I didn’t know polyamory was a thing. Two days ago, I didn’t realize what the dating market was like. Possibly some of you don’t know that some people are unironically living Traditional Family Morals™.

    For people who really want certain things, switching parallel universes may work better than the next dating app.

    Also, is this literally just me? Someone please reply and tell me this is what their life is like.

    • quanta413 says:

      If you don’t mind revealing, where do you go to university? Not full detail, I’m curious about the country/state.

      My social groups haven’t been overflowing with people hooking up but they definitely haven’t been that close to traditional either. And as I look outwards from these groups of super nerdy people, it rapidly gets closer to a hook up culture.

      • JustToSay says:

        This is in the Midwestern US. Perhaps more relevantly, it is admittedly 10-15 years ago. I have some evidence that it’s still like that, but certainly not as strong as when I was there.

        It’s hard for me to say objectively, but I’d say medium-nerdy? Nerd-lite? Whatever it is when you have engineers dating nursing students…actually I know two couples with that combo.

    • Mark says:

      Love.

      I don’t come from a traditional place. My parents were polyamorists before it was a word. I don’t go to church. The idea of marriage is unpopular amongst the people I know.

      But, I believe in a thing called LOVE. I believe that there can be a magical connection linking two people. And, I believe that turning your back on that is degrading to the soul.

      So, my life is probably similar to yours, but perhaps for different reasons – I just found the lifestyles described above (which I lived in for the first twenty-odd years of my life) so gloomy, so joyless, so spiritually lacking, that I HAD to take a stand and say: “I’m going to live for love, even if love isn’t real.”

      [And once I had made that decision, evidence for love appeared.]

    • Loquat says:

      I went to college on the west coast and then moved back to the east coast, and didn’t really encounter sex-on-the-first-date people in either. Mind you, this was also 10-15 years ago and I don’t tend to be friends with the kind of people that share tons of detail about their sex lives. Given those caveats, though, I’m pretty sure most of the people I knew reserved sex for relationships and weren’t going around having casual hookups on a regular basis.

      At present, I’ve been married for several years and most of our friends are married couples as well, monogamous as far as we know.

    • Anatoly says:

      Sometimes I have this weird feeling that the US is both ahead and behind the rest of the Western world in these matters. To me, the Tinder hookup culture is super-weird, but the “have sex only after they’re married” culture is also super-weird.

      I’m from Israel. When I was in college here (20 years ago, but it doesn’t seem to have changed that much from what I hear) the usual way was that you’d meet in class or through friends or at some cultural thing; you’d go do stuff, possibly first with friends and then preferentially just the two of you. After a while you’d kiss, after some more time you’d publicly ide