Arguments About Male Violence Prove Too Much

[CONTENT WARNING: rape, violent crime, racism]

[EDIT HISTORY: This piece was widely circulated and critiqued after first being published, and I received a lot of feedback, some of which was good and some of which was bad. I have entirely rewritten the piece to try to respond to some of the complaints, especially those in the comments and those raised here. The original version of this post, without which some of the reactions and complaints will not make sense, is available here. The bottom of that post gives more information on particular edits. Thanks to everyone who gave helpful feedback both positive and negative.]

From this article:

When the odds of being assaulted are 25 percent, something is dangerous. If any other activity or object presented the same odds of injury or death, then a revolution would be ignited against it. If one-fourth of Americans faced armed robbery in their lifetime, then you’d better believe armed robbery would be a major national issue covered everywhere in the media, and it would be right up there alongside the economy and national defense in the presidential debates.

We’re all willing to make a strong, concerted efforts to see that safety is followed in cases like these, with no margin allowed for error. It’s a shocking contrast to how we deal with women’s safety from the men who harm them.

It makes me wonder, what if men were declared as a public safety hazard?

Could you imagine if they were recalled? Pulled off the street? “Sorry sir, you’ll have to come with me; we’ve had reports that men have been raping, beating, and killing women, and we can’t take the risk that you will, too.” Yes, it’s a ridiculous idea. But men are way more dangerous than Tylenol [which was recalled for being dangerous].

You may also say, “There are plenty of men out there who don’t abuse or sexually assault women — what about them?” I say: Well, what about them?

I can’t quote the whole thing, but you should probably read it if you want a clearer picture of what’s being talked about.

So when I read this article, I feel a couple things. I feel sad about the high prevalence of rape and domestic violence, of course. But I already knew that one. I also feel other emotions. As a man who hasn’t done any of these things, I feel kind of scared and singled out and unfairly guilt-by-associationed.

I know this isn’t the first time this has happened. Articles That Tar All Men With The Same Brush are pretty common, followed by Men Who Get Offended, followed by People Telling Them They Are Wrong To Be Offended Because The Problem Of Rape Is Much More Important Than The Problem Of People Getting Offended.

But, well, I still feel unfairly guilt-by-associationed. So here’s an intuition pump to try to communicate why.

A Visit To Racist Dystopia

Suppose you woke up one morning and started hearing public service announcements on your radio: “Black people are defective! Black people are a public safety hazard! Black people commit lots of violent crimes! The police should just arrest all black people, because they’re too dangerous to allow on the streets!”

You do some investigation and find that it’s just a small fraction of the population that believes this – maybe 10% – and they’re not immediately advocating any actual consequences or policy toward black people. So that’s good. But you keep hearing this same message. All your favorite blogs publish a steady stream of wildly popular articles trying to “helpfully explain” to black people why all white people are justified in fearing them. Any black person in college has to walk past posters every day listing their name and reading THIS PERSON IS A POTENTIAL MUGGER – and when they complain, they are met with indifference and an administration claiming it is merely a helpful way to raise awareness of black violence.

Hopefully you, like me, would be horrified by this state of affairs. Although certainly crime is a problem in many places, and although crime is worse in poor neighborhoods which are also disproportionately minority, this is an offensive and unproductive way of thinking about the problem.

The Value Of The Analogy

If we had to specify our exact complaints against Racist Dystopia, I think there would be at least three good ones. First, we would want to protest that only a tiny percent of black people are guilty of violence. Second, we would want to protest that people of all races are capable of violence, and that the existing campaign unfairly portrays it as solely a black problem. Third, even apart from those two complaints and even assuming raising awareness of racial violence is something we want to do, there would be ways of sending that message that encourage stereotyping and sweeping judgments and ways of discouraging them, and the current campaign seems specifically intended to promote the former.

Let’s start with the first complaint: only a tiny percent of black people are guilty of violence. How tiny? Statisticians project that about 30% of black men will go to prison sometime in their lives. Somewhere around 30-40% of prisoners are serving time for violent offenses, so if we combine those two numbers (something which requires a few assumptions, but I can’t find the statistic directly so it will have to do) we get that about 10% of black men will go to prison for violent crime sometime in their lives. If we assume that black women do not go to prison (I can’t find good data on this), then about 5% of black people will go to prison for violent crime at some point.

This number is very similar to another number: according to an article from the early 2000s in a feminist blog, about 4.5% of men are estimated to be rapists.

Our second complaint is that violence is a problem committed by people of all races: most notably to the public service campaign, it is committed by white people as well. But as noted before, violence concentrates disproportionately among poor populations, these are disproportionately likely to be minorities, and the effects scale up. America is about 50% men/50% female. Suppose that America were 50% black/50% white. We know that black people currently commit homicide at a rate 7.5x greater than white people, so in this hypothetical society – in the implausible case where nothing changed about neighborhoods or poverty or income gap – 88% of murders would be committed by black people. Murder is an unusually good statistic because almost all murders are investigated and so there’s a low chance that much of the differential is due to racist policing, but the numbers are about the same for other violent crime. For example, in New York City, which is approximately 50% white, 25% black, and 25% other, 78% of all shootings are black compared to 2.5% white. If we extrapolate New York City into a hypothetical 50% black/50% white society, we find that the black half would commit about 97% of the shootings and the white half about 3%. Let’s average these two statistics and say that in our hypothetical society where race works like gender, 95% of violent crime would be black.

And once again, these numbers are in the ballpark of male/female rape statistics. What percent of rapes are committed by men? This is very hard to determine, because rape by women is almost never reported (victim is too embarrassed) and almost never prosecuted (people just laugh and say they bet the guy liked it). I have seen claims from 99% male (which seems very high) to 75% male (which seems very low). I do not think that 95% of rapists being men to 5% women is an impossible number. Other forms of violence are even less male-dominated; male-initiated and female-initiated domestic violence seem to be about equal.

The last complaint we might have against Racist Dystopia is not statistical but moral. Even if it was socially necessary to raise awareness of violent crime, and even if everyone was so racist that the decision to fixate on black crime had already been made, there are ways to do it that are super-awful and ways to do it that are only kinda-awful. I think the most important criteria for landing a campaign in the coveted second category would be:

– Absolute avoidance of any claim or implication that the problem is with all minorities and extreme and frequent repetition of the fact that the overwhelming majority of minorities are non-violent.

– A focus on the fact that white people can commit crimes as well, made at least proportional to the amount of crime they actually commit, and if possible even a little more so in order to hammer home the message that crime is not a racial problem.

– A focus on additional reasons why you need not be terrified of every single black person you met. For example, if the majority of muggings tended to occur in a few very specific situations, like after both the mugger and the victim had been drinking, or after the mugger/victim had accepted an invitation to go to the victim/mugger’s house, that would have a pretty big effect on whether or not you should live in fear of your random black co-worker or college professor.

My thesis is that we should make these same complaints against efforts that try to tar all men as rapists.

How To Use The Analogy

There’s a possible fourth complaint here in which the two situations are not similar: black people are a really oppressed group. The more one spreads fear and stereotypes about them, the more likely it is you awaken someone’s latent racism and cause damage disproportional to the “limited” fear and stereotypes you were trying to convey. For example, traditionally people have been pretty quick to engage in hate crimes against black people based partly on stereotypes exactly like the one mentioned above.

One answer to this objection might be that some men are murdered, sometimes horribly because of the climate of fear around male rape. But since I’ve tried to stick to statistics thus far, it would be dishonest to claim that this happens in anywhere near the numbers that would be necessary to make the analogy stick.

A better objection might be that the issues of disprivilege and oppression, while important, are not necessary to make the Racist Dystopia horrible. Imagine a world in which we somehow magically prevented any white people from having their opinions influenced by the public service campaign vilifying black people. They somehow continue at exactly the same level of racism they had before, and the “only” problem with the campaign is that black people have to listen to themselves be attacked all the time and get “educated” on the importance of crime prevention if they complain. This world would be less bad than the world in which they also had to deal with the additional racism, but it wouldn’t be a walk in the park either.

Even removing the racism angle, the Dystopia above is still bad just because of the pain and dehumanization it causes people to have to read about their group in terms of some evil Other who must be a threat to all right-thinking people.

Men are blessed with many positive role models, but the divide between social and structural power is worth taking into account here, and the sort of men who are exposed to feminist articles like the one above (exactly the sort of men who are in the best position to help women!) have to take in quite a bit of information. For example, this morning when I checked Facebook I was helpfully suggested links to the “all men should be taken off the streets” article above, a blog called “Creepy White Guys”, an OKCupid app that claimed to be able to tag people you looked at as “likely rapists” based on a sketchy machine learning claim about their profiles, and a link to an article called “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Level There Is”. My RSS reader then directed me to my favorite blog, which had suspended its usual discussion of abstruse philosophy to host an article called “Submissions on Misogyny”, which included bits like where someone talked about her boyfriend raping and physically assaulting her and then claimed “You might think my ex was a sociopath, but no — he’s a normal male”.

This was, more or less, a typical day for a somewhat liberal guy on the Internet. So this idea that men never have to hear anyone speaking against them and these sorts of “all men are dangerous and defective” articles are just an unexpected breath of fresh air no longer track reality, if they ever did. And if you think that a man can’t possibly be hurt by seeing people insult and belittle his gender (which, no offense, is actually a kind of patriarchalist opinion right there), all I can say is that my personal experience begs to differ.

This is not a demand that people stop talking about rape, or even that they stop talking about the importance of preparedness for rape! I know my feelings aren’t as important as that!

But it is a polite request that you follow the three suggestions I would have made to the Racist Dystopians above:

– Absolute avoidance of any claim or implication that the problem is with all men and extreme and frequent repetition of the fact that the overwhelming majority of men are non-violent. 95% of men have never raped anyone and would be horrified by the idea. Insofar as you give yourself the task of “warning women what to expect from men”, one thing they should expect is to start with a 95% probability a given man is not a rapist, and then start adjusting from there based on evidence.

– A focus on the fact that women can commit rape and gendered violence as well, made at least proportional to the amount of rape/violence they actually commit, and if possible even a little more so in order to hammer home the message that what we’re against is rape itself and not This One Hated Out-Group.

– A focus on additional reasons why you need not be terrified of every single man you meet. This is something that feminists already do very well, in that they help explain what the warning signs of rapists are and what situations and requests are red flags for someone who might try to rape you, but this tends to be forgotten in articles like the one above which focus on scare-mongering the idea that it could be anybody! While it’s true that it could be anybody, it’s also important to keep in mind that it is somewhat more likely to be some people than others.

It’s easy to see why doing this would benefit men, and I admit that’s mostly why I’m writing this, but I can think of many reasons this would be good for women as well.

First, encouraging a woman to fear and distrust all men is probably not a useful strategy in a society that’s fifty percent male, especially if that woman happens to be heterosexual. A strategy of “be aware of this possibility and of the warning signs, but also that most of the people you interact with are nice and trustworthy” is probably both psychologically and socially more healthy.

Second, women have a vested interest in fighting sexism and sexist stereotypes. Sexism is basically a flawed cognitive algorithm. It’s the tendency to think “I can think of a bunch of people of this sex who do X, therefore I’m just going to classify that sex as X-doers and promote that idea to society.” A big part of fighting sexism is discouraging this process. Saying “No, you can’t just say that because some women like cooking in this society, cooking is a Thing Inherent About Women. Further, we can’t even create a climate where women are constantly portrayed as cooking and doing things relating to cooking, because that’s going to make non-culinary women feel bad.” And if you laboriously train people out of this habit of thought, and then say “But definitely do this for men, they don’t count because they’re privileged oppressors”, it’s not going to work for women either. You’re creating a natural Stroop effect where people have to keep conflicting category-based rules in their head.

Third, and most speculatively, I’m kind of worried that this sort of stereotype actually promotes rape. There was a very interesting study where researchers interviewed some people about their relationships, and then told half the subjects (at random) that they had been commendably faithful, and the other half that their actions suggested they were of an unfaithful personality type and their mental infidelity might destroy their relationship. Then they asked the subjects for their opinions on infidelity. The subjects who had been told they were commendably faithful told them fidelity was extremely important to them; the subjects who had been (randomly!) told they were unfaithful told them that fidelity wasn’t important to them and that infidelity wasn’t a big deal anyway.

The researchers theorized that this was a process called “cognitive dissonance”. Most people like themselves and want to continue to like themselves. If they are told that they, or their group, has a particular flaw, then instead of ceasing to like themselves it may be easier to just decide that flaw is not such a big deal and they can have it while continuing to be the awesome people they secretly know they are.

If rape is portrayed as inherent to men in some way, men have two mental choices. They can think “darn, I guess I got the evil gender.” Or they can think “well, if my gender does it, I guess it isn’t so bad”. Psychology suggests there will be at least some small tendency to react with the second.

I don’t know how important this effect is, but given that just stating the case for rape awareness respectfully and non-prejudicially is an easy and desirable solution anyway, I don’t see why one should take any chances.

Disclaimers That Should Not Be Necessary, But Are

I am not trying to compare the experience of men to the experience of black people in any way other than the very simple numerical comparisons listed.

I am not actually saying that black people should be seen as criminals, I am using this as an example of a bad argument in order to show that tarring all men with the crime of rape is also a bad argument.

I am not claiming straight white men are not privileged or do not have things easier than other groups.

I am not apologizing for rape or claiming it is anything other than really bad. I am not denying women the right to avoid or fear men if that is what makes them comfortable.

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173 Responses to Arguments About Male Violence Prove Too Much

  1. JJJ says:

    I think most of the anger men feel is a result of feeling disrespected. I think most men wouldln’t mind being profiled if they didn’t find it humiliating.

    For example, suppose Generic University was concerned about female students getting raped while crossing the campus at night. After considering many options, GU decides that the most pragmatic way to prevent rapes is by creating a late-night bus line that only women would be allowed on. The buses will be paid for by student fees, which means that male students will be subsidizing buses they are not allowed to ride. Still, I think men would be willing to tolerate this if the president of GU said

    “Men of GU, you are no doubt wondering why your student fees are paying for buses you can’t ride. The reason we cannot let men ride these buses is that we need to stop women getting raped. Now I know that most of you aren’t rapists. But it’s impossible for us to let the non-rapist men on these buses without also letting on the rapists. Gender discrimination may be crude, but it’s the best tool we’ve got.
    It sucks that we have to discriminate against all men based on the actions of a few. But we have to do it for the greater good. We hope you’ll understand.”

    I think most men would be honored to endured an inconvenience to stop women from being raped. OTOH, imagine if the president said

    “Awww look at the poor little menz…. all they did was rape a few women and now they’re banned from the late night buses. What a tragedy, these doodz are getting their feelings hurt. We should just let the doodz keep raping women because that wouldn’t hurt their feelings.

    Such a speech would humiliate men, and they would be less likely to support a women’s only bus line.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think I agree with you on this point.

      Japan actually has women-only train cars because of problems with groping in very crowded trains. It seems to work well and I never heard any complaints about it, though that might have been in part because of the language barrier.

      • im says:

        I’d add that I think safespaces are a great idea provided that they do not try to creepingly make everything a safespace, and that certain discourses don’t withdraw entirely into the safespace.

      • Avantika says:

        Delhi recently started this, and even though Delhi is one of the least safe-for-women places around, I’m not sure it’s a great idea.
        On the one hand, yes, the ladies’ compartment of the train is a great and safe place to be. On the other hand, if you’re an outsider or new to the system or just running late and you accidentally hop onto one of the general compartments… even if you’re with a gang of male friends and you just want to be with them, you’ll be the only woman there and have to endure being stared at the whole way.
        On the other hand, before the ‘ladies compartment’ system started, there were always a few women on every compartment and by being near them one could be as safe as in any public space.

        So on balance, I’d rather have the old no-segregation system back.

        • Fantomas says:

          I’m from Bombay, and I’m glad the women have their own train coaches.

          The last thing I need is some woman creating a fuss if someone’s shoulder brushes against them at rush hour while on my way to work.

          We’re happy with our general coaches, and I’d prefer if the women kept to their own coaches. They’ve also started posting policemen/women in the women’s coaches in the evenings when traffic is thin. Which is also a good development IMO, else women start using the general coaches because theirs are “too empty and dangerous”. With the police there they can at least feel some kind of security.

    • Army1987 says:

      The buses will be paid for by student fees, which means that male students will be subsidizing buses they are not allowed to ride.

      I guess the solution (assuming about as many males as females) would be to have both a women-only bus and a men-only bus, so that men cannot harass women but they can still get back home.

    • komponisto says:

      Still, I think men would be willing to tolerate this if the president of GU said

      Not a chance. I would be pissed beyond imagination if I were a GU student and the president said that — for the same reason that a black person would be (rightly) pissed if they had to pay for buses that only white people could ride (e.g. because white people were afraid of black people).

      In fact, I would be offended at the very existence of buses of this sort even if they weren’t paid for by student fees. I don’t like anything that excludes me, since being excluded makes me feel low-status. Why would I associate with or even tolerate something that makes me feel low-status?

      • Oligopsony says:

        Why would I associate with or even tolerate something that makes me feel low-status?

        Because you haven’t a choice, of course. How do you think anyone ever got through childhood or high school or paid employment or not having paid employment or 90% of things in general?

        • komponisto says:

          Forgive me for asking, but what are you trying to communicate in this comment, other than unsympathetic smugness? What is the implied argument here? “Yes, this hypothetical bus policy might cause you distress, but that’s okay because they have the ability to impose it on you anyway”? (Notice any irony in the context?)

          For the record — since you mention it — I am only just now, at the age of [well-into-adulthood], beginning to recover from the combined psychological trauma of childhood, high school, and paid employment in which one is treated like crap, which together probably did indeed constitute 90% or more of my life.

          (If your definition of “getting through” means “not actually having acted on one’s suicidal fantasies”, then I guess I made it!)

          So no, I don’t think that someone telling me “you don’t have a choice; suck it up!” is a very good reason for my doing anything.

          (Recommended reading: Authoritarian Submission.)

        • Oligopsony says:

          I’ve felt low-status and periodically suicidal for most of my life as well. I am not making a claim about justice, just answering your rhetorical question literally: the vast majority of us do in fact associate with and tolerate things that make us feel low status, for lack of choice otherwise (save even lower status ones or the one just mentioned.)

          And yes, “make it through” does mean “not having acted on one’s suicidal fantasies.” Life is basically bad.

  2. True, and I hope your friends really understand you. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to avoid the circles where this sort of crowing is a huge problem. And I don’t mean moving in with a crowd that’s anti-female.

    Maybe you’re afraid to give up even a single friend. But if people make you unhappy after you’ve explained how they can stop doing it, you probably don’t want to associate with them unless you’re getting something big in return.

    But probably you’ll keep all your friends, with little change in their antics, thanks to your becoming insensitive to their cruel cheerleading. Going on record like this should already help you feel less threatened.

  3. I’m one of those people that found the original Schroedinger’s rapist post pretty ng useful in summing up my feelings. I’ve not seen the later ones and it does sound like that aren’t so well written and perhaps are missing the point. But for me, the original post summed up why I am not comfortable when strange men approach me in public places, or online, in inappropriate, creepy ways. And why I feel uncomfortable when guys I know (this would include people at the office) touch me out of the blue or make joking comments designed to reduce me to a gender (or their view of my gender identity, which is different to my own view). It can seem relentless at times with people trying to cross low-level boundaries and I’m aware the whole time from personal experience that people who cross my low-level boundaries also cross other boundaries and assault or abuse me. I kind of saw that post as a way of saying to these guys: don’t hassle women in the street and play power games and cross their boundaries. Because doing that is acting like a rapist and putting women off.

    • Misha says:

      The arguments as given often feel like “Men are bad, don’t be a man” and not like “Threatening behavior is bad, don’t do these things”

      • im says:

        To some degree. I’ve tried to become hyperaware of boundaries in response. (It’s the *actual* White Man’s Burden!). It’s cool. I can be hyperaware of boundaries and in time people will be less fragile. I get the most frustrated at stuff that makes demands in an incredibly insulting manner, treats me even worse when I respond with anything other than fawnging subservience, and then considers it impossible that reducing the negative consequences of this could even be desirable.

        • Geirr says:

          Why would most men follow your example? My life got better as I stopped caring so much about other people’s boundaries. All of the following changes made my life much better; getting drunk on a regular basis and talking crap with and touching other drunk people, greater social skills and more willingness to touch bleeding over into sobre behaviour, learning about kino from reading pickup and psychology literature I read through that and then just touching people more, brief, glancing touch on hands and arms for everybody and slightly more involved stuff for flirting.

          All this made a large positive impact on my life. The costs of being especially sensitive to others’ boundaries are borne by the sensitive, the benefits do not accrue to them. Why would this behaviour spread?

        • anon1 says:

          This is meant as a reply to Geirr, but his comment didn’t have a “reply” link for some reason.

          The advantage in respecting boundaries is that you build trust. If people know that you’ll stop touching them when they ask, they’re more likely to want to touch you.

          I’m a sadist. Do you think that if I didn’t respect boundaries (safewords and pre-discussed limits) there would be many people willing to let me hit them?

          Regarding kino, it doesn’t work on people who don’t want to be touched. So either you’re using a very different idea of “boundaries” than I am (maybe to you it means giving people lots of personal space?) or you’re making people very uncomfortable (by touching them when you have reason to believe they really don’t want it) and you just don’t give a shit.

        • Geirr says:

          @anon1 My respecting boundaries definitely includes stopping if people say to. If that happens I’ve fucked up and failed to read non-verbal signals that aren’t terribly ambiguous. Our interpretation of hyper-aware of boundaries is very different, reflecting the different places we’re coming from. I started out from basically never touching people and deliberately became a lot more tactile, you need to be hyperaware because transgressing those boundaries has more serious consequences. Not stopping when someone says to is assault, and not stopping if you think someone is uncomfortable is douchey but if I had not done douchey I’d still be another aspie social cripple.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I agree with most of Scott’s points, and I generally dislike confrontational forms of feminish, but I too think Schroedinger’s Rapist was a good article. The two things that I think seperate it from other articles in the genre are:

      1. It makes a fairly effective good-faith attempt to explain a perspective likely unfamiliar to the target audience, rather than simply crying “privilege”.

      2. Much of the article is centered around calls-to-action that are entirely reasonable. The core point of the article, as I read it, was that basic common courtesy (particularly showing respect for boundaries) is especially important for men approaching women they don’t know well, above and beyond the normal extent to which courtesy is important in general.

  4. Misha says:

    If women want to end misogyny and sexism against women, they need cooperation from men. And it really feels shitty to cooperate with someone who regularly treats you like scum. When you give someone two options, either be your enemy, or be your submissive loathed ally, it’s not that surprising if they choose to be your enemy.

    • im says:

      Yes. As things get better, there needs to be negotiation. I think that there are few matters of discrimination left where at least trying to look for mutually acceptable norms is futile (it wasn’t this way 20 years ago!).

    • Mary says:

      The really irony is that they also need cooperation from women, and they regularly treat other women like scum, too. Have you ever read an article about why women don’t call themselves feminists where the author actually talked to such women? I haven’t. Instead, they just speculate about how they could be such silly geese.

      In my more cynical moments, I think they don’t want to solve problems, because then they would have to fold their tents, no longer be associated with a great cause, and instead have to live with a more quotidian goodness.

  5. suntzuanime says:

    This is a culture war, and you don’t win a war by being reasonable, you win a war by firing bigger rockets than the other guy. Being nice to men means being less than optimally effective at helping women, so the choice is clear.

    Think of patriarchical society as a chemical solution whose pH is too high. To achieve a non-sexist neutral solution, which is more efficient – adding perfectly fair, just, neutral water, or adding acidic misandrist pro-woman advocacy? It will take a lot more water to dilute the mixture than it will take acid to neutralize it.

    • Geirr says:

      That is the most cordial formulation of “I despise you if you are a man, and if you are a man who professes to believe as I do, I despise you slightly less.” I’ve seen. We are not in communion.

      Disclaimer: Quotation marks used to separate thoughts. They are not intended to say that actual wording was used.

      • Oligopsony says:

        But the claim wasn’t that she or he despises men, but that despising men is instrumentally useful. We don’t all feel what would be instrumentally useful for us to feel; would that we did.

      • Army1987 says:

        Disclaimer: Quotation marks used to separate thoughts. They are not intended to say that actual wording was used.

        A convention I’ve seen proposed somewhere, and that I usually use myself whenever I remember to, is to use “double quotes” for verbatim (or as-close-as-verbatim-as-feasible) quotations and ‘single quotes’ for paraphrases/glosses.

        • Army1987 says:

          (In Italian, ISTM that using «guillemets» for actual quotations and “double inverted commas” for thoughts is pretty much standard in professionally edited and published books.)

    • im says:

      I don’t think that is a good analogy. For a good forty years, it’s been more like a standoff full of border incidents and international intrigues, with one side (the men) clearly in the dominant position, but gradually slipping. Compromise is possible, and one can fight to extract a better one. Brinksmanship (brinkswomanship?) has a cost.

      Adding actual misandrist feminists to (modern) society would not help. We want a society that is harmonious and equal, not one with equal numbers of hateful, destructive misandrists and misogynists.

    • ozymandias42 says:

      …Except that no, that doesn’t work, because ideas like “men are scary and will hurt you” are *part* of the patriarchal apparatus we’re trying to get rid of. Therefore reinforcing them is, in the long run, a bad plan.

      • Avantika says:

        Yes. Yes. I wish people would understand this. No one does.

        (Feeds back to what I said earlier about segregated train compartments. Yes, it makes women safer from molestation on the train, but it also reinforces the societal stereotype of ‘men are dangerous and women need to be shut away and protected from the Evil Men,’ which I desperately wish we could move beyond.)

        • ozymandias42 says:

          I think segregated train compartments can work as part of a harm-reduction strategy, but the ultimate solution is to end both groping and the fear of groping.

        • ozymandias42 says:

          I think segregated train compartments can work as part of a harm-reduction strategy, but the ultimate solution is to end both groping and the fear of groping.

      • Sarah says:

        yay. you rock.

      • Oligopsony says:

        “Men are inherently violent and scary” and “men are as it happens violent and scary” are both products of patriarchy, but in different ways. (Of course this does not directly imply what rhetorical strategies are effective for which purposes, on which I have no expertise whatsoever.)

    • Steve says:

      You win a war against a government by firing big enough rockets at their army to make that government capitulate. If there’s no government to speak of, like in Afghanistan or Somalia, you either (1) learn to tell the insurgents from the friendly locals and make sure to keep the latter on your side; or (2) attempt to kill all the people, burn down all the buildings, and salt the earth.

      In this “culture war,” are you advocating strategy #2? Because that seems impractical as well as morally indefensible.

      • Oligopsony says:

        According to Stathis Kalivas’ Logic of Violence in Civil War, the best way to go about (1) is indeed with healthy doses of terror. (Kalivas also notes that most violence on the ground ends up being instrumental for ends other than the macro-political – revenge, extortion, above all security – which one could also easily fit into the analogy.) It’s arguable how far the analogy works, though.

    • Andrew Rettek says:

      “Being nice to men means being less than optimally effective at helping women, so the choice is clear.”

      The most pervasive estimate I’ve seen is that 1 in 6 men preform some sort of offensive sexual assault/rape act. You seem to be saying that the problem of women’s rights is so important it’s worth “firing rockets” at an innocent 42% of the population instead of acting sub-optimally. Is that right?

    • Rolf Andreassen says:

      This is a culture war, and you don’t win a war by being reasonable, you win a war by firing bigger rockets than the other guy.

      If you really want to consider this as a war, perhaps you should have a look at whether you actually possess bigger rockets. It is, presumably, possible for men to decide that they’ve about had it with this, and re-impose purdah, “marital obligations”, or other laws and customs which would not be to your advantage. What would you do about it, if your “bigger rockets” got you a black eye and a shrug of “clearly had it coming” from the police?

      For that matter, what would you do about it, if your “bigger rockets” got you banned from everywhere you might actually be heard by your intended targets? A rocket that can be blocked with the click of a mouse is not, actually, a very good rocket. It might more reasonably be classified as a firework. If you intend to win an argument, you have got to make yourself heard; it’s only in actual wars that you can fight a battle without the other guy’s cooperation.

      I suggest you reconsider your metaphor.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is, presumably, possible for men to decide that they’ve about had it with this, and re-impose purdah, “marital obligations”, or other laws and customs which would not be to your advantage. What would you do about it, if your “bigger rockets” got you a black eye and a shrug of “clearly had it coming” from the police?

        Cool down, bro. You’re making men look bad by speaking as though (1) it were still 1860 and (2) men could still get away with the same “Rape Patriarchy Schtick” that they had been engaging in for the previous 4000+ years and (3) you reflectively endorse this socio-political regime as something that should be on the table as an fallback option in modern discourse.

        Seriously, look at what you just proposed. Suntzuanime advocated trolling men in a culture war on the internet and you proposed forming a rape crew backed up by the power of the state like in the good old days. Seriously? Seriously?!

        Do you really think that women shouldn’t sometimes make fun of men for having sexually and politically dangerous inclinations because otherwise men as a political class would organize to force them into rape-based-marriages with authority-sanctioned wife beating? Do you not see any irony here?

        Look at the problems you create for dudes when you go all caveman on politicized gender relations… First, you’ve turned yourself into a political pariah, which is probably not selfishly good for you. Secondly, you function as problematic evidence for the attribution model that will be applied to other men because the temptation will be to model your preference for a rape-archy as being caused by your Y chromosome (which most other dudes also have) plus a lack of discretion and sneakiness (which many other dudes have in larger supply).

        If Y-chromosomes cause a preference for rape-archy, then that sort of defeats the entire theory Scott put forward way up yonder in the OP about how “not all men are into rape and also statistics and nuance and milk of human kindness and good faith and blah blah blah with being all reasonable and humane n’stuff”.

        It would be better for dudes if your political desire for a rape-archy was caused by you being exposed to freaky bad memes or having brain-scan certifiable psychopathy or something. If there was a weird but hidden cause for your apparent political tendencies then it implies that clever policies could be implemented to keep scary people like you away from the “normal god fearing moral people like the political speaker and the silent majority in the audience”. (Maybe brain scans or rating systems for internet writing? Who knows. Until the causal model is nailed down its not clear what might address the issue effectively.)

        From a silly theoretical perspective, it would be even better for normal men if your fetish for black eyes and purdah (and similar tendencies in other men) were all caused by robotic drones with blinking neon signs and mind control rays floating nearby. Then the only dudes that women would have to worry about are the ones near the neon-lighted robotic drones. “No robotic drones means no tendency to rape” would make it trivial to identify and avoid the scary men, and vastly lighten the burden on normal men who might otherwise have to deal with complicated attempts to signal clearly that they aren’t scary, in the way that you sort of appear to be.

        Also, if it was robotic drones with mind control rays causing the problem then maybe we could just ask people to move away from them or something? And if people refused to move way then we could sort of blame them for that (at least a little bit, though admittedly this might be part of the way the robot drones control people) and take appropriate measures like shooting the drones down from a distance and seeing if we are hailed as liberators!

        In the meantime, a way way more practical and real world solution is for you to admit that you got trolled, admit that it implies you have some personal issues, and say “I apologize for the overreaction. Thank you, everyone, for the benefit of the doubt. As a self-regulating and basically moral person who is not in reflective equilibrium and is still learning stuff about the world I had not considered some of these issues in quite this light but I see how they are kind of complicated now… and I think maybe I have some issues to work out with a therapist. Thanks. Peace.”

        • Geirr says:

          That was an awesome troll. Someone on the internet reads a comment that can easily be read as declaring themselves an enemy to all men and gets pissy, suggesting that in politics as in everything else, trying to start a fight you can’t win is stupid and then you come along.

          Politics is all serious. If you can ridicule something and actually make people laugh at some option you have dealt a blow to your enemy, you have eliminated one of their options, at least for the moment.

          I do like the way you did it though. You take the maximally sympathetic view of suntzuanime, that she’s trolling, and the maximally unsympathetic view of Rolf, that he’s a proponent of “rape-archy” to use your phrase.

          And then you end it by advising him to see a therapist. I think it more likely that you are a knowing troll than suntzuanime. Bravo, well done!

    • Mary says:

      You can lose wars by firing bigger rockets than the other guy, by shooting them into noncombatants and getting their side really angry.

      • Geirr says:

        Indeed, this is at the core of terrorism/freedom fighting. You totally can lose by pissing off those sympathetic to you in the enemy faction enough that the you no longer have anyone who is against crushing you utterly.

    • Mary says:

      The idea that “patriarchy” is some free-floating substance hanging about in the air, and that “misandrist pro-woman advocacy” will spread out to neutralize it, is an analogy that conforms to no actual behaviors that I have ever seen.

      • Randy M says:

        The ozone layer!

      • Misha says:

        eh, I think misandrist pro-womanism does a pretty god job of making anyone even at all pro-men want to stop hanging out with you, so from the point of view of the misandrists it probably works ok.

  6. I think you have misread the arguments you are criticizing here.
    I’m a largish male with a social disability, and I know what it’s like to have women scared of me when I intended nothing untoward. But I didn’t find any such thing in the “Schroedinger’s Rapist” piece. “Schroedinger’s Rapist” was not addressed to women, saying “This is how we ought to think about men.” “Schroedinger’s Rapist” was addressed to men, saying “This is how women are, in fact, thinking about you.” Most men are not rapists, but because a few men are, women cannot assume that a man in the street or on public transport — of whom they know nothing but that he is a man — is not a rapist. (To reiterate, this is not something the “Schroedinger’s Rapist” author is recommending; this is something she is explaining.) If the next piece of information that the man adds to the woman’s state of knowledge about himself is “I am prepared to ignore your wishes and comfort in order to afford myself the pleasure of your company”, that’s a big red flag. (Again, the author is explaining this as fact, not recommending it as policy.)

    • Andrew Rettek says:

      ““Schroedinger’s Rapist” was not addressed to women, saying “This is how we ought to think about men.” “Schroedinger’s Rapist” was addressed to men, saying “This is how women are, in fact, thinking about you.” ”

      This seems to go against all the feminist theory I’ve ever heard. Most of the time I’ve been linked to the Schroedinger’s Rapist piece is was by a female blogger/facebook friend. Presumably they read it. Reading something that says “most [a class the reader identifies with] think X” normalizes behavior. This is the very foundation behind the idea of “rape culture”.

      If a female reader comes across that piece and thinks to herself, “I don’t think about men this way” what is going to be her update? For a significant portion of women, it will be “maybe I should,” “maybe I just got lucky so far,” “maybe I’ve been too reckless”. It normalized fear and antagonism towards men.

      • crosswords says:

        The purpose of the Schroedinger’s Rapist piece is to explain to men why many women, particularly those who have experienced nonconsensual situations from men, feel uncomfortable around them, especially if they’re unfamiliar, alone in a room, etc. I can’t think of anyone I know in the years since that piece came out who read it as prescriptive. I’ve been in a lot of different feminist spaces over the years, and pretty much everyone’s read the piece. Admittedly, this is all anecdotal.

        The hope was that men would read the article and be more conscious of how they might accidentally intimidate women, and avoid or attempt to mitigate those situations. Obviously results have been mixed.

  7. Thomas Eliot says:

    >What percent of rapes are committed by men? This is very hard to determine, because rape by women is almost never reported (victim is too embarrassed) and almost never prosecuted (people just laugh and say they bet the guy liked it). I have seen claims from 99% male (which seems very high) to 75% male (which seems very low).

    I’m uncertain about this. According to this report:

    (page 28-29) Men, when asked whether they were “made to penetrate” someone against their (the man’s) will in the past 12 months, answered yes 1.1% of the time. Women, when asked whether they were “forced to (be) penetrate(d)” in the past 12 months, answered yes 1.1% of the time.

    Strangely, when the numbers are expanded to lifetime rather than past 12 months, it becomes 12.3% for women and 4.8% for men. I have heard a few possible hypotheses for why this is, but none that use outside data to back themselves up.

  8. im says:

    What are you replying to?

  9. Pingback: A Dude’s Rant | O.D.M.I.A.

  10. Avantika says:

    But none of this is what the Schrodinger’s rapist post is actually saying. In fact that post seems a perfectly accurate representation of how most women think.
    It’s not saying men are completely safe or whining or it’s unimportant to respect them.
    Also it’s not targeted at your hypothetical male college professor in class who is, indeed, not very likely to be a rapist – it’s targeted at men who are approaching a woman for the first time.
    Of course, if a man I’ve never seen before approaches me, it doesn’t mean I give him a 1 in 25 chance or whatever of being a rapist – as you say, it depends on the setting and a whole lot of other factors. And the Schrodinger’s post addresses this and tells men what settings are red flags and what aren’t.
    You seem to be addressing a whole subclass of feminist literature I’m not familiar with, and going by the quotes you are probably justified, but I honestly don’t see what problem you have with the Schrodinger’s rapist post itself.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is possible. I started by responding to one of the other articles on here, and only made it about the Schrodinger one when I realized that was better known.

      I’ve done a very hasty and half-hearted editing job to try to fix it up.

  11. Earnest Peer says:

    The chance your male professor is going to rape you in class isn’t 1/25 any more than the chance that my black boss was going to mug me at work was 1/10. Once you go from “average person, at some time in their lives” to “average person you willingly interact with, in the situation you are likely to willingly interact with them”, all these probabilities go down very close to nil.
    But the original article wasn’t about those situations. It wasn’t trying to help professors be less threatening when approaching female students. It was telling the kind of people who approach women in subway cars and dark alleys that these might be the kind of situation where her estimate of the probability that you’re going to rape her actually don’t go to nil.
    The problem being, of course, that people aren’t taking the article that way – and that means both people trying too hard to be feminists and people who think they’re in the target audience but aren’t. (The latter are more justified because the former are telling them that they are.) And so we get from a reasonable if condescending article to both kinds of people thinking feminism says whenever a man comes within a 10-mile radius of you you should get out your taser.

    • Kerry says:

      Yeah, this post seems based on a fundamental misreading of Schrodinger’s Rapist to me. The point isn’t that women should be, or are, constantly afraid of every man we meet, which seems to be how you’re reading it.

  12. sixes_and_sevens says:

    As a general piece of criticism that I hope you’ll find constructive, I’ve noticed that you tend to grab the wrong end of the stick on a lot of your gender relations posts, though in general, the stick is still worth grabbing.

    In this case, you’re taking the Schrödinger’s Rapist argument as normative, rather than descriptive. While there are certainly spin-offs that do advocate / glorify / have-a-party-with the female behaviour patterns in that scenario, the original post certainly seemed on the right side of epistemic laudability to me.

  13. Oligopsony says:

    There’s a longer point here to be made about how those of us who only-sort-of-jokingly hate white men (I have white male friends and selves though so it’s okay guys) don’t not understand why racism and sexism are bad; we just understand that they are for reasons other than liberals do. (Or, to avoid begging the question about whether the liberal or illiberal interpretation is correct, if we are mistaken it’s not because we are just mechanically following social rewards, except in the trivial sense that all behavior is mechanically following social rewards – there are genuine principles operating here.) this is roughly analogous to the way in which a pacifist and an anti-imperialist may reflexively oppose US military interventions, but for fundamentally orthogonal reasons. But since in theory I want to get back to sleep, some relevant disanalogies (continuing with the assumed US context):

    1) Most black violent crime has black victims. Most rape victims of men are are women, and even if individual violent acts are relatively much more likely to have male victims, this isn’t part of the calculus for the unincarcerated

    2) It is in fact much easier to acquire Bayesian evidence that a particular black (or white or whatever) person is a murderer than evidence that a man is a rapist. Getting coerced into sex by one’s professor is not an uncommon occurrence. I would go as far as to say that the number of white people who have been mugged by their black friends is basically nil, while the rape victim who is assaulted by her male friend is in fact the modal rape victim. Of course there is a less than 1/25 chance that your professor will rape you, because (thank God) rapists do not victimize everyone they meet, but that 1/25 professors have assaulted anyone in their lifetimes, sure; that’s horrifying but entirely plausible.

    Of course these don’t pass LCPW, but I don’t want to assert any kind of deontological rule here, and knowing you you don’t either.

    • Avantika says:

      Also, rape frequency isn’t the only relevant statistic for this calculation. There’s a whole range of harassment-behaviors that are less quantified but women actively try to avoid, and are much more common than actual rape.

    • Randy M says:

      Just as not all rape is violent, not all theft is mugging. Although I don’t know how common casual theft is by black acquaintences, and aren’t hazarding a guess, the analogy to the professor coercing sex wouldn’t be mugging but a friend searching through your drawers or lying about problems so you’ll give money.
      I know someone who has been robbed by his daughter numerous times, for example. Of course, didn’t go to the police or anything.

      • Army1987 says:

        How old was his daughter? I’m under the impression that robbing one’s parents is extremely common among teenagers, where I am at least.

      • Oligopsony says:

        Just as not all rape is violent, not all theft is mugging. Although I don’t know how common casual theft is by black acquaintences, and aren’t hazarding a guess, the analogy to the professor coercing sex wouldn’t be mugging but a friend searching through your drawers or lying about problems so you’ll give money.

        This analogy is a non-sequitur to me, and based on it I’m guessing that there’s too much inferential distance between us (of the symmetric kind; I don’t mean to assert intellectual superiority) to meaningfully discuss it.

        • Randy M says:

          You are aware things can be analagous without being equivalent?
          When you said “Getting coerced into sex by one’s professor is not an uncommon occurrence. I would go as far as to say that the number of white people who have been mugged by their black friends is basically nil, while the rape victim who is assaulted by her male friend is in fact the modal rape victim. “, you were lumping non-violent rape in with violent rape, and then comparing them both to violent theft.–only in terms of drawing victim/perpertrator inferences, of course. But the correct comparrison is from all kinds of coerced sexual gratification to all kinds of coerced cash, not from all kinds of rape to only violent theft.

        • Oligopsony says:

          Rape is, trivially, violent. Rape can of course be forcible or coercive, but even if we pass over in se violence of rape this distinction does not meaningfully correspond to a distinction between violent and non-violent. Mugging is coercive; while pickpocketing and bludgeoning a random stranger to death with a baseball bat are forcible.

        • Randy M says:

          Are you saying everything called rape–even getting a girl drunk so she agrees against her better judgement, which I do believe is used to get that 1 in 25 figure–involves violence? Definitionally, or “actually”?

        • Oligopsony says:

          Definitionally, though I don’t know what you mean by “actually” in this context. I mean, I don’t think of rape as metaphorical violence.

          Pedantry: I can’t recall the exact wording, but if you’re referring to the studies I think you are they were not as expansive in their definition as you imply. People enthusiastically consent to poor decisions all the time, or at least I do; but alcohol can incapacitate our ability to consent at all rather than merely consent wisely.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t have any particular studies in mind. By “actual” violence I mean inflicting pain or leaving injuries, I guess. Which may exclude the actual sex itself sometimes.
          I think I will expand my definition of mugging to avoid being pedantic and withdraw any further objections.

        • Oligopsony says:

          Ah. In that case certainly not all rape (and certainly some perfectly good sex) is actually violent, yeah.

  14. Atreic says:

    I have to say I Just Don’t Believe “We know that about 30% of black people will go to prison sometime in their lives. Somewhere around 30-40% of prisoners are behind bars for violent crime. If we assume that the proportion of violent crime is constant by race, that means at least 10% of black people will go to prison for violent crime at some point in their lives”.

    So I followed the link to wikipedia and read the section on race, which I have now read three times. I noticed that “non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009” and I spotted that “black non-Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 4,347 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same race and gender” (so about 4% of black people are sent to jail every year). Nowhere can I find anything that says 3 out of 10 black people go to prison at some point in their lives.

    [I think also there is a _huge_ assumption in ‘Black people go to prison more often than other people. 30% of people in prison are in prison for violent crimes. Therefore let’s model that 30% of black people in prison are in prison for violent crimes’. You could use ‘proving too much’ to say, in early 20th century Britain ‘Women who were in the suffragette movement go to prison more often than other people. 20% of people in prison are in prison for (flails and tries to make up something appropriate and fails) highway robbery. Therefore let’s model 20% of the suffragettes in prison as highway robbers’, which is clearly ridiculous. It seems likely that one of the reasons more black people are in prison that white people might be disproportionate prosecution for minor offenses (possibly because of increased risk of stop and search), which would presumably make them less likely, proportionally, to have committed major violent crimes…]

    Hmm, I am failing to find any better statistics for ‘what proportion of people have been in prison’ though…

    • Ben L says:

      Yeah, this is what I thought too, the large disparity in punishment for drugs, for example, but it doesn’t actually make the numbers go away entirely.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Here are two more links for the 30% statistic: 1, 2.

      Attempts to estimate how many of these are drug crimes are hard, but here’s one possible method: Wikipedia says there’s a total of about 841K black prisoners in 2009. According to a chart higher on the page, about half of prisoners are in state prisons, suggesting about 420K black prisoners in state prisons. This article says there are 113K black prisoners for drug offenses in state prisons in 2005. If those numbers are at all commensurate, it seems that drug offenses are only about 25%.

      I also found a direct claim here that “the percentage of Hispanics (57%) and blacks (55%) in state prison held on violent offenses exceeded that for whites (49%).”

      • atreic says:

        Hmm, I can’t access the paper, so I can’t really argue with you much further on that one. If it is true, it’s horrific.

        The first link you linked to says ‘1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated’, so about 4% of blacks are sent to jail every year, with about 7% of blacks being in jail at any one time. That is petrifying, and starts to make the 30% look a bit more realistic.

        I think this just might be a USA / UK difference that caused my initial shock. Your country has rates of 754 per 100,000, we have only 154 per 100,000. So my OMG, that’s impossible is mostly built on the fact that I am in shock there is a country with almost 1% of the population incarcerated at any given time. Then again, I find it hard to believe there isn’t a country with universal, free at point of need healthcare, so I guess this is just general UK/USA culture shock…

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I have seen asserted that the US, UK, and Canada have the same rates of black incarceration, that what differs is the rate of white incarceration, but I can’t find it now.

          According to the Guardian, 1% of UK blacks are in prison, compared to 3% of US blacks. One might reconcile this with the previous number by guessing that it the former includes jail. Or by not believing numbers from the Guardian. But note that shorter UK sentences could lead to lower imprisonment rates at any point in time, without lower lifetime rates of having been imprisoned.

          A big difference between the UK and the US is that the US has a lot of blacks. A high rate of their imprisonment leads to very visible effects, like their being half of prisoners, and the largest prison population in the world. Whereas, a high rate of imprisonment in a place where they are rare might not be noticed. In particular, Minnesota has the highest rate of black imprisonment in the US, and no one notices, because it has the same proportion of blacks as the UK. (Actually, MN might be #2 behind Wisconsin, which is 3x as black as the UK.)

  15. woopwoop says:

    I am an american man living in england. In the u.k, rape is a legally gendered crime, its something a women literally cannot be charged with, except for if she is helping a man rape a woman. I was raped by a woman (I was drunk, she sober, I told her no, etc, etc). I already knew about the law, but figured the police might know of something that she could be charged with. Instead, I was counseled that they couldn’t do anything for me, and if I accused her, she would be able to accuse me of rape, despite my intoxicated state, and almost certainly win, which would result in either me being jailed, expelled from the country, or something else. I felt tremendously privileged that day.

    • Ben L says:

      The alternative lesson to Scott’s post: Treat every person as a potential threat, and be prepared to defeat with violence or escape all persons in your awareness. Blame all the victims! Naturally of course, this is a completely impossible if everyone tries to do it, because the defense advantage isn’t high enough.

  16. BenSix says:

    But racism/sexism/oppression is impossible against privileged groups.

    This has always seemed totally baffling to me. Jewish people in Britain tend to be born into middle or upper class families, and face no structural discrimination. They are also more likely, I think, than members of any other ethnic or religious group to face verbal and physical abuse. Is this not racism?

    Or how about white Zimbabwean farmers? Those guys tended to be born into the most privileged families in the nation – rich and landowning – yet they have also faced assault, murder and exile. I suppose one could say prejudice against them is different as it originates from subjugation rather than dominance but then you would have to grant that cranky British people who maintain that Japanese men are savages are not being racist.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Those who employ racism (and so on) in that way use it to refer to a component of social structure, not to an individual attitude. I personally prefer this form because there are already lots of words that refer unambiguously to the latter, though one could legitimately argue that because of the ambiguity “racism” simpliciter should be retired in favor of prejudice/bigotry and white supremacy/structural racism, respectively.

      Consider by analogy “imperialism.” This charge is by its nature asymmetric; if Britain conquers a bunch of land in Africa that’s imperialism, but if Africans conquer British-controlled land in Africa it’s not (quite the opposite, in fact.) If you understand “imperialism” to refer to killing people so that you can control territory you will misunderstand what people mean by it. But you would be perfectly correct in referring to anticolonialist struggle as bellicose, violent, &c.

      • im says:

        I find the disjunction in meaning troublesome as it leads to stuff like the following:

        PoC (Person of Color): etc etc something bad about white people.
        White Person: That’s racist!
        PoC: Incorrect. Racism is only something you can do to me.

        It often carries the unintentional implication that anything racially biased or bigoted or whatever cannot hurt white people.

        Just definition-shifting can be a way to deflect criticism.

        Some people seem to actually see the ‘white men can’t be hurt’ thing is some kind of indelible property of the universe that will not change until some kind of huge victory over racism everywhere has been won. This is worrysome, but fortuantely quite rare.

        • Oligopsony says:

          In this example the PoC is clearly being a pedant, because definitions don’t float in the ether and she obviously knows the intension of “racism” as Whiteguy employs it. On the other hand, Whiteguy is employing the noncentral fallacy; the PoC is merely being hurtful and rude, in itself no drastic social problem. The charitable reading of PoC pedantry in this instance is that she is pointing this out.

          It is also important, I think, to distinguish between claims that people don’t suffer and claims that people’s suffering is an acceptable corollary of a political program. That if you prick me, I do bleed, is not a facial reason not to prick me but hardly a knock-down argument not to.

        • im says:

          I agree with everything you say here. That’s pretty much my argument. But it is more than ‘pedantry’, more of a kind of invalidation thing.

          The don’t suffer stuff: Yes, but people often say something to the effect of not caring at all about suffering.

        • Oligopsony says:

          The don’t suffer stuff: Yes, but people often say something to the effect of not caring at all about suffering.

          Right, which is a declaration of a friend-enemy relationship, rather than an analytic claim about how society operates, the implied presence of the former in the latter what typically allows instances of the latter to give offense. So I think we’re pretty much in agreement as far as the analytics go (thus far.)

          As a psychological fact about human beings, the some instances of suffering are going to matter to us more than others, and as a fact about society, there are tradeoffs that must be made. Reactionaries are fundamentally honest about their priorities here, whereas liberal discourse seems to be built around depoliticization, in the sense of not declaring amity or emnity (while continuing to make choices that are not, since nothing can be, neutral.)

          There is probably a point to be made here about objective and subjective emnity. A theory of political economy (in the broadest sense) attempts to identify objective allegiance and emnity; at the level of interest. Many analytic claims that give offense can take the form of “you are my objective enemy.” Whether you take offense depends on whether you choose to align your subjective and objective allegiance or take up the task of treason in some form or another.

          tl;dr: white Zimbabweans: fuck ’em.

        • Mary says:

          white person: I already know you’re racist. You don’t need to propound a racist definition to remind me.

        • Mary says:

          One notes, by the way, the non-concern about people’s suffering is usually reciporal. The East Nowheresville Gazette and the West Boondocks News both cover the fatal auto accidents in their own region, and not in the other’s.

          Announcing that you don’t care if someone else is suffering carries implicit permission for the someone else to not care about your suffering.

          To be sure, the larger something is, the more likely that those far away will care, but if you declare — implicitly or explicitly — that your suffering is greater than someone else’s without considering of the suffering, not the victim, you will probably be written off as a kook. (I add this because I have indeed seen arguments that any given member of an Approved Victim Group suffers more than a non-member.)

      • Randy M says:

        “Those who employ racism (and so on) in that way use it to refer to a component of social structure, not to an individual attitude.”
        Yes, it’s a habit of–well, let’s say activists–to co-opt certain words and subtly shift their meanings in order to carry the popular connotations one concept holds onto related but non-identical ones.
        For example with rape, although I think they have been fairly explicit about that.

    • Army1987 says:

      In terms of this post, gentiles have more social power but Jews have more structural power.

  17. Sarah says:

    Women don’t in practice behave as though they’re terrified of all men. I mean, is that what *you* see of women?

    If you steelman Schroedinger’s Rapist, it makes a fairly important point. Women, more than men realize, do a lot of rearranging their behavior to avoid being raped. I’m more skittish about walking alone at night than men are, and sometimes my guy friends have acted like “What’s the big deal?” and I’ve had to remind them I’m female. In college there was a lot more of that because my social world was so full of the kind of bros who bragged about sleeping with passed-out girls and who sometimes hit their girlfriends; so, yeah, there were parties I didn’t go to and guys I didn’t want to be alone with.

    But I still don’t think women in fact live in constant fear. A person who’s literally chronically afraid is pretty messed up; that would be something like PTSD or trauma. Obviously some people experience that, but not half the human race. (I do, however, get the impression that trauma survivors are overrepresented among feminist bloggers and perhaps also feminist authors. Remember that Andrea Dworkin was battered.)

    Here’s the thing. Most women are a *little* afraid, in the sense of planning part of their lives around the risk of violence. Some women really are afraid all the time, probably if they live or have lived in legitimately horrific circumstances.

    But sometimes, I think the truth is, it’s less awkward to say “I’m afraid of you” than “I don’t like you.”

    A friend called me out on this the other day. I was going on about a woman I’d met, “You know, I really don’t think she likes me, I get this vibe from her, we don’t see eye to eye…” and my friend said, “Sarah, she went out of her way to meet you. What I’m hearing from you is that you don’t like her very much.” And I realized — yeah, that’s true. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was so aggressive, so judgmental, as to dislike someone. It was so much easier to frame myself as the vulnerable party.

    Let me say it this way: on the one hand there’s a lot of violence against women. On the other hand, there’s almost never social cost to framing things as “I am afraid, I am vulnerable, you don’t like me,” rather than “I am contemptuous, I am annoyed, I don’t like you.” There’s a huge social cost to being seen as beating up on the vulnerable, but no social cost to acting more vulnerable than you are. And there’s definitely a social script for women saying overtly “I am afraid” when the truth is more like “I am annoyed.”

    I once had a friend who had terrible luck with women. And the girls said “I dunno, he came on too strong, it was a little creepy.” Came on too strong? He was a perfect gentleman! He certainly wasn’t “creepier” than the guy who literally groped girls against their will. That guy had a girlfriend. No. My friend was not a threat to the girls (including myself) who rejected him. He was a very small, very polite, very self-disciplined person. You would have to be out of your mind to literally fear him. They were using “I am afraid of you” as a euphemism for “I don’t like you.”

    Basically, I think that we should make it socially contemptible for anybody to pretend to be more afraid than they are. Decent people have an instinct to protect the vulnerable. If there’s never any cost to pretending to be vulnerable when you’re not, that instinct gets hacked, and doesn’t serve its purpose.

    • Mary says:

      Of course, one could then look at the statistics on the victims of violent crime and conclude that in fact the women’s great precautions are of benefit to them, and therefore the problem is that men are not socialized to receive the same benefits.

      • Thomas Eliot says:

        One could also conclude (as I do) that women’s precautions are actually unnecessary.

        • Mary says:

          Only if you use necessary in its absolute sense. True, it is not a contradiction in terms to not engage in them, but in ordinary usage, it has a relative sense, necessary to maintain one’s health, well-being, and life — and since they obviously do do that, they are necessary.

    • B_For_Bandana says:

      > Basically, I think that we should make it socially contemptible for anybody to pretend to be more afraid than they are.

      What I get from your post is the opposite: we should make it more permissible to admit that you just don’t like someone.

  18. GuessHandsOn says:

    Great post!

    I think you can shorten your posts by fleshing out only the most important details.


  19. WhoWhom says:

    “So please, tell me again how it’s perfectly okay and indeed hilarious to insult straight white men because they never have to hear anyone say anything bad about them.”

    Um, duh. White men are The Enemy, and thus any soldier that attacks them must be defended by the Righteous.

    As St. Lenin put it, “Who–whom?”

    • im says:

      I call attitudes similar to this ‘oppression essentialism’ as they seem to perceive the power differential as a fixed, universal property of the world.

      • Mary says:

        And Heaven help you if you have a problem that they can’t attribute to your being in an Approved Victim Group.

        • im says:

          Oh yes. It can get messy. I also get frustrated when feminists try to say that every gender gender problem can and will be solved by supporting them.

        • Mary says:

          While chucking up under the chin and assuring you shouldn’t trouble your pretty little head with thinking, you should just toe the line they lay down.

          Really, in my experience, you try to tell feminists what your problems with them are and they act — well, like a feminist fantasy patriarchial boss dismissing the concerns of his female employees.

  20. Sarah says:

    One more thing. I never got how much of a problem slander was until recently.

    I was trying to make an argument against gun control in the aftermath of a school shooting. I realized that I was being talked to as though I was kinda sorta pro-murder. And this was horrifying. The taint of being associated with people who kill children was so disturbing that I felt…dirty and guilty, despite the fact that this is completely ridiculously false. And it’s disturbing to even be in a position where you feel you have to say ‘NO, REALLY, I THINK MASS MURDER IS BAD’. If you have to say it, you’re already under suspicion, y’know? There should be *something* I can do to credibly show that I am not pro-murder.

    And that’s why slander is actually bad. The more you protest “no, I’m not this horrible thing,” the more you’re associated with the horrible thing.

    • Doug S. says:

      According to legend, Lyndon Johnson once wanted to spread a rumor that one of his political opponents had sex with barnyard pigs. One of Johnson’s employees said that they couldn’t do that because it wasn’t true. Johnson’s reply: “I know. I just want to make him deny it.”

  21. Emily says:

    I liked Phaedra’s post. When male strangers approach me by myself and try to start conversations in a non-work/school/meeting-people type environment, that makes me really uncomfortable. A fear of violence is part of that. I think if you’re approaching a woman to chat her up (or even just in a context in which she might reasonably conclude that’s your objective), you actually should be concerned about whether you’re making her uncomfortable or scared, and that requires some self-awareness about what behavior or attributes you may have that would give her reason to be scared.

    • Creutzer says:

      I highly doubt that this has anything to do with your being a woman. Don’t you think a man will get uncomfortable and scared just as well in the circumstances you have in mind, unless perhaps he is physically very strong?

      • Army1987 says:

        Yes, but how often does that happen to women, and how often does that happen to men?

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t know. What are the circumstances we’re talking about? Frankly, I’m not aware that being approached in an environment that is not about school, work or people-meeting is a common occurrence at all. The only plausible such situation I can come up with that doesn’t scare me (as a male) is tourists harmlessly asking for directions on a busy street.

        • Army1987 says:

          There you go. Unless the commenters on the original Schrödinger’s Rapist post were all outright lying, the experience of going through life without being approached in a non-obviously-non-threatening way is rarer among females than among males.

          (And BTW I am a male, and I can still think of strange people approaching me in contexts other than school, work, “people-meeting”, or asking for directions — e.g. the one in Paris who, around midnight, asked me to sign a petition against gay marriage. I wasn’t scared mainly because I’m 1.87 m (6′ 2″) and 93 kg (205 lb) and she was probably around 1.60 m (5′ 3″) and 50 kg (110 lb), but I can imagine being scared if it was the other way round.)

      • Emily says:

        I don’t think men are as scared/uncomfortable in as wide a range of circumstances, or that they have as much reason to be, but there are certainly some circumstances that will scare both men and women. But I am happy to generalize: when we are interacting with strangers outside of certain specific settings, we should try to not scare them or make them uncomfortable, which in some cases means entirely avoiding interactions we might want to have. Men approaching female strangers is just one case of this.

      • Geirr says:

        My experience may be out of the ordinary but is the average person’s experince of being talked to by a stranger really that scary? The only time I’ve been freaked out by one such was when I had a long conversation with a schizophrenic on a bus and didn’t think to tell them to bugger off because well, their life was shit.

        Talking to random strangers is a thing that extroverts sometimes do, or people purposefully improving their social skills. Bars qualify as a meeting people place, right? But I did the same thing at bus stops and other public, open places. I mean, if you do this and you make someone uncomfortable, it is your fault, you should have been more socially adept, better looking, more well groomed. But if you realise your social skills are subpar you have to go through this if you want to get better, or resign yourself to your position.

        No one is obliged to care but I don’t particularly see why the less socially adept should accept their handicaps instead of going “fuck you” to those who just want the unclean to stay away.

  22. Randy M says:

    Your mistake was expecting feminists to be good at math.

    Anyway, I don’t object to being considered potentially dangerous by women who don’t know me. A good rule of thumb is to not be alone with strangers without some way of protecting yourself (and don’t be drunk, duh), for as you point out, in the office or on a busy street you aren’t likely to be raped even by a rapist, and once you know someone well you can make a more accurate judgement about their danger.

    Indeed, I think this used to be common sense, but we that’s not empowering is it?

    • im says:

      I seem to remember something (it was on Tumblr, so not exactly intelligent and elevated discourse) where somebody quoted a questionably accurate, shocking sounding survey that said something about rape, and then somebody asked for source info and the margin of error, and they were like ‘asking for verification of statistics is an example of rape culture’.

      I’m not worried about strangers being worried, remembering how hard of a time I used to have with strangers.

      • Randy M says:

        Oh, and of course it goes beyond strangers, as far as rape–and other crime–is concerned.
        Be discerning about who you associate with and take time to get to know potential romantic partners is also good, old advice, the giving and following of which does not mean rape is being excused.

    • Swimmy says:

      Your mistake was expecting feminists to be good at math.

      They didn’t get the math wrong so much as the conclusions drawn from it, and this seems like the kind of negative stereotyping this post is condemning, no?

      • Randy M says:

        “this seems like the kind of negative stereotyping this post is condemning, no?”

        Oh, aye, that’s what makes it funny [to me]. Not to say that a don’t have an arguement agaisnt feminsts misusing statistics (see wage gap) but I’m not going to seriously say “Those womyns make Barbie look like a rather fetching Pythagoras” without at least some quotes in the OP.

        Though from Scott’s piece, it does sound like some rather poor understanding of Beyesian reasoning is involved.

  23. Federico says:

    Women, so some would argue, abhor persistent approaches by their marked inferiors in status. Unstructured interactions with strangers are in general liable to be degrading and uncomfortable for women. Hence, Ms. Harding’s piece may not be entirely accurate introspection; I think the anti-social attitude she describes is primarily an attempt to ward off adverse emotional reactions caused by unsavoury but non-violent interactions.

    Female comfort in an anonymous, mass society is a public good; male courtship behaviour is a Prisoner’s Dilemma. In modern Western society, it seems to be rational for men to defect; hence the PUA movement. The outcome of widespread defection is that women feel harassed, erect barriers to interaction, and become prickly like Ms. Harding. This benefits neither sex.

    I think that a legal overhaul, viz. abolition of the managerial state, would encourage cooperation in this Prisoner’s Dilemma.

    • Creutzer says:

      How exactly would this help the dilemma? Care to elaborate on the mechanism?

      Also, if this is supposed to be a prisoner’s dilemma and defection is to approach women, what exactly is cooperation?

      • Federico says:

        Cooperation is when almost everyone in a locality obeys a significantly more developed and strict set of social customs around sex and courtship than are typical in the West.

        Cooperation could be enforced, in a way consistent with liberty and exit rights, through different laws. In short, we need more ability to exclude through contract and private property, e.g. discriminatory restrictive covenants and homeowners’ associations; less state provision of services, since this defeats structural coercion; and a less anarcho-tyrannical, perhaps polycentric system of criminal and tort law.

        Consider this wonderful excerpt from Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s Human Ethology (1989):

        In discussing norm maintenance aggression, we briefly mentioned educational aggression, which often is a variant of the former. Educational aggression can also include rituals of reprimand, which in European culture can take the form of publicly deriding customs (“Haberfeldtreiben”). This is still occurring in current-day England (“rough music”) and France (E. Hoffmann-Krayer and H. Bächtold-Stäubli, 1930, 1933; E.P. Thompson, 1972). “Rough music” consists of a group gathering before a transgressor’s home and disciplining him in verse, using cymbals and other instruments and creating a great deal of noise.

        E.P. Thompson (1972) quotes as an example a saying used in a village in Surrey, England, before the house of a man who had frequently mistreated his wife:

        There is a man in this house
        Who has beaten his spouse (forte; pause)
        Who has beaten his spouse (fortissimo)
        It is a great shame and disgrace
        For everyone at this place.
        Yes, so it is, as true as I live.

        The people gathered before the home would carry on with a great commotion for a good half an hour.

        It is easy for a highly central, stringently egalitarian and micromanaged criminal and tort law, and police force, to destroy such delicate and evolved customs and methods of norm-enforcement.

        Such highly informal, unwritten law, also extending to physical confrontation is sometimes the most efficient means to sort out many kinds of anti-social behaviour. It, and my other suggestions, are incompatible with the administered equality that Paul Gottfried exposes.

        I think this is the inevitable trade-off: law, more so than casual persuasion, has the capacity to determine the social phenomena under discussion.

        • Oligopsony says:

          Egads! It appears that medieval England was tyrannized by – dare I say it? – politically correct social justice warriors! Oh, sure, the formal political strictures of the state (degenerated into anarcho-tyranny) gave one wide latitude, but offending these moralizing busybodies meant social death! Is there any time or space the Left Singularity shan’t corrupt?

        • Anonymous says:

          Cooperation is when almost everyone in a locality obeys a significantly more developed and strict set of social customs around sex and courtship than are typical in the West.

          Cooperation could be enforced, in a way consistent with liberty and exit rights, through different laws.

          You do realize that what you’re talking about has exactly nothing to do with a prisoner’s dilemma…

    • Emily says:

      I’m glad you brought up the PUA movement. If there is a significant likelihood that a male stranger who tries to start a conversation with me holds a set of beliefs and practices a set of behaviors that I find dehumanizing and manipulative, I am going to more on guard and less willing to have conversations with random male strangers. I’m sure I’m not the only one responding this way.

  24. Great article, Scott.

    I’m writing up a response right now for my blog, and one thing that occurred to me is that you may want to uncheck the “show in feed” box for some of your Facebook friends. It’s a great option for dealing with people you want to stay friends with, but who are acting as a net minus to the quality of your Facebook feed.

  25. Pingback: The harm done by anti-male sexism

  26. Anonymous says:

    I think one interesting facet of the whole schrodinger’s rapist argument is that the places that women are most likely to respond positively to unsolicited attention (social parties and similar situations) are also the places where men are mostly likely to be legitimately considering rape.

  27. Deiseach says:

    Scott, I’m sorry you got into trouble in college for what was a silly thing on your part. And I don’t think “All men are rapists!”

    But I’ve got stories. Every woman has got stories. Have you had a boss at work stand that bit too close to you? Put an arm about your shoulders in an inappropriately friendly manner? Come up behind you so that his front is brushing against your buttocks while you’re standing at a desk and can’t move away?

    Have you had drunk guys (yes, it happened more than once) hit on you in bus stations? Had a guy sit beside you on a bus, put his hand on your knee, so that you had to shift your seat and when you got off at your stop he followed you down the street until you were collected by the person giving you a lift home?

    And even though I was younger back then, I have never been thin and pretty. So it wasn’t “Oh, you’re just exaggerating or misinterpreting expressions of interest!”

    Like I said – I’ve got stories. Every woman has got stories.

    • woopwoop says:

      A lot of people, of every gender, have stories. Many people don’t have such stories. I may be the cissiest man who ever cissed a man, but I’ve been raped, sexually harassed, and all that by women. And been normal assaulted. More than once someone has tried to kill me for the 20$ in my pocket. Lots of people have stories.

    • Mary says:

      Had a co-worker stand too close to me all the time at work.

      A woman.

  28. Andrew Rettek says:

    There’s a serious problem for men who swim in feminist waters like Scott does. Feminists need to post a fairly large corpus of writing to ensure a development of ideas that can be refined into something as broad reaching as the articles mentioned. This is important for any group developing their ideas and writing ability and their ability to reach out and isn’t a bad thing. The problem arises when the parameters of the refinement don’t include the fact that men can be hurt, that people who experience such writing the way Scott discribes can’t be hurt, that only one kind of pain matters and if you are noble enough it’s ok to hurt others in pursuit of your goals.

    If you don’t care that you hurt others in furtherance of your goals, then we are not in communion. I can object to your methods without objecting to your goals. Objecting to your methods can be enough.

  29. solemncoyote says:

    I suspect part of the issues arising in these comments are that scott reads articles like schrodinger’s rapist as being arguements against (either explicitly or implicitly) empathy, and so is affronted. And likewise, those in favor of those articles see things like scott’s writing as being arguements against empathy as well, and so are themselves affronted. In truth, I think both are correct.

  30. Greg says:

    Instead of treating men like non-racists treat black people, why not treat black people like radical-feminists treat men? I don’t see a principled reason why a feminist couldn’t bite the bullet and say, “Yes, we should treat black people like we treat men.”

    • Ben L says:

      Uh, isn’t the point of Scott’s post that both would be wrong? Practically, what you propose is social suicide. Clearly, the advocacy is to do neither, not claim that doing both is logically inconsistent.

    • Hand of Lixue says:

      First, black violence is generally aimed at black people. A black person is about as threatening to a white person, as a male is to another male. Given that I don’t see *men* up in arms about how you can’t trust your fellow man because he’s probably a rapist, and swapping stories of that time they got raped at a party, this seems… rather an unreasonable comparison.

      Second, there’s a power imbalance: black people, like women, are minorities with less social power / privilege. Oppressing someone with less privilege than you is less ethical than standing up against someone with more privilege than you. Sort of like how we worry about a boss using sex to bribe underlings, but we don’t really worry about an underling using sex to get favorable performance reviews – the boss has more power, and it’s thus more dangerous because he can exploit that power imbalance. Black people can’t really exploit a power imbalance, because they’re on the wrong end of it already.

      • Randy M says:

        “First, black violence is generally aimed at black people.”
        Do you think that is for any principled reason, or due to de facto segregation?

      • Randy M says:

        “Oppressing someone with less privilege than you is less ethical than standing up against someone with more privilege than you. ”
        Yes, when you phrase your oppression as ‘standing up against’ it sounds more ethical. What actual actions are you asserting are moral in one case and not another?

      • Greg says:

        “A black person is about as threatening to a white person, as a male is to another male.”

        Bad analogy. Black violence is predominately directed towards other black people because of proximity, i.e., they encounter other black people more often. A white person’s risk, when in a black neighborhood, is not analogous to a man’s risk in a locker room surrounded by other men. Black people do not prefer intra-racial violence, men tend to prefer heterosexual sex.

        “Second, there’s a power imbalance: black people, like women, are minorities with less social power / privilege.”

        Power is context sensitive. When a white guy get’s attacked and robbed by a group of black men, he does not have more power. If social justice warriors are so dead-set on the idea that racism requires power asymmetries, then they should realize that power is context specific.

      • St. Rev says:


        Men are 2-3x as likely to be victims of all categories of violent crime other than rape. Men fear other men and are constantly on guard against them.

        I can understand why men almost never admit this (admitting fear shows weakness), but I find it baffling and tragic that women don’t seem to be aware of it.

        • Aaron Brown says:

          I’m curious as to what you mean by “constantly”. I worry about being mugged in certain situations (like walking through a city at night when there’s hardly anyone around). Is this the sort of thing you mean? (I live in the suburbs so I’m hardly ever in situations like this.)

    • Greg says:

      I feel like I’m being misunderstood. I am not saying, “Yay, let’s discriminate against black people.” I am saying that Scott has made a compelling case for the deep analogy between men & women and black people & and white people. It is inconsistent that we treat these cases differently, and we need to resolve the inconsistency. I would like to hear the pros-and-cons of choosing either horn of the dilemma.


      However, non-black people (wow, that is an awkward term) should say, “We are justified in being slightly more worried about young black men because they are statistically more likely to cause us harm. And black people should empathize with this legitimate concern.

  31. Ben L says:

    As a man, reading Schrodinger’s Rapist, through misreading or whatnot came to an entirely different interpretation, which wasn’t overcome by all the other things you posted. That is, in the safe places you mentioned neither person should worry at all. But *if* you were to approach a woman and cross her personal bubble, touch her as a stranger, or do a number of other things, especially when she is alone, at that point it would be reasonable for her to be cognizant that some men are rapists, and having begun to do things she doesn’t like it would not be unreasonable for her to consider the chance that you are one. I really appreciate this post, because I have never felt this way at all and not having thought carefully enough before, it didn’t really occur to me how one could think this way. I’ve probably also resided much closer to the “privileged and unconcerned with insults,” space than you seem to have.

  32. Elizabeth says:

    “The chance your male professor is going to rape you in class isn’t 1/25 any more than the chance that my black boss was going to mug me at work was 1/10. Once you go from “average person, at some time in their lives” to “average person you willingly interact with, in the situation you are likely to willingly interact with them”, all these probabilities go down very close to nil.”

    This isn’t technically true. Most rapes are committed by people the victim knew already.

    This is overall a really good post; it consolidates several ideas I’ve been thinking about for a while. Especially:

    And if you laboriously train people out of this habit of thought, and then say “But definitely do this for men, they don’t count because they’re oppressors”, it’s not going to work for women either. You’re creating a natural Stroop effect where people have to keep conflicting category-based rules in their head.

    The way I’ve phrased this in the past is: “Women’s rights are natural, important and good. As such, they should not be infinitely expanding.”

    It makes me very sad when people talk like they do in the quote above (don’t oppress people! except oppressors!), because it leads to one of two outcomes; either the people who think this way actually do end up believing that all men are dangerous and avoid them entirely, or (as happens, I think, much much MUCH more often) they doublethink their way around the issue; the men they love and associate with can’t secretly want to rape/demean/etc etc etc women, so they don’t get sorted into the category “Men” in the context of feminist theory/rhetoric.

    This is awful not only because they then say hurtful things about far-mode “Men” that they don’t actually believe, but also because then they become incapable of applying feminist theory to the actions of the men they’re close to. Small misogynistic behaviors or attitudes either get ignored, or toggle the person who’s displaying them into the category “Men”.

    There’s, then, no affordance for a middle ground, for genuinely good people having unknowingly eaten unfortunate memes. And when feminists say that the feelings of privileged people don’t matter, they’re forcing themselves to either not have meaningful, intimate, trusting relationships with anyone who has any sort of privilege over them, or else forcing themselves to ignore the privileges of those close to them.

  33. hf says:

    I certainly disagree with the ‘Make false or infuriating statements to produce better results’ tactic that your second link seems to endorse. I disagree both practically and morally. You shouldn’t have had to see that.

    Some of the downsides are just people like me with past triggers having to go into a minor panic everytime I open a Facebook page or a blog or a FWD:FWD:RE:

    And you keep doing so because…? Though I ask mainly about Facebook and Twitter here. I think several of your blog examples do not belong in this category, especially “Schrödinger’s Rapist”. Speaking of:

    so in this hypothetical society 88% of murders would be committed by black people.

    Let me stop you right there. African-American violence seems pretty well explained by the greater amount of leaded gasoline fumes that cities had until roughly 20 years ago. So why should I assume its effects hold constant in your scenario? If I really believed that we had that many brain-damaged violent criminals, you bet your ass I’d feel afraid of them! And I’d respond with profanity to anyone who told me I shouldn’t feel afraid.

    You also ignore differences in covariance and related issues (and this speaks to the goal of repeating certain claims publicly). In fact, I think the last comment you quote when talking about your day was partly trying to get at the way your African-American boss analogy fails. Well-off black men – for their own safety! – tend to shun and marginalize low-status black criminals who might attack you. High-status communities do not shun rapists to anywhere near the same degree. And due to this relative independence, most gatherings with at least 20 strange men have at least one rapist with close to 70% probability.

    In particular, the website containing that quote seems far too welcoming towards rapists and therefore far too likely to have some. You quoted a post by some woman who points out, fairly explicitly, that certain comments or behavior provide evidence of past or future rape. (She also explicitly mentions a man who resembled your black employer or members of the site in level of education or status, but nevertheless raped her and worse.) Do the math for how this might affect outreach.

    From a discussion of two possible interpretations of that same quote – again, responding to a series of posts intended to help with an outreach problem, rather than exacerbating it as I think some comments have done:

    Let’s assume submitter A has at least average intelligence (usually a reasonable claim on {site}). Then she must know that {site} has many more men than women. She likely also knows that this series exists in part to give those men potentially new information.

    Suppose she believes version #2. Then she thinks most of her audience would torture women if they knew they could get away with it. If, like many feminists, she believes rapists have a low conviction rate, she must think the fraction of men committing rape far exceeds the observed figure – or that it would if we knew the truth. (Note by the way that the 6% figure appears in feminist sources.) Why would she tell us any of this? If she thinks we already know, why doesn’t she denounce the whole series as a sham? If she thinks we don’t know, did she mean to encourage us in our supposed dream of raping and hurting women while holding a respectable job? What, other than anti-feminist tribalism or the assumption of bad faith, could make #2 seem like a reasonable interpretation of the text? If you thought it was almost certainly wrong, but wanted more clarity in the future, you failed to make that clear.

    • Damien says:

      “African-American violence seems pretty well explained by the greater amount of leaded gasoline fumes that cities had until roughly 20 years ago.”

      You’ve misunderstood Kevin Drum’s articles, I think. The *rise and fall* in violence from the 1960s through the present seems largely explained by lead; this doesn’t explain all violence. And it happened across the West, including in countries without many black people. Yeah, in the US it affected urban blacks more. But you’d still have stuff like mutual low trust with law enforcement, and lots of urban blacks being in black markets where law enforcement won’t go and thus having to fall back on old-fashioned gang/honor ‘justice’, and possible the effect of Southern honor culture on blacks, and worse nutrition, etc.

      Lead explains the big temporal variation, and perhaps the urban/rural variation, not necessarily all of the racial variation.

  34. “A small number of men” is a quote from my post, but I never wrote that “we should view [men being scary] as something fundamental to men.” I don’t think there’s anything at all “fundamental” to men.

    It’s not “fundamental” to men to rape. As my post said, the overwhelming majority of men are not rapists. Nor is street harassment or any other sort of misogynistic, threatening behavior “fundamental” to men. On the contrary, I don’t think most men do that stuff.

    But as long as a significant minority of men DO act that way, it will be rational for most women, at some level, to keep that possibility in mind when encountering men who are either unknown to her or only somewhat acquainted.

    The bright side is, I can easily imagine a society in which it was incredibly rare for men (or women) to commit rape, and in which things like street harassment were extraordinarily rare. In that society, I don’t think “men being scary” would be the case.

    So no, not at all fundamental.

  35. Emily says:

    There’s a well-known essay, Brent Staples’ “Just Walk on By”, in which the author, a black man, describes fear towards him and ways he alters his behavior to make strangers less scared. Of the first part, he says: “I understand, of course, that the danger they perceive is not a hallucination. Women are particularly vulnerable to street violence, and young black males are drastically overrepresented among the perpetrators of that violence. Yet these truths are no solace against the kind of alienation that comes of being ever the suspect, against being set apart, a fearsome entity with whom pedestrians avoid making eye contact.” I think this is the right way to look at it. We can and should have empathy both for the people who are inspiring fear because of factors they can’t change, and for the people who are scared.

  36. anon1 says:

    You are missing the point of the linked article. It’s not saying that women should or do live in constant fear. It’s an explanation, targeted at men, of why certain types of approaches will almost always go over poorly so if people could stop making them everyone would be better off. Specifically: “Ask yourself, `If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?’ If the answer is no, then it isn’t appropriate to approach her.”

    Ignoring rape for the moment, consider that *most* women have extensive experience of certain types of male approach getting very unpleasant very fast. For instance strangers who try to start a conversation with me on the subway often become loud, angry, and aggressive if I decline. Even if I’ve never been raped and don’t know any statistics on the frequency of rape by strangers-you-meet-on-the-subway, I have enough evidence to get nervous as soon as a stranger* greets me on the subway.
    *I don’t know how I’d react to a strange woman greeting me on the subway since it hardly ever happens. But she’s less likely to be sexually interested in me, which rules out some categories of unpleasantness, so yes I’d probably be less nervous if the stranger were female.

  37. cool rich guy says:

    1. “The chance your male professor is going to rape you in class isn’t 1/25 any more than the chance that my black boss was going to mug me at work was 1/10. Once you go from ‘average person, at some time in their lives’ to ‘average person you willingly interact with, in the situation you are likely to willingly interact with them’, all these probabilities go down very close to nil.”

    I… really don’t think this is true. Feminists think that the naive idea that a creepy-looking guy is far more likely to be a rapist than a friendly-seeming, upper-class, educated white guy is wrong, and that this idea is one of the major things that People Need To Be Educated On. I’m not really sure what the statistics say about this, but I do know that most people are raped by someone they know.

    The author of the piece does seem to be irrationally paranoid, however.

    2. The major reason I think the black/white analogy fails is that being wary of black people trying to rob you is simply not a practical idea. Criminal tendencies are a result of poverty, not race, and looking for signs of poverty, among other things, will probably do you much better than simply looking at race. I don’t think that any black person you run across is more likely to be a criminal than any white person you see once you control for location, dress, mannerisms, age, gender, etc. E.g. I would be equally unafraid of an elderly black man wearing a suit on a university campus and an elderly white man wearing a suit on a university campus. I would be equally afraid of a young black man on the subway in a misshapen hoodie with a wild look in his eyes and a young white man on the subway in a misshapen hoodie with a wild look in his eyes. But if you are a woman, obviously any man you come across in any context is far, far, far, more likely to rape you than any woman.

    Besides, men are naturally predisposed to rape women in a certain non-biological sense – being born male anywhere in America leaves you vulnerable to certain memeplexes that encourage violence against women. But being born black won’t make you a criminal, only being poor will, and not even being born poor.

    (Also, most victims of black criminals are black themselves.)

    Also in general I kind of don’t like the “make a comparison between sexism and racism” argument techniques. Tension between the sexes and tension between racial groups manifests itself in very different ways, I think, and just because you can dump them both in the category of “oppression” doesn’t mean the same logic works in both cases.

    3. Regarding the links to social justice stuff on your Facebook – do you really think your exposure level to these memes is at all typical? Do you think the average American male even knows what the word “patriarchy” means? “Rape culture”?

    4. The actual argument of the Schroedinger’s Rapist article seems to be “men should alter their actions to conform to women’s fear of them”. I kind of agree with this statement. However, “black people should alter their actions to conform to white people’s fear of them” sounds abhorrent.

    But what does “should” mean? From a utilitarian perspective, I’m more than happy to comply with this maxim. Not only does it prevents suffering – women won’t be scared of me – it furthers my own interests because I don’t want to interact with any woman who will react to me with hostility. Could you not say the same for the race situation? If I am a black man, doesn’t it make sense to me to be really sensitive with racist white people? (If it helps, think of it from a Dale Carnegie-esque perspective.) Sure, it’s unfair, but here’s a rule of rationality that I’ve learned: not taking high-utility actions because it’s unfair (e.g. not doing your homework because you think it’s busywork, even though it affects your grade and chances of future success) is almost always a horrible idea. I’ll admit that it seems really icky to use “should” in the race situation, but I think that’s because people’s heads go funny when they talk about racism.

    5. Even though I disagree with some parts of this, I found this a very enjoyable read and I love almost everything you post on this blog. So, thank you!

    • hf says:

      The author of the piece does seem to be irrationally paranoid, however.

      What piece do you mean? Quote the part you factually disagree with.

      • cool rich guy says:

        Sorry, perhaps I should have been more specific. I mean this part:

        “When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police.”

        I imagine that date-murder/kidnappings are rare enough that this action would have a low expected utility, but I haven’t seen the statistics so I could be wrong.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I understand that most people are raped by people they know, and that one need not look like a creepy stereotypical rapist to be dangerous.

      However, I also feel like it is not completely unpredictable. A drunk guy at a party is more likely to rape someone than a college professor, and the likelihood of the college professor raping you goes down almost to zero if you only ever see him in class.

  38. Damien says:

    “These same factors apply to women worrying about being raped. The chance your male professor is going to rape you in class isn’t 1/25 any more than the chance that my black boss was going to mug me at work was 1/10. Once you go from “average person, at some time in their lives” to “average person you willingly interact with, in the situation you are likely to willingly interact with them”, all these probabilities go down very close to nil.”

    Two others have already picked up on this but I think it bears repeating, as I think it’s the linchpin/capstone of your whole argument and it’s *wrong*. Yeah, a woman isn’t going to be raped *in class*, but office hours? Or if she goes to ask the professor something? Maybe, maybe not, depends on the environment. And the risk of being raped or even ‘just’ harassed by a professor, given the opportunity, is a lot higher than the risk of being mugged by a black businessman, period.

    “You can get a pretty good feel for whether someone is a violent criminal in a couple milliseconds”

    But you can’t get a pretty good feel for whether someone will be a rapist, period.

    As a side note to general baseline levels of fear, there’s also domestic violence; one can get into an intimate trust relationship with someone then get hit and beaten by them. Supposedly in frequency that goes both ways a lot. In intensity, though, I think the women come off a lot worse. Crossing the streams, there’s martial/relationship rape, too. All way different from street violence.

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  40. novalis says:

    And still on the topic of OKCupid, another friend was posting suggestions for all women to use a script she had heard of which claims to ferret out potential sexual predators based on their answers to match questions, putting me into spasms of worry about whether the fact that I admitted I was introverted and had seen a psychiatrist when I was younger was going to put a big PROBABLY A RAPIST next to my profile.

    Did you actually look at what that script does? Because the question it actually asks (a) is not about men and (b) is taken directly from your SO’s “favorite person in the entire universe”.

    (Disclaimer: I just met the author; he seems like a good guy)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorry, looking at the script more closely it still seems to do approximately what I thought.

      I still think I’m broadly correct that a whole host of innocent questions (are you introverted? Did you ever see a psychiatrist?) are going to correspond to rapeyness.

      It also appears (surprise surprise) that the tool very deliberately gives anyone who’s into BDSM or other kinky sex a rapist flag. And someone on the comments justifies this because they claim the BDSM subculture is just a fig leaf for glorifying rape to begin with. Sigh.

      My guess is that it will pick out five categories of things. First, actual rapeyness. Second, things legitimately correlated with rapeyness – like introversion and psych history – that also marginalize innocent people. Third, BDSM and kinkiness, since they’re actively selecting for it. Fourth – poverty and everything associated with poverty, which sadly probably includes being a minority. Fifth some factor corresponding either to extreme honesty, poor question reading, or trollishness – because people have to admit that they’ve raped in order the for the tool to know this.

      • Elizabeth says:

        On this subject, you should read my friend Rebecca’s post “Why the choking question is a litmus test for domism”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          That blog entry says that maymay is part of BDSM and just wants to fight for people’s rights. On the other hand, maymay’s own answer on the linked-to thread was “The BDSM Scene is an abusive social institution whose main self-preservation imperative is actively designed to violate the consent and well-being of submissive-identified people. And that’s wrong.”

          That does not sound supportive or understanding to me.

          I pointed out murder statistics above, but I would not be surprised if rape statistics are equally biased by race. It would not surprise me if “Are you black?” had just as much predictive power as “Are you interested in BDSM?” Should we create a script that automatically eliminates all black people from the dating pool?

          Because the problem here isn’t just normal run-of-the-mill racial profiling where they profile you but eventually let you off when they can’t pin anything on you – but rather what Alyssa Vance called “negative selection”. The average woman has very many potential men to choose from on OKCupid. There’s no reason at all she should waste her time investigating each flagged-potential-rapist to see whether the flag is fair or not. She’ll just concentrate on the more-than-enough non-flagged rapists she has available. Anyone who got flagged by this program – because they’re black, because they’re into BDSM, because they have a mental disorder – can just give up on online dating if this becomes sufficiently popular.

          There’s a utilitarian case that denying certain marginalized groups the ability to get dates is less important than protecting people from rape. But I am very suspicious that this tool will have no discriminatory power – or at the least, less discriminatory power than just avoiding people who look like scumbags. I’m sure you’re familiar with both the failure of offender profiling and with the fact that people who meet offender profiling people’s pseudoscientific criteria still end up in jail a lot of the time. This seems to be trying just about the same thing except taking humans with common sense out of the loop.

          I stick to my opinion that this will mostly just exclude marginalized groups without helping women detect real predators at all.

      • hf says:

        That seems bad, to be sure. Where are you getting “introversion and psych history”? I may be having trouble reading the code at this hour.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I assume that rapists are statistically more likely to have psychiatric histories than non-rapists and so the program will decide that is a relevant criterion.

        • hf says:

          @Scott: Have you looked at the code and determined that it does something other than Alerts you of potential sexual predators on OkCupid based on their own answers to Match Questions patterned after Lisak and Miller’s groundbreaking academic work on identifying “undetected rapists.” ?

          Do you see any question in the code that would do what you say? Do you have reason to believe that users would add this statistical reasoning (and where do you get this correlation anyway)?

      • @aperfectbalance says:

        We’re talking about the Maymay script, right? I’ve looked at the code, and while I can’t write Javascript, what I can read of it tells me that, unless part of what the code does is being obscured (which I highly doubt) it doesn’t do the things you’re worrying about. The questions it checks are the Lisak/Miller questions and a couple popular OKCupid questions like “Do you feel anyone is ever obligated to have sex with you” (everything that sounds like no is just a yes in disguise gets flagged), “Have you ever thrown an object in anger during an argument” (yes gets you flagged), “Are you ever violent with your friends” (“yes but in jest only” and the plain yes answers gets you flagged). There’s something about polyamory but it’s commented out. Nowhere does that thing care about introversion, psych history, poverty or BDSM/kinkiness, and I seriously don’t understand where did people get a BDSM connection and suspect the ones who did were other BDSMers with a bone to pick with Maymay since I’ve seen similar misinformation spread about other tools of his.

        Anyway, here’s the code for any people more Javascript-literate than me, please tell me if I’m getting anything wrong.

      • novalis says:

        Yeah, as the other commenters note, you’re severely mis-reading what the script does. It *does not* flag people based on statistical associations. It flags people based only on actual acts that people claim to have performed. Many of these acts are (rightly) illegal. Yes, a couple of those acts are acceptable in a BDSM context, but OKCupid is not FetLife; the vast majority of members are almost certainly not interested in BDSM.

        You are, rightly, famous for your charity. So use some here. Read his blog. Maymay is not unfamiliar with BDSM. When he critiques the “BDSM scene”, he’s not talking about BDSM, but a particular social group that practices it (in a particular way). Whether he’s right or not, I don’t know, because I am not involved in that group (and you’re not either, or you wouldn’t be confused here).

  41. Elizabeth says:

    And still on the topic of OKCupid, another friend was posting suggestions for all women to use a script she had heard of which claims to ferret out potential sexual predators based on their answers to match questions, putting me into spasms of worry about whether the fact that I admitted I was introverted and had seen a psychiatrist when I was younger was going to put a big PROBABLY A RAPIST next to my profile.

    I know I posted about this userscript the other night, so: is the friend you’re referring to me? Please note I said: “my friends who use OKCupid should know about this”, and never referred to women. If someone else wrote about it too, my apologies, but it seemed like an important distinction.

    Note: I empathize with the fear and concern you’re expressing in this statement. I am also badly pedantic.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You’re right. You never referred to women on your Facebook post. I apologize for the misrepresentation.

  42. Charlie says:

    The one-sentence “proves too much” seems to be “if it’s a good thing for men to be reviled because of rape statistics, then this would prove that it’s a good thing for african americans to be reviled because of violent crime statistics.” But this is an incomplete reply, partially because even the people you quote are not trying to prove the one-sentence summation in the same way an apologist is trying to prove God exists. This lack not only makes your post slightly inaccurate, it also means that there’s no clean structure of argument to mold the substituted “what about black people?” version to. And even once you arrive at african americans, you then have to explain from basic principles why that’s bad, rather than in the apologist case where if you can prove the necessity of Thor you’ve derived a contradiction.

    So instead of the concise, clear “proves too much” form, we just sorta get a long analogy. Which is okay! But I think it suggests a totally different argumentative form than “proves too much,” and what’s really important is those basic principles.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Maybe instead something like “If for some greatest-good reason you absolutely had to talk about how black people disproportionately commit crime, you would put a lot of effort into thinking about the tone. So if you have to do the same thing about how men disproportionately rape, put some effort into thinking about the tone there too.”

  43. Army1987 says:

    Here’s my summary/steelman of the original Schrödinger’s Rapist post: ‘According to the statstics, about one American woman in six has been raped by a man during her lifetime. Under certain obvious hypotheses, this implies that at least about 1/6n of men in America are rapists, each of whom has raped n women in average. (For the sake of definiteness, let’s assume that n = 10.) So, a woman that knows nothing about you except that you’re a man in America will assign probability 1/60 to you being a rapist; and obviously she won’t want to associate with a rapist. Therefore, if you’d like a woman to want to associate to you, you should avoid taking actions that will cause her to update that probability upwards; these include disregarding her (verbally or non-verbally) stated boundaries, and interacting with her in places it wouldn’t be easy for her to withdraw from.’ There are problems with that post, e.g. her mention of murder (women are actually murdered less often than men), or the assumption that poor personal grooming provides positive evidence that a man is a rapist (I agree with you here; OTOH it will make women less willing to associate with you, but for different reasons); and there are factors complicating the analysis, e.g. a woman won’t literally know nothing about you but your gender; but overall, I think that’s valid advice. Heck, I’m not even American and I still try to follow it, even though the figure for a woman’s prior probability assignment will be substantially lower and the set of behaviours that would constitute evidence that I’m a rapist will be different, so I can afford more slack. But I wish I had read that post when I was in Ireland — that would have saved me from lots of confusion about women’s behaviours.

    The analogy with the black people mugging thing breaks down in at least one place: AFAIK muggers, unlike rapists, usually mug their victims as soon as they meet them, so the “associate with” part doesn’t apply.

  44. Nestor says:

    Some topical Louis CK on tumblr, very apropos.

    Me, I figure someone like you is an innocent victim in the crossfire. The kind of guy reading tumblr feminst blogs is probably low on the danger scale. But women in my experience are too trusting, and us dudes sometimes can be creepy. So, overton windows need shifting, and you can’t do that with moderate arguments.

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  46. Fabio García says:

    May I point out that the URL given at the start of the post points to a version of this article on Google’s cache that’s already too new, and displays neither the original version of the post nor the edit history, as it was intended to? I tried contacting you about this on Twitter.

    In the interest of maintaining the post’s edit history, I suggest replacing the link with this one from the Wayback Machine:

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  48. Anna says:

    You are doing an awful lot of things that you’re trying to pretend you’re not doing. You do, for example, explicitly compare the plight of black men and men in general. You’re not raising any new points, you’re just not-all-menning in nicer words.