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OT31: Open Water

This is an experiment to test more frequent open threads. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Six months ago I posted a therapist recommendation open thread. Since there are some new people here since then, and some people have asked for it, I have briefly reopened comments there. If you want to recommend a therapist in a certain area or are looking for such recommendations, go post them there.

2. I am experimentally tabooing the words “neoreaction”, “neoreactionary”, and “NRx” in this blog’s comments effective immediately. It’s emotionally charged and politicized in a way that I think potential substitutes aren’t. I got my first exposure to far-right ideas from the neoreactionaries and so historically I’ve viewed rightism through their lens and spread that to my readers, but I think that this emphasis was a mistake. Also, nobody agrees on what “neoreactionary” means, least of all self-identified neoreactionaries. If you want to talk about monarchists, call them monarchists. If you want to talk about traditionalists, call them traditionalists. If you want to talk about the far right, call it the far right. If you want to talk about HBD, call it HBD. If you want to talk about Mencius Moldbug, call him Mencius Moldbug. First infraction will be punished with a warning, second with burning eternally in the caldera of the Volcano God.

3. Comment of the week goes jointly to a bunch of people who pointed out that I was ignoring the evolutionary angle on prestige (example). Mistakes were made. SSC regrets the error. I still think that it’s probably not either of the two explanations I argued against there, but all I have to go on is vague intuitions I can’t verbalize, and I should have admitted that.

4. When I post a comment, for a while the page won’t let me scroll and instantly takes me back to the comment I just posted whenever I try. Does anyone else have this problem or know a way to solve it?

5. Last open thread a commenter brought up the link to MIT researcher Todd Rider’s crowdfunding campaign for DRACOs, an experimental therapy that is supposed to treat many or all viruses. I’ve heard good things about these in the past, but it seems strange that this guy has to go to crowdfunding, and it seems stranger that the crowdfunding isn’t even doing very well. I’m thinking of donating but I want more opinions first. Do any knowledgeable people (Sarah? Douglas? Anyone?) have more information or any thoughts on whether or not it’s an effective use of money?

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1,502 Responses to OT31: Open Water

  1. sf says:

    Re: “4. When I post a comment, for a while the page won’t let me scroll …”
    Was this solved yet? Not an expert here, but based on similar experiences:

    When you make a comment on some sites, the URL in your address bar (i.e. https://slatestarcodex.com/ etc) changes, adding a random looking code at the end, beginning with a “#”. If you just cut off this code things should work normally, (but you may want to save the URL with code elsewhere, to locate your comment). Also clearing browser history and cookies may solve the problem.

  2. onyomi says:

    Having just watched the GOP debate, I was struck by the following:

    Libertarians, myself included, may be somewhat disappointed by Rand Paul’s failure to really take off thus far, but I think there’s a lot for us to be happy about, even if the GOP candidates are still far from enlightened in many ways.

    Namely, I think we can very clearly observe a dynamic which I think I first read David Friedman describing, which is that the goal of a libertarian party, say, or even of a Ron Paul candidacy, may not be to actually win, but to gain enough traction that other people start stealing your ideas.

    On the stage tonight, I saw candidates other than libertarianish candidate Rand Paul discussing: eliminating the IRS, auditing the Fed, a gold standard, drug legalization, crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and many other such subjects which would NEVER have been taken seriously in a GOP debate eight years ago.

    Some would take this as evidence that the GOP has “lost it,” or whatever, but to me it means that libertarians are kind of winning, albeit not by actually having an explicit libertarian candidate win.

    • John Schilling says:

      As has been noted elsewhere and often, pretty much the entire Socialist party platform ca. 1900 is now the law of the land in the United States, deeply entrenched, without any Socialist party member having been elected to major office.

      • onyomi says:

        Good point, and, perhaps, reason for libertarians to now be hopeful even if the number of Americans who describe themselves as such has stalled.

    • Nornagest says:

      At this point I’m starting to think the GOP will be acccused of having “lost it” if it offers anything other than family-values platitudes and weak, easily soothed economic anxieties. Like the conservatives in “The West Wing” that the writers are trying to paint as reasonable.

    • onyomi says:

      Possible negative result of the debate–or, at least, a calling into stark relief of negative thing which already existed:

      Obviously the moderators were bad and antagonistic to the candidates. Ted Cruz later opined that he’d like a GOP debate moderated by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Sean Hannitty, and, as much as I’m not really fans of any of those three, I can see advantages to that.

      The problem is obvious: we are sorting ever more starkly into two societies with neither side even trusting the journalists of the other side to be even remotely fair. Though I also am not entirely unhappy with a breakdown in US cultural unity. Maybe it can eventually lead to a breakdown in political unity as well.

  3. Troy says:

    Scott: I’m not sure if this article (which is a few years old) has been shared in Links Threads before, but if not you should take a look at it: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/magazine/could-conjoined-twins-share-a-mind.html

    I just read it and it’s immensely fascinating — it’s about two young twins conjoined at the brain who seem to share certain conscious experiences with each other.

  4. stillnotking says:

    I had an interesting conversation about gender roles with a coworker today, which got me thinking. She’s very much an opponent of “traditional” masculinity, which in her mind basically means “Rambo”. I think that’s a serious, obvious error; the ideal of traditional masculinity in Western culture (for adult men, not escapist teenage fantasies) is much closer to Atticus Finch. Atticus is no wimp — he displays his physical and moral courage in almost every scene — but he does not whip out a gun and blow away Bob Ewell when the latter spits in his face. Nor does he seem the type to go in for honor killings or domestic violence. It struck me that women may not be as attuned to the cultural messages of masculinity as men; feminists may be seeing Rambo but missing Atticus.

    This is also why my response to the proposed abolition of traditional gender roles is “Be careful what you wish for.” I suspect that, if “traditional masculinity” were indeed abolished, the result would be a lot closer to Rambo than we are today, and not what anyone wants!

    • hlynkacg says:

      As Glenn Reynolds observed, Atticus Finch is secretly the villain of To kill a Mocking Bird. He’s a patriarch who accuses a woman of lying about rape.

    • anon says:

      I think John Rambo is a great example for people to follow, and I assume that people who think otherwise haven’t seen the original movie. In First Blood, despite being arrested for no reason, beaten, tortured and almost killed several times, he goes out of his way to avoid killing any of his pursuers, the sole exception being the helicopter, which was a clear case of self defense.

      I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on if this also holds true there.

      • NN says:

        The Rambo sequels have almost totally eclipsed the original movie in pop culture memory, though.

        For the record, I’ve heard second-hand that Rambo is much more violent in the book than he is in the first movie.

        • John Schilling says:

          In the sequels, John Rambo is a soldier serving his country in battle against enemies roughly as evil as Nazis, killing about as many enemy soldiers as did e.g. Audie Murphy and in about the same manner. Still seems like a pretty good role model.

          OK, in #4 he isn’t serving his country. He’s working for a higher authority.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      If you want a film about a lawyer exhibiting physical courage, I recommend the Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

    • hlynkacg says:

      On a more serious note…

      Forgive me if this comes out a bit scatter-shot and nonsensical but there is a lot in your post that I’d like to respond to but am unsure how to articulate.

      Pop culture’s conception of Rambo bears little resemblance to the protagonist of First Blood in much the same way that pop culture’s conception of “Traditional Masculinity” seems to bear little resemblance to traditional masculinity.

      Furthermore, it seems to me that a lot of what I would consider “the canon” of masculinity is not only being de-emphasized but actively disparaged and dismantled. The result is that masculinity is largely being defined by it’s relation to feminism rather than it’s own terms.

      I mean I get that there will be less immediate need things like discipline and physical courage in an affluent society but the degree to which we have retreated from these values does not seem to match the situation on the ground so to speak.

  5. Anon. says:

    How do the “affirmative consent” people view sex between two people who are underage?

  6. Have a cheery thought, though I’ll let someone else run the numbers. What proportion of men and women had early formative experience with the worst-behaved 1% of the other gender? How about the worst behaved 5%? For purposes of this discussion, include parents as well as relationships.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I don’t even know how you’d go about making that determination.

      My ex may be cruel and manipulative but does she really represent the bottom 5% of female behavior?

    • Tibor says:

      I don’t think most people know a large enough number of other people well enough to be make that a representative sample of the general population of the other sex (and of course, you have to meet people entirely at random which you probably don’t). Without trying to go through my life too hard, I would say that 50 is a comfortably high estimate for the number of women I’ve ever known more closely than “a classmate, colleague, neighbour, …” and probably less than 10 than I would say I know well.

      Also, we have no objective scale for judging the “goodness of behaviour”.

    • I don’t think “worst 5%” can be easily defined or measured for individuals, but I think it’s fair to say that there are some very destructive people, both men and women. What’s more, some of them justify what they’re doing by saying that their behavior is normal for a gender and/or because the other gender is so bad.

      What I’m trying to explain is why there are so many people who are in the bitter-to-enraged spectrum about a gender while as far as I can tell, both genders are pretty tolerable for the most part but include some awful people.

      • Matt C says:

        People get hurt in romances, and it’s in a romance that you’re most aware of gender differences. A painful romantic relationship with a woman is going to color your thinking about women-the-gender a lot more than, say, having a cruel female schoolteacher. And intimate relationships often end up painful for someone, even when everyone plays fair.

        Also, not everyone plays fair. Some people turn evil when they get an emotional commitment from someone else, in ways you wouldn’t suspect from the outside. I think this is more common than people acknowledge casually. You are thinking about nasty stuff that happens from the worst 5% of the opposite gender, but my guess is the percentage of people who head-fuck their partners is a lot higher than that. Maybe a quarter, maybe more. Enough to spread a lot of unhappiness around. Enough to go a long way toward explaining the men-are-pigs/women-are-snakes thing you’re talking about.

  7. I think part of what’s going on in affirmative consent discussions is people talking past each other, with one set (mostly women) saying “We want women to be treated decently, and not have their desires overridden” and another set (mostly men) saying “We don’t want men to be at risk of horribly unjust punishment”.

    I think the affirmative consent people think of sex with a drunk woman as her being nearly comatose, and the anti-affirmative consent people think of sex with a drunk woman as her having a drink or three and being quite conscious, but with a few inhibitions down. In general, I wish people would be clearer about the examples they’re bringing to arguments.

    Neither side is completely wrong, and both are talking about a highly emotionally charged issue.

    I’m kind of amazed at the men who say “Of course I (and most men) don’t want sex with a woman who doesn’t want it”. My experience (admittedly some decades ago) was of men who’d slowly escalate the amount of touch, without looking for any sort of response, positive or negative. They would stop and look frightened when I burst into tears (psychological issues at my end which I may or may not write about), but I think I was fortunate that I didn’t drink or like being around drunk people.

    I also know a man who ended up with the first woman who was sexually active with him. They’re happy together (it isn’t her only good quality), but he had at least a moderate number of partners before that. Maybe he just wasn’t good at attracting women who were enjoyed sex with him and were willing to show it, but I suspect it’s more that women who are sexually active weren’t all that common. Things may have changed. Let me know.

    It’s possible the culture has changed, but I’m not sure it’s changed all that much. I’ve been told that (a lot of?) men still get scared off by women who are direct about wanting sex.

    What this sort of thing adds up to is people ending up frequently aiming for sex which is tolerated rather than actually wanted.

    I’m not blaming men in general or women in general. Both have inherited a culture which often leads to bad outcomes.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Here, at least, my impression is that the person pushing for Affirmative Consent isn’t being clear on what it is he or she thinks should be the norm.

      The sane version that was presented here seems pretty much… what all decent people agree should be the case, and there really isn’t any argument about that. The Affirmative Consent I’ve met in the wild is a different creature altogether, with many proponents stating verbal consent is required for every escalation, and in general with an emphasis on what the law should be as opposed to (as the emphasis seems to be here) what should be considered a normal standard for interaction.

      And bluntly, at least some of the people who are trying to specify law are trying to specify a law which is, for lack of a better description, terrifying, requiring proof of positive consent for every act, and allowing rescission of consent without even verbal warning – so even a contract agreeing to sex, and videotape of it, wouldn’t be sufficient evidence of consent.

      So, from the perspective of somebody who is dubious of the idea – the whole thing feels like a motte and bailey under construction. Here’s this reasonable idea which nobody really disagrees with – and if that’s all there is to it, where’s the argument?

      • gbdub says:

        Honestly I think there is a strong subset of Affirmative Consent advocates who honestly, and with good intent, believe that rape is whatever a woman says it is, and her word should be enough to evoke punishment. Affirmative consent is just a way to enshrine that in law. Sure, “verbal consent for every escalation” is not realistic, no sane person can believe that, but it more or less does away with any he-said-she-said debates (because “she said” will always win).

        Again, I think this position is held in good faith – they honestly believe that rape is such a huge problem that any collateral damage to otherwise innocent men will be rare and too insignificant to matter.

        @ Nancy – I don’t really share your skepticism with “Of course I (and most men) don’t want sex with a woman who doesn’t want it”. As a man, I think this is largely true. The majority of men really do derive a lot of pleasure from the visible pleasure of their partner (for which consent and enthusiasm is required). We WANT to be wanted.

        But we’re conditioned to attempt to escalate until we’re told “no” fairly emphatically (not “not now”, not “slow down”, not “my aren’t we randy”, but NO (or in your case triggering tears)). Having gotten the NO, the vast, vast majority of men will stop (not permanently – we (and women) are also conditioned to believe that a couple of not-quite-nos are an appropriate level of coquettishness rather than an actual statement of feeling).

        If anything good can come from Affirmative Consent its the idea that everyone involved should be open and honest about their desires and comfort levels (this is a responsibility on both partners, in both directions – say what you want, and what you don’t). This would prevent a lot of bad sex. But trying to enshrine that in law is doomed to be a biased mess.

        • The problem is that “a woman who doesn’t want it” is ambiguous. There’s not wanting it in the sense of hating it, and there’s not wanting it in the sense of being more or less neutral. That’s a big range.

          I can easily believe that men generally prefer sex with a clearly enthusiastic partner. However, I’m also inclined to think that a lot of men will settle for sex where their partner is tolerating it.

          The modern world makes accurate communication difficult in a different way.

          • Mark says:

            Sometimes my mum cooks me cottage pie for dinner, and to be honest, I’m not a fan of cottage pie, but I’ll eat it.
            Sometimes, she cooks chicken goujons with sweet and sour sauce. I love that one. We normally have it on a Saturday.

            I don’t like eggs, so she doesn’t cook me omelette.

            Some people say that, as a 35 year old man, I shouldn’t be expecting my mum to cook me dinner every night. But, I tell you what… I don’t care what those people say, I’m still not eating any eggs… and my mother shouldn’t go to prison for cooking cottage pie.

          • gbdub says:

            Well sure, unenthusiastic sex is better than no sex at all. I don’t see that as particularly profound, shocking, or morally depraved (I’ll note here that unenthusiastic sex is hardly limited to women). Should men be expected turn down something freely offerred even if the offer is lukewarm? But even that is not the question. The question is should a man go to jail / get expelled from college if they do accept a “neutral” offer?

            That’s why I mentioned that I think some of the Affirmative Consent rhetoric has a place and has value. That place just isn’t the legal codes.

        • Cauê says:

          This is complicated. On the one hand, I think this conditioning has faded significantly, and I don’t expect this pattern of behaviour.

          On the other hand, in one instance I’ve had a girl tell me that she liked to feign rejection so that I would overcome it – she only told me this out of frustation that I didn’t try, which resulted in less sex than either of us would want. So it’s not always just a question of signaling and communicating intent there.

          And of course I’ve seen women (and men) get very angry at the myth that women pretend not to be interested when they really are…

          Agreed that “trying to enshrine that in law is doomed to be a biased mess”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Caue:

            The thing is, you can’t be a mind-reader or assume that this is why she is reticent. So, if that is what she likes, you have to talk about it be clear on what she wants (and what you want).

            And I can’t help think that some of this wrapped up in what I mentioned in the OP, the conflicted attitude many of us have about sex.

          • Cauê says:

            I agree this assumption is a bad idea, but I’m not sure you’re doing the problem justice. She didn’t want to talk about it, it partly defeated the point. Talking made it Common Knowledge and devalued whatever it was that she wanted from the situation.

            Not that I expect this to be common.

    • Cauê says:

      It’s possible the culture has changed, but I’m not sure it’s changed all that much. I’ve been told that (a lot of?) men still get scared off by women who are direct about wanting sex.

      Now, I live in an adjacent culture, not the US, but every person born after 1980 that I ever met who believed this was a woman, often a young one going by what she’d been taught by older women.

      Culture is so important in this subject… I have a friend who lived in Japan for a couple of years. He says he had trouble having sex with Japanese women, because they would just kinda lie there and make those little [yelps?] that we can see in japanese porn, that to us look like at least discomfort. He would stop and ask, and they’d say that no, nothing was wrong, they wanted it and were enjoying it. He says that eventually he refused to do it, unless they, well, I don’t remember what he said, but my description would be “unless they behaved more like the women in western culture”.

      On talking past each other, I agree with you, and also with Orphan Wilde above.

      • Tom Richards says:

        I kind of suspect that it stems from a misinterpretation of the reaction of men to women who they do not want to have sex with being direct about wanting to have sex with them. Being propositioned by someone you want to have sex with is I’m pretty sure generally a positive experience, for men and women. Being propositioned by someone you don’t is often, for men or women, to widely varying degrees depending on the individuals and circumstances, an actively unpleasant experience and consequently apt to prompt negative and avoidant reactions. It’s a causation confusion.

    • stillnotking says:

      I think the affirmative consent people think of sex with a drunk woman as her being nearly comatose

      I don’t think they do think that, because: a) sex with a “nearly-comatose” (i.e. unconscious/unresponsive) person is already illegal everywhere, and b) they consistently write affirmative-consent laws and policies using simply the word “intoxicated”, which no reasonable person regards as a synonym for “nearly-comatose”.

      I think the affirmative-consent people think, with some justification, that juries are reluctant to convict for sexual assault by impairment unless the victim is nearly comatose, they believe the standard should be much looser than that, and they are consciously attempting to “move the needle” socially by writing laws which they know to be extreme and liable to abuse.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @stillnotking:

        Elsewhere, I already agreed that issues around intoxication are not clearly spelled out and that I think this is an issue. How much intoxication is required before consent cannot be given, mutual intoxication and “blackout but functional” intoxication all throw “spanners in the works.”

        Nonetheless, I don’t think what you are saying is correct either.

        From the SUNY policy I linked earlier:
        “Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated, which occurs when an individual lacks the ability to knowingly choose to participate in sexual activity. Incapacitation may be caused by the lack of consciousness or being asleep, being involuntarily restrained, or if an individual otherwise cannot consent. Depending on the degree of intoxication, someone who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants may be incapacitated and therefore unable to consent.

        My emphasis added. I believe the language in policy documents is almost always something like that. Nonetheless, I do see people on the affirmative consent side saying you can’t consent when you have had anything to drink, and I think some universities will actually say that to incoming freshmen (even though the actual policy is worded differently).

        Question: Where does “stumbling and slurring their words” fall on the acceptable/unacceptable spectrum for you?

        • Nornagest says:

          I do see people on the affirmative consent side saying you can’t consent when you have had anything to drink, and I think some universities will actually say that to incoming freshmen…

          I can confirm being told that in high school sex-ed class, back in the Nineties. It (and particularly the case where two drunk people hook up) bothered me enough that I actually went and looked up the relevant section of the state code, which turned out to use words like “incapacitation”. It doesn’t take much to convince high school students that they’re being bullshitted at the best of times, and that episode certainly didn’t help.

          I don’t think I got the affirmative-consent talk when I was entering college, but the moral panic around campus rape hadn’t ramped up to present-day levels back then (though not for lack of people trying to foment one).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Honestly, in the 90s, I really think the issue was around liability and alcohol policy. There was a broad institutional panic around intoxication and how liable institutions were for damages if there members imbibed and then did something wrong.

            The reasoning went something like “drunk person causes fire which kills 500; institution ceases to exist due to lost liability suit”. This was all institutions, not just colleges. Major corporations, etc. Much of it was pushed by the insurance companies who would refuse to write a liability policy unless institutional policies were changed.

        • stillnotking says:

          @HBC: I’m a fan of letting juries and prosecutors decide how a given point on the spectrum of intoxication should be treated. If I, personally, were on a jury, I would be very reluctant to convict someone of rape if the other party had been aware enough to converse, slurring or no. I would not rule out the possibility in a specific case, though.

          However, after some searching, I found that almost all affirmative-consent policies do use the stronger “incapacitated” language. Only a few outliers like Antioch use “intoxicated”, and no state-wide bills. I was being unfair to the affirmative-consent movement, and I retract my previous post.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @HeelBearCub – “Incapacitation may be caused by the lack of consciousness or being asleep, being involuntarily restrained, or if an individual otherwise cannot consent. Depending on the degree of intoxication, someone who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants may be incapacitated and therefore unable to consent.

          …It seems to me that the bold part doesn’t actually say that incapacitation consists of loss of consciousness? It lists lack of consciousness, sleep, or “if an individual otherwise cannot consent”. It then says that intoxication can invalidate consent, without specifying the actual level of intoxication required. How is that in any way inconsistent with the “one drink” rule?

          I’m not a lawyer, so maybe the subtleties are eluding me, but that looks like a “one drink” ruleset. Or at least if the administration chooses to enforce a “one drink” policy in some or all cases, nothing in that policy stops them, with the additional problem that the students may not realize that’s the rule they’re living under.

          [EDIT] – “Incapatication” = unconscious, asleep, or other. Other includes intoxication, but makes no further specification for HOW intoxicated. I’m intoxicated after the first beer, right?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            I do not believe you are intoxicated after the first beer, unless it is a large beer with high alcohol content and you are of low bodyweight.

            DWI (driving while intoxicated) requires a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% (or significant signs of impairment). Even then, the consent standards don’t say intoxication does prevent ability to consent, only that it can.

            Edit: For example, this page calculates that 150 lb woman would need to consume 3 drinks in 90 minutes to reach a BAC of 0.097%.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            Also,
            I have already conceded that the lack of a clear guideline for what “incapacitated” means in the context of intoxicated but not unconscious is a valid issue.

            But, I think we should be ble to say that if someone was alternating between barely conscious and possibly unconscious that this would be incapacitated. I think, if we are being homest, we know it is a spectrum. The key question is can they form coherent thoughts and express them clearly. Certainly in that state of barely conscious this is not true but even shy of that you tend to get people who seem “crazy”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “I do not believe you are intoxicated after the first beer, unless it is a large beer with high alcohol content and you are of low bodyweight.”

            As in, that’s the legal standard? If intoxicated is actually a legal term and has a specific definition, that policy is somewhat more comforting. Then again, it’s not like we’re actually having people blow breathalyzers at parties, are we?

            “I have already conceded that the lack of a clear guideline for what “incapacitated” means in the context of intoxicated but not unconscious is a valid issue.”

            Yeah, sorry, didn’t mean to pile on. Part of my frustration is, if we concede that the campus rape epidemic is as bad as the current narrative says it is, why are we still allowing/encouraging social drinking and party culture on campuses? It seems to me that if we need to back the “incapacitated” line much from actually unconscious/unresponsive, there’s not much of a clear guideline to go by, and the whole social drinking/hookup business becomes sufficiently harmful and dangerous that it’s better to just ban the whole thing. Not doing so seems like an attempt by the schools to not lose students who want to party, at the expense of a significant minority of women getting their consent violated and men getting brought up on dubious charges. That seems pretty unacceptable to me.

            Then again, I don’t drink and am not sexually active, so I have no real skin in this game. The whole scene has always seemed like a horribly bad idea.

            “I think, if we are being honest, we know it is a spectrum.”

            then there really isn’t any choice but to stay entirely outside that spectrum, is there? The only safe rule is the stone-cold sober one.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark Atwood:
            You don’t appear to be reading or responding to what I have actually written.

    • NN says:

      It’s possible the culture has changed, but I’m not sure it’s changed all that much. I’ve been told that (a lot of?) men still get scared off by women who are direct about wanting sex.

      This is empirically wrong, as shown by repeated experiments that find that an attractive women approaching random strange men and directly asking for sex will receive an affirmative answer about 40-60% of the time, and a polite decline the rest of the time. This idea is also contradicted by the observed behavior of prostitutes, strippers, camgirls, etc.

      I suppose that it’s possible that some men who are looking for a long term partner instead of casual sex might be put off by a woman who is too direct, but that’s another issue.

    • John Schilling says:

      What this sort of thing adds up to is people ending up frequently aiming for sex which is tolerated rather than actually wanted.

      How do you tell the difference, in a culture where people of all genders are strongly encouraged to lie about the extent to which they want sex and the extent to which they enjoyed the sex they just had?

      We can imagine a culture in which these things aren’t so, but I’m not sure we can build one. And until we get there, aiming for sex that is tolerated[*] will at least get sex that one person enjoys and sometimes get sex that both people enjoy. So long as No still does mean No, that may be the best that can be realistically expected. It is almost certainly the best that can be enforced.

      [*] or more precisely, aiming for sex that is wanted but having a large allowable miss distance.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The more discussions I see about affirmative consent, and the more legal maneuvering I see arising from it, the more I am reminded of a quip from Ann Althouse in response to a “Consent Contract”.

      Paraphrasing: “Isn’t this just marriage??”

      http://althouse.blogspot.com/2015/07/i-suddenly-realized-whats-happening.html

    • Anonymous says:

      Regarding the culture issue, I would point out that it’s worth considering whether this is, not some culture that has been foisted on everyone by Moloch’s evil machinations, but something people actually want and approve of. Specifically, it seems plausible that women might tend to prefer to be indirect in the escalation to sex. One possible reason: women prefer men to be confident and take the lead, these are relative factors i.e. what matters is whether the man is more confident than the woman in question rather than how absolutely confident he is, so by letting the man take the lead you are making him more relatively confident and therefore more attractive in your eyes.

      Possibly this is an unlikely reason, but it seems to be taken for granted by some people in this discussion that this cultural norm is clearly a mistake that ought to be done away with, which I don’t think is a fair assumption to make.

  8. daronson says:

    I’m late to the comment thread, but wanted to throw out a request for a post/guest post on this site about Russian politics. The reason I’m asking here is that modern Russian politics is basically monarchist-dominated.

    Thing is, there’s a very sizable population of intelligent Russians (both in Russia and abroad) who see that journalists are being killed, opposition is being squashed, the state-controlled media has lost all pretense of honesty, but who still support Putin’s government for reasons very close to (what I understand of) Moldburg and the monarchists. (There’s also the more legitimate complaint that Russian politics is misunderstood and trivialized by the West, with our magical belief that democracy works everywhere always).

    In some (not very accurate) way, you could say that Russian political thought is becoming the opposite of ours, with far-right quasi-monarchist views becoming mainstream and what we consider moderate liberalism moving onto the fringe.

    Since your blog is good at wading into pools of icky thought and analyzing them honestly, and you’ve already sketched out some basic tenets of neo-reaction (SORRY! SORRY!), I wonder if you or someone who knows more about Russian history and geopolitics could sketch out 1. What are the honest pros and cons of totalitarian Putenesque government for Russia and 2. How and to what extent can things (honestly) change in the near-future?

    • gbdub says:

      I’m curious about this as well. I don’t really know what the answers to your questions are, but it does seem to me that the history of Russia has very much been monarchist, even (especially?) during communism. The times when they have not been ruled by a strongman have mostly sucked. How much of pro-Putinism is just a longing for the prestige etc. of the communist era? Or a backlash against the capitalist oligarchs that filled the void of the Soviet collapse?

      I think the biggest thing is that Russia has just never had a sentiment for liberal democracy, so really we’re the weird ones for expecting them to.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Late last year, some very brave people fucked around with blobs of fire ants

    http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nmat4450.html

  10. Deiseach says:

    Are the vegans feeling vindicated and heartened? According to the WHO, that Saturday morning fry-up will kill us meat-eaters all stone dead!

    Sausages and rashers are as bad as tobacco, we may as well throw ourselves under a bus as eat bacon and cabbage, and don’t think hamburgers, steaks, or lamb chops will get away scot-free either!

    Nothing about poultry or fish there yet, but if cow, pig and sheep meat is so dreadfully awful, can fowl be far behind? Goodness knows what kippers and pickled herrings are doing to the Scandinavians!

    It is a dilemma for me: mackerel is an oily fish which is good, but smoked mackerel is smoked which is carcinogenic which is bad. Oh what can I eat (aside from rain water and moss)? 🙂

    • stillnotking says:

      So is this a good time to post my recipe for tofu and Brussels sprouts with a moss-and-rainwater garnish?

      • Deiseach says:

        I actually like Brussels sprouts, which means that any day now, some study will show that some constituent of them is horribly bad for you 🙂

        Although! Looking them up on Wikipedia to see what is in them, I note that “Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical under basic research for its potential anticancer properties”.

        And since cooking them with bacon is a popular recipe, this may be a way to have our cake and eat it (so to speak). Just make sure to consume plenty of green cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower or broccoli with your joint of bacon or rashers or other tasty but potentially lethal processed meat, and the cancer-causing chemicals will be cancelled out by the anti-cancer chemicals! 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      I think this news is to some extent being exaggerated. Specifically, “likelihood that this factor increases risk of cancer” is being conflated with “extent to which this factor increases risk of cancer” in some articles. In other words, processed meat almost certainly increases your risk of cancer by a fairly small amount. This is unlike smoking, which almost certainly increases your risk of cancer by a fairly large amount.

      • Nornagest says:

        If this pans out — and announcements like this in the field of nutrition should always be taken with several grains of salt — then the odds ratio for bowel cancer relative to processed meat consumption is something like 1.2. Compare to around 100 for smoking and lung cancer.

        Wouldn’t surprise me if the absolute risk was a lot lower too.

        • Anonymous says:

          “and announcements like this in the field of nutrition should always be taken with several grains of salt”

          Which, ironically, is probably bad dietary advice.

    • Technically Not Anonymous says:

      Meh, “eating red meat regularly might kill you” isn’t new information.

    • keranih says:

      Sausages and rashers are as bad as tobacco

      D, I get that you’re exaggerating for effect, but this is effectively the message being driven by the media. I knew that “preserved meat products are linked with cancer” was likely coming at some point, as the data’s been out there for some time showing that getting calories/protein from preserved meats was associated with more bowel cancers than getting calories/protein from fresh red meat or other sources.

      (2005 study, 2009 study, 2011 study)

      However, I did not expect the level of distortion and exaggeration that has plagued the media broadcasts over the last few days. “Sausages are as bad as smoking” is a horrificly poor way of explaining the issue.

      In particular, as the option is not “eat preserved meat or don’t eat preserved meat” but “get some portion of nutrients from preserved meat or get all nutrients from some other source”, with the variety of upsides and downsides from all options. (You want to decrease the utility of slaughtering an animal for food, you reduce the amount of food one can get from each animal. Easiest way? Stop preserving the extras and scraps into sausage and hot dogs, and instead just chuck that stuff into the landfill.)

      (I could go into more details, but I get rapidly tedious.)

      If people are replacing preserved meat with a variety of fresh veggies, that’s one thing (although truck crops like veggies are very bad in terms of using pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels, and hard labor) but frankly, that stuff’s expensive. Even more likely is that people will substitute carbs, sugars and grains – which are of less nutritional value than meats or veggies – which is already linked to metabolic disease/heart attacks/diabetes.

      I have no problem with making people aware that eating preserved foods raises the cancer risk (although I really wish we understood better *how* this happened). I am far less happy that we are saying this without going into the risks of the alternatives.

    • Svejk says:

      This study has been widely mis-interpreted. The WHO study establishes that there is sufficient evidence to consider processed meat carcinogenic, and enough evidence to consider red meat probably carcinogenic. That is a statement about the strength of the evidence, not about the effect size The increase in relative risk of colorectal cancer associated with consuming a 50 gram daily ‘dose’ of processed meat is estimated to be around 18%. The increase in relative risk of colorectal cancer associated with consuming a 100 gram daily ‘dose’ of red meat is estimated to be around 17%. When you take into effect that the lifetime risk of colorectal cancer is very low (~4.5% in the US and ~3.5% in Europe), eating several rashers of bacon every morning will increase your cumulative risk of bowel cancer to ~5.3% in the US and ~4.3% in Europe. In comparison, smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by about 2,300%

  11. darxan says:

    Apparently Michael Anissimov is now a /baphomet/ mod. They had an opening because one of their mods was shot by the FBI.

  12. About the taboo: the problem is that the alternatives suggest that critics of modernity necessarily have a replacement goal, a solution, a different political idea. As for me, I simply see it as trying to wake up from the Matrix of Modernity, and trying to gather truths from outside it. Not necessarily replace it with another ideology which could just be building another Matrix. Monarchism e.g. could easily evolve into one i.e. people busily pushing all monarchs are total awesome and superior divine beings. If you simply try to discover ideas that are perhaps true and clearly unfashionable, it is hard to put this activity into a category. One could say that we are trying to put a nice big rationalist taboo on the whole propaganda machine of Modernity and seeing what is left. If you have a political goal and want to achieve it, you could say you are acting upon that goal. If you simply want to hinder a goal you find harmful and simply want to hinder it without necessarily pushing anything else, you could say you are not acting but rrrrrrr…

    When you try to cure a depressed patient who doesn’t enjoy anything, but you are not trying to tell him what should he be enjoying, you just want to make him able to enjoy anything, would you say you are r….ing to the illness?

    Maybe I should just take a clue from Nick Land and call it Outsideing.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Note that Scott is tabooing “neor…”, not “r…”. I’m not sure that affects your main point (which I like a lot) though it does tend to sap the strength of your analogies. What you’re really saying is that there isn’t another good word for the inchoate, multifocused criticism of modernity you’re describing; A, B, and C may not agree on what’s to be done, or even necessarily agree 100% on what’s wrong, but it seems that there is some central collection of ideas that are pretty widespread among the writers who have used the term “neor…” to describe what they are talking about. If I read the taboo right, you’re entitled to call that central collection “r…”, but that term has connotations that make it seem a bad fite.

      On the other hand, I don’t have any principled, etymological reason to prefer the term “neor…”. The prefix could serve to distinguish it from plain old r… — except that Moldbug, for instance, seems to revere Carlyle, whom no one would mistake for neo-anything. And I guess that vagueness about the term is at least part of Scott’s point.

      Maybe, for the purposes you are concerned with, “criticism of modernity” would suffice? Granted, it’s a little longer and doesn’t yet have a snappy abbreviation. 🙂

      • I find modernity and the opposition to it a big vague question. What do people mean by modernity? What do they want to do instead? I realize there will be a bunch of answers to both questions.

        • I agree it is not easy. I could just call it The Narrative, but that would not solve the question.

          A very simple approach is to make a diff between ideas popular now and ideas popular centuries ago, and remove everything science / fact based. Basically what should be left is the space between philosophical, speculative argumentation and cool sounding slogans – and how they are actually put into practice. But again this would not be a perfect definition.

          One can try to make it people-based, not ideas based. Modernity as the road of intellectuals to class power. But again I would rather remove natural scientists, doctors, engineers from this definition of intellectuals as their power is clearly useful and merited.

          It is an ongoing challenge to try to pin it down. My current favorite idea is modernity as a process of trying to replace dominance-status with prestige-status and it failing regularly because dominance-status has more teeth.

          Maybe the best definition is still that there are many things we don’t really know facts about, so we could have many different opinions of them, but The Narrative suppresses all but one, and exactly what opinions about various things are promoted has a tendency in it.

      • Zykrom says:

        lol…… does anyone have thoughts about “n30r3@<710n" then?

  13. A says:

    I would like to know if group selection is a thing in human history, or if moral change is driven by a combination of economics, whimsy, and maybe other factors. So, holding economics constant, I am looking for situations where one group’s morality sucked, and this led to an existential disaster, like (1) starvation or being conquered and converted to another political or moral system. We could also include (2) most of the members just deciding to disband and join some other group with a different morality. The Abrahamic religions beating paganism seems mostly like 2-is anything mostly like 1? Some claim that Catholic morality made Europe more hospitable to development, so what happened to the Native Americans or some African tribes might be 1 in a very slow but valid way, but I don’t know whether morality (Catholic or otherwise) was really the cause or the effect. Ideally I’d like an example of groups at similar wealth levels where one group’s lack of organization or general incompetence (but not sheer bad luck or, e.g., a stupid move by one guy) drove its being taken over and permanently ended, or a single group that imploded. Maybe the Soviet Union qualifies as the latter. How about the former?

    • Chalid says:

      I think Jared Diamond’s Collapse had various examples of environmental devastation that might be similar to what you’re looking for? i.e. lots of Polynesian island tribes short-sightedly destroyed their local ecosystems while seeking immediate gains and thus their descendants ended up in terrible straits. But a few deliberately adopted policies that let them survive sustainably. One example that stuck in my head was a particular tribe that realized their pigs were causing too much trouble and eradicated all of them from their island, even though they were of course a delicious luxury.

      • A says:

        Those tribes seem like some good examples of single groups that imploded-thanks. It would also be good to know a group that got conquered by others.

        With 14 minutes left to edit this, I now realize that the Axis Powers (as conquered states) make a good example. They were just too violent for their own good.

    • NN says:

      I’m pretty sure what happened to the Native Americans had very little to do with “morality” and everything to do with European diseases devastating their population, and to a lesser extent to the Europeans’ technological advantage. I haven’t researched what happened to sub-Saharan Africans in detail, but my first guess would be that the root cause was relative geographical isolation resulting in them ending up technologically behind Eurasia. Disease actually helped the Africans out for several centuries, by preventing European colonization until effective anti-malarial drugs were developed in the 19th century.

      Well, I guess you could make a case for the Aztecs, since their oppressive policies made it easier for Cortez to find allies among their subject tribes. But that probably just sped up the inevitable. Even if Cortez had failed and no one had attempted to conquer the Aztecs again for a century, the Mesoamerican civilizations would have collapsed due to European disease epidemics just like the Mississippian “mound builder” cultures did.

      • Echo says:

        “collapsed due to European disease epidemics just like the Mississippian “mound builder” cultures did.”
        Wait, what? Weren’t their cities abandoned a century before Europeans even got here? I know it’s trendy to blame them for everything bad that ever happened in the world, but is there a cite on it?

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Looks at wiki”

          It is unclear. Looks like they didn’t build as many mounds, but still had plenty of villages at the time de Soto arrived.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          They were declining for centuries before 1492. Some cities, like Cahokia, the biggest, were abandoned by 1400. But there was a lot more ruin in the nation, probably due to European diseases.

          • Echo says:

            That’s the one I was thinking of!

            Wasted a lot of time checking wiki references. A lot of the softer stuff reads like Ancient Culture Fanfiction, but the archeologists make it sound like trade breaking down made the cities unsustainable, with possible impacts of climatic changes on agriculture contributing.

      • A says:

        To clarify, I was saying that some folks claim that a certain moral system or political order led to the European technological advantage, not that moral superiority led directly to their conquering Native Americans (which is absurd)

        The fate of the Nazis, by contrast, is an example of the direct case.

      • DrBeat says:

        Well, you say that it counts for the Aztecs because of how easy it made it for Cortez to find allies, but wasn’t that how the American frontier expanded pretty much all the time? Whichever tribe was closest to the US’s border, they’d be fighting troops and settlers and stuff, and every other tribe in the region said “Good, I fucking hate those guys” and helped the settlers out because, seriously, fuck those guys.

    • Anthony says:

      It’s possible the Xhosa cattle-killing qualifies as your category 1.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Millenarianism in general fits into category 1. As Konkvistador says:

        When a movement promises the end of the world or a new one to arrive soon and is actually believed… you see ideas like opening of the granaries to feed the poor rather than the king’s soldiers, slaughtering cattle, holding property in common, free love, equality of the sexes, killing opponents ect. tend to arise and cluster together over and over again in the history of many seemingly unrelated movements. As time preferences seem to skyrocket, the movements accumulate rationalizations that justify actions that follow from these new preferences. Basically excuses to party while feeling quite morally superior. Besides half a dozen squalid little Medieval European heresies and many others, you also have a Xhosa prophetess and the Chinese brother of Jesus Christ.

        He adds:

        The Münster Rebellion provides insight into milleniarist cult evolution. “Matthys identified Münster as the “New Jerusalem”, and on January 5, 1534, a number of his disciples entered the city and introduced adult baptism. Rothmann apparently accepted “rebaptism” that day, and well over 1000 adults were soon baptised. Vigorous preparations were made, not only to hold what had been gained, but to proceed from Münster toward the conquest of the world.” If you are thinking that escalated quickly you are quite right. “John of Leiden’s authority grew, eventually proclaiming himself to be the successor of David…He legalized polygamy, and himself took sixteen wives… Community of goods was also established. ” It seems to match both the Excuses To Party and Holier Than Thou models I discussed in last month’s links post.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Christian takeover of ancient Rome is a lot like 1), if you allow a demographic implosion to count as a disaster.

      By the time it happened, the Roman Pagans were engaging in a lot of deficient behaviour (such as widespread infanticide), which lead to demographic depletion. Couple that with nomad invasions and the government’s inability to stop them (during the Punic Wars, the Romans utilized attrition tactics that the Soviet Union would find impressive, which inspired Roman modus operandi for centuries – despite the later inapplicability in their circumstances) due to lacking manpower, overtaxation of the populace and various welfare measures that address the symptoms but not the causes (bread and circuses), and you’ve got a situation where the highly decadent Pagan elites don’t have very much moral authority, and the Pagan plebeians aren’t in much better. The Empire’s slowly crumbling. Enter a weird sect spreading like wildfire among the ethnic minorities (Hebrews), whose practitioners are very obviously willing to die rather than transgress on their beliefs in accordance with Roman law (burning incense for the deified Emperor). Due to their rejection of infanticide and various other non-reproductive sexual practices, their numbers grow quickly despite being suppressed by the authorities. Eventually, even the Roman elites are infested with sect members (Christian women being attractive wife candidates, due to their rejection of premarital and extramarital sex), and when the Emperor becomes one, it’s effectively over for the Pagans.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Infested”? Nice choice of words there!

        A lot of noble/rich Roman women seem to have converted to Christianity; the reasons for this, if Christianity was associated with slaves, aliens and the poor, are interesting to speculate about.

        Certainly noble Roman women taking up foreign cultus was not new (witness the Isis craze), but there does seem to have been an element that women felt it protected or valued them more (e.g. bans on infanticide and exposure of unwanted children, who would have been daughters mostly; what St Augustine mentions about the ban on suicide, where this was taken as one more example of the bad influence of Christianity on good traditional morals, women who had been raped not committing suicide as proper Roman women should do, etc.) A lot of the martyrologies emphasise how women were standing up to/defying their male relatives and those in authority over them, from fathers and husbands to governors.

        You could make an argument that, unlike the pop culture idea of repressive Christianity driving women back into the home and making sex dirty (and I’ve seen this idea getting peddled all over again with the new series about King Alfred), women found Christianity liberating because it gave them the means of finding value in themselves as souls to be saved.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I think the idea of Christian oppression comes mostly from people who (usually unconsciously) take modern liberal morality to be the default state of affairs, and therefore assume that Christianity, insofar as it is opposed to liberalism, must represent a departure from the norm. From this it follows quite naturally that before Christianity came along everybody was nice and liberal.

          Of course, such a notion couldn’t survive one day’s study of pre-Christian society, but then again I suppose historical literacy isn’t exactly one of modern pop culture’s distinguishing features.

        • NN says:

          Even today, women are overrepresented in the lay membership of most Christian churches, to the point that Christian websites frequently run articles with titles like “How can we get men back in the pews on Sunday?” It would seem that some women find Christianity appealing even in comparison to modern secular society, so it isn’t surprising at all that many would find it more appealing than Roman society.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Any good sources on ancient Roman birth rates / demographic collapse? I haven’t seen birth rate mooted as an explanation for why Christianity took over Rome before.

      • Christianity now isn’t necessarily all that much like early Roman Christianity, and modern societies aren’t all that much like Rome of that era.

  14. Anthony says:

    Being drunk makes you more utilitarian.

    “The idea was to look more at the more moral and ethical implications of how alcohol might affect decision-making,” said Aaron Duke, one of the researchers.* His team found a correlation between each subject’s level of intoxication and his or her willingness to flip the switch or push the person—the drunker the subject, the more willing he or she was to kill one hypothetical person for the sake of the hypothetical many. This choice follows the logic of utilitarianism: More good is done by saving five people than harm is done by killing one.

    This “really undermines the notion that utilitarian preferences are merely the result of more deliberation,” said Duke, who also co-authored a paper on the study, charmingly titled, “The drunk utilitarian: Blood alcohol concentration predicts utilitarian responses in moral dilemmas.”

    • Linch says:

      This just sounds like drunk people are more likely to break social norms.

      I’d like to see a control trial determining the correlation “between each subject’s level of intoxication and his or her willingness to flip the switch” when it’s sacrificing the many for the sake of the few, or to push many orphans in front of a trolley to save a fat man.

      Sacrificial dilemmas are kinda silly anyway:
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027714002054

      From the article: “‘Utilitarian’ judgments in sacrificial moral dilemmas do not reflect impartial concern for the greater good.” Is anybody really surprised?

      • Anthony says:

        Sacrificial dilemmas are kinda silly anyway:

        The article actually noted that, though they didn’t use the word “silly”.

        I’d also question whether the particular questions test more for utilitarianism or sociopathy.

      • Deiseach says:

        Does anybody take the trolley problem seriously, though? Get me drunk and I’d go “Hell, yeah, I’ll push the guy in front of the train – whee! spluuush!” or “Nah, I wanna see the six people get splattered all over the rails! Go go, runaway train!”

        Trolley problems are silly. In future, whether drunk or sober, I’m going to go for maximum DEATH CARNAGE BLOOD’N’GUTS SCRUBBED OFF THE LINES FOR DAYS in my answers 🙂

  15. Doctor Mist says:

    Scott, your taboo announcement spurred me to go back and reread your Planet-Sized Nutshell, which I stumbled on after reading a bit of Moldbug. I still consider it the best exposition I have found, despite reading all the way through Unqualified Reservations, Anissimov’s book, and a fair bit of the top-level stuff at the Hestia Society.

    By “best”, of course I mean “most agreeable”. Arriving at the brink of [you know what] via libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism, I was naturally put off by some of the more authoritarian and religious threads I sometimes saw, and I think your vaguely utilitarian steelmanning was a better match to what I was coming to suspect if not yet believe.

    I of course also read your rebuttal, because in those days I found it all unsettling enough that I was eager to read somebody who would explain how I was being misled. The combination of the two was what got me to reading SSC regularly in general, even when you perversely insist on talking about something else. 🙂

    Even at the time, though, I could not help noticing that your rebuttal tears into Moldbug and Anissimov (with some success) but nevertheless is pretty thoroughly tangential to what I thought was the strongest and most convincing theme of the Nutshell: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

    Has enough time gone by that you could give the Nutshell a thorough fisking?

    If not, how would you feel about my using “Nutshellism” to replace the taboo word in future?

    • Aegeus says:

      I’m not Scott, but the main rebuttal I would give to “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” is to point out that “stop digging a hole” is very different from “clone James II and put him on the throne.” Those “stop digging” changes – restricted immigration, traditional gender roles, tell the PC police to get lost, use a brute-force foreign policy, give Israel carte blanche to stomp out Palestinian resistance… they all sound like mainstream Republican ideas. So it’s not really an argument for James II, it’s an argument for Donald Trump.

      Imagining a Trump presidency should suggest another problem with Nutshellism – how do you implement it without dragging along a lot of other baggage that we don’t want? Even if immigration controls, traditional gender roles, and American culture are all totally awesome, that’s not an argument against Progressivism in general. There are plenty of other places – the economy, abortion, health care – where I don’t want the Republicans in charge. And I certainly don’t want to roll the clock back even further, to the era of slavery or segregation!

      So yes, if we find ourselves in a hole, stop digging. But let’s not pretend that Progressives are the only people holding shovels.

      • Anonymous says:

        Are you saying that, roughly speaking, you are socially conservative and fiscally liberal (in the modern sense of the word)? If so, that’s an interesting perspective. Can you expand on that at all? I’m intrigued.

        • Aegeus says:

          …huh. I suppose it does look that way. I’d say that my viewpoint was a little skewed from usual because I just got done reading a gigantic spiel about Why Social Conservativism is the Best Thing Ever (while not making any similar claims about the economy). I’m normally a lot more liberal – I’m personally traditional from my upbringing but I don’t care much about who else is. My point was more that even if you believe everything that the Nutshell post says about the flaws of progressivism, it’s not by itself an argument for Monarchism, or even Republicanism. You’re looking for good policies regardless of which umbrella they fall under.

          And also, I just really don’t like the Republican candidates we’ve got on offer, hence the jab at a Trump presidency.

        • anon says:

          I think it’s the perspective of most Catholic or Christian Democratic parties, several of which are quite mainstream in their respective countries

      • Doctor Mist says:

        @Aegeus:

        Heh. I couldn’t help noticing this:

        Those “stop digging” changes … they all sound like mainstream Republican ideas.

        Then your conclusion:

        So yes, if we find ourselves in a hole, stop digging. But let’s not pretend that Progressives are the only people holding shovels.

        The whole point is that current Republican and Democratic policy disagrees only on how fast to dig!

        I certainly don’t want to roll the clock back even further, to the era of slavery or segregation!

        Please review the Nutshell, which takes great pains, over and over and over, to disavow the notion of reinstituting slavery or segregation or colonialism.

  16. zigzag says:

    How about an open thread with commenting disabled? Like the sound of one hand clapping.

  17. Mr. Eldritch. says:

    I don’t find Todd Rider’s crowdfunding not doing well to be surprising at all. I have a strong gut reaction that, if it actually worked as claimed, it wouldn’t need crowdfunding. The whole idea of “Support my Kickstarter to cure all viruses!” sets off every single “do not crowdfund” alarm bell.

    I’m not saying he’s a liar and that it doesn’t actually work. I’m just saying that crowdfunding donations require a judgement of “will this pay off or not?”, and I suspect most of the crowdfunding public has a roughly similar set of heuristics.

  18. I took a bit of a gamble, and it hasn’t blown up in my face– I posted a link about police murder of a white man as Police Brutality Matters. It’s been shared, and no one has complained that I’m appropriating Black Lives Matter.

  19. anonymous says:

    The one thing that was seemingly missed in the otherwise excellent thrive/survive post is the distinct element joy-of-anticipation element that’s tied in with the belief in the impending zombie apocalypse. It seems very much like fresh troops looking forward to their first battle (at least in movies).

    It’s hinted at in the second to last paragraph (“purest expression of rightist wish-fulfillment fantasy.”) but I think it deserves a more prominent place, at least as a means of describing the unbridgeable gap. If it were just a matter of pessimism and optimism that gap might be bridgeable but when one side both expects and wants utopia and the other expects and at least sort-of wants dystopia that’s not bridgeable.

  20. Jaksologist says:

    One of the recent threads derailed into environmentalism, which reminded me of the 1990 Earth Day Special. Bask in the glory of nostalgia, all you old folks; basically every celebrity from back then is in that thing. It is every bit as glorious as I remembered.

    This was shown to me in public school when I was young and impressionable, and sent me into a bit of a panic. My parents, deconverted college environmentalists themselves, talked me down, and I’ve never trusted the doomsaying crowd since.

    Some choice quotes:

    “In the year 2057, the last of the last rainforests will be gone.”

    “How long can the Earth survive?” “Maybe as little as 100 years”
    (Note: we’re down to 75 years now)

    “By the year 1991, 1/3 of the nation’s landfills will be full. Garbage overload is a problem we have to be able to solve.”

    • Urstoff says:

      Kid ‘n Play! Murphy Brown! Oh to be in 1990 again…

    • Deiseach says:

      And things like that is why I am cool about the whole Climate Change/Anthropogenic Global Warming flap. When you’ve lived through a selection of “the sky is falling” we’re all gonna die! end of the world! scenarios that are just around the corner, it’s a bit much to be slapped over the head with “Denialist!” if you’re not wetting your knickers in panic about This Time For Sure Really Gonna Kill Us All Dead!!!!

      Are humans having an effect on the environment? Of course. Should we cut back on pollution? Absolutely! But are we all science hating science deniers if we’re not running around waving our hands in the air in a panic? I am not so sure on that last.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I don’t even notice average Blues running around waving their hands in the air in a panic. I saw more panic over Kim Davis during her 15 days of fame (or whatever) than about AGW, which is occasionally talked up as so bad that agriculture will cease to work and we’ll die off to HG population densities or worse.
        What’s up with that?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Probably in-group/out-group dynamics have something to do with it. Fighting against some hypothetical future extreme weather might be important, but it doesn’t give quite the same visceral thrill as getting into a scrap with a member of the out-group.

      • Tibor says:

        I think that the climate debate is such a mess that I prefer to ignore it most of the time. Also for two other reasons:

        1. Whatever one country does (as long as it is not China or India) has a tiny effect on the global warming anyway. Save for creating a world government, there simply does not seem to be a good way to make sure you actually cut down emissions in a meaningful way even if it is a problem. And I am talking countries now. As I private person I cannot influence anything at all.

        2. I can influence other things though. I heard someone say the other day “let’s concentrate less on global warming and more on local pollution”. There is a lot of stuff one can improve there and see actual results. It also seems to be much more clear and far less politicized. Of course local does not have to mean in your town but the point is that you do not have to convince dozens of countries to achieve your goal.

        • Note that while you, or a country other than a very large one, can have almost no effect on the cause of AGW, you can have an effect on the consequences. Holding down emissions is a public good and faces the public good problem. Diking your bit of coastline is a private good, at least at the national level and sometimes the individual, as is irrigating against drought in your fields.

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/dealing-with-climate-change-prevention.html

          • Tibor says:

            There still seem to be some consequences you cannot (at least not in a way known to me) turn into private goods though. If global warming turns Amazon into a desert, I would personally consider it a loss. If nothing else it is a place I would like to see one day, there seem to be global benefits in terms of air filtration as well and if one considers extinction of a multitude of species as a cost, that too is something one has to consider. How much I value it however, that I don’t even know myself.

            At the same time, making parts of Antarctica habitable for creatures other than penguins and polar explorers seems quite exciting (though hopefully, the Shoggoths who reside there in the depths beneath the ancient cities of the mountains of madness would not manage to escape :))

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Tibor: The way to defend your personal interest in Amazon preservation in a private goods sort of way, AIUI, would be to purchase a share in the Amazon from whoever has them. This assumes, of course, that the Amazon rainforest has been designated a publicly traded resource. (Initial shares would probably be provided wholly to current inhabitants.) Once you had a share (or more), you would then have a vote (per share) in any economic decisions made about usage of the rainforest, including development and research.

            In addition to money you could raise by selling off parts to developers, would be revenue from tourism, and exploration rights to prospectors and naturalists (minus deductions for any interest you might have in their findings).

          • Tibor says:

            Paul Brinkley: That does not seem to work. You can buy land, you cannot buy weather. What you propose is a good way to fight deforestation, in fact one quite successful Amazon preservation charity seems to be doing in a way exactly this. They do not buy land themselves, but they lobby for the ownership rights of the natives. There seems to be evidence that (not so surprisingly) when the land is transferred to them, the deforestation is dramatically reduced. Also, at least if you (as most libertarians…I see it as a kind of good rule of thumb but there are also problems associated with it) acknowledge that the proper way of acquiring new land is by homesteading, then the land belongs to those people (I guess that in this case, pretty much everyone would agree that it belongs to them, not just libertarians).

            It is these guys http://www.rainforestfoundation.org/

            I am actually considering regularly donating some money to them but I would first like to find out whether there are no other charities that do the same thing more efficiently (also, they do not seem to be accommodated to donors from Europe so that one has to either use Paypal or wire transfer to the US, which is a bit annoying since it creates needless costs). I think those people are not libertarians, but the way they do it, they might as well be.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Converting publicly owned land to private is not really my proposal; in fact, I’d say it borrows heavily from similar proposals I’ve seen David Friedman make in at least one of his books or talks, and he’s likely borrowed such ideas in turn.

            I assumed your concern over the Amazon in particular was wrt deforestation, so I ran with that.

            As for weather, it can work, although I certainly admit that it would be more difficult. In that case, people would be owners of the atmosphere over their land, say, and perhaps initially, they would be assigned partial ownership over atmosphere over neighboring land (meaning *all* atmospheric ownership would be partial, in fact). Then they start exchanging controlling shares. Over time, people who trade their interests in airspace would tend to acquire more interest in space upwind from them, just as people with water interests would trade for control over rivers upstream.

            A brief skim of Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom turns up a scheme for addressing air pollution that centers around suing for damages, but it assumes government control of air rights (in most of the book, he discusses ancap methods). It also describes the structure in terms of cost of cleanup, rather than allowances driven by property ownership, which I think is reasonable.

          • Tibor says:

            Paul: My problem is not as much with pollution, which can perhaps be reasonably controlled locally as with temperature. If the temperature increases to a point where the tropical forest turns into desert because the trees cannot withstand the high temperature. Temperature cannot be influenced locally at all. I don’t know how realistic that is and how durable the rainforest is (so would +2 degrees of average temperature turn the rainforest to a desert or would you need +5 or +10 ?), but if we assume that the change is strong enough to kill it, then we are back where we were and where there are no easy ways to convert this into a private good.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Ohh, sorry. I didn’t see your global warming point because the rainforest got in the way.

            Although… I think my argument still applies here. Temperature, for your practical purposes, will still be local; you’re not really caring about the global average so much as you are about the temperature where the Amazon is.

            Temperature *is* subject to local influence, as any A/C unit will demonstrate. Okay, okay, less facetiously: I suspect the temperature over the Amazon will be more influenced by the temperature of the Caribbean and central Atlantic Ocean, and less by the central Pacific due to the Andes, and less still by the weather over New York. I think the exact extent isn’t known, despite much research and interest, due to a profusion of confounding factors. Nevertheless, if personal interest is on the line, then proximity is how I expect people will estimate primary effects.

            Given that, I would expect an insurance structure to emerge – some agency sets odds, and interested parties buy premiums in return for the insurer’s subsidy of various measures to repair any damage incurred by temperature extremes in nearby locales.

            Of course, proving damage will itself be potentially expensive. Meanwhile, it might even be unnecessary; note the evidence of large amounts of vegetation over the earth’s surface during the Mesozoic, when temperatures were noticeably higher. You might have plenty of rainforest to visit when the time comes.

        • ” Save for creating a world government, there simply does not seem to be a good way to make sure you actually cut down emissions in a meaningful way even if it is a problem.”

          Doesn’t nuclear non proliferation stand as an example of successful international co-operation?

          • John Schilling says:

            The number of nations which have acquired nuclear weapons outside of the international non-proliferation regime, is now equal to the number of nations which have acquired nuclear weapons within that regime. At least two more nations would probably have joined that club save for the unilateral military action of one of the non-proliferation regime’s conspicuous dissenters. Only one nation has ever given up a nuclear arsenal, and that for purely domestic political reasons at a time when the international non-proliferation regime wasn’t even aware that they had a nuclear arsenal.

            This is about the level of “success” that the United States has had in keeping out illegal immigrants.

          • Chalid says:

            I’d pick the Montreal Protocol (which essentially saved the ozone layer) as the best example.

          • Buckyballas says:

            I also disagree with the quote from Tibor for another reason. One fairly simple (in principle anyway) way to reduce emissions is to make low emitting energy cost preferable to high emitting energy. If you’ve looked at a photovoltaic cost curve recently, you’ll know that solar costs have halved since 2010 (halved! in 5 years!). Grid parity (without subsidies) is already here in some geographies and will be here soon in others. The whole intermittency thing is still a big issue, but $/kWh is getting close to even with gas and coal.

            I happen to be one of those people who is nevertheless in favor, in principle, of political action (at the local, national, and international level) to incentivize emissions reduction, but even the libertarians among us can get behind the cost argument.

            disclosure: I work in solar R&D. Happily, I am one of those private citizens who actually can “influence anything at all”!

          • Evan Þ says:

            ” Only one nation has ever given up a nuclear arsenal”

            Are you talking about South Africa, Kazakhstan, or Ukraine? (It might also be relevant that the one of those three is probably wishing now it still was a nuclear power…)

          • John Schilling says:

            The Ukraine and Kazakhstan never had nuclear arsenals. They had for a time physical possession of parts, but only parts, of someone else’s nuclear arsenal, but the same can be said of e.g. Canada, (West) Germany, and even Belgium. The parts they possessed, did not in and of themselves constitute a nuclear arsenal. They had the technical expertise to have constructed a nuclear arsenal with this hardware, if they had chosen to steal it from its legal owners. They did not chose to ever create a nuclear arsenal from the resources available to them.

            South Africa chose to build a nuclear arsenal, did build and possess a nuclear arsenal, and then chose to permanently destroy its nuclear arsenal.

            And while I can’t speak to what the Ukranians might wish for, actually owning a nuclear arsenal would have been worse than useless for them over the past twenty-four years.

          • Tibor says:

            Buckyballas: OK, good point. You can invent a more efficient solar/wind/nuclear/cold fusion (that would be awesome) power plant as a private citizen. I guess inventing more efficient solar plants is much easier than inventing cold fusion. You might also invest money into power plant research. You also might be more interested in that if you believe that global warming is on net a cost and a high cost. The incentives are still against you though. Say you can invest into a research of a more efficient coal power plant which makes you twice as much money in return than a more efficient solar plant. The coal plant is producing pollution which is a public bad (although possibly one possible to privatize in some way) and contributing to global warming (which is a public bad that is hard to privatize). As far as incentives go, you would go for the coal plant.

            But you made a good point nevertheless – I said “I cannot do anything about global warming as an individual”, you suggested that I can invest into more efficient power plants which, being cheaper, convince people quite easily. But while the electricity bill cost part of the benefit from them is private, the warming cost is public and therefore they are likely to be underfinanced. But your comment still weakens my statement.

    • A says:

      If the “doomsaying crowd” is saying at least a 1% chance of global warming reducing our GDP by over 50% by 2300, I’d go with the doomsayers.

      • Sastan says:

        And if the non-doomsaying crowd says there’s a 1% chance adopting the “solutions” set out by the doomsayers will reduce our GDP by 50% by 2050?

        I mean, if we’re just making up numbers, and the standard is “whatever sounds worse”, what’s to stop us?

        As I’ve argued many times before, this is a common fallacy I’ve seen among people who should be too smart to fall for Pascal’s Mugging.

        • A says:

          a 1% chance adopting the “solutions” set out by the doomsayers will reduce our GDP by 50% by 2050?

          If the doomsayers are wrong because they’re just picking bad solutions, then point out problems with the solutions. If no solution is possible-well, is anyone claiming that?

          The 1% figure is from Weitzman and the year 2300 is from here

      • I don’t think any such estimates as far out as 2300 should be taken seriously, with the possible exception of asteroid strikes, which can be predicted that far out if the orbit is well established. We have no good idea what humans will be like, whether they will still exist, what they will be doing, what powers they will or will not have, that far into the future.

        To get some feel for the magnitudes, consider that if world economic growth averages three percent, a reduction in GNP by 50% by 2300 means that GNP will be only somewhat over two thousand times as high as it now is instead of somewhat over four thousand times.

        I also think that people who worry about whether storage of nuclear waste will be secure for a hundred thousand years or only fifty thousand have a weak grasp on reality.

        • A says:

          About the only things we can plan for on such a timescale (or for that matter, any timescale over, at the most, 30 years-a figure you mentioned!) are based on an assumption of scientific stagnation. Yes, we have to reduce the value of the plans by a factor reflecting the chance of something other than stagnation happening. But stagnation could occur, so we should still plan somewhat.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I find it funny that the same people who are afraid open borders will doom us all call global warming a silly panic.

      They both seem to be cases where under certain assumptions a gradual process can eventually erode a lot of useful things, probably not dooming civilization but possibly making things much tougher.

      To say that we absolutely need to be concerned about immigration (which we can’t model) but not global warming (which we sort of can) seems really motivated.

      • Anonymous says:

        Personally, my concern about immigration is with regard to those who would, under your Archipelago thought experiment, choose to live on an island with a strong, unified culture. If you’re someone who prefers that kind of society as your personal bubble, as opposed to, say, a personal bubble of intelligent people of mostly grey tribe affiliation that you interact with through the internet, then immigration plus laws designed to prevent isolated native communities from forming (and indeed preventing isolated non-native communities from forming, which is why I have more sympathy for gentrification opponents than other libertarian-leaning folks probably do) hurts your attempts at forming an archipelago while leaving others untouched. At which point those others might well wonder what you’re complaining about and what kind of ignorant racist wouldn’t want people from all cultures of the world coming into their community and changing it for the better, before returning to their own community that excludes everyone it wants to, either because it exists in a different environment where it can do that, or because the factors it excludes for are not on the list of forbidden factors that one must not exclude based on.

        I’m not sure there is any good reason to consider realspace communities any more harmful or monopolistic or anything else than online communities. To take one example, I expect that a regular SSC commenter would suffer far more from being banned from here than a gay couple would from being unable to buy a cake from any one bakery – unless that bakery happened to be one of the best bakeries in the world. That latter example obviously isn’t immigration, but it’s a violation of the kind of separate communities that I think most immigration opponents want, even in spite of immigration restrictions probably not being a very good way to go about achieving that.

        • brad says:

          There are places you can go and form a separate community. People throughout American history have done so. If you pay whatever taxes you owe, don’t stockpile too many guns, and people that leave don’t have stories of child sex abuse or the like — no one will bother you.

          Even if you technically couldn’t exclude anyone (which you probably could if you set things up correctly) no foreign immigrants are going to want to move to Great White Hope Ranch, Idaho.

          If that’s not good enough because it just gets under your skin that there are people out there sharing the same country as you that have a different culture, well I think you’ve already lost that battle. Maybe look into seasteading.

          • Anonymous says:

            Probably true, but I think in many cases there are legal factors that make doing this prohibitively costly.

            “If that’s not good enough because it just gets under your skin that there are people out there sharing the same country as you that have a different culture, well I think you’ve already lost that battle.”

            Absolutely. But I would argue that this applies equally to people on both sides. For example, to people who don’t want anyone in their country having gay sex as much as to people who don’t want anyone in their country making cakes for straight couples but not gay couples. Inasmuch as there are opinions that ought to be changed, I am strongly of the view that the opinions this applies to are ones that require everyone else in the country/world/universe to conform to one person’s preferences.

            Being homophobic is mean, I would not deny that for a moment, but unless it is of the “nobody should be allowed to be gay in my country” kind, it is at least a preference that can be reasonably satisfied by those that hold it isolating themselves, just not interacting with people they don’t like. Being upset that there is anyone in the country who would not bake you a cake if you wanted them to is a preference that cannot be satisfied without making everyone else in the country do what you want, and in the conflict between these two views I would quash the latter over the former, in spite of thinking that people holding the first view are probably unkind.

          • brad says:

            If you are on Great White Hope Ranch baking cakes in exchange for vegetables and help putting up your barn ( Heck even if you are taking gold — I’m sure GWHR isn’t going to use government fiat money) no one is going to sue you under public accommodation laws, even if Idaho had laws like that, which it doesn’t.

            What you can’t do is go to Oregon, Maine, New York, New Mexico or one of the other ~20 states that have LGBT public accommodation laws, start a business open to the public at large, take part in the many subsidies and advantages our society offers to formal businesses and then decide that the rules that come with those many benefits don’t apply to you.

            As compared to many western countries we are pretty tolerant of people that want to go off and do their own thing — the Amish, fundamentalist Mormons, white supremacists, hippie communes, and so on. But you don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. Nor should you.

          • Cauê says:

            take part in the many subsidies and advantages our society offers to formal businesses and then decide that the rules that come with those many benefits don’t apply to you

            What those rules are and what they should be is what’s under dispute.

            I’m also not moved by the assumption of unrelated moral obligations for “taking part” in things one can’t choose and can’t opt out of.

          • Anonymous says:

            Seconding what Cauê said. When we’re discussing what we think the law ought to be, saying “that’s against the law” is a very lazy cop-out.

          • onyomi says:

            “As compared to many western countries we are pretty tolerant of people that want to go off and do their own thing — the Amish, fundamentalist Mormons, white supremacists, hippie communes, and so on.”

            Except you still have to pay the same taxes as everyone, even for services you never use, and you still have to follow all local, state, and federal laws, even if you are living in a commune in the woods. Remember, growing grain on your own farm for personal consumption affects interstate commerce.

            Also, the assumption behind this sentiment makes me angry: we, as a society, have a right to be in everybody’s business, but because we’re so nice, we let people be weird and do their own thing. The better assumption to start with would be that we need a good justification to be in others’ business, not that we are incredibly nice and enlightened not to do so.

          • brad says:

            @Cauê
            Of course you can opt out, most obviously by not incorporating and assuming full personal liability. More extensively by moving to GWHR instead of trying to open a business in e.g. Portland, Oregon which is such a great place to open a business precisely because of all the nice things provided by people whose culture they want to opt out of.

            As for the rules being under dispute, certainly they are. But you haven’t convinced me that there’s anything wrong with the one ~20ish have picked.

            The argument seems to be that public accommodation laws make it impossible for people that want to reject mainstream culture and form their own bubble to be happy. But as I’ve pointed out they have options. They just would rather have all the things they consider benefits of our culture while opting out of those they don’t like. To that I say, too bad.

            @onyomi
            It’s not Somalia, but the freedom of action is fairly high, even more so de facto than de jure.

          • onyomi says:

            “They just would rather have all the things they consider benefits of our culture while opting out of those they don’t like. To that I say, too bad.”

            Wanting to benefit from trade and the division of labor and living in a society without simultaneously agreeing that all your property and labor and fruits of labor belong to that society, a majority of which members can arbitrarily vote to tell you how to use them? What an outrage!

            Next you’ll suggest that the guy who sold me my car has no say in what I name my first born child.

          • brad says:

            @onyomi
            Typical libertarian hyperbole. Next you’ll be telling me taxes are theft.

            I don’t think we have enough axioms in common to make discussion fruitful. Cheers.

          • onyomi says:

            But I can always go live in the middle of the ocean. Oh boy, what great options our tolerant society allows to me.

            Also, there is a difference between reductio ad absurdum for consideration of underlying principles and hyperbole for pure rhetorical effect. Above, I was engaged in the former. Re. living on the ocean, it is neither, since you actually suggested seasteading, which, while it might be a good option some day, is certainly not a viable alternative right now.

            Also, the very fact we have to consider seasteading in a world with so much uninhabited, unused space on land just goes to show how all-encompassing and intolerant governments really are today.

            I mean, it’s an interesting idea, and I’m glad people like Patri Friedman are working on it, but it’s also a little sad and pathetic that we even have to suggest it. I suppose in 200 years when all the good ocean space is claimed by various governments, we’ll have to move to outer space or other planets.

            Yeah, the US government won’t send me to a re-education brain-washing camp like the Chinese might, but that’s a pretty low bar.

          • Cauê says:

            Typical libertarian hyperbole.

            Same level as yours, only different sign.

            This “rejecting mainstream culture” is a very weird way to slice the problem, and you’d have to start by convincing us it makes sense at all.

            It would also be interesting to examine if you think it applies to all rejections of all aspects of mainstream culture, in particular where and when “mainstream culture” isn’t currently dominated by your tribe’s morals.

          • Anonymous says:

            @brad

            “all the nice things provided by people whose culture they want to opt out of.”

            But so far as I can tell, all those nice things are only provided if the people providing them want to do so. If there are subsidies, cut the subsidies. Trade, on the other hand, is something that only happens if both parties agree. So I’m not sure how you can argue that those who want to opt out of the culture are claiming any benefit without giving anything in return.

            Your argument that these people can opt out if they want to would probably look weaker if you turned it around: “People can set up businesses if they want to, but in doing so, they’re agreeing to the rule forbidding gay sex, as agreed by a majority vote in their state. If they want to run a business AND have gay sex, they can do so by going to the wilderness and starting a homestead.”

            More generally, my argument is that the kind of preferences that demand everyone in the state, everyone in the nation, the world, agree to follow one person’s morality, are not good preferences to have or to try to meet. Quite aside from whether you agree with them or not, there is no mechanism by which they can be satisfied well, and they require upsetting a whole lot of people whose preferences can be satisfied by a system that does work and doesn’t require everyone else to want the same thing.

          • brad says:

            @Cauê
            Rejecting mainstream culture was Anonymous’ frame in his original response about wanting to live on an island with a strong unified culture.

            I pointed out that he could in fact come pretty close to that by forming a separate Utopian community as groups have done often in American history. It was in the sur-reply that s/he brought up they anti-gay bakery.

            @Anonymous
            We drew a line at places of public accommodation because of actual experience with genuine hardship caused by discrimination by places of public accommodation. This isn’t about forcing everyone to follow consensus morality. It is a specific regulation of public economic activity of businesses holding themselves out as open the public. Only doctrinaire libertarians refuse to see that distinction as relevant.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            In the interests of brevity I suggest that the rejecters of mainstream culture be referred to as “deviants”, and the place Brad wants to confine them to as “the closet”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @brad

            My understanding is that the laws in the US went from “the government requires you to discriminate” to “the government requires you to not discriminate”, at least with regard to race, which I presume is the context you mean when you talk about genuine hardship. Is that incorrect?

            “I pointed out that he could in fact come pretty close to that by forming a separate Utopian community as groups have done often in American history.”

            I did mention early on that, while this can technically be done, because of various laws it requires incurring a high cost, namely moving to somewhere far enough away from civilization that nobody will bother you. I think that’s a bad thing, because I don’t think there’s any good reason for one group’s preferences to be imposed on everyone in the state. This is not because I don’t think those people genuinely hold those preferences, aren’t genuinely upset that there might be any baker in the state who wouldn’t serve them a cake if they wanted, but because I think the mechanisms for satisfying those kind of preferences are bad enough, and the mechanisms for meeting alternative local-scope preferences that they prevent from being realized are good enough, that prioritizing the first over the second is a bad idea. If pretty much everyone agrees on the issue, such as that pollution is bad, then there’s certainly a good case to be made. Not so much when it’s one group against another, where one side’s views can be satisfied by market institutions while the other side’s views can’t.

            I’m also not sure what ‘places of public accommodation’ is supposed to suggest. We are currently communicating somewhere that seems to me to be just as much a place of public accommodation as a bakery is. Scott pays for the servers, but this is a public website. As I said above, I highly suspect that the impact on someone who viewed SSC as part of their community of getting banned from here would be far greater than the impact on a gay couple of being unable to buy a cake from any particular bakery. We aren’t required to excommunicate ourselves from civilization to post here; I don’t see any reason that someone who wants to do their careful selection of who they do and don’t interact with in realspace ought to be either.

            Two more points: I do not consider myself a doctrinaire libertarian, so there’s at least one counterexample to your statement. And I might not have made this clear enough, but I am not saying that I personally want to isolate myself from my realspace community in a way that would upset those who share your viewpoint on this issue. I sympathise with those that do because as far as I can tell, my preferences for who I interact with are no more provably morally correct than theirs.

          • brad says:

            My understanding is that the laws in the US went from “the government requires you to discriminate” to “the government requires you to not discriminate”. Is that incorrect?

            That happened in a few cases, but the bulk of the discrimination that inspired by Title II of the Civil Rights Act was not required by state law. For example if you read the Heart of Atlanta Motel case that upheld the constitutionality of Title II it says the motel had a “practice of refusing to rent rooms to Negroes” and intended to continue to do so.

            I’m also not sure what ‘places of public accommodation’ is supposed to suggest. We are currently communicating somewhere that seems to me to be just as much a place of public accommodation as a bakery is. Scott pays for the servers, but this is a public website. As I said above, I highly suspect that the impact on someone who viewed SSC as part of their community of getting banned from here would be far greater than the impact on a gay couple of being unable to buy a cake from any particular bakery.

            Certain websites would qualify, I don’t think facebook could legally bar black people from joining, but SSC would probably be okay. Still, If I were him, I’d consult a lawyer before contemplating a “no blacks” policy.

            If effectively everyone agrees on the view, such as that pollution is bad, then there’s certainly a good case to be made.

            Effectively everyone does agree. The debate is about which groups qualify for non-discrimination in public accommodations, not the underlying policy. That debate was already settled 35 years ago.

            I don’t see any particular reason to hold off on adding more groups to the list because there’s only 60% support rather than 90%. What ever absolutist property rights argument there is on the other side already lost when we reached consensus for race based discrimination.

            We aren’t required to excommunicate ourselves from civilization to post here; I don’t see any reason that someone who wants to do their careful selection of who they do and don’t interact with in realspace ought to be either.

            You can limit your interactions to whomever you like. You just can’t run a public accommodation and discriminate against protected classes.

            That doesn’t seem like such a harsh or unreasonable imposition to me. No more so than requiring stores to pay minimum wage or restaurants to have food inspectors.

            FWIW while while I think Hobby Lobby got the Religious Freedom Restoration Act right the law itself is a bad one, and the Employment Division rule is a much better one.

            If you Christian precepts require you not to pay for contraception for employees that work for your fairly large corporation then maybe being a business owner isn’t what jesus wants you to be doing with your life. Just as if your Christian beliefs required you to not charge for goods you couldn’t practically run a crafts store. Some strongly held beliefs come with consequences, that’s on the believer not everyone else.

            I sympathise with those that do because as far as I can tell, my preferences for who I interact with are no more provably morally correct than theirs.

            Are you more certain about the immorality of murder? Do you worry about imposing your morality in passing anti-theft laws? What makes this particular law a bridge too far?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I second Paul Z’s motion.

          • Anonymous says:

            [Warning: long. Sorry about that.]

            “Still, If I were him, I’d consult a lawyer before contemplating a “no blacks” policy.”

            Okay, but why only consult a lawyer rather than “this is obviously wrong”? Morally speaking, what makes SSC different than realspace with regards to exclusion? I would continue to argue that being banned from here would be much worse than being banned from any realspace restaurant, bakery, whatever. This is far, far more unique an environment than any of those places. You have much more to lose out on than you do from not having Generic Bakery #15 bake you a cake.

            I would also point out that the more bakeries refuse to bake for you, the more demand is going unmet, the more the market will respond and create Gay Bakeries that specialize in gay wedding cakes. There is a clear feedback mechanism that would prevent your demand from actually going unmet – so long as your demand is just “I want a cake” rather than “I want every bakery in the world to be prepared to make me a cake”.

            “For example if you read the Heart of Atlanta Motel case that upheld the constitutionality of Title II it says the motel had a “practice of refusing to rent rooms to Negroes” and intended to continue to do so.”

            Okay. Was this the genuine hardship you referred to? Do you think it’s a genuine enough hardship to overturn what seems to me to be a reasonable rule of “prefer institutions that work (re: allowing people to satisfy their preferences) over institutions that don’t”? Because I don’t think I do.

            In fact I will point out an interesting discovery I made: with some assumptions that seem to me to be not unreasonable, you can model this kind of problem – satisfying preferences that must apply to everyone versus satisfying local preferences – and the outcome suggests that prioritizing local preferences will tend to lead to greater satisfaction.

            I’ll explain: take a grid of 100 squares, and 100 individuals, some of them yellow, some of them purple (to choose colors that I don’t think have any strong political affiliation), each of which sits in a different square. Yellows’ satisfaction is determined by the percentage of squares on the grid that are yellow. Purples are 0% satisfied if they are in a yellow square and 100% satisfied if they are in a purple square. What colors should you paint the squares in order to maximize total satisfaction?

            The interesting answer is that, even if there is only one purple and 99 yellows, the answer is still to have one purple square (with the purple individual in it) and the rest yellow. If you think the assumptions this model involves are stupid, please let me know, but I’ve thought about it a little and I don’t think they are, at least not as a baseline for understanding. This seems to suggest that all else being equal, local preferences ought to take priority over preferences that require unanimous application. This is a second argument for prioritizing this kind of preference, alongside the point I’ve already made regarding the institutions that serve to satisfy local preferences working much better than those required to satisfy preferences that must be unanimously applied.

            Back to your arguments: that this debate was settled 35 years ago is far from clear, given the recent disagreement over gay wedding cakes that served as the initial example for this discussion. I think that there is far more consensus that pollution is bad than that every business ought to serve everyone who wants to be served. Not only that but I mentioned pollution specifically because it causes an externality. The analogous situation re: businesses would be not just that everyone thinks businesses ought to serve everyone, but that people will be hurt if they don’t and yet would prefer to discriminate with their own business, meaning the rational choice for each of them would be to discriminate even if they preferred that everyone didn’t. I think you will find even less consensus for that than for the weaker claim that everyone prefers businesses to serve everyone and is happy to go along with this themself.

            “What makes this particular law a bridge too far?”

            I would require a strong reason to think that doing this (i.e. letting people choose who they serve) was very harmful before I would support the prevention of it using the institutions that would be required to do so, since those institutions work much less well than the ones that allow those people to satisfy that preference. I don’t have any such strong reason. So far as I can tell, not wanting to serve certain people based on dumb reasons makes you an asshole, but I don’t think the harm created either by assholes not wanting to associate with people they don’t like, nor by people being in the same country as an asshole doing such, is strong enough to pass my requirements.

          • brad says:

            With intending to cause any offense: are you American? Or familiar with the history of the civil rights era in the US?

            You can go read about concrete hardships that occurred which lead up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congress held extensive hearings (primarily intended to show that it affected interstate commerce) and the Supreme Court cited this testimony. The magic hand of the free market did not work in the way you describe. Your model is all well and good, but I refute it thus.

            As for the debate being settled, obviously it isn’t with respect to gays but it is with respect to black people. Once that’s conceded I don’t see how you can say that adding another group violates some sort of deep principle.

          • Anonymous says:

            @brad

            “With intending to cause any offense: are you American?”

            No.

            Regarding hardships, I’m sure they did occur. I would point out though that, during the time they occurred, they were presumably widely accepted, up until the point at which there was pressure to change the law. These things occurred together but it is not clear to me that the legal change prevented the hardships, rather than that the cultural change which ended the hardships also caused the legal change.

            I will thus make three points. One, that government requirement of non-discrimination would not have been politically possible at the time when the view that it was acceptable was widespread. Two, that in such a situation, allowing property owners to make these choices is highly likely to lead to a more equitable outcome than having the government decide. I’m sure there were situations in which a black person was refused entry to a restaurant, but it seems likely that many business owners would have chosen profit over principles – certainly more than would have in the places where the government required business owners to discriminate. Three, we are talking about today, in a culture where racial discrimination is not widely accepted. Hence I find it highly unlikely that it would occur anywhere other than a few isolated places.

          • onyomi says:

            “The magic hand of the free market did not work in the way you describe.”

            It was not allowed to work. The whole point of Jim Crow laws was to prevent profit-minded businesses from defecting against the “prevent race mixing in public spaces” political consensus, which, by the way, was what “we” civic-minded Southerners had “decided” was going to be a prerequisite for enjoying the benefits of trade and civilization in our society.

            Above, you imply that it was mostly private businesses voluntarily choosing to discriminate that was the problem, but if most private businesses were already voluntarily enforcing segregation, why, then pass laws like:

            “It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment.”

            If, living in the time and place when this law was in effect, I had attempted to open a restaurant which served whites and blacks in the same room, and yet to continue to enjoy the other benefits of civilization and trade, your same democratic logic would have accused me of wanting to have my cake and eat it too.

            And since you brought up minimum wage: it has a racist history too: preventing white workers from being undercut by minorities and immigrants willing to work for less.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “Infringing people’s freedom of association is an evil which can only be justified to prevent an even greater evil” is a deep enough principle for me.

          • @Brad:

            It’s a least arguable that the reason the free market didn’t work to provide hotel rooms for traveling blacks in the South was that the local governments wouldn’t let it work. A local government has lots of ways of making life hard for a small business under its authority, especially a public accomodation such as a restaurant or hotel.

            I don’t know enough about the history to be confident of that explanation. But it was, as I remember, the reason Richard Epstein offered for being in favor of public accommodation laws—using the federal government to prevent oppression by local (or state) governments.

            That argument depends on a situation were the local governments are solidly under the control of one side of the controversy, the federal of the other. I find it unlikely that it works for bakeries baking cakes for gay weddings.

          • brad says:

            While I’m not prepared to do a full survey, I searched through a codification of the Code of Laws of South Carolina as of 1952 and did not find any law requiring motels or restaurants to be segregated. Inasmuch as at least one state existed without de jure public accommodation discrimination that nonetheless had pervasive de facto public accommodation discrimination (to the point where it made traveling salesmen an extremely difficult profession for black people) that’s a strong counter to the magic of the free market story.

      • Jaksologist says:

        Can’t we model it? The math involved in extrapolating from immigration rates and birth rates seems pretty straight-forward to me.

        (Granted, everything depends on what you predict the future rates will be, but that’s true of most models.)

        • onyomi says:

          Who is this “Jaksologist” and what has he done with “Jaskologist”? I’m so confused.

          • Jakologist says:

            People mistyped my name a lot, so I figured why not accommodate them?

            Plus, it’ll make the job of the SJWs that much tougher when I’m hauled before the Revolutionary Tribunal and they try to google my problematic past.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “To say that we absolutely need to be concerned about immigration (which we can’t model) but not global warming (which we sort of can) seems really motivated.”

        What does this even mean? The problems with Islamic immigration are empirically known by people of the host countries. Under what epistemology do we need a computer model to know that it makes the risk of violent crime higher, e.g. no-go zones, Rotherham-style rape gangs, random terrorist attacks, rational fear of death for blaspheming Islam while blaspheming Christianity is protected speech…

        Furthermore, immigration policy proposals are pretty clear, while there are dozens of possible ways to deal with AGW, and the debate is too confusing at this point to rationally evaluate them. I mean, if the Settled Science says there’s a 90% chance of current trends leading to a 6 degree C increase that will make agriculture stop working, could you make a utilitarian moral argument for the US government rapidly decommissioning all its coal plants and bombing China and India back to the Stone Age if they don’t do the same?

      • Tibor says:

        Well, I think this is not true overall. I think that at least in Europe you will find people (my father for example) who are strongly opposed to open borders while being concerned about global warming, sustainability and ecology in general. Even though I disagree with it, I find this sort of conservatism more consistent than the kind you find funny. It is basically “let’s keep everything the way it is”.

      • At a slight tangent … . One big difference between immigration and climate as issues is that, at the national level, one can hope to control immigration. The U.S. hasn’t done it very effectively, in part because we are (fortunately) unwilling to use the measures it would require. But countries can guard their borders, especially countries much more densely populated than the U.S.

        At the national level one can do very little to prevent AGW, since one country’s output of CO2 is a small part of the total–negligible except for a few large countries. That’s one argument for adaptation, which can be done at the national (or, sometimes, individual) level over prevention. Another is that adaptation lets you reduce the bad consequences of warming while keeping the good consequences.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @David Friedman – “The U.S. hasn’t done it very effectively, in part because we are (fortunately) unwilling to use the measures it would require.”

          Could you elaborate briefly on this, or provide links? Specificly, do you think a global carbon market would be a measure we’re fortunate not to have tried?

          • I was talking about restricting immigration, not controlling AGW.

            The measures that would be required for the U.S. by itself to substantially reduce warming would be either geoengineering, supposing there is some version that works, or compelling India and China to sharply reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, probably by the threat of military force–which does not strike me as a good idea.

            If all countries agreed on a global carbon market and were willing and able to enforce it and prevent cheating, which strikes me as very unlikely, it would be a reasonable way of reducing CO2 output. But since I’m not convinced that AGW has large net negative effects, I would not be in favor of such a policy.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        I find it funny that the same people who are afraid open borders will doom us all call global warming a silly panic.

        Some of us manage to simultaneously think those are both silly panics. 🙂

        But if I had to steelman that particular combination of views, an easy way to do it would be based on having a short time horizon. The people who are afraid of immigration think there’s pent-up demand which could lead to millions of new immigrants RIGHT AWAY. If there are negative effects, you’d start seeing them within a decade. Whereas any negative effects from AGW are going to take a LOT LONGER which automatically makes them more speculative.

        So maybe conservatives are just using a different discount rate than liberals?

  21. Mammon says:

    Dear Scott – after the latest MetaFilter hatefest, you went and edited a few articles, adding disclaimers here and there. I really like the one at the top of the Untitled post; it’s definitely a polemical piece.

    On the other hand, you’ve stricken out the “literally Voldemort” bit from Radicalizing the Romanceless, and added a bit of through-the-fourth-wall yelling at people. I’m a bit sad about that. Radicalizing the Romanceless is an immensely powerful piece, and it’s the only piece I’ve seen tackling romancelessness with unqualified empathy. Your edit is understandable, but it sort of kills the flow of the piece.

    I understand why you’ve done it, but I feel like you’re trying to appease people who would despise you no matter what you did. Those folks have a lot of hate in them for you, me, each other, and the world at large. You should treat them like the outliers they are, because caring even one bit about what they have to say is going to degrade both your writing and your emotional health.

    I’m not saying you should stop listening to criticism; I think one of the things that make you inspiring is how respectfully you handle criticism. But I also think that, when someone is that blatantly malicious, giving them even an ounce of power over you is letting them win.

    That MF thread was a distributed hatchet job. I saw it more as the manifestation of what new lows some feminists were plumbing than as a cogent criticism of your writing. Feminism is mind-killing, and this is the result.

    For context – I’m not someone who hates feminism or anything, I just think a lot of the feminist ideology is misguided. Feminists can still be lovely people, and a lot of them subscribe to the same “niceness, community and civilization” motto you and me do.

    • Peter says:

      The formatting on Untitled appears to be broken. The bit at the top is good though.

    • PGD says:

      Well said.

    • Pku says:

      Yeah. This seems like the same problem Aaronson was talking about in the first place – That with this sort of feminism, trying to appease them just makes them attack you more.

    • Echo says:

      Rolling over and playing dead does get a pack of jackals to accept you, from a certain point of view.
      The only way to make them look at the real you and see what’s in your heart. And liver.

    • stillnotking says:

      I think it makes sense to clarify those posts and moderate some of the language. The problem with bits like the “Vogons” line is that they lend themselves too easily to gotchas of the “Scott secretly hates women” variety, which translate into excuses not to engage. Feminists should read “Romanceless”, whether they agree with it or not, just like we non-feminists should read feminist literature — but I’d be hesitant to read a feminist piece, however well-regarded, that didn’t make a basic effort to be civil to men.

      • Mammon says:

        Scott’s pieces tend to me extremely respectful to feminists. The “Literally Voldemort” thing is one quip in a ten page essay.

        • Linch says:

          Some feminists do not seem to see it this way:
          http://www.benkuhn.net/welcoming#comment-1198

          • Echo says:

            “It just seems to me like if Scott is the edge of the EA Overton window, such that people threaten to walk out if people in the community express support for his posts, then I don’t think we can really wonder about whether we’re welcoming to conservatives or people with diverse views.”

            Faith in humanity temporarily restored by whoever Anonymous3 was.

          • Linch says:

            Yeah that comment was just really crazy. :/

            However I think we can tentatively conclude that giving mean people one-liner zingers to use against you is a pretty poor idea.

          • Mammon says:

            Reading Ben Kunh’s comments, I feel like we’ve been reading a different Scott Alexander.

            “I said I thought most conservatives […] would be more able to have a calm and levelheaded discussion about feminism than Scott is.”

            “Scott is unusually bad at having such calm discussions”

            “maybe one in every ten of his posts he ends up getting really pissed off and going wide of the mark”

            …We’re talking about an immensely charged topic, a topic whose discussion turns into 95% shit-flinging pretty much every time. Scott is about as calm and levelheaded as you can be while still making an emotionally relatable criticism of feminism.

            I find Scott’s texts on feminism to be hugely therapeutic, and yes, those quips are a part of the reason why. I’ve been hurt, *we*’ve been hurt, and Scott is one of the few people who acknowledge our pain.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I find Scott’s texts on feminism to be hugely therapeutic, and yes, those quips are a part of the reason why. I’ve been hurt, *we*’ve been hurt, and Scott is one of the few people who acknowledge our pain.

            + 1,000 to that.

        • stillnotking says:

          Right, and I’m saying that having one disrespectful quip in a ten-page essay is much like having one weak point in the Death Star.

          • Echo says:

            So you’re saying the moral is “build lots of star destroyers instead, and just nuke stupid Alderaan”?

    • Jeremy says:

      I think Scott made the right decision to cross out that line.

      The only thing that line does is cause people who already dislike feminism to go “yeah, I knew feminists are like Voldemort!”, and people who already like feminists to take him less seriously because “How could a reasonable person compare feminists to Voldemort!”. It’s not going to change anyone’s opinion or enrich anyone’s understanding.

      It’s the same concept as “framing for light instead of heat”, and I think it makes sense that he would realize that.

      • Stezinech says:

        +1

      • Vorkon says:

        Editing the line to say something different would have made sense, perhaps with a footnote telling people what it used to say and why he changed it, down at the bottom. However, crossing it out, and adding an all-caps rant about people taking the line out of context? As the OP states, that is not in keeping with the tone of the post, and only serves to support the people accusing Scott of not being able to handle these topics rationally, and weakens the argument being made in the post as a whole.

        I can certainly understand WHY Scott would be upset at all the people taking that line out of context, but that particular edit reads like a temper tantrum. That’s not the right way to respond to an attack, unwarranted or otherwise.

        As everyone else has said, though, the new introduction to Untitled is certainly well done. I do wonder whether or not it will help dissuade anyone who reads it intending to be offended, which is where most of his criticism of that post comes from, but if anything could help people consider it more charitably, it would be a line like that, not one like the edit in Radicalizing the Romanceless.

        (Speaking of which, though, wasn’t there already a different introduction to Untitled, which said something similar, but less forcefully? I may be misremembering that.)

        • Cauê says:

          Rereading from the start, I think the edit is in keeping with the tone of the post, and in fact complements it nicely (in a QED way).

  22. It seems to me that age of consent laws are determined by whoever is most emphatic about what the law should be.

    If you wanted to find out what the age is below which sex is probably a bad idea, how would you do it?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Well, first you need to rigorously identify the good. lmao

    • I don’t think you can–it depends too much on the person and context.

      To take one famous example … . Mohammed married Aiesha when she was six, the marriage was consummated when she was nine, which seems awfully young to us. Our information is obviously heavily filtered, but such as it is suggests that it was a happy and loving marriage. And, once one steps back from the fact that it violates our taboos, it’s hard to see any reason to be confident that it wasn’t.

      • A says:

        First, you ask what ends are served by the age of consent in different societies at different development levels. Then you can answer Nancy’s question for cases.

        Also, even for pre-industrial civilizations, a very low (or nonexistent) age of consent for certain groups seems to occur with lower social status. For males, the only major historical example of very low (under 10) “ages of consent” is slavery. For females it’s less clear but obviously women were lower status in medieval Islam than men, and I’d guess even lower status than women in medieval Europe, where such a low age of consent never happened.

        • That got me curious. Looking at an Islamic book of law, I found no statement about minimum age for either men or women but one reference to “boys and girls” which looked as though it implied that a minor of either gender could under some circumstances be married.

          There are references in the Quran and Hadith which get interpreted as implying a minimum age either at puberty or perhaps at the usual age of puberty. I found two different explanations of the apparent conflict between that and the case of Aisha:

          1. She was married before that part of the Quran was revealed, so the rule did not yet apply.

          2. She wasn’t really that young. There are arguments, I think only dating from the 20th century, that try to prove on various textual grounds that she was actually considerably older than the traditional accounts made her. I can’t evaluate the evidence offered, but I find it mildly suspicious that the argument only seems to come up at a point when Muslims might have been concerned that their practices looked bad to non-Muslims.

          Jewish law is a good deal clearer. Age of majority is twelve and a half for women, thirteen and a half for men, I think in both cases with the additional requirement of evidence of puberty. A woman could be married younger than that but, if she was, had the option of canceling the marriage when she reached her majority.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is a fun one, because my answer breaks a lot of people’s brains. We start off with widely-believed premises, and deduce a possible conclusion that is rather repugnant to general Blue tribe sentiments.

      The first premise is that a consent-only theory of sex is correct. That is, the moral permissibility of sex turns only on the question of whether the parties have given valid consent. We have to do a little legwork to show how close to this standard we can make *legal* permissibility be, but for the most part, we can get pretty close. This is why we have nice Blue tribe conclusions like “homosexuality is acceptable”, “the marital rape exemption is bad”, and “BDSM is acceptable.”

      Most authors adopt two or three prongs for determining whether consent is validly given (and will sometimes use slightly different words to describe similar ideas), but when it comes to children, there is a pretty clear prong that they are likely to fail – knowledge. Authors like Wertheimer avoid any real conceptual discussion of what the knowledge prong really consists of, but in doing so completely abandons our idea of a consent-only theory. He appeals to a hypothesized empirical measure of ‘harm’ that can determine when we should allow children to consent. Obviously, this breaks our first premise.

      A better route will be to actually determine what the knowledge prong consists of, and then to determine how (and when) children actually fail it. Westen seems to embrace something like this as a possibility, but doesn’t embark on the difficult project of actually doing it. Nevertheless, we can quickly approach a possible repugnant outcome. If it is the knowledge prong that children fail, and if things like early sex education are actually successful at providing children with the knowledge required to have sex, then things like early sex education may be key enablers for reducing the age of consent.

      • Mark says:

        I think you’d have to consider the capacity to process knowledge, and to make decisions independently of social pressure as well.
        So, perhaps 25 would be appropriate?

        • Anonymous says:

          make decisions independently of social pressure

          Depending on how expansive a view of social pressure you take, this may never be achievable.

      • Anonymous says:

        The marital rape exemption fits perfectly well within the consent standard. To argue that it is bad in fact requires a rejection of the consent standard, specifically the view that someone is unable to consent to giving their partner unlimited future access to sex with them.

        • brad says:

          There are plenty of limitations on irrevocably binding oneself. Both for individuals and for corporate entities (in the broad sense of corporate) like legislatures. Perhaps most relevantly, specific performance as a contract remedy is disfavored in general and absolutely barred for personal service contracts.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not necessarily. Prospective consent has not been well-developed (Westen had some good preliminaries for a theory of prospective consent… and they are not favorable to such an unlimited thesis). Whether unlimited prospective consent can survive is not clear enough yet to say that it tears down the entire Moral Magic (TM) of consent.

      • Echo says:

        Repugnant? It’s been promoted for decades in certain circles.

        “As for children, they too are erotic beings, closer to androgyny than the adults who oppress them. Children are fully capable of participating in community, and have every right to live out their own erotic impulses. In androgynous community, those impulses would retain a high degree of nonspecificity and would no doubt show the rest of us the way into sexual self-realization. The distinctions between “children” and “adults,” and the social institutions which enforce those distinctions, would disappear as androgynous community develops.”

        • Anonymous says:

          I would hardly claim that Dworkin can be used as a stand-in for general Blue Tribe sensibilities today. She’s controversial even in the more radical groups.

          Last time I remember this being discussed here, the prevailing theories were that some ‘supporters’ were duped; some might have been carried away by the sentiment of the decade. Most people agreed that it was unlikely to make a substantial comeback for the general Blue Tribe.

          • Echo says:

            I’m not sure how you can be edge-case “duped” by age of consent law disparities into laying out a complete philosophical justification for a family-less kiddie-diddling utopia, but ok.

          • Nornagest says:

            At the time Dworkin was writing, the whole sexual revolution thing was still being hashed out and it wasn’t entirely clear which sexual minorities would make the cut, or what the philosophical brickwork would end up looking like. NAMBLA and similar orgs were making a real play to be seen as a minority group with legitimate grievances, and a surprising-to-us number of people were listening.

            Dworkin being a radical-minded person, it’s possible, even likely, that she brought on board some of the arguments surrounding that without adequately examining them; when you’re trying to tear down and rebuild an entire culture from the ground up, your ideas about what comes after are necessarily going to be kinda sketchy. That doesn’t make her right, or her prescriptions a good idea, but it doesn’t make her a pedophile either.

          • Echo says:

            Oh, just to be clear, I wasn’t calling Dworkin a paedophile. I know and like several paedophiles, and being one of their few confidants is eye-opening and heartbreaking.
            I’d never in a thousand years think to associate them with Dworkin.

            My point was that the last thread wrote off left support for paedophiles as “they only met on a fringe of discriminatory AoC laws where their advocacy overlapped”. If left-wing icons made philosophical arguments in favour of paedophilia, that obvious blame-shifting excuse doesn’t work.

            I’d be rather more inclined to accept the blues’ claims to having a monopoly on compassionate empathy if they didn’t use both defenses and accusations of paedophilia as weapons, depending on the context of the fight.

            Edit: Did I seriously write “AoE laws”? Getting fireball spells at third level clearly privileges wizards over underrepresented classes…

          • Anonymous says:

            @Echo

            I’m not sure how you can be edge-case “duped” by age of consent law disparities into laying out a complete philosophical justification for a family-less kiddie-diddling utopia

            Sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I had meant for my two paragraphs to be dealing with two different sets; freestanding. Dworkin has probably never been anywhere near central to Blue Tribe (and like I said… is even controversial in radical crowds). Other, non-Dworkin people, who might be considered to be more core to Blue Tribe, have been said to fall in the categories of being duped or carried away.

            The last sentence of my previous comment is really the most important. Regardless of the history, all signs point to negative for Blue Tribe sentiments ‘coming around’ on lowering the age of consent. This is why I was pretty comfortable in saying that the conclusion of combining strict consent theory with early sex education is likely to be repugnant to many Blue Tribe members (..with my hidden assumption being that I was talking about Blue Tribe members today..).

          • Nornagest says:

            My point was that the last thread wrote off left support for paedophiles as “they only met on a fringe of discriminatory AoC laws where their advocacy overlapped”.

            No, that’s false. That is about where the mainstream Left ended up settling, but there was serious advocacy for far more radical positions floating around in the Sixties and Seventies — even into the early Eighties.

            I don’t think this fact amounts to much more than a historical footnote, though. These arguments were sincere and internally consistent, but you can’t treat them as principled arguments from the modern Left, because the principles of the modern Left hadn’t gelled yet. In particular, there was not yet any consensus on the consent standards we’re familiar with.

            Reading political literature from that era, I’m often struck by how chaotic it is. Modern politics are so entrenched, but the Vietnam-era and immediately post-Vietnam political scenes looked more like a chase scene from Mad Max: everyone knows who they’re trying to destroy, but tactics are constantly shifting and there’s no leadership aside from tribal affiliations and the odd charismatic warlord. And everyone’s equipped with ridiculous jury-rigged contraptions bristling with spikes and improvised weaponry, as dangerous to their users as their enemies.

    • My notion is to interview a lot of people, a whole lot of people, about when they started sex, and under what circumstances, and about their lives, and then see what patterns can be teased out. I realize this would be expensive and require human judgement, but sometimes life is hard.

      My initial thought was to interview people over fifty and ask them what they thought about when they started sex, but this may be too limited. One of my friends, who started with sex at fifteen and doesn’t see a problem with it, says that there’s something to be said for seize the day. Missing out on good early sex is a loss in itself.

      On the other side, there’s a belief that early sex is a side effect of sexual abuse, so it would be important to tease out whether there are deleterious effects of abuse but early sex doesn’t make things worse. I’ve even seen a claim that for some abused children, early consensual sex (outside their abusive family) is part of the one good relationship at that time in their lives. I have no strong opinion about that claim since I haven’t seen it as part of anyone’s personal story.

      As a minor part of all this, maybe we could find out something accurate about whether age differences between partners make a difference to quality of life for the younger partner.

      • For what it’s worth, Mencken says somewhere that he lost his virginity at fourteen with a girl of the same age, that she later lost her taste for such activities and is now (when he was writing) a respectable grandmother.

        Casanova mentions some episodes that might be relevant, including sex play short of intercourse with two girls who I would guess were prepubescent.

    • keranih says:

      If you wanted to find out what the age is below which sex is probably a bad idea, how would you do it?.

      1) Identify upsides of 'having sex' that vary by age.

      2) Identify downsides of 'having sex' that vary by age.

      3) Identify the age at which 'having sex' has more upsides than downsides. Confirm that above this age the downsides continue to decrease in relation to the upsides.

      4) Draw the line. Below this age, because of the downsides, sex is a bad idea. Above this age, it's your option and your funeral.

      Along these lines – and I really wish I had the source – the original Western (French, I think, although not sure) line for age of consent was set at ~12 years old, because at that age, the average woman – if impregnated – would likely survive childbirth. It was seen as quite reasonable to forbid sex/marriage below that age, because of risk to the life of the woman. OTOH, setting the age higher, to the average age of marriage (15-15, iirc) was being excessively involved in other people's decisions, including that of the woman involved. All the other risks of sex – disease, emotional involvement with unsuitable people, being pregnant with an unwanted baby, making stupid decisions under the influence of lust – all of those risks were seen as independent of the age of the people involved.

      I’m not at all happy with the AoC being set so low, but it does seem *logical* to me to draw the line there.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why the special procedure for age? If we’re going to just appeal to some auxiliary measure of upsides/downsides, why don’t we just do that for all types of sex? If our magic metric of upsides/downsides (which is surely culturally-dependent and will really just be a product of people trying to sneak in their sexual ethics, anyway) says that the expected value of your desired sex is negative, then No Sex For You!

        • keranih says:

          Why the special procedure for age?

          Because it’s objective, can be measured, and everyone agrees to what it is. Remember that we’re not talking about what what is “best”, we’re talking about what we can enforce.

          why don’t we just do that for all types of sex?

          Well, we do, actually – we (we-the-West, in the form of people who influenced Western cultural thought over hundreds of years, which is a form of “we” that does not include you or me) set up rules for defining marriage, rape, and parenthood/inheritances. So we do have established conclusions about specific instances of sex – mostly in the form of “only do it with people you are married to” and “don’t do it in public” and “don’t do it in a manner that has one person crying and screaming and nine other people enjoying it.”

          But not all of them, because of declining utility. Very few of us think that every potential sexual encounter(*) needs outside judgement on the utility of that interaction, because the upsides of outside judgement are largely outweighed by the downsides.

          Where we run into trouble is when person A assumes that the assessment of the utility of a particular encounter needs outside judgement, and person B assumes that the assessment is a private matter, just between the people involved.

          (*) IE, the number of people who think they need a town hall sign off in order for a husband and wife of ten years to ethically get frisky together tonight is very very small. Compare/contrast the marriages of royals, where everyone had an opinion.

          • Anonymous says:

            Because it’s objective, can be measured, and everyone agrees to what it is.

            Are you saying it’s because age can be measured? That makes no sense. Tons of other things can be measured. Whether you’re married or not can be measured quite easily. Are you saying it’s because the consequences can be measured? I would definitely dispute that… but at the very least, the consequences of other types of sex are probably as measurable.

            Remember that we’re not talking about what what is “best”, we’re talking about what we can enforce.

            We can enforce all kinds of things. We don’t need to appeal to some empirical measure of upsides/downsides to do it, either. We can just say, “People under 18 can’t have sex.” We can just say, “People can’t have homosexual sex.” We can just say, “People can’t have sex out of wedlock.” We have enforced all of these at times. I really don’t understand what you’re talking about here.

            Re: the rest of your comment

            Have you entirely missed all of the theoretical developments in the ethics of sex? The predominant theory at the moment is Consent-Only, i.e., valid consent performs the moral magic of turning an impermissible act into a permissible act. Writers such as Wertheimer trace this mostly to concepts such as autonomy. This is simply not the same type of, “Calculate the upsides/downsides,” that is being proposed here. If it was, we’d have examples like, “Two males want to have sex. Let’s calculate whether, in general, males having sex has more upsides than downsides.” We’d have examples like, “Two people want to have sex out of wedlock. Let’s calculate whether, in general, sex outside of wedlock has more upsides than downsides.” We just don’t. We say, “They can consent, and this performs the requisite moral magic.”

            Now, people do want to say, “A child wants to have sex. Let’s calculate whether, in general, a child having sex has more upsides than downsides.” This is a special procedure which must be explained and justified.

            The only way I can read your comment in context of modern Consent-Only theories of sex is to make it rather useless for the question at hand. You said, “But not all of them, because of declining utility. Very few of us think that every potential sexual encounter(*) needs outside judgement on the utility of that interaction, because the upsides of outside judgement are largely outweighed by the downsides.”

            If this is a sneaky way to say, “For the most part, we subjugate our utilitarian calculus to principles like Consent-Only; but for some parts (like minors), we don’t,” then we’re clearly not explaining anything about why minors are being treated as a special case. We’re just repeating that they are being treated as a special case. That’s not very helpful. At the absolute best, we may be doing something descriptive (saying that people, in practice, adopt these different methods)… but to the extent that we’re trying to do normative ethics for sex, we need to try to do something normative.

            To scope out a bit, I think it’s possible that you might be doing one of the things that I think is really easy to do (and has plagued me for a while)… just turning deontological ethics into utilitarian ethics by fiat. It’s really tempting to imagine a utility function that just gives utility for following certain rules. You can just take the set of rules or duties and say, “Infinite utility for following these; negative infinite utility for not following these.” Interestingly, you can try to convert in the other direction, too! You could say that all utilitarianism is deontology – the only duty you have is to maximize utility. I’ve definitely struggled with this, but I trust that philosophers of metaethics are right when they say that these things are fundamentally different. I wish I had a word to describe this particular issue.

            Anyway, I think that might be the type of thing that’s happening. My understanding is that modern Consent-Only ethics of sex is based in some rules/duties. We must respect autonomy, for example. That includes positive autonomy (the ability to consent to sex) and negative autonomy (the ability to refuse consent to sex). As easy as it seems to say, “Well, that just means that we find utility in consent or autonomy,” I think we’d be torturing the concept of utilitarianism to get there.

          • keranih says:

            @ Anonymous

            Yes, there is a special case for age because physical age – as opposed to mental maturity, soundness of judgement, integrity etc – can be verified. (Which ties into your question re: enforcement, and I don’t understand your confusion. Can you expand?) And that was what the original question was about – how do you pick an age?

            As for the remainder of your comment –

            The predominant theory at the moment is Consent-Only

            Really. Can’t see how I could have missed that. Someone should put that in the news, so the word gets out further.

            It might not be the best thing to assume everyone is on the same page as you are, or that “the predominant theory” of any branch of behavior study has permance.

            When you say “We just don’t. We say, “They can consent, and this performs the requisite moral magic.”” you are using a form of ‘we’ that doesn’t include everyone. There are a number of people who hold that just wanting to do something does not make doing that thing correct.

            In many areas, we-as-a-society have gradually stripped away complex judgement about morality and taken up a binary yes/no metric. IMO, this is an error, because in many – if not most – cases, the right/wrong path is complex.

            As whether we’re treating the case of minor consent different than other issues of consent – I think you largely misunderstand. IMO, we run the upside/downside calculation for everything, and in the case of minors, we find so much downside that the benefits of outside judgement become influential.

  23. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I recently found your post “Why I Am Not Rene Descartes” and it left me confused. Why be a rationalist (Yudkowsky) instead of a rationalist (Leibniz)? Are you convinced by Kant’s argument that innate ideas only tell us about our minds, not reality, and so rationalism is obsolete no matter what the truth value of Chomskyian grammar, evpsych, etc?
    But if that’s it, why identify as a follower of Yudkowsky instead of a Kantian? Is it because you think there are Analytics who have made irrefutable arguments in metaethics against Kantian ethics and in favor of the utilitarianism you prefer?

  24. Echo says:

    So at least some SSC people are very worried about their reputation on “Rational Wiki”.
    To calm those fears, here’s Rationalism+, Colourful Equine Edition https://archive.is/uVvh7

    Your #1 resource for cluing in anyone who made the mistake of thinking that site wasn’t an even-less-funny version of Encyclopedia Dramatica/conservapedia.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t understand the hate-on for My Little Pony fandom among…

      …actually, that’s a lie. I understand it, I just wish I didn’t.

      • Echo says:

        Unapologetic fun is the worst form of heresy to obsessive, guilt-ridden puritans?

      • Jiro says:

        Liking My Little Pony is Bayseian evidence for being immature. Being immature is bad.

        Of course this applies to a lot of other things than My Little Pony, as well. (Having the wrong skin color is Bayseian evidence that if you’re hired, you’re going to steal, so an employer should prefer to hire a person with the right skin color). People who think it is okay for employers to discriminate should realize that the same argument applies to MLP.

        • Echo says:

          We discriminators… do realize that?
          I have a boyfriend who wears My Little Pony merch, but I wouldn’t hire him if he came to a job interview in it.
          Unless I was hiring a very niche male stripper/6 y.o. birthday party planner or something.

          I think we’d also be a little wary of people who put thousands of hours into arguing over exactly what kind of people-with-the-wrong-skin-colour they’d refuse to hire, holding passionate debates flame wars over whether ear lobe shape was the most problematic evidence of their innate criminality.

          BTW, does this site not use the sub /sub tags for subscript, or is there something up with my browser?

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            Wait, what?

            If you’re hiring male strippers as 6 y.o. birthday parties planners, I think you’ve got this parenting figured out.

          • Peter says:

            No sub tags. It’s a real pain whenever maths or chemistry or something like that comes up.

        • Nornagest says:

          Lots of things are Bayesian evidence for being immature, including pretty much every fandom. I don’t think that gets you to this level of animosity for this fandom specifically.

          I find MLP kind of cringey in the same way that I find most kids’ media kind of cringey. But I don’t think liking My Little Pony is a significantly worse signal than liking superhero comics (specifically comics, though; superhero movies are thoroughly mainstream), or boys’ or girls’ anime, or all the fandom stuff in my Tumblr feed but especially Steven Universe (which I’ve had to Tumblr Savior for the sake of my blood pressure). It’s being singled out for other reasons.

          • Jiro says:

            Superhero comics’ intended audience is pretty much adults (though non-mainstream adults). Anime’s intended audience is postpubescent teenagers or older, for pretty much all the fan-popular series. MLP’s intended audience is little kids.

            Also, fandom tends to sexualize things and sexualizing a show for prepubescents is really creepy.

          • Echo says:

            Are superhero comics really for adults? When did that change? They used to be all about the 95lb teenage weakling getting his own back thanks to mail order Super Alpha Serum.

            Also re. “animosity”, I think that’s just a regular feature of… “that culture” these days.
            Sorry to trigger you with Steven Universe tumblrism, but https://imgur.com/a/USROb
            Money Quote from social justice warriors bullying artists:
            “I felt like we were leading a discussion – opening up talk about how she could improve. We all definitely THOUGHT she could improve as a person. But she didn’t. She treated our blog and all other zamii blogs as jokes. She didn’t care about us.
            And that’s why I feel no guilt over her suicide/suicide attempt.”

            I need to look up this “tumblr savior” thing.

          • Jiro says:

            When did that change?

            Around 1986?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not talking target audience (though superhero comics’ intended audience is twelve-year-old boys or adults indistinguishable from them); I’m talking the degree to which liking something as an adult implies that you’re immature. A lot of popular anime these days is aimed squarely at the otaku pervert demographic, but I think that’s a stronger signal of immaturity than liking a kids’ show that apparently has some crossover appeal.

            Also, fandom tends to sexualize things and sexualizing a show for prepubescents is really creepy.

            Like Adventure Time? Or Steven Universe? Or Frozen? Those all have enormous fandoms (which produce all the disgusting fanwork you’d expect). They’re all aimed at young children. But they haven’t become a byword for “manchild”.

          • Nornagest says:

            “She treated our blog and all other zamii blogs as jokes. …”

            I may regret asking this, but what the hell is a zamii?

            I’d just google it, but I’m at work.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nornagest – Zamii is the fan artist in question. Zamii blogs were blogs dedicated to how much Zamii sucked as an artist and a human being because of the problematic nature of their artwork. Things like using the wrong colors for characters skin tones, not drawing noses big enough, and other blatant examples of racism.

          • Nornagest says:

            Charming.

          • Jiro says:

            Nornagest: In claiming that superhero comics are for twelve year oldas, you’re around 20-30 years behind the times.

            And the otaku pervert demographic is at least postpubescent and it is assumed that liking things they like is not as bad as liking something normally watched by 7 year olds.

            Also, Frozen is a family movie, not a children’s movie; those are different.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is all kind of a sideline from the point I was trying to make, but no, I just have a low opinion of the mainstream in comics. I have read some recent stuff, although I haven’t followed anything seriously since I was a twelve-year-old boy (in the mid-Nineties, well after the transition to grimdark everything was under way).

            There is some genuinely mature storytelling in comics of the last thirty years. But not a lot of it. Nine times out of ten, it purports to be aimed at adults but that mostly hashes out to… how did Calvin and Hobbes put it? Making your superhero a psychopath, drawing gut-splattering violence, and calling it a “graphic novel”? I know exactly who that appeals to, and it isn’t emotionally mature adults.

            (Granted, I think Watterson was alluding to Watchmen there, and I would have called that one of the brighter spots of the era. But the phrase still applies to a lot of other stuff)

          • DrBeat says:

            Are you trapped in the 1990s? Because that age is over, dude. There’s a lot wrong with comics, but it’s not the same stuff as in the Dark Age.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not married to comics as an example, but it’s seemed to me that they’ve shed some of the worst excesses of the Nineties but still have a lot of the same problems. Were you involved in that conversation about The Authority we had a few threads ago? That would be an example of what I’m talking about.

            What would you say is wrong with it?

          • Echo says:

            Not as bad? Are you serious, Jiro? Given the choice between someone spreading a rumor that you watch Saturday Morning Cartoons vs, I don’t know, Strike Witches, is there any doubt about which you’d pick?

            “They send their secret weapon, an American hillbilly named Seth whom they turned into a monstrous superhuman stated to have over a thousand super powers, to attack the Authority.”
            What.

      • Held in Escrow says:

        What’s weird about it? It’s an extremely loud evangelical group about something that it is generally considered odd to form a large group around, often with what are seen as completely inappropriate sexual aspects. That’s pretty much the perfect formula for a hated group; they’re annoying, weird, have terrible social skills, and are perverted in an obvious manner.

        • DrBeat says:

          They aren’t much louder than most other fandoms, and have a similar level of inappropriate sexual content as those same other fandoms. They are also far, far, far more responsible with said sexual content and making sure minors don’t come across it than any other fandom.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            The issue isn’t how loud they are in their own suicidal circles but that the MLP fandom brings it into everything on otherwise non-MLP environments. There is not a single other fandom with that sort of evangelical volume nor has there been since furries (which is pretty much an exact model for the backlash against MLP fans).

            And the issue with their sexuality content was that even if it is policed now it wasn’t in the beginning so it’s stuck.

          • DrBeat says:

            Not a single other fandom with that sort of evangelical volume? Counterpoint: Homestuck.

            And even when the sexual content wasn’t policed, there was no more of it than there was for any other fandom that has ever existed. Every fandom is filled with porn. People just chose to notice it in the case of MLP, and chose not to notice it in every other case, because they perceived MLP fans as male (and thus their sexuality was inherently threatening, shameful, and degrading) and other fans as female (and thus their sexuality was wholesome and harmless).

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Homestuck didn’t have the inappropriate sexuality out on the open (webcomic vs children’s TV series) and it was far less obtrusive. There’s no male/female dichotomy here.

            Basically HS fans tended to keep to their general threads on most sites while MLP splerged in unrelated topics. You ended up with MLP perfectly matching onto ye old furries, so is it any surprise they got so much hate?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Homestuck fandom is probably 5 times as cancerous, but it’s way less widespread, exposure is what matters. MLP has close to mainstream exposure, none of my relatively internet savvy siblings could tell you what homestuck is (except maybe one, by secondhand exposure through tumblr).

          • Jaksologist says:

            Nobody outside of your bubble has heard of Homestuck. Everybody with a little girl knows MLP. And people get very protective/freaked out when start sexualizing things in the vicinity of their little girls.

          • NN says:

            Homestuck didn’t have the inappropriate sexuality out on the open (webcomic vs children’s TV series) and it was far less obtrusive. There’s no male/female dichotomy here.

            I find it really hard to believe that there’s no male/female dichotomy here, when there were never any similar complaints about the female-dominated Harry Potter fandom, which is based around a children’s book series, has an enormous amount of porn (mostly focused on underage characters, to boot), and during its peak was one of the most obtrusive and evangelistic fandoms in recorded history.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Harry Potter maps onto classic Trekkies and Star Wars fandoms in pretty much every facet. You have plenty of sex stuff for it, be it Snape or Draco slash a la Kirk and Picard or waifuing over Leia a la Hermione

          • NN says:

            Harry Potter maps onto classic Trekkies and Star Wars fandoms in pretty much every facet. You have plenty of sex stuff for it, be it Snape or Draco slash a la Kirk and Picard or waifuing over Leia a la Hermione

            Apart from the minor fact that most major Harry Potter characters are underage, which makes a lot of Harry Potter fandom material legally questionable (to put it mildly) in ways that are far more serious than the typical copyright issues with fanfiction and fanart. In 2007, Livejournal came very close to banning huge parts of the Harry Potter fandom over this issue.

            But no, it’s the Bronies who are freaks and perverts.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Yet once again, look at what everything maps onto. Harry Potter is dorky cool mainstream like how Star Trek, Star Wars, and LotR. MLP is seen as a cartoon for young girls. Bringing up how Emma Watson grew up to be hot is a normal topic of conversation among teenage boys. Going on about cartoon ponies is not. Nobody worried about their conversations on message boards being sidelined into talks about Harry Potter because the fanbase tended to be much more sociable and less likely to be inappropriate in public venues.

            Seriously, think about it; if you had made a Harry Potter reference back at the height of it’s popularity most people would get it and chuckle along. Hell, colleges still have popular Quidditch clubs. If you made an MLP reference people wouldn’t get it and probably assume you were weird. There’s a massive difference of scale here, don’t try and turn this into some weird gender wars bullshit.

            If you go out in public with something that strikes others as wrong and probably perverted or pedophilic (as grown men nerding out over a cartoon aimed at young girls will) you should expect social backlash. When you toss on the porn and set off the internet’s collected furry alert alongside the birth of the fedora meme (which the MLP fandom ran smack dab into and has been linked with since) you’re going to have problems. Best I can suggest is follow the same route as furries and just batten down the hatches and keep to safe zones until people move on, because the internet is made of assholes.

          • DrBeat says:

            The fact that grown men being interested in something for young girls is seen as pedophilic and threatening, while grown women being interested in something for young boys is morally neutral, is the problem we are talking about and you are denying.

          • Echo says:

            “while grown women being interested in something for young boys is morally neutral”

            I think South Park is covering that particular topic next Wednesday, if their request for yaoi fanart is any indication.
            It seems to be considered “fapping up” when a primarily female audience writes about sexy 12 year old boys (in leather pants) having sex with their potions teacher.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Harry Potter is completely gender neutral in terms of target fanbase. A young boy oriented media franchise would be something like Transformers or GI Joe.

            So no, your argument doesn’t hold any water there.

          • DrBeat says:

            Transformers also has a shitload of female fans, who write shitloads of porn for it.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Ask your random internet goer if they know that. Quite frankly I’m skeptical of it and it’s certainly never penetrated the public consciousness

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Held in Escrow – “Quite frankly I’m skeptical of it and it’s certainly never penetrated the public consciousness”

            My tanking buddy’s sister got her fandom from drawing transformers yaoi.

            The operative term, I believe, is “clang clang clang”.

        • Echo says:

          Hello neighbor! You seem troubled. Could it be that you’ve been missing out on the Good Word of our Lady and Saviour, Princess Sparklehorse?
          You’re more than welcome to join us for a little get-together to celebrate all the wonderful things Sparklehorse brought to our lives. There’s cookies and punch by the door, and our good book contains a wide variety of uplifting fetish pornography.

      • BBA says:

        As an outsider to the fandom, I find them quite obnoxious. Specifically their habit of injecting themselves into any discussion distantly touching them, no not everything is about you dammit! They’re like those sea lions in that Wondermark cartoon, except the term “sealioning” has already been appropriated to mean something else.

        (I, ah, may be projecting my own neuroses here, it’s a pattern of behavior I’ve noticed and tried to suppress in myself.)

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I don’t know how much discussion of My Little Pony goes on on Conservapedia.

    • Cauê says:

      “We don’t know the age of consent in Equestria” is not a valid counterargument.

      I don’t know why, but I love this.

  25. Cereal Crepist says:

    I’d like to hear what an actual psychiatrist thinks about this study that seems to show antidepressants are prescribed to everyone who visits a psychiatrist regardless of actual need:
    http://www.psychiatrist.com/jcp/article/Pages/2015/v76n01/v76n0106.aspx

    Method: Using data from the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study Wave 1 (1981) through Wave 4 (2004–2005) (N = 1,071), we assessed lifetime prevalence of common mood and anxiety disorders according to DSM-III and DSM-III-R criteria, based on 4 interviews, among participants who reported current antidepressant use. Furthermore, we examined factors associated with current antidepressant use.

    Results: Thirteen percent of participants at Wave 4 reported currently using antidepressant medications. Among antidepressant users, 69% never met criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD); and 38% never met criteria for MDD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Female gender, Caucasian ethnicity, recent or current physical problems (eg, loss of bladder control, hypertension, and back pain), and recent mental health facility visits were associated with antidepressant use in addition to mental disorders.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Their list of conditions tested doesn’t include Persistent Depressive Disorder or Unspecified Depressive Disorder, nor Unspecified Anxiety Disorder which is also a potential indication for antidepressants. For all we know everyone in their study who got an antidepressant without having MDD in fact had PDD or UDD.

      I’m taking an easy out here, and there’s a lot more to say, but maybe I’ll have more energy to write the whole thing up later.

      • Echo says:

        To an outsider, “Unspecified Anxiety Disorder” sounds horribly like “patient has problems we can’t treat without impractical lifestyle interventions”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I GUESS THIS MEANS WE HAVE TO DO THIS THE HARD WAY.

          Consider two different paradigms of psychiatric disease. In one, we have well-defined entities with specific unique causes, and drug treatments that are magic bullets for those causes. For example, “depression” is a real thing caused by serotonin deficiency, and lucky us, we have drugs that increase serotonin. This is the dream, but I don’t know anyone who thinks we’ve fully achieved it.

          In the second, psychiatric diseases are vague collections of symptoms that probably happen for a bunch of reasons – “depression” is no more specific than “leg pain”. Probably something causes depression, just like something causes leg pain, but it’s not always the same thing and we don’t always know what it is. Drug treatments are symptomatic relief for psychiatric conditions in the same way morphine is symptomatic relief for leg pain.

          If you subscribe to the first paradigm, then it’s a huge disaster if somebody who doesn’t really have the entity called “depression” gets an antidepressant. Antidepressants are magic bullets for the Specific Cause Of Depression, and since they fail to meet the diagnostic criteria they must not have that specific cause! That means we’re wasting our magic bullets for nothing!

          If you subscribe to the second paradigm, then anybody who pays the money to see a psychiatrist and tells them “I feel depressed” and isn’t lying is, in some sense, depressed. Either they qualify for our nice specific research entity “Major Depressive Disorder”, or they have some vague collection of symptoms that don’t match the textbooks and we call it “Unspecified Depressive Disorder”. This is kind of important. If somebody comes in and says “For the past six months I’ve hated my life and wished I was dead and nothing at all has made me happy”, they’ve technically only checked three or four boxes out of the five you need to diagnose MDD. But you wouldn’t want to send this person away with “Good news, you’re not depressed!”. Although you can always do psychotherapy with these people, I don’t think there’s any evidence that psychotherapy > pharmacotherapy for unspecified depression particularly. So you do the usual and offer them the choice between psychotherapy and drugs. And some of them take the drugs. Which often work.

          A *lot* of these people come in, a lot of them get antidepressants, and although life would be easier if everything conformed to the textbooks it’s not obvious that this is the wrong thing to do, especially if like me you lean toward the second paradigm of mental illness.

        • Stezinech says:

          @ Echo: The fact that some uncontrollable environmental circumstances are involved in psychiatric disorders doesn’t mean that the disorders can’t (or shouldn’t) be treated.

          To give an example of difficult things that often precipitate depression:

          “stressful events significantly predicted onset of major depression in the month of occurrence, four of which predicted onset with an odds ratio of >10 and were termed “severe”: death of a close relative, assault, serious marital problems, and divorce/breakup”

          http://focus.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/foc.8.3.foc459

        • Echo says:

          I understand and sympathize. I’ve read your previous posts about diagnosing patients, and it’s heartbreaking to learn about the problems everyone involved has to deal with.

          But comparisons to treating “symptomatic relief for leg pain” is a huge… I hate to use the word “dogwhistle”, but it makes ears perk up.
          To a lot of us, it pattern matches to stories of Crossfitters saying “I’ve been taking twenty ibuprofin a day, and some steroids, but my knee just keeps hurting more every workout!”

          I’m not saying that’s the case with prescribing antidepressants. In a lot of cases, you make drugs sound like… bailing out the lifeboat to give people time to patch the hole?

          But since most of us are more familiar with physical medicine, it’s easy to end up being biased against treating symptoms under broad categories.

  26. sweeneyrod says:

    It occurred to me today that the anti-democratic sentiments of the Dark Enlightenment aren’t too far from the mainstream in the UK. The second chamber of our Parliament (the House of Lords) is completely unelected. Unsurprisingly, many people are opposed to this, but it isn’t at all taboo to support.

    • Cereal Crepist says:

      I think this is just status quo / trend bias. Almost nobody in the US thinks 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote or that Supreme Court justices should be directly elected, but anyone who suggested going back to the 21-year age limit or appointment of Senators would be considered crazy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        And since the status quo has been marching left since at least 1914 (God bless and keep you, Klemens von Metternich), with the big exception of state ownership of property, it’s dangerous to ignore politics and just hope that verbally agreeing with the status quo of your youth won’t eventually get you fired or worse.

      • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

        Wait, so I am crazy for thinking that appointed Senators would result in a less bad government (I’ll make no claim about optimum) than we have now?

        Part of that balance of powers in the adversarial, multilevel government in the US was supposed to be the State governments having a voice at the federal level to say “fuck off, that is a State-level issue.” There are two side effects of not having this.

        Every issue is a federal issue because the States are unable to effectively defend their prerogative. Why campaign for a law in your State alone, when the same number of contributions at the federal level will buy the legislation for the whole country? People that are active in trying to solve problems fundamentally assume their answer is the right one. Never mind if applying the policy in question meets the needs of other States, or is an experiment we should try at such a large scale, or if it precludes other States from trying other options. Their solution is the right one, so why would I give a damn about any of that? Think prohibition. Of course the devil’s brew is a societal problem that must be stamped out! Why be satisfied with dry counties or State control of the liquor industry when you can get the Fed to ban it completely?

        However, just promoting issues to the federal level doesn’t actually work. Major legislation (like the ACA) is impossible to implement directly at the federal level because of the constitutional limits of federal power. The federal government relies on coercing the States to submit to federal programs. But without a State voice in the legislative process, there is real risk of major legislation becoming an utter train wreck: the legislation ends up being maddeningly complex in order to forcibly nail State governments down on implementation details, and still run the risk of becoming an utter train wreck when States try to opt out entirely (like marijuana prohibition, and the utter laughingstock States flouting it makes of the Rule of Law).

        The solutions to this are to convert completely to a centralized government, or revert to a proper multilevel government. However, complete centralization is a fools errand because the US is too (geographically and demographically) large and diverse. The current and increasing deadlock in Congress is a largely side effect of this, and increasing centralization will only make it worse. As more edge cases come under consideration at the federal level, issues become more divisive and prone to deadlock. Those that do make it through the deadlock are either impossibly complex to account for divergent circumstance (and don’t actually work), or are simple, ham-handed “common sense” nonsense (and don’t actually work).

        A proper multilevel government is (more) able to craft simple and effective legislation at the proper level of granularity. States having a say at the federal level is a key component to enforce the proper granularity. If Congress deadlocks on an issue (because it is insoluble at that level), the States share the blame because an entire house of Congress is devoted to their appointees and are motivated to address the issue at their level. Counteracting the downward pull of State appointees are the direct representatives. Voters want the maximum bang per vote, so very much want to federal government to solve their problems. These countervailing forces tend to ensure that issues are solved at the appropriate level.

        The current system is a fundamentally flawed half solution, and of the two nearest whole solutions a properly functioning multilevel system is preferable. And State appointed Senators are a key component of achieving that system. As a bonus, it would require relatively minor structural change–after all, we’re just reverting a relatively minor structural change already made–compared to the other nearest whole solution; when compared with something radical like listening to [taboo] and converting to a Monarchy or a Parliamentary system (I’ll make no claim about the optimality of those, either), forget about it.

        • BBA says:

          The problem is that it didn’t work. As early as the 1850s the election of Senators was considered a more important role for state legislators than running the state government. Witness the Lincoln-Douglas debates – they were running for Senate and trying to influence Illinoisans to elect their respective parties to the statehouse. The tail wagging the dog, as it were.

          Now if you replaced the Senate with a “council of governors”, like the Bundesrat in Germany, that would guarantee state governments a voice in the federal system. But that has its own issues.

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            That’s a fair point. But determining how practical or not the system was is seriously confounded throughout that entire era by the existence of a single issue that both sides were prepared to start a shooting war over if the other side got control of the Senate. Under the circumstances, any elective system would have broken down.

            Consider that we don’t have an issue even remotely like that now, and Congress has become just as dysfunctional. Probably more so: they can’t even pass a freaking budget anymore.

            Until we come up with an issue that is important enough that it is really worth destroying half the country again to solve, having the release valve of different States doing different things is a major feature.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      On the other hand, while perhaps not “taboo”, returning to an (almost) all-hereditary House would be an extreme fringe position even though it was the situation within living memory- life peerages were effectively restricted to the Law Lords until the late 1950s, so apart from them and the bishops, everyone in the House of Lords until the mid to late 20th century either had inherited their seat or expected to pass it on to their descendants.

      Similarly fringe would be a proposal to return the Lords to the level of power they held before the Parliament Act of 1911.

    • Peter says:

      It’s conservative, not reactionary – and the Lords keeps getting reformed, so it’s not even all that conservative.

      There seems to be a British thing of paying lip service to some anti-democratic thing while quietly getting on with the opposite. See also the monarchy, and the established church. Sometimes you can (or at any rate could, things have changed a little in recent years) even get me engaging in a spot of antidisestablishmentarianism, and I’m an atheist.

  27. keranih says:

    FWIW – I view the increasing number of banned things with moderate dismay. I think that temporary bans on different topics, or post-specific bans intending to channel conversations away from topics the host finds momentarily tedious are quite acceptable, but I am not crazy at all about blanket permanent bans.

    • Echo says:

      It’s a clever trick to get us all taking intelligence-enhancing drugs in an attempt to understand the Volcano God’s complicated and bizarre commandments.

  28. Asher says:

    I prefer Dark Enlightenment, a reproach to the original notion of Enlightenment which posited that as man’s incorrect notions about things fell away it would usher him into a future free of fear, want and disappointment. Basically, the original Enlightenment twisted the Biblical notion that the truth shall make men free and decided that truth eliminates suffering.

    Dark Enlightenment posits that most of the truth out there that can eliminate suffering has been revealed and that what hidden truth remains is that which acknowledges the limitation of truth to reduce suffering. A good example of such truth would be innate differences between population clusters, race in vulgar terms, and the inability to do anything about those differences.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Who came up with “Dark Enlightenment”? It’s a brilliant term, because it packs a very complex argument into two words.

      The consensus historiography of the 18th century is that it was the Enlightenment, when freethinkers braved being fired, exiled, jailed or worse to subject religious and political beliefs to reason. You’ll find this in pretty much any school textbook.
      What goes unmentioned is how the intelligenstia later abandoned the liberalism of Voltaire for Marxism and then Social Justice. So you get Socratic gadflies asking “If the Enlightenment was so good, why can’t I subject today’s political beliefs to reason?”

      • Asher says:

        British philosopher Nick Land wrote a book by that title. His blog, Outside In, links here frequently.

        I support scotts decision to ban the label, simply on grounds of vagueness

      • The original Mr. X says:

        What goes unmentioned is how the intelligenstia later abandoned the liberalism of Voltaire for Marxism and then Social Justice. So you get Socratic gadflies asking “If the Enlightenment was so good, why can’t I subject today’s political beliefs to reason?”

        Yes, it strikes me as odd, if the Enlightenment were as great as people say, that post-Enlightenment philosophy has so often been so much more illiberal and irrational than pre-.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The uncharitable answer is that liberalism is a tactic, not a principle. It’s not that it’s unjust for the state to kill, censor, or take property, it’s an enormous injustice that the Outgroup controls the state. This was Samuel Johnson’s argument against those who supported the American Revolution (“We are told, that the subjection of Americans may tend to the diminution of our own liberties; an event, which none but very perspicacious politicians are able to foresee. If slavery be thus fatally contagious, how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”)

          A more charitable answer is that intellectuals collectively tried the political program of the 18th century empiricists, found it emotionally unsatisfying that liberalism left injustices in the world and/or created new ones, and went looking for a warmer fuzzier alternative, because empiricism itself had kicked out the rational foundations of ethics in favor of sentiment. Rationalists like Leibniz were actually viciously attacked by Voltaire because their logical claims about justice didn’t line up with his moral sentiments.

  29. onyomi says:

    This is sort of a strange problem I have–one which seems like it would be incredibly common and/or not a problem at all, but which is seemingly less common and less desirable than one might think: indecisiveness born of ability to see pros and cons of everything.

    On factual and philosophical issues I usually don’t have a problem picking a side (as anyone reading my posts can attest), though I do try to be open to new evidence. On matters of personal taste, however, I actually do have trouble deciding my own strongest preference (sort of the opposite of what one might expect: questions of fact should be mutable depending on evidence, questions of personal preference seemingly should feel subjectively very solid to oneself).

    Specifically, do I like living in the country or in the city? Eh, I’ve done both and both have advantages and disadvantages. Do I want to live in the US or Asia? Done both; both have advantages and disadvantages. Do I want to pursue hobby a, b, or c more seriously? Eh, there are things about all of them I enjoy and things I don’t enjoy. In my own research (which focuses on East Asian civilization), do I want to focus on subspecialty x, y, or z? Eh, there are things I like about each and things I don’t like about each.

    I guess this is a longwinded way of saying I’m indecisive or that my interests are overly broad. But society rewards specialization. And on certain questions, such as “do I live in the city or do I live in the country,” there must be only one answer, at least for a period of time (what strikes me as one of the great advantages of being wealthy, which I am not, is the ability to, say, have a house in the country and a house in the city; a house in the US and a house in Asia, and to switch at whim).

    What’s more, though I’m sure everyone experiences indecision, I feel like most people I know have very clear opinions on such questions as “do you like living in a big city or a rural setting?” Does this seem familiar to others and are there any good ways of resolvin git?

    • Urstoff says:

      Sounds like what happens to people with damage to their limbic system. The lack of emotional feedback means they can’t make a decision as they are endlessly weighing pros and cons. I doubt you have limbic system damage, so just go with your gut, and your psychology with self-justify the decision after awhile. Being self-deceptive is an advantage sometimes.

      • onyomi says:

        I mean, I don’t lack emotional reactions to things, it’s just that I can always see pros and cons of most things. It’s like I have a strong opinion on the right ethical philosophy but no strong opinion on whether I prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream, which seems sort of backwards but maybe it’s just normal. Sometimes I want chocolate, sometimes I want vanilla. I guess it’s really just an aspect of the human condition that not everything works like ice cream: you can’t change your career every few months at a whim–at least, most people certainly can’t.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      I have this problem, though it’s less severe than it’s been for me in the past. I recommend flipping a coin, and just doing whatever it says to. It is not an algorithm for making the optimal decision. However, if you really can’t decide, that suggests you care little about the outcome, in which case any decision-making algorithm is an improvement over time wasted pondering pros and cons.

      Coin flips have the benefit of suspense and revelation. Sometimes you will find yourself hoping for a certain outcome, or regretting that the coin came up showing the face that it did. In these cases, thus enlightened to your preference, you may ignore the coin and do what you now realize you want to. If this doesn’t happen, no problem! That’s why you’re flipping the coin in the first place.

      Got a decision that’s more important, or over which you agonize over much more than most? Get a bigger coin. Coins are heavy, and worth real money. I find the weight of the coin helps bind me to the course of action. If you have a decision that could change major circumstances in your life, you aren’t going to take a dinky little quarter seriously. Get an old silver dollar, or a collectible gold coin, big and heavy. Consider solemnly the choices and resolve to abide by the outcome. (You’re always free to change your mind should new evidence about the decision or your preferences come to light.)

      One thing you must never do with this method is to decide that you must toss the coin again, just to be sure of your feelings. (Assuming the toss resolved unambigously the first time. If you dropped it on the floor, that’s enough for disqualification). Further tosses just tend to muddle the issue, since if you get a different result, then you have to choose which one to listen to, and you wouldn’t be tossing a coin in the first place if you had a better algorithm for making that choice.

      I will say that I had particular trouble with this sort of thing when I was depressed and somewhat anhedonic. However, I had to learn to recognize my preferences, and it was not trivial. I would recommend paying close attention to your body’s needs: Sleeping when you’re tired, eating when you’re hungry and of the foods you have a taste for, stopping when full, going outside if you image the sunlight would feel nice, etc. It helped me to pay attention to small, gut wantings I didn’t realize I had, and I am much less indecisive now that I can sometimes abstract those into preferences.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        However, if you really can’t decide, that suggests you care little about the outcome,

        Not exactly. It means that the expected utility of your possible choices is roughly equal. That can mean that the outcomes are roughly equal, or it can mean that you need more information. See Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “Harder Choices Matter Less”.

        I liked the rest of your comment, though. The only problem is that coins only work for decisions with two options. You could get percentile dice and divide the outcome space according to however many paths you are facing (for example, 1-33 for one option, 34-66 for another, and 67-99 for a third, with 100 requiring a reroll), but making a major life decision as if you were attacking a monster in Dungeons & Dragons somehow lacks the gravitas of flipping a big nice silver coin.

        • Bassicallyboss says:

          Thanks for the link; I hadn’t seen that one before.

          What you you say is true: Coin-flips only work on binary choices. Usually this isn’t a problem for me, since my hardest choices tend to be between widely different alternatives. And when I have three or more such alternatives, I can usually narrow it down to the two I like best. The final step is the hardest part, since when the choices are so different, the pros and cons of one are hard to compare to the other’s.

          I did try what you suggest once as an undergrad, when I was considering transferring to different universities. I found myself thinking “Do I really want to give that school an equal weight?” and so I just eliminated it down to two. This was before I knew about Bayesian evidence, though, and I think this was a case where, as Onyomi says, the utility difference between a correct and incorrect choice was quite large, but I suppose I was less confident in the third school being correct. That could be accounted for on percentile dice by assigning number ranges equal to probability weights, but if you’re able to break things down that finely, you’re probably better off just choosing the option with highest (utility x chance).

      • onyomi says:

        Funny you should mention that: my fiancee, whose favorite Batman villain is Two-Face, sometimes suggest flipping a coin or consulting a magic 8 ball (for when you need more nuance) when we are having trouble making a decision. I made fun of her for this until she pointed out it was a way of figuring out your true feelings about something.

        The sense that the coin is about to decide the outcome for you can sort of mimic actually being forced to chose on the spot, and, as you say, you may often find yourself secretly wishing for the coin toss to come out one way or the other.

        But I also agree with jaimeastorga that it isn’t that I don’t care about the choice, but that the expected utility of either decision may feel too close, even if the expect disutility of a poor choice is high.

        • Magnap says:

          That reminds me of the following grook (small aphoristic poem usually by Piet Hein):
          “Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind,
          and you’re hampered by not having any,
          the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,
          is simply by spinning a penny.
          No – not so that chance shall decide the affair
          while you’re passively standing there moping;
          but the moment the penny is up in the air,
          you suddenly know what you’re hoping.”

  30. BBA says:

    I’ve given some thought recently to the aviation industry – specifically, how over the century and change it’s existed, as a whole it’s lost money. For decades airlines in the US were propped up by the CAB system of regulated route monopolies and outside the US were largely government-owned and subsidized. Then privatization and deregulation happened, and airlines started going bankrupt left and right. Some quotable quotes:

    “The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.” – Warren Buffett

    “I’m an airline manager. I don’t invest in airlines. And I always said to the employees of American, ‘This is not an appropriate investment. It’s a great place to work and it’s a great company that does important work. But airlines are not an investment.’ … A lot of people came into the airline business. Most of them promptly exited, minus their money.” – Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines

    Some of the “low-cost” airlines have bucked the trend and made money – Southwest in particular even manages to do it without the sadism of the Ryanair/Spirit model. But none of them have transoceanic flights, which are just too logistically complex to fit into the low-cost model.

    Note also that the major airplane manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, receive indirect subsidies in various forms from their governments, mainly in the form of defense contracts and tax exemptions.

    Now I’m not categorically opposed to subsidies but I think they ought to be as transparent as possible, so we don’t pretend that Pan Am was some kind of capitalist icon when they only made money because they were the only US airline allowed to fly to London. But direct subsidies aren’t politically feasible, and if we take away the indirect subsidies pretty soon the only way to get across the Atlantic will be the Queen Mary 2.

    • Mark says:

      “More strikingly, it was shown that the more capital intensive an industry was, the lower was its rate of profit. This is exactly what one would expect if labour rather than capital was the sole source of value. This explains why railway projects like the Channel Tunnel are almost always unprofitable. They involve a lot of capital but employ little labour on which to make a profit.

      Marx had said that : “Very large undertakings, such as railways, on the other hand, which have an unusually high proportion of constant capital, do not yield the average rate of profit, but only a portion of it,” Those in favour of rail privatisation in other countries take note, they will never be profitable.

      Capital itself creates no value.”

      http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2010/03/19/is-the-marxian-labour-theory-of-value-correct/

      • Urstoff says:

        The conclusion does not follow from the premises. Capital is clearly a necessary condition for profit in most industries. You can’t have Wal-Mart without buildings, Google without computers, etc.

        Plus, the “labor theory of value” is just inventing a new concept of “value” that arbitrarily ties it to labor. We don’t need this third concept over and above the use and exchange sense of value, and the concept of a “real price” that’s somehow tied to this value is just bad metaphysics. We’ve got the prices set by the market and then the individual utility a person derives from the use of that good, and from those we get the concepts of producer and consumer surplus, which are far more illuminating than a “real price” or a concept of value derived from labor.

        • Mark says:

          “the concept of a “real price” that is somehow tied to this value is just bad metaphysics”
          I don’t know about real price, but I think the idea of a “real cost” is entirely meaningful – what are the inputs you have used to create something. And it isn’t entirely mad to reduce the real costs to the conscious activity expended in production – surely this *is* the *real* cost, the negative experiences we must have in order to get something we want (more real than the concept of opportunity cost of inputs, which is both “metaphysical” and has a higher level of abstraction…)
          I work for eight hours on the replicator you own, but I only take four hour’s worth of the goods produced by the machine, you get the rest. I’ve had a negative experience, you’ve given up the opportunity of receiving slightly less things. Who is bearing the real cost?

          I suppose the other bone of contention is that right wingers believe that these real costs are expressed through the price mechanism, or at least expressed as far as possible, whereas lefties believe that, due to social conditions (rather than physical limitations), many people are not in a position to do this.

          • David N says:

            “Giving up the opportunity to receive less” is an interesting rhetorical twist, but every one involved in your story is bearing costs and having negative experiences, and it’s possible that every one involved is coming out ahead.

            Thinking about economic problems should be done at the margin. Why did you work eight hours and not seven or nine? Why did you work on my replicator when there are other ways to earn 4 units?

            I don’t know what “right wingers” believe, but capitalists believe that prices convey information about the marginal utility of the thing being priced, which is not necessarily related to the cost of producing that thing.

          • Mark says:

            “every one involved in your story is bearing costs and having negative experiences, and it’s possible that every one involved is coming out ahead.”

            What is the cost for the capitalist?

            There is a fundamental difference between a capitalist putting his machines or social power to work, and a worker putting himself to work.

            “Thinking about economic problems should be done at the margin. ”
            How do you consider the system itself, the range of choices that people have, marginally?

          • David N says:

            “What is the cost for the capitalist?”

            The capitalist had to pay for the replicator. The capitalist pays the wages. The capitalist will have to replace the replicator when it fails. The capitalist labors and has “negative experiences” overseeing the operation.

            Asserting that there’s a “fundamental difference” between two things, without explaining why the differences matter, is another way of saying “yeah, but still.”

            Once you are able to think about economic choices in terms of marginal utility, it will be readily apparent how to apply that thinking to questions about people’s range of choices.

          • Urstoff says:

            I’m not really sure at all what’s going on here, but I’ll ask one clarifying question: why is that a negative experience?

            After all, had you not worked those eight hours, you would have no goods. Working for eight hours and taking half of what you made in exchange for the opportunity to use the machine seems like a positive-sum exchange, assuming you value those good more than you value the time lost (and if you don’t, why are you doing it?).

          • Mark says:

            @David N

            I thought I did say why the differences matter – if the *real* cost (the real, real cost) of production is work, then at any particular moment, the cost of production is being borne by the worker.

            You can construct a story whereby the capitalist was previously a worker, or in actual fact is a worker… but it is by no means clear that this is actually true.

            Don’t you have to assume that people are free to make choices for marginal utility to tell us anything? We certainly aren’t free as individuals to choose the system in which we live.

            @Urstoff
            Yes, certainly, I’d prefer to work than to not work, but couldn’t you say the same thing about pretty much anything? Man with gun tells me to do something, can that rightly be called a positive experience?
            It could be worse doesn’t mean that it is good.

          • Urstoff says:

            Given that it’s voluntary (unlike the man with the gun), then it is a net positive. After all, you admit that you’d rather have the goods from the work than have those eight hours back. Work may suck, but the money sure is nice. You can’t just consider one side of the equation.

          • David N says:

            @Mark,

            Work is just part of the real, real, cost of production. In some industries it’s most of the cost, in others it’s a small fraction of the cost.

            Costs can be spread out over time, so it’s disingenuous to gauge fairness, or whatever it is you are attempting to measure, by what is happening at “any particular moment.”

            The concept of marginal utility doesn’t depend on what “system” you live under. It depends on their being more than one use for a particular thing. The marginal utility is the value of the “next best use.”

          • Dirdle says:

            @Urstoff: What’s not voluntary about the man with the gun? He points a gun at you and tells you to give him your wallet. You then give him your wallet voluntarily, because you want to have your wallet less than you want not to get shot.

            All gunpoint duress does is change your preferences in favour of a particular set of actions like “doing what the gun-holder says.” All systemic financial duress does is change your preferences in favour of a set like “doing whatever my boss says.” Can you unambiguously draw a line between the two kinds of choice? Can you imagine no reason to argue for drawing the line elsewhere?

          • John Schilling says:

            The armed robber threatens to make my life worse than it would have been if the robber had never entered my life, even if I chose not to deal with the robber at all.

            My dealings with the boss are mutually consensual, and the worst outcome on the table leaves me no worse off than if the boss had never been born.

            “First do no harm” is a relatively unambiguous line, and one that many people like to use for just this reason.

      • BBA says:

        That’s, ah, not really what I was going for. The only Marxist ideas I endorse are of the Groucho variety.

      • Nornagest says:

        An alternate explanation, one that might be borne out better by the data, would be “megaprojects usually suck”.

    • Zippy says:

      Is there some reason that, in this particular case, the free market shouldn’t be left to its own devices?

      (It also seems to me like airlines should pay a carbon tax– in a way that I am not qualified to specify– for the reasons considered in A Something Sort Of Like Left-Libertarianism-ist Manifesto. But this makes the situation even worse for airlines.)

      • BBA says:

        Leave the free market to its own devices – which if you’re really serious means ending the cross-subsidy of commercial aircraft by military purchases – and the entire industry collapses.

        • John Schilling says:

          Source?

          I won’t speak for Airbus, but the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company is a separate top-level division of Boeing, with Boeing Defense, Space, and Security on the other side of the wall. From the company’s 2014 form 10K (one of the forms where fakery gets the CEO sent to federal prison) the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company is independently profitable, generates more than 65% of Boeing’s gross revenue and 85% of its operating income. Income from BCAC exceeds Boeing’s corporate-wide administrative overhead and R&D expenditures.

          This does not seem to be a company that will collapse if the alleged “subsidy” from military aircraft purchases goes away.

        • Zippy says:

          John Schilling’s comment notwithstanding (for the sake of argument), if the industry isn’t useful enough that people want to pay for its continued existence, then is there any particular reason I should want to keep it around?

          (I imagine naively that the industry would remain the form of fewer, more expensive flights. But this would probably qualify as the “collapse” you’ve mentioned)

        • Anonymous says:

          If that were true, it would suggest that air travel really is not a good idea, that it would be a better use of our money to transport goods and people in a different way (probably numerous different ways).

          The fact that neither one of us seems to believe that conclusion is correct suggests that your claim, that the airline industry would collapse if not for subsidy, is false.

    • ReluctantEngineer says:

      The Department of Transportation issued a report a few years ago on the subsidies received by different modes of transportation. Over the period studied (1990-2002), commercial aviation received net federal subsidies of less than $15/thousand passenger miles (compared to, for example, over $150/thousand passenger miles for passenger rail). Completely removing the subsidy would not seriously alter the economics of passenger air travel, as it would hit all the carriers equally (the ruthless price competition is mostly between carriers, rather than between air travel and other modes of transit).

      It can also be helpful to know a little bit about where airlines spend their money (this article by the WSJ has a nice infographic). Historically, labor has been by far the biggest cost for airlines, although in recent years fuel costs have overtaken it. As this IATA report notes, air transportation is the most unionized private industry in the U.S., and the unions are able to extract significant wage premiums for their workers relative to workers in other industries with similar skill levels. So there is room to cut costs if need be (indeed, several unions have had no choice but to make concessions in recent years in the wake of various airline bankruptcies).

      Speaking of those airline bankruptcies, they were the unsurprising result of corporations that had been set up to operate in the heavily regulated, pre-1978, CAB-controlled industry suddenly being set loose in an actual free market and being unable to adapt quickly enough. Southwest, the only major airline that was around at the time that has not since filed for bankruptcy, only operated intra-state flights prior to 1978, and had thus avoided having to deal with federal regulations and was therefore more sensibly structured.

      tl;dr The aviation industry is in fact capable of standing on its own.

  31. Deiseach says:

    I don’t know if I’m lowering the tone of debate on here, but I saw this and I have to leave it up here for comment.

    So – all that stuff from certain online sites about how you, too, can become (or at least do a good enough imitation of) Alpha Males and keeping your women (plural, because you’re not tying yourself down to just the one) in line and chasing off Beta Cuckold Orbiters – I’m not going to say it.

    I’m going to think it, but I’m not going to say it 🙂

    • nyccine says:

      I think you’re getting tripped up over the term “harem.” And also a complete misunderstanding of pick-up artists.

      They dynamic laid out in the article is “modestly endowed monkey has to fight off other, presumably better-endowed monkeys to keep his mates from cheating on him.”

      In this scenario, the PUAs are the ones trying to screw the females behind the loudmouth’s back – your joke scenario actually says the opposite of what you were going for. You’re also mixing up terms really badly (a PUA would never worry about a “beta cuckold orbiter” scoring with his women; in the PUA view, betas don’t get laid, they get to be the shoulder to cry on before she goes out to sleep with the jerk again.)

      Also, PUA is about getting laid; if that meant having the smallest junk while being the loudest jerk, that’s what PUA would recommend. Nobody would be shamed by being accused of being under-endowed if that’s what women wanted.

  32. TheFrannest says:

    Here’s an question I’ve been pondering: are plot twists a recent invention?

    From what I see, being concerned with spoilers is not something people were very familiar with. “Tragedy” and “comedy” in Shakespearean times flat out referred to how the play is going to end, so you start watching a comedy and you already know that it will end well, usually with a marriage. Victorian era novels have these chapter titles “Chapter XVII, in which the hero does this and that and then the following happens”.

    The Twilight Zone has excellently written episodes but many of them are just relying entirely on an obvious or pointless twist, like “the humans were the alien invaders the whole time”. And it was a popular show! People liked it a lot. The earliest mention of the word “spoiler” in sources that I know of is National Lampoon in the 70s just straight up publishing a list of spoilers for a bunch of things, which is something that, in my opinion, indicates unfamiliarity with a concept. The earliest official concern with spoilers that I know of is Agatha Christie – Mousetrap in particular. Murder mystery novels are really the type of media that spoilers completely break.

    Literary criticism and old-timey book reviews didn’t seem to care about spoilers in the slightest, with contemporary Hemingway book reviews I’ve seen describing plot-central details out in the open.

    In these days, spoiler concerns are the accepted norm, and so are twists, with much of genre fiction and genre fiction-like media (like videogames, TV shows and such) being criticized if it lacks twists.

    • Deiseach says:

      In its defence, back when first shown, the “obvious” plot twists were not so obvious, or so well known, to the original audience.

      After seeing how-knows-how-many slasher movies, you can pick out “She’s next for the maniac murderer. He’s dead. She’s going to be the Final Girl.” That, after all, was the point of the “Scream” franchise initially. But that only happens when you have the genre established long enough to have developed tropes, and an audience which has grown up watching that genre and savvy enough to recognise the tropes.

      Back in the Dim’n’Distant past “Ahhhhhh – it’s a cookbook!” was an unexpected twist!

      Some of the episodes, of course, were in-jokes that winked at the audience precisely because they were old chestnuts that everyone knew and groaned at. The novelty was not “Will the hero and heroine end up together?”, it’s “How will the writer pull it off this time?”

      Rom-coms are the example of this; we know Jack and Jill who start off hating each other are going to be standing under a floral archway exchanging gooey looks and reciting self-written vows at the end, it’s in the journey there that the novelty resides.

      I think concern with spoilers is a modern idea because audiences are so jaded; if you’ve got Action Movie #99 out of 200 coming out this weekend in a cinema near you, you need to keep plot details secret enough that you can entice people to see your movie and not go next door to Action Movie #150 or even Rom-Com #56

      And there is so much pre-marketing done, with trailers and stills and interviews and the cast sent out to publicise it on every chat show and convention panel, that you nearly don’t need to go see the actual movie in order to be familiar with it; for example, I haven’t seen “Mad Max: Fury Road” but having seen so much discussion, fanart, links to interviews, etc. on my Tumblr about it from the Americans who saw it before it came out over here, I feel as if I have seen it. For del Toro’s new movie, “Crimson Peak”, I already know – because of a review – whodunnit as regards any murders (if murders do happen, I’m not saying they do, I’m not saying they don’t, murders what murders?). If I’m going to watch it – and I very well may do – it’ll be because it’s Guillermo del Toro and he makes damn-fine arthouse movies on a popular cinema scale.

      • TheFrannest says:

        The clumsy inability to apply twists in a coherent, logical manner or to not rely on them so incredibly much kind of indicates the as-of-yet unfamiliarity with the concept.

        The best bar none TZ episode I’ve seen is about the god-kid, and it’s the best because it doesn’t rely on pointless plot twists. Some of the episodes are about excessive karmic punishments that happen to people – guy’s a dick, hates people, wants to read, world annihilated, glasses get broken. But many are just, “Wax statues start moving? What could that mean? What mystery lies in store? For, I see, we are all from the planet zibble-zobble where everyone is actually made out of wax and the story you’ve just seen has absolutely NO POINT.”

        It’s a difference between an idea and a conceit. “What if humans had three arms” is a conceit, “what if aliens had three arms, two on one side and one on the other, and were asymmetric, what would that imply about their psychology?” is an idea.

    • keranih says:

      We’ve(*) had trickster tales for forever and always – telling stories with a surprise ending have been a stock part of our libraries, even back when all our stories were spoken/sung. We’ve also had contempt for badly done plot twists for a very long time – deus ex machina is not a complement.

      One might also recall that storytellers didn’t so much *invent* stories, as they did perform the retelling of stories that everyone knew in an enjoyable fashion. In much the same way, as Deiseach says below, it wasnt so much *what* happened as it was *how* it happened.

      It’s also important to remember that “spoilers” were not so much an issue when it would take forever to get something in print. Spoilers and fannish despair was an issue as far back as Charles Dickens and “Little Nell”, when sailors would shout the updates over the railing in Boston even as the ships from London were docking.

      Finally, before widespread literacy and cheap penny dreadfuls, the lack of tons of printed material meant a lot of re-reading, which meant that works which improved upon rereading were valued over those whose best effect was had through shock value/first exposure. Now we have TONS of new stuff. all the time, so that we can have first times over and over again.

      (*) I use “we” to mean humans and western lit, both at the same time. Sorry. My exposure to Asian lit is nonexistant outside of some poetry and less detective fiction, and my knowledge of African literature even less.

      • TheFrannest says:

        > deus ex machina is not a complement.

        First, Deus ex Machina isn’t about twists, but about writing oneself into a corner, second, it was completely expected that a god is going to save the day because the plays themselves were written to praise whatever god.

        • keranih says:

          No, it was not expected that a god was going to save the day, at least not in a way completely tangential to the plot so far. (That gods would be involved, duh, of course, are you wanting a play set in some crazy world where there are no gods? Wow, that’s some weird wine you’re drinking there, friend…)

          The gods could make the hero’s situation worse or better, but it had to be in a way that the audience would accept. “Rocks fall, everyone dies” was unsatisfactory then, much as it is now.

          And still dem counts as a ‘plot twist’ – it’s just a badly done plot twist.

    • Mark says:

      What about:
      “Fear not, till Birnam wood Do come to Dunsinane”; and now a wood
      Comes toward Dunsinane”
      “MacDuff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”?

      For that matter I seem to remember seeing a version of 1001 nights with a self-fufilling prophecy that was kind of plot-twisty.

      • TheFrannest says:

        Self-fulfilling prophecies are an applied belief in inescapability of fate. You can’t fight fate, character is told that X will happen, does Y to actively prevent this, Y inevitably leads to X.

      • Nornagest says:

        Oh, that sort of thing’s all over oral traditions. The usual word for it is “quibble“.

    • onyomi says:

      One thing that is noticeable to me looking at the history of media: every time a new medium is introduced, it takes artists a while to fully realize its potential. Artists do not start working in a new medium with a full grasp of all its possibilities and pitfalls; instead, they usually attempt to do whatever they were previously doing, but in a new medium, often resulting in works which may have been kind of revolutionary at the time, but which look weird and awkward in retrospect.

      Consider early film: the makeup, staging, and even acting technique are much closer to stage acting and makeup and costume. As late as the 60s I see films with makeup and acting styles which say to me, “this is a holdover from stage acting.”

      The same thing happened with “novels” separately in Europe and Asia, and probably elsewhere. In Asia, which is the tradition I’m more familiar with, novels grew out of a combination of oral storyteller performance, quasi-fictional-but-not-quite-comfortable-presenting-itself-as-fiction prose anecdotes, and elite poetic culture. The result is, in something like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, you find things which make perfect sense for a storyteller, like periodic recap, ending of “last time’s” episode in the first half of each chapter while introducing a new episode to be left on a cliffhanger for the second half of chapter, and so on.

      In the prose stories you find people justifying the writing of fiction in weird ways by making it sound like they just heard this from a reliable source. I think the Western epistolary novel is also a gesture toward this kind of reality.

      Anyway, when early novels, plays, or whatever feel awkward to you, or seem not to have “invented” a technique which is now the bread and butter of what you consume, consider what the media you now consume enables and/or makes desirable which may not have been true of earlier media, as well as the possibility that people just hadn’t figured out the full potential of a given media at a certain time.

      And, like Deiseach says, we are very jaded now; it takes more to surprise us.

    • Anatoly says:

      It’s hard to shake off the feeling that you’ve noticed something real there, despite some good objections in comments. When the story of the Trojan Horse is told in the Odyssey and the Aeneid, we’re told up front about the plan, and then the bewilderment of the Trojans is described when attackers come from inside the horse. It seems certain that if the story was invented and written up today, the reader/watcher/listener would not be told of the plan first.

      Perhaps it’s not so much the plot twist on its own, but the feelings of surprise and shock that modern audiences seem to require (or appreciate) more. There’s so much emphasis on not knowing what the hell is going on, and then learning what the hell is going on.

      Another perhaps related thing I’ve noticed is how everything nowadays seems to start in medias res.

      • NN says:

        Ancient epics have a very different context to most modern fiction. Virtually everyone attending a bard’s performance of an epic would have already heard the story many times since their childhood, so they already knew what was going to happen. The thrill was in hearing this particular bard’s spin on the story. The closest thing we have nowadays are remakes and “reimaginings.”

      • LHN says:

        When the story of the Trojan Horse is told in the Odyssey and the Aeneid, we’re told up front about the plan, and then the bewilderment of the Trojans is described when attackers come from inside the horse. It seems certain that if the story was invented and written up today, the reader/watcher/listener would not be told of the plan first.

        Even more: the only circumstance in which we’d be told the plan up front in a modern story is if it’s going to fail, or at least go interestingly wrong in a way that will require the heroes to go to extraordinary lengths to salvage.

      • Aegeus says:

        In medias res is definitely not a modern thing – both the Illiad and the Odyssey start out that way, and the term itself dates back to Horace. Wikipedia can cite examples of it throughout history.

        Maybe it’s more common nowadays; you’re not the first person I’ve seen complaining that everyone has to start off with a bang and nobody ever paces themselves properly, but I would attribute that to the fact that there’s a lot more modern fiction in general, so you’re going to see more of pretty much any trope.

      • Deiseach says:

        But shows like “Columbo” turned that on its head (and so went back to the Iliad model): we knew from the start whodunnit and how they did it; the appeal of the episode was how Columbo was going to trip them up and tie them up in knots in self-contradictions and get them to do stupid self-incriminating things like revisit the scene of the crime or try to make sure they really had destroyed the murder weapon.

    • NN says:

      From what I see, being concerned with spoilers is not something people were very familiar with. “Tragedy” and “comedy” in Shakespearean times flat out referred to how the play is going to end, so you start watching a comedy and you already know that it will end well, usually with a marriage.

      Most of Shakespeare’s non-historical works were based on existing stories, so a large chunk of his audience was already going to be familiar with the story and know how it was going to end. As such, he didn’t bother trying to surprise the audience with trick endings and instead he tried to entertain people with new twists on stories that they already knew.

      Romeo and Juliet, for example, is based on an Italian folktale that had been written and published in England for more than 30 years before Shakespeare got around to writing it. Hence why he didn’t see any problem with spoiling the play’s ending in the very first scene.

  33. sweeneyrod says:

    There is a first-world country that has a certain group of people who mostly live in ghettos, have lower levels of education, and are highly overrepresented in low-status jobs and organized crime. Sound familiar?

    I’m talking about Japan and the Burakumin.

    • onyomi says:

      Historically, Japan had a stronger sense of taboo regarding various sorts of defilement (kegare) than probably even most traditional societies. This is perhaps the flipside of having a native folk religion (Shinto) which emphasizes cleanliness, purity, birth, renewal, etc.

      It clearly lingers in the treatment of the burakumin; what’s interesting about them is how you can’t tell them apart from other Japanese by their physical appearance or accent or anything else. Though maybe that just makes them scary: don’t become a butcher! Do you want people to think you are a burakumin?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Actually just talking about that earlier today!

      The question I find most interesting: how did this group form? Were normal people working as butchers, and then somebody said “Nope, from now on you’re ostracized!” ? Or was butcher always the lowest status occupation, and only the most desperate and hopeless were willing to take it up and end up in the untouchable caste?

      The different stories would have very different morals in terms of transmission of human capital stuff

      • Deiseach says:

        Untouchable castes form around the disgust reaction; the people who deal with the messy stuff that is necessary for society to function, but which people don’t want to touch themselves.

        Butchers, people who bury/cremate corpses, the ones who do the dirty work (literally): they become tabu because they’re dealing with liminal states (disposal of the dead involves the possibility of ghosts and spirits; butchers are killers who are not governed by the same codes as warriors and have a lower place). And of course, poverty and desperation and coercion have their place there; if the dirty, hard, manual work is done by the poor and the criminal and the slaves, then by association people who might become poor or criminals or slaves are only fit for that kind of work and are not fit to mingle with ordinary decent people. The Ganguli translation of the “Mahabharata” has quite a lot about the different castes as part of the text, and it’s eye-opening stuff to read the virulent insistence that the very lowest caste not only cannot, but should not, be taught or shown anything that might lift them out of that state – e.g. they should be punished if they attempt specific religious ceremonies, people who teach them or perform them for them must be punished, because they are destined to be the degraded and despised classes and are more or less damned (though such a term is never used of course) to remain in that state, and any attempt to let them acquire the kind of virtue or merit from religious devotion the higher castes can acquire is directly against the will of the gods.

        It’s the same thing that happened with public executioners in Europe. And indeed, we see the same split between doctors, who are educated men with university educations, and surgeons, who had their origin in barber-surgeons, who are blood-letters and limb-hackers but are much lowlier in status and not at all regarded. Before modern medicine, surgery was butchery, and surgeons were as highly (or not) regarded as butchers. That’s the root of the usage that medical doctors are “Dr” but surgeons are “Mr”!

        The best quality a surgeon possessed was speed, because the faster you could cut someone open (or cut off a diseased limb), the better chance they wouldn’t bleed out or go into fatal shock.

        It’s been done in a SF setting with Asimov’s story Strikebreaker; because it’s set on an asteroid colony which is enclosed, everything needs to be recycled (including urine for drinking water). The family which operate the recycling have, over the generations, been made untouchables who cannot mingle in ordinary society.

        You can see how the repressed disgust at the necessity of living in a completely closed system (drinking urine triggering the disgust reflex) has been displaced onto the people most closely associated with it; the colonists can and do, on the surface, appear completely unconcerned about where their water comes from and completely rational about it and the filtration etc. it undergoes, but the underlying impulse breaks out there.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “It’s the same thing that happened with public executioners in Europe.”

          As Joseph de Maistre had a space alien say in the Seventh St. Petersburg Dialogue, this is how you would rationally treat indiscriminate killers, not the poor guy who kills someone found guilty of a capital crime after a fair trial. Yet the lumieres shared the general disgust reaction to the executioner and positive attitude to military glory.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It’s almost certain that there were Japanese butchers before Buddhist missionaries arrived in Japan (552 AD or earlier) and Empress Suiko made it high-status (~600). I think the Buddhists went “Nope, from now on you’re ostracized!” I can’t prove that they didn’t arrive to find that butchers were already the lowest status occupation, but it’s hard to prove a negative when this is just about the time literacy first appears in Japan.

        Wikipedia: “At the start of the Edo period (1603–1867), the social class system (more properly, a caste system, since it was based upon birth and not upon economics) was officially established as a means of designating hierarchy, and eta were placed at the lowest level, outside of the four main divisions of society.”

        Related, when Fa Xian made a pilgrimage to India shortly after 400 AD, his memoirs mention that the four main divisions of society are “all prosperous” and “kill no living thing nor drink wine, with the exception of Chandalas only. The Chandalas are named ‘evil men’ and dwell apart from others… The Chandalas only hunt and sell flesh.”

        • onyomi says:

          I think it predates and is largely unrelated to the Buddhist injunction against taking life. It has more to do with native Shinto notions of purity. Buddhists, for example, have nothing against undertakers, and even reject, to some extent, dichotomous thinking like “pure” and “impure.”

          Personally, I wonder if there isn’t also some faroff historical connection to non-Japanese ethnic groups. The Ainu are still looked down upon, but 1000 years ago, Southern Kyushu, Northern Honshu and all of Hokkaido were basically the territory of non-Japanese peoples, like the Emishi, whose name sounds suspiciously similar to Eta to me (the practice of writing Eta using characters meaning “filth in abundance” is not part of the original etymology).

          I wonder if, in attempting to integrate into Japanese society, these people weren’t at first shunted into undesirable occupations. I think such a pattern has happened with immigrants elsewhere (Irish police work in the US and European Jews and usury come to mind, though obviously, in many cases they had been there as long as the majority population, who nonetheless continued to view them as outsiders in most of European history).

          Originally they may have looked and sounded different, but over time those differences would have been erased in all but memory (this is totally just a random theory; discrimination against Eta and discrimination against non-Japanese ethnic groups may be historically unrelated).

          • Deiseach says:

            Looking and sounding different can be very fine distinctions; an Irish and an English person would broadly look the same, but at the time of anti-Irish discrimination there would have been a lot of “No, they look like monkeys! Look at their noses and jaws and the shape of their skulls and listen to their accent and they are very plainly not English!” while to a non-European the two would have been indistinguishable.

            Even to a European, probably, though perhaps not Americans 🙂

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think most Japanese can tell either, though there are apparently some surnames with the association. Yakuza do have a distinctive mode of dress and speech, and a lot of Burakumin become Yakuza, but not all Yakuza are Burakumin.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        There was a similar group in France, the Cagots. Nobody is entirely sure how the group formed, or what distinguished them from non-Cagots. There were all sorts of strange beliefs about them, including that they were cannibals and that they had webbed feet. And while one of the trades they were restricted to was a reasonably unpleasant one (butcher), they were not allowed to engage in others (such as gravedigger or tanner) but were allowed to be rope-makers and carpenters.

        The one living person who admits to Cagot ancestry thinks that they are descended from converted Muslims, but others believe either that their ancestors had leprosy or some other unpleasant disease or that they were the remnants of a fallen guild of carpenters.

      • vV_Vv says:

        If I understand correctly, in many pre-modern societies there were professions with similar untouchable caste status. Typically they were all jobs, such as butcher, undertaker, various types of cleaner, even barber, etc. which involved handling dead, sick, or otherwise “unclean” stuff.

        This social insulation can be probably explained as a culturally evolved (perhaps on a biological basis) pathogen avoidance strategy.

        Japan is unusual in this regard just because it’s perhaps the only first-world society where such taboos still exist.

  34. Linch says:

    So I asked several groups on social media about the DRACOs question. This is one of the responses I’ve gotten (also the only one by a science PhD so far):

    “I’m going to try and be as diplomatic as I possibly can, but I can’t make any promises since you, this research, and this approach to funding have tripped multiple triggers of mine all at once.

    DRACOs are fusion proteins where one half binds to double-stranded RNA (which, despite this author’s wishful thinking, IS NOT specific to viruses) and one half carries a trigger for a cell-death program that is latent in almost all cells. The trigger only functions when multiple copies are near one another in the cell. The purported idea behind DRACOs is that they’ll bind to “virus-specific” dsRNAs in sufficient quantities to bring the triggers close enough to one another to specifically kill cells harboring viruses.

    There are a number of flaws with this approach, including but not limited to: 1) dsRNA isn’t specific to viruses (so DRACOs may kill healthy cells, too), 2) not all cells harboring viruses are actively making dsRNAs (so DRACO treatment might not even kill all of the cells it needs to), 3) even virally-infected cells can still be performing important functions for an organism (so you may not want to kill them), 4) the dsRNA-binding domains are non-specific by design, which means that they can easily target things like harmless endogenous retroviral transcripts, 5) this is a protein-based therapy, which will either require delivery via virus (oops) or massive, expensive direct injections of protein that will trigger an immune response.

    There are a ton of ways in which this therapy can fail, none of which have been adequately addressed in the TWO papers that have been published about DRACOs since 2011, only one of which originates from the “lab” that performed the initial study. Between the two papers, there’s a grand total of ONE experiment that puts DRACOs into living organisms, and it only reports on what happens to the virus, without looking at any potential side-effects to the mice that were treated.

    There are an enormous number of “promising” therapies for a variety of diseases that work beyond everyone’s wildest imagination in cultured cells, but ultimately fail (and fail hard) when used as an attempted therapy in real organisms. Most pharmaceutical development isn’t finding the drug that “treats” a disease, but instead, figuring out how to get that drug into cells in a living person. Without solid evidence that a treatment will actually work in something alive, it’s hard to justify continued funding to optimize that drug, let alone get it through the ten to twenty years of testing required for FDA approval. The one paper that he’s published represents perhaps 2% of all of the work required to make this a viable therapy (if it even can BECOME a viable therapy.)

    I think a Gofundme campaign for something like this is beyond inappropriate — it’s essentially preying on the ignorance of the laity to generate donations that might buy one year of research out of the 20+ required to bring this to market. In this particular case, the researcher soliciting funding has a MASSIVE financial conflict of interest, as he’s spent 10+ years of his career filing patents for this technology and will reap all of the financial benefits in the unlikely event that DRACOs make it to market.

    While the NIH has a $30 billion+ annual budget, that money is most definitely not just lying around. Any investigator at a 501(c)(3) organization can enter the competitive process for getting funding for their project; the vast majority of the NIH’s budget is already being spent on research that has gotten through this process. What this researcher is doing, in essence, is putting together a semi-slick marketing campaign to fleece donors AND try to generate public pressure on the NIH to fund him.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you.

    • Jacob says:

      Much of that comment seems to be arguing against their marketing. The question shouldn’t be “will this therapy definitely work” as much as “is the probability of it working high enough to justify funding it some more” which is a highly subjective question.

      >generate donations that might buy one year of research out of the 20+ required to bring this to market.

      As the commenter so eloquently pointed out, there isn’t enough research to justify investment by drug companies. If there were he wouldn’t be on GoFundMe. If more studies are done and the technique continues to show promise, it will be much easier to get a pharma-company or other big funder interested.

      On a more technical note:

      1) From their PLoS paper: “Most viruses have double- or single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) genomes and produce long dsRNA helices during transcription and replication; the remainder of viruses have DNA genomes and typically produce long dsRNA via symmetrical transcription [4]–[5]. In contrast, uninfected mammalian cells generally do not produce long dsRNA (greater than ∼21–23 base pairs)”. So it seems to me like dsRNA is a viable way to target virus.

      I’m not exactly wowed by the initial study but the initial results look good, it works both in cell culture and in live mice. So of course be skeptical, it will probably amount to nothing, but the same could’ve been said for everything that ever did amount to something beforehand.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        A drug working in mice means very little. Only about 10% of drugs make it from Phase I trial to approval despite all of them having a plausible mechanism and promising preliminary results.

      • Deiseach says:

        As others have pointed out, working in a culture is one thing; working in humans is another.

        How many mice does it kill or do nothing for? Have we figures on that as well as “it works (sometimes for some things) in mice”?

    • weareastrangemonkey says:

      Don’t try to pick stocks unless you have inside information or good reason to think you have identified something that others, for some reason, cannot identify.

      So what have the NIH and the pharmaceutical companies both missed that we have not?

      Without a strong candidate answer to this question I don’t think donating is wise.

      • Mark says:

        Hmmmm… isn’t the better analogy – “put all your money into managed funds because those guys are the professionals”?
        Surely introducing an alternative funding mechanism can only help make the market for funding more efficient in the long term – if crowdfunding doesn’t achieve anything in comparison to traditional avenues then people will stop doing it.

        • weareastrangemonkey says:

          Not really. That wouldn’t make my point at all. People are trying to pick a winner here when there are lots of experts trying to pick winners too. The question is, “What have we seen that experts have missed?”

          Assuming Indiegogo improves the allocation of funds then it is going to be because it utilises different knowledge and preferences to that possessed by standard large scale investors. In two senses, the first sense is that people happen to know they would like something so they secure demand ahead of production. The second case, is that people have preferences not related to economic returns.

          This does not look like one of these cases, the guy is at MIT and has all the opportunities to get funding from large pharma companies and the government. They all want to fund effective medicines either for profit or by government mandate. They have experts who can evaluate the probability of success. These experts are better qualified than us in this case. I see no good reason why we think we should be able to outperform these guys.

          • Mark says:

            Well, that’s certainly a reasonable hypothesis. How should we test it?

            (You are most likely right, but whatever the individual expertise of the people involved in judging these things, I have less faith in the institutional arrangements being effective/rationally designed. )

          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            Your answer to the question “What have we seen that experts have missed?” is not that the experts have missed it but that there is something screwy about the institutional arrangements of big pharma and NIH that stop them seeing the value of the research. Okay, I don’t really see that as an actual answer to the question. What is it about the institutional details that stops them from realising and acting on this potentially very valuable research? I am sure the institutional arrangements are imperfect. None the less, I think it more likely that a group of people who know little about the process of developing medicine have missed something that is fairly obvious to people whose job it is to find promising medical research to fund and develop.

          • Mark says:

            “What is it about the institutional details that stops them from realising and acting on this potentially very valuable research?”

            Well, for one, no one ever got fired for buying IBM. I think its entirely plausible that people working for large institutions might be more risk averse than is desirable… and that is pretty much what the “valley of death” guys are saying.
            Perhaps traditional charities would be a better way of solving the problem (if in fact the problem exists), but, to be honest, if this campaign is directing funds from other indiegogo projects ($155,000 for a temperature adjustable mug!) it’s actually pretty much zero cost even if it ends up doing nothing.

    • Slander says:

      Molecular genetics PhD student here.

      Confirming that #5 was the most glaring problem that stood out to me about the concept and very possibly what sank a grant proposal, especially given how ambitious his language is. As an earlier poster noted, a more efficient way of applying protein-based therapies would be a much bigger discovery.

      Antigenicity of the DRACOs is of particular concern since he seems to envision these being taken every time someone gets the sniffles. If they are antigenic, they would quickly become at best ineffective in repeated doses and at worst, dangerous.

      #1-4 are plausibly problematic, but less so. I would guess that he has all of these in mind and it’s very reasonable that he hasn’t yet tested them:

      1. Fair, although he does explicitly note this and explains (thinks at least) that naturally-occurring dsRNA is too small to set off DRACOs.

      2. This one is weak. The risk with acute viral infections is typically that they will kill/damage the host before an effective immune response can be mounted (one that doesn’t kill/damage the host itself ideally). Existing antivirals don’t stop 100% of circulating virus or infected cells either, but they buy time for the immune system to get its shit together. Often this will actually be better than clearing the virus outright since it can lead to lasting immunity.

      3. This is true, but it’s worth noting that SCORCHED EARTH is already kind of the immune system’s go-to for handling virally-infected cells. I think this would only be problematic if the DRACOs could enter immune-privileged areas (brain, eyes, etc.) that circulating immune cells cannot. Which is quite possible.

      4. Also true, however dsRNA is already a primary target of the innate immune system. This doesn’t seem risky unless the DRACOs are exquisitely more sensitive to it and his mice not dropping dead suggests (obviously doesn’t yet prove) otherwise.

      Also concerning is that he indicates clearance/survival of the mice when he treated immediately before or after infection. With most viruses, there’s a huge gap between when you are infected and when you get sick.

      It would be much more helpful (and almost conspicuously absent) to show clearance/survival when treating after symptoms appear.

      I agree with everything else said. Even a wildly successful GoFundMe campaign would not get this project anywhere near clinical trials. My suspicion was the same- I think he’s looking for hype and publicity more than money to get the NIH or a private investor on board.

      Edit – These kinds of major concerns and minor nitpicks plague any project at this stage. It’s a reasonable idea and the VERY preliminary data he has doesn’t look sketchy, I think he’s just misrepresenting how long and how risky the road to clinical usage is.

  35. HeelBearCub says:

    I mentioned affirmative consent in a recent thread, and my belief that a post discussing affirmative consent would not be likely to generate much in the way of positive dialogue. Some posters seemed to think that we actually could have some sort of positive dialogue. So this post is intended to make the case that affirmative consent is the standard that we should all desire.

    If this topic is too close to other forbidden topics, please accept my apologies and delete the post.

    The points are relatively simple. The first is that affirmative consent is how we determine the presence or absence of assault in general already. If I am fond of bare knuckles boxing and walk up to you and raise my fists in the the style of 19th century boxers, even if you were to raise your fists and smile, if I simply commenced to punch you this would be assault on my part. Yet, if you clearly communicate consent, and there is no coercion, then my striking you is not assault. If I were to walk up to random stranger, declare “punch-buggy” and strike them on the arm, this would also be assault. Yet an ongoing game of punch-buggy would not be assault. Consent could be withdrawn for the game of punch-buggy at any time, and escalating the arm punching to face punching would not be allowed without consent. Thus, the concept that affirmative consent is some arcane, legalistic fun-destroying standard seems to fall. We apply the concept of affirmative consent all the time. I think the the punch-buggy concept can easily be expanded to understand that even non-verbal consent can still be affirmative consent.

    The second is more basic. Do you really want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you? Do you want to find out later that they actually did not want to (regardless of any legal or disciplinary peril)? If someone can actually answer this question with a “yes” and defend it, I will be interested but surprised.

    It is my contention that any issue people have with affirmative consent have very little to do with the actual standard itself, and more to do with how they perceive it might be applied, and especially in how it may be applied in an American society that is extraordinarily conflicted about how good and/or desirable sex is.

    • DrBeat says:

      How the standard might be (and will be and provably is) applied is inseparable from our assessment of the standard.

      I do not want to have sex with someone and later find out they did not want to. I do not think that all things I do not want to happen are things I should be punished for, and even if it is punishable, life-annihilation is not a fair punishment for that. I should not be punished for other people’s poor communication or other people’s sense of social obligation.

      And I should never be punished for something that only became a crime after the fact, in retrospect, after someone changed their mind after their past actions. ESPECIALLY if there is an incredibly powerful social movement that is putting in a lot of effort to change people’s minds about their past actions in order to reclassify them as crimes they were victims of.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @DrBeat – the specific argument is that positive consent is the standard we should all want in our intimate interactions, not that it should be legally enforced. All of your arguments apply to the later, not the former.

        • Anonymous says:

          I vehemently disagree that it ought to be something everyone is required, or even expected, to follow. However, with regards to use of affirmative consent as a standard, a possible solution that strikes me is having each nightclub or similar inform patrons of expected conduct within. If a university club wants to enforce affirmative consent then, fine.

          It’s the claim that everyone ought to follow these rules in their own lives everywhere, with everyone, in spite of any existing level of intimacy, in spite of any precedents, even in spite of both parties wanting to opt out, that I not only disagree with but find very disturbing.

        • DrBeat says:

          How the standard might be (or will be or provably is) applied is inseparable from my assessment of the standard.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not sure the analogy of intimacy to violence is useful. Most people want to engage in intimacy with some people. Very few people want to engage in violence for fun. It makes sense to get more assurance that someone really wants to do something that few people want to do than it does for something many people want to do.

      One of the problems I have with the affirmative consent idea is that you can’t opt out: that, as far as I’m aware, it is not intended to be an initial framework that couples can mutually agree to disregard, but something that people are required to follow even if both partners don’t want to.

      Another problem is that it treats all couples as equal, with precedent counting for nothing: you require affirmative consent from your wife of fifty years just as much as you do from a one-time partner. I can’t help but read political motivation into this.

      When applied to strangers the affirmative consent idea seems flimsy, but when applied to long-term couples it seems quite obviously wrong. Squeezing your wife’s bum without asking first is plainly not the same thing as squeezing a stranger’s bum without asking first. Part of this is that she is much less likely to seriously object than a stranger is. But even if she does, the assumption that she would be okay with it seems entirely defensible. If you disagree, why follow precedent in any situation? Do you talk to your friends the same way you talk to strangers? If not, why not?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Tens of millions of people engage in various martial arts on a weekly basis. Pickup basketball, many of whose activities would be assault if done to random people on a city street, is done daily without incident.

        Affirmative consent does absolutely allow for the random squeeze of your spouse, if they affirmatively consent to random squeezing in the future. In the context of a 20 year marriage, you will absolutely know whether your spouse likes getting a random squeeze. The confusion about whether this OK or not I think mostly comes from uncharitable reasoning about what affirmative consent means.

        • Jiro says:

          If I were go to the authorities and claim that someone used a single karate chop on me while I was in a martial arts studio, but that it was assault because I didn’t consent to it, they would laugh at me and tell me to go away, even though they would, in fact, be committing the crime of assault against me if my description was accurate. The authorities would *not* do anything that seriously inconveniences the alleged assaulter on the basis of my accusation, unless I reported a continuing pattern of harassment.

          No-affirmative-consent type rape accusations don’t work that way.

          The confusion about whether this OK or not I think mostly comes from uncharitable reasoning about what affirmative consent means.

          No, the “confusion” is about what you have to do to prove the existence of affirmative consent to the tribunal that punishes you. What is necessary for there to actually be affirmative consent is not the same thing as what is necessary to prove it.

          It’s only safe to give a random squeeze to your 20 year spouse because your spouse won’t be taking you to the tribunal in the first place, not because you actually would be able to defend yourself by saying “they like getting a random squeeze”.

          • alexp says:

            If I were in a boxing gym and somebody punched me while I wasn’t wearing gloves, wearing a helmet or mouthpiece, or carrying pads, then it could very well be adjudicated as assault.

            Though in practice, such a situation would most likely be dealt with internally.

          • John Schilling says:

            But that would mean that the outcome of a criminal trial might hinge on what sort of clothing the alleged victim was wearing. This, I am repeatedly assured, is intolerable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Is that really in the spirit of honest debate? Or is that just an attempt to signal your disdain?

        • Anonymous says:

          If you were playing basketball with some people, and someone approached and appeared to be wanting to join in, I think it would be justifiable if you were to throw the ball to them. Certainly more justifiable than throwing a ball at some stranger in the street.

          I would defend my reading of the meaning of affirmative consent as charitable because when I’ve heard it described in the past it was along the lines of what I argued against in my post. I checked Wikipedia before submitting too and that seemed to back up my impression. If affirmative consent, to you, can involve non verbal consent (which presumably can’t be that explicit, I imagine you’re talking about flirty eyes and smiles, not vigorous head nodding and hand signals), and can be discarded at the behest of a couple for an unlimited amount of time into the future until one party wants to reinstate it, and precedent can allow for assumption that the rules are more lax with someone you’re already intimate with, and can vary depending on the environment you’re in… Well, then I’m not sure what distinguishes affirmative consent from the kind of implicit consent we rely on now.

          • Jiro says:

            The fact that you can’t find any differences between affirmative consent and what we already had should be a sign that you probably didn’t understand affirmative consent very well. People don’t go around making up random new terms for things we already have.

            The difference, as far as I can tell, seems to be burden of proof. Nonverbal consent still counts as affirmative consent … as long as you’re not on trial, but if you’re on trial, nonverbal consent is no more helpful to your case than no consent.

          • John Schilling says:

            The fact that you can’t just give us a simple explanation of how affirmative consent differs from what we have now, but insist that it is obvious to all right-thinking people, should be a sign that you are in no way ready to be proposing laws or formal policies based on an affirmative-consent standard.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Jiro

            Or that HBC’s definition differs from every other definition of affirmative consent I’ve heard. One specific example I’ve seen floated is that explicit consent must be reacquired every ten minutes, which clearly violates HBC’s specification that consent for unlimited amounts of time into the future can be given.

            Perhaps you’re right that I’m wrongly conflating societal standards and legal standards, but I’m not sure how comforting it is to be told that it’s totally okay to do something, but that also I should be able to be imprisoned for doing it.

          • DrBeat says:

            People go around making up new terms for things we already have all the time, especially when it allows them to (try to) change the emotional connotation of something, or to backdoor in their crazy ideas by placing them in a made-up category that otherwise covers “stuff we already had”.

            The latter appears to be what “affirmative consent standard” is about. There’s two ways to interpret “affirmative consent standard”: the way that is “pretty much what we have now”, and the way that is “ridiculously destructive and untenable because it prioritizes the ability to hurt men over every other concern.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Consent is how you defend against assault charges in the context of games and other organized activities. It is the standard that prevents each individual karate chop from being assault.

            If the opponent were to sink to the ground and stop moving and you continued to punch, kick and hit them, that would still be assault, regardless of the consent for participating in karate sparring.

        • I don’t know if you followed the recent case where someone was arrested and charged with rape for having sex with his wife. They had been married for a long time, it was apparently an affectionate marriage. The wife had (I think) Altzheimers, was in some sort of old age home. The husband visited, had sex with her, was arrested on the theory that she was unable to give assent. Not, however, convicted.

          But what really bothers me about the affirmative assent standard is that it feels like the law telling people how they are permitted to make love—a different version of the same pattern as laws against homosexuality. I don’t think religion has much to do with opposition to homosexuality, given that the pattern exists across a wide range of different societies with different religions. The underlying motive is that homosexual sex feels icky to most people—dirty, unclean.

          A common element in sexual activity for some, probably many, people is seduction. One party, usually the woman, is supposed to be reluctant but not entirely unwilling, gradually yielding, in theory due to increasing sexual arousal. I see it mostly in my response to porn. A story where two people jump into bed and run through the standard series of sex acts is a lot less arousing than a story in which one or both of them gradually yields to temptation.

          Affirmative assent means people who disapprove of that particular pattern of sex play threatening to punish other people who engage in it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            This seems very far afield from the kind of consent conversation that is happening around affirmative consent.

            End of life issues are very tricky and complicated. This particular case would also seem to be complicated by our general unwillingness to consider it tasteful for the elderly to be sexual.

            But, even past those points, what if the patient was in a vegetative state brought on by a stroke? Would you have the same reaction?

            There seems to be an endless supply of prosecutors making bad decisions about cases that involve sex, though. At that goes to my point about the general duality of the US mind when it comes to sex.

          • Tibor says:

            The following is a very wild speculation, but it seems like that to me (possible because I only see the data points that fit into my model):

            It may have actually something to do with religion, or rather the form of religion. This sort of thing seems to be more pervasive in protestant rather than catholic countries.

            Protestantism seems to me to be closer to actually taking itself earnestly and living according to some rules and in a sense, purity seems to be an important part of it. Hence you have windows with no curtains in many houses in protestant countries, whereas this happens pretty much never in catholic ones (in Germany, one can tell the religion of the part of the country by looking at the architecture, it is interesting to see how the protestant Niedersachsen differs from the catholic Bavaria).

            To me, catholicism seems to be more about the ritual than actually living according to some rules. That is not entirely true, but when you can always just come to the priest for confession and be forgiven breaking the rules is not that big a deal. This is why I also like it better (despite all its flaws, corrupt Church etc.) than protestantism*. This comparison probably works worse with non-christian religions. Hindu is obsessed with purity but it is a different kind of purity than that of the protestant christians. I also don’t know how orthodox christianity fits here as I know very little about it except that they do not acknowledge the Bishop of Rome as the Pontifex Maximus and use a wrong calendar. It could obviously be all just finding patterns where there are none. Still, maybe it is something someone else noticed as well and has something interesting to say about.

            *I myself am agnostic and come from probably the most atheist country in the world where 75% people state they are not religious in the census, so I at least like to think that I can look at it as an uninvolved observer. Then again the country was historically (and I would say still is culturally to a degree) catholic (or rather re-catholized during the counter-reformation), so that may be a source of bias.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tibor:
            Well, my common wrapper word for the kind of mind set I am talking about is “Puritanism”. I believe this is a rather common formulation of the problem. If you have read Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” you can see that this formulation goes back to 1850 and before.

          • Tibor says:

            HeelBearCub: Exactly. And puritanism seems to me to be a predominantly protestant trait. “Catholic puritan” almost seems like an oxymoron to me. Which again seems to me to have a lot to do with the confession. For a catholic a sin is something to be forgiven or at worst accruing a few years in purgatory (not that big a deal if followed by eternity in heaven). For a protestant a sin is something to burn in hell for forever if it is too abundant, hence the need to keep the soul pure. But I am no theologian and maybe my understanding of this is wrong.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Tibor: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. … No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?” — Luther to Melanchthon, Letter 99 (1 August 1521)

            The Puritans were specifically Calvinists,

          • hlynkacg says:

            HeelBearCub says: This seems very far afield from the kind of consent conversation that is happening around affirmative consent.

            In that case, can you be more specific about the kind and context of the conversation you are referring to? From where I’m standing David seems to have summarized the issue it up rather well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Someone who is far enough into Alzheimer’s that they are vegetative (I don’t know if this is the case here) is a really different kind of “we have been consenting sex for 40 years” than someone who has all of their cognitive functions.

            I doubt that a rape prosecution is warranted, but I would want to know the details. I’m also doubtful that a rape prosecution actually happened. This seems like it could be the kind of story that is reported breathlessly by the news and then looks completely different when you examine the details.

          • Tibor says:

            Le Maistre Chat: Apparently, I don’t know enough about religion 🙂 Thanks!

          • HBC doubts that a rape prosecution actually happened.

            “An Iowa jury found 78-year-old Henry V. Rayhons not guilty of raping his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. ”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-22/iowa-man-accused-of-raping-wife-with-alzheimer-s-is-acquitted

            Details available to be inspected.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Thanks for the article, mostly it just left me wanting to what the actual details of the case were. He is charged after her death for something that occurred months before.

            Was she almost catatonic, or functional? Did the kids (they marry in their 70s) agitate for this?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            This article answers some of the questions I had.

            “The family conflict that erupted between Henry Rayhons and his wife’s daughters from her previous marriage over how to care for her culminated in a meeting in which the nursing home staff briefly told Henry Rayhons that his wife was no longer mentally capable of legally consenting to sex. In his testimony, Rayhons said he thought this was a doctor’s advice, not an order.”

            Basically, this seems complicated by some serious questions about autonomy in what appears to be late stage Alzheimer’s and the very real specter of elder abuse.

    • onyomi says:

      What about a standard of affirmative consent to be governed?

    • Montfort says:

      HBC, do you think rape fetishes apply to only one side of the equation? I imagine such people have a complicated relationship with whether they actually “want” to ever fulfill this, but something along the lines of “my partner didn’t want to have sex, but was not harmed significantly by the experience and/or later remembers it fondly” may be acceptable to them.

      More generally, I think people opposed to positive consent would agree that it is good to have sex only with willing people. But are we discussing the best algorithm to personally determine willingness? A legal or social standard to apply after the fact to determine fault/blame? Either way, I’m not sure the question can really be divorced from local culture.

      (Further, I have seen some inconsistency in what counts as positive consent and would like clarification, especially if there is a real consensus and I have been deceived.)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Montfort:
        If a large amount of the vocal opposition to affirmative consent is that some people want to take others without their consent, then it would say a lot in favor of feminist arguments about culture and who needs to be taught what.

        I don’t think this actually plays very much into it, though.

        • Montfort says:

          Consider yourself “interested but surprised.” I assumed you desired counterexamples.

          I have no issue with affirmative consent as a personally-adopted guideline. It seems pretty okay, and is certainly not more rapey than the usual standard.

          If you mean “everyone should use something this strict or stricter personally,” I don’t think that solves the problem: if you agree that most people actually only want willing partners, people are already carrying out SUNY’s version of affirmative consent to the extent that they do what they want! Barring some sort of metaphysical phenomenon or extreme misapplication of a priori reasoning, either some words or some actions of the partner have led the person in question to believe the partner is willing. The only difference here is that you’re reminding them that people enjoying themselves normally do not act like dead fish. (Though not always! Some people I know have been taught that’s the “proper” way to behave during sex, though in that case it’s still important to check.) If that’s really what the affirmative consent movement/campaign is about, can it be replaced with a large number of posters and pamphlets?

          As an official policy to be used in the legal system or other formal disciplinary systems, the policy becomes inseparable from the precise implementation details.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Montfort:
            Do fantasies of committing rape exist within the spectrum of human sexuality? Yes. Do people who actually want to commit rape exist? Certainly.

            People who actually want to commit rape and act on those desires are rapists subject to criminal prosecution. I don’t think anyone, on either side of the argument is arguing against this stance.

            It seems to me that you arguing that those who have a fantasy of committing rape would like to be able to engage in a plausible facsimile, but without the other person actually not wanting to engage in sex.

            If you are arguing that it should be OK to take someone forcibly without their consent and that it should be considered to be non-criminal as long as they weren’t “harmed” then I think you are in a very small minority in the western world.

            So, I guess I am basically unsure what it is you are actually arguing for.

          • Montfort says:

            Allow me to quote from the OP: ” Do you really want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you? Do you want to find out later that they actually did not want to (regardless of any legal or disciplinary peril)? If someone can actually answer this question with a “yes” and defend it, I will be interested but surprised.”

            You expressed a desire for a counterexample, if one exists. I have given you the rough outline of one. It is provided not as a form of argument but as a response to your implied request. This may have been a mistake, as I did not (and do not) see the relevance of your second point to the discussion.

            In fact, because it is so irrelevant to the broader question at hand, I included several paragraphs of text that have nothing to do with the counterexample and concern only my response to your initial claim. Of course you are not obliged to respond to them, but perhaps you did not see them, considering your latest response ignores them entirely in favor of arguments I did not even begin to make and are far afield of the core subject.

            Perhaps, in hindsight, when you asked for “someone who can answer “yes”,” you really meant “can someone argue why we all should desire to have sex with nonconsenting partners.” If this is the case, I can provide no such argument. Also conditional on that misunderstanding, I am sorry to have inserted such a potentially derailing element into this thread, but my response was in good faith to the words you wrote.

            Edit:
            I also apologize if my tone seems abrasive. I am only frustrated that our attempts to communicate have apparently not been very successful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Montfort:
            If someone says “I want actually have sex with someone who actually does not consent to it” it’s different than a fantasy about that scenario.

            Do we agree on that?

            Defending carrying out the actual thing, where they are not OK with it, as an acceptable standard seems very hard to do.

          • Montfort says:

            Yes, of course, though both groups of people exist.

            I continue to fail to see what this has to do with affirmative consent. At no time have I said “some people want to do X, therefore X is okay.” I have said “HBC seems to imagine no one wants to do X, which is odd because I suspect he knows people do. I will remind HBC of this fact.”

            If you could take the time to explain why this is actually important to your argument, I would much appreciate it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Montfort:
            Well, what is affirmative consent in this context? It is simply a positive affirmation that the party involved actually consents (wants) to engage in the particular sexual activity.

            So, unless you want to have sex with people who don’t want to, then you want some unambiguous signal that they do, in fact, want to. Absent some unambiguous signal, you can’t know that the other party is in fact consenting to the activity.

            Does that make clear why I think it is relevant?

          • Montfort says:

            Yes, I think I understand. For clarity, I’m reading your argument as “the large majority of people wish to have sex with only consenting partners, therefore they should look for some unambiguous confirmation of consent.”

            In other words, people want to have consensual sex only but they keep making these mistakes where they assume $behavior means their partner wants sex, when they do not. Then we have affirmative consent to… change disciplinary policies so that people who have bad information about the meaning of $behavior can be punished?
            Or is affirmative consent the education campaign explaining what $behavior means?

            As near as I can tell, this version of affirmative consent is essentially a relationship counselor saying “if your partner doesn’t seem to be enjoying themselves, stop and figure out what’s wrong.” If this is accurate, it seems like a much better way to communicate the message.

          • John Schilling says:

            In other words, people want to have consensual sex only but they keep making these mistakes where they assume $behavior means their partner wants sex, when they do not.

            You’re making another mistake here when you shift from “consensual sex” to “wants sex” is the middle of a sentence. Consent and desire are two different things.

            And the legal standard is consent, not desire. Pretty much has to be, because we can enforce a rule against sex in cases where consent is explicitly denied, and we can maybe imagine enforcing a rule against sex where consent has not been explicitly granted, but enforcing desire is out of the question. People lie about desire, all the time. Concealing one’s true desire, lying about it outright if need be, is crucial to too many effective negotiating strategies to be done away with.

            Particularly when it comes to sex. Extra particularly when it comes to sex aimed at anything beyond transient physical pleasure.

          • Montfort says:

            Ah, good catch, John, thanks.

            So we establish people (basically) want to have sex only with willing partners. This is largely immaterial, because we (reasonably) insist instead they may only have sex with partners who agree to do so. Affirmative consent is an attempt to change what constitutes a valid agreement to (if I parse HBC correctly) make it less likely for people to inadvertently agree to sex or mistakenly believe an agreement has been reached.

            The implication is that there is a sufficiently large group of people that are believed to want sex (we’re restricting ourselves to this category, I believe) who neither explicitly agree nor explicitly disagree to sexual contact nor are incapacitated, but who are nevertheless subject to harmful sexual advances.
            And this group is actually helped by affirmative consent, if and only if we say that apparent desire cannot count as consent.
            Now, I have read some examples where affirmative consent advocates seem to imply that apparent/implied desire can count as consent – e.g. your partner neither hinders nor aids your advances, but merely acts excited. Is this the conduct affirmative consent is meant to eliminate?

            I have a feeling I am still somehow off-base.

          • John Schilling says:

            At this point, I don’t think the proponents of affirmative consent can clearly articulate the objective behaviors they mean to eliminate. But, other than that, I think you’re on the right track.

            The other side of the equation is people who neither explicitly agree nor explicitly disagree to sexual contact nor are incapacitated, but are subject to beneficial sexual advances. These people are harmed by affirmative consent, if apparent desire doesn’t count.

        • Asher says:

          Probably not.

          The opposition to affirmative consent is that it is hideously complex when it comes to implementation. Good law is clear, concise, readily understandable and intuitively easy to obey. Affirmative consent fails on every count.

          That is, unless, one is willing to take it to logically absurd conclusions. Under the strictest understanding of “yes means yes” 99.99 percent of all sexual encounters between long-term, monogamous married partners has been rape throughout all of human history.

          Affirmative consent is either going to be incoherent or reach utterly absurd conclusions.

          Once you open the door to a hideously complex mechanism of consent/nonconsent the argument will simply relocate to when is/is not nonconsent punishable by law. Under that regime I am simply going to shrug and reply that its bad law for all nonconsent scenarios to be illegal.

          Changing words does change things – the map is not the territory.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Under the strictest understanding of “yes means yes” 99.99 percent of all sexual encounters between long-term, monogamous married partners has been rape throughout all of human history.”

            I think this a straw man of the flimsiest straw. This is like saying all rugby matches are actually an unending series of assaults.

          • Asher says:

            @ HBC

            “I think this a straw man of the flimsiest straw. This is like saying all rugby matches are actually an unending series of assaults.”

            Apparently, you’re a bit fuzzy on what the concept of “straw man” means. If I were actually attributing that position to advocates of affirmative consent, then, yes it would be a straw man, but I’m not. You seem to have completely ignored that I pointed out that affirmative consent leads either to absurd or incoherent application of law.

            Of course, no affirmative consent standard is going to lead to prosecution of long-term, monogamous married partners for each instance of sex without an explicit “yes”. What is it going to do is produce an arbitrary application of law due to hideous complex standards that can’t be understood without a law degree.

            The problem is that advocates of affirmative consent flippantly use “yes means yes” as if it were a simple and unambiguous standard. Pointing out that almost all sex between long-term, monogamous partners would be rape under this standard highlights that “yes means yes” is inapplicable as an actual standard and that affirmative consent laws are going to have to use a different standard.

            It highlights the absurdity and intellectual dishonesty of advocates of affirmative consent.

          • Asher says:

            @ HBC

            In other words, the criterion for affirmative consent logically can’t be “yes means yes”, therefore, you need another criterion for it.

            Now, what’s your criterion? How, under an affirmative consent standard, would one know consent has been given? Remember, you can’t say “yes means yes” because that standard leads to obviously absurd conclusions, per my previous explanation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Asher:
            As I have linked numerous times and mentioned in the OP, the concept of consent is already well understood in law as relates to assault in general. The mere absence of “no” is never enough to indicate consent, there has to be some sort of affirmation of consent.

            If someone walked into a public park where a game of tackle football was being played, there mere presence standing there would not indicate that they were available to be tackled. The fact that they were playing in a game of touch football a few minutes earlier would not indicate consent to play tackle football.

            What objection do you to this comparison?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            HeelBearCub –

            The issue is with the combination of “This is how society should be” and “This is how society already is.” If society is already structured this way, and Affirmative Consent is already how we do things, then what, exactly, are you proposing changing?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Orphan Wilde:
            Well, some of it is simply a question of the math of it. I will be making up some numbers below, so don’t take this as stating facts, but rather illustrating the concept.

            If 99% of encounters currently operate using affirmative consent, that 1% of encounters adds up to some pretty bad lifetime numbers for things that were not affirmatively consented to. Even if it is only 90% of encounters (or even people) who practice affirmative consent, one would still say that the vast majority of people engage in affirmative consent. Yet obviously that would be many, many, many encounters that weren’t within affirmative consent. It wouldn’t take a very big proportion of those encounters to be actually non consensual to have a really big number of actual, real violations of consent.

            When asking for a change to a standard of affirmative consent, 90% of people then may assume that they are being asked to be do something different, when this is not the case.

            Small example: I was recently at a Drive By Truckers concert at a fairly small venue. (They were awesome, by the way.) At some point I noticed a guy in front of me encouraging a girl to dance with him. I wasn’t sure if they were already a couple or not. As they are dancing his hands start to “wander” as it were. She moves his hand away from where it is going, says something to him, and starts to look uncomfortable. Wait a few minutes and more wandering and a second rebuff and she seems really uncomfortable. The third time she fully disengages shaking her head no and walks away, back several rows. She is now hanging out with a different group of people.

            At some point he is turned around and looking back through the crowd, apparently at her or just over her head. I turn around and ask her friends if she knows the guy and they say “No! Never seen him before.” I turn back around and “politely” invite the guy to watch the show instead of whatever bullshit he is currently engaging in

            This is the kind of behavior that is, not exactly encouraged, but accepted as “on the line” under a “no means no” standard. The guy tries to get away with things and forces the girl to say no (sometimes over and over). We *all* know some guys like that. That isn’t affirmative consent, even if the literal difference between affirmative consent and that seems small when described in minute detail.

            *all here meaning not literally all, but something close to it.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            HeelBearCub –

            If society actually held to a “No means no” standard, then your example wouldn’t prove anything, because my socially inculcated response would be “Well, she should have told him no.” You know this isn’t the real standard, which is why you bring that example up, in order to invoke a particular response on my part, roughly put as “That was shitty behavior on his part and he shouldn’t have done that.”

            But the issue is, your example only works in relation to society because his actions are already acknowledged as bad behavior, so your proposed change doesn’t change anything, in particular the bad actor who is already ignoring social standards of behavior.

          • DrBeat says:

            Do you believe that the 1% of bad encounters are driven by people who are stringently applying Society’s Standard in edge cases that lead to bad outcomes, and not people who do not care what Society’s Standard is?

            Do you believe that the fact rape exists proves people have not been sufficiently taught not to rape, and that teaching them not to rape some more will cause rape to not happen?

            Because this seems like the outcome of what you’re saying here, and if so, what you’re saying is obviously false.

          • Cauê says:

            HBC:

            This is the kind of behavior that is, not exactly encouraged, but accepted as “on the line” under a “no means no” standard. The guy tries to get away with things and forces the girl to say no (sometimes over and over).

            The current standard isn’t “rejection requires a verbal no” – if it were, Orphan Wilde is probably right that society would work differently.

            In the current standard most people already agree that the guy in the example is wrong. Do you have an example of something that most people think is an acceptable way to do it, but shouldn’t be by the new standard?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Orphan Wilde:
            Permit what I admit is a slight digression, or perhaps a re-framing.

            Do you think, broadly, that women are taught to say “yes” when they want sex? Do men, broadly, expect women to say “yes” when they want sex? Especially young women.

            Does there exist a significant percentage of men who do not expect to hear yes and expect to press forward until they hear “no”. Does there exist a significant percentage of women that believe that this is how they should behave?

          • Cauê says:

            You should probably clarify whether you’re talking about a verbal “yes” and “no” here, or otherwise how explicit a sign you’re thinking of.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            I will respond with a limited yes.

            It is limited because there is a massive component of nonverbal communication; the “No” of somebody who is not interested is not the “No” of somebody who wants you to press further. Insomuch as non-verbal communication (“action”) is considered a valid indicator of consent for Affirmative Consent, it doesn’t actually resolve these ambiguities in any meaningful way, and you’re left with the “No means no” standard you already reject, or a strictly verbal consent system, such as some Affirmative Consent proponents propose.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cauê/@Orphan Wilde:

            Under that standard, the no means no standard that you are saying is equivalent to the consent I am describing, what do you do if you are unsure whether you have gotten a “yes” and you also don’t feel like you have gotten a “no”? Who is the burden on?

          • Cauê says:

            Under that standard, the no means no standard that you are saying is equivalent to the consent I am describing, what do you do if you are unsure whether you have gotten a “yes” and you also don’t feel like you have gotten a “no”? Who is the burden on?

            That’s kind of a wrong question. There’s no manual for what to do, and there shouldn’t be. What’s there is a rule on what one can’t do. And what burden do you mean here?

            Anyway, what do you do? If you don’t know whether the person is interested or not you’re in a very similar position you were before the initial approach (would you dispute this?), and would probably do something to “probe” interest, or to create/enhance interest, preferably in a way that won’t in effect decrease it (such as straight up asking, quite likely). But this is almost outside the bounds of the question. If you have reason to think they want you to stop, you have to stop. Other than that, there’s what people usually do, there’s what usually works or not, but not what they must or should do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Cauê:
            Well, there is your difference. Simply, the difference between stopping when you believe you do not have consent, and stopping when you are not sure you have consent.

            I mean, it’s a subtle one, sure. But u think we are comfortable with the idea that subtle differences can be powerful.

          • Cauê says:

            Hey, progress! Now I know what you mean, but I still don’t know how exactly you expect the new laws and policies to be different from the current ones.

            On the object level, people never start “sure they have consent”, and still need a way to find out. Is our disagreement about which methods are to be allowed for this?

            And outright asking is aesthetically displeasing or even off-putting to a large number of people. But even this is simplistic, as interest develops in the course of the encounter, and there’s a process of seeking to get there parallel to the one about gauging if we’re there already. Maybe asking short-circuits this process, which is part of the problem.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cauê:
            I have some issues with your statements about verbal consent, but I’m going to leave those aside for the moment.

            Let’s take my concert example again. I would contend that what that guy did was inside the letter of the “no means no” standard. Every time she said no he stopped what he was doing. He respected her no each time he heard it. There were also less ambiguous “no” signals that he may or not have picked up, but each time she clearly indicated no, he stopped his behavior, backed up, and waited before going forward again.

            Whereas, in an affirmative consent framework, this is clearly not correct in letter or in spirit. Having received a clear no, it means you were incorrect about your assessment of their consent. You need to update your priors, in a Bayesian framing. You need a much clearer affirmative signal than whatever you think you had.

            There are numerous posts within this thread that imply or outright state that a female’s resistance/reticence frequently “needs” to be overcome. Even accepting that this framing is true (which I don’t), the question is “how does one do that in an acceptable manner?”

            Like it or not, that behavior I observed is largely expected behavior. We expect to see this type of behavior occur. Women expect that they will encounter this behavior. We don’t expect that this person is going to suffer much in the way of negative consequence for this behavior. I think some very large portion of this push is normative. It’s attempting to push the window to make that behavior so clearly out of bounds that it stops being expected.

          • Cauê says:

            I would contend that what that guy did was inside the letter of the “no means no” standard. Every time she said no he stopped what he was doing. He respected her no each time he heard it. There were also less ambiguous “no” signals that he may or not have picked up, but each time she clearly indicated no, he stopped his behavior, backed up, and waited before going forward again.

            Whereas, in an affirmative consent framework, this is clearly not correct in letter or in spirit. Having received a clear no, it means you were incorrect about your assessment of their consent. You need to update your priors, in a Bayesian framing. You need a much clearer affirmative signal than whatever you think you had.

            Wait, no, now we’re talking about different things again. If he had a clear no, then he had a clear no. Several, actually! How is that “inside the letter” of “no means no”?

            There are numerous posts within this thread that imply or outright state that a female’s resistance/reticence frequently “needs” to be overcome.

            Are there? I’ve been mostly talking about situations where one initially doesn’t know if there is resistance, and how to go about finding out. This is the step where your proposal would most change things, in my opinion for no gain.

            Nobody has spoken about overcoming clearly expressed resistance, much less of a “need” for it. What comes closest (and yet so far!) is people talking about the occasional feigned “resistance” that is supposed to be “overcome” as part of the game of seduction – this is a complicated topic that involves different preferences and uninteded game-theoretic consequences, that hasn’t been approached in depth here, and it’s quite disappointing of you to frame it like this.

            Like it or not, that behavior I observed is largely expected behavior. We expect to see this type of behavior occur. Women expect that they will encounter this behavior. We don’t expect that this person is going to suffer much in the way of negative consequence for this behavior. I think some very large portion of this push is normative. It’s attempting to push the window to make that behavior so clearly out of bounds that it stops being expected.

            There’s a large distance from “this is wrong” to “this deserves jail” – an argument can be made that your example should be treated as further along on the scale, but it’s not true that the behavior is considered ok.

            And the problem with this push is that, under the terms being defended, it would push with it most of human romantic and sexual behavior as actually practiced by people. You may notice a theme among people resisting the push of “this isn’t how people have sex!” and “this would mean basically everyone is a rapist”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I think your concert example could easily be described as wrong under either no-means-no or yes-means-yes – if, as you have suggested, we are to allow for implicit non-verbal signals as counting.

            The situation you describe could be seen as the man having failed to acquire a (implicit, non-verbal) yes. Or it could be seen as him having failed to acknowledge a (implicit, non-verbal) no.

            I don’t think you can reasonably say that one can miss implicit nos and still be correctly following the no-means-no standard, without also saying that one can mistakenly read implicit yeses and still be correctly following the yes-means-yes standard.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Wait, no, now we’re talking about different things again. If he had a clear no, then he had a clear no. Several, actually! How is that “inside the letter” of “no means no”?

            Because he stopped. He started again later, but he stoped when she indicated “no”. It’s not in the spirit of the rule, but how is it not in the letter? Is it “One no means stop that and never do it again”? Is that how people actually act? You don’t seem to be challenging my contention that we see this behavior frequently.

            As an addition to the story, you could tell she was uncomfortable from the get go. There really was never anything that should have been telling him to go for what he was doing in the first place. Affirmative consent puts the emphasis on the initiator to read and respect the other party, which he never did. No means no puts the emphasis on the non-initiator to clearly express “no”.

            The emphasis on requiring a clear yes vs requiring a clear no makes a big difference, even if it requires no change on the part of the vast majority of actors.

            What comes closest (and yet so far!) is people talking about feigned “resistance” that is supposed to be “overcome” as part of the game of seduction

            What form does that feigned resistance take? I think someone edited it out, but there was a comment where someone talked about dating someone who kept saying “no” but then became angry (after the fact) that this was respected. Does “no means no” put that behavior out of bounds? I don’t think it does.

            There’s a large distance from “this is wrong” to “this deserves jail” – an argument can be made that your example should be treated as further along on the scale, but it’s not true that the behavior is considered ok.

            What kind of sanction does it deserve? Note, I’m not saying that deserves jail either. I did say that I thought a significant part of the push is normative.

            I think we have established that coming up and punching a stranger in the arm falls under assault, or at least no one is challenging that. But would we expect anyone to go to jail for it? Even be arrested for it? Naming something as technical assault is different than establishing the punishment for it.

          • Anonymous says:

            The emphasis on requiring a clear yes vs requiring a clear no makes a big difference, even if it requires no change on the part of the vast majority of actors.

            But you’ve already said that it doesn’t have to be clear – that a reasonable belief that she is comfortable and willing, based on facial expression or something similarly non-explicit, is acceptable.

            The only difference seems to be whether a mistake is classified as a false negative i.e. “I didn’t realize she was saying no” or as a false positive i.e. “I thought she was saying yes” – where ‘saying’ is taken to mean ‘giving some kind of indication’.

            Perhaps you would respond to this with, “under yes-means-yes, if there’s any doubt whether she’s saying yes, you should stop and ask. That’s the difference”. Alright. But no-means-no could just as well include the rule, “if there’s any possibility she might be saying no, stop and ask”. In other words the level of certainty required seems to me to be a separate consideration than whether you escalate until you receive a no, or only escalate when you receive a yes – provided that we are allowing for the kind of subtle indicators you have suggested are acceptable, rather than requiring explicit statements of yes or no.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymous:.
            At what point did I say it didn’t have to be clear?

            I said it could be non-verbal. That is different.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I said:

            That you’re dancing with the person in question, that you have reached level n of sexual escalation and she is still giving you flirty eyes and smiles and other body language indicating she is happy for you to escalate to level n+1.

            You replied:

            Nevertheless, the scenario you outlined is affirmative consent!

            Perhaps we have different ideas of clarity. I would call flirty eyes and smiles unclear, or at least implicit.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            And yes, level of certainty is different than the standard, but “might be a no” is still less sure of consent than “I think she is saying yes”. And there is an even bigger space between “clear no” and “clear yes”.

          • Anonymous says:

            “might be a no” is still less sure of consent than “I think she is saying yes”.

            That’s because ‘might be’ is neutral and ‘I think’ isn’t.

            The better comparison would be “don’t think she is saying no” and “think she is saying yes”. Assuming that either she does want the escalation or she doesn’t, being 80% sure she does is the same thing as being 20% sure she doesn’t, no?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            I think the n+1 is doing some lifting there that you may not be taking into account. She is reciprocating the current actions and clearly consenting to what is happening.

            Let’s suppose you are dancing but aren’t touching, you move closer and almost touch her, clearly wanting to touch her. She moves closer to you and now you ARE touching. This is different than going from simply not touching to touching where you are doing all the initiation, (which still could be clearly consented to, in a different manner)

            Does that make it clearer?

          • Anonymous says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I don’t think we have any disagreements over what is and is not appropriate conduct. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone disagree with any of those examples you’ve posed so far, actually.

            My point here is only that it seems to me the exact same standard of conduct can be described as no-means-no as well as yes-means-yes. If we were really talking about the word no and the word yes, it would be different. But since you’ve said that a yes can be non-verbal and implicit, I can’t think of any kind of conduct that could be described as acceptable under no-means-no but wrong under yes-means-yes. The absence of an implicit no is an implicit yes. The absence of an implicit yes is an implicit no.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            You seem to be modeling this as a binary consenting/rejecting where the opposite party is in one of the two states and you are attempting to determine the state.

            I am modeling this is a continuum, where “neutral” is in the middle and “hell no” is on one end and “hell yes” is on the other. The middle ground is neutral ground and might be talk up something like 20% of the continuum.

            No means no puts you at least (say) 10% below the midpoint, affirmative consent above the midpoint.

            Does that make my stance clearer?

          • Anonymous says:

            That sounds to me like it is conflating two factors: how much she wants the escalation, and how much she is indicating she wants the escalation. I think these are separate and should be treated as separate.

            Two examples. One – a woman who is ambivalent about the escalation but has given you clear explicit verbal consent. Is it okay to escalate? I would say yes. Two – a woman who really, really wants you to escalate, but has given you no indication that this is the case. Is it okay to escalate? I would say no.

            How much she wants the escalation isn’t binary, but it’s also not something you can tell from outside her brain. All you have to go on are the signals she is giving.

            There is definitely a confusing neutral middle ground, but what you should do in response to it is an issue of certainty levels. Yes-means-yes could mean “escalate if you are at least 70% sure she is saying yes”, but this could also be described as no-means-no: “escalate unless you are at least 30% sure she is saying no”.

            I’m quibbling only over terminology, basically. It doesn’t seem to me that there is any reason, once you accept the idea that consent under ‘yes means yes’ can be non-verbal and implicit, that these two terms should be expected to mean different things. In fact I think to the extent that anyone does think they mean different things, it is based on exactly the misunderstanding that lots of us made, thinking ‘yes means yes’ actually means what it sounds like.

            So maybe you could consider which term has the best effects. The argument for using the term yes-means-yes, I think, is that it’s so absurd that people will question it, at which point you can explain to them that no, it doesn’t literally mean you have to get a verbal yes, but that you shouldn’t escalate if you don’t think she will appreciate it. The argument against using yes-means-yes is that some people think it means what it sounds like it means, meaning at worst a push toward guilty-until-proven-innocent, at best frustration for both men and women as sexual interaction is made more difficult.

            The argument for using the term no-means-no, I think, is that it makes sure women know how they can stop a sexual situation they are uncomfortable with, which is surely more important to emphasize than the word ‘yes’. The argument against the term no-means-no would be that men might read it as “it’s okay to just push until you get an explicit verbal no”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            This is slightly infuriating, because I know you are smart enough to have arrived at what I am about to say, and probably have already done so: The hypothetical that you are 100% sure she is signaling neutrality. Clearly that situation is different under yes mean yes vs. no means no. Once you admit that, you know that there are actually a whole range of possible situations that are different under the two rubrics.

            And the issue of “its ok to keep pushing until you get a clear no” is exactly the problem.

          • Anonymous says:

            The hypothetical that you are 100% sure she is signaling neutrality.

            This seems like an odd scenario to imagine. Who is really neutral about this kind of thing?

            But, I suppose I had been treating perceived preference and confidence of perception accuracy as interchangeable. So, being 100% certain she is totally neutral would be counted as the same thing as being 0% certain of her preference.

            I don’t think this is unreasonable. If we are talking an escalation she might object to significantly, you would want to be reasonably certain she wanted it, and would probably not do it if either you had no idea if she wanted it or not, or if you knew for certain that she was neutral to you doing it. If it is an escalation that she would barely object to at all if she didn’t want it, then I think you might do it in both cases. The latter case (a very minor and inoffensive action to a woman who you are certain is neutral about it) sounds less disturbing when you consider that she is likely to form a more concrete opinion once you actually take the action.

            [EDIT: considering this further, I think the problem of defining what ‘neutral’ means is harder than I initially appreciated. I think for it to be equivalent to total uncertainty in the way I am describing, it would have to be the mean of all possible preference levels the woman might have, each level weighted based on its likelihood.]

            And the issue of “its ok to keep pushing until you get a clear no” is exactly the problem.

            Okay. Have you considered the other points I raised, in favor of and against both terms? From the lengthy discussion here my impression is that the main disagreement between you and those who oppose yes-means-yes is over these points, or perhaps similar ones. They think the disadvantages of yes-means-yes and the advantages of no-means-no outweigh the reverse. I don’t think there is much dispute at all over the details of what sexual conduct is okay and what isn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            “This seems like an odd scenario to imagine. Who is really neutral about this kind of thing?”

            Now who is conflating the difference between what signal and actual preference?

            “I am not getting a clear signal” seems like the kind of thing that is likely to happen frequently, especially among couples who are unfamiliar with each other and are relatively new to sexual activity.

            As to your contention that no means no makes it more likely that a no will be respected? I find this objection makes no sense.

          • Anonymous says:

            Now who is conflating the difference between what signal and actual preference?

            Still you, I think…

            If you are certain that you are not getting a clear signal, that is not the same thing as being certain that you are getting a clear signal of absolute neutrality.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:

            You seem to be saying that it is both a) impossible to be ambivalent, b) impossible to signal ambivalence, and c)impossible not to be providing a clear signal.

            I think all of those things are possible.

      • Asher says:

        It’s important to separate two distinct issues:

        A) It is bad to have sex with someone under a situation of nonconsent
        B) It is illegal to have sex with someone under a situation of nonconsent

        Intuitively, I’m pretty sure 99 percent of us would agree with A. The problem comes in with B. The purpose of law is to have a peaceful, well-ordered society and I dispute that punishing all instances of nonconsent advances that purpose. I’m pretty sure that it’s just as taboo to cheat on a spouse but it’s probably a small minority of people who would advocate making infidelity punishable by law.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          How is this different from “It is illegal to punch someone in a situation of non-consent”?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “How is this different from “It is illegal to punch someone in a situation of non-consent”?”

            how is it similar?

            punching particularly and violence generally are assumed to be hostile and have no positive function in society. The person who initiates them is in the wrong both socially and legally, and is subject to swift punishment. Nor is actual violence particularly subtle, and the offense it generates scales neatly with the overtness of the act. We don’t call intentionally shoulder-checking someone “violence”, we call it being rude.

            The only exceptions to this general rule involve going to a specific, predesignated place, usually donning a specific, predesignated uniform and special equipment, stepping into an even more unambiguous “violence allowed zone”, and then conducting the violence according to specific, unambiguous, universal rules.

            Physical intimacy is not assumed to be hostile in all cases; we smile at the person walking around a mall with a “free hugs” sign; if the sign read “free punches to the face”, we would not smile and very well might call security. Less harmful forms of intimacy may be more overt and less deserving of punishment, ie an inappropriate hug or kiss; more harmful forms of intimacy may be exceedingly subtle and more deserving of punishment, ie inappropriate touching. Society has no analogue to the boxing gym or the rugby field for physical intimacy. Attempting to convert the nearest-comparable structure, the nightclub, seems like a very, very bad idea.

            I think the core problem with your analogy is that violence is not intimate, and intimacy is not violent. The drives may be linked, the acts may share similarities, and under sufficient derangement they can be made to bleed over into each other, but there is a great deal of each that is fundamentally unlike the other.

          • Asher says:

            If two people agree to assault each other they will both get charged with a public disturbance order. Outside of organized contact sports with ancient basis on common law you can’t agree to punch each other.

            The analogy is a non-starter.

            Look, analogies need to conform to how they actually function. Yes, if we could readily give consent to be punched then it might be a relevant analogy. Since we can’t, it’s not. Otherwise, lots of bar fights would never be prosecuted as both parties would simply claim to have given each other consent to the punches.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Asher – If two people start copulating in public they likewise get a public indecency charge. If two people punch each other in private, I’m pretty sure no legal ramifications result. Therefore, I’m pretty sure you can agree to mutual violence in private, even outside specifically designated sports.

            I agree that there’s something seriously awry in the violence/intimacy comparison, though. I think it has to do with the level of ambiguity available in intimacy. Violence is fundamentally about doing physical damage, which scales neatly with effort. Intimacy does not scale anywhere near the same way, so effort and benefit/harm come dangerously unconnected from each other.

          • Asher says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            Do we have a significant body of case law and evidence for how a “yes means yes” standard applies in a non-public context? I doubt it. If we don’t the entire analogy is worthless because we don’t have any guidance for how to functionally apply it.

            While I don’t have a problem with hypotheticals and analogies I do have a problem with them when they are entirely removed from experience.

            The differences between violence and intimacy are above and beyond the issue of or baseless hypotheticals.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            Pickup sports are played all the time, all over the world, and those actions would frequently constitute assault outside the context of the game. This are universally considered pleasant and desirable. Martial arts are similarly practiced in many contexts. Even activities involved in ballroom dance could constitute assault absent consent.

            What most of these activities have are very clear rules which make the consent structure much clearer and easier to navigate and adjudicate. There are things which are perfectly fine in one activity that are completely not OK in another activity. If you are playing basketball and attempt a soccer slide tackle, this is clearly not allowed.

            But, much as you would not change the rules of a game, say, from touch football to tackle football without everyone participating being clear on it, so communication of consent becomes more important in any sexual activity where there aren’t any agreed upon rules to begin with other than “agree what the rules are”.

    • brad says:

      I think it makes sense to separate out the question into the appropriate standard: 1) to hold and teach as a norm, 2) to use in civil or private disciplinary contexts, 3) to use in criminal contexts.

      I don’t think they need necessarily be identical.

      • Jason K. says:

        One will inevitably become the others.

        Here is the progression:

        Starting from 1 will change 2 and 3 because everyone is already doing it and it doesn’t make sense for the legal standard to be different.

        2 will change 1 out of habit and simplicity, then 1 will change 3.

        3 cannot stay discordant with 1 & 2 for long as the law is considered the floor on behavior. Either the floor is disagreed with and the law will be changed, or it isn’t and everything else will change.

        • Brad says:

          Do you think that when the crime of rape was defined such that it excluded the possibility that a husband could rape his wife (until 1993 in some states) it was a widespread norm that it was perfectly okay to have sex with an unwilling spouse?

          • Jason K. says:

            For a long time the answer to your question would be if not “Yes”, then “not significantly looked down upon on average”. This is with the caveat that other crimes were not committed in the process (like violence). That restriction puts limits on just how unwilling she was, which means that any such occurrence was probably more along the lines of coercive behavior. If a law was viewed rather negatively, the law would either have been changed within a few years, stopped being enforced, or something would be reinterpreted in a manner more congruent with prevailing norms. It isn’t the letter of the law, but its execution that counts.

          • I don’t think it was a norm that it was acceptable to have sex with an unwilling spouse. I think it was a norm that it was wrong for the spouse to be unwilling, short of some special reason such as illness. The marriage contract was interpreted as including both agreement not to have sex with anyone other than the spouse and, as a corollary, agreement to have sex with the spouse–who, after all, couldn’t have it with anyone else.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            What David Friedman said.

            “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” — I Corinthians 7.4-5 (ESV)

            Presumably the reason you don’t see American conservatives defending this, letting the feminists dictate what married couples can legally do in their own homes, is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court could have changed the law to conform with a secular ideology such as feminism at any time, since there’s no Separation of Ideology and State.

          • Under Jewish law, sex is owed from husbands to wives, but not from wives to husbands. Does anyone have any idea how this works out in practice?

          • I don’t know about the case in Jewish law. Under Muslim law, a wife is obliged to sleep with her husband whenever he wants her to unless there is some reason such as illness or her period not to. The husband is obliged to sleep with the wife a certain number of times a month–I no longer remember precisely how many.

            My guess is that the underlying assumption is that the wife owes the husband the pleasure of intercourse, the husband owes the wife the opportunity to get pregnant.

          • Jason K. says:

            “unwilling” covers a large amount of difference in preferences, from merely uninterested to despising, thus this isn’t a very precise term and open to a lot of interpretation.

            As there have been plenty of laws on the books supporting either there had to be an accepted norm or some purpose was being served. Laws generally do not get put on the books nor stay enforced for long when there is widespread antipathy towards them.

    • Jason K. says:

      It doesn’t matter if the problem is with the standard or the application of the standard. From a practical point of view, the two are interchangeable for what is a standard when it isn’t applied? I am going to crib heavily from something I’ve written elsewhere:

      Starting with your example:

      Getting randomly punched in the outside world isn’t the same as getting punched in a boxing ring after a referee has said ‘Fight!’. People aren’t going up to others and randomly trying to yank their pants down (at least not without charges being filed) and anybody with the pants-yanking mindset isn’t going to give two shits about the standard anyway. In reality, there is almost always some mutually recognized lead-up that gives either party some back out time. This standard would be effectively like getting into the ring and having to ask your sparring partner each time if it is okay to hit them.

      The problem with ‘Enthusiasm”:

      What is the threshold? ‘No’ is an easy threshold to understand. Enthusiastic? Not so much. How enthusiastic is enthusiastic enough? Do you really want to be held to determining whether or not the other person is appropriately enthused? Do you want to be 100% liable for misreading the situation? If we both agree to trade in a ‘scratch my itch, and I’ll scratch yours’ sort of way, have we just violated each other since we might not be enthusiastic about the part we are each giving? What if no one says anything prior to the act? Have we then violated each other? Now how complicated does this get when it is you, me, and Dupree?

      The problem with affirmation:

      Affirmation is good only for the instant it is given because that is the only time you know you have consent. If consent can be silently withdrawn at anytime and you can’t count on a ‘no’ from the other person, how do you know when to stop? Remember that the rules are that proceeding one instant past the withdrawal of consent is a crime. Furthermore, what keeps the other person from saying later “I was just saying yes, but I didn’t really mean it” or “I was just saying yes/acting enthused because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t”? You might notice that the latter is merely a rephrasing of the ‘I was afraid to say no’ rationale into “I was afraid not to say yes”.

      In addition, keep in mind that confidence and power is a major factor in attraction for most women. The more you have to ask permission the more you indicate that you lack both.

      So it doesn’t address the original problem with the “no means no” standard (I was too afraid to say no) and it adds a new one. An affirmative consent standard is inherently unworkable in a just manner as a person’s consent cannot be objectively ascertained using it. Not a move for the better in my book. That is without considering the contextual issues.

      Context issue #1:

      We are likely in the beginning stages of a moral panic around rape. As moral panics thrive on ambiguity, the best move to take to defuse such a panic is to establish and reinforce clear explicit guidelines in order to minimize the number of people that will get swept up in the panic. ‘No means no’ is clear and explicit. ‘Enthusiastic, affirmative consent’ is not clear nor explicit as ‘enthusiasm’ is not an objective standard and ‘affirmation’ is only good for the instant that the affirmation is being expressed (because that affirmation can be voided at any other instant by silently withdrawing consent). It is likely not a coincidence that the people who stand to benefit from a moral panic also are the strongest proponents of affirmative consent.

      Context issue #2:

      Victim culture. We have been steadily moving towards a culture that increasingly rewards and encourages people to be victims. Victims get to call on the muscle of the state and their communities to right whatever they feel was wrong. Victims get celebrated as ‘brave’, ‘survivor’, and ‘noble’ along with being granted the moral authority that comes with those attributions. Affirmative consent will help feed victim culture by making it easier for people to claim they were victims, due to the aforementioned issues with the standard.

      Context issue #3:

      The infantilization of women. This is where women are routinely held to a lower standard because lady parts. (Not that there aren’t some areas that men are held to a lower standard) This flies in the face of equality and will eventually undo a lot of progress on equality if it isn’t resisted. The general dynamic for sex (for the vast majority of people the vast majority of the time) is male initiation and female acceptance/rejection. As a man’s consent to sexual activity is generally assumed even without his initiation (not saying this is how it should be, just that it is), this new standard is going to be almost exclusively enforced against men. Taking this into account the enforcement, the implicit conceit of affirmative consent is that women are too weak/timid/shy/whatever to be considered responsible enough to say no. You generally wouldn’t think a man would have an issue saying no, would you? So if men should be responsible but women should not, that is holding women to a lower standard.

      The whole thing assumes that people are just too incompetent to navigate their relationships and restricts the ability of the parties involved to decide how their relationships should operate. You cannot keep control over that you are not responsible for, so be extremely leery of ceding responsibility to anyone over anything.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        In a boxing ring, there are very, very, very clear rules about acceptable conduct.

        If you want to turn a boxing match into MMA or Judo or Taekwondo or any other form of martial art, you will need consent. If a random person were to walk into a gym off the street and want to fight, there will be a long conversation about the rules of the gym and the match. This would include rules about when someone needed to stop, even though they couldn’t explicitly say “stop”.

        If you are kissing someone, it is not consent to “yank their pants down”. The consent is for kissing.

        • Jason K. says:

          Which is totally missing the point. The point is that in normal encounters the presence of the ring is already established prior to the swing. Stopping to ask is kind of silly.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, in what way does this apply to the concept of affirmative concept when there is no ring? No pre-agreed upon set of rules that are assumed by stepping into a boxing ring at a club of which you are a member of long standing?

            I think you are the one who is missing the point.

          • Anonymous says:

            It applies because there is a ring. The ring is the fact that you’re in a nightclub rather than the street. That you’re dancing with the person in question, that you have reached level n of sexual escalation and she is still giving you flirty eyes and smiles and other body language indicating she is happy for you to escalate to level n+1. Or, that she is your wife and you have sex several times a week and the likelihood of her being upset at you squeezing her bum is astronomically low.

            As Drew explained better than I did, the standard we follow in the rest of society is “is this person likely to respond well to this?” rather than “has this person given me explicit permission to do this?”. All the examples you give, regarding street fights and punch buggy and hitting someone in a martial arts club who is slumped on the floor, fail both #1 and #2. But there are a bunch of other examples, such as (to borrow from Drew) a mother picking up a child, or a football player hugging a teammate who has just scored a goal, which pass #1 but fail #2, and which I think almost no reasonable person would object to.

            I think you’ve yet to give a convincing reason as to why sexual interaction, and sexual interaction only, ought to follow the latter standard I mentioned above. Or, alternatively, to explain in what sense I have described standard #2 wrong, such that the sexual interactions that would fail my version of it but which you have defended as being okay, such as squeezing your wife’s bum or escalating sexual interaction without explicit verbal permission, are permissible according to some standard that is not just identical to #1.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            The nightclub is not a “sex ring”. The only explicit rule about sex one would expect to encounter in a nightclub is “no sex in the nightclub” (unless it is a very explicit kind of nightclub, and those tend to be actually quite good about consent, at least according to my understanding, which is not personal).

            Nevertheless, the scenario you outlined is affirmative consent! Of course, having reached that stage on the dance floor is not affirmative consent to engage in intercourse an hour later, but it is affirmative consent. When you escalate to n+1, make sure it is a de minimis escalation and see whether they consent to that.

          • HBC writes:

            “When you escalate to n+1, make sure it is a de minimis escalation and see whether they consent to that.”

            That looks like the standard that affirmative consent is supposed to replace. Everyone agrees that if you do something and your partner tells you to stop, you should stop. Affirmative consent, at least as I understand it, is the rule that you have to get her consent before you escalate, not after.

          • Tibor says:

            (posting here, since I probably first posted it in a dead subthread)

            What about safewords? They are a necessity in BDSM but there is no reason not to use them otherwise as well. In long-term relationships at least, they can erase all the ambiguity while allowing for spontaneity (actually even to a point of pretending rejection by saying no a few times first).

            For those who do not know what a safeword is, look up my previous comment in another subthread about affirmative consent (or UTFG 😛 )

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Look at that video anonymous posted below and see my comments. Note that the modeled behavior is actually escalation with coincident checking of consent.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “What is the threshold? ‘No’ is an easy threshold to understand. Enthusiastic? Not so much. How enthusiastic is enthusiastic enough? Do you really want to be held to determining whether or not the other person is appropriately enthused? Do you want to be 100% liable for misreading the situation?”

        This seriously sounds like demanding that all sexually active Aspie/typically nerdy/etc. men be arrested, and in a culture where celibacy is low status.

        “If we both agree to trade in a ‘scratch my itch, and I’ll scratch yours’ sort of way, have we just violated each other since we might not be enthusiastic about the part we are each giving?”

        Yeah, why aren’t they fighting to make economic transactions with enthusiiastic consent illegal?

        “In addition, keep in mind that confidence and power is a major factor in attraction for most women. The more you have to ask permission the more you indicate that you lack both.”

        This too.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        > We are likely in the beginning stages of a moral panic around rape.

        This is only the beginning stages? Jesus, how much worse is it going to get?

        • science says:

          There’s no emerging moral panic over rape. Rape is fairly common (no less than around 1 per 2500 and probably quite a bit higher) so concern about it is natural.

          On the other hand there is a currently moral panic among certain subcultures over false accusations of rape. The same tiny handful of anecdotes get recycled over and over and over and over again and assume cosmic proportions in minds of those convinced there is a crisis. This sheer and utter disproportionality is the hallmark of a moral panic.

          • Urstoff says:

            It seems like there’s a moral panic among certain subcultures about “sexual assault”, which tends to be defined in an absurdly broad manner.

          • John Schilling says:

            @science:

            A. Sheer and utter disproportionality is the hallmark of a moral panic

            B. Rape is known to be a 1/2500 incidence thing (source?). Or maybe higher.

            C. It is commonly asserted from on high that the incidence of rape is 20%. Or maybe higher

            D: There is no moral panic over rape?

            I must have missed something there. Possibly a serving of Kool-Aid.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            how many examples of authority figures flat-out stating that they see false rape accusations as a net social good would it take for you to change your mind?

          • science says:

            @Urstoff
            Just as there are more aggravated assaults than murders and more ordinary assaults than aggravated ones, we’d expect there to be more sexual assaults (defined strictly) than rapes.

            Since rape is fairly common that leaves only fairly common and common for sexual assaults.

            Perhaps you think sexual assault is a peccadillo that doesn’t warrant concern, but that’s different from taking a few (or no) actual examples and building it up into something that’s happening all the time.

            @John
            The number is from the NCVS and is an annualized victimization rate. Your 1 in 5, however accurate or inaccurate, refers to something else.

          • science says:

            @FacelessCraven
            For evidence of an epidemic of false accusations I expect to see lots of false accusations, not some comments you don’t like from people you don’t like in professions you don’t like.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Science – indeed. How many would you like me to list?

          • Urstoff says:

            It seems like rape is the motte and sexual assault the bailey. Cite some numbers that refer to a very broad definition of sexual assault (all self-reported survey results, of course) and then claim that rape is an epidemic. Also, take advantage of the fact that when most people hear “sexual assault”, they think rape, so you can say that 1 in 4 women on campus are victims of sexual assault and know that your audience will hear that 1 in 4 women on campus are raped.

          • science says:

            @FacelessCraven
            In the US
            1 / Dunbar’s number ^ 2
            would be over 14,000. That’s seems like a good place to start.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Science – That’s an interesting number. Would you care to explain the logic behind it?

            I’m pretty sure I can’t list 14k victims of the satanic ritual abuse panic. I doubt I could list 14k victims of hypnosis-induced false memories of abuse. I suppose those weren’t real moral panics either?

          • science says:

            It’s a (very loose) ceiling on the size of a second degree network.

            And you have exactly backwards. Those were moral panics precisely because the hysteria over them was completely out of proportion to their actual occurrence. Just like shark attacks, west nile virus, and false rape accusations.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Disclaimer: IANAA (I am not an American)

            @science: Is this a flat rate? When people call “rape” a moral panic, what they usually mean is “violent rape of middle/upper-middle class young women”. The idea is that the media is super focused on these campus rape situations, when most rape occurs in lower income families (and prision, but I’m not sure prison rape is being taken into account here).

            So there can both be a very legitimate concern over rape incidence, and a moral panic regarding specific (and less likely) set of them.

          • science says:

            WHtA:

            I don’t think either “side” is panicking about violent rape. The contested ground is acquittance or date rape. One side believes this type of rape is fairly common and is a serious concern. The other side thinks it is rare and is kind of a bullshit offense anyway — let’s talk about false accusations, now there’s a real problem!

          • Nornagest says:

            The other side thinks it is rare and is kind of a bullshit offense anyway — let’s talk about false accusations, now there’s a real problem!

            I think you’re failing an ideological Turing test here.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Is anyone actually having a moral panic about false accusations per se? (Maybe a few of the more out-there MRAs? I couldn’t say.) Most of the concerns I’ve seen being raised have come from those of us who regard the existing level of false accusations as tolerable– and a necessary evil unless we’re going to give up on the idea of punishing actual rapists– so long as those subjected to such false accusations are allowed due-process protections; the alarm is being raised over what we see as a concerted effort to weaken those protections, not over false accusations as such. Most of the critical commentary on the Duke lacrosse case seemed to take it for granted that there are always going to be a certain number of Crystal Mangums out there, but that it’s still reasonable to demand fewer Mike Nifongs, and hope for fewer Duke 88s.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Science – “And you have exactly backwards. Those were moral panics precisely because the hysteria over them was completely out of proportion to their actual occurrence.”

            So you’re saying child abuse doesn’t exist? How dare you sir. Physical and sexual abuse of children happens every day, and often scars the victims for life. If a few false accusations happen, that’s an acceptable price to pay to keep our children safe from Satanic Ritual Abuse. If you want to claim otherwise, you should be able to show that false accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse are a serious problem. Let’s see your 14,000 examples.

            Or hell, let’s talk about sodomy laws. Do you have 14,000 examples of sodomy laws actually being used to harm people? Why should we have changed them then?

            The SRA panic was harmful because fear of a bad thing drove people to abandon the protections against false positives. We have people from the united states senate on down publicly stating that they’d rather have four men be falsely accused than one rapist escape justice. We don’t accept that principle for actual murder. And no, handling these incidents via an academic tribunal without a shred isn’t okay because the accused is “only” losing their education and all the time and money spent on it to date.

          • Jason K. says:

            I don’t think many people would call a 0.04% chance “fairly common”.

          • science says:

            So you’re saying child abuse doesn’t exist? How dare you sir. Physical and sexual abuse of children happens every day, and often scars the victims for life. If a few false accusations happen, that’s an acceptable price to pay to keep our children safe from Satanic Ritual Abuse. If you want to claim otherwise, you should be able to show that false accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse are a serious problem. Let’s see your 14,000 examples.

            Satanic Ritual Abuse was moral panic because there were few or no cases of it actually occurring but many people acted like as it was happening all the time. Rape doesn’t fit that mold, because it is happening all the time. False accusations do fit that pattern because they aren’t happening all the time.

            This really isn’t that hard.

            Or hell, let’s talk about sodomy laws. Do you have 14,000 examples of sodomy laws actually being used to harm people? Why should we have changed them then?

            No one was panicking about being arrested for sodomy. You can want to change things without thinking there’s a crisis.

            All this hyperventilating over a tiny handful of examples repeated ad nauseum is something else entirely. That’s not ideological disagreement that’s panic. Completely unwarranted panic. And this is the only issue the paranoid red/grey internet alliance is blowing out of proportion. In another thread we have people claiming their are cabals hunting around the internet looking for people to target for “unpersoning” and trading tips to avoid this horrible and common fate. Give me a break.

            The SRA panic was harmful because fear of a bad thing drove people to abandon the protections against false positives. We have people from the united states senate on down publicly stating that they’d rather have four men be falsely accused than one rapist escape justice. We don’t accept that principle for actual murder.

            You already said that people are saying things you don’t like. But you have yet to actually produce even a scintilla of evidence as to the scope of false positive problem or even the direction of change.

            And no, handling these incidents via an academic tribunal without a shred isn’t okay because the accused is “only” losing their education and all the time and money spent on it to date.

            You can get a transcript even if you’ve been thrown out of school. You still have those credits, you can take them elsewhere. And no one can take your education, they don’t give you a lobotomy after they kick you out.

          • Cauê says:

            @science

            Just so we’re on the same page, did you read this post? Some great comments there as well.

            Also, an accusation of rape follows you for your whole life, getting in the way of starting social, professional and romantic relationships.

          • science says:

            Where can I find a list of people kicked out of college for sexual assault in the last year? Given that the information is so readily available, surely someone has made a sex offender style google map overlay?

            That post was before I started reading here, I’ll take a look.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Science – “False accusations do fit that pattern because they aren’t happening all the time.”

            …because 95% of rape allegations turn out to be true, right? Or wait, no, it’s one in ten. Or wait, no, that’s only of the ones that were provably false, and actually only 35% or so result in formal charges or discipline, even under the exceedingly lax standards currently being applied. So two in three accusations are at a minimum questionable, which is of course why it’s so important that we never actually question them, right? Much safer to punish merely based on the accusation. Due Process just makes things complicated.

            “You can want to change things without thinking there’s a crisis.”

            I see, so when you want something its “changing things”, where when we want something it’s a “panic”. Or perhaps we don’t let you define what is and isn’t an issue worth addressing! Yes, I like that solution much better.

            “All this hyperventilating over a tiny handful of examples repeated ad nauseum is something else entirely.”

            …Like Matthew Shephard’s murder proved we needed hate crime legislation, and isolated shooting sprees prove we need gun control legislation. I feel you.

            And of course I could cite examples. A quick google search finds 95 lawsuits against educational institutions over false rape charges. Hideous allegations of sexual abuse make the headlines over and over again, only to turn out to be completely fabricated. We have the actual statistics that show that the majority of rape charges are at least questionable. But you’ve already decided that whatever I cite is part of the “tiny handful”. I have better things to do than google facts for you to ignore.

            “You can get a transcript even if you’ve been thrown out of school.”

            Which is worthless to you, since as an adjudicated sex criminal other schools aren’t going to want to admit you.
            http://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/this-woman-gets-students-accused-of-rape-back-into-school-fo#.jrynGo4RL
            False rape allegations: so rare people can build careers around helping the victims.

            “In another thread we have people claiming their are cabals hunting around the internet looking for people to target for “unpersoning” and trading tips to avoid this horrible and common fate. Give me a break.”

            Frannest – I am also an outspoken critic of radical feminism on the internet. The existence of BDSM is inherently horrifying and vile to any radical feminist that does not lie to herself. Some approve of femdom, but I’m male. The subjugation of a female by a male, physical abuse, elements of coercion and so on leads them to claim that BDSM is patriarchal and rape culture (not in a meme way, like literal terms). And what is to be done when a woman is in an abusive relationship? Some sort of a rescue. So they “rescued” her from my “abusive relationship” by spreading vile lies about me including all the contacts they could possibly find and by spreading the photos of her to any contact of her they could possibly find – that included her workplace, her family and her friends.

            So yeah, she got fired immediately and her ties with her family were severely strained because her family is quite Muslim, no clue as to her friends but it probably doesn’t help ther mental image to know that a polite soft-spoken headscarf-wearing muslim girl gets off on being tied up, flogged and seeing her pictures on the internet.

            Stargirl – “I was doxxed for arguing against the feminist position on rape laws. I argued the rape studies did not prove what they claimed to and that the rate of false accusations was not well understood and might be high. I also argued a number of proposed laws and policies were easy to abuse.

            In addition to being doxxed I was publicly shamed by a large list of my former friends. I also have no data set. But I certainly would not discuss certain ideas under your real name in public.”

            Cord Shirt – “After I was unpersoned, I discovered a couple hate sites targeting me and a couple others. These were public, and didn’t include any planning of “snares.” But they mentioned the existence of private sites as well.”

            And of course everyone in that thread has directly observed unpersoning and swarming of multiple innocent targets over the last year or two, and heard of many more via the media. Plebcomics, Eron Gjoni, Wolf Wozniak, Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, and Max Temkin are just a few of the ones I’ve observed in my actual home community, with direct application to my actual career.

            Of course, none of those count. It doesn’t matter how many examples we have, how many of us can speak of the harm we’ve personally observed or experienced, how many of us live in daily fear of our careers and social lives being destroyed by gangs of unaccountable sadists like this one: https://imgur.com/a/USROb

            None of that matters to you, and I find that I have better uses of my time than trying to fix that. We’re done here.

          • Anonymous says:

            @science

            Regarding false rape accusations, my view is that their incidence rate is almost irrelevant as evidence of what would happen if you were to change the law in this area from innocent until proven guilty to guilty until proven innocent. The reason seems obvious. Under the latter rule, making false rape accusations is made enormously easier. The fact that rape accusations are hard to prove also means they are hard to disprove. When you’re suggesting changing the law such that a hard-to-disprove crime is presumed to have been committed when claimed unless proven otherwise, making successful false accusations becomes much easier, so their incidence will almost certainly rise.

            You’re changing the rules of the game in a way that has a very strong effect on the incentives involved; evidence collected in an environment with different incentives counts for nothing.

          • science says:

            Affirmative consent does not mean guilty until proven innocent. The burden of persuasion has nothing to do with the elements of the underlying offense.

          • John Schilling says:

            Affirmative consent, by any definition similar to those offered here, can produce no legal or regulatory outcome significantly different from the status quo unless the burden of proof is shifted to the defense. Anything less, and the only change is that rapists have to learn a slightly different set of lies.

            Affirmative consent is being proposed as a legal and regulatory standard, not merely a social guideline, and presumably by people who expect it to make a difference. And where we see affirmative consent actually implemented as an official regulation, it is being implemented with the burden of proof theoretically neutral and in practice imposed on the defense.

          • science says:

            There’s no such thing as a theoretically neutral burden of proof.

            If neither side presents any case, what happens? If nothing happens in that case, then the burden is on the prosecution.

            “Mike Krahulik”

            If that’s what being an unperson looks like, sign me up.

          • John Schilling says:

            If neither side presents any case whatsoever, then the “preponderance of evidence” standard means that the defense wins but by a literally infinitesimal margin.

            If the prosecution’s case is “I think they did it, they look guilty, prosecution rests”, and the defense presents no case, the prosecution wins.

            If the prosecution and defense cases are “Did So!” and “Did Not!” respectively, whichever the judge feels is giving off a More Honest Vibe wins. That’s theoretically neutral, but…

            In the standard being increasingly mandated at universities and corporate HR departments, the prosecutor is an actual professional lawyer trained in convincing people in such matters and who works regularly with the “judges”. The defense is an accused rapist who isn’t allowed to have a lawyer present.

            That the prosection’s theoretical burden is infinitesimaly greater than the defense’s, provides no real path to justice.

          • science says:

            @JS

            Let me see if I got this straight:

            On the hand the standard of persuasion can never be outcome determinative because all the actors involved in the process cynically ignore it and do whatever they want. So where the burden is “theoretically” doesn’t matter.

            On the other hand proponents of changing the consent standard must believe that it will be outcome determinative and the only way it could do so is by shifting the burden of persuasion (even though the actual burden of persuasion is never outcome determinative).

            How many more epicycles were you planning on adding?

        • NN says:

          Look up the 1980s daycare abuse scandals if you want to know how far this kind of thing can go if it is left unchecked.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      At the risk of TMI, I (instinctively) leaned heavily toward affirmative consent in my last long-term intimate relationship, and the disconnect between my needing to spell things out and my partner’s desire for spontaneity seemed to do very bad things for our relationship.

      “I think the the punch-buggy concept can easily be expanded to understand that even non-verbal consent can still be affirmative consent.”

      So refusal of consent would consist more of non-verbal resistance? Where does this leave seduction, in its various forms? Again, I hope I don’t need to be a red-piller or a pua to note that in my personal experience, some element of the chase is considered erotic by both partners under the right circumstances. On the occasions that my partner was seriously not interested, believe me, she had ways of unambiguously expressing her preferences. On the other hand, there were multiple occasions where she was frustrated that I was not more aggressive. How does affirmative consent navigate this sort of situation?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Affirmative consent does not mean there can be no spontaneity, nor does it mean that every verbal communication must start with “Can I?” nor does it mean every communication must be verbal. Seduction is not verbotten in a standard of affirmative consent. Hell, to some extent affirmative consent asks for seduction.

        As to the punch-buggy example, suppose you meet someone on a long bus ride and strike up a conversation. After a while their eyes light up and they say “punch buggy!” and tap you lightly on the shoulder. Your eyes light up and you say “Punch buggy no punchbacks” and give their arm a much more solid punch. You have never verbally consented to the game, but you have consented.

        But if you say nothing and start staring straight ahead, you have not consented and the other person should not take your silence as consent.

        • DrBeat says:

          So if it doesn’t disallow spontaneity, and it doesn’t mean every communication has to be verbal… how is it different from the societal standard we use now?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, that is one of my points. It largely is NOT very different from the kinds of standards that are generally used.

            However, there are some crucial differences. Mere non-resistance cannot be taken as consent, not absent some other framework. This would apply mostly to early in a relationship or any activity which is new. If they are communicating verbally, the non-verbal consent needs to be very clear. If, on a first date, someone simply gets tense and says nothing you don’t have a clear picture of what they are thinking. If they grab your hand and make it continue or something else unequivocal, you have consent.

            This is not rocket science.

            Part of the issue is simply that we have set up a societal expectation that sex is shameful to talk about, and that women (generally) are tainted by consenting to sexual activity. To make affirmative consent actually work well, that has to be solved as well.

            But in the context of a long term, successful relationship? Things likely don’t change.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Part of the issue is simply that we have set up a societal expectation that sex is shameful to talk about, and that women (generally) are tainted by consenting to sexual activity. To make affirmative consent actually work well, that has to be solved as well.”

            Alternatively, that women tend to find confidence attractive in men, so sexual interactions tend to involve the man making the approach and the escalations.

            I’m not really sure if there is any distinction between your affirmative consent model and most people’s view of what is acceptable, then. If you start to do something to your romantic interest that they might object to, and they get tense and go quiet, you should stop. I think people will almost unanimously agree on that.

            The question of how this ought to work in the eyes of the law is different, of course. Would you agree with those that have said that treating what you should do as what you should be legally required to do has some serious problems?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            The whore/Madonna dichotomy is a very real thing that is easily observable in practice and something that many will admit to basing judgments on.

            Switching the burden of proof in prosecution strikes me as unworkable and unconstitutional. I don’t believe we will see this, roughly ever.

            The issue of hidden evidence, administrator eyes only, disciplinary hearings I find very troubling. In my generation, there was a drive to purge alcohol from college campuses due to liability fears that was handled in a similar ham-handed a fashion. I don’t know exactly how it will shake out, but I don’t think it will end up where it is now.

            The issue with intoxication, especially mutual intoxication, and most especially the issue of those who are in a blackout state that is also quite functional strike me as problems that are hard to address.

            Here is what is NOT hard or difficult. That mildly buzzed guy who is always looking for the sloshed girl? His activities are wrong and should be punishable if proven. The guy who locked his bedroom door and told my (now) wife that she wasn’t leaving till they had sex? That’s wrong, and it should be punishable if proven.

            More importantly, neither of those things should be mistaken for obtaining consent. No one should talk about those things as if they are OK.

          • John Schilling says:

            But it is unrealistic to expect that either of those things ever will be proven, other than by means you yourself find “deeply troubling”. The effect of establishing a punitive process theoretically aimed at such offenses, will fall mainly on innocent bystanders.

            As with drunkenness and prohibition, there are real, serious social problems that can’t be solved by making the Bad Thing illegal and punishing the Bad People who do it anyway. This isn’t rocket science, and you should know better. And, given the failure of Prohibition, the failure of the War on Drugs, and the terrible cost of both, we’re not going to cut you any slack on this one.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HeelBearCub

            “Here is what is NOT hard or difficult. That mildly buzzed guy who is always looking for the sloshed girl? His activities are wrong and should be punishable if proven. The guy who locked his bedroom door and told my (now) wife that she wasn’t leaving till they had sex? That’s wrong, and it should be punishable if proven.

            More importantly, neither of those things should be mistaken for obtaining consent. No one should talk about those things as if they are OK.”

            I don’t think anyone would disagree. I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to your wife.

            It seems to me that there is almost never a perfect solution that will prevent all problems of all kinds. I’m concerned that while affirmative consent, as you’ve prevented it, seems utterly uncontroversial, the fact that it’s given a special name and conflated with a very different kind of standard (see the video I linked below) means that it’s not a term I would be comfortable using myself. I think we’re in agreement that guilty-until-proven-innocent is a very bad idea, so I’m not sure there’s much more to discuss.

            One more point I would make is that with regard to taking steps to prevent oneself becoming a victim of sexual misconduct, a lot of it depends on what kind of things you like to do, which determine whether a particular suggested action that would increase your safety would represent a minor inconvenience or a huge lifestyle change. A suggestion like “stop going out and getting blind drunk in nightclubs” sounds much more reasonable to someone with no interest in getting blind drunk in nightclubs than it does to someone whose weekends consist of nothing but getting blind drunk in nightclubs.

          • HBC writes:

            “Mere non-resistance cannot be taken as consent, not absent some other framework. ”

            In another post, you wrote:

            “When you escalate to n+1, make sure it is a de minimis escalation and see whether they consent to that.”

            You escalate. She doesn’t object. Is that “consent to that?” If so your first quote is wrong.

            If not, what is the difference between non-resistance and consent?

          • Anonymous says:

            @David Friedman

            I’m going to turn around and defend HBC here, actually.

            “If not, what is the difference between non-resistance and consent?”

            You escalate. She goes tense, her eyes go wide and fearful, her lip quivers, she starts to tremble. Should you continue or should you stop and ask if she’s okay with what you’re doing?

            I’m talking only about morals or social standards here. The question of what should be illegal, what standards the law should apply, is obviously very very different.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Anonymous:

            That would be an explicit, affirmative, but nonverbal dissent, which doesn’t seem relevant here. Generally speaking, there’s a scale of “have people agreed to this?” that runs:

            Affirmative written consent
            Affirmative verbal consent
            Affirmative non-verbal consent
            Implicit consent
            Confusion and misunderstanding
            Implicit dissent
            Affirmative non-verbal dissent
            Affirmative verbal dissent
            Affirmative written dissent
            Gunfire

            Most sex involving actual human beings happens somewhere in the implicit to non-verbal consent range. It is remarkably unclear how far up the scale the Affirmative Consent people want to set the bar, but pretty much everyone agrees that anything at “confusion and misunderstanding” or below ought to mean no sex happens. Those aren’t interesting or useful examples.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            If you escalate and NOTHING happens? You are doing it wrong. 😉

            But more seriously, If they continue to display the signs that they want you to continue then that can be taken as consent. But how clear are the signals? Are they getting more excited? Or less so? Are they participating in what you arw doing? Moving that body part towards you, grabbing your hand and noving it farther? Do you feel sure they actually want you to do what you are doing? No? Then you better make sure.

            The de minimis is part is simply what you need if you are trying to go non-verbally. You don’t fo from a flirty glance to attempted clothing removal in one step.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “But more seriously, If they continue to display the signs that they want you to continue then that can be taken as consent. But how clear are the signals? Are they getting more excited? Or less so? Are they participating in what you arw doing? Moving that body part towards you, grabbing your hand and noving it farther? Do you feel sure they actually want you to do what you are doing? No? Then you better make sure.”

            Wow, this totally sounds like the sort of thing that can be adjudicated in a he said/she said context in a court of law without any injustice being committed.

        • Drew says:

          As to the punch-buggy example, suppose you meet someone on a long bus ride and strike up a conversation. After a while their eyes light up and they say “punch buggy!” and tap you lightly on the shoulder. Your eyes light up and you say “Punch buggy no punchbacks” and give their arm a much more solid punch. You have never verbally consented to the game, but you have consented.

          This person just hit FacelessCraven by surprise. They don’t have affirmative consent, let alone enthusiastic affirmative consent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            No, that is de minimis. At some point that behavior might rise to the level of assault, but the initial tap would certainly not be assault.

          • Deiseach says:

            That’s assuming people know the game of “punch buggy”. I’ve never heard of it, and if someone sitting beside me on a bus went “punch buggy” and tapped me on the shoulder, I certainly would not reply “punch buggy no punchbacks”; I’d shift my seat if possible and maybe even make a complaint to the driver.

            It would be no good the other person saying “But it was punch buggy, not assault!” if they can’t be sure the person they were ‘playing with’ didn’t know the rules or didn’t want to join in.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @deiseach:
            Note the scenario assumes a conversation has occurred and that the “punch-buggy” is followed by a light tap which does no harm. No police force is going to take that complaint absent some seriously absent context (which we can assume is not present, because it is my scenario.)

            As to what “punch-buggy” is, it is a game common among American youth, mostly boys, wherein if a VW Beatle (i.e. VW Bug) is spotted, you are allowed to punch the other person in the arm once you have said “punch buggy”. It’s the kind of mindless aggression facsimile that is popular among boys the world over.

          • Deiseach says:

            And that’s where the trouble lies, HeelBearCub. Person X assumes Person Y will react in the appropriate manner when X initates such-and-such an action.

            Unless X can be sure Y shares all X’s cultural references and understandings of what is going on, then it won’t work.

            One-night-stands and just going out to hook up with a stranger is the kind of thing where affirmative consent is necessary, but there are so many assumptions around sex (e.g. women are supposed to be relucatant-but-persuadable so ‘no’ means ‘maybe, work at seducing me’; men are supposed to be dominant or at least the initiating party and not take ‘no’ for an answer – because ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no’; sex is supposed to be spontaneous and sweep you off your feet with passionate desire or else it’s no fun; at the same time, you’re supposed to be sure to use barrier protection against STDs and/or pregnancy; you should be open to all kinds of things – ‘good giving and game’ – or else you may as well write yourself off as one of those religious prudes; and of course, everyone else is having amazing adventurous sex all the time).

            I’m glad I was never interested in the whole damn business, it’s too complicated! 🙂

          • Drew says:

            This person just hit FacelessCraven by surprise. They don’t have affirmative consent, let alone enthusiastic affirmative consent.

            No, that is de minimis. At some point that behavior might rise to the level of assault, but the initial tap would certainly not be assault.

            No, you don’t have an unlimited right to “punch buggy” unsuspecting strangers. The fact that the contact is small doesn’t mean that it’s not-battery if you hit an unsuspecting person.

            Instead, this initial “punch buggy” was ok because of the context of the interaction.

            In particular, it was ok because we CURRENTLY use a standard where it’s ok to touch people in ways that are (1) contextually ‘reasonable’ and (2) likely to be well received.

            The problem is that you’re calling for a change to an affirmative consent standard. And FacelessCraven — having been taken by surprise — couldn’t possibly have given affirmative consent.

            In fact, your whole game seems like the opposite of affirmative consent.

            Neither person is asking for the other’s consent. Instead, you’ve got people committing a series of minor escalations and then looking to see if their partner objects after the fact.

            Given that neither partner objects, these minor boundary violations compound until the pair is locked in vigorous, physical contact.

            That seems like a great model for consent under the status quo. But it’s not a story of prior, affirmative consent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Drew:
            From what I have already linked in the wiki entry on consent in the context of assault.

            “Exceptions exist to cover unsolicited physical contact which amount to normal social behavior known as de minimis harm”

            You can initiate punch-buggy with a complete stranger without engaging in assault, and this is completely bound up with the idea of consent.

          • Drew says:

            You can initiate punch-buggy with a complete stranger without engaging in assault, and this is completely bound up with the idea of
            consent.

            I had a legal argument, but it’s easier to just quote you:

            If I were to walk up to random stranger, declare “punch-buggy” and strike them on the arm, this would also be assault

            Our points of agreement:
            1. Without context, “Punch Buggy” is battery
            2. Consent can make it ok

            Our central disagreement is that I’m accusing you of switching your standards for “consent” mid-argument.

            We seem to agree that FacelessCraven, being surprised by an escalation, didn’t give affirmative consent to the escalation.

            Your reply is that the escalation is ‘de minimis.’ And it was ‘de minimis’ because it was consensual.

            This is true under our current standards, but pretty fatal for your argument that we do/should use an affirmative consent standard.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Drew:
            If you simply walked up to a stranger, yelled “punch buggy” and punched their arm as hard as you could, that would be assault.

            If, in the course of a conversation with a stranger you lightly tap them on the arm after saying punch-buggy this is de minimis.

            You seem to have missed or not be engaging with the point that, in my example, the non-verbal attempt at gaining consent starts, not with a hard blow, but a light tap?

      • Tibor says:

        This is all strange to me. Why do people come up with funny concepts such as “affirmative consent” or even “yes means yes” when all that is needed is learn from the BDSM community? If you play the dominant/submissive roles, you want to be sure that whatever you are doing is done with consent and also things can happen at any moment where it is just too much for one of you (not exclusively for the submissive by the way). Something that you’ve done 50 times before can suddenly be too much for some reason, be it physical or psychological. You have to be able to tell when to stop and that in a situation where saying no can be just part of the play. You cannot keep asking “is it ok if you whip you now?” That would be ridiculous and spoil the whole thing. What you do instead is that you use a safeword, i.e. something that can be said at any moment by each of you at which point it is clear there is no consent anymore and the whole thing stops immediately. The safeword is obviously something you would not say otherwise. One can even have two safewords, sort of like “yellow” and “red” on the traffic lights, where yellow just means “no more of this, but let’s continue” and “red” is just the full stop. In BDSM it is necessary, but if you are unsure about consent even in “regular” sex, there is no reason not to have a safeword for those cases as well.

        Of course, this works only in a relationship, if you have a one-night stand, it probably would spoil the atmosphere as well (I cannot say, I never had a one-night stand), but your trouble seem to have been with a relationship where you only have to agree upon a safeword once and you can be pretty spontaneous from there on.

        • Anonymous says:

          That seems to be the “no means no” standard that “yes means yes” is intended to replace.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The BDSM community, as I understand it, is very big on being very clear about what the boundaries are beforehand. They also have safewords, but that doesn’t negate the part where they are actually clear on what is to take place.

          Look, it has been very common practice to present the plaintiffs clothes in a rape trial as evidence for the defense. This was successful at obtaining a bot guilty verdict. The fact that victim had on a mini-skirt, or had mutiple previous sexualities partners was treated as if it had bearing on the case at hand. It’s not as if the view of consent in sexualities assault cases has been very clear.

          Affirmative consent, as opposed to “absence of clear non-consent” are different standards.

          • DrBeat says:

            Look, it has been very common practice to present the plaintiffs clothes in a rape trial as evidence for the defense. This was successful at obtaining a bot guilty verdict. The fact that victim had on a mini-skirt, or had mutiple previous sexualities partners was treated as if it had bearing on the case at hand. It’s not as if the view of consent in sexualities assault cases has been very clear.

            Every single time I have heard of such a defense being brought up to decry how our society treats rape — literally without exception — it turned out to be something entirely reasonable that the speaker was lying about, or was repeating a lie about.

            Like when people said “This RAPIST was acquitted because the victim was wearing skinny jeans, and they said that meant she was slutty!” when if you actually investigated it, the defense didn’t claim skinny jeans made her slutty, they claimed skinny jeans made the events she claimed physically impossible.

            The only crime that we revoke more due-process rights for than rape, is terrorism. The notion we are not hard enough on rape is a lie. It is a lie told by people who think that their own emotion of fear is an objective fact about the world, and the fact that they experience fear means men have not done enough to take their negative emotions away. You can’t just appeal to vague ideas of “well everyone knows we Don’t Do Enough, because feminist women still experience a negative emotion”, you’re going to have to appeal to actual facts to show that what we are doing is wrong and must change.

            And the facts that would show that objectively do not exist.

          • Tibor says:

            Depends on how hardcore you want to go and obviously, if you want to do something new, you should let the partner know (if for no other reason, then because you are likely to be stopped by the safeword in the act if you don’t). But I think that a list of “we are going to do this this and that and afterwards exactly this and that” is a standard upheld in porn only (where it makes perfect sense of course, because pleasure or passion of those involved are not the point so they can be disregarded completely).

            I’ve never tried anything that would possibly be physically dangerous (well, in case of a sudden heart attack, even tied arms and legs can be a dangerous thing, but that’s why you ought to have scissors) such as electrodes (there you have to really be careful and make sure you know what you’re doing) but a safeword has always been sufficient (and used only once ever). It gives full power to the submissive over what is happening (which is good for both, because then the dominant does not have to worry about not being gentle enough) so I don’t see why one would have to write down a list of “we are going to do exactly this” beforehand. If this can work with something as “extreme” as bdsm, I don’t see why people would need “yes means yes” or stuff like that for “vanilla” sex. Even the safeword seems kind of an overkill to me if you never do anything extraordinary and a clear “no” actually clearly and unambiguously means what it sounds like but I would be fine with it if someone promoted the used of safewords in general.

            I am also a little bit skeptical about a miniskirt being a successfully used evidence in the court, but even if it was, it is pretty orthogonal to what we are talking about. A miniskirt as a “defence” does not even fit into the “no means no” standard.

            Of course, save for signing a contract each time you want to have sex (that would fit well into the “antisex league” of 1984 :)), you will always have some ambiguity and cases where it is “his word against her word”. Then the standard should be NOT to punish. Western society has been built on the idea that it is better to sometimes let criminals go without punishment than to punish innocent people*. Save for 24/7 surveillance you cannot keep that principle without accepting that sometimes bastards get away, even with murder. Assuming “guilty until proven innocent” is a great way to increase the number of innocent people punished and on net likely to lead to more harm than letting some guilty roam free.

            This also seems to be a very US-specific topic. I have not heard of any other country in the world that would talk about “rape culture”…which strongly suggests to me that it is an inflated problem at best. Otherwise, there would have to be more tolerance for rape in Europe which I don’t think is the case. Then again, in probably no European country would a female teacher be sentenced to a few decades in prison for having sex with her teenage student, so judging by that measure, maybe Europe is more tolerant to “rape”. But that particular case is probably a weird exception rather than the rule (or a measure of how people think about these things) even in the US. It could also be that this is even a very niche topic even in the US, with some media attractive cases popping up occasionally (such as the one mentioned by David or one I read about in die Welt where a male German exchange student was accused by a quite clearly mentally unstable female student of rape and where she turned her “story” into an “art project” while carrying a mattress all over the campus ), which would not be so surprising in a country of 300 million. That is hard to judge from across the ocean.

            *of course, some optimization is necessary here, you probably want to hang one innocent in order not to let 100 000 murderers go lose if for no other reason than because those murderers are likely to kill more than 1 innocent person if you let them go, but you probably rather want to let a single murderer go unpunished than hang an innocent person instead)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            Roughly 10 seconds on google, 4th listed article.

            @Tibor:
            You are still having a conversation about consent before hand, which is very different from attempting “pickup BDSM” where you attempt to engage in BDSM without even discussing the topic or safe words.

          • Tibor says:

            HeelBearCub: Yes, you do. But only once. You agree on a safeword and that’s it. Of course, it is a good idea to talk about what happened and what was wrong if the safeward had to be used but that just seems like common sense to me.

            I did acknowledge that this is not useful for one-night stands, didn’t I? I’ve always found the associated stress (although I usually am not stressed out by people, for some reason I can be very nervous with women, especially when I first meet them) and possible risks of getting an STD to be worth trying a one-night stand (a sex with a long-term friend who I fancy would be a different thing but it comes with another sort of problems), so I don’t know anything about that except for hearsay (in fact the idea of having sex with someone I met the same day for the first time just is somehow alien to me to the point that I almost doubt it happens even though I know quite a few people who have done it at least occasionally…and I am not religious, so that is not the reason nor would I condemn the people who do so…it is just something probably not for me). I would imagine you need to be a bit more careful in that situation (after all, you pretty much don’t know the person you are having sex with) which is though clashing a bit with how this usually happens (everyone having drunk a lot of alcohol).

            But I am quite strongly opposed to the idea that in a relationship, one would have to ask for affirmative consent each time. If you want to be absolutely sure everything you’re doing is consensual, have a safeword. If you do anything like bdsm definitely have a safeword, but that is a special case.

            Besides, save for really extreme cases when one partner (this would pretty much always be the man) disregards actual opposition to sex of the other and resorts to violence or other kind of enforcement (threats), I honestly don’t think it is that big a deal if it happens sometimes that you have sex when the partner is not really very enthusiastic about it and only “tolerates” it. I know I have had sex like that being both in the position of the one who really is not that interested (like when I was really tired, wanted to sleep and my ex-girlfriend would come home a bit intoxicated and, well, aroused after having been out partying with friends) and when I was the one “forcing” it a bit. It is not that big a deal and at worst an apology next morning is sufficient ( I am not talking about the case when one partner actively refuses sex which should be clear, but I want to make sure it really is), sometimes not even that is necessary. If this happens too often, there is probably something wrong with the relationship in general and it is likely to fall apart because of that, which is also a natural solution that kind of problems. I would regard anyone who would consider this a “rape” (I dunno if there are such people) as completely out of touch with reality and would suspect that they have never actually been in a (long-term) relationship.

          • DrBeat says:

            This appears to be a trial where the defendant said “This woman was a prostitute who consented to have sex with me in exchange for money and cocaine, and then claimed she was raped in order to avoid being arrested for the cocaine.”

            Her story was, in part, that she was not a prostitute, and she was wearing underpants, and the defendant, in the process of raping her, ripped them off. The fact of her not wearing underpants was relevant to the case because it showed she lied in her story to the police. She actually lied a great deal of times.

            This article, which was written around the time of the verdict, goes into detail about what actually happened. He was not acquitted because his victim was slutty and wore slutty things, he was acquitted because her story did not add up and she lied several times before and during the trial. But then everyone pretended that the only thing said during the trial was “she had no panties”, and look at how horrible it is to be a woman, look at how threatening it is to be a woman, that a man was found innocent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:

            You are misrepresenting that article.

            The juror says that he meant that she was aaking for sex and got it. He doesn’t even say, well, we thought she was lying about being a hooker so we couldn’t believe her about anything else.

            The jurors attitude is what speaks to my point.

            But you have a point that it is speaks to why the defense wanted that evidence in.

          • DrBeat says:

            He did say that the reason they could not believe her was that she kept lying. One of the lies she told was about not being a hooker. He pointed to the evidence they had, of which her clothing was one piece, that she was a prostitute and was behaving as a prostitute, and said that this contradicted her story.

            Her outfit “was a factor” in the verdict, he said, but
            not the determining one. It was a factor only in that it
            delivered a certain visual message in the same way that
            a police officer’s uniform or a nun’s habit does: it suggested
            this woman was a hooker. And she denied that. And in denying
            that she told a web of lies, and it was those lies, Diamond
            said, that persuaded the jury nothing she said could be trusted.
            “Every time she turns around, she can’t remember what she’s
            just said.”

            So how is that a misrepresentation?

            What is it the defense did that you think they should not be allowed to do?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            I was conceding your point about the defense.

            The misrepresentation is that the story is far murkier than you were presenting it as. He did plead guilty to an earlier rape in Georgia where he said to the victim ”It’s your fault. You’re wearing a skirt.” And the article you linked shows that “In Georgia, Lord had been charged with sexual crimes remarkably similar to the one Chiapponi described, including two cases of abduction at knifepoint.”

            My point about the juror applied to what he said at the time, not how he explained himself after. He wasn’t saying, at the time, that her story couldn’t be trusted, but rather “We all felt she was asking for it, the way she was dressed”

            Here is how Roy Diamond explained himself in the article you linked:
            ” `It’ meant sex, not rape. People heard it and they just took it for the worst . . . if a woman goes out at 3 a.m. in that kind of a skirt, she is advertising for sex, and she got what she advertised for.”

          • DrBeat says:

            You brought up the practice of presenting plaintiff’s clothes as evidence for the defense in a rape trial as horrible, and proof we are Not Doing Enough.

            I said that every single time I have heard of such a defense being brought up to decry how our society treats rape, literally without exception, it turned out to be something entirely reasonable the speaker was lying about or was repeating a lie about.

            You brought up this 1989 case and used it to decry how our society treats rape.

            I pointed out that when I actually looked into it, it was something entirely reasonable and relevant to the case.

            What does it even mean to say “My point about the juror applied to what he said at the time, not how he explained himself after”? Why does the full explanation of what he and the jury though count LESS than the quote-mine? The segment I quoted begins with literally the very next sentence after what you quoted, explaining the meaning of the thing that he said, at the time that he said it. Why does quote with context and meaning count less than quote without context and meaning?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            Sorry, going too fast. I was trying to make three distinct points.

            1) Conceded the point about the defense.
            2) Contend that, even though she lied about many things, it seems quite likely a rape and a abduction did occur.
            3) Show that issues about consent seemed to still be bound up in foreman’s statement. It’s not “she lied about being a hooker, so we can’t trust the other parts of her story” but “she was a hooker, so we think the act was most likely consensual.”

            Nonetheless, I completely concede that this wasn’t a very good example for me to use. I should have done more research than 10 seconds.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:

            How does this strike you as an example. This is a quote from a defense lawyer in a Canadian study published in 2000 on how they defend against the charge of rape.

            “Barristers always asked complainants questions about their clothing. It was part of the same theme that they had brought what had happened upon themselves. BAR10 clearly believed that the way some women, particularly young women, dressed was the reason for what happened to them. He said:

            This girl has gone into a bikers’ pub wearing a mini-skirt and a see-through shirt. That’s part of the story. I don’t think they (young girls) realise the effect of their appearance on men. Guys get turned on if they can see through the women’s clothes. Dress is significant.

            However, questions were not confined to clothing on the occasion in question. In the case mentioned above, in which a video of the complainant dancing was shown, she was questioned about the clothing she was wearing at court. BAR7 who had prosecuted the case commented: ‘The girl was basically just cross-examined because she had a mini skirt with a zip in it.'”

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Before offering an opinion on affirmative consent, I would like to know what I am opining on. Can you give necessary and sufficient conditions for when someone has consented affirmatively?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Here is SUNY’s definition, which I believe is fairly standard:

        Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

        I proactively agree that the vagueness of the intoxication part of the standard creates problems for application, but, I would hope that we could agree that someone who is “sloppy drunk” is a bad choice for a random encounter (where you don’t know what their consent structure looks like).

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Here is SUNY’s definition, which I believe is fairly standard:

          Yes, it is also hopelessly vague and not what I asked for. What I want to know is how you propose to fill in the following schema:

          Person-x has affirmatively consented to having sex with person-y if and only if the following conditions obtain… [YOU FILL IN THE BLANK HERE].

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I find the method you have employed here to be ungenerous. If you already knew the standard definition of consent, why make me go through the rigmarole of finding a definition?

            In any case, consent here is not substantially different from the way consent is used in the context of non-sexual assault, and that standard works well. People don’t go around in a haze of of unclarity regarding whether a game of basketball is consensual.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            What? I asked for necessary and sufficient conditions, you responded with some words with vague positive affect loosely slung together, then I renewed my request for necessary and sufficient conditions. This is not a wild goose chase: I’d like to have a clear sense what I am agreeing to prior to agreeing to it.

            The analogy is suggestive, but we should demand a higher degree of rigor when contemplating serious ethical guidelines. It might be, for instance, that we permit a great deal of ambiguity in pick-up basketball because of the low stakes and the rarity of opportunities for confusion. My risk-tolerance for passing a basketball to an unwitting bystander is a lot higher than my risk-tolerance for raping a dude.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            To get you started, here is a first pass at what I take to be the necessary and sufficient conditions for no-means-no consent.

            ___

            No-means-no consent:
            Person X has consented to a particular sex act with Person Y if and only if both (1) and (2) and either (3) or (4) obtain:

            1. Person X is psychologically capable of consenting, in virtue of being of appropriate age, mental capacity, and sound mind, and not unconscious, asleep, or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol (except if Person X had previously, while of sound mind and not incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, explicitly agreed that the sex act take place while he was unconscious, asleep, or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, and had not subsequently revoked that agreement).

            2. Person X does not physically resist the sex act (except if Person X had previously, while of sound mind and not incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, explicitly agreed that the sex act take place despite his physical resistance, and had not subsequently revoked that agreement).

            3. Person X has had the opportunity to signal his unwillingness to participate in the sex act by word or unambiguous gesture, and has not done so.

            4. Person X and Person Y are involved in a standing relationship such that Person Y could reasonably conclude that the sex act was welcome without giving Person X a prior opportunity to signal his unwillingness to participate in the sex act, and Person X has not signaled his unwillingness to participate in the sex act by word or unambiguous gesture.

            ___

            You see that this is nowhere near as simple as “it’s just like punch-buggy or a basketball game”. But if you are serious about having a conversation about affirmative consent, this is the sort of background work that you will need to do to ensure that different parties are not just endlessly talking past one another.

        • Drew says:

          I agree with Earthly Night that the SUNY definition totally fails to answer his question.

          Without specific guidelines, you don’t even have a well-defined disagreement with the status-quo.

        • Matt C says:

          Like others, I genuinely do not understand how affirmative consent is different from regular consent. I have heard people argue that there is almost no difference, and others argue that it is almost completely different.

          This is a problem in itself, but we could at least understand what your idea of the concept means and discuss that better.

          Let’s take the bar hookups that happen every weekend, and that are mostly understood as consensual now. They all involve alcohol. Using your personal experience and/or imagination about how hookups actually play out, and your notion of affirmative consent, what fraction of them violate affirmative consent? Just a very crude estimate: almost none, a few percent, maybe half, most of them, all of them?

    • Anon. says:

      When two people get in a boxing ring, they don’t ask each other “are you sure you want to box?”

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Well, if their were “sex rings” with very clear rules about what could and could not happen and a referee, and this was the only place sex occurred, I don’t think we would be having conversations about the need for affirmative consent.

        • Sastan says:

          There is no need for affirmative consent. You’re just making it up to justify criminalizing a vast swath of normal human sexual interaction.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            On the contrary, affirmative consent is how the legal system prevents all kinds of behavior from being considered assault. This was addressed in the OP.

          • Jason K. says:

            “On the contrary, affirmative consent is how the legal system prevents all kinds of behavior from being considered assault. This was addressed in the OP.”

            The legal system doesn’t use affirmative consent for anything unless explicitly required via regulation (ex: ‘person must sign the form’). The legal system instead uses *informed consent” and assumed risk, where some risks are assumed to be acceptable simply by a person’s participation without the need for further waiver or warning.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jason K:
            What exactly do you think affirmative consent is? Something in writing? That’s not affirmative consent. Affirmative simply means that you can’t be assumed to be consenting merely by the absence of non consent.

            Informed simply means that you must know what it is you are consenting to. It’s, I believe, part of what is required to make consent actual consent, in a legal sense.

          • Jason K. says:

            I think it is exactly what it says on the tin and have already explained why it is a bad standard.

            “It’s, I believe, part of what is required to make consent actual consent, in a legal sense.” Exactly. The legal system generally doesn’t go looking for anything beyond that (or assumed risk) unless it has explicit direction to do so. “affirmative consent is how the legal system prevents all kinds of behavior from being considered assault” is just wrong.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Affirmative consent means you have to take some action to affirm consent. Simple as that.

            In what way is this not the legal standard for anything else?

          • Anonymous says:

            @HeelBearCub
            “Affirmative consent means you have to take some action to affirm consent. Simple as that.”

            That definition says nothing, because ‘some action’ could be anything. It could mean that you have to sign a contract with three witnesses in order to consent to kissing. It could also mean that by being in the same room as someone you have consented to having sex with them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            “It could also mean that by being in the same room as someone you have consented to having sex with them.”

            No, that’s not true. Simply, merely being in the same room is not consent to having sex.

            My repeated contention is that affirmation of consent is uncontroversial and understood in plenty of other contexts. You have to take some positive action to affirm consent.

            Perhaps what I need to be more clear about is that what I mean when I say consent structure. Let’s suppose there is a boxing gym and two people are in a ring and they start to spar. In that moment, it may look like they have not engaged in anything affirmative before beginning to spar. They get in the ring, say nothing, don’t talk to each other, touch gloves and begin to box.

            But what about everything that has happened before that? They didn’t show up out of the blue. They have done many, many things before hand that affirm consent to box. They know the rules of boxing and the rules of the gym. They know that they are participating in boxing and not MMA. They know how to easily stop the competition and know that it will be respected, etc.

            These are all absent in first time intimate encounters. That means it is incumbent on all parties to ensure they are clear on what is actually being consented to. It’s the absent of that consent structure that makes determining consent more difficult. But it doesn’t mean that affirmative consent isn’t required in both situations.

          • Jason K. says:

            This is back to the same pattern. You are unable to concretely address any direct challenge to the idea and instead just evasively offer feelgood-isms or restate the definition in return. Pretty much every single ‘fact’ that you have cited has been demonstrated to be wrong.

        • Jason K. says:

          HBC, you are still missing the point. It doesn’t matter that the ring isn’t physically present. The ring is context, just like other interactions create context.

          Women are not the idiot children that progressives are predisposed to think of them as. On average, they probably know the score before men do.

          You seem to be engaging in an extremely generous interpretation of what people mean by ‘affirmative consent’. I guarantee that this is not how it is going to be implemented. The people pushing this are *not* going to be generous.

          I also note that you have not addressed any of the other problems I pointed out and instead have generally chosen to focus on nitpicking the examples. I have also noticed that you haven’t given a solid answer to anyone else that has pointed out similar problems.

          Genuine questions time:

          Have you engaged in affirmative consent as commonly defined for 100% of your sexual interactions? If not, are you comfortable with the fact that you would now be considered a rapist? Are you comfortable with ceding how things like affirmations are defined to others? Others who may then retroactively determine whether or not a given affirmation qualifies, thus allow them to make a post hoc determination as to whether or not you have committed sexual assault/rape?

    • Sastan says:

      It’s not about what people want.

      It’s about what people can reasonably be punished for not being able to prove.

      In terms of “want”, of course I don’t want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me. But, in case you haven’t noticed, human beings are not lines of Basic where you punch in the right commands and the action takes place. Some are uncomfortable verbalizing certain requests. Some don’t think it should be necessary. Some think having to stop all amorous activity every ten seconds to re-establish “consent” ruins the mood.

      If I found out that someone I had sex with hadn’t really wanted to have sex with me, I’d be embarrassed. However, I should not be imprisoned unless he or she had communicated in a manner a reasonable person would have understood to be lack of consent. Sex is weird, complicated and awkward. The solution is not to add lawyers. And this snide, sly campaign to make all men felons will not fucking stand.

      “Affirmative consent” is the death of civil rights for all men with an active sex life, nothing more. If you admit you had sex, how can you possibly prove consent? Even videotape wouldn’t cover everything. This ridiculous and barbaric idiocy will bloody well bite those pushing it in the ass one day, I guarantee. If “affirmative consent” is the standard, I have approximately ten thousand instances of rape I can charge a very long list of people with.

      The proponents of “affirmative consent” have outright stated that their goal is to have a lot of men falsely accused in order to make men afraid of interacting with women. It is legal terrorism, and those who support it are misandrists.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “The proponents of ‘affirmative consent’ have outright stated that their goal is to have a lot of men falsely accused in order to make men afraid of interacting with women. It is legal terrorism, and those who support it are misandrists.”

        Citations?

          • A proponent of, not yet “the proponents of.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            … well that’s certainly one man of the left signalling virtue like Robespierre.

          • magicman says:

            everything that is wrong with Vox encapsulated

          • Sastan says:

            Come now, Mr. Freidman. If the bloody editor of Vox is willing to publish it to the nation, I think it’s a safe assumption he felt there was a sympathetic audience for it. The fact he still has a job seems to prove that feeling was correct.

            I’m sure I could hunt about the interwubs to find a hundred more examples, but then it would just be a No True Scotsman marathon. And I just worked sixteen hours, so I’m not feeling up to that particular game.

            I will state again. There is only one motivation to support the inversion of civil rights that is “affirmative consent”, and that is hatred of men. If I proposed “affirmative ownership of goods” for black people only, where blacks and only blacks would be required to prove they hadn’t stolen everything in their possession, otherwise it would be considered theft, I’d rightly be called a racist. There’s just no other reasonable explanation.

          • Cauê says:

            There is only one motivation to support the inversion of civil rights that is “affirmative consent”, and that is hatred of men. (…) There’s just no other reasonable explanation.

            Goddamnit.

            Now this is a failure of imagination.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Cauê:

          Yeah.

      • science says:

        I’m sure Nornagest will be along shortly to tell you that you are failing the ideological turing test.

        • Nornagest says:

          You make one post and suddenly you have a schtick.

        • Cauê says:

          I think I do it more than him, and I’ve already done it here as well…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @science:

          I know you are on my side, so to speak, but can I gently ask you to “take it down a notch”, as it were? Good dialogue can happen in this space, but it takes work.

          I haven’t noticed you commenting here extensively before, so I’m not sure if I am interpreting your tone correctly or not.

    • Drew says:

      The first is that affirmative consent is how we determine the presence or absence of assault in general already.

      This is obviously untrue.

      Situation A: Mother picks up & hugs her child. Child giggles.
      Situation B: Homeless man picks up & hugs a random child. Child screams in terror.

      Exactly one of these scenarios is objectionable.

      The common standard is that people need to have a reasonable belief that their contact will be well-received.

      That’s why athletes can clap a goal-scoring player on the back, or even pick the person up and carry them off the field. It’s how children can start a game of punch buggy or ‘tag’ without explicit negotiation.

      Your “fighting in the street” scenario is a type of contact that’s unusual and generally unwelcome. Worse, it’s a form of contact that will be illegal in many jurisdictions, even given explicit, written consent.

      That seems like a weird edge-case that that’s almost totally inapplicable when we’re asking about scenarios like, “When is it ok for a mother to hug her child?” or “Can a married person kiss their spouse?”

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Drew:
        On the contrary consent is key notion in considering whether a behavior is assault. This is why an athlete can tackle another athlete on the field,or punch another athlete in the ring, without it being assault.

        The child example is a red-herring. Young children are considered to be unable to consent and function under different legal precedents.

        • There are lots of context where you hug another adult without first asking for or being given permission. It isn’t normally treated as assault.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I would contend that the typical adult to adult hug between people who do not know each other well usually starts with a physical invitation to hug which must be reciprocated for the behavior to be seen as not acceptable.

            Regardless, a single hug is de minimis and therefore won’t be assault anyway.

        • Drew says:

          Let’s walk through an example:

          A woman sees her spouse getting off a plane. Spouse doesn’t notice her right away. Woman surprises her spouse with a kiss. Kiss is (once surprise passes) well-received.

          —-

          My claims:
          1. This scenario is not morally objectionable.
          2. This scenario is not battery under common law.
          3. A surprise kiss by a stranger would have been battery
          4. Spouse, having been surprised, did not give affirmative consent.

          I think that points #2, #3 and #4 are sufficient to show that, in as far as our laws use a consent standard, it’s not the affirmative consent standard that you’re advocating.

          Points #1 and #4 seem like they’re sufficient to show that, while an affirmative consent model might be a good idea in some cases (particularly the one-night-stand scenarios that seem to crop up so frequently in these threads), it’s not the real moral standard that anyone is using.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The word “spouse” is doing all of the lifting in that scenario. It implies many things about consent: that you have known each other for quite a while, are familiar with each others’ likes and dislikes, etc. You have given her surprise kisses before at home and know she consents to them, you have kissed her in public before and know she consents to this. There is already a framework of consent.

            A single attempt at a kiss is generally going to considered de minimis anyway, I believe, especially in the context of an ongoing relationship.

            Consider, If your spouse isn’t kissing you back, what do you do?

          • Drew says:

            A single attempt at a kiss is generally going to considered de minimis anyway, I believe, especially in the context of an ongoing relationship.

            Yes, the law would say that the kiss is ‘de minimis’ because of consent.

            The law would say there’s consent because it allows for both implied & explicit consent.

            Move to an “affirmative consent” standard and this changes. The kiss is no longer consensual or ‘de minimis’.

            That was the point of my example.

            You’re not consistently applying an ‘affirmative consent’ standard; it comes out only after you’ve decided that something was objectionable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Drew:
            No. As I understand things which are de minimis are so small as to do inconsequential harm, or things for which their is broad societal understanding such that they are considered part of normal social behavior. Once again, wikipedia.

          • Drew says:

            No, the law doesn’t allow you to kiss random and likely uninterested strangers.

            The relevant tort is ‘battery’. It applies to harmful or offensive touching.

            Knock a hat off someone’s head, and it’s battery. A nonconsensual kiss would definitely quality.

            Your link to ‘Defenses: Consent’ is about ‘consent’ as a defense to assault.

            It’s true that the law allows people to argue that they thought they had implied consent for some minor forms of contact.

            However, you can only appeal to consent in my scenario if you’re saying that the woman had consent, despite not having affirmative consent.

            I think this is reasonable, but again, it is what my example is set up to show.

    • brad says:

      I mentioned affirmative consent in a recent thread, and my belief that a post discussing affirmative consent would not be likely to generate much in the way of positive dialogue. Some posters seemed to think that we actually could have some sort of positive dialogue.

      On the balance I think you were correct and your interlocutors were wrong.

      • Nornagest says:

        This scene always overestimates its ability to deal with controversy.

        But, to be fair, so does pretty much every scene. We just couch it in stuffy cog-sci verbiage.

      • Anonymous says:

        It doesn’t seem to have gone too badly to me. I’ve been exposed to an interesting set of arguments in favor of the idea, and am more sympathetic to those proposing it than I was before – mostly due to HeelBearCub’s description of it being different to the impression of it I’ve got from others.

        It currently seems to me more like one part motte and bailey, one part misguided view that law ought to perfectly mirror social standards, rather than the obviously incorrect nonsense I previously viewed it as.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @brad:
        It is going about as well as I expected.

        There is some genuine engagement and desire to consider the question in a charitable manner, but not a ton of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      HBC, further to the discussion of affirmative consent, which has been informative, I’d be interested to know your view on this video (not the most NSFW thing ever, but you probably shouldn’t watch this at work).

      This video depicts what I, and probably other people who replied to you, understood affirmative consent to mean. Is this inaccurate? Is it a particularly stringent version of affirmative consent? Is it, perhaps, a particularly stringent version of affirmative consent, presented in the hopes that people will sorta-kinda-half follow it, and end up doing just about the right amount of affirmative consenting?

      Also, why does the Wikipedia page on the subject contain the line “Ongoing consent is sought at all levels of sexual intimacy regardless of the parties’ relationship, prior sexual history or current activity” – does this not contradict what you’ve said about precedent overruling the strict standard? Would you say this is a mistake, or an alternative interpretation of affirmative consent that you disagree with?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Anonymous:
        That video does the the affirmative consent movement no great service, I will say that. #1, it does not model ANY non-verbal consent, which is very, very clearly included in the concept of affirmative consent. #2, with the the exception of one time, all of the consent seeking is in the form of “Can I”. Still, it doesn’t say that the scenario is the only way to seek consent. Frankly, with slightly better actors and slightly better lines they could have even delivered on what they were trying to convey.

        The funny thing is that the one time they do use a non “Can I” question, it is probably the most common type of consent seeking “Do you like this?” Coincidentally, this is the kind we often see modeled in popular media as being ignored (in other words, a sicko character will frequently ask “Do you like this?” neither wanting, nor expecting, an answer). Whereas in real life “do you like this?” seems a pretty common way of asking for feedback, and a non-answer is a big red flag.

        Ozzy has many good posts on consent. Here is one of them that addresses some of what you are talking about. I wish I could find the comment where she described a completely non-verbal encounter that was entirely about affirmative consent (and matched the way many encounters go).

        As to the spousal stuff. I’ve been married 20+ years. We have both had our ups and downs with libido. Recently depression, sleep apnea and low testosterone put me in a state that was almost asexual. We started out as a couple that was hornier than pretty much anyone. Yes, you need to check in with your spouse when they change how they respond!

        If you do what you have been doing for 20 years, and they continue to respond as they have, yeah that is affirmative consent. But when they stop responding as they have, you are responsible for figuring out what is going on.

        Look, if you are in a marriage for 20 years and you doubt whether you know if your spouse wants to have sex or not, you have bigger problems than the affirmative consent standard.

        • Anonymous says:

          I suspect that if they did include examples of non-verbal consent – implicit kinds, that is, not pointing and gestures – then the response would largely be “what makes this different from what everyone does already?”.

          “Yes, you need to check in with your spouse when they change how they respond!”

          I don’t disagree, my argument is only that precedent can certainly change the baseline of what you would expect the other person to be okay with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            One thing to note, in that video the touching and the asking are coincident. So, even in that very formulaic, legalistic framing, it still doesn’t reach the straw man level that people want to tear down.

    • dndnrsn says:

      HeelBearCub: “It is my contention that any issue people have with affirmative consent have very little to do with the actual standard itself, and more to do with how they perceive it might be applied, and especially in how it may be applied in an American society that is extraordinarily conflicted about how good and/or desirable sex is.”

      I can’t speak for anyone else but I basically agree with this. On a personal level, I like affirmative consent as a standard – I think affirmative consent as you are presenting it is pretty reasonable, and pretty much how my personal practice. But there’s a lot of baggage: especially on campuses, it seems like it’s going hand in hand with a lot of other things, like a push to lower the standard of evidence, a tendency to discount exculpatory evidence, etc.

      And I think you are definitely correct in your final point. A lot of the sex people are having, anecdotally at least, strikes me as pretty grim; I’ve heard and read a lot of people describe sexual encounters that sound pretty awful, as though they’re trying to convince themselves that, no, actually, it was great. Sexual culture, at least in North America (or the Anglo countries in general?) is pretty messed up.

      • Anonymous says:

        “A lot of the sex people are having, anecdotally at least, strikes me as pretty grim; I’ve heard and read a lot of people describe sexual encounters that sound pretty awful, as though they’re trying to convince themselves that, no, actually, it was great. Sexual culture, at least in North America (or the Anglo countries in general?) is pretty messed up.”

        My impression is that anyone who is particularly enthused about anything will bemoan how badly everyone else is doing that thing, how much they’re all missing out on. Consider that for everything you partake in as an occasional amateur, the enthusiasts of that thing are sitting off somewhere shaking their heads, calling your attempts at it ‘pretty grim’ and fretting about how Thing Culture, at least in North America, is pretty messed up.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Who says I’m not an occasional amateur myself? I’m certainly not a frequent professional.

          Perhaps I came off a bit angry-old-man there. I just think that HBC was right – the culture is conflicted about how good/desirable sex is. One of the ways this manifests is in the ways that people who have absorbed the message that sex is good and fun react when they have sex that isn’t good and fun.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think part of it is a baby-bathwater/chinese cardiologist problem. There is a lot of desire to find the problematic cases and treat them as if they are the standard thing.

        I also think that sex-positive feminists, non-sex-positive feminists and non-sex-positive, non-feminists tend to have there messages lumped together in the common mind, and what comes out tends to be typically non-sex-positive.

        • dndnrsn says:

          There’s also the sex-positive non-feminists, I would imagine.

          I would say – entirely based on personal experience – that the culture I see (and this is probably different by cohort, demographic, etc) has absorbed some of the tenets of sex-positivity, but in a way that might upset a lot of the serious sex-positive feminists.

          That is, people are definitely having sex, including casual sex, but a lot of the time they aren’t doing casual sex in the responsible, rules-ordered way a lot of sex-positive feminists see as a goal.

    • stillnotking says:

      It is my contention that any issue people have with affirmative consent have very little to do with the actual standard itself, and more to do with how they perceive it might be applied

      Well, obviously. I think it takes a degree of myopia, if not paranoia, even to suspect that opponents of affirmative consent are motivated by a desire to get away with rape.

      The basic problem is burden of proof: in the case of assault, it makes sense to presume the victim did not consent, because only in very unusual and specific circumstances would anyone agree to be assaulted. Sex is a different story; people have consensual sex all the time, and if one partner is suddenly required to produce proof of consent after the fact, it opens the door to abuse by the vindictive or the regretful. A better analogy than punch-buggy would be dinner parties. If I go to an acquaintance’s house for dinner, I can be confident they will not later be able to send me to jail by claiming I stole their food, whether I can produce a written invitation or not. Not to mention that there isn’t even a sexual analog, in our culture, to the dinner invitation — you’re requiring the accused to produce evidence they can’t reasonably be expected to have, even in ideal circumstances.

      Edit: Perhaps part of the goal of the affirmative-consent movement is to institute a “dinner invitation” standard for sexual contact. The major problem with this is that sexual activity has well-known and deliberate common-knowledge lacunae: both people may know that “Netflix and chill?” means “Come over for sex?”, yet have an interest in that not becoming common knowledge, for reasons of reputation, discretion, signaling, etc. Whether the proponents of affirmative consent think that attitude should change is beside the point, since social engineering of such scale and subtlety is almost impossible, and certainly not possible by means of the law.

    • Cauê says:

      I told you then that I’d probably get something out of it, and I did: we’re not talking about the same thing, and I had no idea of that. You apparently didn’t know either, because the question “do you really want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?” reads like a non sequitur. Opposition to “affirmative consent” is either about express, verbal consent, repeated at regular intervals and every level of escalation (this is not a straw-man), or explicitly about the shifting of the burden of proof.

      Several people already said that what you advocate is not different from the progressive escalation and “no means no” that’s taken as the standard now, and I agree with them. I still don’t get what you mean, so I’ll try to ask for clarification in a different way: how exactly is your proposal different than the current standards?

      (as an aside, people didn’t like the analogy, but I’ll take a different tack: back when I was 8 many a playful fight did start with a probing weak punch, or just taking up a plastic sword and making a pose)

      • science says:

        It is a straw-man, or at very least an extreme weak-man. I’ve never seen a mooted standard that forbid non-verbal consent. Ditto with shifting the burden of proof. There’s some argument about what the standard of proof should be in various contexts, but the standard and the burden are orthogonal.

        • stillnotking says:

          If the burden of proof is unchanged, then a change in the standard of consent can only have a negative practical effect: anyone who knowingly commits rape will also know enough to lie about it.

        • Cauê says:

          It is a straw-man, or at very least an extreme weak-man. I’ve never seen a mooted standard that forbid non-verbal consent.

          If it’s true they are non-existent, I’ve learned something (see, HBC?). Although a lot of the problem remains after you remove the “verbal” part.

          But it’s a fact that non-verbal consent is very often discouraged in official policies, and the video Anon linked above is not unique in using constant verbal communication as the demonstration of the right way to do it. And in practice I don’t see how it could lead to anything other than an effective ban. How does one prepare a defense under yes-means-yes based on non-verbal signs? My guess is one doesn’t, and only the most honest, naive defendants will say anything other than “she said yes”. Article on this, with several examples (sorry, not motivated enough to look for more): http://time.com/3222176/campus-rape-the-problem-with-yes-means-yes/

          There’s some argument about what the standard of proof should be in various contexts, but the standard and the burden are orthogonal.

          On the one hand, I do know better and I meant standard, this was a mistake. On the other hand, the conversation about burden of proof is also ongoing, parallelly but very often entangled, and that’s also part of what people mean when they oppose “affirmative consent” – quotes below. You may say they’re confused, but I was attacking the notion that the opposition comes from people who “want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with them”, which, well, come on.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/opinion/sunday/judith-shulevitz-regulating-sex.html

          An affirmative consent standard also shifts the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused, which represents a real departure from the traditions of criminal law in the United States. Affirmative consent effectively means that the accused has to show that he got the go-ahead, even if, technically, it’s still up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t, or that he made a unreasonable mistake about what his partner was telling him. As Judge Gertner pointed out to me, if the law requires a “no,” then the jury will likely perceive any uncertainty about that “no” as a weakness in the prosecution’s case and not convict. But if the law requires a “yes,” then ambiguity will bolster the prosecutor’s argument: The guy didn’t get unequivocal consent, therefore he must be guilty of rape.

          http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/one-year-in-yes-means-yes-policies-begin-to-fall-apart/article/2570096

          To be fair, there is nothing in yes-means-yes — sometimes known as affirmative consent — policies that require schools to shift the burden of proof onto accused students. But in practice, that’s what happens, just as it did at UTC. As McCoy pointed out, accused students “must overcome the presumption inherent in the charge that the violation has been established.” Simply denying the allegation is seen as “insufficient.” The accused then becomes responsible for proving “the converse of what is taken as true and credible, i.e., the complainant’s statement that no consent was given.”

          (as an aside, I feel compelled to point out that I felt it was necessary, or at least extremely advisable, to only link articles written by women. this is not a very good sign)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cauê:
            Would you agree that, as a general rule, it’s a good idea to have talked to someone you are going to have sex with about the fact you are going to have sex?

            All the policies on affirmative consent I have seen simply says “verbal is preferred” which is completely in line with the above statement.

          • Cauê says:

            Would you agree that, as a general rule, it’s a good idea to have talked to someone you are going to have sex with about the fact you are going to have sex?

            No.

            Morally, it’s neutral. Or rather, I suppose, it’s neutral but intended to work like safety margins to make sure nothing morally bad happens. Very large, unnecessary, ineffective safety margins.

            From a personal perspective, if you care enough to make sure to talk about it with this purpose, you would have been plenty mindful and careful not to do anything wrong anyway.

            Practically… I’ve talked with multiple women who expressly declared a dislike for openly talking about it (not that I make a habit of interviewing people about romantic preferences!). I don’t know how representative they are, but from my life experience this preference is at least far from fringe. Our culture has a very elaborate set of tricks and customs designed to probe and communicate without making intentions common knowledge, and all signs point to people liking it that way.

            So, is it a good idea to go against these preferences to establish a practice that for all I can see doesn’t come with benefits? No.

            Of course, if anyone’s preference is to talk about it beforehand, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. I have done it and I have not done it.

        • science says:

          Thank you for including enough of the quotes to show that they of the form “well yes technically the burden of proof is still on the prosecution but …” I’m content to let those quotes speak for themselves.

          As for the defendant’s strategy that’s entirely bound up in the context: the standard and burdens of proof, admissibility rules, and so on. In a criminal case, even if a state were to move to an affirmative consent rule, negating it would still be an element of the crime that would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant would not need to take the stand or provide any other evidence unless he wished to rebut evidence provided by the prosecution that would be sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a lack of consent.

          If the defendant (under a hypothetical affirmative defense standard) does take the stand, I don’t think he has any worse a shot before the jury if he says “she was moaning, pulling me down on top of her, and angled her hips to make it easier to enter her” than if he says “she was yelling fuck me”. Either way it mostly comes down to a credibility determination.

          • Cauê says:

            Only one of the quotes was about criminal cases. In universities the burden of proof very much is being shifted.

            Look, this one is great, I’ll quote extensively, as it’s also one more showing the push for a requirement of explicit verbal consent:
            http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/15/us/california-high-schools-sexual-consent-classes.html

            “What does that mean — you have to say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes?” asked Aidan Ryan, 16, who sat near the front of the room.

            “Pretty much,” Ms. Zaloom answered. “It’s not a timing thing, but whoever initiates things to another level has to ask.”

            The students did not seem convinced. They sat in groups to brainstorm ways to ask for affirmative consent. They crossed off a list of options: “Can I touch you there?” Too clinical. “Do you want to do this?” Too tentative. “Do you like that?” Not direct enough.

            “They’re all really awkward and bizarre,” one girl said.

            “Did you come up with any on your own?” Ms. Zaloom asked.

            One boy offered up two words: “You good?”

            That drew nearly unanimous nods of approval.

            Under the new law, high school students in California must be educated about the concept of affirmative consent — but they are not actually being held to that standard. So a high school student on trial on rape charges would not have to prove that he or she obtained oral assent from the accuser. That was the case with a senior at the elite St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire this year who was accused of raping a freshman. The senior was acquitted of aggravated sexual assault but found guilty of statutory rape — sex with a minor.

            Last year, Corey Mock, a student at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, was expelled after officials there found him guilty of sexual misconduct because he could not prove he had obtained verbal consent from a woman who accused him of sexual assault. But a Davidson County Chancery Court judge ruled in August that the university had “improperly shifted the burden of proof and imposed an untenable standard upon Mr. Mock to disprove the accusation.” The judge called the university’s ruling “arbitrary and capricious.”

          • science says:

            If you read the details of those two cases they both reflect mistakes made by those training on and administering the policies, not flaws in the policies themselves.

            I can agree wholeheartedly that there are procedural problems at these colleges, but that’s an entirely separate issue from what standards should be used. I also wonder where the outrage was when these deficient procedures were used to expel students for things other than sexual assault.

          • Cauê says:

            You say “mistakes”, while I see no indication that the ones making those mistakes desire the system to work in any other way.

          • Nornagest says:

            You say “mistakes”, while I see no indication that the ones making those mistakes desire the system to work in any other way.

            To be fair, a system can terrorize people in practice without being designed or intended to terrorize people. I’d wager that’s more common than malice, actually.

            It’s still a bad system.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Having gone through all the replies –

      You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

      That is, I think your definition of “Affirmative Consent” differs radically from what all its other supporters define it as. Your definition, insofar as you’ve given it, is how things are done now, and doesn’t require much quibbling. But given that it’s more or less how things are done now, and supporters of an Affirmative Consent standard want things to change, consider the possibility that Affirmative Consent is something other than the way things are, and is, in fact, substantively different.

      • science says:

        Based on your extensive review of proposed and enacted affirmative consent standards? Or based on third hand reports of what those evil feminists said on twitter?

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Very uncharitable. Based on my own conversations and readings. For one example drawn at random from a Google search, http://sgvnowproject.weebly.com/the-affirmative-consent-standard–rape–sexual-assault-education.html holds that Affirmative Consent requires verbal consent.

          At best its proponents cannot agree on what it means, which means it doesn’t mean anything.

          • Echo says:

            Every time I hear “but you have to agree the standards I’d set are perfectly reasonable!”:

            “these people most certainly propose to be responsible for a whole movement after it has left their hands. Each promises to be about a thousand policewomyn. If you ask them how this or that will work, they will answer, “Oh, I would certainly insist on this”; or “I would never go so far as that”
            …Of these it is enough to say that they do not understand the nature of a law any more than the nature of a dog. If you let loose a law, it will do as a dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours.”

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Echo –

            My experience with those who claim “It would never go so far as that” is that they don’t mean it. (I argued for years on a politics site, long enough that some of the people who had made exactly that statement, when confronted with the “As far as that” in more recent politics, were forced to admit they never meant it, and in fact supported the “that” in question. I had a long enough memory to call them on it.)

          • science says:

            It seems I wasn’t being uncharitable after all.

            You aren’t talking about the UC standard, the SUNY standard, those proposed by various relatively large scale trade groups, legislation introduced in various legislatures (that haven’t gone anywhere but still) or the like. You are talking about twitter, tumblr and the moral equivalent. *.weebly.com doesn’t exactly scream institutional power.

            Based on your online arguments with god only knows who is behind these accounts you are accusing HBC of misusing the term and insisting that REAL affirmative consent as propounded by REAL advocates is verbal permission renewed every two minutes.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Orphan Wilde:
        I don’t know what sgvnnowproject is, but they don’t appear to set policy anywhere?

        I believe that the SUNY policy I linked earlier is typical:

        Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Okay, being more explicit:

          I don’t see a difference between that and the cultural norms we already have. Given that I don’t see a difference, and you’re insisting it is different, I must conclude the difference is something you’re not telling me. Given that you’re not telling me what the real difference is (and have accused those who have been persistent in asking what the real difference is of being uncharitable), I must conclude the real difference is something you’re unwilling to admit to. Given that you don’t want to admit to it, the real difference is something I wouldn’t agree to.

          That’s why you’re getting pushback. Not because anybody thinks “No means no” is the appropriate standard. It feels like you’re trying to slip something else in.

          But, and here’s the kicker, it’s entirely possible (and, charitably, quite probable) you genuinely believe this isn’t how society operates, which leads to the conclusion that either I’m wrong about society, or you are. Given your style of argument and your examples, which are dependent upon a framework of society in which the Bad Things you give examples of are already considered Bad Things, I’m inclined to say you’re wrong about society, and are extrapolating the Bad Things you hear about (because Bad Things are amplified, and normal behavior is not) and assuming those are the societal norm.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I’ve thought of a possible insight regarding Scott’s disagreement with Bryan Caplan regarding boss-worker relations, and whether they more resemble a mutually beneficial transaction between two equally powerful negotiators, or a power imbalance wherein the boss can demand a lot from the worker who has no choice but to go along with it.

    It strikes me that much of the time, employees really aren’t that good at their jobs. My observation is that typically, when someone is applying for a job, they will go for the highest paying position that they can convince an interviewer that they are competent to do. If there’s a lower paying position which they know they can easily do, they don’t apply for that, they apply for the next one up. When someone is very good at their job, they don’t seek to stay there, they seek a promotion. At all stages, people are generally near the bottom of the possible competency range for the job they are either applying for or doing. Those that aren’t, are generally those who don’t suffer the problems Scott mentions, of feeling they have to take extra shifts when asked to, of feeling that the boss has them by the balls.

    To the extent that this isn’t a choice people can make, that the ‘overqualified’ phenomenon prevents people from applying for positions they know they will get, I think it’s simply a consequence of this effect being so widespread. Employers know that in the overwhelming majority of cases, someone overqualified for a job – that is, able to competently do it with no struggle – will soon leave for a better and higher paying job that they are less totally competent at.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      This sounds closely related to the
      Peter principle – that people rise to the level of their incompetence.

    • Deiseach says:

      It strikes me that much of the time, employees really aren’t that good at their jobs

      But this is a necessary part of the working environment. You need people who are competent but not irreplaceable (otherwise you could never fill the position when Joe, the Only Guy Who Knows How This Works, retires, quits for a better job, or drops dead).

      Some jobs or positions need geniuses or unique individuals, but the majority of work positions need “person who is best fit for our requirements”. Not even the most qualified or experienced; Sue may seem as if she’ll fit in better with the ‘work environment’ or ‘office culture’ or she shares the values and thrust of the colleagues than Jim who has more experience/better credentials.

      Interviews are hiring not Best Baker/Florist/CFO In The History Of Ever, it’s “best of these five/ten/thirty applicants” and if Number One Choice can’t or won’t take up the job, you can then go to Number Two Choice and not be at a loss.

      Even Best Salesman In The Region in Twenty Years has to be replaceable, because you’re not going to maintain continuity of service or improve if his or her replacement can’t live up to them.

      Relying on one superstar has its downside, as Apple and Steve Jobs demonstrates. Unless you can be sure you are going to have a stream of Steve Jobs (what’s the plural of Jobs?) coming online every twenty years, you are screwed, and that goes for every position from the contract cleaners who vacuum the offices up to the Chairman of the Board.

      It’s no good longterm having the Absolute Best Clerical Officer Grade IV in the Entire World because when they retire, quit or drop dead, you then have to settle for Second-, Third-, Fifth- or even Nineteenth-Best in the Entire World and this is going to mean a drop in quality and production and all the rest of it from previous levels.

      And you’ll see this in every job, where Joe or Mary retires/quits/drops dead after forty years in the place, and yet the world still keeps turning, and a fortnight later their replacement is at their desk and things march on. If the business was so reliant on Joe or Mary being the best of the best anywhere, they’d suffer real harm by their loss.

  37. Anon says:

    Can anyone recommend a good game that accurately intimates military tactics and strategy? Bonus points for being cheap or free and not too hard on the computer.

    • keranih says:

      Which military, era, and weapons system?

      • Anon says:

        I wasn’t thinking of any specific ones, but I have a mild preference toward WWII era USSR or anything since then.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Would Combat Mission be in the ballpark of what you’re looking for? I can recommend the early ones; I found the later versions a bit clumsy in their attempts to do too much.