How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy
One of the lessons highlighted in the thread “Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter” is Gender ratio matters.
There have recently been a number of articles addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this, from the perspective of a geeky/sciencefiction community with similar attributes to LessWrong, and I want to link to these, not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is there and has a name for the problem, which may facilitate wider discussion and make it easier for others to know when to point towards the resources those who would benefit by them.
However before I do, in the light of RedRobot’s comment in the “Of Gender and Rationality” thread, I’d like to echo a sentiment from one of the articles, that people exhibiting this behaviour may be of any gender and may victimise upon any gender. And so, while it may be correlated with a particular gender, it is the behaviour that should be focused upon, and turning this thread into bashing of one gender (or defensiveness against perceived bashing) would be unhelpful.
Ok, disclaimers out of the way, here are the links:
My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?
Some of those raise deeper issues about rape culture and audience as enabler, but the TLDR summary is:
Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours.
There are specific objective behaviours listed in the articles (for example, to do with touching, sexual jokes and following people) that even someone ‘bad’ at social skills can learn to avoid doing.
If someone is informed that their behaviour is creeping people out, and yet they don’t take steps to avoid doing these behaviours, that is a serious problem for the group as a whole, and it needs to be treated seriously and be seen to be treated seriously, especially by the ‘audience’ who are not being victimised directly.
EDITED TO ADD:
Despite the way some of the links are framed as being addressed to creepers, this post is aimed at least as much at the community as a whole, intended to trigger a discussion on how the community should best go about handling such a problem once identified, with the TLDR being “set of restraints to place on someone who is burning the commons”, rather that a complete description that guarantees that anyone who doesn’t meet it isn’t creepy. (Thank you to jsteinhardt for clearly verbalising the misinterpretation—for discussion see his reply to this post)
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POST IDEA- Feedback Wanted
When these gender discussions come up, I am often tempted to write in with my own experiences and desires. But I generally don’t because I don’t want to generalize from one example, or claim to be the Voice of Women, etc. However, according to the last survey, I actually AM over 1% of the females on here, and so is every other woman. (i.e. there are less than 100 of us).
My idea is to put out a call for women on LessWrong to write openly about their experiences and desires in this community, and send them to me. I will anonymize them all, and put them all up under one post.
This would have a couple of benefits, including:
Anonymity allows for open expression- When you are in the vast minority, speaking out can feel like “swimming upstream,” and so may not happen very much.
Putting all the women’s responses in one posts helps figure out what is/is not a problem- Because of the gender ratio, most discussions on the topic are Men Talking About what Women Want, it can be hard to figure out what women are saying on the issues, versus what men are saying women say.
The plural of anecdote is data- If one woman says X, it is an anecdote, and very weak evidence. If 10% of women say X, it is much stronger evidence.
Note that with a lot of the above issues, one of the biggest problems in figuring out what is going on isn’t purposeful misogyny or anything. Just the fact that the gender ratio is so skewed can make it difficult to hear women (think picking out one voice amongst ten). The idea I’m proposing is an attempt to work around this, not an attempt to marginalize men, who may also have important things to say, but would not be the focus of this investigation.
Even with a sample size of 10 responses (approximately the amount I would say is needed for this to be useful), according to the last survey, that is 10% of the women on this site. A sizable proportion, indeed.
Please give feedback, if you think this is a good or bad idea, and if you are a woman (or transgendered person, or female-identifying, or...etc), if you would participate. I will only run this experiment if a) people want it, and b) women will respond.
I’m really curious what this would turn up (and I wonder if it’ll bring up things that no one woman would say by themselves to everyone on the site), so I definitely think it should happen!
I’m unclear on what exactly I would tell you, but assuming there exists a useful answer to that question other than “y’know, stuff”, I’m game. Also, given that there are so few, anonymity may not be anonymity (my writing style’s probably recognizable to some; any individual incident I’ve probably already told all my friends about so it’ll be recognized at least by those; etc.); how would you work around that?
This comment actually gave me An Idea, so thank you!
Idea- In the Call for Responses post, there could be a Ask the Women thread, where people can submit questions. If you want a question answered, upvote it.
When the women write their responses, they can use the questions as prompts. A question that gets many upvotes will probably be written on by more women, thus getting more data. But if you want to respond to a more lower voted question, you can (or just say whatever you want to say)
I would say that the submitted questions will be assumed to be answered using Crocker’s Rules, no exceptions. What we want is a more stream-of-consciousness, gut-level reaction . Not self-censored, want-to-be-polite-and-concise, filtered answers.
Some topics for the call for responses I would propose:
Occasions when a man was creepy towards you at a social event.
Occasions when a woman was creepy towards you at a social event.
Occasions you met a new male friend at a social event, and how it wasn’t creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it.
Occasions you met a new female friend at a social event, and how it wasn’t creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it.
(I mean new friend in the sense that you didn’t know them, not that they were already a new friend before the event)
“This has never happened to me” would also be a useful response.
All of the above questions could be answered for either lesswrong-related events, or social events in general.
Occasions (or general patterns) when someone tried too hard to not be creepy toward you and displeased you as a result.
(Some of the policies that get tossed around are pretty extreme, so I’d be interested in measuring the overcompensation risk.)
I’m expecting few enough responses that I’m willing to work with people on a case-by-case basis. For example, for you I could edit your writing towards my own style, or even (so long as it’s not pages) read it, wait an hour, and re-write it in my own voice, if needed (going back to make sure all relevant details are added in)
Discussing individual incidents is a bit trickier. In general, I would like to keep the narratives individual-specific. (i.e. “Lady Q writes: ” , rather than “Thoughts on Question X: ”) . Otherwise, the concern would be unable to differentiate between 10 women writing 1 good thing and 2 bad things each, OR 9⁄10 women wrote 1 good thing, and 1 woman writes 20 bad things.
That said, I do see the use of an “Anonymous Incidents” section, where people can put identifying incidents they would like to discuss, without associating it with the rest of their narrative. Do you think that would solve this issue?
I don’t have a clear picture of what this would look like.
I think I can illustrate with an example. Let me know if this helps!
Jane submits her narrative to the post. One paragraph in her narrative describes an incident that many people would recognize as her. Jane wants to mention this incident, but does not want to associate it with the rest of her narrative, because then people who could recognize that single incident, will know that the rest of the narrative is also hers. She pulls out the identifiable incident to be placed in a “Anonymous Comments” section that is not linked to the rest of her narrative. It is still somewhat anonymous, in that her name isn’t on it, and only the people who already know the story realize it is hers. But they can not trace knowledge of that particular story back to the rest of her narrative.
The post layout would be something like:
Okay. But what is the content of “whee, I’m a narrative”?
All of the other stuff you have to say that wouldn’t be easily identified as something said by you.
By “narrative”, I am referring to the bulk of whatever Jane wrote. Probably items such as answering the questions upvoted in the forum. It would be everything Jane submitted to me, modulo the paragraph or two that she wanted placed in the “Comments” section instead, because they are incidents known to be hers.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the phrase “Anonymous Comments”. The narratives are also anonymous. The Comments section is what allows them to be so, by having somewhere else to place Obviously-Jane material. In fact, the Comments section is probably even LESS anonymous than the narratives, because they are composed of identifiable material that you don’t want associated with your super-anonymous narrative....
Um.....feel free to suggest better words than “Narrative” or “Comments section”… I don’t think I’m explaining well. :P
I would be game for this. In fact, I’ve pretty much been going round doing this where I thought people were failing to understand how women worked anyway. This is a great way of avoiding generalising from one example though, which from what I’ve noticed of posts on the subject of women, happens a lot.
Just also remember that this isn’t going to give helpful advice unless we can all learn to stop saying things that we say and really don’t mean. I might be generalising from one example again, but women often rationalise more than men, so it’s hard for us to speak in an unbiased way about our actual preferences. It took me a lot of effort just to learn /when/ I was rationalising, let alone fix it.
This seems interesting. There have been threads on specifically female viewpoints before, but the anonymity is a wrinkle that no one’s tried yet as far as I know. Go for it; the worst that can happen is not turning up anything new.
(Well, I suppose the short-term worst that can happen might involve stirring up resentment that’s been obscured for social reasons and that turning into a fight, but in the long run that resentment either is or isn’t there already.)
I’m .8 confident it won’t turn up anything surprising enough to make it worth your effort, but if you’re motivated to expend the effort anyway, I’d certainly read the results. I’m cis-male, so pretty much irrelevant to the effort other than as a reader.
I actually am very curious to the responses, but whether the results are surprising or not, I think another value it would have is as a place to point people to. For example, Norm New-Guy or Felicity the Feminist says “I think X is a problem,” you can point them to the narratives, and say “8/10 women disagree.” (or vice versa)
Also, even if there are no “surprises” per se, it could still be enough to redefine your hypothesis space. For example, maybe before the results, I would guess that any one of six issues might be occurring to effect the gender ratio. After reading the samples, I notice that most the results focus on only 3 of my original issues, and maybe there is a new one women were discussing, that although it wasn’t in my original hypothesis space, wasn’t necessarily “surprising” (depending on your definition- perhaps you hadn’t thought of it yourself, but when someone said it, it made sense. I can see how you’d consider this a “surprise” though.)
In general, when making an example that could equally be made in either direction, I think it’s best to go the direction against what you think—or what others think you think.
So in the same way I think Yvain’s post would have been improved if his examples had been against positions he held, so too you might in future want your examples to be phrased more like
Obveously this is a purely about reducing system 1 negative reactions to posts and demonstrating an ability to visualise the other side’s hypothesis, and not a content issue at all. It’s much like the motivation behind Politics is the Mind Killer.
Thanks! I like this idea a lot, and have changed the relevant example accordingly.
I wonder if there’s a general rule about how confident you should be there.
Dunno. What confidence level would you consider appropriate?
I could have said “I’m pretty confident...” or “I don’t expect it to turn up anything...” or something along those lines, but I figure I have more of a chance of calibrating my confidence levels if I state them more precisely in the first place.
I don’t know. I’m mostly musing about whether “it won’t turn up anything surprising” is already contained in the concept of a confidence level, or else whether there is a particular confidence level at which you expect to not be surprised.
Put another way, when do you expect to be surprised?
Well, for example, if more than a third of the women responding reported never experiencing any unpleasant experiences of the sort described, that would surprise me.
If you do this you could also make a small poll for the participants; numbers are easier to skim and to regroup than anecdotes are.
Anyway, I think this is a good idea, whatever form it takes.
Is there a missing word after “small”?
ETA: I probably should have sent that by private message
Yep, fixed, thanks.
There’s already the option of doing this through alternate accounts.
That seems like enough of a trivial inconvenience to deter a lot of people, even if it was being actively encouraged in some context similar to this one. Sending a PM to Daenerys seems much less inconvenient, if more work for her.
1) Alternate accounts are suspect to manipulation (anyone can create an account claiming anything), and as such what they say carries little weight. The cohesive post will have the added weight that the submissions will be verified as being written by actual female Less Wrongers, and not sock puppets with 0 karma. Also, some posters might be ok having their name associated at the level of “I wrote A submission” versus “I wrote THIS submission.”
2) If you post on your own, rather than as a group, you will still run into the difficulty of being overpowered by the amount of male voices, so either few will hear you, or you’ll be one against many, or you’ll be taken as “single anecdote/ feminazi” rather than “The Women of Less Wrong”
I’m never a fan of “don’t”-oriented guides to social interaction. In my experience, the reason people do things that are taken as creepy is that they don’t know a better way—if they did, wouldn’t they do that and thus avoid alienating everyone in the first place?
Giving more “don’ts” doesn’t solve that problem: it just makes it harder to locate the space of socially-optimal behavior. What’s worse, being extremely restrictive in the social risks you take itself can be taken as creepy! (“Gee, this guy never seems to start conversations with anyone...”)
These guides should instead say what to do, not what not to do, that will make the group more comfortable around you.
Edit: Take this one in particular. 90% is “don’ts”, 5% is stuff of questionable relevance to the archetypal target of these guides (the problem is that male nerds announce their sexual fetishes too early? really?), and the last 5% is the usual vague “be higher status” advice which, if it were as easy as suggested, would have obviated the need for this advice in the first place.
(To its credit, it has a link to more general social adeptness advice that I didn’t read, but then that article, if useful, should be the one linked, not this one.)
I think the Dr Nerdlove link does give useful advice. It tells you what not to do and what you should do instead. I have pretty good social skills, and I’m female, so it’s unlikely that people see me as being creepy, but I actually think that reading through that may have improved my social skills further! For instance, in the past, when I’ve been interested in someone I have sometimes tried to keep talking even when they appear to be losing interest. This paragraph gives very useful advice:
If the conversation is starting to die off – as opposed to a natural lull – you don’t want to try stick around desperately trying to keep things going. Make your excuses and bow out of the conversation gracefully. Similarly, if you notice that her eyes are starting to dart around to the sides – as though she were looking around for someone – you need to realize that she’s looking for someone to rescue her from you.
Making things awkward or uncomfortable for others doesn’t incur in them a debt to help you self-optimize and get what you want. You might want to take the advice in the spirit it’s given instead.
Question: Is there anyone here who has helped a creep become substantially less creepy? How did you help that happen?
Other question: Is there anyone here who used to be creepy, and now is significantly less so? How did that happen?
I used to be a giant creep. I knew I had no social skills, tried to develop some, and it backfired more often than not. For example, I knew I was clingy and unable to tell if people wanted to get rid of me. So I reasoned that I should just hover around people I wanted to talk to and make it unclear whether I was there because of them or by coincidence, so they would feel free to talk to me or not as they wished.
What helped was Internet articles like those linked above. Those actually explain what behaviors are desirable and undesirable, and basics of reading people.
I still don’t know the difference between “You should go away” and “Should I go away?”—verbal expressions of these are identical. “I’m leaving, bye” and “I’m leaving, wanna come along?” are also hard to distinguish.
If they don’t tell you where they’re going, I guess it’s definitely the former.
I wonder what a normal person would do in a slightly trickier situation.
You and someone you’re only slightly acquainted with (I’m not sure the relationship I’ve ever had with anyone can be described as more than a slight acquaintance) start walking off along one, broad street both your destinations happen to lie close to, so deliberately avoiding that street is rather impractical and time- and energy-consuming, and you don’t exactly have the latter to spare. You’ve made the trip together once before, the preceding day, uneventfully, and you faintly hoped that might be a chance to break out of your lifelong social isolation. The other person is younger than you, but not to the point that you clearly have no business socializing with them.
Surprise! Someone else quickly catches up with you both. They’re half your age and just about the most popular and high-status person in the group you’re leaving for the day. It goes without saying their social bonds to everyone else in the group are orders of magnitude stronger than any you can dream of ever establishing, including to the person you were walking with. As naturally as they breathe, the third person says goodbye to you and starts talking lively to the other, who, surely enough, reciprocates and forgets about you. They don’t look the slightest bit interested in halting their chat to hear “Actually, I’m heading in the same direction” from you. Hence, you’re stuck with only a few unpleasant options:
Keep walking next to them, quietly and creepily. I suppose crossing the street and walking along the other side may reduce a bit the creepiness, but it’ll still be awkward if they ever notice.
Walk faster to leave them comfortably behind. Oh, if only you were young and fit like them!
Wait for them to leave you comfortably behind. Well, that sucks, because you’re tired, aching and in pressing need of reaching your bed and collapsing on it. You’re not sure you’ll have the energy left to take a shower first. With a fresher mind, you could at least use the wait to read or study a bit, but this is certainly not the case now.
Waste even more time and energy taking a detour.
Of course, the last two options are also massively awkward if they ever find out you did that only to avoid them.
On second thought, my initial question doesn’t make sense: a normal person will never let themself fall into this predicament, will they?
Yes, I know I’m replying to a nine-year-old comment.
As a kinda-maybe-normal person: I would simply say “Actually, I’m heading in the same direction” loud enough for them to hear (their non-interest be damned).
I apparently sometimes come across as intense, and am often bad at small talk, but once people get to know me, they tend to like me. The result is that I have a number of social links where I was originally perceived as a creepy guy who thought we were closer than they thought we were when we met, and through continued interaction the social distance has settled at an agreed-on point (around my initial estimate, though generally a bit further than it. I’ve recalibrated since then, and think I would get it right now for most people).
For example, the first guy I dated told me (after I started dating him) that I was creepy the first time I met him. I basically went to a con just to meet him, and didn’t have anything else to do. So… I ended up following him around. At one point, he said to a friend “hey, let’s go to dinner!” and I said “Great! I’ll come along!” Rookie mistakes fueled by wishful thinking. Later, he told me that he was hoping to get rid of me by going to dinner. At no point did he ask me to leave or make obvious that he didn’t want me around; any subtle cues I either didn’t notice or didn’t want to notice. I must also comment that his friend (who I wasn’t paying much attention to) was more creeped out by me than he was, and later warned him about me, and so he may have reinterpreted his memories in light of that warning and not actually been sending those signals. Memories are fuzzy, but looking back on it the behavior I would describe it as closer to creepy than not creepy.
The second time we met, it was again at a con- but I had brought a friend along (which was both social proof and distraction), and I used proper distance (said “Hey, I’ll be in this game tonight at 8- you should come play it!” and then left). I also lucked out that the people he came with were irresponsible and so I got an easy opportunity to demonstrate responsibility. I ended up driving him the ~six hours back to his place (it was sort of on our way), and then we started dating shortly afterwards.
That transformation was a response to minimal feedback (I think I basically went home, said “hm, that didn’t work. Why might it not have worked?” and guessed correctly), a slight level up in social skills, and a significant level up in social equipment / luck (coming with a friend instead of alone, and his friends bailing on him).
It’s also a different situation- this isn’t me acting poorly around all women (or men in my case), but trying to get over the obstacle of “someone who I only know from the internet is interested in me.” One issue with creeping is underestimating social distance, but that’s the primary element that my creeping and general creeping share.
Moderately related, I creeped out one of his friends who visited with a poorly made joke. (I failed to hide my ability to memorize numbers and joked about being able to look up publicly available information.) I learned that people famous on the internet are way more concerned about stalkers than the general populace, and now don’t make any stalker-related jokes around people famous on the internet.
The commonality of both of those examples, though, is that I recognized that I wasn’t going about things properly and I fixed my behaviors. That’s not the problem with these creepers, which is a limited case of someone who is generating social pollution as a byproduct of trying to get what they want. The general case is thorny and hard to deal with.
I read this, included the comments thread, and thought about it.
OTOH, there’s the huge confounding factor that it was shortly after I came back from Ireland to Italy, and Italians are harder to creep out than Anglo-Saxon people. Stand one metre from (say) an American and they will freak the hell out; stand one metre from an Italian and they’ll wonder whether they smell. Also, I can’t see any evidence that many women in Italy are anywhere nearly as scared of potential rapists as Starling describes (at least where I am—in larger cities and/or more fucked-up regions the situation might be different). So, to be sure it’s my absolute creepiness that decreased and not the standard by which it’s measured that increased, I’d have to go back to an English-speaking country and see how I’m received there.
The example you give illustrates the difference in personal space norms between cultures, I’ll take it on your word that Italians also happen to be less easily creeped out. But the difference in personal space norms doesn’t itself indicate much about who is most easily creeped out. Trying to make a social approach and standing a more than appropriate distance away could itself be creepy (although obviously not as creepy as a personal space invasion itself.)
Italian doesn’t even have a good translation for creepy! (Inquietante ‘unsettling’ is close, but not quite there.) :-)
(Smiley obligatory per Poe’s Law, as some people seem to take such arguments seriously.)
Neither does French, by the way, which seems to indicate some difference on how that topic is considered in different cultures.
I’m not familiar enough with gender issues in geek conventions in France to tell what forms similar concerns take here; though I do remember a girl complaining that Richard Stallman kept staring at her boobs.
Have heard that some parts of Europe have very large problems with sexual harassment of an agressive form beyond creepyness.
I suspect, based to the limited number of cultures I’m familiar with, that if you did cross-cultural studies you’d find that the two are correlated.
That wouldn’t surprise me.
From what I’m told about queues in New York, there might be significant regional variations among Americans in that respect.
Not obvious to me that that can be generalized to other interactions. Some people could be much less creeped out by someone waiting in a line two feet behind them but not otherwise interacting with them in any way than by someone standing in front of them talking to them at the same distance.
“Change your behavior if a significant fraction complains” fails to protect isolated victims, who are likely to be the most common targets of bad behavior and also the ones in most need of support. “Change your behavior if one person complains” is grossly abusable, and the first-order fix to complain about frivolous complaints spirals off into meta. Appealing to common sense, good judgment etc. seems to me like passing the buck back to the situation that created a need for this discussion in the first place.
As a secondary consideration, there’s the spectrum between an ex-Muslim requesting that all women present cover up for a few meetings while acclimatising, and a nudist showing up to a meeting and being requested by others to wear clothing while present. At what point does one’s apparel start to constitute “behavior” that other people may complain about as creepy?
On thinking about this (five minutes by the clock!) I start to suspect that trying to write rules about creeping is too high-level and abstract, and it would be better to codify rules on what specific behaviors are tolerated or not, and this ruleset could vary by group. Such as:
You must accede to requests of the form “Don’t ask me to do that again”.
Edit: oops, list syntax
This rule is always safe to follow, but is suboptimal in that it rules out some contact that both parties would enjoy.
This is mostly an anti-innuendo rule. Just as threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence, entitlement to entering personal space is equivalent to entering personal space.
If everyone follows this rule nobody will ever initiate physical contact.
For a better-phrased example of this rule, see the code of conduct from the OpenSF polyamory conference:
The OpenSF code of conduct seems pretty good in general.
It does! Want to clone it for the Singularity Summit?
I don’t think a commonsense reading of this rule would prohibit holding one’s arms up and saying “Hugs?”
Or possibly just “Hugs okay?”, sans the arms outstretched (it can create pressure; the person has signalled very loudly in social terms, so the other person’s denial can lead to face loss; people who’ve been socialized to be sensitive to that, whether for cultural or other reasons, might find the outstretched arms add pressure. Fine for folks who’ve no issue asserting their boundaries loudly and clearly without concern for face, but that’s not even enough of everybody to be a really good rule, I think.)
Is being vague with who it’s directed at and counting on something like the bystander effect a good hack for that?
Hm. I’ve not tried that myself, but as someone who had a lot of past awkwardness and cluelessness in social situations, and now does alright, it strikes me as not a good move. My sense is that it’ll just look like a different flavor of awkward-confused, albeit one that puts less direct pressure on the person.
Jandila’s response here illustrates the vital point that common sense is not a safe way to read advice in this area. If you need advice, what you consider common sense will often be deeply wrong.
So, I know this funny little trick where you can verbalize a desire and seek explicit permission to act it out while taking care to make sure nothing about the situation seems especially likely to make the other party feel coerced or intimidated into giving an answer out of synch with their preferences. It basically involves paying attention, modelling the other person as an agent, deciding on that basis whether the request is appropriate (while noting the distinction between “appropriate” and “acceptable to the other person”) and then asking politely. You do have to take care not to assume that the answer is or “should be” yes, though—the difference that makes in your approach usually comes off as a bit creepy.
If it happens that you don’t know how to perform all of these magical tricks, using your words is a good first approximation. The likelihood of a good outcome is often improved if you ask e.g. “Can I hug you?” as opposed to just bounding up and hugging the person, and your blameworthiness is significantly lowered.
Note please that physically imposing folks who appear to be men and are not charismatic (like social status, but interpreted on an individual basis—the individual one considers highest-charisma is likely to be thought of as creepy by a lot of other people, because it’s about walking the fine line between creepiness and friendliness) are most likely to benefit from this. This does stand to be noticed. Cute perky energetic young women can get away with hugging practically anyone without asking. This does not necessarily mean that they should.
Challenging, but certainly possible.
Which bit do you find challenging?
I mean, I was kinda being snarky (I don’t think what I suggested is all that hard or unusual at all, though it obviously varies. I’ve noticed a few reasons for that:
-The person is failing to model the other as an agent, as a center of perspective. Their model of the person starts and stops at their own feelings and reactions; hence, if they find the person attractive, “X is attractive to me” becomes way more salient than it would otherwise be, in determining how they’ll attempt interaction. Men do this to women a lot, in general, but there are plenty of other dynamics or situations which can lead to it. Autism or similar psychological variance is massively overstated as an explanation for it; it’s way too prevalent a behavior in the general population for that.
-The person has no sense of whether something is appropriate or not, even though they’ve modelled the other party accurately (“is agent, has preferences”). This is very common among people who, for whatever reason, have had socialization issues. They usually know there’s a bewildering array of possible rules or at least broad patterns that might theoretically bear on the answer, but it’s not obvious which ones apply, or that they haven’t even thought of. To be honest, even socially-successful people sometimes have trouble navigating that, as soon as they’re in circumstances that are unfamiliar to them—another culture’s norms, or when dealing with a known charged dynamic and they’re concerned about signalling and how they come off. The trick is that there’s usually not any one right answer; it can be as specific as the nonverbal communication between two parties. Is asking for a hug creepy or unnecessary? Sometimes, if you can’t read the cues, you really can’t know short of asking. This means there’s always some subjective sense of risk; the problem is they don’t know how to calibrate that to the situation, don’t have a model of likely prior probabilities. All they really have is a sense of the variance on the options, which is incredibly wide.
-They’re failing to not-assume-yes. This is related to the first problem; the person is failing to be aware of, or consider, the pressure their request creates, or is equivocating the risk of being told “no” or declared “creepy” to be symmetrical with the worst-case scenario on the other person’s chart. For one reason or another, it just seems to them that if there’s no obvious reason not to, no compelling objection in particular, then obviously the thing they want should happen. “No” isn’t heard as a good answer in and of itself, not a sufficient report of the other party’s preference; it’s felt as somehow keeping them at arm’s length, denying them the information they need to know how to get what they want. This sort of thing is very obvious from outside, because it leads to different behaviors and responses, and body language tells, when confronted with a “no.”
The hard part is forming an accurate model of the other person and situation.
Don’t worry—I’m sure those links are packed with advice on this particularly difficult subproblem! Why else would they be recommended?
Your last paragraph is excellent. (Others also good, last excellent.)
There’s a bit of confounding between
“Hug?” “No, I don’t want a hug.” “Okay, won’t ask again.”
“Hug?” “No, I don’t want a hug.” “How dare you deny me what I want?”
“Hug?” “No, I want to lower your status, and this refusal is a way to do that.” “Okay, I’m a worthless and horrible person and should grovel.”
“Hug?” “No, I want to lower your status, and this refusal is a way to do that.” “How dare you rudely shun me?”
The usual way is to convey requests and refusals by cues too subtle for status fights. The nerdy way is to always interpret answers as preference reports, not status fights. Bad things happen in the intersection.
That can come across to some women as insecure. (Though I’d expect most of those are in the left half of the bell curve and hence unlikely to be found in LW meetups.)
Some women? And you’re Irish? This behaviour is practically tattooing “I have poor social skills or severe confidence issues” on your forehead in any guess culture. Odd is about as positive a description as it’s going to get outside of people who’ve not read a good deal of woman’s studies stuff.
Certainly! As such, we should figure out how to turn geekdoms into ask cultures, when they aren’t already. Putting even marginally socially-awkward people in situations where they have to guess other people’s intentions, when everyone is intentionally avoiding making their intentions common knowledge, well, that’s sort of cruel.
So, this become a problem we can actually try to solve. In a relatively small environment, like a group of a dozen or so, what can one do to induce “ask culture”, instead of “guess culture”?
(This should probably be a discussion post of its own… hm.)
My own approach: if I can afford the status-hit, I ask about stuff in a guess culture, and I explicitly answer questions there. In some cases I volunteer explicit explanations even when questions weren’t asked, although I’m careful about this, because it can cause a status-hit for the person I’m talking to as well.
Some additional notes:
I was raised in two different guess cultures simultaneously, then transferred to an ask culture in my adolescence, and I’m fairly socially adept. This caused me to think explicitly about this stuff rather a lot, even before I had words for it. That said, I strongly suspect that there’s much clearer understandings of this stuff available in research literature, and a good scholar would be invaluable if you were serious about this as a project.
Talking about “affording the status-hit” is oversimplifying to the point of being misleading, since I live in the intersection of multiple cultures and being seen in culture A as deliberately making a status-lowering move in culture B can be a status-raising move in A. Depending on how much I value A-status and B-status, “taking a hit” in B might not be a sacrifice at all. (Of course, being seen that way in A without actually making such a move in B… for example, pretending to my A friends that I am seen as a rebel in B while in fact being no such thing… is potentially a more valuable move, albeit a risky one. As well as a dishonest one, to the extent that that matters.)
The terms “ask culture” and “guess culture” are misleading as well; it’s more precise to think in terms of topics for which a given culture takes an “ask” stance, and topics for which it takes a “guess” stance. It’s even clearer to think in terms of preferred levels of directness and indirectness when trying to find something out, since successful people don’t actually guess about topics for which their culture takes a “guess” stance, they investigate indirectly. But, having said all that, I’m willing to keep talking about “ask” and “guess” culture for convenience as long as we understand the limits of the labels.
A downside of asking for things in a guess culture is that people have to give you the things. (Unless you’re demanding so much they’d rather refuse and lose you as an ally.) Imposing this cost on people hurts them, as well as lowers your status.
Note that I wrote “asking about”, not “asking for”.
I agree that turning down requests in a guess culture has social costs, which is one reason the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate requests is considered so important.
Imposing costs on others by making demands of them doesn’t necessarily lower my status.
Where “doesn’t necessarily” for most intents and purposes could mean “does the reverse of”!
Yes. But now you’ve gone and ruined my guess-culture use of understatement with your ask-culture explicitness! Hrumph.
It’s almost as though some people consider your status hit as something of extremely low importance!
Understood—but essentially no humans consider their own status hits as of extremely low importance. this is so strong that directing other people to lower their status—even if it’s in their best long-term interest—is only rarely practical advice.
Oh absolutely. To be clear, I am asserting that people making this recommendation are basically following the FDA playbook. Given a tradeoff between bad things happening and costly safety measures...radically optimize for an expensive six sigmas of certainty that no bad event ever happens, with massive costs to everyone else.
Now, this strategy can make sense, if either:
You view even a single creepy incident as an extreme harm and believe that this sort of thing happens very often. [Note: “Creepiness is bad and I have an anecdote to prove it” is does not prove this quantitative claim.]
You care a lot about the feelings of people claiming creepiness and care very little about the costs to everyone else.
Arguably, the few people in this thread that are advocating extremely socially costly “safety measures” believe a combination of both.
This is sometimes a fair characterization, but remember that (like this thread has been discussing) the social cost depends a lot on your environment. Better to say that categorically recommending behaviors without understanding the perspectives of those that those behaviors would harm is a problem (obviously somewhat inevitable due to ignorance). (I think we need the term “typical social group fallacy”.)
Forgive me, my memory is poor, I took your references to Ireland to mean you were Irish.
(I studied in Ireland from September 2010 to May 2011.) EDIT: Why were this and the grandparent upvoted?
I wasn’t the one who upvoted it, but volunteering extra information that reduces confusions certainly seems worth upvoting to me.
Because we want to see more comments like this (i.e. clearing up confusion), and because in a thread this large it only takes a small percentage of people deciding that a comment is high-quality for it to get upvoted.
It’s probably more accurate to refer to hint cultures rather than guess cultures.
I wish lojban had worked out better—it would be very handy to have a concise way of indicating whether you’re talking about how a culture feels from the inside or the outside.
Probably depends who’s talking.
It’s almost like there is no one magic rule set for interacting with us or something! ;p
On the one hand, emphatically yes—when talking about How To Interact with people of X gender, people tend to make a lot of generalizations.
On the other, feminist scripts seem to be against didactically learning social rules to an extreme extent—instead of pointing out “Hey, this thing works on maybe three out of four women, referring to that subset as ‘women’ makes you believe less in the other one-quarter,” they go the entirely opposite direction and say that learning any rule, ever, is wrong and misleading and Evil. I dislike this, and while your comment is clearly not being this, it can easily be read as it by someone with experience interacting with those scripts.
I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists can be for women who use other social conventions, and vice versa. Makes it hard when one doesn’t know the convention being used. Also makes other-optimising a problem here.
(Edited for clarification)
Creepiness is partially context-dependent. If you try to list all details, there will be too many details to remember. On the other hand, if you try to find some general rules (such as: “don’t make people feel uncomfortable”), some people will have problem translating them to specific situations.
This could be possibly solved by making a “beginners” handbook, which would contain the general rules and their specific instances in the most typical situations (at school, at job, on street, in shop), and later some specific advice for less typical situations (at disco, at funeral, etc.).
But still, even the internet version would probably need different sections for instant messengers, facebook, e-mail… even for e-mail to different groups of people… Eh. Anyway, it could also start with most frequent situations, and progress to the more rare ones.
Heck, I suspect that in a lot of cases what a feminist claims is creepy on the internet, and what the same feminist would find creepy in real life are different things.
That extends to more than feminists, and more than creepiness; people’s verbal descriptions of grammatical or moral rules often don’t match the judgement they will give to specific cases. More generally, people can’t see how their brain works, and when they try to describe it they will get a lot wrong.
I suspect one of those negatives still has to go, no?
I think I was really meaning to say “not not creepy” at the time :S
But do you mean to say that the creepiness standards of internet feminists are the same as that for “women who go other social convention”? I was expecting you to mean that they were different.
Is it clearer like this?
Possibly even clearer:
“I often find that what is not creepy for internet feminists is creepy for women who follow other social conventions, and vice versa.”
Examples would be nice.
I meant ‘not creepy’ for internet feminists (asking politely) corresponding to ‘not not creepy’ for other people.
Ah, OK, it makes sense now (though I suspect most people will still read it the wrong way)
I didn’t even notice where the negatives were in the original version—I just assumed the intended meaning to be the one that makes sense.
Relevant Language Log post
I like how the guides go about detailing how to do this, rather than simply telling people more things they’re doing wrong.
You have to follow some extra links to reach the “do” advice., but it’s there.
A problem with teasing is that it sets up an environment where it can feel very risky to say “No, I don’t like being teased”. Will the request be respected, or will it be met with more teasing?
I like the sentence “I am done being teased now”. It seems to work pretty well.
I like that approach. Unfortunately, for some of the most socially-adept (in other respects), any request not to tease is itself regarded as an invitation for more teasing—or at least, the “I really need to stop” sensor is way too insensitive to negatives. Even worse, some end up liking the person because of this (which obviously has horrid incentive effects).
My request that you not reply to my comments was not, and never became, an invitation for replies to my comments.
Alicorn’s request for SilasBarta to not reply to her comments was not, and never became, an obligation for him to not speak up when Alicorn says things that he opposes.
Replying to a comment on a forum is not the same as approaching someone in person to engage in conversation. It is, fittingly, like responding to a public speech at the forum. Accordingly, the right to reply to Alicorn’s comments isn’t something that requires her ‘invitation’. She does not have the right to speak whatever she wishes and demand that someone in particular who disagrees with her may not reply. (Except, I suppose, in the technical sense whereby she could in principle abuse her moderation powers to prevent someone replying for any reason she chose.)
This particular play for status and control over SilasBarta should be rejected and crushed mercilessly. SilasBarta’s comment isn’t personal in nature and so does not represent the kind of social approach that fits with the subject of this thread and doesn’t get the same treatment.
The solution to not wanting to see replies by a specific individual is an ignore feature and that is one we really need here. There are plenty of people I whose comments I don’t want to see and as a bonus that which is not seen can not be fed.
Also, the grandparent is disingenuous. Presumably, Silas assumed that the request had simply expired, not that it had morphed into a different kind of request.
...as did I, frankly. I’m now commenting here after seeing this and thinking, “Oh, no, please don’t let this be about....that!”, and then finding, to my utter horror, that it was indeed about that.
Alicorn’s request was exactly that. What else could the words possibly mean?
I agree that an “ignore” feature would be very valuable for this site.
A request is not exactly an obligation. If you disagree, I request that you give me all your money.
I think my words above mean that I have uttered an unreasonable request that someone with healthy boundaries would ignore.
(Note that even if you happen to believe people have the particular rights of control over others that Alicorn has claimed your reply here would still seem to be confusing the nature of the relationship between verbal symbols and obligation.)
I have just solicited from Eliezer, and received, permission to ban further comments from Silas that reply to me.
End of thread.
This makes me lose respect for both you and Eliezer.
I don’t really enjoy bringing this up, much less in this thread, but IIRC, it used to be that SilasBarta would hound Alicorn and “follow her around” on the site (by specifically tracking her recent comments) in order to confront her. This is deeply disruptive behavior which can actually drive honest users off the site, so it’s very much not OK. No users should be getting this kind of treatment, unless they’re actually being so annoying on their own that we’d rather drive them off.
Let Silas apologize to Eliezer directly for his problem behavior, then we can think about lifting these restrictions on his commenting privileges.
Completely and utterly false.
Oh the irony. The last link in the OP specifically discusses exactly this scenario.
While the outcome for a woman targeted by a man like this is poor, the damage done to the group by all the other men staying silent (or outright supporting him) is huge. Really, this isn’t even buried in the comments, this is the whole point of the two letters discussed in that link.
I can’t speak to whether there are problems of this sort in LW meetups, but right here is our evidence of it here in LW comments.
I understand concerns about censorship, arbitrary moderation, special treatment, etc, but everyone who downvoted Alicorn and upvoted wedrifid here has also sent a message of tacit support for SilasBarta and a very clear message to any other woman here.
From my link above, edited:
The Geek Social Fallacies seem rather apt here, too.
(Edit to fix square bracket use)
By this exact scenario, do you mean something TOTALLY different? disagreeing with someone who makes public comments on an internet forum is not “creepy entitled shit” (you wouldn’t even have thought to make this accusation here if SilasBarta was female and Eliezer was the target) and even if we assume that the original situation of banning him from responding to her was totally justified (I don’t know, I haven’t read the backdrama), then it’s still ridiculous for Alicorn to respond to a thread SilasBarta is talking in without him being able to reply. I’m not trying to defend anything SilasBarta did in the past, I’m trying to defend conversation. If you have a restraining order against someone, you shouldn’t walk right up to THEM and force them to leave wherever they happen to be.
Agreed, and I think that says something interesting and useful. Symmetry is not a useful tool here.
If there’s broader interest in seeing some attempt at a rationalist view of privilege I’m keen to get whatever help is available, and take it to a separate Discussion.
I would be interested in seeing some attempt at a rationalist view of privilege, however I’m not sure that it would be welcome here; also I do think there are many advantages in trying to stick to the “no mindkiller topics” rule. Do you have a personal blog that you could post it on? If you do decide post it on LW I would recommend using the open thread, rather than the discussion or main section.
No. It. Does. Not.
I suspect if I were LW-high-status, I could politely point out that while we’ve both argued from assertions, one of us has expanded on their assertion, and one of us has not.
Unless you mean “that linked post does not discuss LW or any of the individuals you reference, so claiming it specifically discusses exactly this scenario is trivially false”? I have no objection to curbing my hyperbole with an edit.
I take from your vehemence that your disagreement is more fundamental though. Do you have more words there you’re willing to add, here or in PM?
What is it about being low status that makes you think you are better served by making the claim passively aggressively rather than politely? Politeness usually more important when status is lacking, not less. Or do you consider this style to be even more polite than, well, pointing out politely?
As it happens I have expanded rather a lot in my original message. I chose not to expand further in response to either you or bogus because I didn’t see benefit to such engagement.
The thing in the OP is bad. Replying to public comments isn’t. That is all.
No way. Hounding users on an internet site can cause a lot of annoyance and status problems, but it’s not creepy, i.e. it entails no shared threat of bodily harm. People routinely get away with extremely weird behavior on internet groups, even though corresponding behaviors (even something as mild as a heated social confrontation) would get them shunned and ostracized, or perhaps physically assaulted and injured, in a real-world actual community where bodily harm considerations are critical. There is nothing wrong with this persay—it just takes some getting used to.
Hounding someone, even if there are no threats, can turn an online group into no fun for them.
I’m not convinced it’s true that all female fury at male inappropriate attention is based in fear of physical harm. However, large amounts of inappropriate attention can be a huge attention and energy drain—mental cpus are a limited resource.
Yes, that’s why I tend to pull out the magic words: “Please put me on your do-not-call list”. Works like a charm.
I disagree with your definition of “creepy”. However, whether we define the word that way or not, would you agree that it is behaviour worth discouraging?
It is one thing to disagree with a view that someone is expressing. It is quite another to follow that person around, disproportionately, in order to find opportunities to disagree specifically with them, (whether that’s in order to make them feel unwelcome and drive them out, or whether via some twisted logic the hounder feels it gains them dominance or even sees it as courting behaviour).
Just confirming: are you disagreeing because link posited risk of escalation to assault which I agree seems impossible in a purely online context?
I drew the analogy because it called out the toxic effects on a community, and that in many ways the toxicity is not that there was a creeper, but that there is much signalling in their support that has follow-on effects.
Assuming those claimed signalling secondary losses are correct, I don’t see anything specific to an online context that would be immune. The “risk of escalation” discussed there seems severable from its other points.
I am disagreeing because I regard what you call “risk of escalation to assault” (or, more generally: risks of bodily harm and benefits from tightly-knit social cooperation) as a critical determinant of social interaction. It is very hard to meaningfully compare real-world and online contexts, much less regard them as “the exact same scenario”.
(Indeed, I have jokingly argued before that we should totally deprecate and taboo the term “community” as referring to online social groups, since it tends to promote this very kind of ontological confusion.)
As for your question about “toxicity”, let’s just say that this particular discussion has been held already. If anything, LW has seemed to err towards taking complaints about divisive or disruptive behavior more seriously than they otherwise would, especially when outgroup status is a factor.
The obvious solution is to only ban creepy, personal comments.
Eliezer confirmed to me via PM that he did grant permission, and did it based on his trust of Alicorn.
It seems my caveats were too generous. I honestly thought you would be outright offended if I even hinted that you would do such a thing. It seems obviously the sort of thing a moderator would be careful not to do.
Silas, please document all such abuses—PM them to me.
It should be noted that all instances of comments which moderator privileges prevent reply to represent comments that I wish to see less of on lesswrong, for reasons related to filtered evidence.
Thanks. Interestingly, I was about to reply to your quoted comment with something about it being irresponsible to even insinuate that a moderator would abuse their power that way, &c. but … yeah. I just PM’d EY for confirmation. If true, this may just be “jump the shark” day.
I doubt that a rogue moderator would receive express advance approval of abusive actions. If Eliezer says that Alicorn may ban certain comments, then it is not abusive for Alicorn to ban those comments.
If Eliezer’s approval makes the action tautologically non-abusive then please act as if I substituted a different word that means something along the lines of “detrimental, innapropriate, politically ill advised, deprecated and considered ‘naughty’ by user:wedrifid”. ;)
I am stealing that.
End of thread is something you are not in a position to enforce.
Is that literally true?
I would have said “Enforcing End of Thread would seem to be politically ill-advised in this instance”.
Well, given Eliezer’s recent actions his attitude seems to be that as the supreme rationalist leader of lesswrong he can ignore anyone else’s opinion.
(paid karma to respond)
As I understood the spirit of the original agreement, you were not supposed to comment downthread from Silas if you didn’t want to be responded-to. You did so.
Since many issues of this type stem not from polite-but-overreaching people but rather the legitimately impolite, this method may not always be hugely effective. Legitimately impolite people would hear something like that and reply “Are you?” with a smirk. Also, if you get angry or seriously assertive, they are likely to assume the problem is on your end and tell people about how “crazy” you are.
The fact that many people reward such behavior is of course a major contributor to this issue.
Yeah, I solve that problem on the meta-level by not hanging out with impolite people after discovering this fact about them.
Thanks—I’ll keep it in mind. The advantage might be that it has no flavor of “please stop teasing me”.
I think it manages to avoid the usual unpleasantness associated with saying, “hey, this is serious now”, but then, I prefer bluntness anyway.
It doesn’t say please at all. It says “we were doing this thing. Now we aren’t anymore.”
Exactly. It’s a status assertion.
I’ve presumably got some background assumptions that being teased means I’m in a one-down position.
The only explanation for this is that it is acceptable for women to initiate physical contact without prior contact by the other party. This is an unconscious double standard.
In many social groups touching initiated from women is often received just as bad as from men, and fairly so. I am sure there are lots of groups with this specific double standard, but it is not universal, not by a large margin.
Also, “only explanation”: Really?
“threats of violence are morally equivalent to acts of violence”
Threats of violence are bad. Threats of violence are bad because acts of violence are bad. Some of the moral badness of acts of violence flows into threats of violence and makes them bad too. Threats of violence should not be tolerated.
Threats of violence are not morally equivalent to acts of violence. The fact that we’re talking about practical real-world morality is no excuse to lose our ability to think quantitatively.
“If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours.”
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
One thing that is spoken about over and over in those links is how majority-male groups often ignore creepy—or outright abusive—behaviour towards women. If you’re a man, and you’re in a large group with only a small number of women, and they find your behaviour creepy, you need to change it even if none of the men care. It’s actually worse if it’s not ‘a significant fraction’, because then the person you’re upsetting may have no support within the group.
If someone tells you “don’t do that, it’s creepy and it’s upsetting me” then don’t do that.
IAWYC but this gets you the conjugate problem of allowing some asshole who finds things like partial loss of speech creepy to evict people from the group.
That doesn’t seem a very plausible problem. In the majority of cases I’d guess that someone declaring themselves creeped are actually creeped out—and in the few cases where they’re just obviously trying to make trouble, I expect the group’s common sense will prevail in order to evict them instead.
As a sidenote, isn’t it just as easy to write “Agreed” instead of IAWYC”? I had to look up what that meant...
Being creeped out by some manifestations of disability seems quite plausible to me. If not “partial loss of speech”, we could go with something like stereotypical Tourette’s.
Some people are creeped out by sex-related behavior described in the post. We agree that this creepy behavior is wrong and want to reduce it, so we talk about norms and actions against creeping.
Some people are creeped out by disabilities, or by minorities, race, disfigurement, and a host of other things. We think (some of) these creepy things are not wrong and want to encourage or legitimize them, so we talk about not allowing anti-creepy action.
This seems indeed like the worst argument in the world. The problem seems to be that the behavior discussed in the post has no precise name of its own, so it appropriates the term “creepy” which was originally much wider in application. Then others react against the new norms being applied to all “creepy” behavior.
We’re trying to assign a static attribute to explain behaviors which shake out to a particular (and highly individual) emotional response. That’s not quite the Worst Argument—though it is related—but it is a very bad habit of argument.
We’re never going to find a “creepyp” type predicate attached to anyone. It may be that some subset of LWers exhibit behavior which reliably tends to alienate certain groups we’d be interested in hearing more from, though, and if so it should be possible for us to describe this behavior and try to develop group norms to exclude it: as a community we’re pretty good at analyzing that sort of thing, and it certainly beats spiraling further into semantic fail.
On the other hand, I can see some potential for close examination of the problem to lead into gender fail—something that we’ve historically been very poor at dealing with.
“Creepy” is a natural category—it describes behaviors that are likely to cause a certain emotion. This emotion is triggered by things that are obviously bad, by things that are subtly bad and often announce worse things when the group isn’t looking, and by non-bad things.
Our aim is to combat the first two while allowing the last one. Anti-creepy action (“Stop all creepy behavior, get out if you can’t”) acts against all three. Banning obviously bad things (“Ask before you touch”) acts only against the first one.
I’m reminded of the Diseased Thinking post. If you can’t successfully discourage someone with Tourette’s from inappropriate swearing but you can successfully discourage a neurotypical male from exhibiting inappropriate sexual-like behaviour, then it makes sense to attempt the latter but not the former.
I thought the issue was creep behavior, not sexual-like behavior (the latter of which I assume nerds are permitted, from time to time!). And that makes it harder, since a person can also seem weird for erring in the opposite direction, in which they don’t start conversations or make eye contact (outside of conversations).
I was mentioning swearing and sexual-like behaviour as two different examples of behaviours which might creep people out. (Edited the grandparent to say “inappropriate swearing” and “inappropriate sexual-like behaviour”.)
Also, people who are prejudiced against certain groups (or against specific behaviors by those groups) might claim to be creeped out by those people, while giving a reason that seems entirely distinct from their prejudice. It might not even be at all conscious.
E.g. if a woman is assertive and has strong opinions, people are more likely to say that the woman is being rude than if a man had exactly the same behaviors. In a man, they might even consider those traits admirable. It’s not at all a given that the complainers even realize that they have a double standard—to them, the woman simply comes off as rude while the man comes off as strong-willed and charismatic.
No, it doesn’t, because it’s talking about the responsibility of the individual, not the group. If someone tells me I’m behaving inappropriately, that’s for me to deal with. It’s only if and when I don’t deal with it that it becomes a problem for a group—and one would hope that any group confronted with such a person would dismiss their complaints.
This directly contradicts your comment in response to Douglas_Reay lower down
He recommends bringing it to the group in this comment, but says in the other comment that even if the entire group disagrees with the creeped out person they are still in the right.
Only as a last resort, and he didn’t prescribe a particular action for the group to take. The whole point was that individual people should take responsibility for addressing problems if they can, but that individuals don’t have sole power to evict people from the group, which was the argument he was responding to.
This approach of listing possible excuses for perpetrators, and accusing hypothetical victims of making it all up, is a big part of the culture of support for creeps that the linked articles are complaining about.
Your comment, and ones like it, are part of the problem.
Wow, sweeping dismissal of legit concern. Sometimes people do creepy things. When they do, it’s very important to the people they’re creeping on that they be believed. This doesn’t mean sentences of the form “X is creepy” have some kind of sacredness property that immunizes them from ever being false or used for goals they shouldn’t be.
So, my social skills are not great. Aren’t even really good. But over the last few years, I’ve gotten so much better from where I was that it’s ridiculous.
Anyway, I wish people, particularly women, had been that open with me about my behavior.
Let me be clear: the scenario you present almost never happens. Now, if it does happens, yes, the creep involved has no excuse but to stop. But the signals people, and particularly woman, give off can be much more obscure if you don’t know what you’re doing.
That sounds like placing the onus for dealing with poor social skills onto the person who’s confronted with them, though, in a general sort of way.
If you’re dealing with a person with a person with poor social skills, the onus is already on you. You can try to help, or you can run away, or do a hundred other things, but you are already dealing with it.
I’d just like to suggest that using subtle social cues on the socially inept might not be terribly effective for accomplishing desired social outcomes with that person.
I’d just like to point out that “onus” is a horrible word, one that should automatically be marked with a red flag. It’s probably not doing you any favors here.
As a person with poor-to-middling social skills at the best of times: no, that’s silly and I reject it as a working premise for conflict resolution and group interaction.
Establishing a social norm that hey, some folks here might be autistic or poorly socialized or otherwise have some difficulties with the usual set of interactions is completely different from establishing a norm that whenever someone failing at some element of socialization, and thereby causing others to feel unsafe, pressured or disturbed, then those who’ve had the reaction are obligated to see the situation resolved to that first party’s favor.
I didn’t say that. You can do what you want. But if someone made you feel uncomfortable, you already feel uncomfortable. Should they not have made you feel uncomfortable? Yes. Is it fair? No.
What are you going to do about it? That’s the only question you get to answer.
You’re swinging rather wide of my point, here.
The point of my post was: you may have swung rather wide of mine.
For practical purposes, the onus should be on whoever has the ability to deal with it. If someone unknowingly does something you don’t like, and you want them to stop, telling them is say more useful to both of you, regardless of your views on “victim blaming”
The scenario may not have happened to you. That doesn’t mean it ‘almost never happens’.
If you haven’t been told that you’re doing anything wrong, then obviously you can’t be blamed for carrying on. My point is only that if you have been told, you shouldn’t be waiting for some quorum to come to a conclusion, just stop doing the thing that is upsetting the other person.
They totally told me I was doing things wrong. All the time. It’s just they were doing so in a code I didn’t understand and expecting me to operate by rules I wasn’t told about. If a woman did something like this seven years ago, (And, while the same thing didn’t happen, a lot of the subtler cues did.), I would have done the same things the man did. I was never, ever told, “Hey man, you’re being creepy. Cut it out.” I wouldn’t have known what to do, and I would have done the exact wrong thing.
I wouldn’t do it now. I’m roughly as good of a person as I was then, I just understand the rules better.
Saying “You do NOT touch me” or “Don’t want to talk about this”, as that person did, is not a code.
Great! Now speak in non-code when people are approaching the line, not five miles past it.
If (1) a population varies widely in terms of how direct a demand needs to be before they recognize it as one, and
(2) framing a demand much more directly than necessary for a particular target to recognize it is viewed as socially inappropriate (“hey, OK, you don’t have to make a federal case out of it lady! Jeez. Some people have no friggin sense of proportion, y’know?”), and
(3) framing a demand much more weakly than necessary is both ineffective (that is, my demand gets ignored) and viewed as socially inappropriate when I eventually ramp up to the necessary level of directness...
...well, you tell me: what should I do in that situation, when there’s a demand I want to make of an individual whose sensitivity to demands I don’t know?
You forgot (4): not recognizing a demand and refusing to comply are indistinguishable.
Can you clarify why you consider this something I forgot?
Can be. Depending how the refusing is done I’d even suggest that not recognizing can be ‘creepier’.
This is troubling if true. The worst offenders described in the OP’s links are creepers of the latter type, who know their behavior is bad but do it anyway. And yet this is seen as not as creepy as behavior from someone who is socially inept but not malicious?
Given the structure of the sentence, I can’t tell if you endorse that “oblivious is worse than malicious”
Oblivious is more difficult to deal with, in that it takes a more subtle intervention over a longer period of time. But I’m not sure that difficulty of correcting the problem is correlated with how “creepy” the behavior is, or appears to be to the target.
In that case I am confused. Which is seen as creepier, deliberate bad behavior or ineptitude? Or do I completely misunderstand?
Ineptitude mostly. Doing something that could be interpreted as creepy in full knowledge is either a calculated risk or the act of an asshole. Assholes might sometimes be worth hanging out with, or being associated with from a social/political point of view. Creepy people have well below average social skills more or less by definition; associating with them is harmful to ones reputation. That’s why one gets the feeling of revulsion/contamination.
Female perspective- I see deliberate bad behavior as MUCH MUCH worse than ineptitude.
People who act deliberately bad are bad people and I don’t want them near me. Assholes are NOT worth hanging out with. Men who are ok with hanging out with these sorts of people (“Well they act deliberately bad towards women, but have social status/ are fun to be with, so...”) are supporting their deliberately bad behavior, and showing that they will not support women when men are deliberately bad towards them. I don’t want to hang out with THOSE sorts of guys either.
People who are just inept are not as scary, and can learn “ept-ness”. They might occasionally creep me out accidentally, but are not doing the deliberately bad things that I believe SHOULD result in social shunning.
I haven’t actually made a claim about either deliberate bad behavior or malice. I do claim that there is a subset of situations and responses where the form of aware-noncompliance is less creepy than the ignorance. I doubt that subset overlaps all that much with the other subset of noncompliance which also constitutes either bad behavior or malice.
Not even noticing demands really does have the potential to convey a lot of creepiness.
How do you figure? Also, what do you mean? ‘Only a small fraction of men do this,’ or ‘This almost never happens to women as described’? And are you taking ‘creepy’ to mean deliberately malicious, or more like what you just said you used to do?
I mean, women almost never react to being creeped out with an unambiguous response that makes a socially inept person know what’s going on with no room for denial.
I really wished they did, but I can understand why they don’t.
Sure, I think we agree on all that. Do you see why “no room for denial” might seem deeply creepy, and not a requirement that an inept adult could possibly be applying consistently?
This says that people understand indirect refusals the same in sexual and non-sexual contexts. It doesn’t say that everyone understands them.
A person who never thinks “Shit, are they bored, or are they just making sure I’m not bored?” will never think “Shit, are they turning down sex, or are they just making sure I really want it?”. A person who has trouble with the former may well run into the latter. (Still not an excuse though.)
I suspect the denial doesn’t come so much from “determined to do things despite consent” as much as “determined to preserve one’s own self esteem.” But it comes off creepy anyway.
They’re totally applying it inconsistently. But they don’t know that. Hence, the social ineptitude.
It doesn’t always work anyway.
Of course. But it destroys excuses, which I’ve found to be the best motivation for action, both in myself and others
Don’t do that to them, and reevaluate tactics in general after updating for this encounter.
I’ll add that you should also reevaluate how much you should be interacting with that person at all, and not just changing some particular behavior.
Someone who finds you upsetting is just not your natural market in the first place, and even if that limited data sample is an unfortunate fluke, or even if you agree that your behavior was inappropriate, it has happened, so you’re now Mr. Creepy to that person. Maybe you can climb your way out of that hole, but you’re likely better off spending your time and energy where you’re not starting out in a hole. Know when to fold a bad hand.
“If” just means it’s a sufficient condition, not necessarily that it’s also a necessary one.
I agree, I just wasn’t sure how to word it to make clear that the same reasoning applies if a significant fraction of the members of one gender think you’re creepy then, even if they are outnumbered by the other gender, that’s still a significant fraction.
Not ‘a significant fraction’.
One of the prime tools used by the kind of arsehole who infiltrates groups in order to rape is to isolate individuals, and behave differently towards them. If any individual person thinks your behaviour towards them is creepy, it is your responsibility to change your behaviour towards that person, even if everyone else disagrees with them.
I can understand this on a sort of “don’t be a dick” set of rules where if something you do makes someone uncomfortable you should prefer not to do it, a rule of this kind is not just open to abuse but oppressive in and of itself.
Most moral guidelines have a bajillion exceptions. All rules are ultimately something of a “don’t be a dick” rule.
It occurs to me that perhaps, as LW-ers we tend to like nice, codified rules you could program into an AI, so our tendency is to read rules as “execute this behavior consistently” rather than “this is the generally correct heuristic, but use your judgement as appropriate.”
Falling back on vagueness misses the entire point of the rules, which is simultaneously to provide a guideline for well-meaning but oblivious people and to allow your group to expel people for clearcut reasons. If you are worried about being creepy and bad at reading social signals, the rules do you the favor of allowing you to be good nonetheless, whereas a vague exception-filled guideline is almost useless as telling someone to not be creepy. If you are a bad person, the rules mean you can’t defend yourself by saying you’re well-meaning or whatever, because if you touch people without permission a bunch, we can point to the rules and say “Go away”.
First: I’m actually in the process of figuring out my own take on this, so my opinion may be subject to change over the course of this thread (and a few other threads elsewhere in the internet that happened to come up at the same time).
There’s two sets of rules getting talked about here—one is the rules for the group, the other is the rules for an individual.
Because of things like bystander effect, status-quo bias, etc, it’s important for groups to have some clear cut lines which, if crossed, result in expulsion (or at least a solid warning with a clear threat of expulsion).
I think AndrewHickey was not referring to codified group rules at the time, but to your own personal rules you should be following, regardless. The group shouldn’t automatically expel every member who’s doing something that one person finds arbitrarily creepy. But if you find that someone is creeped out by a behavior of yours, you should still take it upon yourself to alter that behavior, at least around that person, for no reason other than that it bothers them. You should also use common sense in the corner case that some person is arbitrarily deciding “I find X creepy” in a deliberate effort to screw with you.
It’s also your responsibility to treat that question seriously and not look for reasons like “this person is arbitrarily declaring me creepy” as an excuse to not have to change your behavior.
I agree that the distinction between group rules and personal rules is very important, and should be more explicit in this sort f conversation
Exactly. I was talking about the ‘rule’ “If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours.”
That’s a rule for an individual’s behaviour. And as written it’s a stupid rule that invites abuse—the stereotypical ‘nice guy’ can just say “well, no-one else complained” and still carry on behaving that way and thinking of himself as behaving properly.
Taking responsibility for one’s own actions is not oppressive.
I find your point of view creepy, and want you to stop talking about it. Take responsibility for your actions, and stop creeping me out.
Given we’re establishing guidelines that people will choose to follow in order not to be jerks, “don’t rape people” is a perfectly good rule. You said yourself that for group-enforced guidelines, the group has to judge (and thus reject “Alice speaks in a creepy monotone, I am creeped out, she must stop”-type complaints); it’s hard to see how to do that if every one else disagrees.
Is anyone else distressed by the fact that, at the time of writing this comment, all of the “Recent Comments” displayed on the front page of the site are on a topic called “How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy”?
I’m not usually the kind of person who worries about “marketing” considerations, but....
Discussion section, ffs!
Since this comment got more upvotes than the article itself, I’m moving to Discussion.
It won’t help.
Is there an actual history of people complaining about ‘creepy behavior’ in LW meetups? Or is this just one of those blank-statey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence?
The creepy-expulsions will continue until the sex ratio improves!
Only if that process is faster than females leaving on their own accord because they think there are creepy males.
Security through creepy obscurity, eh? :P
What? (What I mean is that, assuming “improves” means “becomes closer to that of the whole population”, and considering that the sex ratio is close to 1 in the whole population but more like 10 in Less Wrong, five men leaving would improve the sex ratio, but not if one woman also leaves.) I guess you were making a joke, which I don’t get.
I interpreted your comment to mean something like “talking about creepiness might make women leave faster.”
I will now attempt to thoroughly dissect what I said after I thought you said that. Because why not :P
“Security through obscurity” is a model of security where talking about security makes you less secure—it’s generally agreed to be pretty suboptimal. Drawing the analogy between not talking about creepiness to have people not leave and not talking about security to be secure is the surface point of my post.
But there are several flaws in the analogy between not talking about security and not talking about creepiness, which I refer to pretty subtly and form the main point of the post.
The first word is ambiguous: “security” for who? The analogy-ey interpretation would be for LW users, but the problem the “creepy obscurity” is directed at isn’t keeping people secure, it’s not making people leave, so the analogy breaks down. If we look at the part of reality where the analogy breaks down, the security that would be granted by not talking about problematic behavior is actually the “security” of the people who don’t want to have to deal with the problem or worry about their community getting smaller, not the security of LW users in general.
Also, “creepy obscurity” serves two purposes. The first is to modify “security through obscurity” to talk about creepiness, thus drawing the analogy. The second is to be a little threatening by referring to the obscurity that gets granted to creepy people, and also referring to literal creepy obscurity. This second interpretation turns the sentence into a bit of an oxymoron, since “creepy obscurity” doesn’t sound very secure at all. The oxymoron here could be considered a joke, like “jumbo shrimp” or “anarchy rules.” But calling this an oxymoron also contains a rhetorical claim that keeping creepy people in the community obscure could not actually be secure.
And, of course the ”, eh?” is there to imply that there’s a joke. This is mostly just to say that I’m willfully misunderstanding you a little, but that I think it’s fun to draw the connection from your post to “security through creepy obscurity.”
Considering that the atheist and fannish communities were somewhat caught by surprise, I think it’s reasonable for LW to try to avoid this problem before it surfaces.
All Douglas said on that score is that creepiness is “one social skills issue that might be affecting this”. I think you are overreacting just a teensy little bit.
Hi, downvoter(s)! Do please let me know what you think is wrong with my comment. Thanks!
I didn’t downvote, although I might have if your request for feedback hadn’t already been there by the time I read your comment.
Filipe’s comment is a perfectly reasonable request for information. If many people have been giving reports of being creeped out by other people at LW meetups, that’s a pretty important thing to know, and if there aren’t many people who’ve been giving such reports, that’s also worth knowing.
Treating reasonable requests for information as unwarranted defensiveness is something I am personally inclined to downvote for.
This bit of Filipe’s comment …
… is a perfectly reasonable request for information. If that had been all Felipe said I’d have had no problem with it. Excellent question. But this bit …
… well, that bit is a p.r.r.f.i. only in the same way as things like “Are you really as stupid as you sound?” are. I repeat: Douglas_Reay’s post contains no blank-slatey attempts to explain anything and makes no claims that anyone’s discriminating against anyone else. It just doesn’t.
The absolutely most it could reasonably be said to do along those lines is this: It gently suggests that maybe one contributing factor to gender imbalance in groups like LW meetings, if the participants don’t make any attempt to avoid it, might be that some people behave in a way that creeps others out.
And apparently Filipe objects to even that much being said. That looks to me not like a “perfectly reasonable request for information” but like an attempt to discourage even mentioning the possibility of such a problem.
Am I missing something (or imagining something) here?
Well, if you bring up a a bunch of links about learning how not to come off as creepy, and pose it as a salient topic of discussion to the community, you’re tacitly implying that people coming off as creepy is a problem of particular relevance to the community.
The connotations are such that, rather than having to make explicit that there have been cases where people at Less Wrong meetups have been offended by behavior they’ve found creepy, it could reasonably be taken as implied, unless explicitly disavowed.
If there is evidence of such a pattern, then it is certainly worth knowing about. But posing it as an explanation, or even a contributing factor, in the gender imbalance of the community, is something that could reasonably be taken as insulting.
Suppose you have an online acquaintance who’s rather unpopular. Your only information on why they might be unpopular comes from your online interactions with them and what they tell you themself, and you’re unsure why they have so little social success based on that information. So, you suggest “Maybe you should try showering more often.”
Now, if the person does in fact have poor personal hygiene, this could be the exact behavior modification they need to achieve better social success. But this is not gently suggesting that one possible contributing factor to their lack of social success is poor personal hygiene. In terms of ordinary human communication, it amounts to a tacit accusation that they’re a smelly person.
I parse Filipe’s comment as being something along the lines of “Do we have evidence that this is a pervasive pattern in this community? If so, I acknowledge this as as being a potentially valuable contribution. If not, I find the tacit assumption that it is somewhat offensive.” If no such assumption is intended, then the post would do well to disclaim it.
I think all it implies is that creepiness could be a problem. There have been a number of recent instances—much discussed online—where it seems to have been, in the SF and atheist communities; that seems to me plenty enough to explain Douglas’s decision to bring it up.
I don’t find the analogy with suggesting that an unpopular person shower more very convincing. The main (though not the only) reason is that the dynamics of giving and taking offence seem to me quite different in the two cases, on account of the difference between saying something to one person and saying it to a whole community.
Consider: rather a large fraction of LW’s content consists of articles saying “Here is a mistake it’s possible to make when thinking. You should probably try not to do that.” If you go up to an individual person and say something like that then they’re likely to think you’re accusing them of making that mistake, and they may well take offence. If you say it publicly to the whole community then no one is being accused of anything and empirically it seems that people don’t take offence. Similarly, no one takes the LW articles about akrasia as personal accusations of Not Getting Stuff Done, etc. For that matter, since you use it as an analogy: I’ve seen articles in LW that said explicitly: “Some people, more of them among people of the sort LW attracts, have poor personal hygiene: you should shower regularly.” And, as it turns out, no one seems to have been offended; I don’t recall any responses saying “How dare you accuse me of having poor personal hygiene?”.
Why take a statement of the form “Some people in our community may do such-and-such a bad thing; let’s avoid it” as a personal attack and take offence? It just isn’t a personal attack. Not even if it really does mean “Some people in our community actually do do such-and-such a bad thing”. -- Not unless someone thinks that actually they, personally, are being attacked (or that someone close to them is) and that the generalized some-people-in-our-community stuff is just a cover. But I haven’t heard anyone suggest that anything like that is going on here.
I personally agree that creepiness could be a problem in this community, and was not offended by the article, but I don’t see it as unreasonable defensiveness for someone to be offended by the implication that this is a significant problem in the absence of evidence.
This is an issue which, I suspect, a significant number of our members are very conscious of, and take pains to avoid. One effective way to offend people, indeed the way in which I have most recently personally been significantly offended, is lecturing them in the assumption that they’re unaware of an error which they have actually gone to significant effort to correct.
Since this is a particularly touchy subject, it helps to take pains not to offend people. Maybe this article “just isn’t” a personal attack, but then many creepy behaviors “just aren’t” making inappropriate advances, but still set off the triggers of people who, after all, can only read behaviors, not intentions.
Not sure. Perhaps “you are overreacting just a teensy little bit” was interpreted as making things more personal than necessary.
Well, honestly. Douglas_Reay posts something saying “if people attending LW meetings are creepy then that might be bad for the community’s gender balance”, and Filipe responds by suggesting that it’s “just one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some sort of discrimination, without any evidence”.
It is absolutely beyond my understanding why Filipe’s comment has been voted up to +13 since what Douglas wrote was not an “attempt to explain” anything and he didn’t assert that anyone was discriminating against anyone. Filipe’s comment is based on two gross misrepresentations of what Douglas wrote, and on the basis of those gross misrepresentations he’s made an entirely unreasonable accusation, and apparently the consensus of the Less Wrong community is that this deserves to be at +13.
In what possible world is Filipe’s grotesque misrepresentation reasonable (and indeed worthy of all those upvotes) and gently pointing out its errors unreasonable (and deserving of drive-by downvotes)?
Note: “absolutely beyond my understanding” is not strictly correct. I have an obvious candidate explanation, but not one that speaks well of the portion of the LW community that’s active here: reflex-action anti-anti-sexism from people who have taken to upvoting everything they see that oh-so-daringly says that men are more often very intelligent than women. Comments saying that white people are more intelligent than black people also consistently attract high scores too. It seems to me that, seeing how common and how consistently upvoted these comments are, they shouldn’t any longer be considered either unusually insightful or courageous, any more than other comments that could get you in trouble elsewhere but would be widely agreed with here like “I think there is no God” or “a lot of what people say and do is best understood in terms of signalling rather than in terms of its explicit propositional content”. But evidently rather a lot of people disagree.
If anyone has a less depressing explanation of what’s going on here, then I would be very glad to hear it.
[EDITED to fix a misspelling—I keep writing “Felipe” instead of “Filipe”; no other changes.]
I think a few mutually-reinforcing things are going on, and the narcissistic pattern you describe is a big one. Another is feeling socially unsafe, in a way that’s hard for me to summarize, but easier to describe some features of:
Talk of how women are underrepresented at LW meetups (or whatever) pattern-matches to a moral demand that there be more women at LW meetups, otherwise LWers are bad sexist people. As is often the case with perceived moral demands, this feels threatening and defending oneself by attacking premises and identifying the demander as the Enemy is a really tempting response.
The perceived moral demand is seen as vague, which makes it feel more threatening — it feels like one can never know whether or not they’re subject to criticism.
The OP’s first link, for instance, says “no one’s required to inform you that you’re creeping” and “Not a complete instruction set on how not to be a creeper.” Even if these are true, saying them in that piece’s aggressive tone without indicating that doing something simple gets you a lot of the way (‘you don’t get cookies for being a decent person’) causes me, at least, to feel gut-level fear of doing Something Wrong without knowing it and being blamed. (This fear is easy for me now to ignore, not as easy for everyone.)
I think people often feel like “sexist” is only ever a term of extreme opprobrium, don’t distinguish/feel that other people distinguish between “behaving in a sexist way” and “being sexist”, and don’t feel like it’s possible/other people see it as possible for behaving in a sexist way to be slightly and forgivably bad, so they must defend themselves from arguments that might imply that they’re sexist. (This seems easier to illustrate for “racist”; the prototype racist in most(?) people’s minds is a Nazi or something equally awful, which makes the claim that it’s “racist” to, e.g., be more afraid of a black person on the street at night less thinkable.)
It is not obviously false that there are biological reasons that women would be less likely to be interested in LW absent any discrimination.
This possibility is a good way to claim that one isn’t or might not be subject to perceived moral demands, which makes endorsing it more attractive.
If this is true and the people making the perceived moral demand wouldn’t believe it if it were true (which it’s perceived that they certainly wouldn’t), then the demand will continue to be there forever even if all actual discrimination is addressed. This feels more threatening.
A common response (it feels to me like the most common by far on the Internet as a whole; this isn’t necessarily true but the feeling is a relevant data point) to this idea, by the people perceived as making the moral demand, is that it is obviously false and considering the hypothesis makes you a bad sexist person. Independent of anything else, for X to say this about a hypothesis Y thinks might be true is likely to make Y feel threatened and (if Y identifies as a truth-seeker) offended. This leads to polarization and increases Y’s identification with the hypothesis.
This point about ‘privilege’ language.
Even if none of this sort of crap is present in a particular discussion, if someone has seen it before, they’re likely to pattern-match to it and become more defensive.
All of this is true or not independently of how justified the feeling of unsafety is. Any actual risk is almost always small and the mature thing to do is to feel its smallness, but rolling a saving throw for Not Trying to Please Everyone Unless They’re Tagged as an Enemy — at least, that’s what not being triggered by this feels like to me — is really hard for some people.
This made me feel condescended to. Compare “being creeped on in this and that particular setting carries only very small objective risks, and the mature thing to do is feel this, but not trying to please everyone (or whatever is the analogous irrational decision policy here) is really hard for some people”.
I do! Filipe wrote:
I would genuinely like to know the answer to that question, so I upvoted it.
OK, I agree that that’s a good reason. (Though I personally wouldn’t upvote a question on those grounds if it were already at a large positive score; in so far as others have the same quirks as I do, your explanation can only be part of the story.)
Personally, I upvoted Filipe’s comment for the reason Emile gave here, I agree with Manfred’s comment here, and while the second part of Filipe’s comment could be taken as overly politicizing, I feel that your comments have acted to degenerate the situation further. For reasons Nick Tarleton has outlined in this comment, “blank-statey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination, without any evidence” are something that some people in this community have become rather sensitive to.
If you had responded by saying, for example, “I don’t think that this article is arguing that the gender disparity in this community rests primarily on behavioral issues of the members, but considering the self-confessed social fluency issues many of our members have, I think it’s likely there are people here who would benefit from it,” I think you could have de-escalated hostility in the discussion. The reply you gave to Manfred, though, appears far more hostile to me than Filipe’s original comment, and it looks to me like you’re doing more to blow out of proportion a possible cause for offense.
I upvoted Filipe’s comment because it asked a question the answer to which I was also interested in, and I have downvoted a number of yours because I feel that you have done an inappropriately poor job assuming good faith.
Douglas_Reay didn’t provide any evidence for his theory. Not even what one would expect to be the minimal standard, i.e., an assertion that creepy behaviors do in fact take place at LW meetups.
Filipe was pointing this out and presented the obvious candidate explanation for Douglas_Reay’s action, i.e., the one that makes his actions look bad. How is this any different from what you just did in your comment?
What theory? The one Filipe just made up out of thin air, where Imaginary Douglas Reay proposed discrimination as a blank-slate explanation for “the gender ratio in High-IQ communities”? Or some actual theory that he actually claimed was likely to be true?
(It looks to me as if the only theory anywhere in this region of ideaspace that he endorsed was this one: “If people act creepily towards others and nothing is done about it, that might contribute to gender imbalance in offline LW communities.” This doesn’t look to me like the sort of claim for which I’d expect evidence to be provided before anyone’s even challenged it, still less the sort for which if someone makes it without such accompanying evidence I’d go looking for nefarious explanations. Of course your opinion may diverge from mine; if so, and if you can say anything about why, I’d be interested.)
Either I’m seriously misunderstanding you, or you have what seems to me a seriously broken heuristic for how to generate candidate explanations for people’s actions. It seems like you’re saying that when you’re trying to understand why someone did something, “the obvious candidate explanation” is “the one that makes his actions look bad”. Why?
It looks to me as if you just pointed out one similarity between what I said and what Filipe said, namely that we both speculated that someone might be doing something for not-very-impressive reasons. I agree: we both did that. Aside from that, I see many differences and no other similarities. I can try to list some differences, but there are so many that I think it would be helpful if you’d first explain what inferences you want drawn from the alleged similarity.
The theory that creepy behavior is happening at LW meetups and that it’s responsible for the skewed gender ratios.
I could ask you the same question about the heuristic generating your explanation.
They’re similar in that they both share the property you just criticized above.
So, in fact, a theory composed of two parts, neither of which Douglas_Reay either stated nor implied. Why, then, call it “his theory” and object to his not having provided evidence for it?
I suppose you could, but since you don’t know what that heuristic is I’m not sure what the point would be. (But you seem to be claiming—I am completely unable to think of a good reason why—that my heuristic was something like “pick something nasty if possible”. If that really is what you’re saying, then once again I would love to know why.)
What property, exactly?
I’m curious about where you’re heading with this, anyway. I mean, let’s suppose you convince me that what I’m doing in this discussion is exactly the same as what Filipe was doing. What then? Perhaps you think I would say: “Oh, OK, so Filipe was right after all”. No, I would say “Oh, damn, I’ve been being completely unreasonable”. Or perhaps you think I would say “Oh, OK, that answers my question about upvotes and downvotes”. No, because the thing that puzzled me there was that Filipe’s comment was at +13, which is a really unusually high score; “gjm and Filipe were being unreasonable in the same way” is no sort of explanation of that.
Your interpretation of seems to be different from that of most of the other people here. You might want to consider the possibility that the problem is on your end.
Sorry, what I meant was the heuristic is pick what appears to be the obvious explanation, which in a case like this is likely to turn out to be nasty.
[Attention conservation notice: This is long.]
For sure, it might be. If you think it is, you might want to consider the possibility of convincing me, rather than pointing out the (obvious) fact that I might be wrong.
See, it doesn’t look to me even slightly like “the obvious explanation” and I don’t see how to make it look like t.o.e. without the kind of bizarre misreading that I think Filipe engaged in. Of course (see above) I could be wrong. I’ll explain—and this is why this is going to be so long—why the “Filipe-Nier explanation” seems so strange to me. Perhaps you can show me where I’m going terribly amiss.
So you claim, IIUC, that the obvious explanation for Douglas_Reay’s writing what he did was that he wanted to offer “one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination”. That is, that (1) what he was primarily doing was explaining, (2) that the explanation he offered was “blank-slatey”, and (3) that he was presenting it as “some form of discrimination”.
How plausible is this analysis of Douglas_Reay’s purposes, and how do other explanations of his posting what he did stack up? I’ll consider only one other explanation (not because I think it’s the only possible one but because this is going to be too long in any case): that he posted what he did because he thinks it’s possible that some people at some LW meetups may act creepily, thus putting off some other people we’d rather not put off, and he wants to do what he can to make this less likely to happen. According to this explanation, (1) what he was primarily doing was attempting to shape the culture of LW meetups a bit, (2) there’s nothing particularly “blank-slatey” about it, and (3) if discrimination is involved then it’s tangential to what Douglas_Reay was saying.
First question, then: Was he primarily offering an explanation, or attempting to influence behaviour so as to reduce “creepiness”? I think the latter is much more plausible, for the following reasons. (a) Everything DR explicitly said points that way. The title: “How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy”. What he actually said about his purposes: “not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is here”, etc. The only connection DR draws between “creepiness” and gender ratio is what I’ve quoted before: ”… addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this …”. As distinct from, say, “the issue that is probably causing this”. (b) DR’s posting history, which has lots about how to run LW meetups and very little about, e.g., the causes of gender imbalance in “High-IQ communities”. (c) DR’s other comments in this discussion, which again seem to indicate that his goal is to make LW meetups less likely to put people off. (d) Posting what DR actually did—full of things that have nothing to do with “explaining the gender ratio”—seems like a really weird way to attempt to influence opinions on that explanatory question, but entirely comprehensible as an attempt to influence behaviour (“creepiness” and reactions thereto).
Second question: Is he pushing some sort of “blank-slatey” agenda? [[Semi-digression: I confess that I’m not certain what Filipe meant by this, but among the ideas Pinker’s famous book criticizes under that heading two seem potentially relevant: (a) that differences between people and groups are purely environmental in origin and not fixed at birth by, e.g., genetics; (b) that human behaviour is infinitely malleable. Of these, (b) would be relevant if we were talking about DR’s attempts to influence behaviour (e.g., someone might argue that it’s futile to try to stop people being “creepy”) but that’s explicitly what Filipe (and, I take it, you) think was “obviously” not his real purpose, so it’d better be (a). In combination with Filipe’s choice of terminology—“High-IQ communities”—I therefore take it his point was something like this: “Communities that draw their membership from the upper tails of the intelligence distribution are inevitably going to be male-dominated because most exceptionally intelligent people are male; this looks like just one more attempt to deny that fact in the service of the false idea that there are no innate differences between the sexes.”.]] I’ve looked very carefully at everything Douglas_Reay wrote there, and I can find (a) nothing even slightly resembling a statement that there are no innate differences between men and women, (b) nothing that assumes that there are no such differences, and (c) nothing that makes more sense if we assume there are no such differences. So the only evidence for a “blank-slatey” agenda is, it seems to me, the alleged fact that Douglas_Reay posted an “explanation” for gender imbalance that isn’t “there are fewer women because most of the very cleverest people are men”. Except that—see above—he didn’t in fact do any such thing, and the absolute most he said was that “creepiness” might have something to do with it, which of course is perfectly consistent with any number of other contributing factors. All in all, I’m really not seeing any grounds for calling what Douglas wrote “blank-slatey”.
Third question: is Douglas_Reay complaining, explicitly or implicitly, about “discrimination” and using it as an explanation for gender imbalances in LW meetups? Well, explicitly at least, Douglas seems to have gone out of his way to avoid making what he said anything of the sort. (Third paragraph, which I’ll summarize as “This isn’t only about men being creepy at women; let’s focus on the behaviour and not on what group is doing it to what other group”.) He assumes—so it looks to me, at least—that his audience wants to avoid “creepiness”, which seems like the reverse of what you’d assume if you were taking the issue to be one of discrimination. I’m fairly sure (from, e.g., the positive-sounding mention of “rape culture”) that Douglas does, in fact, consider that discrimination against women is a real thing—and if there’s supposed to be something wrong with that opinion, I’d be interested to know what—but that is not at all the same as saying that such discrimination is the cause of gender imbalance in the LW community.
Overall question: Which explanation of Douglas_Reay’s words is more credible? On what appears to be Filipe’s (and your?) theory, his purpose in writing what he did was to push a “blank-slatey” explanation of gender imbalances in LW meetings, in which case presumably the stuff about how to avoid “creepiness”—ostensibly the entire point of the post—was just some sort of distraction. On the other theory I propose, his purpose was to influence behaviour, and the possibility of a link to gender imbalances was just a way of introducing the topic. I am at a loss to see why, if his purpose was as Filipe proposes, he would have written anything like what he did. On the other hand, conditional on the other theory I proposed, that problem goes away and what replaces it (“then why did he even mention gender ratio?”) seems far less puzzling: he mentioned gender ratio because he expects some readers to want a less skewed gender ratio at meetups and to find it plausible that avoiding “creepiness” might help with that.
[EDITED to fix a typographical screwup related to LW’s handling of underscores. No substantive changes.]
Thank you, gjm. I’m pretty awed by how well you explained that. Hats off to you.
Glad to be of service. I confess to being rather bemused at some of what’s going on in this thread. (Perhaps that’s because, as Eugene Nier suggests, I’ve got it all wrong, but if so it’s odd that no one seems willing to refute me rather than insulting me.)
No, I think you pretty much nailed it. It’s been going on from Day 1, it was endemic in LWs founder population, it’s very common within the cultural core demographics that LW attracts, and even folks here who are aware of it and find it a little unseemly often underestimate the extent and significance of the issue.
I think this conversation could start with a good dose of Korzybski and General Semantics.
“Being creepy” does not represent the situation as well as “Person X is uncomfortable with Person Y’s overtures for an increased level of personal contact.”
The situation is improved when Person X more clearly communicates their discomfort and disinterest, and when Person Y pays more attention to how well their overtures are received, up to just moving on and avoiding contact.
But neither communication nor perception are perfect, and worse, the incentives would tend to promote a nonzero level of creepiness. The person with interest should be expected to make an overture—they’re hoping for more.
The advice I see in the first article basically tells the interested party not to make overtures. I don’t see that as helpful. Human beings touch each other. They stand close. They make sexual comments. Particularly when they are interested in someone.
Consider one piece of advice:
If they both want to touch each other, then they never will, both waiting for the other to touch them. Somebody has to make the first overture.
10) actually has some useful advice on how to spot a lack of interest, and indeed, disinterest, dislike, and aversion. That’s fine for an article on “knowing when to piss off”, but it’s not so helpful for someone trying to reach out to someone else.
What’s needed is an article “How to make an effective overture that minimizes creepy feelings in the subject of interest”.
Give an extensional description of the aspects that increase creepiness, and how those can be minimized by someone trying to make a connection.
Thankyou buybuy. Tabooing the term and describing the actual behaviors and circumstances specifically is exactly what is called for here!
You seem to be one of the list elders, so to speak, so I’ve got a tangential question for you.
I see occasional references to Korzybski, and the Map is Not The Territory sequence article. “Tabooing a word” is just the kind of semantic hygiene practice of which he had zillions—in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he originated “tabooing a word”.
But I don’t get the impression that a lot of people here have read his work, or if they did, few have interest. What’s your sense of the level of familiarity with and interest in Korzybski here?
Yours is the only reference I can recall. From the sound of it I’d like to hear more. Any other key insights of his that you think we could benefit from?
Hard to summarize a lot of stuff, and I don’t know that seeing the summary without the explanation of it is that helpful.
Instead, I’ll apply General Semantics to my response to the conversation, as an imaginary Korzybski (K). It’s been a while since I read the stuff, so my use of his terms will doubtless lack some precision, and be colored by my own attitude as well.
K: We have a discussion here. People are saying things like Joe is creepy, or Joe is a creep.
K: They are using the “is of identity”, and the “is of predication”. We know that this falsifies reality. An apple is not red, but is perceived as red by us in the proper circumstances. In other circumstances, we would not perceive it as red. Even taking a conscious being out of the equation, the apple would be measured as red by some instrument or process under certain conditions, and not red in other circumstances.
K: Now let’s look at the term “creep”. Our total evaluative response to the word “creep” contains a mass of associative (often emotive) and extensional (observable) components. We have many negative and unpleasant emotional associations with the term. If we are going to properly evaluate Joe and his behavior instead of merely letting our reactions to words that we chose to apply to Joe dictate our response to Joe, we should limit our discussion to extensional terms.
K: Unfortunately, it seems to me that even the implied extensional usage of the word is highly variable in this discussion, with creep_you <> creep_me <> creep_him <> creep_her, to a degree that impacts effective communication. The same is likely true even of creep_him_1, creep_him_2, creep_him_3 - people aren’t being consistent in their own usage of the term.
K: So let’s make an explicit extensional definition of the word “creep” to test whether we have been communicating at all.
ME: I would add that the various comments on blame/responsibility that try to get around blame by resorting to causality don’t get us anywhere. Joe’s behavior no more caused Jane’s reaction than Jane’s emotional and perceptual makeup. Change either sufficiently, and Jane does not perceive Joe as creepy. I think this is implicit in K’s method, but I don’t recall him this particular discussion on causality. Although it’s starting to ring a few bells in some musty old neurons.
There’s a lot of other stuff. I consider General Semantics as semantic hygiene, seeing how certain semantic practices encourage bad habits of thought, and having specific counter practices for avoiding the poor habits of thought. Purell for the mind.
In the end, I don’t think the counter practices are necessary to keep your ideas clean and tidy as long as you’ve internalized an aversion to the poor habits of thought, but they help when confusion is afoot.
(May be worth editing your comment and replacing all instances of “_” with “\_”.)
Time and place indexing—for what times and places do you have evidence of something being true?
Now that I think about it, Eliezer’s year subscripts for his different stages of understanding may be a result of influence from Korzybski.
Couldn’t find the definitive “tabooing a word”, if there is such a thing, but after the taboo, I think EY recommends replacing it with what amounts to an “extensional” description.
I’ve seen a few references, and the impression I got is that the sequence on words overlaps a lot with Korzybski’s General Semantics.
Eliezer got some early influence from the General Semantics-inspired Null-A books by A.E. van Vogt.
(I’m leaving two versions of this comment in different threads because DeeElf also asked about Korzybski and LW.)
Thank you for the link to the other discussion. I had been assuming more familiarity Korzybski than seems to be the case.
I’m not sure this is it. If I had to give a definition for “creepy”, it would be something like: “Person Y’s attitude and behavior are making Person X feel personally unsafe (to some degree) around Person Y.”
So yes, it does take two to tango, but it’s not clear that Person X can do anything about eir feelings, especially since the feelings may be functionally justified at some level (i.e. most if not all examples of ‘creepy’ behavior actually are evidence that Person Y is more likely to be a threat).
Both definitions are used, and plenty more besides. This is actually why bubuy’s point is so important. The cluster of things that are called ‘creepy’ is diverse and the most useful response to given situations varies depending on what the actual situation is rather than on whether someone calls it ‘creepy’.
Incidentally, your definition is weakened by focusing on preemptively applying judgement more than causal accuracy. While the intent is to convey that the person being labeled ‘creepy’ is responsible for the feelings of the other it actually implies that even the most lewdly inappropriate, boundary-oblivious and clingy loser is immune to being ‘creepy’ when their target is sufficiently physically secure, emotionally mature and psychologically self-determined. This is absurd, clearly not your intent and actually forces the ‘victim’ to be disempowered before they are entitled to any ‘anti-creep’ rights.
It is quite OK to keep assertions of ‘and it is right and fitting that we hold person Y responsible in this case and use some form of sanction’ out of the actual definition of ‘creepy’ and in the realm of policy advocation.
I’m not sure that it is—unless you mean that the target is unjustified in feeling physically safe, and the loser is actually posing a threat to hir. But we can still define such behavior as “creepy” by extension, since the target would actually judge themselfes as being unsafe if they were more reasonable and knowledgeable about the loser’s attitude and behavior. Definitions often perform poorly at such boundaries, but this does not imply that there isn’t a salient cluster in thingspace which is adequately captured by the above definition.
That would also be sufficient to abandon the definition. But no, I mean she is actually are physically safe and the guy is being creepy as @#%#. Either the recipient of the creepiness or an observer can both legitimately call that behavior creepy even if the victim of it neither feels nor actually is physically unsafe.
The above definition conveys concepts that aren’t even intended for use in ‘thingspace’ as opposed to ‘political space’. Specifically, the assignment of blame and responsibility. It can be resolved to a thing space cluster but if this is done it points to a cluster that does not, in fact, serve your purposes. If interpreted as a literal epistemic description when executing ‘creepiness’ prevention policies it would result in inferior outcomes to what you would get if you executed your actual meaning. Fortunately few would (acta as if they) interpret the definition literally and would instead interpret it as an approximate reference to a related thing in thingspace but with additional policy decisions snuck in.
I’d say that the target can legitimately state that the guy’s behavior is making her uncomfortable (assuming that this is in fact the case), and/or tell the guy to buzz off and have this enforced as necessary. Either the target or any third party can legitimately caution the guy that his behavior could be interpreted as “creepy” (i.e. at least mildly threatening) by others.
However, I would not use “creepy” to describe all instances where someone is being merely bothered by someone else; nor would I want to have a fixed cluster of behaviors be regarded as “creepy”, regardless of the target’s actual feelings and reactions. Thus, I’d say that defining the above as not-creepy is in fact very reasonable.
Um, no. Physical causality is not the same as appropriately-assigned blame and responsibility. Even then, I could easily rephrase my definition as: “Person X’s experience and overall disposition causes her to feel physically unsafe to some degree, upon being exposed to some peculiar attitudes and behavors on Person Y’s part” and this would not change my preferred policy.
Like feeling uncomfortable and unsafe when those n*s sit next to you in the bus? Why don’t they move to the back rows? How insensitive!
I’m not sure what your point is here. Are you saying that “n*s” were relegated to the back rows of the bus because they would give off a creeper vibe? ISTR that it had to do with legally enforced segregation.
And why do you think those laws were passed?
The legal system just backed whatever policy the bus companies had. The bus companies had a policy that maximized customer satisfaction.
[totally offtopic] That’s ridiculous. Taking the Montgomery, AL bus system as an example, black customers were critically important to the economics of the city transit system, which is one reason the Rosa Parks bus boycott was such a big deal. Outside Montgomery, we do know of streetcar companies who refused to segregate their customers, until they were forced to do so by the government (See Roback, Jennifer (1986). “The Political Economy of Segregation: The Case of Segregated Streetcars”. Journal of Economic History 56 (4): 893–917. doi:10.1017/S0022050700050634).
Racial segregation in the U.S. South was a wholly political decision—in fact, it was politically pushed by pro-white Democrat politicians in opposition to the Republican party (which used to be pro-integration).
More like “the legal system backed up the whatever impressions those in power, i.e., whites had”.
Some whites were in power, and some whites were not.
People can do a lot about their feelings. But whether they can or not, the issue of blame is not resolved. That X feels upset about what Y does, and even can’t help feeling upset, does not necessarily imply that X is to blame for anything.
As to “the cause” of the bad feelings, clearly it’s combination of the X’s emotional disposition and Y’s behavior, and if either were sufficiently different, the bad feelings would not have occurred.
But we’ve at least identified one problem in this conversation. You have a different definition of creepy than I do. I don’t think yours is quite so robust, because I’d just call yours “threatening” or “dangerous”, not creepy, but it does seem like a potential element of creepiness.
But then, unsafe how? What is the threat? I can see a number.
Threat of physical or sexual assault. Threat to social status by a low status male even showing interest (as if he had a chance, etc.). Threat of that in a public setting. Threat of the discomfort of dealing with him and his interest.
Finally, I wonder how much a woman perceives any unwanted sexual interest from a man she doesn’t trust as something of a threat, even when an objective review of the circumstances would say there is no real threat. That would seem natural to me, in an evolutionary sense.
THat’s a good point. I am rather upset by how much defense of creeping there is here but it might be good if the sufferers discomfort and the creeper’s self could be seperated a little.
Creepiness is bad.
But, I’ve seen labeling people as creepy used as an extremely Dark Arts sort of tactic. The problem is, if someone is labeled as creepy, it becomes very difficult for them to justify themselves to other people, or to confront those who’ve labeled them. People use the representativeness heuristic and see that they expect a creeper to deny their creepiness and to confront the people who are calling them creepy, so for the wrongly accused it’s very difficult to ever clear their names in the eyes of the general public.
There were a couple guys in my high school who admittedly had big personality flaws, but then girls preyed on them by intentionally putting the guys in positions where the guys thought the girls were showing interest, but then the girl could immediately retreat to calling the guy creepy. This was useful for discrediting people the girls didn’t like, as well as making the girls seem more desirable. This always really pissed me off and made me sad at the world.
(Full disclosure: something like this happened to me in middle school. I waited it out and made extra efforts to signal not creepy behavior. It worked, but only to a limited extent, people were always cautious when they were first getting to know me and it made me a bit sad. In high school, I never had any issues.)
Fortunately, this isn’t just about some kind of abstract “being creepy” XML tag getting attached to individuals. It’s about specific behaviors which individuals can learn not to do.
Sounds like pretty typical but unfortunate levels of high-school harassment and hazing. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
In places where there is a socially determined reputation, that’s exactly what it’s like.
Oh, I don’t disagree that happens. But it’s not what this thread — and, particularly, the “how not to be creepy” sources in the OP — are about.
The first paragraph, specifically, is more relevant. I don’t really think anyone here is planning on maliciously accusing anyone else of being creepy in order to exploit the representativeness heuristic. But I’m worried that someone with good intentions might move too quickly in determining whether someone is really creepy or not, and that bad consequences would result.
The key is just to question whether a noncreepy person could also have reasons for engaging in behavior X, before concluding that they’re creepy and then immediately proceeding to take action. If there’s no reminder to look for what does or does not distinguish the two people then you’ll end up privileging whatever hypothesis you already had in mind, which as a result of this post would be the creepiness hypothesis.
Does the label and motive matter?
Or is the important thing whether someone is engaging in a behaviour that they have control over, that is having negative consequences, and they are failing to take steps to change this even when the negative consequences are pointed out to them?
Not all actions which are labeled creepy have negative consequences or are exclusive to creepy people. If someone does an action without negative consequences but that action is then labeled creepy prematurely without considering the motive behind it, then this premature labeling will have negative consequences. Bad labels mean bad models of reality which result in bad decisions. Mistaking someone for a creep when they’re not precludes making friends with a potentially good person, and means your predictions of their behavior will be wrong.
You say that “they are failing to take steps to change this even when the negative consequences are pointed out to them”. I am confused. You seem to be envisioning a very specific type of scenario here, and I don’t know why you think that I would be envisioning the same scenario. Since when did my argument get restricted to instances where someone has been confronted with their creepiness and refused to change? My argument is meant to encourage caution in the people here are considering experiences from their own lives and trying to determine who is and isn’t creepy, on a general overall sort of level, not to this very specific kind of instance that you mention.
On the contrary, I think the key is to consistently label nonconsensual taking of intimacies as “creepy” regardless of who does it. Treating “creepy” as an XML tag on people is a terrible idea — both for the “creeps” and for others. Declaring, “Some people are noncreepy” is vulnerable to exploitation by people who manage to get themselves labeled “noncreepy” and then go around assaulting people with impunity, knowing that their noncreepy tag will protect them from accusations: when someone says “Hey, Joe assaulted me!” others will respond, “He couldn’t have done that; he’s noncreepy!” That’s part of what the feminists call “rape culture”.
I don’t have a problem with that. My point is that some behaviors which aren’t “nonconsensual taking[s] of intimacies” are still associated with creepiness (some for good reason, even, like murdering cats or what have you) and that we need to check those behaviors for alternative explanations (maybe they have really really bad allergies [although probably not!]).
Taboo XML tag and say this again. Are you saying we shouldn’t have a concept of “creepy people” only a concept of “creepy behavior”? Because while that might work well in the abstract, in reality it’s important to predict how people will behave, which requires using labels and categories and heuristics.
I think the position you argue against is roughly correct, actually. If there are behaviors and characteristics that strongly correlate with a lack of creepiness, it is logical to have a low prior probability on the judgement that someone with those characteristics will assault someone. For example, if someone is asexual or a child, then it’s incredibly likely that they aren’t a sexual predator. If someone is really nice and doesn’t stare at girls or do anything weird, they’re also probably not a predator. Yes, people can get around your best predictions, but that isn’t a reason to not make predictions in the first place, it’s just a reason to update when you get more evidence.
If Joe really isn’t creepy at all then he’s probably either innocent or a sociopath. If I knew Joe, and he seemed like a really nice guy, and he’s never said anything that seemed slightly disturbing, and he’d been perfectly normal his whole life, I wouldn’t just assume that he must be a rapist just because I heard a rumor somewhere. That would be dumb of me. The correct response is to gather more information, while for now going with your priors that say Joe is a-okay.
I don’t like that you tried to stick me with defending rape culture, also. That’s just inflammatory.
I thought we were both responding to the general topic; I didn’t mean to imply that you had that intention.
Sure, but we need to check that these are grounded in reality. For instance, if conforming to a particular subcultural or class norm doesn’t actually correlate with being less likely to do bad behaviors X, Y, and Z, then we shouldn’t treat them like it does.
Okay. This doesn’t clash with my position.
But the point is potentially relevant to any discussion where the label “creepy” is being applied.
I think this argument:
is flawed as it proves far too much.
We consider the (very plausible) hypothetical scenario of a LW meetup with many men and few women. The men are prone to hitting on the women. The women just want to talk about utility functions, and say no.
The men, being nerds, handle rejection badly. They are uncomfortable and upset.
Therefore by the argument above, the women are engaging in creepy behaviour. Plus, a significant fraction of the group are finding it creepy.
Therefore the responsibility to change their behaviour lies with the women, and they presumably need to start putting out more.
Since this is clearly an absurd conclusion, I think there’s something wrong with the original argument. Probably we need to introduce some notion of legitimate and illegitimate emotional reactions, but that’s a whole can of worms.
I don’t think the argument proves this much, and if it does it’s easily fixable. I agree that in this sadly plausible scenario, “The men, being nerds, handle rejection badly.” They are upset, but are they uncomfortable? Not necessarily so, and even if they are I don’t think the emotional response is the same as a general feeling of “creepiness”. I think the difference is that creepiness includes not just “unsafe or uncomfortable” but “unsafe AND uncomfortable”. The physical and emotional response of being rejected is not the same as the physical and emotional response of being hit on in a “creepy” fashion.
I’m struck by the fact that for centuries there were complex rules of etiquette established for interacting with other members of society depending on class, gender, family relationship, etc. Then during the 20th century that formal system of rules was all but abandoned. Obviously we can’t simply revert to Victorian mores, but perhaps we should pay attention to the history of etiquette and re-engineer it for modern society. Pick some Schelling Points for polite behavior and publish them. There is already an Etiquette For Dummies book on amazon, but I’ve only read the first chapter as a free preview which contains generic advice with few details. I imagine there are more comprehensive collections available.
When I was reading about the elevatorgate flamewar I wondered if perhaps a lot of the people arguing with each other were actually arguing past the elephant in the room; society is currently structured so that it is common and considered normal to put people into social situations that they find very uncomfortable. For instance, who thinks it would be fun and not awkward to get into a 5 by 5 foot windowless room with a complete stranger, close the door, wait 30 seconds (probably without speaking or looking at each other), and then leave? And yet we have elevators everywhere. Originally there were human elevator operators which at least meant you weren’t alone with a stranger in a claustrophobic box. Would open-air elevators or monitored security cameras or reintroducing human elevator operators or replacing elevators with stairs have prevented elevatorgate? Possibly.
Were they really? Here in France, when you meet a woman you kiss her on the cheek, but when you meet a man you shake his hand; you use different pronouns (“vous” or “tu”—cognates to “you” and “thou” in English) depending on the relative status of your interlocutor (and other things); in many western countries (the US more than France; though it seems) it still seems expected for a man to buy an overpriced piece of rock to the woman he’s planning to marry and not the other way around, etc. - we have plenty of rules that depend on gender! (probably more than on class)
I think that what happened is that there was an effort to increase fairness by removing some discriminating rules, which meant those rules became weaker, but also more likely to be tacit: since Victorian society didn’t consider gender equality to be a major principle, there wasn’t anything wrong with spelling out the norms that regulated gender relations (unless they went against other values of the time). Now nobody wants to sound sexist; so people have to figure the rules out on their own.
Dunno about French, but I think that in most languages with such a system the V form is getting rarer and rarer. For example, in Italian the rule used to be that one only used “tu” with friends, family and children/teenagers (of course this is only as precise as one’s definition of “friend”, but still); but nowadays one uses it with everybody except superiors and people obviously (at least a decade) older than oneself (with the weird result that someone in their 20s is more likely to be addressed as “tu” by a stranger in their 40s than by a stranger in their 70s). In English too, addressing people as “Firstname” vs “Mr Lastname” is roughly equivalent, and the latter is becoming rarer and rarer.
Yup, the usage is following the same evolution in France—there are also similar usages in China (ni vs. nin) that are disappearing.
In Spanish, at least, it varies by region, and some places have dropped the familiar in favor of the formal. English did the same thing.
Is it a social blunder not to kiss a woman on the cheek when you meet her? On the same level as asking her out in an elevator at 4 AM? To be honest I’m not sure how strict the rules of etiquette were in the old days, but I think there’s a distinction between customs and etiquette. Customs are things most people do and are comfortable with and no one really objects. Not following expected etiquette causes discomfort and potentially emotional harm.
I wonder how much influence etiquette has on a man buying a diamond for a woman and how much influence marketing has. In fact, I wonder just how much of our current etiquette (or at least our customs) has been caused directly by marketing and popular entertainment. I suspect we treat each other a lot like we see people being treated on TV and in movies, rather than how they would like to be treated.
As I understand it, the use of diamonds in engagement and wedding rings was the result of an advertising campaign by DeBeers, but I’d say they actually managed to establish a custom—one which would endure for quite a while even if DeBeers ceased to exist. It might even endure in the highly unlikely event that advertising ceased to exist.
Not really a social blunder, just possibly slightly awkward, depending of the context. When I arrived in France as a little kid I found all that kissing disgusting and recoiled when someone would try to kiss me on the cheek. I later forced myself to suffer the ordeal in order to fit in socially. Now it’s pretty much a habit, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually accidentally creeped out an American girl by kissing her on the cheek.
Not many people would be willing to climb stairs to get to the twentieth floor. Some people (e.g. my very sedentary and morbidly obese grandmother) wouldn’t even be able to do that.
It’s interesting that the creation of a social awkwardness device is essentially the only reason we have high-rise buildings in the first place. Note that malls, which must make significant efforts to attract people and make them feel comfortable (and ready to spend money), either make limited use of elevators or actually do make them transparent. Escalators wouldn’t work for anything more than a few floors. Like you mentioned, stairs don’t work either. We need levitation (or at least pneumatic) tubes!
Yeah, I think we do need to schelling points. I think that many of the worst creepers would ignore them (and then it would be obvious that they were ignoring them and they could be stopped) and other people would be able to conform without confusion.
Whether a man is allowed to touch a woman or isn’t can depend on the man. If the man feels good and is relaxed he is allowed more touching. If he’s high status he’s also allowed to initiate more physical contact.
If a guy wants to be seen as non creepy, trying to figure out the rules of etiquette that are valid for a high status member in his group might not be enough. Books are problematic. If you read a book you might see that high status members of your group don’t follow the etiquette of the book.
There are basically two ways: (1) Learn to feel when you make other people uncomfortable. (2) Follow a set of rules that make your interactions safe.
Another piece would be learning how to recognize when people are attracted to you—a fair number of people (perhaps especially geeks) aren’t reliably good at that.
It’s an important skill but it’s not enough. Even a girl that’s attracted to you can get uncomfortable if you touch her too much.
A shy girl might get uncomfortable with physical touch from a guy she’s attracted to. Another girl who isn’t attracted to the same guy might find the same amount of physical touch acceptable.
Yes. I creeped out girls who had cold-approached me first a few times in the past.
Wow, that’s impressive. :)
I agree with your comment.
It’s just that noticing when someone is attracted to you frequently gets left out of advice.
I’m selfishly glad my husband was late in learning that. If he’d learned sooner, he’d have been married to someone else long before we met. :-)
If I may argue from anecdote for a bit:
I was at a party a while back where I made a somewhat sexual joke and the people in that conversation (probably more female than male, I can’t remember; my social scene is lopsided towards women) all laughed. A couple of minutes later, another guy made the same exact joke with a different group of people at the party and his reception was a lot less warm than mine (some people groaned).
I could only explain why this happened as a result of relative status in a social group. Status seems to determine who is “creepy” and who is “not creepy” even if they are using the same words. Of course I’m tall and in good shape while the other guy isn’t so much. So I think that factors into status as well; the first thing that people are going to do when trying to describe “non-creepy” behavior is imagine Brad Pitt or someone who they already are attracted to, and then proceed to describe their ideal encounter with this hypothetical attractive person.
I remain badly uncomfortable with this portrayal of the situation as “High status men are permitted to touch arbitrary women in their social group more,” and this being presumed to be the same as “Women are more happy when high status men touch them [than when low-status men do.]” I can allow someone to touch me for a lot of reasons: fear, paralysis, having been Psychology-of-Persuasion’d into it, being friends with them, being ecstatic about something unrelated, sexual or aesthetic attraction. However, I have good reason to believe that nearly all men don’t just want to touch women, they want to touch women and have those women be happy about it, in the moment and afterwards. For certain when I think about touching someone, I’m displeased at the thought of them pretending to enjoy it and feeling vaguely skeeved, but not knowing why/not thinking they have the ability to prevent me from doing so.
A woman who’s afraid to resist the touch in the moment might still label the guy afterwards as a creep. When I said allowed, I meant behavior that doesn’t lead to being labeled creepy.
When it comes to the girl being happy about being touched things can be more complex. Most people find being tickled a bit uncomfortable. Some guysenjoy tickling a girl even if the girl would prefer in the moment not to be tickled.
Tickling a girl communicates “We have a relationship where I have the power to tickle you without negative consequences for myself”. It’s demonstration of power. If the girl goes along with it, she recognises the power. It demonstrates status to other people who are watching.
Successful demonstration of power can increase the amount of attraction that a girl feels. Jerks who demonstrate power have more success with girl than nice guys who don’t.
The pickup literature is full with advice that suggest that being “nice” isn’t enough to create attraction. Unfortunately that frequently leads to guy’s behaving in creepy ways. They try to act like they have social power that they don’t have.
Most of the purposes of LW meetups aren’t to be venues for seduction, and the riskier styles have noticeable odds of guaranteeing that some women won’t come back.
I myself wouldn’t use LW meetups as venues for seduction. I would however guess that most of the people who act creepy on LW meetups do see them as venues for seduction. If you want to convince those people to change their behavior I think it makes sense to speak in a language that they are more likely to understand.
If you use the kind of language in which the main post of this discussion is posted, I think you are unlikely to reach the people who pose the problem. If my intended audience wouldn’t be the people who pose the problem but the people who are fluent in deconstrutivist language I would speak differently.
This is funny to me, because the first time I met a group of Less Wrongers, one of them tickled me a day or two into us having met. However, the person in question was MBlume, who is known to not be scary.
I liltle touch in the upper arm(women) in dating situations make a difference(signal high status), but could end very bad, if is a overeaction.
It would be really good to have a definition that had some shreds of objectivity to it. As it stands your definition simply assigns to one person the responsibility for another person’s feelings. This is infantilizing to the ‘victim’ and places the ‘perpetrator’ at the mercy of the “victim’s” subjectivity.
The alleged safeguard that a significant fraction must agree the behavior is creepy is rarely applied in practice. “If you made her feel creeped out, man, that’s creepy”.
In practice this definition of creepiness is almost solely used against men. I had a female colleague (many, actually over the years) who wore inappropriately ‘hot’ outfits at work and behaved in overtly sexual ways that left me feeling uncomfortable. One cannot complain about this because it is “slut shaming”.
I notice a disturbing trend for rationality orientated groups to be invaded by people who like to impose long lists of rules about acceptable behavior and speech, generally with a feminist flavor. These people generally have made little to no contribution to the groups in question. I see here for example OP’s first post here was all of three months ago. The open source and atheism communities have seen similar phenomena.
We need to expose these people and their ideas to full rational scrutiny. I have read a lot of feminism literature and I believe that the field could benefit significantly from an infusion of LW style rationality.
Finally can I point out a clear source of irrational thinking that tends to surface in these discussions: the “protective instinct” towards women. For reasons that don’t particularly matter in this context, when we see women (or children) at the risk of harm, powerful emotions arise. Thus, if you want a massacre to sound as bad as possible you say “100 people were killed including 50 women and children.” In movies, it is almost always unacceptable for a sympathetic female character to be killed (read any guide to writing move scripts).
Science fiction conventions too. Clearly, this is an outrage.
It seems to me that it is this argument that infantilizes the targets of harassment and other unwelcome behaviour we’re lumping under “creepy”. It only works if these targets are “gormless, passive babies who can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves”. (That link is on “trigger warnings” but applies here for the same reasons.)
Allowing people to define their own subjective states (“this is how I feel”) seems to me to in fact be the opposite of infantilizing.
“Oh no we’ll all be in trouble if this sort of behaviour is explicitly forbidden” is actually quite a common response in these sorts of discussions, and it is discussed and addressed in the OP’s links.
… how many commenters here have actually read those links? :/
At least one (myself). And many others like them.
The problem is that it is not specific behavior that is forbidden. It is more like “making advances while male to someone to who finds you unattractive at the time, or later on” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBVuAGFcGKY) or, in another context “driving while black”.
Actually that’s a very useful and powerful analogy because it also references ingroup vs. outgroup asymmetry, and how that is a driver for power imbalance and perceptions.
… did you even read the post you are replying to? :/
“Allowing people to define their own subjective states (“this is how I feel”) seems to me to in fact be the opposite of infantilizing.”
This has nothing to do with whether defining “creepiness” by how people feel is infantilising. Defining any behaviour that affects someones feelings a certain way is not even close to “allowing people to define their own subjective states.”
As it stands it’s so barely related I have to assume as well as not reading the post you are replying to you are also misusing define.
Um, no. There is legal precedent for this phrasing in related contexts, albeit with the understandable proviso that the behavior must be “reasonably believed” to be threatening. This is pretty much what we’re dealing with here: the whole problem with creepy behavior (as opposed to merely being awkward or anti-social) is that it puts people’s personal safety at risk.
If you add language that says “reasonably interpreted to be threatening” you are getting closer to an objective test. But that is not what was proposed here. The problem occurs when you assign to one person the responsibility for another person’s feelings, irrespective of the context or reasonableness.
Yes, to the vast benefit of both.
This is argument by assertion. What evidence do you have for “this vast benefit”?
The problem with this is that there is no objectivity. It’s not just about the behavior, or the “perpetrator”, or the “victim”. It’s the intersection of all of them and it’s basically dependent on how the “victim” interprets certain aspects of the “perpetrator’s” behavior- which is hugely biased by the personal characteristics of the “perpetrator”. A hot guy walking up to a girl in a bar is flattering. An ugly guy doing the exact same thing is creepy. A confident guy using a line is an segue to flirtation. A nervous guy using the exact same line is creepy.
This makes it really difficult to teach people to not be creepy by telling them specific actions to take or not take. Much more useful would be a guide with certain tests that people could put out there to gauge the “temperature” of social situations before committing to a course of action.
I am amused that you came up with exactly the same list I would produce in trying to introduce this discussion to any geeky audience. :) The Captain Awkward ones especially have many useful comments—a bit of a read but nothing compared to the Sequences.
Since there have been lots of requests for specific rules to implement that don’t reference supposed categories of people:
Ask first. Always. For everything. Really.
Frame all such questions to require enthusiastic active consent to proceed.
To expand on the second point: rather than ask “may I [x]?”, ask “would you like me to [x]?” Keen readers will note an analogy with opt-out vs. opt-in. It is easy to mumble, to take too long thinking about it, to start calculating social & status costs if the opt-out is chosen… but those issues are largely addressed by the second form.
I’m going to disagree with this. Honestly, straight up asking can be even more creepy in a lot of situations. For example if you ask, “Can I give you a hug?”, you’ve double creeped me out.
First, you violated my boundaries because we’re not hugging friends yet if ever. Second, you violated my social norms by not reading our friendship hug level from the vibe of our conversation and my body language. You’re right that I may not actually tell you “no” because it is more difficult to opt-out, but that doesn’t make it less creepy.
There are some situations where asking is appropriate, but most of the time I would say if the social cues aren’t clear err on the side of caution and later on ask a buddy who’s good at that stuff what was going on in that situation and if you made the right call. Asking for stuff just tacks awkward onto creepy.
There is a deep, bad problem with “if you can’t read cues, go fuck yourself”. I’m fine with generic norms of what is and isn’t okay to ask: don’t ask to hug someone on your first conversation, don’t ask for anything romantic/sexual outside of certain specific contexts, only ask for things a little more intimate than what’s already approved. You can learn those.
I’m not fine with there being nothing you can do given unclear cues. The cost of two people who wanted to hug not hugging is negligible; the cost of someone being unable of social interaction until someone comes to clue them in is not.
I think the “real norms” are awfully complicated and depend of gender (not only of people, but of whether the present company is all-male, all-female or mixed), status and subtle cues; whereas the “spoken norms” are simpler and give more lip service to our far values by being gender-neutral and not referring to status.
You can probably get along with the simpler spoken rules, but you will miss some opportunities, and may occasionally break an unspoken rule and look bad. How big of a difference it will make will depend of the gap between the spoken and unspoken rules (a small gap for nerds; a larger gap for say European aristocracy).
The articles in the OP seem to try to address this problem mostly by making the “spoken norms” restrictive enough so that you won’t screw up following them, you’ll “only” miss opportunities that would be allowed by the unspoken norms (like hugging given the right cues). Another approach is to close the gap in the other directions by allowing more things to get closer to the spoken norms, e.g. Crocker’s Rules.
The heart of the problem is body language.
It’s an actual language that must be learned and spoken, but a lot of people for some reason never learned it, or learned it poorly.
When these people interact with strangers, it’s exactly like the guy with a bad understanding of a foreign language who tries to speak it, and instead of saying “Hi, are you friendly? Lets be friends!” he says “Hi, I want swallow your head!”
I hope you can see why people wouldn’t like someone who goes around talking like that on a regular basis, and that the problem really does lie with the speaker, not the people he’s speaking to.
What’s worse, if he doesn’t understand what others are trying to tell him (in the language he speaks poorly—aka body language) when he makes these kinds of statements he certainly can remain oblivious to the problem and be unable to fix it himself. If a person in that situation never meets a kind soul willing to help him speak correctly then he really is screwed, and there isn’t much he can do about it unless he recognizes the problem on his own and seeks help.
What kind of help? If you don’t speak a language, you can buy a grammar, or ask native speakers to think up some examples and build rules from them. Whereas if you ask people “How do I know if someone is bored?” they don’t give you actual tips, or even “There’s no rule, you have to learn it case-by-case” and a few examples. They just say “Oh, I can never tell either” when they obviously can, or “Well, they just look and act bored...”.
Impro acting, maybe, or have someone point things out like “don’t you see how impatient he looks?”, etc. - the kind of things parents may do with their kids. Or read a book on etiquette, or hire some kind of body language coach, I’m sure it exists. Or of course a pick-up artist book.
By the way, “There’s no rule, you have to learn it case-by-case” is something I often had to say when teaching French to Chinese students; or rather often it was “there may be a rule underneath all those cases, but I have no idea what it is!”. Often finding the rule for your native language requires significant effort; and some rules you come up may not accurately describe the way the language actually works.
Body language coaching doesn’t just exist, it’s an industry. It is typically associated with public speaking, salesmanship, etc, and there are a lot of places (and books, and online resources, etc) to get training. In fact, one of the linked blogs in the OP, “Paging Dr. NerdLove”, is completely dedicated to helping men who are bad at inter-personal communication with women (i.e. socially awkward) get better at it, which includes quite a lot of body language training.
It’s reasonably well known that body language comprises a significant portion of interpersonal communications, so just like you’d expect with other languages there are quite a lot of resources for learning the language, if you take some time to look for them.
And of course, like any language, the resources are of varying quality and usefulness. But the general idea of “you get what you pay for” holds.
You do that when you’re a complete beginner, or to polish off your grammar to avoid coming off as uneducated esp. in writing, but the way you actually learn a language well enough to have a conversation without too many misunderstandings by either party is by listening to it (and, when you get a chance, speaking it) a lot. And many of the things you’ll learn this way are things that few grammars will explicitly state and few native speakers will admit. No amount of theoretical study will train your ear to understand speech in real time. You cannot rely on System 2 alone to speak a natural language, as per Moravec’s paradox.
The analogy would be that you learn body language by paying attention to what people who already know it. More generally, ISTM that paying attention to stuff around you (and also paying attention to what you are doing, for that matter) is an oft-neglected skill. (Dear myself-a-few-years-ago, are you listening?)
What motivation do people with social skills and those norms have to help those with less social skills? Because unless there’s something in it for them they’re not doing it. Many of the kind of people who have social skills find hanging out with the kind of people who don’t actively unpleasant. That is actually overlaps substantially with the way creepy is used; people whose social skills are so low that they are unpleasant to be around in a group, who do not have redeeming features/high status.
Also, other people’s lack of social skills? Mostly not my problem. The only people I would give social skills advice to unsolicited would be those who are clearly likely to be receptive to it, i.e. people who are in a status hierarchy I’m in where I’m superior. Most people who ask for advice don’t want the real thing, and sugarcoating it and getting the real message through is hard.
What I find really annoying is the following dynamic:
1) not allowed into existing groups, people without social skills form their own group
2) said group acquires higher status (largely because people without social skills frequently have other useful skills)
3) people with social skills notice the new group with rising status and start joining it
4) said high-social-skills people use their skills to acquire high positions in the group and start kicking the original low-social-skills people out
This more-or-less describes the history of geek/nerd culture over the past several decades.
Do you find this more annoying than other patterns where people lacking X trait and thereby excluded from valuable X-having groups form their own groups, create value within those groups, and then lose control of those groups (and the associated value) to X-havers who appropriate it?
Because it seems to me there are a great many Xes like this. Wealth is an obvious one, for example.
I don’t know enough about geek culture to tell how closely that model fits reality; but it looks plausible. I have some doubts about step 4), I prefer explanations that don’t involve malice.
An alternative model is that people with social skills tend to be used to subtle and implicit modes of interaction (guess culture vs. ask culture), and the group’s explicit modes of interaction makes them uncomfortable (giving rise to this thread).
Yet another model that skips step 1): small groups with a homogenous membership will have simple norms; as the group gets successful it grows and attracts more people and more diversity (in age, sex, nationality, and interests), and the simple norms don’t work as well, and “success” in the group depends more and more on being able to handle social complexity (“social skills” and “politics” in the office politics meaning).
I never said step 4) involve malice.
“Malice” may have been a bit strong; maybe it’s something like “I prefer explanations that don’t imply moral blame for one of the parties involved”.
I only provide the explanation, assigning blame or other moral elements is up to you.
Whining about it doesn’t strike me as the thing to do. Trying to adapt to it in the short term and/or to fix it in the long term would be better IMO.
Well, one component of fixing this dynamic is drawing people’s attention to it. Especially people who may be unknowingly perpetuating it.
Which is why Internet articles are so wonderful. You can give general, detailed, justified advice with many examples, and it’s not a personal attack on anybody in particular.
I would say that if the people with the high social skills have the option of removing the people with low social skills from the group then there is little/no incentive to help them beyond perhaps altruism.
But in many situations these mixed groups are forced, and teaching the people with low social skills to interact according to the understood cultural rules can make them more pleasant company. So if you’re continually forced into an environment with someone, improving their social skills can be of direct benefit to you. Examples would include a coworker in a team work environment, a family member or in-law, the roommate or significant other of a valuable friendship, etc.
I don’t think that’s what I was intending to get at. If you can’t read the cues about the appropriateness of a particular course of action then it is advisable to wait until you can ask someone more informed for information about how to act in a future similar situation.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stand there and not participate. For example, let’s say you and I are talking and I’m telling you a story about how something in my immediate environment is causing me to think of something that caused me personal distress in the past. Now for the sake of the example, let’s say that you and I have met a couple times but are not close friends. During the interaction I shift my body to close out the rest of the room and increase the intimacy and exclusivity content of the private conversation between the two of us. Perhaps I even visibly deflate while telling the story, shifting my posture convey a decrease in confidence and happiness.
This is a situation where it might be appropriate to give someone a hug. But if you’re not comfortable reading the cues at the time to determine if this is that kind of situation then I would advise you NOT to ask me right then. Because even though on the surface it may seem as though I have given all the right signals to convey that I would welcome physical comfort, I have not told you anything about the number of other people in the room, the style of clothing being worn by the conversationalists, the presence or absence of mind-altering substances, the relationship statuses of the conversationalists, etc. There are many other factors that could influence whether or not a hug is appropriate here.
And yes, I recognize that in this situation asking “Can I give you a hug” may work out, depending on how “creepily” you ask (and that’s a whole different topic, but body language while asking makes a HUGE difference). But most likely I would find it off-putting and it would increase my desire to removal myself from the situation, because this person has just demonstrated either a lack of understanding or a disregard for the general rules of social interaction in my society.
The thing is, not asking about a hug does not close you off to other alternatives that are much lower risk. For example, you could share a similar story from your personal history. You could voice an offer to listen further if I want to talk more about it. You can ask if I would be more comfortable leaving a situation that I have already indicated is in someway unpleasant to me. And while I recognize that each of those actions could be inappropriate depending on the specifics of a given situation, they are much lower risk. And if you’re unsure, defaulting to the lower risk interaction option is generally preferable. Plus, like I said, you can always recount the situation later on LessWrong and ask if in the future given those parameters a hug would have been ok.
At Bicon in the UK, the code of conduct requires that people ask before touching. People hug a lot there, but they nearly always ask (unless they know each other well). It doesn’t seem at all creepy because it’s a community norm.
I think it’s generally an excellent system. Once you’ve asked a lot of people an occasional no* doesn’t hurt. And generally, people haven’t seemed offended when I’ve said no to them.
*It’s important to remember that no doesn’t necessarily mean “go away you creep.” Some people don’t enjoy hugs.
I do agree with everything you say here.
I say in another reply here that I’m a fan of reframing for active consent and opt-in. I don’t ask “can I give you a hug” for precisely the reasons you say.
If it’s not clear to me if we’re on hugging terms or not, then I assume we’re not. Cost to me if wrong about that = low.
If I have high confidence that we’re on hugging terms, but I don’t know if you feel like it right now, and I have high confidence that we’re on terms where asking this is ok, I’ll ask “would you like me to hug you?” That’s an implied “at this particular time”, and not used for escalating from non-hugging to hugging. If I have doubt on any of these points, I don’t ask. Cost to me if I’m wrong about that = low.
Perhaps it asks a lot in terms of social/people/communication skills to model if processing the question will be costly, or if the cost to them is high for me asking when perhaps I shouldn’t have. It doesn’t particularly seem so, to me.
TL;DR : costs to you in me asking when I shouldn’t are higher than the costs to me of not asking when it would’ve been ok. I’m ok with that asymmetry—privilege is profoundly asymmetric.
Indeed. Expected utility maximization (using a TDT-like decision theory so as to not defect in prisoners’ dilemmas), keeping in mind that one of the possible actions is gathering more information. We’re on Less Wrong after all.
It seems to me that if we update to be less creeped out by people asking for permission that we don’t end up granting, we will make it safer for people to ask for permission. This means that ① some people who might otherwise not hug, but whom we would like hugs from, might be more likely to ask and thence to hug; and ② some people who might hug without asking will instead ask and take no for an answer.
So, encouraging asking will get us ① more wanted hugs, and ② fewer unwanted hugs.
When it comes to hugging you can to ask nonverbally. You look at the person and open your arms in prepartion of the hug.
If the reciprote the gesture, you hug them. Otherwise you don’t.
I suppose that these rules could move someone from “creepy” to “extremely awkward”, which is probably an improvement. People never say no to “Would you like to talk to me?” or “You look kinda bored, do you want to continue this conversation?” (unless they take the latter to mean “I’m bored, go away”).
Refusals are always at least a little rude. True opt-in forms use implications (things like “I like bowling, too bad my friends don’t” vs “Want to go bowling?”), but they require social skills to generate and understand.
If someone asked me point blank “would you like to talk to me?” I would evaluate the answer to this question and provide it, and sometimes it would be no.
I will have to try that at a party now, just to see what kinds of reactions I get.
That sounds backwards to me: the former sounds like I really want to go play bowling with you, the latter (in certain contexts at least) like I’m just inviting you out for politeness’ sake but not actually expecting you to come.
I think either of them could be the more pushy one, depending on the context, intonation, etc.
Yes. OTOH, if you say the former in a context/intonation such that it doesn’t sound like an invitation at all, it kind of defeats the point.
Possibly off-topic for the top-level post, but I don’t agree opt-in requires implications or any great amount of social skills.
While this kind of advice seems useful, I do wish those articles you linked wouldn’t attempt to stay gender-neutral: many of our social norms are gender-specific, and describing them with minimal reference to gender is going to be inaccurate!
In addition to that, the gender ratio in this community and in many nerdy/geeky communities (open source, sci-fi fandom, atheism, etc.) means that a majority of the “creepiness problem” is going to be a guy creeping out a girl, and not some other combination—since that’s the kind of interaction that needs the most “fixing”, why not focus exclusively on it?
It’s nice to try to find a general rule that applies to many cases, but if you’re giving a talk to a bunch of people about to go camping and hiking in British Columbia, “How to avoid getting mauled to death by a Grizzly Bear” is more useful than “How to avoid large carnivores, like Tigers, Bears and Lions”.
Yes, but the gender-specific aspects vary from culture to culture, even within the First World. (Silly example: it is normal throughout Italy to greet a female friend by kissing her on the cheeks, but greeting a male friend that way is normal for some Italians, unusual for others—i.e. they only do that with close friends they haven’t seen in a while--, and almost unthinkable for others still.)
Sure! But the gender-invariant rules also vary from culture to culture.
(I’m French by the way, we have the same cheek-kissing as you italians, and I think neither of us hugs nearly as much as those weird Americans)
And “what creeps a person out” varies between cultures and also significantly within a culture.
I just wanted to say that I’m truly impressed: things are teetering a bit, but it’s been 24 hours and we still have a multifaceted conversation that hasn’t degenerated into a flamewar! On the Internet!
(In case anyone wondered, yes, I do like to tempt fate with statements like this—it’s no different from loudly announcing, “Nothing can stop me now!” at various intervals.)
I have seen several posts in LW where someone moderately informed in a field comes to us with (my paraphrase) “there are many flaws and mistakes being made here, and time spent dealing with issues that are actually well understood in the field; here are some high-value expert resources that will quickly level you up in this field so you can at least now make interesting and important mistakes, rather than repeating basic mistakes the whole field moved past”.
These have been universally well received (AFAIK) except for this one—and make no mistake, that’s exactly what the OP was.
I strongly suspect in any other topic area, the defensiveness, cached behaviours and confirmation bias abounding in many of the replies here would be called out for what it is.
I also suspect in any other topic area, any links presented as “read these to quickly level up” would in fact be read before the post is being argued with. I strongly suspect that is not the case here because, well, basic arguments are being made which are addressed and dealt with in the links (sometimes in the comments rather than in the OP).
Variations on “but if we did that, all of us would constantly be in trouble” are the main ones I’m thinking of there. Since I’m sure there’s a significant overlap of LW readers with SF fandom, many of you would also have seen this thoroughly dealt with in the Readercon debacle.
I suspect there is also a correlation here with approving of PUA and disapproving of anti-”creeper” measures, and am now fascinated by how we might confirm or deny that.
I, for one, have read these. They come up any time feminism rubs up against male geekdom, like blisters. Hopefully they do some help, but change is hard, and that’s just how social skills are: they’re skills, and acquiring them is and requires serious change on your part as a person.
This is obfuscated by other things, like hey, sometimes it is the other person’s problem. Not all the time. Maybe even only rarely. But sometimes. And the temptation to make that excuse for yourself is very strong, even if you do know better.
The defensiveness isn’t a good thing, but it’s certainly understandable, and if you’re part of the contrarian cluster, there’s going to be some instinctive, automatic pushback. I know there is in me. Plus the criticism is leveled at (one of) my (our) tribe. What did you think was going to happen?
Naively, I thought the LessWrong commitment to being, well, less wrong, would extend to all opportunities to be less wrong.
I know attempts to discuss privilege here have typically not gone well, which is a pity because I think there’s some good argument that privilege is itself a cognitive bias—a complex one, that both builds on and encourages development of others.
It’s not clear to me that privilege is a bias of its own, so much as aspects of privilege are examples of other biases, like availability bias.
I think the primary reason that attempts to discuss privilege don’t go well is because the quality of most thought on privilege is, well, not very good. People who volunteer to speak on the topic generally have strong enough opinions that they can’t help but moralize, which is something to resist whenever possible.
I think another problem with discussions of privilege is that they frequently sound as though some people (in the ways that they’re privileged) should have unlimited undefined obligations and other people (in the ways that they’re not privileged) should have unlimited social clout.
Or is that what you mean by moralizing?
I would love to see a discussion of privilege in terms of biases. Obvious ones include: attribution errors (fundamental & ultimate); system justification; outgroup homogeneity & ingroup superiority biases.
I hadn’t considered the availability heuristic but yes, that’s probably relevant too.
That’s actually a really interesting thought. I am white and male and straight and am very aware of my privilege, and also am very interested in heuristics and biases and how they are part of our thought patterns. I consider myself very much a feminist, and also a realist in terms of how people actually work compared with how people would like each other to work. I might brood on this for a bit and write about it.
This could be something that’s kicked around in Discussions for a while perhaps?
Related, I’d like to see defensiveness discussed through the lens of cognitive bias. It has wide impact; it can be improved; improving it likewise has wide impact on one’s life. I think it’s one of those meta-levels of improvement where upgrades significantly affect our ability to upgrade many other things.
There’s also the fundamental attribution error (“they’re not doing a good job because they’re just lazy”).
So do I, as long as it doesn’t start from the subtle assumption that men have privilege(s) while women don’t.
Of course, but you don’t get surprised when we turn out to be a bunch of apes after all.
The function of JoeW’s comment is not informing you “I put P(LWers behaving badly)<.05” but “If I remind LWers of a virtue they profess to like, they may alter their behavior to be more in line with that virtue.”
Well put. I lean towards the “requiring more of male geeks” side, but that’s a really good analysis.
Exactly. (Interestingly, the clash that led me to write that post had the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.)
I’m not a PUA expert by any means, but from what I’ve read of the field its approach is complex. On the one hand, it concerns itself extensively with not coming off as creepy, as that’s one of the easier ways to be profoundly unattractive. On the other, it acknowledges that building social skills entails a lengthy awkward phase while they’re being learned, wherein an aspiring PUA might inadvertently seem creepy, and encourages an aggressive approach during this phase in order to gain skill faster. Offhand I couldn’t say whether this approach inspires more or less lifetime creepy feelings than the alternative.
I’d model most of the PUA types I’ve read as being dismissive of at least some attempts to minimize creepy behavior on grounds of it trying to solve a wrong problem, but as being outright contemptuous of the behavior itself.
My experience of PUA memes for “improving success with women” is that they’re written by men, cast interaction in competitive terms, treat all the parties’ interests as zero sum, and their success relies on women having little or no agency and remaining that way.
I contrast that with intersectional social justice feminism, which is largely written by women, casts interaction in collaborative terms, rejects zero-sum framings, and its success relies on upgrading everyone’s agency & ability.
I also can’t help but think that if & when PUA works, its success inversely varies with a woman’s intelligence, self-awareness and rationality. The opposite is true with social justice feminism.
Your testimony thereof gives an overwhelming impression that your experience with such memes comes either exclusively from or is dominated by second hand sources who are themselves hostile to the culture.
Yes. (And dating advice for men written by women gets a different label.)
A significant aspect of it, at certain phases of courtship, yes.
This assumes that the will directing said agency does not wish to mate with or form a relationship with someone with the social skills developed by the PUA. As it happens the universe we live in enough people (and, I would even suggest most people) do prefer people with those skills
Those sound like noble ideals. It is plausible that there is a group of people who adhere to them. Did they come prepackaged with your prejudice or can you buy them separately?
I doubt that.
Social justice feminism is a strategy for attracting mates that can be compared in efficacy to skills developed with the active intent to attract said mates? That would be an impressive set of ideals indeed if true!
Mm, I agree I could know PUA better than I do. You’re under no obligation to educate me, of course, but if you had a few links you thought exemplary for PUA at its best, I’d be much obliged.
I’m finding (scholarly, thoughtful) critiques of PUA and the seduction community from a feminist social justice perspective, but in case they’re attacking PUA at its worst. I’ll do some reading. I’m concentrating on inside-view critiques from people well versed in PUA techniques and the seduction community, there are some good links out there.
Putting this as charitably as possible, even if in fact there is nothing misogynistic or unjust in PUA, there is a vast amount of feminist distrust of it, and PUA doesn’t seem to have responded well to those critiques (or even particularly to think they need to be responded to, as far as I can tell).
PUA is probably too far off-topic for this post and I’m willing to continue this elsewhere (Discussions?) or let it drop for now.
Here are a few quick counterexamples to your comments about zero-sum, lack of agency, lack of response to feminism, etc::
I think these should be sufficient to provide a shift in your opinion regarding what the field of “PUA” includes, even if you view these schools of thought as isolated examples. (They aren’t the only such schools, of course; they just happen to be ones it was easy for me to find representative links for.)
See also Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, a substantial overview of different sorts of PUA, a woman’s experiences exploring the PUA subcultures, and some theory on the subject.
Has anyone read the book?
She picks up on something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I’ve seen (and LW is almost the only place that I’ve seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.
That is actually a good way of stating the difference between the material that I don’t like, vs. the material I do. People who focus on the zero-sum aspects of mating and dating (i.e. both inter- and intra-gender competition) seem, well, creepy to me.
I suppose those folks might write off my concerns as simply saying they’re displaying low status by focusing on those aspects, but I think the real issue, as you state, is simply that they seem to live in a universe where nobody likes anybody or has any positive intentions, and people who think otherwise are all just signalling or deluded. It’s like if HP:MoR’s Professor Quirrel was giving relationship classes!
(Luckily, this is not a universal characteristic of PUA theory, as Soporno and AMP demonstrate.)
[Edit: brain fart—I wrote “non-zero sum” when I meant “zero sum”]
Non-zero sum? I’m not sure that’s the issue.
In theory, I think it would be possible to have an alliance-building PUA model of relationships, and it would still be Quirrelesque.
HughRistik had a different list of benign elements in PUA, I think—but have any of the benign styles shown up at LW?
I’m not sure whether this is relevant, but it took me a while to put what bothers me about PUA as I’ve seen it into words, and longer than that to pull together the nerve to post about it.
I agree; it’s just a symptom. “A universe where no one likes anybody” is a much better summation.
Define “shown up”.
Appeared with sufficient force to make an impression.
This is admittedly subjective (and probably incomplete—I don’t read everything at LW), but what I saw was probably mid-range PUA—neither grossly misogynistic nor obviously benign—combined with claims that there are excellent elements in PUA and I shouldn’t stereotype it by its worst.
The stuff that’s particularly benign in PUA is also the stuff that PUA has no monopoly on.
But yeah, I think that the true rejection is just how Quirrel-ish it is. Not harmful, not unprincipled, but just how it seems to be written for the sake of sexytimes alone.
Reading the book now. I’m certainly less anti-PUA than I was before I started reading it., and I have much more sympathy for the guys who join the seduction community than I used to.
She picks up on something I find off-putting about much of the PUA material I’ve seen (and LW is almost the only place that I’ve seen PUA material). It seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anybody.
It was written by a Less Wronger. I’m not sure whether that’s ironic or not.
I read and enjoyed it.
Thank you, I’ll take a look.
EDIT: Have read those links several times and digested them over the last few days. I am poking at why the third one bothers me (I think it’s the “it’s in their nature” statement).
Certainly the first two are good counter-examples to my earlier impressions. Thank you again.
Why would they find that worth their time?
Agree and my own reaction took this a step further—I was glad to hear that JoeW, as someone who seems to affiliate with people politically opposed to PUA, got the impression that the PUA community felt no obligation to engage or respond. I would have thought less of the community if it did.
PUAs are not political activists. They are people who enjoy, practice and develop a specific set of skills with a specific purpose. Their comparative advantage really isn’t in engaging in moral and political debate to convince others that they deserve respect, acceptance or special treatment. Moreover acting as if you need to justify yourself (or your group) to others already represents a significant loss of standing. That is one aspect of politics in general that PUAs should be expected to be familiar with, since it overlaps so much with the rules of the social game that they are dedicated to mastering.
(This is different from simply explaining their own personal ethical values completely divorced from any reference to external critics and in terms of conveying information rather than giving excuse. That is something that PUA-instructor types seem to enjoy doing.)
[boggled] Isn’t that what we’re all doing here at LW? Arguing and justifying our arguments? Did you just lower your standing with your justification? At time of writing I see quite the reverse.
LW is a freakishly abnormal social setting, even for internet fora. Most people here care more about figuring out what’s true than winning arguments. This is unique in my experience of the internet. “facts” are not the primary use case for language., social politics are.
Good points, thank you.
If someone justifies their request for me to justify my personal choices, I may do so. However, generally speaking, justifying one’s choices is a super low-status move and requesting (or, more frequently, demanding) justification is a high-status move.
Justification of belief, although having status connotations, can usually be treated differently.
I wish I’d graduated from the Cooperative Conspiracy before attempting these arguments. :)
Yes, I see what you say and agree. Updating.
What’s the downside?
Adopting PUA techniques and values: arguably improves sex and/or relationship outcomes with some women. Visibly adopting and affiliating with PUA: definitely worsen sex and/or relationship outcomes with some (other but not wholly disjoint set of) women.
Addressing those perceptions might offset some of the latter (certain) penalty, and it’s not clear to me that it would come at any reduction to the former (possible) bonus.
I’m still reading the “PUA at its best” links so I don’t know enough to say how costly this approach is. Perhaps you’re saying you think it’s better to cut your losses, completely give up on any women alienated by PUA and focus on those who don’t notice or don’t care?
Time and effort spent are a very real costs as is opportunity cost.
I’m not sure why women who are alienated by PUA would be off the table as potential romantic partners. I’m sure it has a cost, but I’m not sure the kind of person who sough out PUA in the first place doesn’t still have better odds using game and paying the price, rather than doing what he would have done before.
I’m sceptical of claims that PUA being practised in the wild is easy to spot. To bring in ancedotes from my social life, I’ve had both false positives and negatives when guessing which strangers (later acquaintances and friends) where running game and which had never heard of it.
I’ve had very positive experience talking to my gfs about game as I see and practice it (sprinkled with general Hansonian observations about status and behaviour), they are very interested and often talk to me about it. One became very enthusiastic to the point of reading the same gaming blogs as I do and reporting gossip in the jargon, which makes it almost fun to listen to. Not to mention the opportunity for great inside jokes. :)
I think it made communication about desire, sexuality, socialization and relationships easier. Maybe I would be even better off if I hadn’t shared this interest or didn’t have it in the first place, but I don’t think that is the case.
That was my question though, albeit not stated so clearly: is it really an opportunity cost?
Does fetishising intelligence, sex positivity, communicative effectiveness, intersectional social justice, and active informed consent really turn off mainstream conventional women? Serious question; I seldom have relationships or sex outside that constellation of characteristics.
The thing is convincing people on the internet about something is very different from talking to people in your personal life.
I’m just wondering what is intersectional social justice? I found it challenging to unpack the meaning behind the words used in the wikipedia article. Please try to idiot proof the explanation in accordance with this while retaining as much accuracy as possible.
It’s not your fault: the wikipedia article is gobbledygook. The TL;DR version is that discriminated outgroups (classified by gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability etc. etc.) should want to cooperate among each other, since mitigating discrimination and socially systemic ingroup bias is in fact a common interest shared by all of them.
Oh my, I hadn’t read that Wiki page, that’s not very useful no.
The answer from bogus doesn’t seem incorrect to me, but it seems incomplete. It’s not just a call for cooperation but for rejecting single-issue reductionism, which fails to address (sufficiently or at all) matters such as relative privilege (e.g. women of colour face additional issues that white women do not) or situational privilege (localised exceptions to more global privilege divisions, such as some public health policies discriminating against men.
The claim is engaging in any one issue of social justice without considering the others alienates allies due to hypocrisy (e.g. where relative privilege recapitulates inequalities in wider society). First-wave feminism has been heavily criticised for being a feminism of middle-class educated white women, for instance, just as 1970s sexuality movements have been criticised for being largely run by white men.
TL;DR might be “utility functions take more than one argument” and “don’t burn your allies—you’ll also burn yourself”.
This is interesting—neither bogus’ nor JoeW’s definition of intersectionality exactly matches what I’d picked up from reading Racefail and the like.
I think of intersectionality as acknowledging that people have multiple traits, some of which give social advantages and some of which give social disadvantages. Having an advantage in one way doesn’t take away the disadvantage in another, and vice versa. Furthermore, people are not required to choose a single identity based on one trait.
I have never seen situational privilege mentioned before. I thought that if people had a trait that was usually privileged, they were just supposed to endure any mistreatment they received for it.
Would anyone happen to know the history of the adoption of the idea of intersectionality? I’m willing to bet that it was a hard fight, but I’m guessing.
That’s not actually a standard norm—one thing worth noting is that when you look at the recent history of online SJ, what you’re seeing is the proliferation of terms, tactics, ideas and theoretical frameworks from the last century, in a variety of contexts, suddenly become very visible and popular. Lots of people are discovering it, and in many cases what took decades or longer to develop in some groups is being adopted wholesale by people who are often familiar with summaries, or a few key texts.
A lot of people are finding it very empowering. Those people are not especially more likely to have deep insight, uncommon empathy, or a very broad view of the world than anyone else. This means they’re going to be doing all the things people do in addition to talk about SJ, when talking about SJ.
Yes, this does mean some will be bullies, and sometimes whole groups will endorse that, essentially because in the process of bullying the person is also saying stuff they agree with, that they find empowering, and that is widely deprecated in society in general (often in ways that cause them tangible harm).
The trick is that bully-detection can run afoul of a related, but not similarly-pathological phenomenon. I wanna unpack this a little more because it’s kind of complicated, and how well you see or agree that there’s a distinction is often dependent on your own social values. It goes like this:
Some people have set up spaces to discuss some element of their experience in a SJ context—say, a blog that deals with racism in popular culture, posted online. While technically anyone can access it if they know the URL, the blog is not written so as to be maximally-understandable to the widest cross-section of possible audiences. This is fine—this is no different than discussing biology or astronomy publicly despite the sheer number of people who’d feel it was controversial to assert certain facts about evolution or cosmology, or who just don’t know much about the topic.
People who aren’t very knowledgeable about the topic, or have issues with it being discussed as a factual matter at all, may discover the blog and the discussion going on there. When they do, they’ll often attempt to participate in the discussion from their own starting point, and when the immediate responses don’t satisfy them, they’ll keep pushing at it.
Thing is, it is really, emphatically not up to the bloggers or the commentators to bring them up to speed. It just isn’t—yes, education is important, yes communicating your point persuasively to outsiders is an important skill, but we don’t expect the journal Nature to give everybody a basic, elementary-level understanding of physics before talking about the latest interesting results out of $LABORATORY. There’s nothing especially wrong with pointing that out; doing so confrontationally might not seem very polite, but politeness may not actually be warranted either, as it’ll merely encourage the person to keep demanding time and attention the folks there want for doing what it was they got together to do in the first place.
Explaining that this is not the place to come to be educated, or that it’s not something they’re volunteering to do, is seldom easy or productive to do gently. The goal is to get the person to stop trying to participate in a discussion they’re derailing. Social and communication norms will play a big part in how that’s phrased, too. It may be anything from arm’s-length polite to trollish depending on the community and the individual involved. The common factor is that the purpose of communication on this topic is to end the discussion, which is consuming scarce resources of time, attention and energy.
Every time I touch the social justice core community, I wish I hadn’t. I can read some of it without exploding, and I have some friends from it who I can talk to without wanting to smack them, but the central community is toxic. It’s not just about 101 spaces needing to be a separate thing; it’s negative-sum echo chambers. Here’s a recent example of someone biting me (skim post for context, search my name for my comment, the blogger’s reply is two down).
What’s the central community? I wasn’t aware SJ had one. Certainly given the strife between its disparate elements, I’d be a little surprised if one existed.
Well-known feminist/antiracist bloggers and well-trafficked parts of tumblr are most of what I’m thinking about. There’s plenty of infighting (that’s what makes it negative sum); that doesn’t mean it’s not a category I can point at.
You know that doesn’t even add up to internet-famous, right? This is not the center of anything—just the slice of it most visible to you.
Imagine I used some other word, then. (Other slices are also visible to me, but they are less popular, and do not make me angry.)
I agree with Alicorn and NancyLebovitz that “social justice” discourse on the internet often suffers from echo-chambers and affective death spirals which give it an overall impression of being extremely phyg-ish and vulnerable to all sorts of biases and limited cognition.
The silver lining is that these detrimental features also eliminate its potential of exerting any kind of adverse influence on real-world politics and society. This is why I encourage people to refrain from commenting as “outsiders” on such blogs, so as to save their limited time and effort.
Why, it’s almost like LessWrong.
Heh. I take it you’ve been reading RationalWiki again.
(Edited to add: I regret having to explain the joke, but anyway: the obvious difference between the rationalist and SJ cmmunities is that the rationalist community is equipped with the proper cognitive tools and social norms for dealing with phyg-like tendencies, whereas social justice groups—broadly understood—are not. This marks a big difference between the two—which incidentally explains why I do find it at least marginally worthwhile to participate in LW. Equating these two situations really is not that different from what RationalWiki states in its LessWrong page: the denotation is broadly correct—the article may well be a useful sanity check for LW users—but the connotation is arguably very misleading.)
EDIT: Y’know what, actually, forget snippy replying back to the snip. What I find damn fascinating about this reply is that the suggestion that any of those labels might apply here immediately prompted a guess at which Other Tribe I must be secretly infiltrating from.
I think that says a lot.
To me this reads more as rationalist cheering than as a good argument in favor of LW social norms. Yes, we’ve generally got a good opinion of LW culture around here—that’s why we’re posting here rather than on, say, Tiger Beatdown. But that’s hardly surprising.
What are the specific norms and cognitive tools that make the LW community so well equipped, and where’s the evidence that we’re actually implementing them successfully? If we don’t have a good answer to that, we shouldn’t be making the claim.
You may want to refer to EY’s article about Guardians of Ayn Rand. Objectivists may have been “rationalists” in some sense, but did they ever claim to have good cognitive and social tools against phyg-ishness? Of course they didn’t, because they expended no effort on developing such tools, and coming up with tools or successfully applying them conferred no status benefits within their social group. Do you spot the difference now? Good, it’s nice that we’re clearing this up.
I agree that we should not be focusing too much (or at all) on this particular claim about ourselves, as a matter of basic epistemic hygiene: as LW insiders, we should fear and alieve that we really are being too phyg-ish, as opposed to not phyg-ish at all. Nonetheless, there are exceptions—such as when a naïve comparison is drawn between LessWrong and garden-variety social and political movements. At some point, it really becomes important to set the record straight.
Depends how wide your scope is. It’s fairly rare for groups to use the cult terminology (my impression is that LW developed its vocabulary in that area mainly thanks to early accusations of being a personality cult centered on EY; consider Two Cult Koans). But it’s quite common for groups to identify as “the non-clique clique”, to borrow a phrase from a recent conversation: that’s an identity shared by all of Objectivism, LW rationality, and most strains of social justice. Their methods for attempting that status vary, but all indications are that it’s a hard problem, which is exactly why we should wait on data before making any strong claims about our methodology.
As to Objectivism specifically, my knowledge of the group is limited to Rand’s writings, but she seems to have been under the impression that what she saw as rigorous axiomatization would be enough to prevent the pitfalls of ideology. She put a huge amount of effort into streamlining her philosophy along those lines, far more than we’ve put into combating happy death spirals and the affect heuristic directly. In retrospect that was clearly a bad approach, but in her own context it wasn’t obviously so; it seemed to have worked for mathematics, after all, which was making huge strides around when she was writing.
Unfortunately, “the non-clique clique” is vulnerable to outgroup-homogeneity and related biases. It’s all too easy to think that they are a clique with simplistic views, wereas we (our own tribe) are a diverse group with a variety of opinions and well-argued viewpoints. It’s not clear that this adds anything in terms of basic hygiene.
I assume that Objectivism was not in fact the first known attempt at “rigorous axiomatized” philosophy—so the outside view should’ve been fairly clear, even at the time. Besides, it’s not clear what you (or perhaps Rand herself) mean by “ideology”: informally, rigorous axiomatization seems to be a recipe for absolute-sounding, black-and-white statements. Is it really plausible that this would not be understood at the time?
Which is exactly my point. Everyone thinks this, and most of them are wrong. What I’m hoping for is some data point that suggests, from the outside view, that our approach of focusing on the underlying heuristics and biases is more effective at preventing actual affective death spirals than Rand’s axiomatization or SJ’s focus on symptoms. Once again, knowledge of bias isn’t well correlated with reduction of bias, and there’s very little consistency here in actual epistemic hygiene practice. The minicamps might have data, but I’m not involved in those.
Rand was looking for absolute-sounding statements; indeed, she was looking for absolute statements, things you could treat as theorems and therefore wouldn’t need to worry about bias in. It’s not too far wrong to describe Objectivism as an attempt to axiomatize political philosophy (and to a lesser extent other branches of philosophy, though her attempts at these were much weaker) along mathematical lines. This had been tried before (I believe Leibniz took a whack at it), but not successfully, and not famously.
It still seems to add up to that I (as a white person) am supposed to show unlimited patience. Also, the sort of anger you’re describing doesn’t just show up against people who show up in a dedicated online group which isn’t interested in doing 101 yet another time.
Recent example—gender issues, not race.
In what context? Nobody said you had to participate in the discussion, right? Is it vitally important that you be there, having that conversation with those people?
I...said that, yeah. I said that first, in fact. That was the first part of my post, before the other thing...
Ah, thank you, you’ve just crystalised some thoughts for me.
I think my definition of intersectional social justice now includes explicit precommitment to bypassing & minimising defensiveness. It’s as valued, encouraged and sought after as bypassing & minimising irrational biases are here.
Your comment prompted this when I realised that for me, external calls for me to get past my defensiveness cause very similar frustration to when I feel like I’m being told to be more patient/tolerant/self-effacing than I think is reasonable. It may be that it works similarly for you and others, too.
More specifically, no, no-one is supposed to show unlimited patience; minorities do not automatically “win” (qv. situational & relative privilege, plus lack of privilege does not confer a magical anti-jerk field). However we are all asked to do the work in acknowledging any defensiveness and its downstream reactions & responses.
I have other early ideas about defensiveness as a cognitive bias, too. :)
I like to think about Kyriarchy more than about intersectionality
Some of these, yes. PUA makes it easier to connect with women who have no preference for thinking about sex/sexuality—or even gender relations—in such active and overt terms.
Well, I really don’t see much hope for bridging the gap between pro- and anti-PUA camps on this board; both positions are already entrenched, and large portions of both sides have adopted the other as a Hated Enemy with whom no rational dialogue can be maintained. It’s not a battle I’m interested in fighting; besides, that battle’s already been fought. Several times. To no productive effect.
Speaking as someone who’s fairly familiar with both sides yet identifies with neither, though, I think they have more in common than they’re willing to admit. There’s a great deal of adversarial framing going on, yes, to the point where you’ve got people like Heartiste who’ve built their reputations on it. But both sides are basically trying to advocate for greater agency and fulfillment within their scope and among their constituents, which sounds like a great opportunity for intersectionality if I’ve ever heard one. As to zero-sum framing—well, “leave her better than you found her” is a well-known, and fairly mainstream, PUA catchphrase.
If I’m going to demonize anything here, this unspeakably stupid war-of-the-sexes model seems like by far my best target.
I think that to the extent we have a conflict between “pro-PUA” and “anti-PUA” camps on LW, most of the conflict consists simply in deciding whether to cheer “yay PUA” or “boo PUA”, and, relatedly, what specific memes to treat as central to the PUA memeplex. I suspect that if people were asked to endorse or repudiate specific pieces of concrete social advice, there’d be a lot less disagreement than there is over “yay PUA” or “boo PUA”.
“What specific memes to treat as central” is very important part. I would say this is the part where many memetic wars are won or lost.
If you allow pro-X people to design the official definition of X, every time you use the definition you automatically provide applause lights to X. If you allow anti-X people to design the official definition of X, every time you use the definition you automacally provide boo lights to X.
A typical pro-X definition of X is something like: “X is a movement of people who want happiness and cookies for everyone”. Far-mode applause lights; omitting the controversial details.
A typical anti-X definition of X is something like: “X is a movement containing evil low-status people (here are some extreme examples)”.
For any group consisting of humans, you can create both definitions, and then pro-X and anti-X people will disagree on which definition is the correct one. The group more successful in popularizing their message has essentially already won.
I’d love to see Yvain’s blog post you linked turned into a top-level LW post. I found it more elucidating that the Worst Argument in the World post, say.
At the very least this doesn’t seem to be clearly the case. To the extent this is an unstable property influenced by social norms, approved claiming of more certainty than actually present pushes the norms towards establishing that property more strongly. Since what you describe is a bad property (“no rational dialogue can be maintained”), I disapprove of the claim of certainty you’ve made.
Interesting perspective. I think the grandparent should make it fairly clear that I disapprove of this state of affairs and feel that entrenched members of both camps are, at best, wasting their time; on the other hand, I also feel that most of the cultural mass of the problem is out of our hands. This isn’t an endogenous squabble of LW’s; it’s a wider cultural dispute that just tends to instantiate itself here because of our demographic placement (and our taste for metacontrarianism). And since for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to partake of our norm of political detachment, I think we’ll have a very hard time with it unless and until the conventional wisdom shifts one way or another.
I could be wrong. I hope I am.
I actually taught my girlfriend some of the PUA stuff so that she’s better at seducing me! (with success)
I hope that doesn’t make me any of those things :p
Furthermore, PUA often seems very focused on specifically-sexualized enviroments in which nobody is actually speaking directly (A particular sort of high-class Los Angeles nightclub seems to be the original target) and really ruthlessly optimizing.
Plus wayyyyyyyy too much Dark Arts.
I’m sorry, do you have actual evidence that reading Yet Another List of Don’ts will “quickly level you up” in this field? Or that the TC is an expert? Or that they are even high-value resources? Can you identify even one person that has (as you put it) gained a few levels from these resources?
Being extremely doubtful of this parallel you’ve made, I can’t buy your claim that this is being treated differently.
I saw the main gains of the top post being the links. I don’t agree that the links contain only “don’ts”… but, well, so what if they did? If there are clumsy don’ts as routine mistakes, learning to recognise and avoid them is surely an improvement?
As these aren’t academic peer-reviewed articles, I can’t give you objective evidence in the form of citations and impact measures. What sort of metrics could one provide that would make them more convincingly expert? If these aren’t the best experts available I too would like to know who is better so as to learn more.
If you’re saying you’ll accept anecdotes as weak evidence, then yes, I am one data point there. :) Comments particularly on the pervocracy and Captain Awkward links contain other such claims.
As many have said—both here, and perhaps ironically, in many of those links too—it’s more productive to focus on behaviours rather than on labels for people. “Creeper” is a very laden term, probably very similar to “racist”—most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as someone with all the imputed characteristics of those labels, and we get defensive.
When I started being able to focus on behaviours (my own and others’), I recognised a number of ways in which my own biases, ignorance and negligence were costing me flawless victories in many social & business settings. This is why I wonder why there’s so much pushback, as the upgrades in general communication/social/people skills from a good reading of privilege and social justice are useful everywhere.
Rationality & intelligence should win, right? If smart women with better people skills than us have specific practical advice, how can we lose by listening carefully and bypassing our defensiveness? Even if only 1% of it were useful, don’t you want that 1%? I do.
For the reason I gave earlier: the weird stuff happens because they don’t know what the superior option is, not because they’re under the impression that it was a great idea all along. Moreover, to borrow from EY’s felicitous phrasing, non-wood is not a building material, non-selling-apples is not a business plan, and non-hugs-without-asking is not a social adeptness enhancement method.
you should probably avoid implying that they met such a standard with a statement like:
I accept anecdotes as weak evidence. I accept self-reports as weak(er) evidence. I do not, however, accept that this evidence suffices given the strength of your claim (and confidence in it), nor do I accept the comparison to the other articles you mentioned.
These are good points, and I don’t have great answers to them.
My weak answer is that in a field that isn’t well represented in peer-reviewed academic journals, we still have to sift it by some measures. I agree self-reports are close to worthless—we could find self-reports extolling the virtues of astrology and homeopathy.
My other weak answer is that Elevator-Gate and responses to the discussion of forming a Humanist+ community make it abundantly clear that the atheist/rationalist movement is widely perceived by a lot of smart women as both passively a horrible place to be and actively hostile to anyone who says so. I haven’t tried exhaustive online searches but I’m not finding even 1% of the same data volumes from women saying they find atheist/rationalist space actively attractive because of these attitudes.
I like your point about non-wood, but if someone tells you you are stepping on their foot, non-stepping-on-feet probably does need to figure prominently in your short term decision tree.
(Great link, it’s short, it’s to the point.)
If someone is routinely stepping on feet, it would make more sense to find out why, and offer non-destructive ways of accomplishing that. For example, if they’re stepping on feet to get attention, then offering the general rule of “don’t step on feet” is just setting yourself up to write an unending list of articles about ”… or lift people in the air”, ”… or play airhorns”, ”...or dress as a clown”, etc.
(And I know, “you’re not obligated to fix other people’s problems”, but once you’ve decided to go that route, you should take into account which methods are most effective, and “don’t [do this specific failure mode]” isn’t it.)
I find I agree with everything you’ve said, yet I’m still wondering what happens to the poor person whose foot has been stood on.
Perhaps I’m just restating and agreeing with “no obligation to fix others”, but the comments in the CaptainAwkward link address this specifically: the approach you describe still makes the person transgressing boundaries the focus of our attention and response. I find that caring about why someone routinely steps on feet is quite low on my list, and (perhaps this is my main point) something I’m only willing to invest resources in once they (1) stop stepping on people’s feet and (2) agree and acknowledge they shouldn’t be stepping on feet.
I’m also a bit skeptical of the idea you peripherally touch on, but we’re seeing in a lot of the comments in this post, that avoiding the “creeper” equivalent on stepping on toes is a tough bar to clear and is unfair to ask of someone with deficits in social/people/communication skills. I think it’s very telling that such people seldom seem to get into boundary-related trouble with anyone they recognise as more powerful than them (law enforcement; airport security; workplace bosses).
There was that study about (average, neurotypical) men’s supposed deficits in reading indirect communication compared to women that found that it’s basically rubbish—they can do it when they think they have to, and they don’t with women because they think they don’t have to. (Link is to non-academic summary, but has the links to the journal articles.)
I’m wandering well past your point here but you reminded me of this. :)
Certainly, if your main priority is stopping this behavior, that affects how your respond to it. But once you’ve decided to write articles telling the creeps how to act at events, and the advice is something other than “never go to events, just be alone”, then I think you need to offer advice more than “don’ts”.
And so if you’ve closed off the “they should just go away” route, then I think you have no choice but to offer solutions that avoid having to write the infinite list of articles about ”… or dance Irish jigs at random, either”. And that means saying what to do right.
I’ve never suggested that. That is an easy bar to clear indeed. My point is that clearing every such bar without positive advice (about what to do rather than not do) is hard. And so, again, you can certainly take the “who cares if they just never come at all?” approach, but since these articles don’t go that way, they have to do better than “don’ts”.
How is that relevant to the non-neurotypical creep type we’re concerned about here?
I am willing to attempt a separate Discussion post that attempts to put together specific, practical, measurable “do this (and here’s why)” techniques from a rationalist approach. (Or as close as possible; there won’t be a lot of peer-reviewed scholarly research here, but there is some.)
If there’s interest in this, I’d welcome assistance and critiques. I’m not stonewalling but I’m feeling we’ve wandered a bit too far from the OP.
I’m not saying either way which it is, but if only 1 percent is useful, that doesn’t mean the other 99 percent is neutral. It could very well be BAD.
Mm, that’s fair. I don’t think anything should be taken uncritically.
I agree with you that the socially awkward among us could reap large benefits by implementing these “anti-creeper measures”. That’s because we live in a society where such “creepy” behaviors are deemed unacceptable, and in order to fit into a society, one has to follow that society’s norms.
However, I think many people on this thread have a problem with these norms existing, and that’s what they’re upset about; they’d like to combat these social norms instead of acquiescing to them. And I can certainly see why a rationalist might be opposed to these norms. The idea of “creepiness” seems to be a relatively new social phenomenon, and since it emerged, people have gotten much more conscious about avoiding being “creepy”. Most of the discussion in the comments has been about unwanted physical contact, but another part of creepiness is unwanted verbal communication. Social norms seem to cater increasingly to the oversensitive and easily offended; instead of asking oversensitive people to lighten up a bit, we often go out of our way to avoid saying things that will offend people. And of course, any social norm that prevents people from communicating their beliefs and opinions honestly is contrary to the goals of the rationalist movement. It may then be of interest to rationalists to fight this increase in sensitivity by encouraging open discussion, and discouraging taking offense.
Of course, to actually change social norms, we would first have to infiltrate society, which requires gaining basic competence in social skills, even ones we disagree with.
It isn’t clear to me that the connotations of “oversensitive” as it’s used here are justified. Some people suffer, to greater or lesser degrees, in situations that I don’t. That doesn’t necessarily make them oversensitive, or me insensitive.
There are some things we, as a culture, are more sensitive to now than our predecessors were. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I don’t believe a rational person, in a situation where honesty causes suffering, necessarily prefers to be honest.
All of that said, I certainly support discouraging people from suffering, given the option. And I support discouraging people from claiming to suffer when they don’t. But I don’t support encouraging people to keep their mouths shut when they suffer. And I suspect that many social structures that ostensibly do the former in reality do the latter.
What the whuh? Perhaps the label is new (though I find that implausible too), but I really don’t think the behaviour as an observed phenomenon is. What do you base your statement on?
Hmm, I think I meant that the label is new, as well as the increased social consciousness of creepiness. A couple years ago, I realized that at my college, the two things everyone wanted to avoid being were “awkward” and “creepy”. I could tell because people would preface comments with “this is super awkward, but” or “I don’t mean to come across as creepy, but”. Usually, the comments would be anything but awkward or creepy, but prefacing the comment does a couple of useful things:
The speaker safeguards himself against being judged by anyone who might possibly find the comment awkward/creepy, or on the threshold of awkward/creepy. If he knows that he’s being awkward/creepy, at least no one will think he’s so socially maladjusted that he’s doing it by accident.
The speaker demonstrates that she’s not awkward/creepy. I mean, if she’s worried about a comment as innocuous as /that/ being perceived as awkward/creepy, she’s certainly not going to do anything /actually/ awkward/creepy!
The conspicuous self-consciousness and constant safeguarding against awkward/creepiness always annoyed me, so I’m likely responding to that as much as I’m responding to the content of this thread.
EDIT: Maybe I’m completely misinterpreting the social situation. Maybe in the past, people were unable to express anything potentially awkward/creepy for fear of being seen as such. And maybe the increased social consciousness and explicit prefacing allow people to discuss ideas or opinions that they previously wouldn’t have been able to say aloud at all.
You’re just asserting that your preferred level of sensitivity is better than other people’s higher preferred level. You call them “oversensitive and easily offended”, which assigns your preferences an apparently objective or otherwise special status, but you don’t give a reason for this. What reason does anyone else have to go along with your preferences instead of their own?
What reason does lucidian have to go with their preference level instead of his own.
I’m not saying he has any such reason. But neither does anyone else have a reason to go along with his preferences.
Well, the OP was about the first and not the second.
Actually society mostly has no problem at all with these behaviours, which is why the creeper memes flourish. The success of high-status creepers critically relies on this.
But if I grant you your point, I’m reading what you say as the benefit of not being a creeper is conformity with supposed anti-creeper norms. Is that what you meant? Because if so, er, I would have thought the benefits of not being a creeper were the upgrades from no longer seeing women chiefly (or solely) as mating opportunities.
The links above do not strike me as good advice. For people with sufficiently low social skills, the only way to follow the advice above is to never interact with anyone ever (i.e. it is easy to fail the eye contact test if you do not know how to initiate conversations, or if you happen to hang out with a group that does not make eye contact often, something which is particularly common among nerdier folk). Furthermore, one can break some of these rules and yet still be non-creepy; never following a group along when they go to do something is a recipe for meeting many fewer people, and not necessary to avoid creepiness if you are decent at interpreting social cues. I therefore do not think the parallel you are drawing is a valid one.
As a further point, the post on weight-lifting a while back was not well-received, despite being more correct than this post. What is has in common with this post is a lack of citations back to reputable-seeming sources (such citations definitely do not guarantee the correctness of a post, so I am not claiming this to be good grounds for discrimination, but am pointing it out as a difference).
ETA: I have no strong opinions on PUA, I think decreasing creepiness is a good thing, but I don’t think that these are great resources for doing so. I definitely got something out of them—for instance, an outside view awareness of the different responses that men and women tend to have when a man is creeping on a woman—but it is hard to endorse the advice given in aggregate.
Do you have better advice to give?
For someone with low social skills, who has been told that their behaviour is making other people uncomfortable, maybe the correct course of action is not to continue those behaviours until they have improved their social skills sufficiently to be able to do them without making other people uncomfortable.
Because what’s the alternative? Asking people to put up with X’s behaviour that makes them feel creeped out, because “Oh dear X can’t help it, they have poor social skills.” ?
If you think that is your best course of action, then by all means follow it. That wasn’t the point I was trying to make (like I said, I think decreasing creepiness is a good thing). Although I would suggest that if you really want to improve social skills, you can do much better by reading Luke’s post on romance and accompanying references. Also, by reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. Take this with a grain of salt as I haven’t read the books myself but am mainly going off of skimming the subject matter. (You may wonder why something on romance matters for non-creepiness; it’s not as directly related as I would like, but creepiness is essentially the result of unwanted sexual advances, which can be as implicit as a guy showing inordinately high amounts of attention towards a girl that is not attracted to him.)
The point I was trying to make was that this post would be analogous to the situation where, say, Luke or Yvain were to write a post that was substantially and obviously technically incorrect, but such that following the advice in that post was better than not doing anything. I therefore disagree with JoeW’s claim that poor reception towards this post indicates sexism (although there are plenty of comments elsewhere in this thread that do indicate sexism, or at least extreme social naievete, as well as plenty of comments coming from poorly-thought-out feminist positions; there are also plenty of comments that indicate not sexism but a valid critique of the poorly-thought-out feminist positions, as well as well-thought-out feminist positions; the story is not as black-and-white as most are trying to make it out to be, and there is plenty of noise and bias to go around).
You are looking at this as being advice aimed at the person being creepy, and evaluating whether the information in the links would be practical at helping them improve their social skills.
Have you considered it from the perspective of it being aimed at someone who is uncertain about the validity of their feeling there is something wrong in a group, and whether the information in the links would help them identify the problem and confirm to them that it is actually a problem that they do have a right to have addressed?
Ah, I misinterpreted your original comment and did not realize you were the OP. Re-reading the top-level post, I now realize that you did in fact intend this to be aimed not just at the perpetrators but at the community as a whole.
I now feel slightly confused about something, but it’s hard to point to what exactly. So instead of trying to figure it out, let me just re-iterate that I approve of the point that if anyone feels uncomfortable it is the group’s responsibility to fix that. I also approve of global over local (i.e. this person is here to hang out with all the other people here, not for my sole benefit). I suspect that a large portion of the people on this thread would also approve of both of these. The issue seems to be more the part where the links are also framed as social advice, where I now (I think?) see that they were not intended as such, but instead as a set of restraints to place on someone who is burning the commons.
I am probably at fault for this, but I did not understand any of that until I reread the OP. I interpreted it in the context of intended social advice. If other people did as well, I think that explains some of the reactions (but not all of them—I think some of it results from having previously had bad experiences with feminist memespace, in the same way that some of the anti-FAI / anti-SingInst discussion results from having had bad experiences with the FAI/SingInst memespace). If it is not too late, your cause may be helped by unambiguously reframing it in the way you intended (if I am correct about what you intended).
I wasn’t sure of the etiquette about editing top level posts.
I’ve now added a clarification to the end of the post. Thank you for the suggestion.
You want to give people that are acting creepy advice that it’s at least slightly in their interest to follow, otherwise they will ignore it.
ADBOC to the first link in this context — its tone is appropriate if the target audience is unrepentant creepers who need to be shamed into shaping up*, but as advice to random people who may or may not behave creepily, it feels way too aggressive, like it’s presuming guilt. (The third link, on the other hand, is great tone-wise.)
* A narrower category than “people who behave creepily some of the time”.
** Not that I would expect it to work well; most people wouldn’t consider the author a moral authority who’s entitled to shame them. Behavior modification is hard.
Not a moral authority for most people who might stumble upon the post, sure, but I would guess that Scalzi is a reasonable facsimile of such of person for the audience of SFF fandom and con attendees at whom the post was more specifically aimed. He’s perhaps not a “moral authority” but he is a person of sufficiently high status in that community that his words would carry some weight.
As for tone, it seems pretty typical of Scalzi-style prose, so again, for his main audience of fans, I don’t know that tone would be a problem. The follow-up post linked on the page also seems to do a fair job explaining why the post is not just targeted to unrepentant creepers but also applies to people who may quite accidentally veer into that territory without even realizing it, and details how he has had to consciously check himself from doing so on occasion.
In context, it was literally about an unrepentant creeper.
I mean in the context of this LW post. Also, the title “An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping” strongly suggests an intended audience of not-necessarily-creepers.
Yes, but in terms of the actual historical context of the blog post, it was spurred into existence due to a nonrepentant creeper and a conversation springing from that.
What this boils down to is trying to get the benefit of excluding low status folks without thinking about the “nasty” “exclusionary” mechanisms that cause such convenient exclusion in real life.
Most real-life social groups have mechanisms to exclude low-status people—from informal shunning to formal membership criteria. Since people as well as groups seek to maximize status, this evolves into a complex equilibrium. (Groucho: “I wouldn’t want to join a club that would have [a status exclusion mechanism weak enough to have] me as a member.”)
But since we at LW must have a rational explanation for things, these arbitrary criteria (of which my proposal is a pastiche) won’t do. Half of the folks here are OK with outsourcing the power and responsibility for excluding low-status folks onto the women of LW. The other half doesn’t even want that. Both sides want to consciously come up with convoluted arguments about why “creepy” [low-status male] behavior is objectively bad. That dog won’t hunt.
What your comment boils down to is a statement that you intend to treat other people’s objections to your (or your friends’) nonconsensual or threatening behavior as attempts to exclude you (or them) as low-status rather than as requests for you to behave in a more consensual and nonthreatening manner towards them.
It’s easy to be low-status without being creepy.
It’s entirely possible (I’m imagining being meek and social risk-averse) in the same way as it’s entirely possible to grow up poor and stay out of trouble with the law. It’s a lot easier to be creepy if you’re low-status, and much of the behavior that is deemed creepy would not be called creepy if a high-status person did the exact same thing (think “quirky,” “endearing,” “charming”).
In practice, cracking down on creepiness means excluding low-status people, except for a meek remnant.
There’s high-status creeping too (like someone putting an arm round someone who doesn’t want him to). This can be very bad for the creepee—the high status means that complaints to the group are likely to be dismissed as oversensitivity or whining.
It’s a natural human tendency to let high-status people get away with things, but I don’t think it’s so immutable that a group can’t develop a culture that reduces the damage.
And if you are the creep, there’s at least a chance that you didn’t mean to be and that you’re willing to modify your behaviour in ways that have large advantages for the creepee and only small disadvantages for you.
If male creepiness is contributing to the gender imbalance on LessWrong, I would expect high-status creepiness to be far more problematic than low-status creepiness. In a social setting, it’s a lot easier to call a low-status member out for being creepy. If a high-status member is being creepy, a newcomer might prefer to leave than to confront him/her or complain about his/her behavior to the rest of the group. Alternatively, if the newcomer does complain about the high-status member, he/she might be scoffed at by the rest of the group, who likes that individual.
Status gets wonky here, though, and online in general. One’s status doesn’t readily translate from one’s RL social network to the internet (celebrities are an obvious exception here), and the cultural makeup of the group’s members, in addition to the social norms they propagate within the group itself, will go a long way toward determining relative status.
It’s one thing if you’re talking Eliezer or Alicorn, but the run-of-the-mill LW member probably fits into this situation. Hence, we don’t need to necessarily see creepy behavior among the highest-status folks here, for it to nevertheless be a widespread norm that affects gender ratios on the site. (Frankly, all sorts of communities, online and off, encounter this in some form).
Yes, but if you’re high-status, a much higher fraction of people do want (or are okay with) your arm around them, and so the GP is right that status affects the probability of triggering the creep classifier.
True, but it’s also entirely possible to want behavior X from person Y and still find it creepy when Y actually does X, depending on how and in what context they do it. Creepiness is often about those details.
That still wouldn’t justify the unhelpful, over-general warning of “don’t do X”, stripped of the specific (correctly-diagnosed) “how and in what context” caveats.
For at least some X’s, the real warning is not “don’t do X, ever.” It’s: “if you do X, you are responsible for anyone being creeped out by X. You might get away with it, depending on how considerate, socially aware, or charismatic you are—just don’t complain if you get it wrong and we have to kick you out so that people can feel safe and comfortable.”
AFAICT, there’s nothing wrong with this rule: in fact, it is close to optimal for the purposes of LW meetups.
Pretty much this. Also, the advice being given might more accurately be “you don’t do X, because you obviously don’t know how to judge the context and details and are therefore very likely to get it wrong”. Except, if someone actually says that, the person it’s being said to is liable to try to rope them into explaining the context-and-details thing, which 1) is very complicated, to the point where explaining it is a major project and 2) most people can’t articulate, so that’s awkward if it happens. Also, it’s often true that once a person does learn how to judge the context and details properly (on their own, generally speaking, by observation and reading many things on the topic), they will then be able to see what they were doing wrong before and how to avoid that mistake, and conclude that they can try again regardless of previous advice.
Most of what I just said isn’t relevant to meetup groups, though; bogus’ angle is much more relevant there.
For better or worse, creepiness is socially defined. WIthin a social group, most people don’t secretly resent high-status people, by definition. If only one person has a problem with it, that’s not being creepy, that’s “he’s being charming and you have a problem.”
It only becomes “creepy” when you come to LW or a group of sympathetic friends and the local balance of power shifts in your favor.
If only one person in a group is allergic to my aftershave, they are allergic to my aftershave.
If only one person in a group finds my voice intolerable, they find my voice intolerable.
If only one person in a group finds my behavior disturbing or frightening or alienating, they find my behavior disturbing or frightening or alienating.
Yes, that person has a problem.
And the question is, what are we going to do about that problem, if anything?
The notion that because they have a problem, we therefore ought not do anything, strikes me as bizarre. It’s precisely because they have a problem that the question even arises; if they didn’t have a problem, there would be no reason to even discuss it.
So, OK. If my behavior frightens or disturbs or alienates you, or my aftershave causes you an allergic reaction, or whatever, you have a problem.The question is, what happens next?
I might decide I care about your problem, and take steps to alleviate it.
Or I might decide I don’t care about your problem, and go on doing what I was doing.
Or somewhere in between.
You might similarly decide to alleviate your own problem, or decide to ignore it, or something in between.
Third parties might, similarly, decide they care about your problem to various degrees, or they might not.
This is not independent of status—if you’re a high-status member of the group, I might care about your problem because of your status; if you’re a low-status member I might not-care about your problem because of your status; if I’m a high-status member third parties might not-care about your problem because of my status, and so forth.
But it’s not equivalent to status, either—if we come from a culture where acknowledging the existence of body odor is taboo, the fact that you have a problem with my body odor might get ignored even if we’re all of equal status, or even if you’re higher status than I am. (Of course, you might then claim a different problem you don’t actually have in order to solve your real problem in a socially acceptable way.)
Similarly, it’s not independent of the size of the affected group, but it’s not equivalent to it either.
And that, folks, is one of the ways that the ~6% of educated males (according to one study, anyway) who are rapists get to do their thing: by being “charming” to everyone but their target, so the target is isolated and feels she has nobody to turn to.
FYI: If one person in my meetup group has a problem with Person X touching them when they don’t want him/her to, I have a problem with Person X, too.
People behave differently in different social contexts, though. If person Y finds person X’s behavior creepy, and no one else finds person X’s behavior creepy, it could be that X is behaving differently towards Y than he/she is towards everyone else.
Obviously, this is relevant to the gender situation, where person X is male and behaves differently towards females than he does towards males.
It’s socially influenced, but you’re being a bit too status-deterministic about it. Take the example of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s (probably true but not prosecuted) rape allegation. Beforehand, he was as high-status as a man can get in the United States, and a vast majority of American women who knew who he was would have found him attractive. Afterward, he seems to have regained much of his status among male Steeler fans, but he has the unmistakable tag of “creepy” (to say the least) among women who follow football.
Since it’s very low-cost to stop touching someone who doesn’t like it, compared to the cost of enduring it, a group where it’s considered “creepy” is a better group.
That certainly isn’t true by definition and it isn’t even always true in practice. “It’s better to be feared than to be loved”, etc.
(The rest of your comment seems more or less accurate as a description of how social power and moralizing works.)
I’m confused by your argument. Where I live, the visibly religious are high status. Does that mean I can’t resent a religious person’s treatment of me? That’s a strange definition of high-status.
Creepiness is not down to status. High-status people can be plenty creepy.
Can be, sure. The claim is still valid as a heuristic.
What’s more, people are more likely to pre-judge the high status person favorably, and thus want whatever behavior would be a “no-no” for the low-status person, and so behavior violating the supposed anti-creep rules is much less likely to be noticed and recognized as such (e.g. my example before about pushy hugs).
Anytime you find yourself saying, “How dare he do X? That’s creepy! Don’t ever do X, folks!”, ask yourself if you would have the same reaction if you liked this person and welcomed X. If the answer is no, you’ve misdiagnosed the problem.
I think the truth of that statement depends on how you chunk the behavior.
To get back to this, Rene’s approaches to Genevieve would have been appropriate as behaviors in that sort of a relationship if you chunk them as things a person might do, and very inappropriate because she was moving away from him/not responding, etc., so that if your chunk includes what she does (not to mention that a relationship didn’t already exist) as well as what he does, you get a different answer.
I agree with the first part of your comment, but the last paragraph seems contradictory:
Creepiness is by definition unwelcome behavior; that’s just the meaning of the term—“that which causes someone to feel creeped out”. Of course any welcome behavior would not be labelled creepy.
But the entire problem is that its welcomeness is not known until you do it! That’s why you have to go based on general standards of acceptable behavior in judging an action, not by whether one person happened to not like it.
Imagine if Elevatorgate started from, not some elevator, but just the mere fact of Watson being “asked out”, and she went on to say, “Whoa! Creepy! Guys, don’t ever ask a woman out!”
Someone might protest, “Wait, what?”
Do you understand why it’s not a very satisfactory answer to say, “It’s okay, we’re only talking about those cases where it’s unwanted”? If so, apply it to your own answer.
I reread your first comment and I think I just misread it the first time. (And you may have misread mine). I think we were just talking past each other.
We seem to agree on the important bits, namely that:
“Creepiness” is defined and measured by the “creeped out” response of recipients.
Therefore it depends not just on the action, but on the recipient and on how they perceive the actor.
Therefore an action is not definitely creepy or noncreepy until carried out; it is hard to predict reactions.
To the extent that the same action is perceived as creepy or not coming from different people, we shouldn’t be talking about the action itself sometimes being creepy, but about the relevant differences between people.
I don’t think we agree, in particular, because I don’t agree that the particulars of how a specific event was perceived are relevant for general rules of condemnation. That is, I’m fine with saying “Don’t do X” if X really is widely disliked, regardless of the person, but not with giving the same advice, while actually predicating it on people’s ability to know others’ reaction in advance.
I understood it to mean “ask myself if I can imagine someone doing X in a way I welcomed.”
Moreover, when a low-status person creeps on me, I feel like I have more freedom to express nicely to them that I was creeped out and offer to explain why. When a high-status person creeps on me, I feel like they have too much power to want to stop or listen to me, and nobody else will listen to me either, because this person has social command.
Yeah, same here. Creepy behavior from people with high status is a big red flag on a group or social situation for me; it implies that at least in some cases they can get away with that, and I categorically don’t feel emotionally safe in those environments.
See also: The Missing Stair. Source has a history of overusing feminist memes with the result of obfuscating their point, but I think this piece was particularly well-written.
“Status” is not quite the right term here — social rank correlates with the kind of charm that can make an ambiguous behavior be not-creepy, but isn’t the same.
Likewise, there are times and places when creepy is not low-status.
It’s probably quite difficult for a creepy person to stop being creepy.
For this reason (and others) I much prefer to focus on specific behaviors for the purpose of determining what is acceptable behavior versus a valid target for social sanction.
The fuck it does. This is about creepiness. Actual attempts at unwelcome intimacy. Whoever from and whoever to.
It is not about status, except to the extent that high status can (this is a bad thing) protect the perpetrators of actual creepy behaviour from being called to account, and low status (this is also a bad thing) can prevent the target from being heard.
For further enlightenment, see, for example, here.
Actually, “unwelcome” means that the definition sometimes depends almost exclusively on status. In the extreme situation that a guy is so high status I wouldn’t mind anything he did and would always say yes, he couldn’t possibly be creepy.
In a less hypothetical case, my reaction to statements like “you’re beautiful” or “your hair looks amazing” depends entirely on who is saying it. It would be considered creepy only if the guy was sufficiently low status that my intuition doesn’t process the statement as sincere.
Similarly I mentally flinch violently when touched by males who are too low status for my intuition to classify as attractive, have no such reaction for moderately attractive guys, and get a jolt of pleasure if the guy is very attractive. This effect is consistent and something I have no conscious control over.
I think people dismissing status are underestimating either the degree to which people’s unconscious can control their conscious, or the degree to which status interactions controls the unconscious.
Why am I getting karma for this when it’s been established that I’m using a highly unconventional definition of status? I mean, I like karma and all, but this confuses me...
Status is not an extremely clear thing to begin with, the same criticism could probably be applied to most uses of the term on LessWrong. I just mentally reparse what you write as
You’re basically talking about how attractive you find him, but using “status” adds the connotations that it’s not just about the looks, and that how others judge him comes into the equation; both those connotations seem true.
Like how starting a conversation with a stranger who doesn’t want to talk to you is unwelcome, and thus creepy?
Or did you think people would never get the C-word for doing just that?
I missed the enlightenment you were expecting me to get from learning of a case where a high-status person got surprisingly little punishment (and no effective loss to social life) from doing creep things.
You seem to be underestimating how easy it is to guess beforehand whether or not a stranger would want to talk to you. See the comment thread to this. (Well, I disagree that complimenting a stranger’s netbook is necessarily creepy, but...)
This disagreement on what is creepy demonstrates precisely how hard it is to predict in advance if some behavior will be perceived as creepy or not.
I should have said/thought had said “is necessarily creepy”. (Fixed now.)
Though I don’t think its that simple because both sides are claiming that the other side is not reporting how they truly feel. One side claims that people are calling things creepy semi-arbitrarily to raise their own status, and the other claims that people are intentionally refusing to recognize creepy behavior as creepy so they don’t have to stop it (or being slightly more charitable, so they don’t take a status hit for being creepy).
Upvoted for an excellent link which caused me to update my intuition regarding the nature and frequency of various types of public harassment of women. I didn’t update so far as to regard the XKCD cartoon as “promoting rape culture” (which I still think is going overboard), but after reading the (very very long) comment thread with all the subway/public/other harassment stories, I can totally see where they’re coming from.
That thread gives an important overview of a sort. It’s got its limits because women who talk about not having it that bad from men are not kindly treated in the discussion.
I’m not denying any of those stories about behavior ranging from intrusive to seriously threatening and it’s obviously fairly common, just saying that it’s not a overview of the whole situation. I’ve never seen an overview of the whole situation for women.
People who frequently fall into patterns of behavior that others regard as “creepy” tend to be those who do not find this easy.
Could you create a set of instructions that can easily be followed by people with low levels of social fluency, which would allow them to make this judgment with low levels of false positives and false negatives? If so, you’d be doing a big favor both to people who’re frequently exposed to “creepy” behavior, and people who frequently engage in that behavior. It would also probably be unique in the world.
The arrogant vulgarity doesn’t fit well with the demonstration of naivety (come to think of it “The fuck it does” wouldn’t be be appropriate here even if well informed). Creepiness is significantly about status. Typically it refers to something along the lines of “low status male attempting interaction”.
This doesn’t mean I’m endorsing any particular instance of creepiness but it is useful to understand what it is that prompts the perception ‘creepy’.
High status can also make the identical behaviors not creepy in the first place. Even if unwelcome the perception of the high status ‘unwelcome’ will feel different to the creepy low-status ‘unwelcome’.
Well, yeah, someone you wouldn’t like to have sex with hitting on you is creepier than someone you would like to have sex with hitting on you (obviously—why the hell would the latter be creepy at all?), and (especially if “someone” is male and “you” are female), whether you would like to have sex with them correlates with their status. But would that still hold to the same extent if you could change the “status” variable while holding the “attractiveness” (broadly construed) variable constant?
Tabooing “status” might be necessary. I couldn’t compute your last sentence… Apparently my word-space is so constructed that attractiveness of a man to a woman basically equates to status. (They might not be the same thing as far as hormones are concerned, but they arise from the same mechanisms.)
What you call a less “attractive”, higher “status” man, I call a lower “status” man who has motivating factors to have incorrect beliefs about his “status”.
Compare Bill Gates to Jose the charming tour guide.
There’s your problem right there!
I’m usually not a big fan of the “look it up on Wikipedia” approach to amending skewed perception (it has the failure mode of encouraging an excessively topical, definition-driven understanding of a term), but if you perceive status and attractiveness to others as basically synonymous, or even largely so, then you’re viewing the world through a seriously-distorted lens and should really start at the ground level: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status
Synonymous—clearly not. “Largely so” is more of an exaggeration than a fundamental incomprehension.
Huh. Ok. What do you call the ape status-instinct then? That’s thing that you get by cleverly body-language and verbally sparring with people. I’ve managed to end up on top of a number of authority figures doing that.
Edit: the human version of the behaviour that Wikipedia describes as “dominance hierarchies”.
Double edit: would it make more sense to distinguish the terms as system-1-status and system-2-status?
I...think you’re confused. I didn’t say social status doesn’t exist; I also didn’t say that “social status” was a bad term for it. What I said was that you have an extremely nonstandard set of word associations here, such that what you mean when you’re saying “social status” is...well, not intuitive from the more usual use of that word.
I’m not saying instincts for status don’t exist; I’m saying that “attractiveness of a man to a woman basically equates to status” is a baffling definition of “status” (reinforcing my point by linking to a general overview of the concept and the things the word applies to). It would be like meaning only “penguins” whenever you say “birds”, and then trying to generalize that use whenever someone else talks about ornithology.
I think you’re misinterpreting my point again, and I also think it’s more of a “what do you mean by “melon”″ issue (ever order a melon smoothie from a place without pictures on the menu and been surprised?) than a “penguin” issue, but the definitions themselves have been adequately dissolved in this thread so there’s no point in continuing to pursue something off-topic.
Consider interaction among heterosexual people of the same sex (men with men, women with women). This is probably a majority of all social interaction, and it strongly influences status in mixed-sex social groups. While attractiveness is generally helpful here too, it’s less important than other factors.
Imagine two men who have the same socio-economical position, the same amount of social skills, wear similar clothes, behave the same way, etc., etc., but one is 5′6″ (1.68 m) and one is 6′ (1.83 m). Most women will likely be more attracted to the latter; would you say he has higher status?
Yes, minorly: halo effect. Though given your example I see that status and attraction aren’t the same thing, they’re just intertwined in a ridiculous positive feedback loop, to the extent that it’s very easy to think of them as the same thing. Having more women be attracted to you usually leads to better social skills. Having more height usually means more self-confidence, etcetc.
The specific situation you describe also can’t possibly arise, because one would look down at me to speak to me and the other would look up. Then they’d be behaving differently.
ETA: I tried to think of a least convenient world, but couldn’t.
Take it from someone with rather low basic social status (multiple forms of visible minority, many of which are still thought of mainly as “deviant” rather than just “other”, who can’t can’t hide it out and about in daily life): the fact that you see it this way has more to do with your own situation and your own unfulfilled preferences, than with it being a basic feature of how status works. Status is not primarily about your sexual attractiveness to people. Low-status people get laid all the time. Low-status people get into lasting relationships. Low-status people have children. Low-status people even make ethical nonmonogamy work for them. (Low status people who fit all of the above can even be sexually frustrated!)
Suppose you’re standing on a staircase. The taller man stands on a step below you, while the shorter man stands on a step above you, and the steps are of such height that each would be looking you directly in the eye. Is that a sufficiently inconvenient world?
C’mon. There’s a difference between looking down (physically) because you’re shorter and looking down at you (physically) because I’m looking down (metaphorically). (I’m 1.87 m (6′2″) myself so I have to do the former all the time.) In the latter case, I will stand up straight with my shoulders back and only tilt my eyes and (to a lower extent) my head down. In the former case, I will (say) sit on a stool while you’re on a higher chair/walk on the edge of the carriageway while you’re walking on the sidewalk/stand on a lower step of a stairway than you, and/or bend my whole upper body downwards.
(Why does this comment looks to me as if there are unbalanced parentheses even though I know there aren’t?)
Of course, but it still has an effect. And also the tall guy standing a step below me is definitely not behaving the same as the short guy standing a step above me.
Anyway, the difference in this case is negligible and doesn’t help the situation at hand. As far as I can see, to have a guy who was more physically attractive score lower on status would require lowering some other type of attractiveness, like behaviour or signalling. The actions you describe are signalling.
Come to think of it, maybe we just mean different things when we say “attractiveness”.
Huh, yeah. He’s also wearing larger clothes, and curving spacetime by a larger amount. But “all other things” in “all other things being equal” doesn’t usually literally mean all other things—otherwise any counterfactual will involve logical inconsistencies.
By “attractiveness” I meant the set of all things about me that determine how likely you are to be attracted to me, not just handsomeness. It seems like you might be using “status” the same way I’m using “attractiveness”, whereas I’m using it only for “social” (FLOABW) features. IOW, as I’m using the words, I can have higher or lower status in a given social group but higher or lower attractiveness for a given person. Given that not all women in the same group will be attracted to exactly the same features in men, and given that one can be higher- or lower-status even in an all-straight-male group, the two are not synonymous.
I think you’re misunderstanding my point. I agree that status has a wider social meaning, but I was specifically referring to status in the context of one man approaching one woman, and saying that in that case it is usually at least monotonic with attraction. A well-respected academic has status within his field, but is still low-status in male-female interaction terms if he is sufficiently uncharismatic.
Edit: oops. My earlier comments didn’t make this at all clear.
I don’t think Athrelon in the comment that started this thread meant “status” in the latter sense.
Fair enough. Guess I was arguing a completely different point then.
Now, where did that thread go which was about the better way to fix creepiness being how to teach people to get/signal more status, rather than what not to do… Pretty sure there they’re using this definition.
(Gah, words are hard.)
In answer to the second question—If done so awkwardly, in a way that violates local norms or expectations or in a way that makes you look bad in public. (These are all things other than being low status that seem to play a part in the ‘creepiness’.)
I was about to answer “Well, if they behaved like that then you’d most likely not want to have sex with them (any longer)”, then I realised that if we interpret counterfactuals this way, my comment would be nearly tautological.
Those are certainly unattractive traits and would often be sufficient to remove the desire. But no, the effect isn’t anywhere near strong enough to make the potential tautological definition valid.
Huh, yeah. I had in mind a sense of “creep” according to which it’d be logically contradictory to simultaneously be creeped out by someone and want to have sex with them, but now I realise i had no good reason to think that.
I guess I’ll tap out now (at least for a couple days), both because I feel like I’m borderline mind-killed and likely to get more so if I continue, and because I’ve already already procrastinated away way too much RL stuff.
attempts at (unwelcome intimacy) = naked aggression.
unwelcome (attempts at intimacy) = failure to anticipate rejection. both sides lost.
asking for harsher penalties for the second (which is already quite painful) is like asking cops to beat up panhandlers—the price you pay for a place you want to live.
That Readercon example points out an irrationality in the thinking of some creeps, rapists, or PUAs: “sex is a need.” Related to that fallacy is the sense of entitlement that sex with desired sex objects should be a reward for being “nice,” even though real nice persons avoid using sentient beings as tools and may avoid short-lived pleasures like sex altogether (e.g. Paul Erdos, Nikola Tesla). [And I can tell you from experience, women fawn over good guys. I even had a crush on Tesla. But being good guys, they focus on doing good and may not even notice women fawning over them.] Another fallacy in the minds of some creeps is that their behavior is good for their targets, e.g. “she needs a dicking.”
Basically, what we’re dealing with are persons who need some luminosity, or awareness and control, over their lusty wants, so they no longer act on those wants as “needs,” spending more resources on satisfying those wants over other wants (their own or others’) or other beings’ real needs, like humans’ need to feel safe enough to socialize.
High-status creeps are the worst because they’re allowed to be repeat offenders (e.g. Jerry Sandusky). In my experience with a low-status creep, he excluded himself after not getting what he “needed” from his target. That is, he was welcome at meetings but didn’t want to go without the prospect of his “need” being met by his desired sex object. That was several years ago, with a freethought group, before I developed this understanding and ability to counteract that irrationality.
Simply saying “sex is not a need; you can live well without it” actually worked in one case. A case that’s been difficult for me to crack is where the person, somewhat high-status, is committed to irrationalities and harasses people (sexually harassing females, verbally harassing whomever does something he doesn’t like). I might break of his icon of Mercy, taking away his method for reducing his guilt, which he should feel to avoid harming others.
[Edit replacing backslashes with commas. Not that it changes the meaning to me, having known creeps, rapists, and literature by PUAs.]
See “Romance and Violence in Dating Relationships.” Apologetics or confabulations are part of the process of passion escalating into aggression or violence. A rational person would avoid the costs and risks of continuing interactions with someone interested in sex and who’s brain, like most brains, could rationalize or delude itself, with such fallacies as I noted above (another example: “blue balls”) or with thinking that the woman wants sexual relations with him when she doesn’t. Hence, avoidance of “creeps.” Women poor at detecting and avoiding such dynamics may be more likely to get abused (http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/25/12/2199.full.pdf+html).
Evidence of what I said about lack of illumination: “Results indicate that there is a considerable degree of overlap between victims of physical violence and offenders over time and that certain covariates including school commitment, parental monitoring, low self-control, and sex significantly discriminate victim and offender groups. Furthermore, low self-control appears to be the most salient risk factor for distinguishing both victimization and delinquency trajectories” 2010 Longitudinal Assessment of the Victim-Offender Overlap.
Seriously? Creeps/rapists/PUAs. People kept reading after that introduction?
What do you know about them that makes them like apples and oranges in your mind? If you can’t give me a reason for why they’re not comparable in any way, I’m gonna have to give your a kick in the ass for being so dismissive of what another person knows.
I was originally going to argue with wedrifid and say he was being uncharitable in interpreting your statement as considering all three groups to be basically the same: my interpretation was that you meant “some creeps, some rapists, and some PUAs”, and your statement could then be read in a meaningful light.
However, this new question suggests that you did in fact mean to lump all three groups of people together as a single category, so I’m now downvoting both comments.
Ironically, you are threatening wedrifid with violence for doing something which you yourself are doing, i.e, dismissing others’ knowledge as irrelevant. I don’t think either the dismissal or the threat are appropriate discourse for LW.
“Threatening with violence”? Seriously?
Thank you for being able to not take words too literally.
pjeby, obviously I couldn’t possibly know all creeps, rapists & PUAs; so you were correct in your first interpretation that I meant: “some creeps, some rapists, and some PUAs.” Give me one example where I’ve dismissed others’ knowledge, rather than their knee-jerk reactions based on wrong interpretations of my words meaning what they couldn’t possibly mean. Apparently, there are some readers here who’ve identified with being a creep or PUA and some wouldn’t want them to be associated with rapists, hence your downvoting. But the fact is we’re talking about humans, not apples and oranges. (Are you gonna downvote this now because you think I’m “lumping”? What a BS excuse for downvoting.) Fallacious justifications of un-illuminated thoughts & behaviors is a problem we all have to face. I was pointing out specifics of this problem to address this thread, giving abstractions of cases I’ve known. Instead of offering counter-examples or counterarguments, some have written blunt rejections or simply downvoted. If I am wrong, why can’t someone make me less wrong? Instead, what I’m getting here is not unlike how abuse victims get dismissed when they accuse liked persons as abusers. How do I know this? Cuz I was abused and tried to make the truth known and got similar knee-jerk denials. Feeling rational, I think it’s appropriate discourse for LW to say: “Fuck you deniers.” Now do you get how my talking about ass-kicking was an expression of emotion [specifically, indignation], not an actual threat?
Even if by “Creeps/rapists/PUAs” you meant to point at points along a continuum, and the connotation that said points are close together was unintentional, you got the order wrong, as rapists ought to be at one extreme rather than in the middle.
Why assume I was using a continuum? Is a continuum necessary? Even if we must put them on a continuum, why assume the order you’ve assumed? We could, for example, base the continuum on how wrong their theories of humans are, in which case, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to lump the individuals into those three categories and place them on the continuum.
Any more excuses or unnecessary assumptions for me to dispel? I have yet to see a better theory or counter-evidence not accounted for by my theory. Instead, I see just-so theories pigeon-holing humans as just “fundamentally” sex-driven or creeps as just “desperate” or “low-status.” Now, given what I know about how brains work and assuming some readers’ brains here have absorbed evo psy terminology, it’s understandable why brains are spouting such overly-narrow views of humans. I took a course on evo psy with Gordon Gallup where he taught a little about our ancestors living in trees and moving onto land, but mostly the course was on mating. Even Eleizer’s article on evo psy has a story revolving around modern humans mating.
But one’s theory would have to include more than data on mating to be less wrong about humans. It would have to include a theory of fun, for example, to account for how persons could enjoy their lives without sex, like Tesla or Erdos did. Even the fact that you guys enjoy being on LessWrong, which isn’t the best activity for getting laid, says something about the inadequacy of some of the stupid theories posited on this thread, which started off being about how to improve “creepy” persons’ theories using information from the suggested articles.
Some of you guys have work to do for your brains to develop a theory of everything, with which you may be less likely to form ad hoc, just-so theories and discount data that don’t fit your theories.
(Disclosure & “help wanted ad:” My brain developed a theory of everything, which I’m working on sharing with others. I’m calling it the Enlightenment project, b/c I can’t simply tell people what the theory is—”Information won’t set you free by itself”. We have to help brains develop their own less wrong ToEs. I’m looking for brain-hackers who can help create a wiki, videos, and whatever other materials could be used to help most people. And I have some specific ideas that require a digital graphics artist to become something outside of my head for people to use. If you want to help, message me.)
Taboo “need”. Yes, it’s not necessary for survival; but homeless people can survive too, and still not many people say stuff like “shelter is not a need” or “stop acting like you’re entitled to shelter”. (But I still agree no-one is expected to give you a sleeping place solely because you think you are a decent person.)
I mean, Maslow put it in the bottom layer of his pyramid… (Though the fact that he separately lists “sexual intimacy” higher up means that by “sex” in the bottom layer he likely meant the kind of sex that even prostitutes can give.)
Off-topic: your model of prostitution is wrong. Social skills, putting people at ease, listening, and acting are big parts of the job. Look up “girlfriend experience”.
Well, I was thinking more about street prostitutes than escorts, but what in my comment suggests anything about “my model of prostitution”, anyway?
“Sexual intimacy” is a thing prostitutes (including low-end ones) provide, which is why they’re more expensive than fleshlights.
Given that Maslow listed it separately from “sex”, I guess he had in mind a narrower sense for “sexual intimacy” than you might have. (Unless he had in mind an extremely broad sense for “sex”, which would include e.g. self-masturbation.)
Maybe he was just moralizing and wanted to label short or paid-for sexual intimacy as “mere sex”.
By looking at the pyramid, I think he meant for “sexual intimacy” to be to “sex” as friendship is to conversation, i.e. by the former he meant what people today would call “being in a relationship” or “romance”. But I’m not fully sure.
You mean the function of guaranteeing availability? Having friends provides good conversation. Being in a relationship provides good sex.
And being free from worry about having to provide conversation or sex for tomorrow satisfies a psychological need for security. That makes sense.
I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this line of thinking. Sexuality isn’t a physical need in the sense that, say, water is a physical need, but it is a pretty fundamental drive. It certainly doesn’t morally oblige any particular person to fulfill it for you (analogously, the human need for companionship doesn’t oblige random strangers to accept overtures of friendship), but it’s sufficiently potent that I’d be cautious about casually demoting it below other social considerations, let alone suggesting sexual asceticism as a viable solution in the average case; that seems like an easy way to come up with eudaemonically suboptimal prescriptions.
Nice Guy (tm) psychology is something else again. I’m not sure how much of the popular view of it is anywhere near accurate, but in isolation I’d hesitate to take it as suggesting anything more than one particular pathology of sexual politics and maybe some interesting facts about the surrounding culture.
Some have argued the same regarding revenge, nepotism, and various other “drives” that we might expect people to learn how to express in a moral way.
I’m not arguing against the need to express sexuality in a moral way. But if we have good reason to think that sexuality (or status-seeking, the wish to redress grievances, or any of the psychology behind revenge, nepotism, etc.) is a low-level motivation, then from a eudaemonic standpoint it seems like a very bad move to prioritize denying or minimizing those motivations instead of looking for relatively benign ways to express them.
We have only a very limited ability to change our motivational structure, and even within those limits it’s easy to screw up our emotional equilibrium by doing so. It’s far better—if far harder—to come up with an incentive structure that rewards ethical pursuit of human drives than to build one which frustrates them.
I agree with the first paragraph and ADBOC with the second. Human culture contains lots of incentive structures that do just that. It is often not at all necessary to invent new ones, but rather to evaluate, choose, and tweak existing ones.
I don’t disagree, but I do think that the existing incentive structures surrounding sexuality are pretty damned dysfunctional. I chose the wording I did because I think there’ll need to be a lot of original thought going into a better incentive structure (and because I don’t think there currently exist any really good candidate solutions), but I’m not trying to imply that we need to throw out the existing culture completely.
It’s too specific/complicated to be low level/fundamental. Actually all of them are too specific/complicated to be low level. They’re just so widely and thoroughly internalised (to the point where not being that way will likely be bad for you just because other people will dislike you for it) very few people realise they are changable, or are motivated to change them. There’s little reason to change them for most people. Not having a desire for revenge or redress grievances is a quick way to become a target/victim, status seeking gets you status if you do it right which gets you power. nepotism makes you a more attractive ally.
I think it’s more accurate to say that changing motivational structure is hard and risky than the ability is limited. There’s no hard or soft cap afaik (which is what limited makes it sound like to me) it’s just really hard to do and most people don’t care to anyway.
Also wtf is a need. Is that like a right? It means you really really want something? really really really? really really really really? nonsense on stilts. Take your fucking stilts off bro.
edit: I can’t believe I put bro at the end of that post. Kinda ruins it.
edit2: no it doesn’t, stop pandering.
I’m having trouble making sense of this in context. Did you mean to reply to this post?
i typed it out as a response to that post and copy pasted it to this post (adding the /fundamental) because it is higher up. So kinda.
We don’t have to “casually demote” anything. Like Fox News says, “we report—you decide.”
Generally, “need” is used to refer to something perceived to be necessary in an optimization process. There are cases where a human doesn’t need companionship, let alone sex (see recluses or transcendentalists’ recommendations that persons isolate themselves from society for a while to clear their heads of irrationalities).
If “the average case” involves little luminosity of sexuality and lots of sexualization of beings, then of course sexual abstinence wouldn’t be likely. Rape occurs in epidemic proportions in such places where people are also demoralized or decommissioned from doing much good work, like on reservations.
Nice Guy and Nice Gal are idealized gender roles for an optimal society. Some oppose gender roles to the extent that they limit persons from doing good, esp. when they make one gender subservient to the other or make a person of one gender subservient to another person of another gender (like the promulgated view that wife should serve husband). A person or AI caring only about one person or half the human population would not be optimal.
I think we’re talking past each other here. The “Nice Guy (tm)” phenomenon I was referring to is categorically not an idealized gender role within an optimal or any other society, hence the sarcasm trademark, although it has its roots in (a misinterpretation of) one idealized masculinity. Instead, it’s a shorthand way of describing the pathology you described in the ancestor: the guy in question (there are women who do similar things, but the term as I’m using it is tied up in the male gender role) performs passive masculinity really hard and expects that sexual favors will follow. When this fails, usually due to poor socialization and poor understanding of sexual politics, bitterness and frustration ensue.
I actually think the terminology’s pretty toxic as such things go, since it tends to be treated as a static attribute of the people so described instead of suggesting solutions to the underlying problems. It’s common jargon in these sorts of discussions, though, and denotationally it does describe a real dysfunction, so I’m okay with using it as shorthand. Apologies for any bad assumptions on my part.<