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Sayeth the Girl

48 Post author: Alicorn 19 July 2009 10:24PM

Disclaimer: If you are prone to dismissing women's complaints of gender-related problems as the women being whiny, emotionally unstable girls who see sexism where there is none, this post is unlikely to interest you.

For your convenience, links to followup posts: Roko says; orthonormal says; Eliezer says; Yvain says; Wei_Dai says

As far as I can tell, I am the most active female poster on Less Wrong.  (AnnaSalamon has higher karma than I, but she hasn't commented on anything for two months now.)  There are not many of us.  This is usually immaterial.  Heck, sometimes people don't even notice in spite of my girly username, my self-introduction, and the fact that I'm now apparently the feminism police of Less Wrong.

My life is not about being a girl.  In fact, I'm less preoccupied with feminism and women's special interest issues than most of the women I know, and some of the men.  It's not my pet topic.  I do not focus on feminist philosophy in school.  I took an "Early Modern Women Philosophers" course because I needed the history credit, had room for a suitable class in a semester when one was offered, and heard the teacher was nice, and I was pretty bored.  I wound up doing my midterm paper on Malebranche in that class because we'd covered him to give context to Mary Astell, and he was more interesting than she was.  I didn't vote for Hilary Clinton in the primary.  Given the choice, I have lots of things I'd rather be doing than ferreting out hidden or less-than-hidden sexism on one of my favorite websites.

Unfortunately, nobody else seems to want to do it either, and I'm not content to leave it undone.  I suppose I could abandon the site and leave it even more masculine so the guys could all talk in their own language, unimpeded by stupid chicks being stupidly offended by completely unproblematic things like objectification and just plain jerkitude.  I would almost certainly have vacated the site already if feminism were my pet issue, or if I were more easily offended.  (In general, I'm very hard to offend.  The fact that people here have succeeded in doing so anyway without even, apparently, going out of their way to do it should be a great big red flag that something's up.)  If you're wondering why half of the potential audience of the site seems to be conspicuously not here, this may have something to do with it.

So can I get some help?  Some lovely people have thrown in their support, but usually after I or, more rarely, someone else sounds the alarm, and usually without much persistence or apparent investment.  There is still conspicuous karmic support for some comments that perpetuate the problems, which does nothing to disincentivize being piggish around here - some people seem to earnestly care about the problem, but this isn't enforced by the community at large, it's just a preexisting disposition (near as I can tell).

I would like help reducing the incidence of:

  • Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women.  "Objectification" is what happens when a person is treated or discussed as an object, not as an autonomous being.  (Non-women can also be objectified, and that too should be stopped.)
  • Casual use of masculine and/or heteronormative examples in posts and comments that aren't explicitly about gender.  It's just not that hard to come up with an unsexed example.  Be especially careful when using the second person.  If you need to use an example with a gender, there's no reason to consider male the default - consider choosing randomly, or you could use a real person as an example (who isn't presumed to archetypically represent anyone in the audience) instead of a hypothetical one (who might be).
  • Sweeping generalizations about women, if they are not backed up by overwhelming hard data (responsibly gathered and interpreted).  The cost of being wrong about this sort of thing is high, even if the culprits don't bear it themselves, and extreme care should be taken.
  • Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women.  If it is necessary to refer admiringly to a pickup artist or pickup strategy (I'm not sure why it would be, but if), care should be taken to choose one whose methods are explicitly non-depersonalizing, and disclaim that specifically in the comment.

We could use more of the following:

  • Thoughtful use of qualifiers and disclaimers in talk about sex and gender.  Robin is not right.
  • Attention to the privileges of masculinity and attempts to reduce that disparity.  (Note that of course there are also female privileges, but until Less Wrong hosts custody battles or we start suspecting that some of us might be violent criminals, they are unlikely to come into play nearly so much in this location.)

Thank you for your attention and, hopefully, your assistance.

Comments (477)

Comment author: HughRistik 22 July 2009 04:34:18AM *  21 points [-]

Alicorn, perhaps you've changed the wording on this post since I originally read it, because though my initial reaction was negative, upon writing a reply I have very little disagreement with your actual prescriptions in this post. I do have some disagreements with your framing of the discourse on LessWrong.

Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. "Objectification" is what happens when a person is treated or discussed as an object, not as an autonomous being. (Non-women can also be objectified, and that too should be stopped.)

"Objectification" can be a difficult term due to people defining it in different ways. Yet given the way you define it here, I agree with advocating against talking about or treating people in a way that denies their autonomy or depersonalizes them.

Whether particular examples exhibit objectification is another question. I don't think that phrases such as "getting women" necessarily implies objectification, but since it is often used in that way, I think it's worthwhile to expend a little bit more effort to avoid it.

I agree on the issue of pronouns. "They" isn't really that bad.

As for generalizations: if data is not provided, then whatever evidence (e.g. anecdotes) leads to that notion should be presented, and/or the speculative nature of the claim should be acknowledged.

Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women.

"Manipulation" is not rigorously defined in this discussion, and people use it to mean different things. Some people use it mean any form of social influence/persuasion (and may defend "manipulation"). Other people use it mean unethical social influence; I think we both share this usage.

I also disagree with fawning admiration of pickup artists who gain their fame by forms of unethical social influence. It's not clear whether you are suggesting that all pickup artists engage in unethical social influence, or just some.

If it is necessary to refer admiringly to a pickup artist or pickup strategy (I'm not sure why it would be, but if), care should be taken to choose one whose methods are explicitly non-depersonalizing, and disclaim that specifically in the comment.

I would also advocate studying the methods of pickup artists who's methods are non-depersonalizing. Or if depersonalizing methods are studied due to some relevance to rationality, I would prefer to see the depersonalizing aspect critiqued.

Attention to the privileges of masculinity and attempts to reduce that disparity. (Note that of course there are also female privileges, but until Less Wrong hosts custody battles or we start suspecting that some of us might be violent criminals, they are unlikely to come into play nearly so much in this location.)

I agree with attention to unjust advantages based on gender ("privilege" is another non-rigorous term that shouldn't be used without a definition), as long as it runs both ways. I would caution you against assuming that the only systematic disadvantages men experience in society are in the legal system (but kudos for acknowledging the existence of some male disadvantages).

In Love in America, feminist sociologist Francesca Cancian argues that the conceptualization and discourse over love in Western is biased towards feminine expressions of love, and marginalizes masculine expressions of love. She calls this phenomenon the feminization of love.

While I mainly agree with your prescriptions, I disagree with your framing of the content of the discussions on less wrong that relate to gender. You say:

I suppose I could abandon the site and leave it even more masculine so the guys could all talk in their own language, unimpeded by stupid chicks being stupidly offended by completely unproblematic things like objectification and just plain jerkitude

You make the male discourse on the site sound a lot more unified than it actually is. In all objections you've made to certain discourse here, you have received substantial support by males (some of which you acknowledge, which makes me confused by your "masculine guys vs offended women" dichotomy in portraying LessWrong). In the example of "jerkitude" you cite, pjeby took the person involved to task and leveled multiple criticisms, such as a view of "entitlement." So did ciphergoth.

Someone made arguments that came of as overgeneralized and sexist; others came and critiqued him vocally. Sounds like the working of a healthy rationalist community to me, not of a locker room full of uncritical fawning over PUAs.

Finally, your post might give the idea (which I don't know whether you intend or not), that typical discussions on LessWrong that turn the subject of pickup are of a fawning nature. I think that this idea is false.

Personally, while I've always emphasized that pickup is relevant to rationality, I've included multiple criticisms of the community.

In this post, I accuse the seduction community of naive realism, and committing the availability heuristic in their model of women leading to oversimplification. In this post, I mention that some practices in the seduction community are unethical, and discuss my use of moral constraints on pickup techniques. In this post, I argue that some attitudes in the seduction community are overly cynical towards women, and detrimental to success in long-term relationships. In this post, I express skepticism that certain pickup theories are true even if they lead to success, and I suggest that the community falls prey to ideological thinking and that some of its techniques are morally questionable.

I actually have the creds to back up these criticisms. Btw, could you briefly list the pickup materials you have been exposed to so far so I can better qualify your claims about it?

Some of these posts attracted upvotes, but none attracted long threads. Maybe few people read them because I wasn't controversial enough. What I think this shows is that the subject of pickup and seduction can be discussed in a manner that is both complimentary and critical (an example I've attempted to show with my past posts on the subject), yet other threads suggest that people are more interested in participating in polarizing discussions of the subject.

While this may simply be an oversight, your post fails to acknowledge more reasoned and less sexist discussion of pickup on LessWrong that is critical of it (like mine, at least in my hopes), and critiques of pickup ideology when it has been presented (e.g. pjeby's critique of Sirducer's posts), presented by some of the very people who think there is value in the community and discussing it on LessWrong. While I support your requests for non-sexist and gender neutral language, I think your portrayal of the discussions of pickup on LessWrong is skewed due to these omissions.

P.S. I am planning on getting back to you in the name thread... I've been enjoying that discussion.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 July 2009 04:49:27AM 0 points [-]

Perhaps you've changed the wording on this post since I originally read it, because I have very little disagreement with your actual prescriptions in this post.

I haven't, or if I have I am suffering from amnesia.

It's not clear whether you are suggesting that all pickup artists engage in unethical social influence, or just some.

I have acknowledged that there are some tactics described by pickup artists that seem to me perfectly aboveboard ethics-wise. It is possible that some pickup artists use those tactics exclusively. I would not object to uncritical discussions of such artists, and do not object to uncritical discussions of such techniques.

would caution you against assuming that the only systematic disadvantages men experience in society are in the legal system

I don't assume that; people who are not affiliated with the legal system can suspect others of being violent criminals and act accordingly in discriminatory ways.

You make the male discourse on the site sound a lot more unified than it actually is. In all objections you've made to certain discourse here, you have received substantial support by males (some of which you acknowledge, which makes me confused by your "masculine guys vs offended women" dichotomy in portraying LessWrong). In the example of "jerkitude" you cite, pjeby took the person involved to task and leveled multiple criticisms, such as a view of "entitlement." So did ciphergoth.

The paragraph in question was a caricature. I did not intend that part to be an unaltered representation; people can read the original comments in their original contexts quite easily. I apologize if this was unclear.

Btw, could you briefly list the pickup materials you have been exposed to so far so I can better qualify your claims about it?

I read this blog and usually follow links people post in discussions on the subject here.

Comment author: HughRistik 22 July 2009 05:25:01AM *  4 points [-]

Before seeing your reply, I added this paragraph to the end of my post:

While this may simply be an oversight, your post fails to acknowledge more reasoned and less sexist discussion of pickup on LessWrong that is critical of it (like mine, at least in my hopes), and critiques of pickup ideology when it has been presented (e.g. pjeby's critique of Sirducer's posts), presented by some of the very people who think there is value in the community and discussing it on LessWrong. While I support your requests for non-sexist and gender neutral language, I think your portrayal of the discussions of pickup on LessWrong is skewed due to these omissions.

Continuing on:

I have acknowledged that there are some tactics described by pickup artists that seem to me perfectly aboveboard ethics-wise. It is possible that some pickup artists use those tactics exclusively. I would not object to uncritical discussions of such artists, and do not object to uncritical discussions of such techniques.

I acknowledge that you have acknowledged that some pickup tactics are ethics. Given that you wouldn't object to discussions of such techniques, where why you suggesting a moratorium on discussion pickup in the other thread?

I don't assume that; people who are not affiliated with the legal system can suspect others of being violent criminals and act accordingly in discriminatory ways.

Ok. When you said this:

Note that of course there are also female privileges, but until Less Wrong hosts custody battles or we start suspecting that some of us might be violent criminals, they are unlikely to come into play nearly so much in this location.

It sounded like you were saying that female advantages weren't much of a concern other than particular legal advantages women may have over men. I was pointing out that there are other female advantages in society that may be more relevant to LessWrong, such as the tendency for female perspectives to be seen as the default in discussions about sexuality and romance (see Cancian work I cited on the "feminization of love").

The paragraph in question was a caricature. I did not intend that part to be an unaltered representation; people can read the original comments in their original contexts quite easily. I apologize if this was unclear.

Thanks for clarifying. Still, I think your post in general gives a skewed account of the discussions on pickup on LessWrong; see the paragraph I added into my previous post and quote at the beginning of this one. Consequently, it bothers me that people are considering a moratorium on discussion of pickup partly due to a skewed idea they might have gotten from reading your original post.

I read this blog and usually follow links people post in discussions on the subject here.

I suspect that these materials are insufficient to get an idea of the breadth of the views in the seduction community. For instance, in How to be a Pickup Artist, Juggler argues that pickup:

also takes honesty. You probably didn't expect to see that word in a book on picking up women. Surprise. A true pick-up artist is not a player. While a player schemes and hides and sneaks around to get in an extra bit on his girlfriend or wife, the pick-up artist has neither the inkling nor time to do that. He seeks to be straight with the women who are involved with him. He has contempt for dishonesty and considers the player an unskilled opportunist. (p. 2)

Here's another couple links for you here and here, demonstrating the extreme "inner game" approach. The Authentic Man Program wouldn't consider themselves part of the pickup community, yet many of the guys who do AMP's programs are into pickup, they advertise in the community, and I see them as basically involved in the same kind of self-improvement project with a different focus.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 July 2009 05:32:11AM 1 point [-]

I think your portrayal of the discussions of pickup on LessWrong is skewed due to these omissions.

I wasn't trying to represent the entirety of the discussion on Less Wrong. I was pointing out a problem, and some examples of what might resemble a solution. Your comments don't strike me as problematic enough to call out or solution-esque enough to laud.

Given that you wouldn't object to discussions of such techniques, where why you suggesting a moratorium on discussion pickup in the other thread?

Because, as I said, I don't think it's likely that a less clear-cut, brightly-outlined policy will have an adequate effect.

I appreciate the links, but pickup is not a special interest of mine. It is not obvious to me that spending additional time immersing myself in the many and varied types of pickup is something I should do. I've acknowledged that it is a mixed bag; the kinds that are mentioned in the posts I point out as problems may or may not be fully representative, but those posts are still problems.

Comment author: HughRistik 22 July 2009 05:42:54AM *  6 points [-]

I wasn't trying to represent the entirety of the discussion on Less Wrong. I was pointing out a problem, and some examples of what might resemble a solution. Your comments don't strike me as problematic enough to call out or solution-esque enough to laud.

You may not have intended to represent the entirety of the discussion of pickup on LessWrong, but it seems that others may read your post this way leading to a moral panic.

I appreciate the links, but pickup is not a special interest of mine. It is not obvious to me that spending additional time immersing myself in the many and varied types of pickup is something I should do. I've acknowledged that it is a mixed bag; the kinds that are mentioned in the posts I point out as problems may or may not be fully representative, but those posts are still problems.

Right, I agree that those posts exhibit problems. And those posts were roundly criticized. Why is a dogpile of critical comments not enough of a solution? I'll address your other comment you linked to separately.

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm not the one downvoting your last couple comments.

Comment author: knb 20 July 2009 02:26:43AM *  49 points [-]

If you're wondering why half of the potential audience of the site seems to be conspicuously not here, this may have something to do with it.

I sincerely doubt it. This site is hugely less sexist than society at large. The comments at very high traffic sites are regularly flamed by many, many trolls who are explicitly, obnoxiously sexist, and yet these sites have a much larger percentage of women. As far as I can tell, the "misogynisitic comments" here are sincere, if somewhat indelicate questions or statements of opinion.

In fact "Roissy in DC" (a blog written by an openly misogynistic male "pick-up artist") has a much larger percentage of female commenters than Less Wrong. If you are looking for a culprit for why there are more men than women here, I suggest you start here.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

Its just a start, (and the poll is sort of old) but twice as many men believed in evolution without divine intervention. Combine that with the fact that less women spend less time on the internet and I think we have a good start when it comes to explaining the dearth of female commenters.

Comment author: Psychohistorian 20 July 2009 06:51:15AM *  6 points [-]

In fact "Roissy in DC" (a blog written by an openly misogynistic male "pick-up artist") has a much larger percentage of female commenters than Less Wrong

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this is principally defensive or similarly self-interested. Women interested in not being duped by jackasses will benefit little from understanding why they should one-box Newcomb's problem, compared to the benefit of understanding how to spot guys like Roissy.

Not that I'm implying every single woman who follows him has that motivation; his topic is admittedly much simpler and has virtually universal appeal than most LW content, at least to single people (not his take on the topic, just the topic generally).

Comment author: knb 20 July 2009 07:08:42AM *  22 points [-]

I think my point still stands. The women aren't always posting supportively, but they are posting. They post because they are interested in the subject matter: dating relationships, sex, etc. These are topics of broad appeal.

This site, however appeals to a group of self-identified rationalists who are interested in obscure topics like Newcomb's problem and the possibility of strong AI. This mindspace cluster is small and overwhelmingly male. Obviously, this is not a criticism of women. Enjoying these topics (or not) is merely a matter of preference.

Women aren't avoiding this site because of occasional comments alluding to the fact that men like having sex with attractive women.

Comment author: goldfishlaser 20 July 2009 07:49:12AM *  10 points [-]

This is what I'm talking about in my other comment. "Women" are interested in "dating, relationships, sex" and "self-identified rationalists" are interested in "newcomb's problem, and the possibility of strong AI". Do you know what most men are doing tonight? Not hanging out here.

I'm interested in the possibility of strong AI and am slowly but surely obtaining and reading the necessary foundational material (starting off with SIAI core reading). I'm perfectly able to love and understand Newcomb's problem and similar. Whether you meant "the average woman" or what, it's careless of you to say this.

Though I agree with you that it is unlikely that women are not participating because of perceived sexism.

Edit: I'd like to mention that I've tried my hardest to get my boyfriend to read this site more often, but he refuses, because he thinks some of the stuff we talk about is ridiculous and irrelevant to life.

Edit: deleted female anecdote, but leaving male anecdote, because it is still necessary to provide support for my point.

Comment author: knb 20 July 2009 05:10:08PM 12 points [-]

This is what I'm talking about in my other comment. "Women" are interested in "dating, relationships, sex" and "self-identified rationalists" are interested in "newcomb's problem, and the possibility of strong AI". Do you know what most men are doing tonight? Not hanging out here.

What part of my comment are you disagreeing with? You seem to think I was claiming "men like rationality topics" and "women like dating/relationship topics". This is not at all what I was claiming.

I was stating that almost everyone, male and female, is interested in dating/relationship topics and there is only a tiny set of people interested in LW-style rationality topics. For whatever reason, this set is mostly male. I don't know what your anecdote is supposed to demonstrate, except that there are some men who aren't interested in LW and some women who are (which is totally compatible with my comment).

Comment author: goldfishlaser 20 July 2009 06:28:21PM 11 points [-]

With the new information from your second comment, I read your original comment in a different way. We have no disagreements.

Comment author: taryneast 20 March 2011 10:26:22AM *  6 points [-]

I know I'm late to this party but... I totally agree that mostly it's the case that there is an initial low volume of women coming to this site.

However... given that there is already a low volume arriving at the site we should therefore be extra careful not to scare any away through total insensitivity.

I don't mean we should be afraid to utter words that may be taken the wrong way, but that PUA is really a very hot topic... one that is not appreciated by a very large proportion of women (myself included).

It goes a little beyond "occasional comments alluding to the fact that men like having sex with attractive women." - which I definitely have no problem with. PUA is about manipulation - specifically, manipulation of the kinds of automatic processes that a woman can normally rely on to benefit her own safety and enjoyment - a manipulation of these processes that does not, in fact, benefit the woman, but the man doing the PU. This is why it's a Dark Art.

I personally feel uncomfortable supporting a site that support the lesser forms of evil. I would be equally pissed off if we talked supportively about the more manipulative advertising and marketing techniques...

I think that we should avoid these topics, because it scares people away - men as well as women, but the PUA one specifically scares women away... and given that there's so few of us here already, we should try especially hard to not do that.

Comment deleted 20 July 2009 06:40:50AM *  [-]
Comment author: goldfishlaser 20 July 2009 08:26:18AM 11 points [-]

Roko, I've read through a lot of your comments and we agree on a lot. I think you're bringing very important ideas to the table, including your politics comment down the page, which I upvoted.

I would never advocate the censorship of language, but I think that a lot of what is potentially offensive to females results from careless thinking about gender that could be corrected with the appropriate information. I don't care about my feelings being hurt, I care because I think that their current perceptions about females that are showing through in the posts result from a lack of information which I have, and that they would probably appreciate receiving.

Anyways... no one is actually censoring anyone because no one is keeping anyone from saying anything, right? Someone is just calling to attention what I think most gender sensitive people (which would probably be the majority of the people here!) would avoid anyway if they considered it for a moment.

I would like to say again, that I can see why you would be concerned. We should continue to promote things based on scientific or rational merit and not take the easy way out using political-like appeals.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 20 July 2009 09:03:30AM 11 points [-]

"Rationality is basically the art of not censoring thought because it hurts your feelings."

And driving is basically the art of turning a wheel back and forth.

Comment author: G_Ruby 21 July 2009 01:44:21AM 7 points [-]

Hello all,

New rationalist/reader/commenter here.

I originally wrote a rant against PUA culture and then a summation of that rant to post here, but I realized that most, if not all, of my objections to what I perceive to be negative in the PUA community and practice are derived from my biases [and insecurities] rather than a truly rational foundation.

I can object to the PUA sub-culture out of personal distaste, and maybe from a weak ethical point of view, but besides parts of the body of PUA doctrine and rhetoric, there is really nothing irrational about them that I can see.

These men have taken empirical observations and social engineering experiments and created a pragmatic system to utilize for their desired goal in a legal and relatively non-detrimental manner.

So the greater argument seems to be, at least insomuch that the PUA community and their practices are relevant to the original post in this thread, a question of which person-of-interest and group irrationalities/biases are to be sanctioned here for the sake of making certain posters more comfortable.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 July 2009 11:51:08PM 15 points [-]

What sort of masculine privilege is appearing on LW that isn't covered by the sort of blundering myopic obliviousness already mentioned in the lines above that? The notion of "privilege" is one that I regard as dangerously general (and generally dangerous), so a bit more narrow advice might be helpful here.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 12:06:15AM *  3 points [-]

I guess the most salient one is the privilege to ignore male privilege (#46 on the list I linked). Numbers 6, 19, and 32 are also important, plus the fact that the local "role models" (everybody on the Top Contributors list except me and AnnaSalamon, plus Robin Hanson and most of the mathematicians / psychologists / economists / bloggers / philosophers etc. cited by people here) are all male.

Comment author: anonym 20 July 2009 08:22:49PM *  3 points [-]

\6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

Why do you think that applies here?

At least 20% of the "Top Contributors" are female, which is far higher than expected given LW demographics. How does that fit with point 6?

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 08:31:39PM *  1 point [-]

Why do you think that applies here?

As an immediately obvious example, the grandparent, my comment answering Eliezer's question about which privileges I thought relevant, is at 0 and has been negative. Julian Morrison's reply, which does just about exactly the same thing, is at 2 points. Not that his comment was not helpful and doesn't deserve two points, but it seems roughly similar to its parent in content. This could be personal, instead of related to my gender, or I might have actually put something badly whereas his very concise comment avoided such issues - or it could be #6. I have no way of knowing.

At least 20% of the "Top Contributors" are female, which is far higher than expected given LW demographics. How does that fit with point 6?

AnnaSalamon is still there, but she has not posted anything in two months and it's not obvious that she'll be back in the forseeable future. She's slipping down the list, and unless she returns to regular activity and gets new karma, I will be the only female there after a while.

Also, mere overwhelming male prevalence on the site is a form of privilege in itself.

Edit: After my third instance of suspiciously rapid karma drop, I'm no longer one of the top ten highest-karma'ed posters - as soon as the list refreshes I will be off it unless I get upvoted enough before then. I guess that solves the representative demographics problem.

Edit 2: Now it's back...

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 09:45:03PM 5 points [-]

Well, I voted you up. Your post seems to have been downvoted for pure disagreement. I voted to correct that.

Mine was just additive with no substantive argument, so it got props for info without drawing partisan fire. I think. I doubt it's that you're female - it's that you were the enemy. Very bad rationalist behavior, but I'm not sure it's sexist.

Comment author: anonym 20 July 2009 09:22:41PM *  3 points [-]

The "evidence" you've given to support 6 is extremely weak. I'm not saying that such bias does not exist -- I absolutely do not know -- but your response doesn't convince me in the slightest.

It is obvious that some people with very strong feelings (or who are especially angry, etc.) might be voting you anomalously at the moment. I think the drive-by voting that seems to go on here for many different reasons is deplorable, but your single anecdote is not evidence of a pervasive long-standing trend.

And the fact that AnnaSalamon is not active at the moment but is still on the leader board is irrelevant to my point that there are currently more women on the board than expected, not fewer, which would be the case if your point held.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 09:25:33PM *  1 point [-]

How could there be fewer women on the list than expected? We are 3% of the LW population according to Yvain's survey - even if we're underreported and are really twice that, it wouldn't be statistically odd for there to be no women on the top list.

Also, I don't doubt that the recent odd voting is because of the storm I've stirred up here - but it happened twice before I'd even considered putting up this post. It's happened to other people too.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 01:26:52AM 3 points [-]

Also #23, #30 and #33.

Comment author: thomblake 19 July 2009 10:37:30PM *  15 points [-]

Attention to the privileges of masculinity

For a balancing perspective, female privilege checklist.

Comment author: MichaelBishop 20 July 2009 12:10:39AM 5 points [-]

Robin Hanson said:

The next obvious step is to assign point values to such privileges, so we can add them up and compare totals.

Of course there would be many ways to disagree about such point values, including how they should account for differing abilities and preferences. You’d open yourself up more to ridicule by posting a calculation, as folks could trumpet your most vulnerable estimate as evidence of your insincerity. And you wouldn’t show your impressiveness nearly as much as you could via a fancy math model, statistical data analysis, or semiotic text analysis.

But the essence of analysis is to "break it down", to take apart vague wholes into clearer parts. For the same reasons we make point lists to help us make tough job decisions, or ask people who sue for damages to name an amount and break it into components, we should try to break down these important social claims via simple calculations. And the absense of attempts at this is a sad commentary on something.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 12:17:08AM 2 points [-]

It's not at all obvious to me why this might need doing. Inequalities aren't, say, good, so as long as the goal is "make people aware of X" and not "allocate money to alleviating X" (for instance) why have a stupid contest about who is less privileged than whom in numerical fashion?

Comment author: MichaelBishop 20 July 2009 12:37:56AM *  6 points [-]

I agree that Robin's suggestion is somewhat beside the point. Regardless of how male and female privilege tallies up, I want to know about what I can do to make people, including women, feel fairly treated and respected, and to encourage them to participate on LW.

I hope including Robin's comments won't detract from those goals. That said, I do think this sort of accounting is useful for helping me set priorities. i.e. Which groups and issues are most deserving of more of my finite time and resources.

Comment author: taw 19 July 2009 11:59:11PM 5 points [-]

Most of the entries of masculine privilege checklist are either very weakly supported by data (everything about job discrimination) or purely subjective and not too serious (nobody will think X about me if ..., most of those are untrue too).

A list proven of serious and genuine gender "advantages" would be interesting, but these two lists are worthless.

Comment author: Rakel 20 July 2009 08:17:10AM 21 points [-]

This post (and the comments on it) made me finally to register in here, partly because I had few discussions about similar topics just a few days ago.

As knb said: "This site is hugely less sexist than society at large." While this might be true, it only means that most people in here are "less wrong" than society at large. This does not mean that they are right. It also has the same ring to my ears as "Some of my friends are black/jewish/<insert minority here>".

Gender bias is rampant even in the internet where it should hold no sway (there are no visual clues, no pheromones etc.), and denying its excistence only enforces it. If you want to see it, just try using feminine nickname for few weeks.

On the topic of objectification and PUA, I have decided to read "The Book" because I know that I hold a bias against it.

Heteronormative examples actually bother me more than masculine ones, and this might be because there are no gender specific pronomins in my native language. My brain just seems to skip over the usual "he/his/him" and interpret it as a gender neutral version.

Generalizations of certain type of either sex are very annoying. By this I refer to things like "men don't cry" and "women are such gossips". My annoyance with things like these most likely stems form two points. First, I don't recognize myself or anyone I know in them (I know, anecdotal evidence and all that). Second, they put up a framework according which one should behave.

As Alicorn says, costs of this type of thinking can be very high. For excample, because of "women are the weaker sex" they were effectively shut out of the intellectual community until about 100 years ago. Because of "men are not caring" they still lose custodity battles more often than not, and end up being deprived of their children.

Basically, assigning certain attributes to either sex effectively prohibits those attributes in the other sex. That is not useful or rational, that is just limiting the potential.

Comment author: Tom_Talbot 20 July 2009 08:05:47PM *  11 points [-]

Basically, assigning certain attributes to either sex effectively prohibits those attributes in the other sex. That is not useful or rational, that is just limiting the potential.

Upvoted for this but... in a way this reminds me of the Tversky and Edwards experiment mentioned in the Technical Explanation where participants are shown a sequence of red and blue cards and asked to guess the next in the sequence. Since 70% of the cards are blue the best strategy is to always guess blue, but participants irrationally guess a mixture of blue and red as if they could predict the sequence.

So, if you are confident that a group exists (confident that you are 'carving reality at its joints'), are confident that an individual is a member of that group, have good evidence that more than half of the members of the group have Trait X, and no further information about a member-of-the-group and you must make a decision based on available information with no opportunity to gather more information (or it is prohibitively expensive to gather information), you should assume that member-of-the-group has Trait X. In all other cases it is not rational to operate under the assumption that the individual has Trait X.

(Reading back through that my point seems kind of pedantic. But that's what we do here, right? Anyway.)

Using gendered language or (much worse) thought experiments in a discussion that has nothing to do with gender adds noise and impedes understanding. This is the danger of using PUAs as examples of winners in "rationalists should win"* discussions. It brings in irrelevant assumptions and excludes women by using an example most of them can't relate to (technical details about picking up women in bars or bookstores or the singularity summit or whatever.) So what I'm saying is discussions about sex (in both senses of the word) should be deliberately kept seperate from other discussions of rationalism, and that allowing irrelevant sex talk to bleed into our discussions distorts them and our conclusions.

*This phrase bugs me so much!

Comment author: Rakel 21 July 2009 05:45:06AM 8 points [-]

You raise a good point. There are certain statistically proven differences between sexes and making generalizations based on these statistics is a good strategy for example under the conditions you specified. Differencies of this kind include things like "men on average are taller than women" and "women on average have higher percantage of body fat than men". I don't think anyone in here has a problem with generalizations like these.

My point was that there is a different class of generalizations which is problematic. One of the examples I used above was "men don't cry". This implies that if you don't adhere to the norm described, you don't fit in. Showing emotions is "unmanly" and and boys are actually told this when growing up (using a masculine example purely intentional). While the claim "men don't cry" might have some statistical support, we should think about the causal relations between the claim and the reality. The fact that the claim exists and is used bringing up boys will establish a situation where it becomes a norm. Men will not cry because they are told not to, not because that is inherently built in the Y chromosome. With generalizations like this everyone in here should have a problem.

On your comment about excluding discussions about sex from other discussions about rationalism: I think this would generate a unneccessary blind spot. Rationalism should be applied whenever possible, and I find discussions about sex in no way an exception to this "rule". The area is difficult because humans are so interested in it and it affects us in many ways, most of which are hard to see. This is why there might be a lot to gain.

Comment author: Raw_Power 09 October 2010 03:35:41PM 2 points [-]

This is simply a case of confusing normative statements with descriptive ones. If we raise the sanity line enough, such misconceptions should vanish spontaneously.

Comment author: Relsqui 09 October 2010 08:23:21PM 4 points [-]

That's a two-way process as well. One of the ways we can raise the sanity line is to clearly demonstrate an understanding of the difference between those statements.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 20 July 2009 10:13:58AM 13 points [-]

Is it me, or was this post a little heavy on the other-optimizing? Yes, there's been a bit of talk about wanting more female posters here, but I haven't even seen an agreement that that's a priority, much less a request for advice on the topic. (Did I miss one? I'll admit I haven't been following the comments that closely recently.)

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 02:59:04PM *  12 points [-]

Well, there's been nothing like a vote on it. But I've definitely gotten the impression that we're doing community-building here, and attracting potential rationalists was one of Eliezer's stated goals. So it seems that a community norm against repelling potential rationalists would be a good one.

Comment author: Rachael 21 July 2009 06:52:56AM 37 points [-]

The problem is real. I am a 21 year old woman and an aspiring rationalist, and my friends are mostly women and some are also aspiring rationalists. We find much of the conversation about women on this site so off-putting that I for one have never commented before. I read Eliezer's work and enjoy it very much indeed, which is why I stick around at all.

I am simply astounded at the men here confidently asserting that they aren't alienating women when they talk about "getting" "attractive women" and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male. This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house, and I feel humiliated when I read it.

I am fully aware that some men think this way, and that in certain social scenes almost all the "players" in the social "game" see it this way. If getting ahead in a social game like that gives you loads of utility then thinking of women in this way might be rational. But if you would derive more utility from having long and close relationships with female rationalists, you might like to know that female rationalists will be less likely to seek out your company and attention if you persist in that attitude.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 February 2013 02:35:04PM *  6 points [-]

I am simply astounded at the men here confidently asserting that they aren't alienating women when they talk about "getting" "attractive women" and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male. This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house, and I feel humiliated when I read it.

If a woman publicly asserts that she wants to "get" an "attractive man", would you also think that she is being alienating?

Most people, regardless of whether they are men or women, want attractive partners, and yet, in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial or even sexist when they are honest about their desires.

In addition, insofar as successful men are significantly more likely than not-so-successful men to attract women whom they find attractive, having an attractive girlfriend does signal that you are successful.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 22 February 2013 06:44:30PM 6 points [-]

FWIW, I find individuals who talk about men as high-status possessions rather offputting as well, regardless of their gender.
That said, I've never tried to participate in a community I considered defined by such individuals.

Comment author: Nornagest 26 February 2013 06:08:25AM 3 points [-]

Most people, regardless of whether they are men or women, want attractive partners, and yet, in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial or even sexist when they are honest about their desires.

I've seen "superficial". As to the other two, I believe the party line is that sexism requires both prejudice and institutionalized power in order to function, that males are uniformly more socially powerful, and thus that male-directed sexism is impossible. In itself that's little more than a definitional quibble, but in practice this shakes out to a belief that otherwise identical behaviors are less alienating when directed at men.

How seriously you take that probably depends more on your politics than on your observed experiences. That being said, I imagine I'd feel pretty alienated if I'd wandered into a 90%-female community that frequently discussed men in terms of status potential, and I further imagine that that sort of thought experiment should screen off most of the information we'd get from discussing which accusations are more common.

Comment author: taelor 03 March 2013 10:09:12AM *  2 points [-]

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, I think it's generally much easier to convince a group to stop doing something because it's bad than to convince them that its okay when others do it, but only bad when they do it.

As to the other two, I believe the party line is that sexism requires both prejudice and institutionalized power in order to function, that males are uniformly more socially powerful, and thus that male-directed sexism is impossible. In itself that's little more than a definitional quibble, but in practice this shakes out to a belief that otherwise identical behaviors are less alienating when directed at men.

Would this imply that, in a truly sexually egalitarian society where niether side posses any systematic power disparities over the other, and both would be free to objectify the other without being sexist?

Comment author: hairyfigment 23 February 2013 07:40:35AM 2 points [-]

If a woman publicly asserts that she wants to "get" an "attractive man", would you also think that she is being alienating?

Sure. I usually wouldn't care enough to object, but it would seem faintly wrong in a way that 'I want to have sex with an attractive guy,' or a concrete statement of any other desire, would not.

And I most certainly would not expect most heterosexual guys to participate in a web-community that often talked about how to "get an attractive man".

in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial...when they are honest about their desires.

If you really meant that, then your experience seems weirdly limited. Or are we just talking about sexual desires? I think the statement still fails in that case, but not as soundly.

Comment author: J_Taylor 26 February 2013 04:24:59AM 0 points [-]

Most people, regardless of whether they are men or women, want attractive partners, and yet, in my experience, only men are accused of being alienating or superficial or even sexist when they are honest about their desires.

As a general rule, everyone is constantly accusing everyone else of everything.

Comment author: wedrifid 26 February 2013 10:53:01AM 4 points [-]

As a general rule, everyone is constantly accusing everyone else of everything.

This seems deep, open minded, egalitarian and... blatantly false. People aren't constantly accusing everyone else of everything. Moreover some people do more accusing than others, some people receive more accusations than others and some kinds of accusations are received more positively by observers than others. Anyone who believed (or, rather, anyone who alieved) your theory would make poor predictions of human behavior and make correspondingly bad social decisions.

Comment author: J_Taylor 27 February 2013 03:22:37AM 4 points [-]

This seems deep, open minded, egalitarian and... blatantly false.

I was honestly going more for silly, cynical, misanthropic and... obviously hyperbole.

If you do not mind me quoting a different part of this thread momentarily:

To the extent that it is a joke it is a bad joke, inappropriate to the context, with an undesirable expected influence, encouraging flawed patterns of thought.

I do not understand what flawed patterns of thought I am encouraging. Could you elaborate a bit?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 27 February 2013 04:50:56AM 3 points [-]

I do not understand what flawed patterns of thought I am encouraging. Could you elaborate a bit?

It's related to the fallacy of gray.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 February 2013 02:29:05AM 0 points [-]

If a woman publicly asserts that she wants to "get" an "attractive man", would you also think that she is being alienating?

Logical fallacy ad hominem tu quoque?

Comment author: [deleted] 23 February 2013 07:45:18AM 3 points [-]

I was not trying to disprove Rachael. I was merely trying to point out the potential use of double standards.

Comment author: Raw_Power 09 October 2010 01:29:48PM *  5 points [-]

Female rationalists are rare enough that I for one think we should proactively endeavour to attract them here, rather than thoughtlessly alienating them and then being baffled by the backlash of those who are interested enough in this blog to even care.

Comment author: Rukifellth 15 February 2013 06:21:36PM *  2 points [-]

and speak of women as symbols of male success or indeed accessories for a successful male.

This piques a nerve of mine. Thinking about others in terms of evolutionary psychology/ladder theory alone is a pretty huge screw-up, and I'm surprised that it happens frequently enough on this website that this has gotten so many upvotes. Then again, I'm fairly new. When did this happen?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 February 2013 02:41:25PM *  2 points [-]

This reduces me and other females (including female rationalists) to the category of a fancy car or a big house,

Women reduce men to a fancy car and a big house all the time. I used to find it rather insulting. I'd rather be reduced to a sex object. The grass is always greener.

Both men and women get reduced to status symbols for their mates. That's the way it is. I don't get much heartburn over it anymore.

Comment author: jooyous 15 February 2013 06:00:27PM *  14 points [-]

The whole point of this website is that we can do something about big problems. Like dying!

I feel like not treating each other like crap should be a much easier problem to tackle than dying. Your comment smacks of System Justification.

Comment author: MugaSofer 19 February 2013 01:27:47PM 2 points [-]

While it's worth noting that men can also be objectified, I don't see how it follows that this isn't a Bad Thing.

Comment author: army1987 21 February 2013 07:22:04PM *  4 points [-]

While the statement "unfortunately people from group A undergo experience X" doesn't logically entail anything about people outside group A, it often does pragmatically implicate that the speaker doesn't think that people outside group A experiencing X constitute a problem to be worried about at the moment (otherwise, the speaker would likely not have mentioned group A in the first place: when did you last hear anyone lamenting that so many right-handed people die in car accidents?); therefore, the fact that both people within and outside A experience X is a reason to ADBOC with such a statement.

Comment author: goldfishlaser 20 July 2009 04:22:39AM 11 points [-]

I concur. I agree with a lot of what you say... I get upset frequently because of things said about women, many just offhandedly.

I am here, I've been reading for over a year and am a huge advocate of this site, but was not counted in the survey. But I'm 20 years old and rarely feel like I have anything valuable to offer the community... and because of that actually feel hesitation to respond to these kind of things. I also don't live a life about feminism or being a girl and would hate to be perceived that way.

Comment author: RobinZ 20 July 2009 04:25:03PM 2 points [-]

I also don't live a life about feminism or being a girl and would hate to be perceived that way.

I know what you mean - I don't live a life about affirmative action or being black, and I hate playing the role of "black".

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 03:29:53PM 2 points [-]

But I'm 20 years old

If you think you will be in a better position to contribute in 10 years, that is a positive fact about your current self, not a negative one. Note that I am 30 and I'm convinced that my contributions would be more valuable in 10 years as well, but that doesn't seem to be a reason not to contribute now.

Comment author: woozle 22 July 2009 01:40:32AM *  10 points [-]

I'm in an interesting/weird(?) position with regard to the problem pointed out in this post in that I have (self-diagnosed, peer-confirmed) gender dysphoria, and in a number of ways do not think "like a guy".

For example: Without going all TMI, I'll just say that I don't relate to the whole heroin analogy, despite having (as far as I can tell) more-or-less normal levels of male hormones running around in my brain (not something I'm at all happy about, mind you, but nonetheless it doesn't seem to compel me that way). I'm not completely unsympathetic; I just don't experience it.

Furthermore, my own observations of more-or-less-normal men suggest that they do not universally see things this way. It is quite possible to be normally-male and heterosexual and yet still be more interested in building a solid relationship (of which sex might become a part) with a person who is a woman than with arbitrarily seeking out women solely for the purpose of obtaining sex as if it were some sort of commodity. (Not that I know how this is done, because I'm not normal.)

On the other hand, while I don't make such remarks myself (because it isn't how I think), I tend to be somewhat oblivious to male-sexist remarks made by others. I'm guessing this is due to socialization as a male: being trained to think that such remarks are normal, so if they bother me I should just keep quiet. (There are a large number of areas in which I have been implicitly trained to just keep quiet, especially with regard to gender. I'm not happy about this either.) I do find it off-putting, but generally the "keep quiet" kicks in and I just move on to the next comment.

It seems to me that framing this as a choice between providing "safe space" and "being able to speak openly" -- an argument from consequences, even, and therefore "not rational" -- is a false dilemma. Claiming that Alicorn's objection is solely based on her "feelings" (or the feelings of women, even) is just as inaccurate, and rather manipulative at that.

What's irrational, I should think, is speaking as if "getting" women were a rational goal -- shared by all men and understood by all women to be part of How Things Are. It is one possible means of achieving a goal which I am willing to term "rational" (if we allow rational goals to be based on hard-wired non-rational needs), i.e. getting one's "heroin fix" -- but pursuing that particular strategy is not intrinsically rational (since there are other techniques which lead to longer-lasting relationships, thus providing more reliable sex if that's all that matters to you, while also not ignoring the value of women as sentient individuals).

Speaking of something in admiring terms when it is arguably harmful to some is not sympathy-inspiring; speaking in a way that is likely to lower one's social standing, if you don't have a compelling reason for doing so, is also not rational.

It seems to me that it should be fine to talk about the need that many men apparently have for regular sex, and various ways of satisfying that need, but talk about the subject rather than framing the discussion in terms which suggest that a particular group's main social function is to meet that need.

In the earlier comment which sparked Alicorn's post, for example, this statement:

most people here don't value social status enough and (especially the men) don't value having sex with extremely attractive women that money and status would get them.

is a problem because, as phrased, it implicitly dismisses the harm done by the attitude he is admiring and promoting. It's a little like saying (although milder) that we won't ever really succeed because we don't have sufficient callousness to steal from others when we know we can get away with it.

What he might have said -- if I'm not re-interpreting it too much -- is that we are too little motivated by material pleasures to devote much of our energy towards achieving them, and therefore we are less likely to achieve the influence necessary to obtain such pleasures -- even though this influence would be far more helpful in achieving our goals than are the means by which we more commonly pursue those goals. (sentence fatigue, whew.)

That is a legitimate suggestion, whether or not you agree with it. Implying that it's necessary to exploit women in order to do so, however, is unnecessary and runs against the goals I hope we all share.

Comment author: thomblake 22 July 2009 01:53:33AM 2 points [-]

here are a large number of areas in which I have been implicitly trained to just keep quiet, especially with regard to gender. I'm not happy about this either.

My advice: Fight this. Concentrate on it, and fight it tooth and nail. Life's too short.

Comment author: Rings_of_Saturn 20 July 2009 06:24:56PM *  38 points [-]

My main problem with this post is that it attempts to impose social norms based on nothing more than your personal feelings, Alicorn.

I found your "Disclaimer" very off-putting. Though I'm sure you will say that you were either trying to be as straight-forward as possible or that you are just being cute and charming (taking these assumptions from comments you have already posted), I immediately read this disclaimer as saying: "Anyone who disagrees in the comments with what I have to say in this post is almost certainly going to be labelled as sexist." This casts a pallor over the entire discussion.

Imagine if I wanted to post something controversial on AI, something that I knew from past experience with the community was going to get me a lot of challenges in the comments, and I prefaced it with "If you are a stupid person who doesn't really understand AI the way I do, and who can't really do math as well as I can, this post is unlikely to interest you." I'd be laughed off the board, and rightly so.

In fact, one might consider it an excellent piece of evidence of one's own yet-unseen bias if one feels the need to preface a discussion with all-purpose disagreement-deflectors of this kind!

My other objection to the way you have framed this issue is to your twin assertions that you (A) are not interested in feminist stuff per se, and (B) are not easily offended. I believe you on both counts, of course, though I have nothing to go on except your own assertion. Nevertheless, it is my observation that on the particular issues you raise in this post (and many, many times before in the comments of other posts), you are easily offended. To my mind, almost comically so.

But, to follow your rhetorical maneuver here: You (A) aren't particularly a "feminist" and (B) aren't particularly sensitive, therefore (C) you aren't being overly-sensitive on this issue. Well, even granting (A) and (B) on very little evidence, I still reject (C).

However, from where I sit, you have raised some legitimate concerns, and for that reason I upvoted this post. But I want to register that I strongly disapprove of the borderline-coercive way in which you do it in this post and have done it in the past in the comments. This post feels creepily thought-police-y to me, which I am sure is not your intent.

To respond to your specific suggestions, I'd like to register that ....

I agree with #1 in principle but it's clear to me that I have a very different definition of what constitutes an unethical level of "objectification" and therefore this one may calculate out to disagreement on my part.

I agree with #2, though it seems like a rather tiny issue. I know, I know... Male advantage #46, right? Nevertheless, having duly considered my Male Advantages, I still think this is a negligible issue, one that you have every right to try and change if you please, but which I emphatically reject as a norm to be placed on others in this community.

I strongly agree with #3, because those kinds of unfounded generalizations are both unfair to women (or whatever subgroup), and bad-faith argument, and sloppy thinking.

I strongly agree with #4, mainly because I don't see what PUA discussion adds to Less Wrong. I'm actually fascinated with PUA theory and practice, but it's rife with pseudo-science and discussed in such detail on so many other blogs that I'd prefer to see Less Wrong steer relatively clear of it as a serious topic.

Your suggestions for what we can "use more of:"

Number 1: I agree most strongly with this suggestion, both on gender issues specifically and on all topics in general. Thoughtful qualifiers are always a good idea. I actually think these are part of the secret to the power and popularity of Eliezer's writing and Yvain's too.

Number 2: is a useless catch-all that, again, makes me feel creepy. What do you mean "attention"? Should we all post one comment a week that deplores male privilege? I know you are not advocating anything mandatory, and my question is tongue-in-cheek. But do you see how this kind of talk (along with your first disclaimer) casts a gauzy shroud of "guilty of sexism until proven innocent" over the place?

Comment author: Alicorn 21 July 2009 05:06:46AM 15 points [-]

My main problem with this post is that it attempts to impose social norms based on nothing more than your personal feelings, Alicorn.

If the evidence linked to in the post didn't persuade you that I'm not alone in those feelings, I'm afraid I don't have any more handy to offer, especially since as I write this comment the site is down and I can't do searches.

I found your "Disclaimer" very off-putting. Though I'm sure you will say that you were either trying to be as straight-forward as possible or that you are just being cute and charming ... I immediately read this disclaimer as saying: "Anyone who disagrees in the comments with what I have to say in this post is almost certainly going to be labelled as sexist." This casts a pallor over the entire discussion.

When I try to be cute, I usually do a better job. There exist people who assume that if there were sexism around, their keen sexism senses would have detected it; therefore, in the minds of these people, anyone who points out sexism they didn't notice is making it up. Mockery of the "whiny girls" typically follows. The existence of those people and the fact that they are idiots does not mean that I am automatically right when I say there is a problem in this community. However, anyone who, upon reading any statement of sexism that they hadn't already observed, would dismiss it without further thought, would have found the post wasted on them. As you might have suspected, I think I'm right and that people who think that the problems I point out aren't problems are mistaken. That doesn't mean I think every person who disagrees with me about this falls into the category of person targeted by my disclaimer.

Imagine if I wanted to post something controversial on AI, something that I knew from past experience with the community was going to get me a lot of challenges in the comments, and I prefaced it with "If you are a stupid person who doesn't really understand AI the way I do, and who can't really do math as well as I can, this post is unlikely to interest you." I'd be laughed off the board, and rightly so.

That would be quite unlike what my disclaimer said.

In fact, one might consider it an excellent piece of evidence of one's own yet-unseen bias if one feels the need to preface a discussion with all-purpose disagreement-deflectors of this kind!

This is an interesting claim, and I would like to hear more about why you think it seems likely.

My other objection to the way you have framed this issue is to your twin assertions that you (A) are not interested in feminist stuff per se, and (B) are not easily offended. I believe you on both counts, of course, though I have nothing to go on except your own assertion. Nevertheless, it is my observation that on the particular issues you raise in this post (and many, many times before in the comments of other posts), you are easily offended. To my mind, almost comically so.

The fact that I am more offended than you by a certain class of things - specifically, by things that have to do with a group I belong to and you do not - does not make me easily offended, any more than the fact that Superman can be quickly brought to his knees by Kryptonite while ordinary humans walk around unaffected means that Superman is easily weakened.

But, to follow your rhetorical maneuver here: You (A) aren't particularly a "feminist" and (B) aren't particularly sensitive, therefore (C) you aren't being overly-sensitive on this issue. Well, even granting (A) and (B) on very little evidence, I still reject (C).

Okay. It's not like I've got an airtight, formally valid proof backing me up there, so you can certainly do that.

However, from where I sit, you have raised some legitimate concerns, and for that reason I upvoted this post. But I want to register that I strongly disapprove of the borderline-coercive way in which you do it in this post and have done it in the past in the comments. This post feels creepily thought-police-y to me, which I am sure is not your intent.

Thank you for the vote. I'm not sure what you mean by coercion. I don't really have the power to (going by Wikipedia) threaten, intimidate, trick, or otherwise exercise pressure or force on anyone here - I mean, I have the power to downvote, and the power to type sternly. But I had that before, and I've made my wishes about gendered language known before. I also would make a terrible officer of the thought police: I can't read minds, can't enforce my rules about the contents of minds, and don't know anybody who can do either of those things and is disposed to do so according to my wishes. My only powers are to read what people type, and vote, and type sternly.

I agree with #1 in principle but it's clear to me that I have a very different definition of what constitutes an unethical level of "objectification" and therefore this one may calculate out to disagreement on my part.

Okay. People are certain to draw the line in different places with objectification, just as we already do with things like lying and violence and other wrong things. My job is mostly done if you think objectification exists and that this isn't cause for confetti.

I agree with #2, though it seems like a rather tiny issue. I know, I know... Male advantage #46, right? Nevertheless, having duly considered my Male Advantages, I still think this is a negligible issue, one that you have every right to try and change if you please, but which I emphatically reject as a norm to be placed on others in this community.

If it's so tiny, it shouldn't be such a struggle to get people to accommodate the wish. I have less trouble getting my roommate to drive me to another city an hour away and back.

[various statements of agreement]

Great :)

Number 2: is a useless catch-all that, again, makes me feel creepy. What do you mean "attention"? Should we all post one comment a week that deplores male privilege? I know you are not advocating anything mandatory, and my question is tongue-in-cheek. But do you see how this kind of talk (along with your first disclaimer) casts a gauzy shroud of "guilty of sexism until proven innocent" over the place?

I'm sorry you feel creepy. It would be nice if it were possible to confront privilege without feeling creepy. I think it's worth it anyway. By "attention", I mean thought, care, consideration - not necessarily copious chat. As for "guilty of sexism until proven innocent", I don't see it. I'm not descending on a fledgling community in which no one has ever used the words "women" or "female" or even so much as a gendered pronoun and screaming, "You're all male chauvinist pigs and you must obey my law!" I'm pointing out a problem that a handful of posters have perpetuated. I have been and remain surprised by, not resigned to or broodingly resentful of, the fact that these few posters have not been as widely repudiated for these actions as I would have thought.

Comment author: pjeby 21 July 2009 05:33:51AM *  9 points [-]

If it's so tiny, it shouldn't be such a struggle to get people to accommodate the wish. I have less trouble getting my roommate to drive me to another city an hour away and back.

You probably don't ask your roommate in such a way as to imply that it's his or her fault that you have no way to get to the city, and that their failure to comply will be considered unethical and/or harm-causing by you. Nor, I presume, have you called upon other residents of your building or block to denounce any other incidents of non-ride-offering, and professed surprise that they have not already repudiated such incidents.

Many people, including myself, do not object to what you're asking nearly so much as to the way in which you asked it. By depersonalizing the issue from being about you and your hurt feelings to some sort of ethical issue, you created a perceived requirement for people to start taking sides -- i.e., signaling their ethical position.

But if you look back to previous calls for inclusive language on LessWrong, I didn't object to them; in fact, I argued in favor of one of them. (I remember it because some of my comments in that thread brought rather large doses of karma.) I believe in being reasonably considerate to people who reasonably request it.

Thus, I find myself in the bizarre-to-me position of being grouped with "masculinists", as though I'm somehow against politeness or in favor of sexist language. This is not the case, and framing my disagreement with your flawed logic (or with your inconsistent and terminally vague definitions) as being something to do with sexism is behavior unbecoming a professed rationalist.

That having been said, I will certainly say that there are plenty of other people in these threads who've said what I was thinking, much better than I was able to say it, and have been able to bring up some of the same points I made with more tact and less directness. I hope that continues.

However, had you said to Roko, "I was put off by this statement, did you mean to imply that I'm an interchangeable commodity? No? Oh, what did you mean then? Ah, I see. Would you mind phrasing it like that in future then? Thanks."... Then I never would've opened my trap in the first place, and everybody would've been much happier. (And yes, I do see the irony in my jumping on you for you jumping on Roko. At least, I do now, and will try to follow my own advice on this point in future.)

Comment author: Rings_of_Saturn 21 July 2009 06:50:29AM *  10 points [-]

Thank you for this lengthy and thoughtful reply. I, too, am encouraged to notice the points on which we agree or are not that far off.

I don't really think you are the "thought police," and I didn't mean to imply that. But I do stand by my assessment of your post as vaguely coercive. There is such a thing as coercion by public shaming. I think this is what Roko might have been getting at in his recent post. If you do not see how this is a legitimate concern, then perhaps I can pull an "Alicorn" and just insist that if you were a man, you would know what this feels like. And if you think I am being overly sensitive, well you are just swimming like a fish in a sea: a world that favors your right to say anything you damn please about any gender without automatically questioning your self-awareness, your motives, the amount of serious thought you have put into the issue, and your fish-not-knowing-water-tude.

"I'm sorry you feel creepy. It would be nice if it were possible to confront privilege without feeling creepy." Obviously I'm not saying it feels creepy to confront privilege. That seems like an almost deliberately obtuse statement on your part... though taken in context of your otherwise respectful comments, I'll assume it's meant sincerely.

What feels creepy is the notion that there is some vaguely defined "offensiveness" out there that I — as a person with great affection for and deference to my mother, my three sisters, my wonderful female friends, my respected female co-workers and my stupendous female lovers — cannot sense, and that I must take another's word for it that I am wrong and the other is right. I can perceive most sexism, but there is a special class of sexism lurking everywhere that I am blind to, even though I've thought seriously about these matters. The evidence you link to, incidentally, is rather weak — it is all internal comments, and one might just as easily point to the comments you object to as counter-evidence as each instance is by definition an example of yet another person who feels differently than you on this topic, hence raising your hackles.


Incidentally, Alicorn, for the record (and my apologies to all if this comment is out of place here... I can edit it out if need be...), I actually used to think much closer to the way you do on these topics. I am by no means "blind" to the things you point out, and in fact I used to have a highly developed radar for them. I still pick them out all the time. I just think it is a particular form of contemporary ideology that teaches many people (men and women) that these things are hurtful and must be banished from all hearts and minds, when no one perceived them that way in the past. They are supposed to be inidicative of a disdainful attitude towards women even when, as I assure you is the case with me, no such attitude exists. Or, if the complainant grants that there was no harmful intent, she can still gain traction with the argument that "Well, no, you didn't mean to insult me, but these kinds of so-called innocuous comments are the stuff with which the patriarchy keeps women down and belittles them etc and is therefore unethical. I am insulted, therefore you are the one who did the insulting." This is supposedly what makes gender non-neutral statements about women unacceptable while gender non-neutral statements about men are considered by the same people to be regrettable (or occasionally a laff-riot!), but par for the course. When men point out that people make casual blanket generalizations about men all the time and that men rarely complain and usually just chuckle along, they are told that they can't possibly understand what it feels like from the woman's point of view, and may also be accused of "calling all girls whiney," a specter you raise in your disclaimer.

You come very close to this realization when you say to me "I am more offended than you by a certain class of things - specifically, by things that have to do with a group I belong to and you do not". You see, I'm essentially saying the same thing. Yes, you are more offended than I am, and that's your problem and not mine. As you say in your rejoinder to my "coercion" comment, no one here is trying to "threaten, intimidate, trick, or otherwise exercise pressure or force on" you.

If, in the absence of threats, intimidation, tricks, pressure, or force —that is: in the absence of any actual harm done to you or anyone else— you persist in feeling offended, that is your business. As I said in my earlier comment, that is every bit your right and I would never want to mock or belittle someone for feeling set-upon as you quite apparently do. It's a very unpleasant feeling, I know, and I am in no way trying to say that you are imagining your own feelings. But I feel that it is precisely that: your business, and not that of the community.

So what that means for me is that while, naturally, you have every right to say whatever you want on this topic, I remain unconvinced. Perhaps you never intended for me specifically to change anything, as I note that I personally am not linked to in your catalog of offenders. If that's the case, then bully for both of us, as I have no plans to alter my manner of talking or writing.

Comment author: Peter_Twieg 20 July 2009 12:58:32AM *  22 points [-]

I have to concur with the overall sentiment of this post. It bothers me more than a bit that sweeping generalizations about gender behaviors are made using armchair "just-so" evopsych stories. I even consider myself a relatively ardent supporter of evopsych in general, but a lot of the discussions of gender relationships seem to be motivated by an undercurrent of bitterness rather than an objective desire to understand the reality of gender differences. I realize that this is a vague ad hominem critique, and I could probably attempt to back this up by specific examples and analysis, but.... I think it's just more imperative to call this stuff out as it arises.

I remember Razib on GNXP making fun of the demographic poll done here, that this is a community of young white male nerds. Oftentimes it shows... I often wonder what would happen if a Jezebel blogger stumbled upon this place.

Comment author: bloch 20 July 2009 03:07:25PM 4 points [-]

"I often wonder what would happen if a Jezebel blogger stumbled upon this place."

What would happen and why should we care?

Comment author: RobinHanson 20 July 2009 12:27:25AM *  33 points [-]

To prohibit generalizations about gender without overwhelming hard data is usually to in effect silence the topic. We are all very interested in gender, and many of us have made interesting and relevant observations about the gender we see around us, but few of us have much in the way of overwhelming hard data. This post seems to be making generalizations about gender aspects of LW posts and comments without itself offering overwhelming hard data - why hold this meta gender discussion to a lower standard?

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 01:24:30AM *  13 points [-]

many of us have made interesting and relevant observations about the gender we see around us,

...observations of a sort which are, in my experience, quite likely to be extemely inaccurate. Since we're doing anecdotal observations, I've observed that people's thoughts on gender differences, when not backed up with hard data, are maybe 90% likely to be seriously off base. For whatever reason, these sorts of perceptions seem to be subject to extreme effect from all the usual biases to the extent that I don't even trust people around here to have reasonable intuitions on the matter.

Also, I'd like to note that the post here included nigh-Yudkowskian levels of cross-linking to other material on LW. When we're talking about "conversation norms on LW", how is that not solid data?

Comment author: Psychohistorian 20 July 2009 01:31:02AM *  22 points [-]

Gender bias is not some objective feature of writing; it is determined and defined by our perceptions. Men seem extremely likely to perceive it differently from women (see almost every sexual harassment lawsuit). Alicorn has never been super outspoken on this issue and has never been confrontational about it. As one of the most active female readers of this site, if she perceives a gender bias in many posts/comments here that she believes warrants a top-level post, that seems to me to be very strong evidence that something is wrong. That fact combined with the data she did provide seem to me quite convincing that this issue is at least worth thinking about.

Also, if I understand her correctly, her objection is not to making generalizations without overwhelming hard data, it is to making generalizations without the humility appropriate to generalizations not supported by overwhelmingly hard data. If some little study fits a pre-existing belief about ev-psych and how the genders work, posters shouldn't be super-certain that it's correct simply because it conforms to their pre-existing beliefs. After all, being human, they may well dismiss a similar study showing the exact opposite effect without second thought.

Comment author: gwern 20 July 2009 02:59:51AM *  18 points [-]

We already hold discussions of politics to a higher standard - I see the reproof 'politics is the mind-killer' relatively often. And this without any particular post arguing that we're so hideously biased about politics that we need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard than on just about any other topic. And given that the long and very well-documented history of sexism and discrimination against women suggests that enormous masses can be completely wrong for long periods of time (both us and the ancients can't be right about women), we already have arguments that we specifically are massively biased about gender issues and should hold ourselves to unusually high standards.

Or, if the relevant comments Alicorn cited were about blacks, I don't think anyone here would even question the need for a higher standard. We all understand intuitively the appeal of racism, its long, hateful, and entrenched history, and that if we're going to make arguments like blacks are stupider, we'd better have damn good evidence - and merely anecdotal evidence like we see in the cited comments, which boil down to 'in my experience' and 'according to my armchair theorizing', will cut absolutely no mustard.

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 03:06:04AM 6 points [-]

Indeed. I, for one, found myself genuinely surprised by the last word of RobinZ's introduction and had a reaction similar to that of Hofstadter upon finding the answer to the surgeon riddle.

Comment author: RobinZ 20 July 2009 03:21:14PM 6 points [-]

Hah! I almost didn't include that word - now I'm glad I did.

Comment author: gwern 20 July 2009 04:53:59AM 3 points [-]

RobinZ illustrates a good point about race-consciousness, though. I was in the Boy Scouts myself, worked at 2 camps, and have seen some demographic data, and the simple fact is: the Boy Scouts are as white as sour cream. It's not just that there are/were more white Americans than blacks, it's that whites participate at a vastly higher rate. From a Bayesian perspective, shouldn't we be surprised to learn that RobinZ is both black and a Boy Scout?

(The Hofstadter example isn't good for this point; Bayesianly, I think there are many more female surgeons than there are reincarnated-train-wreck-victim-surgeons, so thinking about the latter before the former is just biased and stupid.)

Comment author: CronoDAS 20 July 2009 05:32:43AM 4 points [-]

I hate to confess this, but I got stuck on a similar problem, in which the solution was "The secretary is the boy's father." (I kept thinking of divorces and such.)

So yeah.

Comment author: RobinHanson 20 July 2009 03:20:02PM 4 points [-]

I would question imposing a much higher standard of evidence, e.g. overwhelming hard evidence, for discussions about blacks; that would also basically prohibit discussing such topics.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 03:24:18PM 4 points [-]

But arguments that aren't merely about, but which run down the well-worn grooves of racist quack science, those would need overwhelming hard evidence.

Comment author: RobinZ 20 July 2009 03:10:42PM 5 points [-]

Seconding SoullessAutomaton's reply. Also making an analogy to discussions of race.

In addition: "overwhelming hard data" isn't too high a standard when prejudice and other cultural factors cloud the picture. I don't think it's too big a stretch to suppose that such factors are present in this case.

(Finally: a stronger emphasis on hard data in the meta-gender discussion might not be a bad thing, but remaining silent when a problem of this kind exists is a decidedly bad thing.)

Comment author: Peter_Twieg 20 July 2009 01:29:05AM *  3 points [-]

To prohibit generalizations about gender without overwhelming hard data is usually to in effect silence the topic.

I think the concern is that a lot of these generalizations aren't being made through a good-faith attempt to unbiasedly order one's observations about the world. A lot of people see these arguments and have an (arguably often justified) prior that the individuals who make them are biased and/or bigoted. I realize that it can be frustrating to be told that you're being criticized because your arguments resemble those made by morally-reprehensible people, but.... it's often not unjustified for people to come to the table with those assumptions.

You also have the less-defensible argument sometimes being made that we shouldn't make these theories lightly because they often lead to cryptosexism. That probably won't fly in a rationalist discussion community, but it does in many other communities where the "social consequences" of one's speech are supposed to be a serious factor in its moral evaluation.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 01:36:12AM 3 points [-]

You also have the less-defensible argument sometimes being made that we shouldn't make these theories lightly because they often lead to cryptosexism. That probably won't fly in a rationalist discussion community, but it does in many other communities where the "social consequences" of one's speech are supposed to be a serious factor in its moral evaluation.

Why is it necessarily more rational to disregard "social consequences"? There's plenty of objective evidence that calling attention to such issues can in fact be self-fulfilling prophecies, cf. cognitive priming, stereotype threat, &c.

It is of course valuable to be able to discuss ideas freely, but my patience wears thin very quickly when the evidence for such theories is far weaker than the evidence that the theories are harmful.

Comment author: Furcas 19 July 2009 11:22:31PM 18 points [-]

I don't understand what "objectification" means. Even pickup artists can't think of women as objects, since the only way they can be successful is by interacting with women in accordance with a certain model of the female psyche. Objects don't have psyches.

If the pickup artist somehow deceives a woman to achieve his goal, then what is morally wrong is the deception. How does objectification fit into this?

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 19 July 2009 11:59:45PM 17 points [-]

The more significant issue is the lack of respect for autonomy and the other individual's goals. It is, shall we say, "unFriendly".

It's perfectly possible to have excellent models of other people's psyches but no respect for their autonomy; in fact it's a useful skill in sales and marketing. In the pathological extreme, it's popularly called "sociopathy".

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 July 2009 01:44:45AM 7 points [-]

"UnFriendly" is supposed to be a technical term covering a tremendous range of AIs. What do you mean by it in this context? Flawed fun theory? Disregard for volition?

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 02:51:29AM 9 points [-]

In this specific case, the disregard for volition. In the more general sense, stretching the term by analogy to describe any behavior from an agent with a significant power advantage that wouldn't be called "Friendly" if done by an AI with a power advantage over humans.

The implicit step here, I think, is that whatever value system an FAI would have would also make a pretty good value system for any agent in a position of power, allowing for limitations of cognitive potential.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 12:34:00AM 8 points [-]

I suggest that unFriendly is a hugely more useful general concept than "objectifying". I often find myself frustrated I can't use it in conversation with strangers.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 12:37:01AM *  11 points [-]

The more I think about it the more I suspect that it's actually the best description yet of the underlying complaint, at least from my perspective.

The term "objectifying" has a lot of additional implications and connotations that distract, cf. the "I objectify supermarket cashiers all the time" type remarks with the "yes but that's not really wrong" replies.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 12:41:30AM 5 points [-]

I'd say it's entire denotation is useless. Which explains the problems: we're fighting over denotation when all the data is in the connotation (and ought to be extracted to stand alone).

Comment author: anonym 20 July 2009 08:38:43PM *  3 points [-]

I think the idea of objectification has more to do with considering instances to be fungible. The typical PUA thinking about how to "bang the next hot chick" (which he phrases as "get a woman") is considering a small subset of women as completely interchangeable for his purposes, as if they were completely fungible entities like dollar bills or bars of gold-pressed latinum.

But as has been talked about recently, it's not the objectification alone that makes it icky, because we probably agree that there's nothing wrong with "we need to get a gardener". What makes the latter okay is why you want to get one: for a mutually beneficial business relationship. When we hear people talk about "getting a woman", it is usually not in the sense of entering into a mutually beneficial relationship, but rather in the sense of deceiving the woman into believing what they think will make her more likely to sleep with them (and then discarding them).

So to summarize, bad objectification is objectification for malevolent ends (simple test: does the object object to the objectification? In the case of the gardener or cook, probably not; in the case of a woman, almost certainly yes).

Comment author: pjeby 21 July 2009 12:59:22AM 6 points [-]

The typical PUA thinking about how to "bang the next hot chick" (which he phrases as "get a woman") is considering a small subset of women as completely interchangeable for his purposes, as if they were completely fungible entities like dollar bills or bars of gold-pressed latinum.

I can't speak about the "typical" PUA, but I will note that there are a fair number of PUG's (pickup gurus) who speak in the opposite way: that every woman is unique, and they love each and every one as a unique individual. Daniel Rose, Johnny Soporno, and Juggler are a few that come to mind right off. I was also under the impression that this is the attitude of many "naturals" as well.

My point about all this is that if you're going to complain about people speaking of general characteristics of a group that don't apply to all of that group, it'd be a good idea not to try to justify it by speaking in generalities about another group, when those generalities also don't apply to all its members. It sort of undermines your point.

Comment author: anonym 21 July 2009 01:15:37AM *  6 points [-]

Thanks for calling me out. What I should have said, and what I meant, instead of PUA is the womanizers that I've known in real life who value sleeping with as many different conventionally attractive women as possible and who have no scruples about how they do so and no concern for the women they sleep with that extend past sleeping with them once. They would say that every woman is unique, but words are cheap, and actions speak louder. In terms of behavior, what I've observed is that when they are in a large crowded bar, any of many, many different women is interchangeable to them. If it doesn't work out with woman#7, they just go immediately to #8 or #17 without missing a beat. Such is not the behavior of someone who thinks every woman is unique. Maybe I'm completely mistaken by believing that this sort of attitude is common in the PU community? [And to say it is common is not of course to say that is everywhere present and that there aren't exceptions.]

Comment author: orthonormal 21 July 2009 01:37:47AM 5 points [-]

I have no idea about the PUA community; but from my own experience of times when I was single, there were moments when my desire for a relationship was a 2-place function (i.e. I was pining for this particular woman) and times when it was a 1-place function (i.e. I wanted to have a relationship with some desirable woman). Of course, I'd probably bomb with any girl if I'd admitted to being in the latter state, so there was some level of repressing my awareness of this.

I think that the things pick-up artists convince themselves they believe are kind of irrelevant to actual male psychology; to the extent that my experience is typical and honestly perceived, there are times and places when actual male desire is quite depersonalized, along with times and places when one can be more proud of what one feels.

Comment author: anonym 21 July 2009 01:52:41AM *  4 points [-]

I can identify too with the 1-place versus 2-place function analogy. Where I part company from the womanizers I've known though and that I had in mind with my comment is that even if I think of a generic "desirable woman", that's just a placeholder for a real, living, breathing autonomous agent. The womanizers, or the more sociopathic ones, at least, think of it as a placeholder for something to have sex with, which brings us back to the question of objectification and not respecting the agency of other people. I won't say that I don't sometimes succumb to what I'm deploring, but I try to catch myself and to do it less frequently.

Comment author: pjeby 21 July 2009 03:00:54AM 1 point [-]

Such is not the behavior of someone who thinks every woman is unique.

Huh? Of course it is. If every one is unique, then surely you'd want to meet them all. Otherwise, you'd almost certainly be missing out on something.

Comment author: anonym 21 July 2009 03:22:37AM 2 points [-]

In a trivial sense of unique, of course every person -- woman or not -- is unique because they do not occupy the same location in time-space. Just as obviously, we are not talking about uniqueness in that sense.

Comment author: pjeby 21 July 2009 03:51:48AM 5 points [-]

Just as obviously, we are not talking about uniqueness in that sense.

We seem to be talking past each other. I am saying that each person offers a unique experience of interaction. Some more preferable than others, of course.

Thus, the PUGs who profess to "love all women" state that they wish to have as many of those experiences as possible, and extend their contact with the women who their lifestyle is compatible with.

And AFAICT, their behavior is consistent with this. Soporno claims to have around 30 girlfriends at any one time -- all of whom are required to know and accept this fact, or else aren't allowed to be his girlfriend in the first place.

Rose states that so-called PUAs who only do one-night stands are depriving themselves of the depth and intensity of sexual and emotional intimacy possible in a longer-term relationship... and he also has been involved in "multi LTRs", though not to the same extent as Soporno.

There's a British PUG who talks about having dozens of female friends he doesn't sleep with, but goes clubbing with.. and they help him "chat up" the women he does intend to sleep with. Many other PUGs lecture guys on the importance of genuinely being interested in women and wanting to spend time on them, because if you don't , then it's sort of a waste to spend time learning how to talk to them.

Meanwhile, PUG Eben Pagan (stage name "David DeAngelo", author of the "Double Your Dating" product line) has spoken in his marketing classes about his typical customer really just wanting to know how to talk to a woman and ask her out without being embarrassed... and since his is probably the largest internet dating advice business out there (at $20million annual gross), I would guess that means that most guys buying "pickup" training just want to learn how to talk to someone they're attracted to without feeling like an idiot... not how to say some magic words and get laid. Other gurus have also noted that most of the men in their classes are looking for "the one" -- they just want to know what to say when they meet her, and they know they're not going to meet her by sitting at home and not talking to anybody.

So, all of this strikes me as a considerable amount of evidence in favor of the proposition that there are a significant number of men who actually do believe each woman is unique, are not primarily interested in one-night stands, and yet also believe in knowing what they're doing, and/or meeting more than one woman.

Comment author: bogus 20 July 2009 12:55:50AM 3 points [-]

Even pickup artists can't think of women as objects, since the only way they can be successful is by interacting with women in accordance with a certain model of the female psyche.

I would also hazard a guess that people who are "naturally good with women" objectify women more than people who use PUA techniques. Without the benefit of careful analysis, respect for the "goals or interests or personhood" of the picked-up turns out to be detrimental: many "naturals" flounder when they have to abandon their "tried and tested" rules-of-thumb and seek an intimate relationship.

Comment author: Alicorn 19 July 2009 11:29:37PM -1 points [-]

Deception is wrong too. It's certainly possible to do things that are morally wrong without objectifying anyone. However, "modeling the female psyche" does not mean that no objectification is going on. That modeling is a prerequisite for achieving the goals of the pickup artist, which don't typically seem to include respect for the goals or interests or personhood of the picked-up (except inasmuch as knowledge of these things serves the success of the pickup attempt). It's no more personalizing than modeling the behavior of an AI opponent in a video game, who must be defeated to win the game.

Comment author: eirenicon 20 July 2009 02:08:07AM 12 points [-]

Am I right in thinking you don't respect the goals, interests, or personhood of the pickup artist? Consider a scenario in which there is a PUA who desires sex and a woman who does not. Which outcome do you prefer, one where the PUA changes her mind and they engage in consensual sex, or the woman turns him down and he goes home alone? If you think the first outcome is negative, why? Would your answer be the same if it was a woman trying to pick up a man? Is it morally objectionable to change someone's mind? Is it only so if manipulative techniques are used? Is it possible to change most people's minds without using manipulative techniques to some degree? If you asked someone to help you move a sofa, would you do so in a monotone voice or would you do so cheerfully with a smile? If these questions seem unnecessarily antagonistic, I apologize. I simply want to understand your position.

For the record, I have a deep personal dislike of pickup artists, especially those who employ NLP. I do not, however, find their methods morally questionable.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 02:22:40AM *  8 points [-]

Am I right in thinking you don't respect the goals, interests, or personhood of the pickup artist?

We are in grave danger of equivocating the word "respect" here, so let me clarify: when I define objectification, the kind of "respect" I mean is an acknowledgment of those things and recognition of commensurability with one's own corresponding goals, interests, and personhood, not an approval. I acknowledge the goals, interests, and personhood of pickup artists, and recognize them as similar to my own in many ways (in structure, not content). I don't approve of the goals and interests they seem to share as a group (although I do approve of their personhood).

Your question is vastly too broad for me to say which outcome I prefer. If you made it more specific - if I knew something about the method of the PUA, the reasons behind the woman's initial reluctance, her typical dispositions with regards to casual sex, etc., then I might be able to answer you. The same goes for the situation where the woman is attempting to pick up the man.

Is it morally objectionable to change someone's mind? Is it only so if manipulative techniques are used? Is it possible to change most people's minds without using manipulative techniques to some degree?

There are ways to change people's minds without doing anything morally objectionable. My favored method is usually just transparent, bald-faced announcement of all my intentions. I actually go about saying things like "I did work today and seek praise!" or "I have the inexplicable urge to make you jealous, so I'm probably going to talk about my ex in a minute" or "I don't like your friend and you should probably take anything bad I say about her with a grain of salt" or "I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long". Of course I accompany these things with either actual smiles or emoticons because I like to project an air of adorable friendliness, but of course I'm actually adorable and friendly so that's okay ;)

Comment author: eirenicon 20 July 2009 02:47:35AM 11 points [-]

I don't approve of the goals and interests they seem to share as a group (although I do approve of their personhood).

Isn't it actually their methods you disapprove of? Disapproving of a pretty innate male desire to engage in frequent intercourse seems unfair at best and Puritan at worst. Their goals do not involve manipulating women any more than my goal of driving to the store is also a goal to drive my car. If a man can pick up a woman simply by talking honestly to her about his romantic feelings, do you still disapprove of his actions because he may share the same goal as the pickup artist?

My favored outcome is usually just transparent, bald-faced announcement of all my intentions. I actually go about saying things like "I did work today and seek praise!" or "I have the inexplicable urge to make you jealous, so I'm probably going to talk about my ex in a minute" or "I don't like your friend and you should probably take anything bad I say about her with a grain of salt" or "I'm going to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince you to help us move next week unless it doesn't take that long". Of course I accompany these things with either actual smiles or emoticons because I like to project an air of adorable friendliness, but of course I'm actually adorable and friendly so that's okay ;)

Why is this less morally objectionable than the manipulative NLP of a pickup artist? "I did work today and seek praise" is an extraordinarily manipulative (and clever) statement. It, and the others, are obviously intended to subvert cached thought, catching off guard the recipient who may not rise to the bait of responding positively to the more common, "Today was a tough day" or "I hope I did okay, what do you think?" By using unusual and unexpectedly honest phrasing and presenting yourself as "adorable and friendly", are you really being transparent, or are you actually employing a manipulative method of your own? After all, if it never worked, surely you would self-update to a better technique. And wouldn't claiming you are actually being transparent be a defense against your own cached representation of <manipulative people> in order to preserve your internal belief that you are not being manipulative?

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 03:02:45AM 2 points [-]

Isn't it actually their methods you disapprove of?

I guess in addition to defining "respect" I should have defined "goal". In attempting to fully describe a goal, I'd usually be inclined to include caveats about what methods wouldn't be okay for me to use to achieve that goal. For instance, it's my goal to watch the entirety of Stargate SG-1, but not if I have to steal the DVDs from WalMart to do it.

Why is this less morally objectionable than the manipulative NLP of a pickup artist? "I did work today and seek praise" is an extraordinarily manipulative (and clever) statement.

I'm... sorry you feel that way? I am genuinely going for "clear and honest", not "manipulative and clever".

After all, if it never worked, surely you would self-update to a better technique.

If saying "I did work today and request praise" (an example of something I actually said today) doesn't promptly yield praise, I (actually did) follow up with "You are not fulfilling my request. You should fix that." If that hadn't "worked", I probably would have gone and talked to somebody else, and refrained from seeking praise from that person in the future, on the assumption that they had no interest in praising me for doing work. I wouldn't have moved to a less clear and honest strategy to get the uncooperative individual to give me what I wanted.

Comment author: eirenicon 20 July 2009 03:51:00AM 4 points [-]

For instance, it's my goal to watch the entirety of Stargate SG-1, but not if I have to steal the DVDs from WalMart to do it.

So to dig up an old chestnut, the ends do not justify the means. What I am still unsure about is whether or not you disapprove of the ends. Does this mean you are okay with the goal of picking up women, as long as you do not use particular techniques to do so? The stumbling block I run into on this is that there are no male-female sexual interactions entirely free of psychological modeling, signaling or predictive behaviour on both sides -- or if there are, they certainly don't exist in the human population at large. It seems to me that pickup artists are merely trying to compete with men who are naturally charismatic and charming. Is the real solution to actually handicap such men so that manipulative techniques are not necessary for competition?

By the way, I consider watching the entirety of Stargate SG-1 morally questionable, but this argument is subjective enough as it is...

I'm... sorry you feel that way? I am genuinely going for "clear and honest", not "manipulative and clever".

As you have pointed out, your intentions should not be confused with your methods.

You seem to think that adopting a baseline, rational approach to something like requesting praise for your work is maximally non-manipulative and honest. It certainly could be, if you were speaking to a Turing-incomplete chatbot. Unfortunately, people don't operate that way. If you formally ask for praise and object when none is forthcoming, are you respecting the "goals, interests and personhood" of the recipient as much as you would be if you asked nothing of them? And can such a non-standard method of human communication possibly be as "clear and honest" as a standard method? Put another way, does your employment of open honesty contain other signals i.e. does it carry the signal "You should give my request for praise more weight because I am visibly being honest and not trying to bait you into it"?

Be wary of saying things that are the equivalent of "I'm not going to say 'trust me', because that doesn't mean anything, but a is b." Such a statement actually indicates that the speaker is doubly untrustworthy.

Now, I don't believe you are being intentionally manipulative and clever, or that you are definitely being so unintentionally. This is not an argument I'm trying to win against you. I'm just asking you to consider the chance that you unaware of the possibility of it.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 04:07:27AM 2 points [-]

Does this mean you are okay with the goal of picking up women, as long as you do not use particular techniques to do so?

I have no ethical problems with the desire to have no-strings-attached sex with people of any description. I simply require that this be pursued honestly and non-coercively.

It seems to me that pickup artists are merely trying to compete with men who are naturally charismatic and charming.

I also have no ethical problem with people trying to become more charismatic and charming.

does your employment of open honesty contain other signals i.e. does it carry the signal "You should give my request for praise more weight because I am visibly being honest and not trying to bait you into it"?

No, not really. Or if it does, that's an accident. I started doing my intention-announcement when I decided that if I was going to get annoyed at other people wanting me to read their minds, I'd better provide the courtesy I wanted to them. I did not wish to become one of the people whose interpersonal relationships were plagued with arguments that wind up culminating in "Well, why didn't you just say so?" If I seek praise, I announce it. Other people may or may not care about my seeking, and may or may not indulge my desire. This gives me information about their dispositions towards me, instead of confused feedback that might reflect on either that or their level of telepathic ability.

It's possible that I'm being unintentionally manipulative, and if that is the case, I would like to stop. If you have suggestions about how I can signify all and only the things I think I'm signifying in my sample statements and statements like them, I'd welcome the input.

Comment author: Dustin 20 July 2009 10:31:09PM 5 points [-]

For reference, I would find your method to be manipulative. I also don't think you're being manipulative on purpose (or at least I don't have any data to think you are or aren't).

I don't think there is a fully general way to request praise without manipulation. It's going to depend on each person's life experiences and how they view you.

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 04:11:53AM 3 points [-]

For reference, I didn't find it particularly manipulative, though I also don't appreciate attempts at telepathy.

Comment author: pjeby 20 July 2009 04:06:06AM *  10 points [-]

If saying "I did work today and request praise" (an example of something I actually said today) doesn't promptly yield praise, I (actually did) follow up with "You are not fulfilling my request. You should fix that." If that hadn't "worked", I probably would have gone and talked to somebody else, and refrained from seeking praise from that person in the future, on the assumption that they had no interest in praising me for doing work.

Did you offer your conversation partner anything of value, other than an implied threat of disapproval if they failed to accede to your demand? Were you thinking about their goals, other than how they related to your desire to receive praise?

It seems to me that, by your definitions, one can objectify, or manipulate, but not both. If you took your conversant's goals into consideration and offered something for what you wanted, then you manipulated. If you didn't take them into account, then you objectified.

Or do you claim that there is a third category, in which you thought about their goals, but didn't allow this to affect your choices in any way? Then this seems like even worse objectification, since you knew they had other goals and nonetheless chose not to act accordingly.

Or perhaps the loophole is that if you just state what you want, then other people simply "should" give it to you, and that therefore this isn't manipulation? Is it only manipulation if you offer to give someone something they actually want, and offering veiled threats instead is just "honest" communication?

Now, let's contrast your strategy with a pickup-artist strategy, known as the Apocalypse Opener. Like your approach, it's based on blunt honesty and an open statement of intention. But there are a couple of key differences.

First, the PUA waits until the third sentence of the conversation (not counting "hello" or "hey") to state his intention, treating the other person with conventional courtesy first, rather than simply stating a demand.

Second, the request is not even a request, let alone a demand. It's framed as an invitation, an offering of something valuable.

Third, if the invitation is declined, the PUA neither pressures the other person with a threat of disapproval, nor departs the conversation. He simply continues treating them in a friendly way, leaving the invitation open and giving them time to consider it.

By your definitions, which is more manipulative? Which more objectifying? To whom?

At a first glance, yours strikes me as both more manipulative and more objectifying, since you don't offer your conversant anything of value to them (i.e. ignoring their goals and objectifying), and you include a veiled threat (using their goals to get what you want, i.e. manipulation). In contrast, the PUA does nothing but offer things of potential value to his conversant, and does not offer even the minor threat of withholding his approval or company.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 July 2009 04:28:52AM 2 points [-]

Did you offer your conversation partner anything of value, other than an implied threat of disapproval if they failed to accede to your demand? Were you thinking about their goals, other than how they related to your desire to receive praise?

This is the beginning of the conversation in question:

Alicorn: I did work and request praise!

Alicorn: You are not fulfilling my request.

Alicorn: You should fix that.

Interlocutor Mine, Name Redacted: *praise*

Alicorn: :D

Interlocutor Mine, Name Redacted: Good job, keep up the good work

Alicorn: *is pleased with self*

Prior context in an earlier conversation included an exchange about how I've been having trouble getting work done lately, and should be chided if I didn't do any today. So... I guess I offered my charming company and a smiley? IMNR is my friend, we talk frequently, I usually operate under the assumption that IMNR has some desire to interact with me in a friendly manner. IMNR is free to disabuse me of this notion at any time and I will leave him alone.

If you took your conversant's goals into consideration and offered something for what you wanted, then you manipulated. If you didn't take them into account, then you objectified.

Explicit trades of services do not have to be objectifying. I exchange Christmas gifts with various relatives, and if I stopped giving people Christmas presents, I'd probably stop getting them; that doesn't mean anybody is being objectified.

Or do you claim that there is a third category, in which you thought about their goals, but didn't allow this to affect your choices in any way?

Something can be an influencing factor without being a controlling factor. For instance, when I make curry, the cayenne pepper contributes to the curry being spicy. If I left out the cayenne, it would still be spicy, because there are a half a dozen other spicy things in it.

Or perhaps the loophole is that if you just state what you want, then other people simply "should" give it to you, and that therefore this isn't manipulation?

No, not really. Certain desires ought to be accommodated (e.g. I just asked my roommate if it'd bother her for me to have music on in a particular room when she went to bed; she said yes, so I moved to a different room). Certain desires don't have to (I doubt I would have harbored resentment if IMNR had refrained from supplying desired praise) and satisfying them is super-erogatory.

Now, let's contrast your strategy with a pickup-artist strategy, known as the Apocalypse Opener.

Meh. It looks honest enough; some phatic introduction and a question. There doesn't seem anything wrong with this strategy in particular to me. It surprises me that it works, but that's purely empirical.

If people want things of value from me, they can ask me for them. If I want things from other people, I ask for them. If I have something I think someone else would like and I like them and want them to have it, I offer it to them. People who like me and have things they think I would like and want me to have them offer them to me. These events don't always occur simultaneously, but over the course of a friendship or other extended interpersonal association, it works well enough to suit me.

Comment author: Furcas 19 July 2009 11:53:40PM *  17 points [-]

So to objectify someone is to think of him in a way that doesn't include respect for his goals, interests, or personhood?

According to this definition, I objectify the bus driver, the cashier at the local Walmart, and just about everybody I interact with on an average day.

Comment author: Neil 20 July 2009 01:26:42AM *  8 points [-]

To that degree, yes, just as they objectify you as 'passenger', or 'customer'.

But even as we interact as 'passenger' and 'bus driver', and probably don't have any desire but to do what we have to do as efficiently as possible, we do generally keep in mind that we are both people with concerns about our respect and we don't casually devalue each other for playing out the roles we have. There's still an assumption of basic personhood going on.

But I think that when people start talking about getting sex from a woman with the same degree of respect and mutuality as is required when getting a can of cola from a vending machine, then they've gone an extra step on the road to objectification. And adding on a "well that's what women want too" as an afterthought when questioned about it doesn't really convince.

I'll concede that the "pick up artist" is to some extent a role that is played by guys who aren't necessarily so entirely cynical in reality, but I'm not sure that means it's non-issue.

Comment author: Alicorn 19 July 2009 11:57:04PM 1 point [-]

Yes, you probably do.

Comment author: RobinHanson 20 July 2009 12:22:29AM 29 points [-]

OK, well given this clarification, it seems to me just fine to objectify people, and in fact I recommend doing so when what one is trying to do is neutral analysis about the facts of some matter. Objectify your teacher when deciding if school is worth the effort, and objectify your doctor when deciding if medicine is worth the cost.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 20 July 2009 04:55:11AM 3 points [-]

Maybe this definition is more isomorphic to the "objectification of women" than it first appears. For example, the other day my family was going to get our photograph taken. After about seven pictures were taken, we were lead to another room where a man showed us our photographs in turn so we could decide on the one we liked. It occurred to me that we probably could have operated the computer that did this ourselves, in which case he would have been out of a job. I objectified him, and I'm quite certain he would have been offended if I'd said my thoughts aloud.

So. Objectification is a good thing for the person who does it, but it's quite normal for the person on the receiving end to be offended.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 12:27:15AM *  5 points [-]

It's important to note that neither of those scenarios include interacting with the person being so objectified. Also note the point about the ethical considerations being different in economic transactions, e.g. thomblake's comment.

Comment author: astray 20 July 2009 06:01:33PM *  4 points [-]

What about objectifying a job candidate in an interview? Do you choose the candidate with experience, who will feel dead-ended but perform a better job? You might interpret this as a deliberate stunting of their volition (the sense of objectification I'm using), interfering with their actual goals despite their outward actions.

Any overqualified candidate that gets hired is objectified in an arguably worse way than the target of a PUA, despite the potential mitigations the economic transaction may bring about.

(Edit: Rereading this, I'm worried that I sound confrontational; I don't mean to be, but I'm not sure how else to edit without becoming too prolix.)

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 10:05:23PM 3 points [-]

Well, I actually do find this sort of thing ethically objectionable to some level, but defensible on consequentialist grounds because of the social benefits of economic efficiency. So I don't know that I can give you a satisfying answer.

For what it's worth, I hold a lot of sales and marketing in even lower regard than PUA silliness.

Comment author: Furcas 19 July 2009 11:59:53PM *  9 points [-]

...

Are you saying that you don't? Or that you do, but that this kind of objectification is somehow different from the kind you condemn? If so, what's the difference?

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 12:09:39AM *  1 point [-]

The major difference is that it's more socially acceptable. Yes, I realize this is a non-answer. The answer you probably want is "they're getting paid for it". There's no expectation of social relationship between peers.

Furthermore, as I said elsewhere, wanton disregard for the autonomy of such people is still frowned upon in the extreme cases. Noone likes the boss who treats employees like cogs, or the demanding customer who pushes around customer service staff because they know they can.

Comment author: Furcas 20 July 2009 12:28:45AM *  13 points [-]

The answer you probably want is "they're getting paid for it".

Well, no. I happened to pick a bus driver and cashier as my examples, but I could just as easily have picked my next door neighbor. I don't dislike him, but I couldn't care less about his goals or interests or personality.

Furthermore, as I said elsewhere, wanton disregard for the autonomy of such people is still frowned upon in the extreme cases. Noone likes the boss who treats employees like cogs, or the demanding customer who pushes around customer service staff because they know they can.

Treating people in a certain way goes beyond mere objectification as Alicorn has defined it: "Thinking of a person in a way that doesn't include respect for his goals, interests, or personhood."

I'm still trying to obtain a coherent definition of "objectification" that is both morally reprehensible and independent from any harmful action, such as deceiving a woman to get her into bed or treating one's employees like cogs.

Comment author: conchis 24 July 2009 02:42:59PM *  5 points [-]

I'm not sure that it needs to be independent of harmful action. The way I tend to think about it is that thinking of others as tools to one's own ends, with no regard for their ends, is something that increases the risk of harmful action, which is bad.

The thing is, this risk also depends crucially on context, so on this theory, we would expect the social acceptability of objectification to increase where the risk of leading to harm is lowest. This seems to roughly fit my intuitions at least: objectifying teachers when deciding on what school to attend seems ok (there's little risk of harm to them, and whatever harm there is seems justified on efficiency grounds); but treating other parties to intimate relationships as simply means to your own ends is bad (because it's much more likely to end up hurting someone); meanwhile, treating, say waitstaff as simply a means to getting a meal is probably somewhere in between (it increases the chance that you might be a complete ass in the course of your personal interactions, but this may only manifest itself if something goes wrong).

ETA: as additional examples, we could also consider: treating consumers as people whose needs you are trying to fulfil vs. people you just want to get money out of, whether they really want what you're selling or not; and treating staff as engines to pump out products, vs. actual human beings.

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 12:35:47AM 5 points [-]

If it helps any, instances of 'thinking' that don't go beyond that will probably not appear on this website. They at least need to go as far as 'writing'.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 20 July 2009 10:37:17AM *  9 points [-]

When Alicorn wrote, "some people seem to earnestly care about the problem", she accompanied it with a link to [a comment][1] made by me, in which I said that "I want to increase the female: male ratio [here]. So if you ever see me using language that objectifies women or that alienates you, please let me know."

Let me clarify that although I want to hear Alicorn's objections to my statements about women (especially since she is better than most feminists at explaining the grounds for her objections) I might not be able to cater to all her objections.

For example, most existential-risks activists (scientists doing networking and research about risks like unFriendly AI) are male, and I plan a top-level post to assert that not having reliable access to sex with the kind of sexual partners who can most improve the life of an existential-risks activist should be considered a large disability in a male prospective existential-risks activist -- in the same way that, e.g., an inability to stop rationalizing one's own personal agenda should be considered a large disability.

Note that recruiting existential-risks activists (though he did not use that exact phrase) is one of the stated goals in Eliezer's creating this web site.

Since a large fraction of the young men who have many of the other qualifications for existential-risks activism (such as extremely good mastery of math) do not currently have the knowledge necessary to obtain reliable access to sex with the kind of partners who can most improve their lives, I have a strong interest in trying to convey knowledge about it to them (because doing so decreases existential risk according to my current models of male psychology) and it is possible that despite persistent strenuous effort on my part, I will not be able to do a lot of that without alienating Alicorn and other feminists.

Maybe the correct course is for me to start another site where male prospective existential-risks activists can acquire this sort of knowledge, but sex is such a large part of life that it seems overly limiting for the 90 or 95% or so of the participants on this site who are heterosexual men to refrain from discussing how to identify the prospective sexual partners who can most improve their lives and how to increase one's sexual chances with those prospective partners.

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 02:44:29PM 9 points [-]

I didn't get the impression that there was proposed any sort of prohibition on ideas that can be discussed. Rather, just perform a quick 'sanity check' against the criteria and make sure you're not needlessly alienating vast numbers of potential members of the community.

I don't think anyone is even going so far as advocating 'political correctness', and I laughed out loud at calling Alicorn a 'feminist' (reluctantly pushed into that role as she is).

Comment author: nerzhin 20 July 2009 06:09:02PM 5 points [-]

Since a large fraction of the young men who have many of the other qualifications for existential-risks activism [...] do not currently have the knowledge necessary to obtain reliable access to sex [...], I have a strong interest in trying to convey knowledge about it to them

You may think this is a great contribution you can make, but it's probably simpler and more effective to donate money.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 20 July 2009 09:33:09PM 2 points [-]

Since a large fraction of the young men who have many of the other qualifications for existential-risks activism [...] do not currently have the knowledge necessary to obtain reliable access to sex [...], I have a strong interest in trying to convey knowledge about it to them

You may think this is a great contribution you can make, but it's probably simpler and more effective to donate money.

OK, nerzhin, I'll bite: donate money to whom?

Comment author: nerzhin 20 July 2009 10:00:38PM 5 points [-]

If your goal is to deal with existential risks, maybe the Lifeboat Foundation or, of course, the Singularity Institute. It just seems to me that handing out sex advice to potential existential-risk activists is a pretty indirect way to help.

Of course, I'm not helping either, so I should probably just be quiet.

Comment author: cousin_it 20 July 2009 10:40:49AM *  4 points [-]

If Alicorn goes beyond discouraging certain modes of expression and starts discouraging certain ideas from being expressed at all, that's beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned. Hope she thinks so too.

Comment author: yeynfv 20 July 2009 09:46:10PM 8 points [-]

I find this a very disturbing comment.

Why do you invoke Alicorn? Why not just "that's beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned"?

This is by far the strongest one of a very few comments on this thread (and no prior threads) that make me think Roko is right about cliques.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 July 2009 06:27:39PM *  3 points [-]

I feel some skepticism that you possess special knowledge on this topic. The language above seems objectifying even to me. Do you have a record of success here?

Comment author: teageegeepea 20 July 2009 08:28:19PM 2 points [-]

Wouldn't that just eat up a lot of their valuable existential-risk minimizing time? I might be stealing an idea from Hopefully Anonymous, but I'd ideally like to clone large numbers of the most effective minimizers and devote every waking hour of theirs to minimizing our existential risk (really, maximizing my odds of persistence, but that goal won't get as many other cloners to buy in). In the absence of that kind of control, convincing them that they can never obtain partners and should just give up would be second-best. I believe Narses put so much effort into living on through his accomplishments precisely because, as a eunuch, he could have no progeny.

On a related note, I've got a post saying we should be grateful for diversity-induced anomie. Bryan Caplan & Mencius Moldbug have both had interesting things to say on the virtues of abject surrender.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 10:44:15AM *  1 point [-]

Maybe the solution is for me to start another site where male prospective existential-risks activists can acquire this sort of knowledge.

I support this solution.

Edit: although I'd extend it. Not all males prefer women, not all women prefer males, some women will also want to learn seduction of their preferred sex, and there are a bunch of gender categories in the middle (trans, queer, intersex, etc) who can be either the source or object of sexual interest. I have never heard that seduction is much studied outside male-wants-female.

Comment author: cousin_it 20 July 2009 01:35:51PM *  11 points [-]

I have never heard that seduction is much studied outside male-wants-female.

What? Clothing lipstick fingernails haircut tan waxing liposuction diet aerobics... Women strive to improve their seduction abilities much more than men.

Comment author: HughRistik 21 July 2009 05:23:40AM *  6 points [-]

Agreed. It is more socially acceptable for women to improve their attractiveness to the opposite sex than it is for men. Women can also get more improvement of their attractiveness through these methods. Additionally, it's considered acceptable for women to use various forms of psychological influence over men; see this NYT article I critiqued on my blog advocating training men like animals. When men do this, it's evil.

Hair and clothes are very important for men, though, not just because of physical looks, but because of the status and sexuality that they do (or don't) convey.

Comment author: PeterS 20 July 2009 08:27:02PM *  4 points [-]

Clothing, haircut, diet and aerobics apply equally to men as well, and waxing has shaving as a counterpart.

Also, do you have figures on what percentage of women undergo liposuction? Or tan regularly?

Seems to me that all you've done is generalized from a couple cliches.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 July 2009 04:04:37AM *  1 point [-]

The amount of rationalization in this thread is disturbing me. Seriously... apply equally? How many dresses do you have? How many shoes? How many shampoos? Skin care products? Do you regularly shave your arms and legs? Did you ever try to wax any part of your body, and do you have any idea how it feels? Were you ever seriously concerned that the tips of your hair were splitting ever-so-slightly and you must do something about that? Do you want me to go on?

Comment author: PeterS 21 July 2009 08:17:44PM *  4 points [-]

The amount of rationalization in this thread is disturbing me.

What do you think I'm rationalizing?

How many dresses do you have? How many shampoos? Skin care products? Do you regularly shave your arms and legs? Did you ever try to wax any part of your body, and do you have any idea how it feels? Were you ever seriously concerned that the tips of your hair were splitting ever-so-slightly and you must do something about that?

You've displayed a severe lack of synthesis here. What you should have been thinking about were analogous items that a male would possess for sex appeal. You're seriously trying to make a point by asking me how many dresses I own? Obviously I own none, and obviously that does not speak at all to the amount of effort I exert trying to impress women. I also own precisely zero skirts, zero bras, and zero tampons!

To my knowledge, a male's sex appeal is not significantly improved by most of the items you've gone to the trouble of listing. I've never felt that I would be more sexy if my legs, armpits, etc. were waxed (although I have plucked my unibrow a few times). Nor, with the exception of acne control, do I think skin care products would increase the average man's sex appeal.

You've apparently failed to accurately conceptualize the idea of sex appeal. When I brought this up, rather than ask for apparently relevant or informative information (how much money will I spend on a date? how nice is my watch, jacket, car, apartment, etc? how much effort will I actually go to in order to seduce a woman or get laid? do i wear deodorant/cologne? do i use contact lenses? how often do i shave? how much do i care about hygiene? what kinds of clothes do i wear? what is my job?), you came asking about how many dresses I own and whether I regularly shave my legs, etc.

Seriously... apply equally?

Male sex appeal is quite different than female sex appeal, but there is a common ground. Clothing, hair (dye, rogaine, plugs, transplant, cutting and grooming), diet and exercise fall inside that common ground.

Comment author: bogus 20 July 2009 01:46:29PM *  4 points [-]

What? Clothing lipstick fingernails haircut tan waxing liposuction diet aerobics...

Most of this is part of some silly game which women play amongst themselves: some of it may be male-directed, but it's definitely a minor portion. Overall, F2M seduction and "focused self-improvement" are still woefully underexplored.

Comment author: HughRistik 21 July 2009 07:45:07AM *  17 points [-]

Overall, F2M seduction and "focused self-improvement" are still woefully underexplored.

Great point. Since women have an easier time finding partners than men due to greater female selectiveness (at least when perceived choice is high, which is the norm for typical dating), women may more easily reach a basic level of satisfaction with their abilities to attract and relate to the opposite sex. Or conversely, women may be less likely to reach a level of dissatisfaction that they are motivated to engage in systematic programs to improve their attractiveness and relational abilities, other than in societally typical ways such as improving physical attractiveness.

Yet I do think women would benefit from improving their ability to attract and relate to men, analogous to what pickup artists are doing. Pickup artists often study men who are "naturals" with women. Likewise, I think there are female "naturals." I've known some women who do very well with men, both in the sense of attracting men, and in fulfilling their goals (typically, long-term romantic relationships). These women take care of themselves physically without being incredibly high maintenance, they are intelligent and accomplished, they are a joy to be around, they like men and understand them relatively well, a large percentage of males who come in contact with them get crushes on them. They don't have the common complaint of trying to date guys who only want their bodies, and they are in multi-year relationships.

Clearly, there is something that these women are doing right, or something about their attitudes, personalities, and/or upbringings which is leading to across the board positive results with men, while other women of equal or greater physical attractiveness constantly experience difficulties with men. Whatever it is, it can be broken down empirically and other women can learn from it, similar to how pickup artists are breaking down the behavior and mindsets of men who are successful with women.

In fact, I would argue that a lot of the difficulties some women may experience in their interactions with any attractive men with options (including many pickup artists) is due to their lack of corresponding sexual and relational skills. To explain why this is, I'll back up and use an analogy.

Many men who aren't very good at interacting with women complain of various difficulties around women. A particular complaint is only being seen as a friend, rather than as a romantic prospective, and may feel that females "lead them on" and then only want friendship. Yet for men who have significant skill at attracting and relating to women, these kinds of problems simply go away, or reduce in frequency. I'm less likely to receive this response nowadays. Often I will see the "let's just be friends" situation coming from a mile away, in which case I keep her as a friend and pursue other women. If I don't see it coming, my understanding of female sexual psychology will offer me explanations other than the woman trying to "lead me on." I have enough perspective to realize that she may have given me a chance to attract her, and I simply failed to convey my attractive qualities to her, or she didn't find me attractive. Yet I'm not crushed, because I know that I will be meeting new women next weekend, and I am free to maintain a friendship with her if I so choose.

Similarly, many women complain of a situation where they have become sexual with a guy who is "just not that into her." In fact, this seems to be a fear of some women who hear about pickup artists: they think pickup artists are going to go around seducing them and then moving on. Yet whether a man will move on from a woman after having sex depends on his perception of her appeal for a relationship. This variable is partly under the woman's control. If she can display qualities that make her appeal to him as a relationship partner, and differentiate herself from other women of equal or greater attractiveness, then he is less likely to move on. Furthermore, with a better knowledge of male sexual psychology, she can more easily guess in the first place whether he would be plausibly romantically interested in her, and move on if not.

There are genuine cases of women taking advantage of men non-sexually, and of men taking advantage of women sexually, by lying about their intentions. There are other cases in which people are ambiguous about what they are looking for, and negligently lead another party who wants something more with them into false beliefs about their availability. Yet in my view, the problems underlying "let's just be friends" and "pump and dump" scenarios that are equally as common really lie at the feet of the "friend," or the "dumped." And those problems include the following:

  1. Lack of qualities that attract the member of the opposite into wanting the same thing as the guy friend or dumped woman does, or presence of unattractive qualities
  2. Presence of attractive qualities, but lack of ability to display them in a timely fashion (e.g. I once went out with a girl who got drunk on our first few dates, which made it hard for me to connect with her real personality, and almost prevented me from realizing how intelligent and accomplished she was)
  3. Lack of understanding of the psychology of the opposite sex, leading to over-investing that will not be reciprocated, walking blindly into rejection, and then blaming the other sex for it

People tend to use their sexual and relational skills to seek what kind of arrangement they want with members of the opposite sex. Yet if members of sex A want arrangement X with members of sex B, while members of sex A are lacking qualities, skills, and understanding necessary for members of sex B to want that kind of relationship with members of sex A, then we have a curious zero-sum situation: a member of sex B's goals will be different from a member of sex A's goals with each other. Since members of sex B finding members of sex A underwhelming in a certain way, their preferred arrangement will be to have a narrow interaction in which they get what they want, while members of sex A do not get what they want (and perhaps feel "used"). However, if members of sex A had more "game" (or whatever you want to call it), then they would be less likely to encounter the situation of members of sex A only wanting them in such a narrow way, in which case members of sex B would use their own "game" in order to seek arrangements that are desired more mutually.

Either men or women are A or B depending on the context. Imagine a matrix of group A's level of game crossed with group B's level of game (where I define "game" as ability, conscious or otherwise, to understand the psychology of the opposite sex, and to attract and induce members of the opposite sex to be more likely to want the kind of sexual/romantic situation that you desire with them; I have reservations about the word "game", but it's late and I need to save typing):

Neither A nor B have game: mutual blundering

A has more game than B: A "uses" B because A only wants a narrow kind of interaction with B

B has more game than A: B "uses" A, reverse of above

A and B both have considerable game: both groups are more likely to want non-zero-sum interactions with each other because they both desire each other in the ways that the other desires them, and members of both groups can more easily identify and avoid potentially zero-sum situations where an asymmetricality of desires occurs

In short, a woman with relational game should be less likely to fear men with seduction ability, because men will be more likely to fall for her.

Assuming that individuals cannot systematically change the preferences of the opposite sex, the best way for both men and women to get want they want sexually and romantically is by members of both sexes:

a) maximally understanding the preferences the of the opposite sex, and b) maximally learning to fulfill the preferences of the opposite sex, subject to certain basic constraints of authenticity, ethics, and one's own preferences

Rational and empirical investigation would be helpful in pursuing these goals. For now, people will have to do this on their own, or with like minded people. Yet in the future, rather than make everyone reinvent the real, these abilities should be instilled by general socialization. To some extent, they already are (at least if you were popular when growing up). But the average quality of advice about the opposite sex is laughably bad for both sexes (especially for men) in society, and dominated by oversimplified stereotypes (e.g. "men only want one thing") and true-but-useless platitudes ("just be yourself," "every woman wants something different").

Comment author: bogus 21 July 2009 07:52:17AM *  5 points [-]

This should be a top-level post. It would counter both the pervasive misunderstanding of what PUA is about and Eliezer's point about PUA being locker-room man talk.

Comment author: HughRistik 21 July 2009 05:07:21PM *  8 points [-]

I would consider cleaning it up and re-writing it as a top level post if others request, and/or consider it out of place in this thread.

Comment author: JohannesDahlstrom 22 July 2009 09:04:15PM 8 points [-]

Please do. It deserves to be top-level.

Comment author: HughRistik 21 July 2009 06:31:07PM 2 points [-]

Downvote explanation requested. I am already considering moving this post somewhere else; it is on-topic for the comment it is responding to, but it may drift from the topic of the thread. Objections to the argument of this comment, or of the language and framings it contains, is also invited.

Comment author: rela 13 September 2010 02:40:18AM 2 points [-]

Most of this is part of some silly game which women play amongst themselves: some of it may be male-directed, but it's definitely a minor portion.

It is possible that I have misunderstood your comment. So, I hope that you will not mind if I reiterate in order to make sure that I have understood correctly: Women spend time on "clothing lipstick etc" primarily because they are concerned about the impression other women will form of them.

I'm afraid that any response will be purely anecdotal: but I can say that I am much more likely to shave my legs when I go to have coffee with a group of women, as compared to with a group that contains men. And I am almost certain to shave my legs before going to coffee with a man who I would be interested in dating.

Best, rela

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 01:38:52PM 2 points [-]

Systematically?

Also, a whole lot of that stuff (most?) is for intra-women signaling.

Comment author: cousin_it 20 July 2009 01:44:54PM *  3 points [-]

What do you mean by "systematically"? There's lots of magazines for females that discuss the exact set of topics I enumerated, add sex and relationship advice into the bargain, and very little else. This approach works, so women don't need to study evo-psych or whatever PUAs study.

I defy your claim about signaling because it seems wildly improbable to me. Why would women want to signal their attractiveness to other women? Give a citation or something.

Comment author: Psychohistorian 21 July 2009 05:33:57AM 4 points [-]

I defy your claim about signaling because it seems wildly improbable to me. Why would women want to signal their attractiveness to other women? Give a citation or something.

Shoes and handbags are probably an adequate citation. Clothing as well, perhaps, but that's at least somewhat ambiguous. There may be a lot of men out there who pay close attention to the shoes and handbags of the women they are interested in, but I can't say I've met any of them. I'm not entirely sure what the motivation is for women who buy these things (I dated a woman with numerous $500+ purses, and she was in college), but I am pretty sure it's unrelated to attracting men, and it would make a great deal of sense if it's status signaling towards other women.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 02:05:12PM 2 points [-]

Peruse Vogue any time. None of that stuff is for males. it signals things like: I'm rich, I'm young, I'm cultured, I'm upper-class, I'm able to devote effort to display, I'm socially well-connected...

Comment author: topynate 20 July 2009 12:18:48AM 9 points [-]

Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women.

There's a distinction I draw between objectifying a particular person and a class of people. I think what drew you (Alicorn) into the argument which sparked this post is the idea of "getting attractive women". Women should not, conceptually, be "got", you say. Well, if you mean a particular woman, who one sees in a club or on the street, then I agree with you. If you mean that a man should not talk about the modal preferences and cognitive styles of attractive women, so that when he meets one that he likes, he knows how to convey his own value in a way that isn't self defeating, then I disagree, and I guess that calling it "objectification" isn't going to change my mind. To use the distinction in a different context: I claim that there's a difference between standing in front of someone and thinking about "what you're going to do to their body", and lying in bed thinking about what you might like to do to some body, sometime.

Casual use of masculine and/or heteronormative examples in posts and comments that aren't explicitly about gender.

Yeah, that sucks.

Sweeping generalizations about women, if they are not backed up by overwhelming hard data

Such generalizations are generally - not always - lazy and demeaning, so I do support your proposal, but in reality the argument normally centres on whether a particular statement is a generalization, whether it's a sweeping generalization, and whether the data in its favour are overwhelming or not. Good luck not getting bogged down in that. Really a small moderation team that explicitly deals with such matters would be a good idea. Metafilter has one and benefits from it.

Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women.

Again, I agree with the literal meaning of your words, but I wager that you will find most of the people you have in mind very resistant to being characterized as "fawning" over anyone. In any case, comment after comment of "I don't admire this technique, but I've verified (400 cold approaches) that negging in the opener is a very effective tool for SNLs" wouldn't be made very satisfactory by the addition of "don't" in the previous sentence.

Also, it would be a good idea to immerse yourself in PUA blogs and forums for a while, if you want to get a good idea of what motivates people to do this stuff. I think I first became aware of the subculture in 2007, and thought it propagated immature and offensive nonsense. Its natural growth eventually forced it back into my consciousness earlier this year, and I have refined my view: it naturally attracts a number of immature or offensive people, but I like to think of it as fundamentally an applied sociology club for boys.

I did smile at your request for more qualifiers and disclaimers. In your article, I saw several qualifiers and one bolded disclaimer, but none that could actually weaken your arguments. Rather, you prefer to express absolute moral judgements. There's a touch of hypocrisy in that.

Comment author: nazgulnarsil 20 July 2009 02:08:25PM 13 points [-]

I have the same problem with this post that I would have with a member of an ethnic minority speaking "for" their group here. the type of person who posts on less wrong is a statistical oddity, belief and action wise.

I think what the original poster is really saying: I am made uncomfortable by certain types of recurring posts. Since an individual has little leverage, I will borrow the theoretical support of others.

Note: not trying to completely dismiss the concerns noted in the original post, just my initial reaction to it.

Comment author: stuffimnotproudof 19 July 2009 10:55:59PM *  11 points [-]

I would like help reducing the incidence of: * Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. "Objectification" is what happens when a person is treated or discussed as an object, not as an autonomous being.

I believe that, to a first approximation, one factor of my utility function can be represented without a token for the woman's autonomy. Or, if this cannot accurately be said of my utility function, it can be said about world states of high instrumental value.

I believe it's in my best interest to fuck.

Comment author: dclayh 19 July 2009 11:09:06PM 3 points [-]

Related: I'm glad that Alicorn included the word "casually". I myself object strongly to the idea that objectification is an evil per se, but the idea is common one, going back through Kant, the Scholastics etc. etc., and deserving (I think) of at least a second thought's worth of respect.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 19 July 2009 11:11:08PM 2 points [-]

Do you object when other people use manipulative or coercive techniques on you, to maximize their own utility function without regard for your autonomy?

Comment author: stuffimnotproudof 19 July 2009 11:26:10PM *  4 points [-]

My objection would be to making a decision that I wouldn't make if I had better information. It's not about the fact that their utility function doesn't have a token for my autonomy.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 19 July 2009 11:52:42PM 8 points [-]

And if you spend a lot of time being influenced by intelligent people who don't have a token for your autonomy, you'll be making a lot of decisions you wouldn't have made with better information and objectivity.

"Not causing people to make choices they will regret" is a pretty simple ethical principle.

Comment author: stuffimnotproudof 20 July 2009 12:13:38AM 2 points [-]

intelligent people who don't have a token for your autonomy

Actually, I originally just said that one term of my utility function can be represented without a token for women's autonomy. The utility function as a whole definitely includes terms for the concerns of every human being.

But I hope you understand why, in some conversations, it would be natural for me to objectify women.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 12:44:50AM 1 point [-]

I hope you understand that the issue is not what is natural, but what is ethical.

Comment author: LucasSloan 21 July 2009 04:14:28AM *  5 points [-]

First of all I must say that I do not know if there is in fact a problem on LW, and it is not my goal to definitely say so, I only ask for introspection. There are not enough women on this site to make a proper analysis of how the (obvious) male orientation of some language used generates negative sentiment. However, I think that the simple fact that one person thinks there is a problem is a big indicator of a problem. It takes a great deal of courage (or, I admit, contrariness) to go against an established group consensus, and as far as I can tell, alicorn is not prone to the second. Humans have a tendency to feel protective of in groups, which may account for alicorn's feelings, but the same goes for the men who feel she is overreacting.

I have spent a great deal of time attempting to figure out whether or not I am sexist. All I can say for certain is that I am able to avoid certain very egregious examples of it. Eliezer recently asked what systemic biases prevent humans from ever seeing really obvious things. I must ask if the men in the audience can be certain that they aren't making a similar mistake. Most people are unaware of many biases and will defend their misconceptions even when provoked.

To conclude my plea for introspection I will state a fact then ask a few questions. At least one woman is offended by examples of sexism on LW. Is it okay to offend anyone? If it is not your intent to offend, is it your responsibility to not offend or the responsibility of your audience to not be offended?

Comment author: G_Ruby 21 July 2009 08:43:03PM 3 points [-]

Hello,

Again, from a rationalist perspective, Alicorn's aversion to some oft-espoused views on this site about women and sex aren't rational and objective in themselves, but subjective views on the rational consequences of the commentary; I.E. - Possibly repelling a desired demographic's (rationalist women) inclusion and participation here.

So it seems that one of the most rational perspectives on the issue is the question of whether the membership of this site could come to a consensus as to whether they want to harbor some self-imposed restrictions and decidedly un-rational (but civil) biases in order to make that demographic feel more comfortable and welcome? [Also, whether doing so would be detrimental to the overall shared-mission of the site: To deconstruct and address irrationalities within our society and ourselves regardless of how much the process makes us uncomfortable?]

For the record, I am a large black American male, who as both a self-described rationalist and pragmatist fully realize that I have to disengage some aspects of my identity politics to participate more effectively in various groups. Be those politics gender, race, sexuality, political, economic, philosophical, etc. related; Or be those groups different varities of these same categories.

I suspect that one of the best ways we could settle this issue would be to pay equal attention to the irrationalities of the 'typical' American Male, American Female, Feminist and Pick-Up Artist communities and sub-cultures and to try to decide in some manner as to what degree the irrationalities in each can be tolerated here without being counter-productive to the mission at large.

Comment author: dclayh 19 July 2009 11:15:34PM 8 points [-]

I trace the treating of women as status objects to be acquired to the recent surge in popularity of Ev. Bio.. In particular, proponents of PUA and allied schools of thought tend to draw direct lines from lower-primate societies to ours. (They also assume that if a technique works, it must be okay to use, but that's a somewhat different issue.)

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 19 July 2009 11:33:21PM 8 points [-]

I've also seen a tendency to miss the difference between adaptation execution and fitness maximization. Of course, that's an easy mistake to slip into, but still.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 July 2009 11:27:52PM 10 points [-]

Robin is not right.

On the other hand, Robin is right. This post is not about gender inequality.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 20 July 2009 12:38:00PM *  6 points [-]

I'm still not sure that the problem is real or at least worth the fuss. It might be, but I'm not convinced. It might be more like the name effect, for example: real, but tiny. The first step before trying to do something about the issue should be to make sure the issue isn't illusory.

So far, I see Alicorn complaining about her aesthetic preferences not met by the prose on the forum, but how typical is it? Some people agree that the writing decisions made by some of the posters are not that great, but how much of it is support of hypothetical preferences of other people isn't clear. A whole information cascade about preferences may form this way, with hardly any of the participants benefiting, but most of them thinking that they help others. A few can't demand of a community what they intuitively think is fair.

Everything that involves arguing that it's important to not drive women away from the site is contingent on the reality of effect of writing style choices on the number of female participants.

Comment author: thomblake 20 July 2009 04:09:44PM 4 points [-]

Indeed. Where these issues bump into such empirical questions, it seems like we should need statistical, rather than merely anecdotal, evidence.

But the evidence that we do have is anecdotal, and it does suggest that some valued members of our community are made uncomfortable (to the point of considering leaving) by some inconsiderate use of language. And those who like this site are already a statistical anomaly.

Comment author: Lightwave 20 July 2009 06:35:59PM *  2 points [-]

In my experience, most women don't have a negative emotional response to men talking about "getting girls". They themselves talk about "getting a man". I suspect that the percentage of women are actually offended by this kind of talk is not large (10%-20%?).

Of course each such statement has to be evaluated separately, but for the word 'get' in this context specifically, I think the above applies.

Maybe we could gather a bunch of such statements and ask women whether they find each one offensive and why. We might be able to gather some statistical data.

Comment author: thomblake 19 July 2009 10:42:27PM 6 points [-]

I've tried to avoid being the 'feminism police' around here too, despite apparently having a stronger background in it than you do. I'll try to pay more attention.

This is perhaps an obvious case of "don't be rude or marginalize any groups" that seems like a good rule for inclusivity. But it is worth bringing these things to attention specifically; the places where people are often biased are worth being reminded of.

Comment author: Vichy 20 July 2009 02:52:50AM 19 points [-]

Despite being female, I generally find I could not give a damn about alleged 'social' pressures on women, since people who get all weepy because everyone doesn't treat them nice are (in my opinion) laughable, regardless of their sex.

"Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. " Human beings ARE objects. All of them. Whatever an 'autonomous being is', if it exists it is still an object in both the grammatical and ontological sense. I objectify everyone, and it seems absurd not to.

"If you need to use an example with a gender, there's no reason to consider male the default - consider choosing randomly," This just seems silly to me. A total waste of effort. I can't imagine being bothered by the gender of hypothetical people, and especially not by casual use of words which are unisex anyways (such as 'man' for 'human').

"Sweeping generalizations about women" Most sweeping generalizations are flawed, but the amount of stupid things people believe about women is far less ridiculous than the stuff they believe about people they have literally no experience with - such as the Japanese, or Mormons.

"Fawning admiration of pickup artists who attain their fame by the systematic manipulation of women." 'Manipulation'? I though these were 'autonomous' beings? People who can't look after their own social well-being get what coming to them.

"Attention to the privileges of masculinity and attempts to reduce that disparity." The law favors women just as often as it doesn't, especially in various legal disputes. As far as the 'privileges' of men - insofar as they aren't legally enforced, I couldn't give a damn. No one owes you anything.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 03:10:15AM 24 points [-]

While I appreciate and share your brash disregard for social pressures, I don't think it's inappropriate to expect a modicum of politeness and tact in how people present ideas. Not everyone is immune to such pressure and I don't think saying what amounts to "HTFU, noobcake" is a reasonable way to improve the level of discourse.

Comment author: Vichy 20 July 2009 03:48:48AM 4 points [-]

Well, I don't very much care about those sorts of people. It's not that I have any desire to aggravate them, but they're usually useless to me as anything but vending machines.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 03:53:06AM *  10 points [-]

Resistance to social pressure is, within reason, largely orthogonal to the ability to contribute useful information to an informed discussion, or cooperate with others on productive tasks.

If you really want to limit the set of people you can usefully interact with, be my guest, but it seems a tad suboptimal.

Comment author: Vichy 20 July 2009 04:00:38AM 11 points [-]

'Suboptimal' for what? There is no such thing as 'general efficiency', success and failure (and their degress) are meaningless without an actual framework of goals and preference. I simply do not enjoy socially interacting with people like that. I am aware that this includes most of the human race. I happen to find most of the human race useless beyond the buy-sell relationship.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 10:46:47PM 7 points [-]

There are a variety of social interactions from which one can derive value outside the context of a simple economic transaction. Discussing intellectual topics, like on LW or in an academic environment is one example; professional networking to gain connections for career advancement is another. Excluding people for reasons unrelated to these goals, such as susceptibility to social pressure, is suboptimal because potential gains scale with the number of people you interact with.

Who you choose to socially interact with is otherwise pretty much arbitrary. Personally, I generally like your attitude and think the world could use more people who share it--but I don't feel justified to demand that they do.

Comment author: Vichy 20 July 2009 11:20:20PM 0 points [-]

"Excluding people for reasons unrelated to these goals, such as susceptibility to social pressure, is suboptimal because potential gains scale with the number of people you interact with." It's quite the other way around - people who strongly conform to social pressure tend to be people who I will disagree with so much in theory and practice that I have no desire to attempt any sort of relationship. I find people who get 'offended', or care about 'animal rights', are far more likely to make me want to punch them than to contribute anything I have any interest in hearing.

"I don't feel justified to demand that they do." Justification is phantom. I just couldn't give a damn what they like or not. Why should I automatically have sympathy for these primates just because they happen to be related to me? I don't 'demand' anything of them, but I owe them nothing, either. I give them no more leave than I would a dog.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 04:07:06AM 3 points [-]

Why are you interacting with an un-filtered human? Your professed chances of a hit are far lower than a miss, unless you go someplace where the culture ups the odds.

Comment author: Vichy 20 July 2009 04:16:51AM 11 points [-]

Because it's easy enough to ignore people who bore me, and there are a handful of you on here who are worth interacting with. What's more, sometimes 'normal' people do produce something worth reading, I just wouldn't want to share an apartment with them.

Comment author: wuwei 20 July 2009 12:58:54AM 6 points [-]

Upvoted because I appreciate Alicorn's efforts and would like to hear additional rational presentations of views in the same neighborhood as her's.

I would bet I also upvoted some of the comments Alicorn is referring to as comments that perpetuate the problem.

Comment author: Bo102010 20 July 2009 12:18:09AM 6 points [-]

Upvoted because as aspiring rationalists we are presumably intelligent, and should act as though we are enlightened.

See Hofstadter's article in Metamagical Themas on using gendered pronouns (preview here). I was sympathetic to its conclusions before I read it, but it gives good ideas to consider.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 July 2009 01:48:51AM 5 points [-]

Yup, that was when I decided to grit my teeth and use non-gendered language no matter what it did to prosody. Once I transitioned from "ve" to "they" it grew on me surprisingly fast, and no longer takes a conscious effort; male-specific language now seems jarring.

Comment author: SoullessAutomaton 20 July 2009 02:28:19AM 5 points [-]

"They" has long been in use for that purpose anyhow. Singular "they" being incorrect is a relatively modern, and quickly fading, notion.

Comment author: Andy_McKenzie 20 July 2009 01:41:54AM 3 points [-]

I upvoted because I agree on the meta level that it would be nice to have more diversity of ideas in this and most other communities. And I read all of the comments, so it obviously triggered a discussion that interested me.

I agree with Robin, however, that generalizations need not be prohibited--that is going too far. However, generalizations should whenever possible be made falsifiable.

Comment author: taw 19 July 2009 11:52:43PM 7 points [-]

Downvoted due to trying to shame people into obedience to your norms and complete misunderstanding of what PUA is about.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 February 2013 02:39:41PM 4 points [-]

Sweeping generalizations about women, if they are not backed up by overwhelming hard data (responsibly gathered and interpreted).

Sorry if this has already been said, but, to quote a friend, what would constitute a sweeping generalization varies widely. Some people would read this as being close to equivalent to saying 'Don't use heuristics when dealing with stuff related to women', which is impossible and imposes major costs. You can't engage in discussions if you're not allowed to use heuristics.

Comment author: ryancarnated 20 July 2009 03:07:37AM *  5 points [-]

Comments and posts that casually objectify women or encourage the objectification of women. "Objectification" is what happens when a person is treated or discussed as an object, not as an autonomous being. (Non-women can also be objectified, and that too should be stopped.)

This is a wonderful post and this is a wonderful suggestion. The part of my brain that sees all people equally is rejoicing. But the sex-crazed maniac part of my brain that sees women as objects is worried that it can't hibernate on demand.

I have an idea. We can say things like "satisfy sexual urges" rather than "get a man/woman." That way our language doesn't objectify anybody, but we don't have to ignore the irrational parts of our brains.

For instance:

"I went to the club to find a woman." -> "I went to the club to satisfy my sexual urges."

"I found a man at the beach." -> "I found sexual satisfaction at the beach."

"I want that man." -> "That man activates my right temporal lobe, or whichever is the sex one."

"You are such a nerd, you will never have a woman." -> "You are such a nerd, your sexual needs will never be met on a regular, reliable basis."

We can't turn off our inner sex fiends, but we don't have to be jerks about it.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 20 July 2009 05:03:36AM *  15 points [-]

I object to speaking unlike ordinary people do in ordinary life. Your suggestion would make this community even more insular.

Comment author: CronoDAS 20 July 2009 05:20:25AM 2 points [-]

Change has to start somewhere, although this particular phrasing seems a bit awkward...

Comment author: JulianMorrison 20 July 2009 10:07:47AM 5 points [-]

So use "go pulling", "get laid", "hot", etc. English is surprisingly full of gender neutral sex talk.

Comment author: ryancarnated 21 July 2009 10:22:40PM 2 points [-]

I do speak like this in ordinary life.

I bet your language has evolved substantially since you were a child. As you learn better ways to talk, you use them. People in the US used to use racist language a lot more frequently, but that has fallen out of favor. This is happening with sexist language as well.

Comment author: RobinZ 20 July 2009 03:28:34PM 3 points [-]

That last example is particularly amusing slash enlightening - I think in part because the original version feels like it intends: "You are such a nerd, you will never earn high social status".

(Which is why it's so wrong, actually - it objectifies women as symbols of male achievement.)

Comment author: pjeby 20 July 2009 05:33:40PM 4 points [-]

Which is why it's so wrong, actually - it objectifies women as symbols of male achievement.

Huh? If somebody says to a woman, "you're so ugly, you'll never have a man," is that objectifying men as symbols of female attractiveness?

(I'm not saying either putdown is sensible; I'm just saying I don't see how either of them is objectifying to the opposite sex from the target of the putdown. Arguably, the "nerd" putdown objectifies men as having value to women only for their status, whereas the reverse objectifies women as having value to men only for their physical attractiveness. I suppose you could say that each putdown also implies the opposite sex is shallow, but is that really objectification?)

Comment author: RobinZ 20 July 2009 06:04:11PM 4 points [-]

Hmm ... no, they're still parallel: the man is objectified as a symbol of female achievement, with unattractiveness being cited as the barrier to a relationship.

The thing is, you don't address the thing you objectify, you just talk about them like it is an object.

(That's not to say that the content you point out in both examples isn't toxic and sexist, just that it falls under a different heading.)

Comment author: pjeby 20 July 2009 06:14:44PM 6 points [-]

Hmm ... no, they're still parallel: the man is objectified as a symbol of female achievement, with unattractiveness being cited as the barrier to a relationship.

I still don't get it. How about, "your research is so awful, no respectable scientists will cite you." Are we objectifying scientists, then?

AFAICT, these statements are of the form "you lack quality X, therefore those who desire quality X will not give you the form of approval or validation you desire." That is, the statement takes into account the expected goals of the agent being putdown, as well as a presumed class of agents whose approval is sought. That doesn't sound like anybody's being considered an "object" whose goals don't count; it's saying, your results don't align with this other group's goals.

True, the assumed goals may not apply to every member of the presumed class (perhaps there are some "respectable scientists" who will cite your work), but this doesn't somehow reach out and harm every single "respectable scientist"! (It doesn't even harm the scientists who would cite the work, unless they take the putdown to indirectly imply that they are not "respectable".)

Comment author: RobinZ 20 July 2009 06:46:27PM 2 points [-]

The researcher reward is citations - those are the objects. In the other two cases, the rewards are people.

Comment author: pjeby 20 July 2009 07:19:42PM 3 points [-]

The researcher reward is citations - those are the objects. In the other two cases, the rewards are people.

No, in all three cases, the true reward is the approval of those people; i.e., the true message of the putdown is, "nobody approves of you".

Comment author: knb 20 July 2009 06:40:58AM *  10 points [-]

I have an idea. We can say things like "satisfy sexual urges" rather than "get a man/woman." That way our language doesn't objectify anybody, but we don't have to ignore the irrational parts of our brains.

Why is sexual desire irrational? If such a major feature of human psychology can be written off as irrational, what remains? Sexual desire is an enormously important human motivation, perhaps even the most important of all. Lust is every bit as important a feature of our minds as kindness, hunger, fear, or love. Indeed, these parts of ourselves are exquisitely and intrinsically intertwined.

I'm voting down because I see this comment, the top-level post, and the ideology behind it, as a futile attempt to pathologize a very healthy kind of human desire.

Comment author: Rings_of_Saturn 20 July 2009 05:08:14PM 2 points [-]

This idea does not have my approval.

Comment author: Fetterkey 21 July 2009 07:46:41AM 1 point [-]

I think that your efforts would be better spent taming the "sex-crazed maniac" part of your brain, frankly.

Comment author: ryancarnated 21 July 2009 10:19:08PM 1 point [-]

Really? It's a lot easier to use polite language instead.

Comment author: Mantodea 10 November 2013 04:52:20PM 2 points [-]

As a long-time female lurker on LW, encountering this post convinced me to finally make an account. I suppose it is a bittersweet post -- good news: there are LWers who care about this, bad news: there are LWers who don't -- but it worked to get me to comment here, anyways. I hope that the community has improved since. Thank you!

Comment author: Fetterkey 21 July 2009 07:52:11AM 2 points [-]

I am not female, and I find some of the language and PUA-related content here to be extremely off-putting. If you really want to refine the art of seduction, I would suggest reading Greene; this blog, on the other hand, is for refining the art of rationality.

Comment author: HughRistik 21 July 2009 05:22:35PM 5 points [-]

Robert Greene? How extensively have you read him? He readily advocates manipulation and refers to the other party as the "victim." I find this off-putting: he is describing things that are (mostly) fair play in a way that makes them sound like foul play, which is exactly how many PUAs sound, leading readers to get the wrong idea.

Comment author: Fetterkey 21 July 2009 07:17:44PM 7 points [-]

I find his stance in this regard to be absolutely correct; if you're going to write a book on methods of manipulating people, you may as well call a spade a spade.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 20 July 2009 01:19:06AM 2 points [-]

I don't think any of the comments you cited warrant going meta, but I can certainly understand why discussion of picking up physically attractive women might annoy you. Presumably there are more appropriate forums for that.

I've been annoyed at people who grab attention by strutting/flirting in what should be a nonsexual context, but upon reflection, I've decided that usually such disapproval is best kept to oneself.

Comment author: lucidfox 02 December 2010 08:00:28AM *  2 points [-]

Girly username? "Alicorn" strikes me as pretty gender-neutral. The first mental image that popped into my mind before I learned about your gender, ironically, was a male, although not decidedly masculine, fantasy elf.

But yes, invisibility is a common problem online. I don't myself assign any prior probabilities to any given person online being a certain gender, unless the community is explicitly designated, for example, as "meant for women". But many communicate from a "male as default" standpoint, and maybe the only real way to combat it is to balance the gender ratio to a critical mass at which point that kind of prior simply becomes useless.

Comment author: VijayKrishnan 20 July 2009 06:17:39PM 1 point [-]

If you are prone to dismissing women's complaints of gender-related problems as the women being whiny, emotionally unstable girls who see sexism where there is none, this post is unlikely to interest you.

The above does not apply to me per se, but this post neverthless doesn't interest me for its content. The poster of this article certainly looks like an immature feminist who is incapable of separating rational inquiry and the asking of hard questions, when they get close to her value system.

I have found Anna's posts way more mature and tackling issues and hard questions with sensible arguments instead of holding a long list of taboo topics and crying foul when anyone ever talks bluntly about them. Similar is the case with other girls that I know of. I particularly recall Robin Hanson's post regarding applying an SAT score correction factor to factor in the prior information of greater variance in the performance of men (which would lead to removing a few points from the high scoring women). While there were mindless argument by immature feminists crying foul, instead of addressing the math, I thought Anna's follow up post detailing how the prior knowledge of variance differences becomes less and less consequential with multiple SAT trials whose scores are averaged or when SAT is coupled with other pieces of information, was extremely insightful.

Anyway, the girl that's posting this article seems only 20 and has plenty of time to grow up. :-) I am hoping that exposure to these politically incorrect communities for enough time will ensure that she "grows up" in a couple of years and fearlessly asks and investigates hard questions and acknowledges uncomfortable realities rather than allow clear thought to be constantly muddied by political sensibilities. Good luck!