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Call for Anonymous Narratives by LW Women and Question Proposals (AMA)

20 [deleted] 09 September 2012 08:39AM

In another discussion going on right now, I posted this proposal, asking for feedback on this experiment. The feedback was positive, so here goes...

Original Post:

When these gender discussions come up, I am often tempted to write in with my own experiences and desires. But I generally don't because I don't want to generalize from one example, or claim to be the Voice of Women, etc. However, according to the last survey, I actually AM over 1% of the females on here, and so is every other woman. (i.e. there are less than 100 of us).

My idea is to put out a call for women on LessWrong to write openly about their experiences and desires in this community, and send them to me. I will anonymize them all, and put them all up under one post.

This would have a couple of benefits, including:

  • Anonymity allows for open expression- When you are in the vast minority, speaking out can feel like "swimming upstream," and so may not happen very much.

  • Putting all the women's responses in one posts helps figure out what is/is not a problem- Because of the gender ratio, most discussions on the topic are Men Talking About what Women Want, it can be hard to figure out what women are saying on the issues, versus what men are saying women say.

  • The plural of anecdote is data- If one woman says X, it is an anecdote, and very weak evidence. If 10% of women say X, it is much stronger evidence.

Note that with a lot of the above issues, one of the biggest problems in figuring out what is going on isn't purposeful misogyny or anything. Just the fact that the gender ratio is so skewed can make it difficult to hear women (think picking out one voice amongst ten). The idea I'm proposing is an attempt to work around this, not an attempt to marginalize men, who may also have important things to say, but would not be the focus of this investigation.

Even with a sample size of 10 responses (approximately the amount I would say is needed for this to be useful), according to the last survey, that is 10% of the women on this site. A sizable proportion, indeed.

 

In the following discussion, the idea was added that fellow LWers could submit questions to the Women of LW. The women can then use these as prompts in their narratives, if they like. If you are interested in submitting questions, please read the guidelines below in "Call for Questions" before posting.

If you are interested in submitting a narrative, please read the Call for Narrative section below.

 


 

Call for Narratives

RSVP -(ETA- We have reached the needed number of pre-commitments! You do not need to fill out the form, although you are welcome to, if you like) I think we need to have at least 6 people submitting narratives to provide both the scope and the anonymity to work. So before I ask women to spend their time writing these, I would like to make sure we will get enough submissions to publish. If you are going to write a narrative, fill out this (one-minute) form in the next couple days. If we get at least 6 women pre-committed to writing a narrative, we will move forward. I will PM or email you and let you know. If, in a week, we have not had at least 6 commitments, I will close the form.

Submissions- Feel free to submit, even if you did not RSVP. (that part is just to make sure we have minimum amount of people). Just send me a pm, dropbox link, or ask for my email. I'll add more information to this, as it gets worked out. 

Although the discussion that spurred this idea was about "creep" behaviors, please don't limit your responses to that subject only. Feel free to discuss any gender-related issues that you find relevant, especially responses to the questions that are posted in the thread below by your fellow LWers.

The anonymity is to provide you with the opportunity to express non-self-censored thoughts. It is ok if they are half-formed, stream-of-consciousness writings. My goal is to find out what the women on this site think, not nit-pick at the writing style. I don't want to limit submissions by saying that they have to have hours spent on formulating, organizing, and clarifying them. Write as much as you like. Don't worry about length. I will write tl;dr's if needed.

How I organize the submissions in the final post depends strongly on what is submitted to me. Separate out things that you think are identifiable to you, and I will put them in a section that is not affiliated with the rest of your submission.

Submissions are due Sept 25th!

Security- I am willing to work with people individually to make sure that their narratives aren't identifiable via writing style or little clues. Discussions that are obviously written by you (for example, talking about an incident many LWers know about) can be pulled out of your main narrative, and placed in a separate section. (reading the original exchange on the topic will clarify what I am trying to explain)

Verification- Submissions must be linked to active LW accounts (i.e. older than a week, more than 50 karma). This info will only be known to me. When possible, I would like to have validation (such as a link to a relevant post) that the account is of a female or transgendered user.  

 

 

Call for Questions

Feel free to ask questions you would like answered by the women of LW. To make everything easier for us, remember the following:

1) Put questions in response to the comment entitled "Question submissions"

2)Due to the nature of this experiment, all questions will automatically assumed to be operating under Crocker's Rules.

 3) Please only post one question per comment!

Upvote questions you would like to see answered. The questions with the highest amounts of upvotes are probably the most likely to be answered (based on my model of fellow LW Women).

Comments (364)

Comment author: Athrelon 09 September 2012 10:47:51PM *  5 points [-]
Comment author: Konkvistador 09 September 2012 10:01:50AM *  8 points [-]

Would we have a better idea of how to frame this information if we also did Anonymous Narratives of all LWers?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 09 September 2012 12:22:08PM 16 points [-]

I think it would be nice to have both female and male (separately) answers to this question:

"What topics (if any) have you considered posting about (or replying to), but then decided not to because of fear of gender-specific negative response or attention?

More generally, it would be useful to know where people have ugh fields discussing something on LW. Not just because of their gender, but also because of their political opinions etc.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 September 2012 10:12:08AM 4 points [-]

That is a great idea! I think you should do it!

Comment author: Konkvistador 09 September 2012 10:24:17AM *  3 points [-]

Sure I'd be willing to do it, but I'll wait first to see if enough people think it worthwhile.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 08:21:58AM 4 points [-]

UPDATE- We have reached eight precommitments, which I think is enough to go ahead and start writing. Please send your submission to me by September 25 (two weeks from today)

Comment author: coffeespoons 11 September 2012 12:12:02PM *  2 points [-]

I just submitted now - hope that's ok!

ETA: ciphergoth can verify that I'm female if necessary.

ETA2: I did not mean submitted - I meant I just filled in the precommitment form! Sorry, my brain is clearly failing me :(.

Comment author: MixedNuts 11 September 2012 06:08:29PM 2 points [-]

the account is of a female or transgendered user

Buh? Are you saying "cis female user, or trans female user" or "female user, or female-assigned-at-birth trans user" or "female user, or trans user of any gender and sex" or is that a leftover from editing or what?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 09:29:01PM *  2 points [-]

How much to point to specific instances/individuals?

I was asked by one of the participants as to what the policy is on singling out specific instances or individuals. I told her I would ask the community, and get back with her.

So, on one side, we don't want to use anonymity as a platform for safely attacking others (her words). On the other side, we don't want to censor out too much actual data. Also, I don't want women to feel isolated, if they think they are the only one who has a problem with an individual, but just because no one speaks up.

Some options:

-Keep complete anonymity. Do not mention incidents where people can figure out who you are talking about.
-Use incidents freely, but all names will be changed to pseudonyms.
-Only name names if more than one female mentions them.
-Women can list people they feel are problematic. I'll compile the list but keep it private. Only the contributing females can see it.

I lean towards the second option, but will go with whatever the community wants.

Comment author: Konkvistador 13 September 2012 03:56:59PM 5 points [-]

Keep complete anonymity. Do not mention incidents where people can figure out who you are talking about.

Low info but safe.

Use incidents freely, but all names will be changed to pseudonyms.

Transparent.

Only name names if more than one female mentions them.

Reasonable, but potentially drama inducing.

Women can list people they feel are problematic. I'll compile the list but keep it private. Only the contributing females can see it.

Not cool.

Comment author: J_Taylor 14 September 2012 12:29:43AM *  1 point [-]

-Women can list people they feel are problematic. I'll compile the list but keep it private. Only the contributing females can see it.

I endorse this, contingent upon the list being stored in a Lisa Frank binder.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 September 2012 08:42:43AM 2 points [-]

Question Submissions

Feel free to ask questions you would like answered by the women of LW as a response to this comment.

Remember, Crocker's Rules will apply for the answers, and one question per comment, please!

Comment author: DanArmak 09 September 2012 04:15:32PM 10 points [-]

How aware are you of the gender or sexual orientation of other LW participants? Do you mentally assign a gender to each LW user whose comments you read, or who replies to you? Do you often get it wrong, and do you care when you do? Do you react differently based on the gender of other commenters? Does it differ from what you've experienced in other online communities?

Note: LW discussions where the gender of the participants is explicitly mentioned, or which are about gender themselves, don't count.

Comment author: Sarokrae 09 September 2012 10:46:36PM *  5 points [-]

I'm the complete opposite to Alicorn, so I though I'd just pop in and say. I don't just keep track of gender, but also any other characteristics like age, occupation, nationality; personality etc. While I find it ok to just type like this on the internet, I find it much easier to actually communicate with people. Knowing these sorts of details help me interpret tone, which I think is a vital part of conversations, and the lack of respect for which often a source of internet conflict. I respond differently to aggression, for example, from high-testosterone males to females.

Having more accurate priors of the person I'm talking to also lets me decide if an argument is a lost cause, helps me choose between ambiguous interpretations, and assists me in making the most palatable presentation of my point.

Comment author: army1987 10 September 2012 12:08:28AM *  4 points [-]

I'm not a woman, but...

How aware are you of the gender or sexual orientation of other LW participants?

As for gender, I start with an about 90% prior probability (from the last survey results) that they are male, and update it according to what I read (most often the username alone is enough to bring the posterior to epsilon or 100% minus epsilon). As for orientation,I don't really care: I know EY is straight but he'd like to self-modify to become bi, and I think Alicorn is bi and lukeprog is straight but I'm not fully sure. That's it. I have read by comments by others mentioning their orientations but I can't even remember them.

Do you mentally assign a gender to each LW user whose comments you read, or who replies to you?

As in aliefs? Usually but not always. (And sometimes the alief is wrong. For example, there's a LWer who, despite having an obviously feminine username, comes across to my alief system as male (not sure why) and there's a Wikipedian (with an apparently feminine username, but he has explained that it's actually a Latin neuter plural and he's male) who comes across to my alief system as a female -- likely because of his username and because of the dingbats such as smileys, heartsuits and musical notes he uses to express his mood. I even called him 'she' by accident a couple times.)

Do you react differently based on the gender of other commenters?

I try not to. And in discussions which don't have anything to do with gender I think I almost always succeed.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 06:08:52PM 4 points [-]

I try not to form opinions about people's gender unless it seems indicated by something they say or their username, and I try not to actually pronoun anyone with a gendered pronoun unless I am pretty sure. (I think I've been mistaken once or twice even then.) To the best of my knowledge, apart from pronouns I don't handle posters differently based on gender except insofar as I have different priors on them having had various experiences.

Comment author: Athrelon 09 September 2012 02:02:25PM *  8 points [-]

Remembering Asch's conformity experiment:

What statement would you expect the majority of responders to say, that you disagree with?

Comment author: Sarokrae 13 September 2012 12:02:31AM *  8 points [-]

I don't know about majority, but I suspect at least some people will say that (the contemporary sort of) feminism is good, which I disagree with.

Not so much in sentiment, because I have reasonable-ish consequentialist ethics, which ends up at most kinds of equality (and pretty much every kind of equality of opportunity). I just find feminism as much of a mindkiller as any other kind of politics. Reading feminist websites makes my brain go ARGH in the "why can't you see how little sense you are making?!" way, so I try not to. There have also been instances on LW where gender discussions just turned into a mess of irrationality.

I wish we could discuss everything in the sensible, factual, case-by-case way that LW recommends. So much of feminism's concerns are easily dissolved, and really not worth turning into a soldiers on one side or the other thing. -Isms are the mind killer, I guess?

(disclaimer: Less Wrong does gender discussions better than a lot of places. I just wish we were better.)

Comment author: lucidian 10 September 2012 04:16:47AM 4 points [-]

"Death is a bad thing."

I find death aesthetically pleasing as part of the great circle of life, and I also feel that the earth is overpopulated enough as it is. I bring this topic up because it's been noted that females, even rational ones, are often opposed to cryonics. I'm female, and I'm opposed to cryonics.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 03:47:56PM 2 points [-]

I wouldn't call myself "opposed" to cryonics (the concept of medical suspended animation strikes me as mostly a convenience if you can get it to work, and interesting for potential social implications), but I do tend to think it's overly-boosted here. After a thorough review of the actual work done by the major players in the field (a concise history of which reads like the script to a Coen Brothers movie), and looking over the biological x-factors involved vs the typical understanding of those x-factors here, I just don't find the case compelling. The idea's neat, but it seems like the cryo-boosters here are settling for a business/cultural model rife with consistent bad decisionmaking, built-in overconfidence (including in their messaging), a severe professionalism deficit, and not incidentally a long and sordid history of laziness, incompetence, and actual fraud.

Comment author: Alicorn 10 September 2012 04:32:53AM 1 point [-]

I also feel that the earth is overpopulated enough as it is

The standard reply to this is a reversal test. What's your reply to that?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 10 September 2012 04:37:54AM *  6 points [-]

"Overpopulated" seems to already reply to the reversal test (i.e. yes, the population should be reduced). The reversal test might apply to a different claim that the current population is all right and shouldn't be increased further.

In the grandparent comment, the reversal test might apply to lifespan (the relation of lifespan to population is not completely straightforward if we control other parameters such as birth rate).

Comment author: Alicorn 10 September 2012 05:14:20AM 3 points [-]

I should have elaborated more. The reversal test I was thinking of was "if the problem is overpopulation and death's a good solution to it, should we be killing people?"

Comment author: jsteinhardt 10 September 2012 05:34:34AM 4 points [-]

Except that most people have a deontological objection to actually killing people, so even if lucidian didn't think we should be killing people, it wouldn't necessarily imply contradictory beliefs (or rather, the contradiction comes from contradictions in deontology, not anything related to cryonics).

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2012 06:53:47AM 8 points [-]

It is fair to observe that when somebody claims that their utility function says one thing but their deontology prevents them from following up, that is at least suspicious for one or the other being not-fully-motivating, not-fully-thought-out, etc.

Comment author: Sarokrae 09 September 2012 01:15:44PM 7 points [-]

What is your evaluation of your own introspection abilities? (More precisely, how often do you consider the motivations for your emotions, attitudes, tone of speech, etc, and are you successful.)

I'd also like to ask this to the men.

Comment author: J_Taylor 10 September 2012 01:37:25AM *  4 points [-]

are you successful

Measuring the success of introspection (as in epistemic success, as opposed to instrumental success) runs into a Wittgensteinian problem heavily. That is, it is ‘As if someone were to buy several copies of the morning paper to assure himself that what it said was true’.

Comment author: chaosmosis 12 September 2012 05:52:01PM *  2 points [-]

I have a difficult time answering this. I analyze my current motives and mental states and actions in depth, constantly. But I don't spend very much time reviewing my past emotions or actions unless it becomes obvious to me that I made a mistake somewhere. I feel as though I should probably change this.

Comment author: army1987 09 September 2012 11:55:40PM 2 points [-]

I'd also like to ask this to the men.

Okay, then...

(More precisely, how often do you consider the motivations for your emotions, attitudes, tone of speech, etc,

Usually, several times per week.

and are you successful.)

I can seldom find good ways to test my introspection, so I don't know.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 06:04:10PM *  3 points [-]

I am Luminosity Girl! Wheeeeee!

(Tone of speech in particular I don't think I have special control over.)

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 09 September 2012 12:23:13PM 6 points [-]

What proposition affirmed in The Sequences do you find least probable?

Comment author: Caspian 09 September 2012 10:31:38AM 15 points [-]

Can you describe some occasions you met a new male friend (who you didn't previously know) at a social event, lesswrong-related or otherwise, and how it wasn't creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it.

Comment author: palladias 09 September 2012 01:06:36PM 20 points [-]

This is a gender-neutral example, but one of the best ways to forestall stress/creepiness when meeting new people was pretty well summed up by a PUA. He suggested setting up a time by which your conversation has to end when you start it. ("Oh, I want to make the next bus, but I've got five min"). One thing that is stressful about being approached by someone you don't know, especially if they seem a little off is having to simultaneously carry on a conversation and try to plan an exit. If you set up an exit when you approach and precommit ending the conversation then (unless you both are in the middle of something quite interesting) it's easier to just be present for the conversation.

Comment author: juliawise 10 September 2012 01:04:34AM 12 points [-]

When I first went vegetarian as a teenager, most other teenagers' reactions were along the lines of "Oh, that's nice" or "I love to eat animals! They're delicious! I'm going to eat a hamburger right in front of you! Ha!" A friend introduced me to her boyfriend, and my vegetarianism came up. He immediately asked, "What do you do for protein, eat a lot of peanut butter?" I remember being impressed that even though he had no interest in being vegetarian himself, he could think from my perspective and notice a practical implication of my choice without passing judgement on it.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 05:43:10PM 8 points [-]

I meet most people on the Internet or by their having swung through my house while I was in more of a group living situation, but awhile ago I visited a minicamp and met a bunch of people, some of whom I hadn't known before. I'll use Andrew Critch as an example. I'd been hearing for a while from Anna that he wanted to meet me and kept missing me. (This was relevant for two reasons: a) he was not making meeting me his life's mission or he could have done it much sooner, b) Anna seemed to like him and think we should talk). We had a conversation about miscellaneous topics ranging from the tree we were sitting under to his school stuff. I inquired about his schedule and dietary preferences so I'd know when to invite him to a dinner party. Eventually it got dark out where we were and we were being bitten by mosquitoes, so we went inside and dispersed - we both had other people to talk to.

Comment author: Caspian 09 September 2012 10:27:08AM 12 points [-]

Can you describe some occasions when a man was creepy towards you at a social event, lesswrong-related or otherwise?

Comment author: juliawise 10 September 2012 01:45:38PM 29 points [-]

Unfortunately, this one illustrates that there isn't a hard-and-fast creepy definition. I was at a party, and a man was there who had been showing social but not physical interest in me was there. I was sitting on an empty sofa and he sat down right next to me so our sides were touching, which I found creepy.

But later in the evening a higher-status and more attractive man did basically the same, and I was pleased rather than creeped out. So the creepiness of an action depends on how much I like the person who does it.

Ironically, I'm now friends with the first man (who no longer hits on me) and not with the second (who has probably forgotten I exist.)

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 10 September 2012 05:53:04PM 10 points [-]

So the creepiness of an action depends on how much I like the person who does it.

I think this is a very important sentence. It illustrates how typical, colloquial usage of the word "creepy" can run afoul of the fundamental attribution error.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2012 06:42:03AM 25 points [-]

I don't think that sentence can be successfully said outside LW, but not because of the FAE, more like the Just-World Fallacy and Appeal to Consequences. It would go something like this:

1) In a just world, behavior standards would not vary for men by status or attractiveness (because in a just world they would all have equal status and attractiveness, or women would not be moved by status or attractiveness).

2) Therefore, unhappiness-avoiding behavior standards should not vary by status or attractiveness (contrary to the actual fact that in an unjust world, some things will make (some) women feel uncomfortable/unhappy only if the man's attractiveness/status is below a (varying) particular level).

3) Therefore, a woman who admits that behavior X would not make her feel creepy if a sufficiently more attractive man did it, is being unfair to lower-status men, is wrong to label the behavior "creepy", cannot justly blame the lower-status man for doing what would be okay for a higher-status man to do, is just being shallow, is applying a double standard, etc.

4) It's impossible to have an explicit social standard for men which says, "If you think you're in the upper 20% of attractiveness you can sit down next to a woman touching her, otherwise this will make her feel creepy and you should avoid doing so." This rule would not be optimal/justified in a just world, so it must not be allowed in this one either.

5) Thus if we admit that whether sitting down touching someone is "creepy" depends on how attractive they are, it will be impossible to prevent men from doing things that make women feel creeped out, or for women to be listened-to when they object, in which case women will feel creeped out, which is bad.

6) By appeal to consequences, it must not be true that a woman's sense of creeped-out-ness can vary with a male's attractiveness or status.

The typical resolution of a situation like this, I think, is that you have an explicit standard which says "You can't hug people without asking", but there will be an unspoken selective lack of prosecution (like how cops don't get traffic tickets and white people don't go to jail for drug crimes) when an attractive man engages in the behavior.

Comment author: thomblake 12 September 2012 01:30:54PM 3 points [-]

The typical resolution of a situation like this, I think, is that you have an explicit standard which says "You can't hug people without asking", but there will be an unspoken selective lack of prosecution (like how cops don't get traffic tickets and white people don't go to jail for drug crimes) when an attractive man engages in the behavior.

Yes, typical human hypocrisy. Not problematic for the average joe.

Comment author: V_V 12 September 2012 07:31:51PM *  1 point [-]

The typical resolution of a situation like this, I think, is that you have an explicit standard which says "You can't hug people without asking", but there will be an unspoken selective lack of prosecution (like how cops don't get traffic tickets and white people don't go to jail for drug crimes) when an attractive man engages in the behavior.

I don't think that it's necessary to resort to this type of hypocritical normation.

You can have the explicit rule: "Don't do things that will typically generate negative feedback when you do them."

Assuming that you can read feedback (which may be admittedly a problem for some people), after some calibration you would effectively avoid creeping people (except when you encounter unusual individuals, but you can always blame them for having abnormal standards).

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2012 08:25:42PM *  16 points [-]

I have never felt creeped at a LessWrong event. There are other problems arising from social awkwardness, though. Here's an example:

A fellow LWer and I were discussing a mutual LW passing acquaintance. I mentioned that I had read him as cold and aloof. He didn't really respond any time I had tried to engage with him. My friend responded that his read had been that he was a warm, but shy person. Further discussion led us to the realization that because this person was attractive, well-dressed, carried himself well, and elsewise high-status, I was interpreting certain responses (monosyllabic answers, not really looking at me, or engaging with me, etc) differently.

If I was trying to engage with a person who presented as being more socially awkward, and they gave the exact same responses then I would have read that as being signs that they were shy and/or I was intimidating them. I would have adjusted, raised my patience level, and try to draw them into a one-on-one conversation. However, because this particular person managed to give off a superficial appearance of being socially skilled, I read the same responses as being aloof, cold, and dismissive. (which is what they would be, coming from a socially skilled person)


A sub-culture I have occasionally felt creeped out in, is swing dancing. I love swing and blues dancing, and will happily dance in a sensual manner, even with people I've never met before, am not at all attracted to, etc, as long as a) they are skilled dancers, and b) they aren't giving off "creepy" vibes. These are correlated, as most leads who have stuck around long enough to be skilled, have also figured out how to be not creepy.

A counter-example of a skilled dancer being creepy: An older male, who I used to enjoy dancing with, once came to a dance a little drunk, and was much more forceful during the dance with pulling me close (it's hard to explain the difference between good-lead-pulling-close, and creepy-forceful-lead-pulling close. ETA- A good explanation is that it is a "demand" rather than a "request"), and such. Now I don't even much like dancing him when he's sober any more.

Another problem is creepy new leads. They see the sensual dancing, and so think they can lead it. This is not okay. Intro classes are offered before every event, and they teach how to do the basic dances. Open position. Closed position. NOT full contact. A non-experienced, new dancer trying to pull me close, etc is NOT GOOD. Most new leads know better, and if anything are a little too shy (tend towards open position only, when closed position is perfectly acceptable).

My ad hoc explanation for this, is that you have to "earn" the more sensual dance moves by putting in your time enough to show that it is about the DANCE, and is NOT about skeeving on me. A guy who shows up to his first or second swing event, and tries to pull me close is communicating that he is more interested in skeeving on girls, than on actually learning to dance.

As an aside, I actually did get the same sort of tensed-up-omg-omg reaction that usually accompanies "creep" behavior, my very first time swing dancing. But I recognized it as a reaction to the fact that random guys where touching me, and in my personal space, in a way I wasn't used to. I realized that it was not AT ALL the fault of the really nice leads who were dancing with the new girl, and completely my own reaction to a physical situation that in my usual circumstances would be weird. I'm sure it didn't help that my first time at a swing event was because I just happened to be where at the location a late-night (post swing dance event that tends towards the more sensual dancing) was, when they showed up.

Comment author: khafra 12 September 2012 01:32:35PM 6 points [-]

This confirms every fear about the convoluted and thin line between being stiffly and unnaturally standoffish and creepy that's ever kept me from going to a dance class. I'm quite positive I would spend the first few classes being told to just loosen up a little, to not be afraid of my dance partner, finally try really hard to do that--and forever earn a reputation as a creep.

Please don't read this as a rebuke or admonishment; I'm actually glad to know that my fears were well-founded; and learning to dance isn't really that important to me.

Comment author: Manfred 17 September 2012 01:32:53PM *  2 points [-]

As a guy, I don't think it's that bad. If you cannot avoid holding your partner, and you don't feel comfortable with it, or you worry that your partner won't feel comfortable with it, there is a well-tested set of ground rules to tell you what to do. Basically, each dance will have a standard "frame," which is how the dancers should (according to various formal groups - the more formal the dance lessons, the more likely this is to actually be an element of the lesson) be positioned relative to each other. If this isn't made clear, nobody will think you're silly if you ask.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2012 04:47:14PM 2 points [-]

It's really not that hard. I did not mean to make it sound complicated. Basically, any thing they teach you in the dance class is fine. If you see people blues dancing or something, don't attempt to copy their dance moves with a random follow during a random song. Don't get drunk.

That's pretty much all it takes.

Comment author: Alicorn 12 September 2012 03:53:55PM 1 point [-]

Well, you could try learning as a follow to start with, and get a sense of how leads act. This might be awkward if you're really tall, though, and would make it slightly more complicated to invite people to dance.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 05:48:17PM *  20 points [-]

At a subculturey party, I made friends with a girl, and when I had to leave I went to say goodbye to her and ask her for a hug. She was talking to someone else who I didn't know at all, and after I hugged her, he went for a hug too. He was too close for me to think of a way to evade him beyond the overtly dramatic "ducking and dodging", so, what the heck, it was just a hug. But then instead of just hugging me he did a weird thing where he alternated the relative position of our heads a couple times. Then he kissed me on the cheek.

I still didn't know this guy at all, so, maybe that was a weird cultural thing or something, but I said "I was not comfortable with that, you shouldn't do that". Still could have been an innocent misreading, if he'd let me go and said "sorry" that would have been the end of it, but instead he said, "Well, I'll probably never have the chance to do it again, so that works out" - which made it Decidedly Sketchy and not-OK; kissing people who don't want to be kissed is not ever a case of things working out, trying to laugh off someone's discomfort is not cool, and the fact that he said this anyway cast all of the things he'd already done that were sketchy in a retroactively worse light.

(This is by far the sketchiest thing that has ever happened to me at a subculturey meatspace event, to be fair. Next closest thing was when I had to verbally signal the end of a hug and the guy let go instantly and apologized, and that's the only other thing I can think of.)

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 11 September 2012 03:59:33AM 4 points [-]

I (male) felt similarly weirded out when a European woman greeted me this way (I was also unaware of the custom at the time). What you mentioned in the first paragraph is mostly culture shock thing, though what you mention in the second paragraph is characteristically male sketchiness.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2012 04:46:40AM *  2 points [-]

I should point out that I do not know this guy to actually be European or anything. It happened in America, I did not detect an obvious accent when he spoke (though the environment was noisy), and when I later learned his name it didn't sound foreign.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 September 2012 07:06:50AM *  7 points [-]

One general point: while "mansplaining" is not part of my vocabulary, I've looked into whether the word might be about something real, and I've noticed that on NPR call-in shows, men are more likely to take up the very limited amount of time by explaining things that people already know.

This leads into a specific issue: I've had a few instances of men explaining feminism to me and my not liking the experience at all, and I think I've figured out the issue. It's not that they're men, it's that they show no signs of hearing what I say on the topic, and I've seen this from men who are reasonably capable of listening most of the time.

An example of creepy even though it wasn't a sexual approach: a man telling me about how it's a fundamental male thing to protect women from violence. I had two issues-- men actually aren't very good at it (consider that wars frequently happen in places where women are living), and he was twice my size, talking about violence, and completely spaced out. I wasn't afraid on the "get out now" level, but I was spooked.

Comment author: Douglas_Reay 09 September 2012 10:07:26AM 11 points [-]

What topics (if any) have you considered posting about (or replying to), but then decided not to because of fear of gender-specific negative response or attention? If there any specific question you'd be interested in participating in a future discussion upon, on the same anonymous lines as this one?

Comment author: Sarokrae 10 September 2012 01:07:52PM 13 points [-]

I post more in PUA and gender type threads than I otherwise would because I worry about the male response to this question. Also, I find people are more receptive to my statement of pro-PUA points because I can include female-centric anecdotal evidence, and I have a feeling that men talking about PUA and gender differences is a massive ugh field.

I would love to be proven wrong about this, if guys want to answer this question.

Comment author: army1987 09 September 2012 12:02:03PM 10 points [-]

I'd be interested in knowing more generally how many people refrain to post or reply about potentially mind-killing topics in general because they (think they) are in a group underrepresented on Less Wrong (e.g. conservatives or theists).

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 04:12:18PM 4 points [-]

I'm neither a conservative nor a theist, but I often feel rather underrepresented here. I tend to refrain from posting, period, because of the general sense of how that goes; I usually go through a bit of a cycle where I won't post at all for a while, then find some random, pretty neutral thing I feel prepared to comment on intelligibly, then get drawn into whatever userbase-splitting argument is going on recently after it's been a while (this part mostly happens if I've been low on spoons, am feeling irate, or just generally am not feeling much impulse control at the time).

Part of this is just that I'm not very good at arguing-as-a-skill; I've noticed that even when correct I'm fairly easy to outmaneuver because that particular approach to language is fairly alien to me (probably to do with some of the neurological blah).

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 05:16:55PM 2 points [-]

Ditto.

And then certain types of misogyny or other dumbassery will end up making me rage-quit for a month or two, where I just no longer feel any desire whatsoever to participate, beyond maybe a media post.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 September 2012 07:21:18AM 2 points [-]

None. I have far too much self-confidence to be scared off for that reason. I can deal with the frequent disagreements but it took me a looooong time to become comfortable with that. I was people-pleasing and at first I couldn't tolerate the experience of causing or persisting with disagreements because I didn't like making others uncomfortable. I had to train myself to deal with that but I'm good at it now. I have to wonder how many other women would find it hard to put themselves out there and take all the resulting criticism. If women often have a preference for supportive environments, that may be part of the reason for the gender ratio being skewed.

Comment author: lucidian 10 September 2012 03:34:24AM 3 points [-]

I don't think I've ever feared a gender-specific negative response when posting on LessWrong, though I also deliberately use a gender-neutral username.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 05:53:35PM 4 points [-]

I post less to PUA/genderthings type threads than my naive inclination would be. Part of this is the (good thing) that there are some people around who sometimes find these threads before I do who I trust to say sane things, many of whom are better at keeping their cool than I am. Part of this is the (bad thing) that I expect to be attacked when I do post, via generalization or just insensitive badgering (and also by voting).

While in such threads, I make a general policy of withholding some relevant personal information, even when I think it could make me more convincing, because I don't want to paint more of a target on myself, or risk the greater emotional fallout of even that not being persuasive.

Comment author: Caspian 09 September 2012 10:31:51AM 8 points [-]

Can you describe some occasions you met a new female friend (who you didn't previously know) at a social event, lesswrong-related or otherwise, and how it wasn't creepy, and what was fun/interesting/good about it.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 06:00:04PM 7 points [-]

I met some really neat girls by visiting the minicamps. They were friendly and most of them liked Luminosity. They were pretty huggy, but didn't make a big deal about it (didn't hold on too long or tense up strangely). (One of them wanted my autograph.) Despite the fact that I am Internet Famous and whatnot, they all clearly had other things to do too and could talk about other topics besides that, which was relevant; I was able to freely circulate through the parties/groups/whatever arrangement people wanted to be in and steer conversations around as easily as I can with people who I already know well.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 September 2012 09:33:42PM 3 points [-]

What do you think the LW community does right? What good experiences have you had?

Comment author: juliawise 10 September 2012 02:10:35PM 5 points [-]

People have been welcoming and not sketchy at my local meetup. I look forward to going there. I'm pretty constantly aware that I'm the only or one of the only women there, but I don't feel that other people treat me differently because of it. Sometimes I enjoy the gender ratio. My college and most of my jobs were mostly-female, so being in a mostly-male space is novel and interesting. But I also really enjoyed it when a new woman joined the meetup, because it was nice to feel there was someone a bit more like me (female, with good social skills, smart but not a programmer/scientist).

Comment author: Caspian 09 September 2012 10:28:14AM 12 points [-]

Can you describe some occasions when a woman was creepy towards you at a social event, lesswrong-related or otherwise?

Comment author: juliawise 10 September 2012 12:58:22AM 14 points [-]

This almost never happens to me. I can only think of one example, which was mostly obnoxious and only mildly creepy. I went to a party where there was only one other woman present. She was strangely warm with me and asked me lots of personal questions. When I got up, but was still well within earshot, she started asking my husband the same questions about me ("where did you two meet?") He said, "You just asked Julia those questions. You already know the answers." She said she was interested to hear the differences, but it felt like she was trying to catch us in some kind of deception. Then she drank my beer.

Comment author: CronoDAS 10 September 2012 11:26:01PM 2 points [-]

Then she drank my beer.

O_O

Comment author: gwern 11 September 2012 01:02:55AM 4 points [-]

At least it wasn't her milkshake?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 September 2012 03:51:30PM *  7 points [-]

At a science fiction convention, there was a question about enough car space to get a party to a restaurant, and a woman kept saying that I could sit on her lap.

At a later convention, she upgraded a hug (I can't remember how consensual the hug was) to a kiss, and I threw her out of my life.

Marginally creepy but much less serious for me-- an older woman who would keep touching my hair (more dramatically curly at the time). The experience was more weird/dissociated for me than upsetting, so I didn't do anything about it. I actually didn't even think of it as possibly part of a larger social pattern until I read many accounts by black people of white people insisting on touching their hair.

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 04:58:28AM 6 points [-]

I haven't ever felt a woman was creepy. Creepy essentially translates to unwanted (perceived) sexual advances, and, now I'm going to sound super-creepy myself, but I've never /not/ wanted a woman to come on to me. Like, obviously I don't think about it all the time, but it's always a welcome surprise if it happens. I don't have any exceedingly unattractive female acquaintances though.

I would imagine this would be different if I was straight. An example of creepy female-female interaction would be the way Amy often acts towards Penny on TBBT.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 September 2012 07:00:46AM *  5 points [-]

I remember being hit on by girls (we were teenagers at the time) who didn't understand boundaries - they would try to make me try women, or try to extract kisses from me. Being persistent about what they want while ignoring the fact that what I wanted was in conflict with their desires is what was creepy.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 September 2012 08:38:29PM *  6 points [-]

The following is my personal experience only, and does not negate the feelings and opinions of those with different experiences.

I have almost never felt creeped out by a female. Even if they are overly huggy or complimenty, it tends to lack the predatory or aggressive/disrespective vibe that makes me feel creeped. Or rather, it doesn't cause in me a reaction of feeling predated. At worst, I feel mildly uncertain.

I can only think of one time when I ever felt creeped out by a woman. It was a couple years ago, so my recollection is not the best, but to the best I recall: We had only been talking for about a minute or two, when out of nowhere she says something along the lines of "So, are you interested in women?" It was ugh-y.

As a straight-leaning female myself, who's good at social cues, I do get to be more huggy and complimenty with people, without having a significant chance that I am going to creep anyone out.

I do think I might have once mildly creeped a fellow LWer though. We had recently met for rationality camp, and she made a comment that I had read as being insecure about her appearance. My reply was along the lines of "Seriously, when I first saw you I thought 'Oh wow, she is so pretty!'" and then complimented her. Later I found out that I might have misread her first comment (not certain if I actually did or not, but realized later that there was a possible alternate interpretation to what she said), which would have made me all of a sudden complimenting her looks to be a weird and creepy thing. But I'm pretty sure that IF I did misread the comment, that she realized the miscommunication, and was just too polite to say. (So in other words, her response was "Oh, she thought I meant X and is trying to make me feel better. Well I don't want to hurt her feelings by saying she misunderstood" which is significantly better than "Oh my god, why is this random person all of a sudden complimenting my looks?!?")

ETA- At the time of this incident, I actually was dating a female, which is a factor that could push the interaction from "awkward" to "creepy".

That's the only time I can recall making a "creepy" faux pas, and realizing it.

Comment author: lucidian 11 September 2012 11:37:20AM 6 points [-]

In discussions such as these, how do you prefer that the community refers to its female members? Do you like when female community members are called "women"? "girls"? "females"? Do you actively dislike any of these options? What is your opinion on gender-neutral pronouns, and what do you use for the third-person-singular-neuter? I'm also interested in any other observations you've had on the linguistics of gender.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2012 05:16:44PM 6 points [-]

I have a purely idiosyncratic, aesthetic distaste for the words "women" and "men", so I use "girls" and "guys", occasionally "boys", sometimes "males" and "females", if I'm being a little silly "dude" and "lady". I do sometimes use "women" and "men" when talking in a more formal register.

I like Spivak pronouns when talking about specific gender-unknown individuals where "they" is ambiguous or strange-sounding.

I hate being mispronouned. (I wouldn't mind if someone Spivaked me, but I'd then inform them of my gender.) I hate it even more when people think I'm being ridiculous for hating it.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 07:05:03PM 4 points [-]

I tend to prefer women. "Girls" often feels a bit demeaning, especially when contrasted with "men" or "guys".

"Females" sounds like somebody's trying to lend their remark a little too much apparently-biological weight.

I like gender-neutral pronouns when they're handy, for people who want them, or for the generic case. I used to be a bit mixed on which one sounded good for just general conversation, but after reading the Eclipse Phase RPG I pretty much stopped having any sympathy for the idea that "singular they" is awkward. It flows very well for me and sounds quite natural, and it's a common term in English so there's no trouble with inflecting it.

what do you use for the third-person-singular-neuter?

They, them, their.

Comment author: Desrtopa 12 September 2012 03:23:49AM 5 points [-]

I tend to prefer women. "Girls" often feels a bit demeaning, especially when contrasted with "men" or "guys".

It's problematic that there isn't really an age-indeterminate female pronoun to act as a counterpart to "guys," since a not-insignificant fraction of our members are still in their teens.

Comment author: thomblake 12 September 2012 06:30:37PM *  3 points [-]

What about 'gals'? While it's technically just a form of "girls", it's used contextually similarly to "guys".

Comment author: Desrtopa 12 September 2012 07:33:43PM 3 points [-]

I suppose that is indeed a word that exists. Having grown up in the Northeastern U.S., it's not really part of my active vocabulary.

Comment author: mrglwrf 14 September 2012 02:59:50PM 1 point [-]

Only when it's used at all, which is far less often than 'guys'. Yes, it's true that it's a distaff counterpart to 'guys', but so is 'dolls', and would you seriously propose unironic usage of 'dolls'?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 05:38:38PM 4 points [-]

"Women" and "females" are both fine for me. The worst thing is when men are referred to as "men", and women are referred to as "girls" in the same discussion. No.

"Girls" is only ok when referring to children, or in very casual use to refer to a group of female friends. i.e. "Hey, going out with the girls tonight?", or if the male pronoun in that situation would be "boys" or "guys".

If a discussion is going on about gender, as long as no one uses "girls", I don't like when someone brings up "Hey, you should use the term "women" instead of "females"" (or vice versa). It reads as just another way to get the discussion off-track from the important issues.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2012 12:24:06PM 4 points [-]

In general, I prefer "women". If it's a far view discussion, then "females" is ok with me as long as it's paralleled by "males". I don't like "girls" being used to refer to adult women.

I use the singular "they". I don't mind invented pronouns. I get annoyed at male pronouns used to refer to people in general and still get startled at female pronouns used to refer to people in general.

Comment author: Kawoomba 09 September 2012 10:20:58AM 6 points [-]

Do you find the LW males - those for whom you feel you have a reasonably good model - on average to be more openly status-oriented, competitive and aggressive concerning their rationality expertise, compared to your female LW acquaintances?

Comment author: Rubix 10 September 2012 02:51:40AM 7 points [-]

No, but I think my female LW acquaintances might as individuals object more to being described as "status-oriented, competitive and aggressive concerning their rationality" than my male LW acquaintances.

Comment author: lucidian 10 September 2012 03:48:01AM 4 points [-]

Datapoint: I'm female, and I'm paranoid about becoming status-oriented and competitive, so I try to cull any behaviors in myself that I'd classify as "showing off". I feel like I brag too much and worry constantly about being or becoming arrogant.

Comment author: Rubix 11 September 2012 12:02:41AM *  5 points [-]

I notice about equal proportions of my male and female acquaintances/friends showing this kind of fear of being seen as showing off. It seems like it's perceived as a much more attractive trait in women, so people create two categories to describe it: shy, insecure, awkward girls, and beta, submissive, loser men. [Note that I think this kind of behavior is perceived as a subset of beta-malehood, not the whole thing.]

My shot-in-the-dark theory is that men nearly always prefer to be described as aggressive, competitive, forward &etc, while for women there are serious tradeoffs in being perceived as such. I have an intuition that's not generally explicit that acting shy, nerdy and awkward is the best default behavior for me, and acting assertive and making strange claims is best for when I can reasonably expect to get away with it. So this intuition seems to categorize Spock Rationality as belonging in the first category (kind of like how hot girls memetically do countersignalling by saying they play video games) and actual rationality as belonging in the second.

I also notice that nearly everyone I know who's referred to themselves as shy, awkward, or insecure behaves, well, not shy once you get to know them; this suggests that my intuition is pretty widespread. When it's written out like this it's an obvious simple utility calculation - which action will result in me winning most often if I take it every time in situations like these? - but I don't have a good model of what the standard male version of this utility calculation is.

Comment author: lucidian 11 September 2012 02:36:30AM *  9 points [-]

This is fascinating. I agree that it's safer for a girl to act shy, awkward, and insecure, especially when first meeting people, and that agressive, competitive behavior is frowned upon. However, I feel like there's a happy medium between these two poles. Is it possible for a girl to be confident, forthright, and assertive, while remaining respectful and cooperative? That is the ideal towards which I strive.

Actually, I'm quite meta-self-conscious about my lack of self-consciousness. I'm neither shy nor insecure, and I worry that I'm violating some unspoken social rule of girlhood with my excessive self-esteem. For instance, I've had multiple exchanges of the following variety with male friends:

Him: You're very pretty.

Me: Thank you.

Him: What? You're not going to argue with me? But all girls deny that they're pretty.

I refuse to submit myself to this cultural meme of denying that I'm pretty. First of all, when a guy says "you're very pretty", I interpret it to mean "I find you very pretty", and who am I to argue with his perceptions? Secondly, many of my male friends have complimented my appearance, and I'm too much of an empiricist to deny that I'm pretty in light of so much evidence to the contrary. Lastly, were I to deny my prettiness, I would be subjected to a long stream of compliments, all of which I'd have to refuse. "I'm not pretty." "Yes you are. You have such nice <X>." "No I don't." "You do, and your <Y> is beautiful too." I despise this kind of feelgoodism and refuse to fish for compliments.

Compared to... well, all the girls I know IRL, I guess... I have excessively high self-esteem. I used to read Roissy regularly, which made me terrified that my confidence was unwarranted and I would never find a mate on account of it. After realizing how much that blog had affected my behaviors, I stopped reading it, but still I worry that my confidence is offputting to potential friends and mates.

When it comes down to it, though, I'll keep my self-confidence. I strive to base my self-esteem on purely internal measurements like the progress I've made towards my goals, not on external measurements like what my friends think. I don't want to rely on their validation for my self-worth, and I don't want to be crushed by rejection when it occurs. I don't want to put my self-esteem at the mercy of society's judgments. And that's why I refuse to play this insecurity game that society has thrust upon girls. If people dislike me and potential mates me reject me on account of this, so be it; my self-esteem doesn't rest on their acceptance or rejection anyway.

Comment author: Rubix 11 September 2012 03:11:07AM *  6 points [-]

I agree with almost all of what you've said here, except for the idea that taking the middle way is correct in this instance.

Also, let it be stated in advance that anything I say about my behavior patterns, social strategies and so forth is noticed in hindsight. I am not actually a Machiavellian mastermind who plots every interaction to maximize for making you all my slaves. (Of course I am telling you the truth. I am your friend. )

My favorite approach to social tactics is taking the Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres route: I perceive that people are generally trying to box me into a social role, namely self-consciousness, and it feels from the inside like my options are to allow this and be shy and uncomfortable, or rebel against it and be angry and uncooperative. Usually noticing those two choices causes me to pick the first, then the second in frustration, then the first because I want to be conciliatory, &etc.

Or... I can weird their paradigm. I can do this in many ways, but there are two I seem to choose most:

  1. Vacillating confusingly between acting shy, uncomfortable, innocent, stupid and generically cute, and acting energetic, forward, eccentric and Michael_Vassar-ish. Note that when doing this I don't necessarily take hits to my well-being or attack that of others, because when performed ideally both social roles feel like fun games. This can be described as going the fae route and is only suitable for use in the short term and preferably in settings with several other people, because otherwise it's just glorified gaslighting unless I know exactly what I'm doing.

  2. Making goddamn everything explicit. If I don't like a thing, I say, calmly, pleasantly, that I don't, and offer solutions or ask the other person to help me come up with solutions. If I like a thing, I say I like it. This doesn't mean telling everyone about all of my thoughts, but it does mean not stewing on a discomfort or distress, and trying to never subtly intimate things about my mental state.

My problem is that I'm too meta. Making the issue about my personal self-esteem leads me into a terrifying infinite conceptual loop of pleasure and displeasure with my characteristics. Noticing these characteristics and how I can best use them is much simpler for me - the issue of a self-worth feels like a wrong question when there are results to be got. This doesn't mean that I think women and girls with low self-worth are being Insufficiently Meta and therefore deserve what they get; it means that the issue of what happens in their minds is totally separate from that which happens in my own.

I notice in hindsight that this comment might read like one big essay about one-upmanship (against you and your philosophy.) It's not meant that way; the thing that happened is I noticed myself accepting your statements unquestioningly after reading them and not replying, and felt the need to fix that.

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 01:02:23PM *  3 points [-]

I used to read Roissy regularly

I hope you eventually found the Game blogs where women are people too!

I tend to find that confidence is fine if you can consciously signal "you are higher status than me, I respect you, I won't upset your authority and hey look how mysterious and pursuable I am. Also I'm not at all annoying", which is a large part of what being shy is good for. If you can game their System 1, then confidence is better than shyness for properly engaging with the actual person.

Comment author: coffeespoons 11 September 2012 04:27:25PM 2 points [-]

I'd be interseted in Game blog recommendations. I'm trying to put a bit of time into researching it.

Comment author: Sarokrae 13 September 2012 12:07:21AM 3 points [-]

MMSL (for male-dominant LTRs) and Hooking Up Smart (for college dating) are fairly good in content and basically non-offensive. One of the authors is married to a reasonably rational woman and the other is a reasonably rational woman, so neither do the "assume women aren't agents" thing.

Comment author: maia 09 September 2012 11:12:03AM 6 points [-]

I don't have any female LW acquaintances.*

*who I interact with regularly enough to answer this question.

Comment author: palladias 09 September 2012 01:00:31PM 3 points [-]

Ditto.

Comment author: Douglas_Reay 09 September 2012 09:38:29AM 13 points [-]

How do you think LessWrong does at productive discussion of gender issues (when discussed) compared to other communities you have experience of that have a similar gender ratio (eg the Science Fiction community)? Do you think the LessWrong community would benefit most from a higher, lower, or about the current frequency of such discussions?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 04:22:45PM *  9 points [-]

How do you think LessWrong does at productive discussion of gender issues (when discussed) compared to other communities you have experience of that have a similar gender ratio (eg the Science Fiction community)?

I think LW mistakes "not a screaming flamewar all or most of the time" for "productive conversation." It's certainly true that LW is more civil about things. But that civility seems overrated, too -- someone with little or no stake in an issue can often discuss it with far less emotion than someone with a lot of stake in it, precisely because of that differential. That doesn't mean the former party is more likely to be objective or make the right decision; the norm just acts as a filter for certain kinds of personality, or for the ability to make your feelings and preferences sound smart. If you look at similar discussions that have been going on recently in similar spaces (LW is not alone here; the SF and atheist subcultures have been in the middle of a similar round of topical debate), things are noisier, and often a great deal more vitriolic -- but I'm not sure what's been gained here, that isn't being gained in those places. I don't think LW as a community has generated any special insights here.

Comment author: Larks 11 September 2012 06:44:36PM 5 points [-]

someone with little or no stake in an issue can often discuss it with far less emotion than someone with a lot of stake in it, precisely because of that differential. That doesn't mean the former party is more likely to be objective or make the right decision

Really? It seems that keeping yourself in system 2 mode would lead to better reasoning on such matters. Certainly I don't feel particularly rational when frothing at the screen and TYPING IN CAPS LOCK.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 06:56:15PM *  5 points [-]

Yeah, no. I've watched perfectly calm and reasonable-sounding people sincerely debate whether some group of other people (queer folks and disabled folks come to mind) have a right to exist that should not be overridden in favor of euthanasia to satisfy their own utility functions. I've watched this happen in the halls of supposedly respectable institutions while members of the group under discussion protested outside.

The people going "Hey, this is really fucked up that our right to exist can just be casually debated with or without us in a mainstream, powerful institution, and our not raising a fuss about that is apparently more important to people than the actual suggestion" weren't polite or unemotional, but they did seem to understand the situation for what it was a whole lot better than the folks inside. I'm not sure I want to be around people who can't perform that kind of sanity check on occasion.

Comment author: Yvain 11 September 2012 07:40:25PM *  3 points [-]

What's the alternative to rationally debating ideas that violate our moral sensibilities, assuming some people hold them?

Is it to declare with 100% certainty that any idea that violates our moral sensibilities is false? Is it to say that maybe there's a small chance that ideas violating our moral sensibilities are true, but even so we must never discuss them so if they're true we're out of luck and will never reach that true belief? Is it to say we may discuss them, but not rationally - that is, we must let the screaming protesters into the debate so that they can throw eggs and mud onto the debaters because that will improve the quality of discourse?

Also, I bet (and correct me if I'm wrong) that whatever debate you've watched was not about "Let's round up the [Other Folk] and execute them." My guess is it was either about allowing them voluntary euthanasia, allowing abortion or infanticide on the part of their parents, or ceasing to specifically allocate scarce health resources to them.

That means that what we're really talking about is "Any idea that can be massaged into sounding like an idea that violates our moral sensibilities is 100% certainly wrong, or should never be discussed, or needs more egg-throwing."

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 08:00:21PM *  6 points [-]

What's the alternative to rationally debating ideas that violate our moral sensibilities, assuming some people hold them?

When inviting a guest speaker for an honorarium to hold forth in front of an audience on a subject that affects few or none of them directly, and just giving them that platform without any semblance of discourse apart from taking questions at the end...yeah, I'm gonna say "Rationally debating ideas that violate our moral sensibilities" is not what was going on. Doubly so since in many cases those ideas actually affirm the moral sensibilities of some fair portion of the population.

Also, I bet (and correct me if I'm wrong) that whatever debate you've watched was not about "Let's round up the [Other Folk] and execute them." My guess is it was either about allowing them voluntary euthanasia, allowing abortion or infanticide on the part of their parents, or ceasing to specifically allocate scarce health resources to them.

Yeah, you're wrong -- we're talking about folks who honestly and straightforwardly suggested it was an ethical good to terminate the lives of these people which they felt either had no value (usually through "gentle" methods of euthanasia, and I do not mean voluntarily applied), or had such small value in comparison to their suffering that it was worth it. This is not hyperbole -- though I find it interesting you found the idea so difficult to believe straight up that your interpretation must be that I'm just flipping my lid over a loose patternmatch and couldn't have possibly understood that right. It suggests you think it doesn't happen often enough for rational people to be concerned about.

That means that what we're really talking about is "Any idea that can be massaged into sounding like an idea that violates our moral sensibilities is 100% certainly wrong, or should never be discussed, or needs more egg-throwing."

No, you're not listening to what I'm actually saying, you're just assuming from the get-go that I'm a screaming mindless chimp flinging feces because The Bad Thing Is Bad.

Comment author: Yvain 11 September 2012 08:22:18PM *  11 points [-]

You're right, I apologize.

(although to be fair, you did say you watched "calm and reasonable people sincerely debate this" and that people were objecting to it being "casually debated", so I don't think it was my fault for assuming it was a debate rather than one person going on about it unopposed.)

Now I'm very curious what exactly was going on, although I understand if you don't want to look like you're pointing fingers at specific people.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 09:11:19PM 6 points [-]

Upvoted for owning up to it.

(although to be fair, you did say you watched "calm and reasonable people sincerely debate this" and that people were objecting to it being "casually debated", so I don't think it was my fault for assuming it was a debate rather than one person going on about it unopposed.)

Yah, I'm not being very clear with that, though it's at least partly because I'm just generally underslept and sick, and have been for a couple of months now, so it's hard to "say what I mean" rather than "verbalize something that's more on-target for what I mean, than not." (Gotta love autie language brain...)

Some of what I'm referring to is just conferences, symposia, guest speaker talks or, yes, actual debates, usually hosted at an academic institution that I or someone I knew was attending. I was particularly uninclined to take anybody's word for much of anything at the time, and insisted on looking into it a bit myself before really trying to interpret what they were upset about .

Some of it is just random discussions with other people over the years, both on and off of LW.

Comment author: MixedNuts 12 September 2012 02:22:07PM 5 points [-]

Wait. You've heard people proposing to gently euthanize queers? Can you say in what country and decade, if you don't want to give too much information? I can't see the mercy-killing crowd going against queers, nor the gay-murdering crowd preferring gentle methods to hanging.

I'm also surprised people are still openly supporting involuntary euthanasia after WW2. Forced sterilization isn't even done on whole groups anymore since the seventies.

Comment author: Larks 11 September 2012 07:33:32PM 1 point [-]

Sure, system 2 can make mistakes. Though it is not uncontroversial to classify all the instances you point to as mistakes - I'm thinking pro-abortion people, and Peter Singer.

But in any case, the question is whether it is in general more prone to them than system 1, a questions which requires data rather than anecdotes. However, I'm willing to bet the angels of our better nature show through more when we're thinking than when we're not.

Comment author: novalis 10 September 2012 07:51:03AM 4 points [-]

What factors would tend to give you a bad impression of a community, either online or in person? (That's sort of two questions, but they're related)

Comment author: Sarokrae 10 September 2012 01:21:48PM *  4 points [-]

Online: systemic irrationality. Systemic self-reinforcing irrationality. That's why I hang out here :P

In person, a mass lack of social skills make events unfun. Groups are much easier to get along with if they contain a reasonable mix of extroverts and introverts (read: at least two people who act like each).

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 11 September 2012 02:31:28AM 3 points [-]

The unbalanced gender ratio in the atheist/skeptic/rationalist spheres (and the science/programming spheres, more generally) has negative effects on both genders. Women may feel objectified and marginalized, while men may feel romantically frustrated and hopeless. These reactions can lead to mutually defeating behavior. Typical responses - for women, abandoning those spheres; for men, acting inappropriately toward women - only widen the gender divide and make the problems worse.

I am interested in working toward better outcomes for both genders. My question for the women of LW is this: what specific advice do you have, for either gender, that you think will improve the situation? How confident are you that your advice will be helpful, and on what evidence do you base that confidence?

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 05:08:25AM *  14 points [-]

For women: you have a great deal of control over how other people react to you. You can take some responsibility for how you are perceived.

personal anecdote: I'm a female maths undergrad, and most of my social circle is male. First term there I concentrated on making friends, so I adopted casual, unisex clothing styles. I attracted male attention only when I dressed in a stereotypically girly way for fancy dress parties and social events.

Second term I was on a mate hunt, so I overhhauled my wardrobe and started wearing skirts and behaving in a mate-attracting way. According to my now OH, that's when he "realised I was a girl".

So basically if you don't want men to view you as a potential mate, it's helpful to not act like one. Think hoodies and ill-fitting jeans. And if you have got attracting mates in the back of your mind, and your body language shows it, then you shouldn't be surprised if men notice you.

Second piece of advice for women where it applies: tracking your menstrual cycle is the easiest first step towards luminosity. Different hormones induce different kinds of bias, and also prompt changes in body language and attitude, which may cause people to react differently. The effects can then be harnessed or corrected for.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2012 05:01:58PM 8 points [-]

For women: you can control how other people react to you. You can take responsibility for how you are perceived.

This is an overgeneralization. There are ways to improve the odds, but no guarantees.

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 11:29:04PM 4 points [-]

Agreed and edited.

Comment author: coffeespoons 11 September 2012 04:45:39PM *  3 points [-]

Another problem that I can see is that if I dress in attractive clothes and start dating someone, they might not want me to start dressing in unflattering clothes after we start dating (esp if looking like a girl is part of what attracted them to me). I either have to disappoint my new partner and wear baggy clothes, or to continue wearing flattering clothes and continue to deal with guys perceiving me as available.

ETA: I tend to go for guys who have a sense of style (not always, but often) and I'd be disappointed it they started wearing baggy jeans and hoodies because "now I have a girlfriend I don't have to make an effort."

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 11:11:33PM *  4 points [-]

There are other ways of deflecting male attention. If you're at a social event alone, instead of signaling 'I am not a potential mate', you could signal 'I am in a monogamous relationship and my boyfriend is higher status than you'. It's a bit harder, and I'm still working on it, but certainly possible.

It's more frustrating for the guys though.

Comment author: chaosmosis 12 September 2012 05:38:15PM 3 points [-]

'I am in a monogamous relationship and my boyfriend is higher status than you'.

I'm curious what would signal this. If I can't interpret these kind of signals then I'm in trouble.

Comment author: Sarokrae 12 September 2012 11:50:23PM *  4 points [-]

Erm, there are obvious ways of doing it. I tend to just drop my boyfriend into conversation as often as it is appropriate, and make sure I mention him in contexts such as "oh he's really good at such-and-such".

Comment author: coffeespoons 11 September 2012 03:49:31PM *  3 points [-]

I tend to prefer to wear flattering clothes, whether looking for a partner or not, because they make me feel more comfortable/confident. It's possible to wear clothes that are flattering, but not sexy, I think. Maybe I need to work on this more.

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 04:10:21PM *  4 points [-]

It depends on what you mean by flattering. If you want to emphasise a feminine figure, then that's always going to be sexy I'm afraid, so you'll probably want a different approach for deflecting male attention. You can, however, get well-fitted jackets, shirts etc in good materials that don't cinch in at the waist, and trousers cut straight to deemphasise the rear if you merely wanted good quality clothes. Look for the androgynous style fashions from the last couple of years.

Comment author: shminux 11 September 2012 03:59:27PM *  1 point [-]

It's possible to wear clothes that are flattering, but not sexy, I think.

For a female? No, it really is not. But just in case I misunderstand what you mean, care to tell the difference between flattering and sexy? Or link to a couple of pictures of each type and we can let the males here provide feedback on whether what you consider simply flattering is also sexy.

Comment author: Manfred 17 September 2012 01:45:16PM *  4 points [-]

One classic example of flattering but not sexy is coloration that suits you - if you have fair skin, blue-green eyes and salt and pepper hair, a light grey and sage green jacket is going to be flattering, but can range freely from not sexy to sexy.

Comment author: lucidian 11 September 2012 11:25:51AM 2 points [-]

This strategy makes a lot of sense, but I wonder whether it's applicable to professional settings. Jeans and a hoodie don't just signal nongirliness; they also signal casualness. Does anyone know of equivalently gender-neutral clothes that are appropriate for formal settings? Or is it unnecessary because the formality prevents people from making unwanted advances anyway?

Comment author: Sarokrae 11 September 2012 11:53:23AM *  6 points [-]

I don't have much experience of professional settings, but from my knowledge of women's clothing: you can get tailored shirts in fairly male cuts and straight-leg trousers or long skirts that don't hug the figure. I'd imagine one would be received differently for wearing a very modest shirt and trousers combo vs a v-neck blouse and pencil skirt.

In most places, I think it's now acceptable for women to wear a tuxedo for black tie, if you go to that kind of thing and feel that cocktail dresses attract too much attention. Alternatively, keep a modest dress in your wardrobe.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 13 September 2012 11:16:25PM 2 points [-]

It's worth mentioning that even in quite progressive circles, women in traditionally male-style suits tends to cross into that transgressive genderfuck aesthetic. There are a small but significant number of men and women who are really into that, and as a result I imagine this plan would backfire quite badly.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2012 04:54:01AM 5 points [-]

My question for the women of LW is this: what specific advice do you have, for either gender, that you think will improve the situation?

For men: Consider the women in the subculture "male for all social purposes" and seek romantic interests elsewhere.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2012 06:56:42AM 11 points [-]

I've only ever seen one case of a man who'd previously had a rationalist mate going back to nonrationalist mates afterward. The reason why the gender skew of our culture is a mating problem for men is that once you go rationalist you don't go back.

"Go to the physics department, find a woman you consider attractive, point her at HPMOR, and see if anything develops" sounds like more useful advice to me.

For (straight) men who insist on dating externally, asking a woman whether she would prefer a certainty of $500 or a 15% chance at $1 million seems likely to be a surprisingly good filter on potential mates. I didn't believe it either as first, but I've verified that many women, and in at least one case a female grad-student doing advanced math homework, says she would rather have the $500; while every woman I've tested inside our community - regardless of her math/science/economics level or her ability to talk glibly about explicit rationality - takes the 15% chance at $1M with a puzzled look and 'Is this a trick question?'

Comment author: Vaniver 12 September 2012 01:11:09AM 8 points [-]

For (straight) men who insist on dating externally, asking a woman whether she would prefer a certainty of $500 or a 15% chance at $1 million seems likely to be a surprisingly good filter on potential mates. I didn't believe it either as first, but I've verified that many women, and in at least one case a female grad-student doing advanced math homework, says she would rather have the $500; while every woman I've tested inside our community - regardless of her math/science/economics level or her ability to talk glibly about explicit rationality - takes the 15% chance at $1M with a puzzled look and 'Is this a trick question?'

I have a (male) friend who answered $500 to this question. He teaches math (at the middle school level). It was a sad day.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2012 02:15:08AM 6 points [-]

Of course it's not just women! Women (outside the community, that is) are more likely to respond that way than men, but that's from a study on both risk aversion and hyperbolic discounting which showed that "Women can't take small risks and men are creatures of the now", with both effects diminishing as scores on the Cognitive Reflection Test increased.

I now wonder what would happen if I asked a man on the street to choose between $500 immediately or $1 million in 10 years (= 113% annual interest) - a version that extreme wasn't in the original study, just the extreme version of the risk-aversion Q. I wouldn't expect it to work, but then I wouldn't have expected it to work with risk aversion either!

Comment author: TheOtherDave 12 September 2012 04:03:55AM 7 points [-]

I would expect that to depend a great deal on their confidence that you would in fact provide $1 million in ten years.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2012 02:31:54AM 6 points [-]

Single point of evidence- I would have to fight my inner self REALLY hard to choose the 15% chance at a million. (Inner turmoil!! Logic says Do Thing A, but I really Don't Want To!!).

OTOH, the million in ten years is intuitively obvious to me and choosing it would be what I would've done even PRE-rationality.

Comment author: ciphergoth 12 September 2012 06:49:32AM 5 points [-]

I would be curious to know how people answer given the opportunity to spend $500 on a $1M/15% lottery ticket.

Comment author: katydee 12 September 2012 10:38:55AM *  5 points [-]

That depends a lot on the nature of the lottery. If it was a typical lottery that for some reason had a 15% chance to win, a $500 ticket would not be worth it as all, since thousands of people would win and split the prize amongst themselves and the expected value would be much less than you would assume at first glance.

If it's just "spend $500 for a 15% chance of gaining a million," though, I'd take as many tickets as I could get!

Comment author: Alicorn 12 September 2012 06:52:37AM *  4 points [-]

I might actually not want to buy one. (When no loss is involved I take the chance at a million.) I might want to buy five, or go in together with several friends on one.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2012 08:45:01AM 7 points [-]

(instantaneous reflex activated)

What if I gave you $500, then asked you if you wanted to spend it on the ticket?

I'd also like to know whether some unexpected expense, like needing a $500 dental crown, would change your mind about accepting the free $500 instead of the free ticket.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2012 08:20:44AM *  13 points [-]

I've only ever seen one case of a man who'd previously had a rationalist mate going back to nonrationalist mates afterward.

I have dated rationalists and gone back. Rationalist subculture affiliations count very little to me. It doesn't make people all that rational and does make people more annoying when they are, in fact, being irrational. I do enjoy having some shared interests with those I date but honestly I'd assign more 'attraction' points for a fitness obsession, enjoyment of games (board games, cards) or, say, medical knowledge than "being a rationalist".

The reason why the gender skew of our culture is a mating problem for men is that once you go rationalist you don't go back.

That sounds like an argument that one shouldn't date a rationalist even when an attractive option is willing and available. You don't want to permanently degrade your future options for (possibly) short term pleasure with what is immediately before you.

"Go to the physics department, find a woman you consider attractive, point her at HPMOR, and see if anything develops" sounds like more useful advice to me.

If you say so yourself!

I don't know, if a woman had tried that with me she'd have found I didn't make it through to the end (didn't read the last batch after the pause before it). And she'd find that I argue with the author, rejecting some of the "rationalist" morals he promotes in the chapters that get preachy. If she is too enarmored of the work it could disqualify me!

For (straight) men who insist on dating externally, asking a woman whether she would prefer a certainty of $500 or a 15% chance at $1 million seems likely to be a surprisingly good filter on potential mates.

If I happen to marry (or otherwise have significant resource sharing with) a woman who is poor at this kind of decision making I'll first make sure she is willing to let me have final say on critical financial decisions. (Irrational and stubborn or egotistic about it is what would black-ball her.)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2012 04:55:01PM 7 points [-]

Would it be useful to distinguish between rationalist subculture affiliation and habitually rational?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 05:10:54PM 2 points [-]

I think this is a useful distinction. I care much more about "habitually rational" than "subculture affiliation," when it comes to social interactions.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2012 04:57:00PM 1 point [-]

Would it be useful to distinguish between rationalist subculture affiliation and habitually rational?

Probably. In this case it is the subculture affiliation that matters---given the context of considering what strategies to use in response to the gender imbalance therein.

Comment author: Sarokrae 14 September 2012 07:15:00AM 5 points [-]

I think a statement more likely than "once you go rational you can't go back" is "once you go luminous you can't go back". I think my OH has expressed something along the lines of it just being too much effort when he considers dating someone who can't just tell him if they are having system 1 issues.

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 11 September 2012 01:57:18PM *  3 points [-]

"Go to the physics department, find a woman you consider attractive, point her at HPMOR, and see if anything develops" sounds like more useful advice to me.

While I understand the sentiment, the physics department will not usually have a significantly higher volume of women than the local rationalist/etc. group.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2012 02:03:58PM 3 points [-]

As long as it's got at least one lady who hasn't already been recruited, what difference does that make?

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 11 September 2012 02:49:10PM 4 points [-]

On an individual level, this will work fine for a few people. It makes a difference, though, if everyone tries that specific strategy. The strategy will lose its effectiveness quickly, and the overall effect on the gender divide will not be very large.

Trying to bring more women into the relevant spheres is clearly a big part of the answer. However, simply moving women from one low-density area to another doesn't seem very productive to me.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 04:51:06PM *  6 points [-]

I actually dislike the focus on pulling in people from physics/computer programming/math. As Dreaded_Anomaly mentions, these are fields which have just as bad of a gender ratio as here. As long as we continue focusing on those fields, I don't think the gender ratio problem is going to get much better.

Also, I don't think there's anything inherent in rationality that means that it requires physics/programming/math types. But I think our current community is generally set up in a way to self-perpetuate that.

I can understand that STEMM types might more frequently lean towards rationality, which is why recruiting from there is often a suggestion. (If you have a .5 probability that a random intelligent STEMM person would be amenable to rationality, but only a .2 probability that a random intelligent person of another field would be, for example.)

A way to get around that: Personally, I've found that anyone I have a match of >94% on OKC has a high probability of being the aforementioned Rationalists Who Just Don't Know It Yet. I myself was "recruited" this way. Dated someone from OKC (We no longer date, but are still REALLY good friends) who I was a 99% match with, and they pointed me toward HPMoR, then LW, etc, all while modeling "proper rationalist behavior" in our discussions. I think that's all that it takes, often, to get someone interested in rationality (once you filter for interest, whether you use okc for this or not)

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2012 05:30:59PM 5 points [-]

STEMM

What is the extra M for? Googling yields a band.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 05:41:31PM 6 points [-]

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Medicine

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2012 12:50:47AM 4 points [-]

Agree that the OKCupid technique probably works too. But I wasn't suggesting that we put up broad recruiting posters in the math department to solve the gender ratio thingy; I was suggesting that rationalist men seeking convertible mates try to date mathematical women. As Lucas observes, our community is still small enough that this provides a relatively large pool.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 September 2012 08:10:31AM 5 points [-]

once you go rationalist you don't go back.

This.

True for both genders.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2012 09:06:52AM 6 points [-]

Yep, though it's weaker evidence to observe that (straight) female rationalists don't go back when they can have their pick of mates and/or an entire harem by staying.

Actually, I have seen a couple of cases of women using their newly acquired Sanity Attractiveness Points(*) to pull in hot guys they want from outside the community, though in both such cases they still had rationalist mates on the side.

(*) = According to the one woman whose case I know in detail, this is apparently a pretty strong effect - a female from within rationalist culture, dealing with a guy from outside rationalist culture who has an unmet need for sanity, may appear unto him as a Goddess. Sort of the dating equivalent of what happens when people with unmet needs discover LW or read HPMOR.

Comment author: coffeespoons 11 September 2012 04:36:31PM 4 points [-]

I wonder what effect rationalist culture has on the attractiveness of guys who date outside the community. Are they more or less appealing than non-rationalist guys?

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2012 09:16:49AM 1 point [-]

to pull in hot guys they want from outside the community, though in both such cases they still had rationalist mates on the side.

Now that is a strategy I can endorse.

According to the one woman whose case I know in detail, this is apparently a pretty strong effect - a female from within rationalist culture, dealing with a guy from outside rationalist culture who has an unmet need for sanity, may appear unto him as a Goddess.

I could believe that.

Comment author: lucidian 11 September 2012 11:16:02AM 2 points [-]

I am a girl and I approve of this suggestion. I'll also note that LW has been very good about this in all of my experiences here (discussion forum, IRC, and meetups IRL).

Comment author: Alicorn 11 September 2012 04:57:23AM 1 point [-]

But I like dating subculture boys. Also, the bisexual one I see sometimes would not be deterred by considering me male for all social purposes.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 September 2012 05:53:34AM 7 points [-]

But I like dating subculture boys.

And yet for all your interest and your polyhacking I suspect that you and those like you just don't have sufficient time or sexual and romantic interest to satisfy the demand. (My apologies if I have underestimated your enthusiasm and endurance!) This inflates your value and means at a grossly simplified level that for a given level of attractiveness a male that doesn't qualify to date you within this culture may attract women outside the subculture as attractive to you. Those that do qualify to date you could expect general population dating opportunities with women who are even sexier than you, or better at sport or who perhaps have neck-down alopecia.

I'm sure you'll not be lacking for available, interested males. Unless all the males started looking elsewhere and didn't notice that the incentives at the margin had changed. They'd also have to resist any overt advances you should happen to make!

Also, the bisexual one I see sometimes would not be deterred by considering me male for all social purposes.

Of course bisexual males also have more potential romantic interests, not being limited to the scarce female population. Perhaps that means this 'avoid scarcity' principle doesn't even need special case treatment for bisexual males. Homosexual males on the other hand may get all confused if they try to implement it!

Comment author: [deleted] 15 September 2012 07:28:23AM 4 points [-]

Would you be interested in having regular "Woman Oriented" threads (such as this one)? If so, how often? I'll set a range from once per month, to once per year.

(My experience is that every time a rationalist gathering becomes at least 50% female, conversation inevitably turns to Optimal Bras (braspace is large, and the optimal choice is highly situational.) or BC.)

Comment author: wedrifid 15 September 2012 08:54:21AM *  13 points [-]

Would you be interested in having regular "Woman Oriented" threads (such as this one)? If so, how often? I'll set a range from once per month, to once per year.

Oh please no! Don't institutionalize gender drama. Women may make use of the fact that they also happen to be real people and write what they want to say in the "open thread" that is already created once a month. If their sex happens for some reason to be relevant to what they wish to say they can make note of it in the comment in the same way that people can write about their nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation or hair colour.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 September 2012 02:31:23AM 2 points [-]

Voted up because it was a reasonable question. I don't think it needed to be voted down as though it was a campaign.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 09 September 2012 12:40:23PM 3 points [-]

If men think more like economists than women, then what explains this difference?

Comment author: wedrifid 09 September 2012 10:23:25AM 3 points [-]

Do you like being treated as a celebrity in threads like this because you have boobs or would you prefer if people stopped obsessing over what sex you are?

Comment author: Sarokrae 18 September 2012 05:14:12AM *  5 points [-]

I get so much free Karma for being a girl that it's making my dopamine system short out good sense sometimes. Karma is majorly addictive. I keep coming back to this topic because I'm getting so much of it.

I also think it's rather unfair that I often get way more karma for saying the same stuff as a man does, but with a "feminine anecdote" or "feminine caveat". My model of LW would have a very critical argument with a man trying to make evopsych arguments with nonobvious generalisations, but a post I make about it where I explicitly signal femaleness would get upvotes.

I think it's tremendously unhelpful that just signalling being a girl gets a post more karma (though I can understand that we want "more of this" as in women posting, I personally end up doing "more of this" as in signalling being female). My system 1 is just flat-out addicted though and doesn't even want me to complain.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 September 2012 05:46:48AM *  13 points [-]

Actually, I have run into enough guys who treat me like I'm the last woman on earth because I'm a female nerd that I've developed an aversion to anything resembling that type of behavior. I was understanding about their enthusiasm at first, because I want a nerd, too, but it just doesn't work to date someone when they're acting like you're their last chance. They want to move too fast, they create expectations, they become biased and won't hear me when I talk about things that may be incompatibilities. That intensity throws a wrench into the process of getting to know someone. I grok their sense of necessity about being careful in how they present themselves, and I approve of this thread (There are a lot of things I wish I could say to guys - we need to communicate, and I have been wishing for an opportunity to do that), but on the individual level, I am easily spooked by signs of early attachment, overly optimistic probability estimates about us working out, and impatience to see signs of an established connection. I go on the alert for these signs of irrationality if a person treats me "like a celebrity" or similar. For the record none of the questions in this thread (so far) have bothered me.

As for whether it feels empowering, no. First of all, my sense of self-worth is not connected to my attractiveness. I am more than my ability to attract a mate. Secondly, being one of the few nerdy women has only served to highlight the fact that dating between nerds is pretty dysfunctional. At first, it was fun to have so much attention (other nerd spot) but it quickly became obvious that more attention does not convert into a larger ratio of real romance opportunities. There are a lot of incompatible guys trying to make me like them and hoping they can magically "make it work", and the ones who do seem good have problems like the above, and I feel a need to cut it short to prevent dysfunction. I think the crazy male-to-female ratio among nerds has caused more damage to my dating life than anything - so that's what I usually think of when I am reminded of it, not how "empowered" I feel.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 September 2012 09:32:38AM 7 points [-]

I am easily spooked by signs of early attachment, overly optimistic probability estimates about us working out, and impatience to see signs of an established connection. I go on the alert for these signs of irrationality if a person treats me "like a celebrity" or similar.

I can certainly understand how these behaviors would be incredibly unattractive, as well as representing 'red flags' indicating potential future complications in any relationship that is formed.

A corollary from a male perspective is that someone strongly predisposed from past experience towards seeing these signs of desperation and supplication can themselves make dating a drag. If ambiguous situations (or sometimes arguably non-ambiguous situations) are likely to be interpreted as motivated by weakness/low status/desparation/worship then avoiding such outcomes requires running far more strict, aggressive and constrained 'game' just to break even. Ultimately that lack of respect is just a huge turn off for me and one of the first things that'll make me think 'next' and move on to the next option.

Comment author: Epiphany 23 September 2012 03:28:13AM *  6 points [-]

You really made me think, Wedrifid. I chose not to respond to you right away because I wanted to avoid jumping to the conclusion that I'm doing everything right. So, I made myself go think it over.

Before you said this, I thought I was being patient enough with ambiguous "signs" and tolerant enough of harmless lapses in social skills. I've done a lot of emotional support for people who have problems, so I'm pretty confident that my tolerance of harmless social mistakes (as well as my ability to spot false positives on my creep radar) is well beyond adequate for dating nerds and misunderstood gifted people.

But signs only seem ambiguous to me if I realize that they're ambiguous. Are the signs that I think are unambiguous actually ambiguous? I don't know... I think the best approach is to develop a greater tolerance for them. So, I've got a goal now of "Be strong enough that even when guys do these things, I don't feel stressed out." Of course, tolerating these problems endlessly would lead to doing a lot of hand-holding, which would be draining, and that's not emotionally sustainable for me, but maybe a three strikes rule would be a good idea for me. That'd probably give a functional guy enough time to gain my trust in his sanity. Patience... yeah, I think I could use more.

And, you know, even if I have adequate patience and my tolerance of eccentricity is very high and I'm doing a good job of telling the difference between ambiguous and unambiguous signs of dysfunction, if guys are expecting me to be impatient, intolerant and judgmental, that's no good. I could lose a lot of opportunities because of their baggage due to the skewed gender ratio. I'm not sure what to do to counteract this.

You know, maybe we just need open communication. Like "Hi, I know there's a gender ratio issue, it's stressing everyone out when we try to date each other, why don't you and I just talk openly about these problems as we get to know each other?" That seems counter-intuitive on the one hand: there would be less of that sense of mystery and magic that people seem to expect but I'd really prefer bare reality at this point.

You have given me a lot to think about in your comment, Wedrifid. Thank you. (:

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 15 September 2012 04:46:20AM 7 points [-]

I upvoted this post because it does a good job at presenting your perspective as a woman in such interactions.

However, I don't think it displays a lot of empathy or understanding for the other perspective. I'm not necessarily concluding that you lack such empathy or understanding, but I don't see it in this post. For example, this sentence:

I was understanding about their enthusiasm at first, because I want a nerd, too, but it just doesn't work to date someone when they're acting like you're their last chance.

This is not a very good model of nerdy guys who come on too strong. From their perspective, you (as a woman in a largely-male group) have many more romantic prospects than they do. They can't afford to wait and take things slow, because there's always someone else who is more assertive or has better timing. It's a scenario they've personally observed over and over again. Now, obviously it's detrimental for every guy in this situation to reason this way, as you remark:

I think the crazy male-to-female ratio among nerds has caused more damage to my dating life than anything

It's actually a very good example of the tragedy of the commons. Individually, going after every woman they meet seems like it should improve their chances; collectively, it ends up driving women away and reducing everyone's chances. We would expect rationalist/skeptic/etc. guys to figure this out, but they often don't. Why is this?

Try to imagine being completely romantically alone, through no choice of your own. Imagine this not over the course of weeks or months, but years or even decades. Not one date, not one kiss, hardly even any fun, flirty conversations with interesting, attractive people. This is the stark reality for many nerdy guys, and they often feel powerless to change it.

So, yes, oozing desperation is not a good romantic strategy, but it's not just due to simple social ineptitude or inexperience. While the nerdy guys are trying to keep in mind how women feel when they're constantly pursued (and this is something at which many of us can improve), women should please keep in mind just how lonely and desperate it can feel on the other side.

Comment author: Epiphany 15 September 2012 02:20:21PM *  12 points [-]

The reason I didn't focus on empathy in my previous comment is because I didn't see any reason to think that would be useful to you guys. In my view, we have problems that empathy can't solve. I see now that it would probably be good if I detail some of my empathetic experiences because there's a need to feel like women care and also explain why empathy can't solve the problems I listed. So I did both.

I met a really sweet guy on a dating site that I have things in common with and we started having wonderful conversations. Then I started to notice Asperger's symptoms. Instead of rejecting him immediately, I started giving him information about how he was coming across. We both decided that we were not romantically compatible (for unrelated reasons) but we talked frequently over the next year or so, and I kept giving him information to help him socially. I care about him a lot and it makes me sad to think of him ending up alone, so I helped as much as I could.

I make a point of letting guys know if they make a mistake, with few exceptions. If they seem beyond helping (the occasional crazies), I may back away slowly and vanish. If they send me a message on a dating site that ignores my profile, I ignore them. Otherwise they'll usually get some type of error message from me. I know they need feedback.

There have been three situations in the recent past where I met someone I really liked, but they made a mistake. In each of these three situations, I pointed out the mistake but kept talking to them because I liked them and was hoping they'd come around (well in one case I was hoping that my initial assessment was wrong). I don't do this for every kind of mistake. It really depends on what it is. Sometimes I meet someone I really like but I know I can't save it, so I won't try (though I usually tell them why I'm not continuing). But if I think there's a reasonable chance, I'll try.

It's not like I'm not understanding. It's that there are big problems that no amount of understanding can overcome. Let's look at each of the big problems I listed for a minute. Please consider that I am not deeming these "problems that understanding will not overcome" for arbitrary reasons. Everyone is naive when they're young, me included. Due to this, I got to find out the hard way that certain things will doom a new connection and that there's nothing I can do about it. Here is why they doom new connections:

Bias about incompatibilities and overly optimistic probability estimates

Imagine telling someone that you're not sure you're what they wanted, and they just brush it off and want to proceed anyway. If they're not willing to talk realistically about these things, a few problems result. First, when other people believe we're more compatible than we are, I find it unacceptable to continue to knowingly allow them to believe that. I feel a sense of responsibility about not leading people on, so this situation is unacceptable to me - I can't allow it. Second, I have to wonder whether they're leading me on. If they aren't willing to really look at a potential incompatibility and give me an honest answer, I may very well end up in a relationship that ends in heartbreak because I thought the person would accept something about me that they couldn't. If they're unwilling to face the truth to and make sure to tell me about these things in the beginning, they run a high risk of leading me on by accident. When people feel strongly attracted and that causes them bias like this, it's really, really hard to get through to them. When I have tried to get through to them, this has resulted in me burning out on trying. Worse, it breaks my trust (I can't trust them not to lead me on). The combination of not feeling okay with allowing them to be led on, not trusting that they won't lead me on and being burnt out by trying to wake them up results in an extremely risky situation that is likely to lead to heartbreak for one or both of us. Since there's no way to get an accurate idea of our compatibility in that situation, if I notice they're stuck on optimism bias, I quit.

Early Attachment

When people are attached, they act like they need things from me and expect me to fulfill those needs. Rewind to my teenage years when I had trouble saying no: if people acted like they needed things from me, I would try to make them happy. Since I wasn't doing these things based on a mutually beneficial relationship, I would inevitably burn out - I was trying to meet their needs, but wasn't getting my own needs met. You run out of juice that way. What's worse is that when you're doing something because you feel expected to instead of out of a genuine sense of love and connection, it's obvious. The result is that they sense this, and they demand more affection to compensate. For that reason, the burnout comes on rapidly. Of course, people who are attached too early don't see the flaw in being attached too early. If they did, they wouldn't become attached too early - or maybe they don't know how to avoid it. It's for those reasons, I think, that they never seem to go "Yes, I am attached too early." and take responsibility for their own needs. Instead, when the difference in attachment is noticed, their solution is to try anything they can think of to get me attached, too. We all know how hard it can be to stay rational in emotional situations. We know that relationships are governed by reality the same way everything else is. Therefore we can easily see that it's both important and difficult to stay rational regarding relationship decisions. Being subjected to somebody you like trying to make you feel attached to them puts you in a risky situation where you're likely to become irrational and make a relationship decision that explodes later on. Anyone who has experienced the misery of heartbreak can surely imagine how terrifying it is to be in a situation where you're rational enough to see that it's likely, but not certain you'll be strong enough to resist temptation. For that reason, people put in this situation tend to run screaming.

Moving too fast / expectations

The main reason moving too fast is unworkable for me is that it creates expectations I can't fulfill, and the reason unreasonable expectations are unworkable is because people don't let you change their expectations - instead, they are judging you by those expectations. For instance, they expect me to have more intense feelings for them than I'm ready for. Being unable to produce these, and unwilling to lie, I must tell them that I'm not feeling as interested as they are. If they really are expecting me to move as fast as they do the reaction I've had is that they assume I'm never going to be interested because I'm not intensely interested right away. Then they go into sour grapes mode. Attempting to convince them that I'm not sour would be hard enough in and of itself, but I'd also have to convince them that their expectations were unrealistic. That would come across like whining about being rejected or attempting to circumvent the person's judgment. When someone rejects me, it's best to respect their decision - no matter what it was based on - and move along.

I do understand that a lot of guys feel like they're going to be alone forever. I've had those feelings, too. Don't think that women don't ever feel that. It's worse for the guys because of the gender ratio, but it's not like we can't relate at all. Finding the right person is hard. I am complicated, and this results in there being a lot of incompatibilities to consider. It's not easy for me, either.

The truth is, I have no idea how I would ever make dysfunctional behaviors like these work for me in a dating context. It seems ill advised to even attempt to do that, so I won't. You said "oozing desperation is not a good romantic strategy, but it's not just due to simple social ineptitude or inexperience." and what I'm saying is "social ineptitude and inexperience do not just reek of desperation, they make dating broken in ways I can't work with." I hope you see the reason why I focused on these things in my post is not because I'm not empathetic but because, from my point of view, the biggest problem is that a lot of guys don't realize that the things they are doing make the connection unhealthy and dysfunctional.

It seems to be a common attitude that the women need to realize that the guys are having a really hard time just finding the sorts of women they like, let alone getting the practice needed for good social skills. I do realize this. In fact, I do not see the gender ratio problem as being "due to creepers" - to me, that's just another symptom of a different underlying cause which is nobody's fault.

It's actually a very good example of the tragedy of the commons. Individually, going after every woman they meet seems like it should improve their chances; collectively, it ends up driving women away and reducing everyone's chances. We would expect rationalist/skeptic/etc. guys to figure this out, but they often don't. Why is this?

I think they get sucked in by the experience. It takes a lot of emotional control to fight back things like optimism bias, attachment and unrealistic expectations when you're compelled by mating instincts, pressured by hormones and lifelong romantic dreams are clouding your mind. It doesn't surprise me that a lot of intelligent guys act like they're sort of "drunk" on the experience.

I developed emotional control through meditation to prevent myself from taking a "drunken" approach to romance. That's what I'd recommend for anyone having these problems.

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 15 September 2012 03:20:24PM 6 points [-]

Thank you very much for the thorough reply. I understand your position and experiences a lot better now, and I think we are broadly in agreement about what needs to happen on each side. I recognize that understanding alone is not going to solve these problems, especially in individual cases, but I think it's an important component for longer-term improvement. Judging from this post, you clearly do have empathy, and I could not reasonably ask any more in that regard than what you have already demonstrated.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 September 2012 09:00:32AM 10 points [-]

Dating isn't charity work. If you go on dates and do what is, roughly speaking, the opposite of what works, you will probably fail.

If the girl you are dating is feeling particularly generous she may be willing to give you a reference to a guide on dating skills and tell you to "quit being a pussy", giving you a chance to have more success with the next woman that you date.

Comment author: Alicorn 15 September 2012 04:54:41AM 5 points [-]

women should please keep in mind just how lonely and desperate it can feel on the other side.

What is it that you would like us to do with this information?

Comment author: shminux 15 September 2012 05:14:34AM *  2 points [-]

Probably feel good about never having to be in this exact situation? I doubt that he implies that he deserves a pity lay. He can probably afford to pay for a professional escort once in a while, one of the solutions advocated by Dan Savage.

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 15 September 2012 05:23:10AM 3 points [-]

Incorporate it into your models of such guys. I think this can help moderate problems such as being "easily spooked" and "cutting it short to prevent dysfunction." Instead of thinking that this guy is just too clingy/creepy/codependent/etc., dig a little deeper. If the flirtation or relationship just isn't going to work, then so be it, but we can at least strive to leave things a little nicer than how we found them. If I, as a guy, try to give other guys advice in these matters, it just seems like I'm trying to create a competitive advantage for myself.

I am trying to promote mutual understanding so that communication between the genders works better. I never have and likely never will experience being in such high romantic demand, so I have no visceral feeling for how women feel in that situation. The best I can do is to keep in mind what I've been told by women whenever such a conversation occurs. On the flip side, most women in rationalist/skeptic/etc. groups have never experienced such prolonged romantic isolation. If we want to increase group conscientiousness of issues which can drive women away, understanding needs to flow both ways.

Comment author: Alicorn 15 September 2012 06:34:30AM 3 points [-]

Instead of thinking that this guy is just too clingy/creepy/codependent/etc., dig a little deeper.

I could pause before attaching labels, but I don't think arbitrary guys who I don't enjoy interactions with ought to get particularly much attention in the form of "digging"; that doesn't make sense to me.

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 15 September 2012 06:39:44AM 1 point [-]

In the context of Epiphany's post, these aren't arbitrary guys:

the ones who do seem good have problems like the above

Comment author: Epiphany 15 September 2012 02:37:47PM *  2 points [-]

If you read it in context, that means:

"the ones who do seem compatible have problems like the above"

There are a lot of incompatible guys trying to make me like them and hoping they can magically "make it work", and the ones who do seem good have problems like the above, and I feel a need to cut it short to prevent dysfunction.

You can be dysfunctional and incompatible, which is a fail. Or you can be functional and incompatible, also a fail. Or you can be compatible and dysfunctional, still a fail.

The only thing that's not a definite fail is compatible + functional.

Comment author: Alicorn 15 September 2012 06:43:26AM 2 points [-]

I don't think I would enjoy a prolonged period of having to manage someone's desperation on the expectation that there is an otherwise functional guy under all of it. Plenty of guys come functional out of the package, so the opportunity cost of a lot of dysfunction-fussing-with is high. But your advice could be good for people who like fixer-uppers; it's probably safer and more productive than trying to tame a sociopath or something.

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 15 September 2012 07:14:15AM 3 points [-]

Plenty of guys come functional out of the package, so the opportunity cost of a lot of dysfunction-fussing-with is high.

Well, this conversation has managed to go right around in a circle:

From their perspective, you (as a woman in a largely-male group) have many more romantic prospects than they do.

Also, turning "dig a little deeper" into "a prolonged period" seems uncharitable.

Comment author: lucidian 10 September 2012 03:56:50AM 6 points [-]

Some of each. I like attention, and bringing up my gender is a great way to get attention, because many people are interested in the rare female perspective on various LW topics. (It seems, though, that the attention I seek and receive on LW regarding gender is unrelated to my boobs.) When I don't want gender-related attention, I simply don't mention my gender; having a gender-neutral username is nice. Sometimes I like participating in discussions about gender/PUA/etc. without revealing that I'm female.

Comment author: palladias 09 September 2012 01:15:52PM 7 points [-]

It's not really flattering (or, as Captain Hook would say "I want no such compliments!"). Being sexually harassed is not empowering, and trying to troubleshoot it isn't invigorating, it's just useful. I'm glad to help people avoid pattern matching to behaviors that look like threats/seem condescending/just aren't fun, and I think it's appropriate to spend a little time discussing them.

I wouldn't want this topic to keep seeding new threads the way the Endless September discussion did, but I don't think starting the discussion dooms us to that fate. And if you're worried about that threat, start another quite interesting thread on a different topic.

Comment author: Vaniver 09 September 2012 05:40:27PM *  7 points [-]

(For those not familiar with the reference, it's a fun one.)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 September 2012 02:42:19PM 6 points [-]

Why do you think those are the only alternatives? Or an especially interesting pair of alternatives?

I've assumed that daenerys gets karma and attention (at a fairly ordinary level) because they're a good poster about difficult topics.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 September 2012 02:59:33PM 8 points [-]

I've assumed that daenerys gets karma and attention (at a fairly ordinary level) because they're a good poster about difficult topics.

I had understood the questions to be abstract and anonymised, not to daenerys.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 September 2012 03:21:34PM 4 points [-]

Fair point about the question being more general than I took it to be.

However, that makes it seem even weirder to me. Would you care to write about why you chose those alternatives?

Comment author: DanArmak 09 September 2012 04:09:45PM 7 points [-]

I suggest availability bias because they are the two extremes of a simple spectrum of "pay no attention to women's sex... pay lots of attention to women's sex". It feels natural to think in these terms, even when I'm aware that actual behavior mostly lies between the two extremes, varies a lot for the same person, etc.

Comment author: coffeespoons 09 September 2012 10:36:47AM *  2 points [-]

Is this comment intended as snark?

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 10 September 2012 10:02:19PM 5 points [-]

The wording of the question is problematic, because (a) it sounds snarky, and (b) it is trying to produce a specific answer. See, for example:

It's not really flattering (or, as Captain Hook would say "I want no such compliments!"). Being sexually harassed is not empowering, and trying to troubleshoot it isn't invigorating, it's just useful.

Please try to use a more neutral tone when asking questions. It will yield more (epistemically) useful answers.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 September 2012 11:00:19PM 1 point [-]

I also was offended both by the wording of the question, and by the "here are the answers that I would respect" follow-up.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 September 2012 10:44:46AM *  5 points [-]

It is a sincere question. And I suspect I'd actually respect either an answer that the emphasis on sex and gender drama is tiresome or that the extra attention is flattering and empowering.

EDIT: The edit to the parent changed the meaning of my response. I'm glad I looked back. I should have quoted.

Comment author: coffeespoons 09 September 2012 11:17:51AM *  2 points [-]

To be clear, before editing my question was:

Is this comment intended as snark or is it a genuine question?

Sorry. I thought I edited it quickly enough that you would only see the edited question :). I certainly edited it before I saw your reply.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 September 2012 11:19:39AM 3 points [-]

I certainly edited it, before I saw your reply.

Understood, I realize making the meaning of my reply too highly dependent on unquoted context makes the meaning my comments fragile. I'm surprised I forgot to quote, actually.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 09 September 2012 02:13:22PM 2 points [-]

Do men and women suffer from the same cognitive biases (and to the same extent)?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 09 September 2012 03:47:01PM *  11 points [-]

Sorry.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 09 September 2012 10:52:04PM *  5 points [-]

Forgiven.

Comment author: atorm 11 September 2012 07:17:25AM 5 points [-]

What's happening?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 12 September 2012 04:19:32AM 3 points [-]

Viliam said that this question would better be addressed as a survey and Jayson agreed, then they both deleted their comments for some reason.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 11 September 2012 08:03:00AM 3 points [-]

Move along; nothing to see here.

Comment author: Douglas_Reay 09 September 2012 09:31:19AM 1 point [-]

What software feature (or policy) would you like to see added to the LessWrong forums and up/down vote system?

(There may or may not be a gender difference in perceived value of proposed features. I don't know. That's why I'm asking.)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 09 September 2012 06:27:23PM *  8 points [-]

Trn (a comprehensive system for managing long discussions which was used on usenet and was never rewritten for the web). I'm expecting an age difference on this one, not a gender difference.

Up-down karma vote histories.

However, I'm fine with anonymous voting. I think we'd get even more conflict and less good voting if votes had names attached to them.

Built-in polling would be excellent, preferably with some way of handling whether people's poll answers were correlated. I don't know whether most polling systems have this-- the only one I've used is livejournal, and it doesn't.

Comment author: ciphergoth 11 September 2012 06:43:20PM 3 points [-]

Oh Gods yes, I wish for Trn, or better still, Gnus.

Comment author: lucidian 10 September 2012 03:30:35AM 7 points [-]

I'd like an option to hide all karma scores. There's two reasons for this:

  • I worry that by seeing the karma of a post before reading the post, I will be unfairly biased toward or against that post. I'd really like to make up my own mind about these things before seeing what the community has decided. I'm pretty sure my opinions change drasticallly based on the opinions of the group I'm in, and this seems counterproductive for rationality (although very useful for social cohesion).

  • I'm embarrassed to admit that karma scores affect my emotions a lot. Each time I lose a karma point, it's like an emotional punch in the face. If someone politely disagreed with my post, I would not have this reaction. If someone violently disagreed with my post, I'd either be slightly upset, very amused, or both. But when I lose a karma point, I feel intense shame. Also, when I gain karma, I feel intense pride. When I post here, I feel like I'm talking to "win karma", not to engage in an interesting discussion with thoughtful, intelligent people. This isn't a motivation/reaction I like to have, and that's why I almost never post here, and instead spend all my time on IRC. Basically, because of the karma system, I try not to say anything that might be disapproved of, and I'm reluctant to engage in candid discussion. Those of you who know me on IRC or IRL might be surprised to hear this, because in those situations I almost always discuss my thoughts/opinions candidly without fearing social rejection; in fact, in those situations, I genuinely don't care whether I'm rejected. I don't know why the karma system on LW is so different for me. Anyway, I'm going to try to train my emotional system to ignore karma altogether the way I've trained it not to care about IRL rejection; we'll see how that goes.

Comment author: Alicorn 10 September 2012 03:43:56AM *  8 points [-]

There is a browser extension called the anti-kibitzer that will, among other things, hide karma scores on comments/posts.

Comment author: shminux 14 September 2012 05:24:06PM *  3 points [-]

But when I lose a karma point, I feel intense shame.

it might be worth it for you to explore why this happens, by trying to trace the hidden logic leading to this emotion. This might help in other, real-life situations when a similar emotion happens (whether they are related or not to the silent public disapproval with no recourse that downvoting is usually perceived as).

Comment author: [deleted] 09 September 2012 10:19:07PM 3 points [-]

I'm new to less wrong so my opinions may not be seen to count as much as more regular users. But anyway, I definitely think the voting should be anonymous in order to avoid petty conflicts. I also think there may be some flaws in the voting system. While I think it is a good thing that long time users and regular contributors to less wrong as well as interesting and insightful comments are recognised and rewarded for their input with karma points I feel there may also be some downsides: For example in some situations people may want to say something that conflicts with the opinion of the majority of users commenting on a thread but decide against it due to the prospect of being down voted (as well as comments). I noticed that in this thread alicorn said she had felt this way about commenting on threads about gender issues. Also if someone decides to say something controversial anyway (compared to other attitudes on the thread) this may get down voted and become invisible. I think this is bad because it is preferable to have a variety of views represented on any thread or the discussion may suffer due to one sidedness. I have read before that people tend to seek out those who share their view point and ignore opposing opinions but i think it would be better to have a debate when such situations arise rather than completely sidelining views that we don't agree with which is a danger with the down voting system. Of course it is a different case when a comment is unacceptable to the standards of the community by being obscene etc but that could be dealt with by the "report" function. I don't think the up/ down vote system should be abandoned but maybe some modifications could be made.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 September 2012 06:05:28PM 2 points [-]

I want more support for the public votes feature (I want it to work backwards and on comments). I'd also like built-in polling support.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 September 2012 06:31:16AM *  1 point [-]

I'd like a policy change:

Due to the widespread elitism or appearance of elitism, I am very concerned. People in the outside world aren't going to make distinctions between a group of people who call themselves "elitists" for harmless reasons versus people who believe they're "better than others" and are therefore entitled to special treatment or to make exceptions to the rules for themselves. It's also a weird surprise because it's in direct conflict with the site's vision - to spread rationality. Spreading rationality necessarily means transmitting it to people who are not good at rational thought, because focusing on transmitting it to people who are already good at it does not qualify as "spreading" it.

Imagine going into a room full of strangers and announcing that you are an elitist. Does this strike no one else as socially inept? Yet here we are in public, and people are announcing to the world of strangers that we are elitists. I don't like being smeared as an "elitist" by these people, I know the world will see me as guilty by association. The rest of the world isn't known for being rational. If they see a group of people calling themselves "elitists" they won't stop to make distinctions. They'll just err on the side of caution by assuming you guys are a bunch of overbearing jerks. This is about as smart, in my view, as going back in time few hundred years and claiming to enjoy casting magic spells. It doesn't matter if you're referring to an RPG game, you just invited a witch hunt.

Maybe you guys figure anybody intelligent will agree with your attitude. No. It's a perfectly constructive use of one's intelligence to take measures to avoid committing social suicide. That this group allows itself to be associated with the term "elitism" - that nobody moderates those comments and that they're being voted up to the sky - is a public relations disaster waiting to happen. At first, it didn't even occur to me that the people here might not realize that. That's such a no brainer to me, I assumed you didn't care because you really do think you're better than them, so you can afford to provoke the outside world and just ignore their ire. Now, I am considering that the people on this website may just be socially inept enough to do that and not realize how crazy it looks to non-elitist intellectuals like me.

As I've said before, maintaining quality does not require you to wear a scary word that is used to mean "overbearing jerk". I think you guys need a no elitism policy which includes: A.) Not letting people behave in an abusive or insulting way toward people who may not have the same education or IQ. B.) Not smearing the organization by using the word "elitist" lightly to describe LessWrong. I don't want to associate myself with an elitist or "elitist" organization. The only reason I haven't quit already is because I still have a sense of possibility that you guys will eventually grok what an assassination you're launching against your reputations and I think that the good things about this group and the vision you're gathered around make it worth continuing to discuss the topic of elitism with you.

Comment author: Kindly 14 September 2012 01:01:29PM 6 points [-]

You're over-reacting to one comment, which made its point well despite using a word you disapprove of. It's not as though Less Wrong identifies itself to the world at large as elitist (although some people, and indeed some users here, may describe it that way).

Furthermore, a policy of "not using the word "elitist"" is completely orthogonal to a policy of "not being abusive to lower IQ people". What makes you think the latter is necessary?

Comment author: Larks 15 September 2012 07:42:07AM 3 points [-]

Imagine going into a room full of strangers and announcing that you are an elitist. Does this strike no one else as socially inept?

Going into a room full of strangers and announcing I was a socialist, or an egalitarian, or a libertarian, or a conservative, etc. would be socially inept. In fact, announcing I was a human or a carbon-based lifeform or a biped would be socially inept too. It's nothing special about elitism.

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 September 2012 07:12:28AM *  3 points [-]

Is "elitism" perhaps a particularly bad word in the US but not other parts of the world? For example I've always found the accusation of US politicians being "elitist" as mildly confusing, like something that just wouldn't happen in my countries political discourse.