Always act like everything’s your fault

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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221 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I want to be very clear that I say this as a commenter and not an editor:

    I don’t love having a post talking about rape victims having the gratuitous sexy gal with gun pic.Report

  2. Avatar anonymous coward says:

    On some level, I agree — it’s incumbent on people to be aware of their surroundings and to make good life choices to the degree that that is possible.

    The problem with this argument though is that it’s just not always possible. The robber who breaks in when you’re not home — how could you have protected yourself? The armed man who jumps out of a hiding place and kills you? You’re at fault? And back to rape — with such a heavily stigmatized crime, we already have the issue of victims underreporting like crazy. Shifting the blame to the victim only makes the problem that much worse. Telling victims, “Well, if YOU hadn’t done X, you wouldn’t be in this situation,” is an unfortunate approach. At the end of the day, the rapist did something wrong, whether or not the victim was drinking or wearing a short skirt, or just being a child (shudder). At the end of the day, the rapist wanted power, and that problem with the rapist’s psyche is not the fault of the victim.Report

    • Your reading may have been more correct than mine, but I assumed Vickram was putting the responsibility of protecting vulnerable people not on those people per se, but on all of us.

      I didn’t read him to mean that we should approach social problems from the viewpoint that the victim is at fault, so much as it’s mine and I therefore have a moral responsibility regardless to proximity.Report

    • Vikram puts a particular focus on parents with respect to harm coming to their children. And what parent would want harm to come to her child? Nevertheless I wonder if the ethic described here is what leads to “helicopter parenting,” by which I mean parenting so protective that the child’s development as an autonomous adult equipped with independent problem-solving and adversity-coping skills is stunted.Report

      • helicopter parenting

        Yes, it could. That is a possible risk.

        Then again, I’m the one suggesting that kids be given fairly adult material to read that I think most parents might seek to “protect” their kids from. And also, I’m the one suggesting that parents give kids information that can allow the kids themselves morph their own risk profiles.

        It’s worth noting that this girl who snuck out of her bedroom window wouldn’t have really been protected by helicopter parenting. Really, they either had to put in iron bars on the windows or give her more complete information.Report

    • Shifting the blame to the victim only makes the problem that much worse. Telling victims, “Well, if YOU hadn’t done X, you wouldn’t be in this situation,” is an unfortunate approach.

      Well, nothing like that is reflected in the post. Once a crime happens that the crime-committer is fully responsible and should bear all consequences while the victims receive support.

      But *before* a crime happens, potential victims should know what situations to avoid so as to avoid becoming a victim in the first place. Telling someone that they should lock their car door isn’t victim blaming. It’s simply a good practice. If a friend’s car is stolen, however, we don’t analyze the circumstances and say they got what they deserved. I don’t see why we can’t have the same sort of understanding around sexual assault.Report

      • Avatar anonymous coward in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Here’s the thing: my rational scientific mind totally agrees with you.

        My emotional mind who has seen the aftermath and fragility of sexual assault victims just can’t, because they are looking for reasons that things happened; many will hear this as,”Hey this is your fault!”

        I’m all for a tide shift in how we look at this and how this is dealt with as a society, though, and for what it’s worth, Vikram, I think your writing may be the reason I hit the RSS subscribe to this site. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        “I don’t see why we can’t have the same sort of understanding around sexual assault.”
        @vikram-bath

        I think one of the reasons we can’t and don’t have the same sort of understanding is because of the unique restrictions on freedom it places on women.

        If we say, “Don’t wear a short skirt… it increases your likelihood of being raped*,” or “Don’t get drunk… it increases your likelihood of being raped*,” or “Don’t talk to men in a bar… it increases your likelihood of being raped*,”… we are essentially telling women that because of the sexually violent tendencies of some men, they need to curtail their own freedom to avoid becoming a victim.

        Locking doors is something we say to everyone and which, generally, bears very little cost to the person locking the doors. But these other things? We don’t say it to everyone… just women. And some of these or other suggestions bear huge costs to the women.

        Now… don’t get me wrong… women should be free to voluntarily take these steps if they see fit. But they should also be free to not take these steps. Because the consequence for wearing a short skirt should be cold legs on a winter’s night… not rape. The consequence for getting drunk should be a hangover… not rape. The consequence for talking to talking to men in a bar should be banal conversation… not rape.

        And, yes, I get that people should be free to not lock their doors. But locking doors is not a heavy burden put uniquely on women by men. So, yes, the calculus is different.

        * This assumes any of these things actually change the likelihood of being a victim. My understanding is that they do not and attention to them is ultimately a distraction.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        But in practice it does not work this way.

        I know what happens when I wear a skirt : I have not yet been raped, but I have been sexually assaulted a few times (not to mention the endless degrading shit I hear). And, yes, dressing in something pretty raises the odds. A skirt raises the odds a lot.

        I know this. All women know this.

        But I dress pretty anyhow. I wear my short skirt and stocking on cold nights, because I want to look cool and sexy, because I want to have fun.

        Too many men spend too much time thinking of ways they get to — once again — point out painfully obvious things to women.

        WE KNOW!Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to anonymous coward says:

      anon,
      “The robber who breaks in when you’re not home — how could you have protected yourself?”
      … my house is far more difficult (and awkward) to break into than my neighbors. It was a factor in which house I bought.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I have one quibble with the shooting example:

    We have enough stories in the media about the police unjustly shooting (and usually killing) someone who turns out to be completely free of any wrong-doing. Most recently a thirteen year old boy was killed by cops in Sonoma because of his pellet gun. There was also an African-American man who was killed by police after being seriously injured in a car accident and the story from several months ago about the man shot way too many times in the legs while getting cigarettes out of his own car.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/california-police-kill-boy-rifle

    I don’t want more situations where the cops feel free to shoot first and ask questions later. Police should be trained first in deescalation.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to NewDealer says:

      Good point. Really, I would prefer if we deescalated some of our other wars rather than suggesting new ones to engage in.

      The question I have is that if we were going to start five wars, why did we choose the five that we did? Because I don’t think we chose wisely.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        That’s a whole different discussion and I am not sure I would agree with you on all of the 5 different wars (I’m all for a War Against Poverty) but there will also never be an answer as to why we selected the wars we did.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        (I’m all for a War Against Poverty)

        Is it possible that thinking about poverty in a war frame has hindered our efforts, rather than aided them?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        “War” is not such a bad metaphor. Wars are mostly about moving onto a piece of ground and pushing someone else off it. It’s not about winning and losing in terms of some leather-bound surrender document. It’s about who stays and who leaves.

        Abysmal poverty is a shame to any nation. It’s completely unnecessary. No well-run nation ought to tolerate it any more than they would a crime wave. Which is very curious, because it’s the poor who end up in jail because they can’t afford decent representation at trial.

        Considering how many poor prisoners we have in custody, perhaps we ought to declare a cease fire in the War on the Poor.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        In some ways perhaps but not in others. Maybe war is the wrong word but I don’t buy the idea that there will always be a destitute class like some on the right seem to believe. The latter was my real point. As I’ve said before on this community, I don’t get the begin neglect or inertia and do nothing stances that sometimes get advocated. I’m a Tikkun Olam kind of guy.

        I also think that Pre-K and Headstart help a lot in terms of anti-poverty programs and am willing to fight so they get more funding and support.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        ND,
        Re: Headstary. I love the idea of it, and my daughter loved being in it. But the evidence for its actual effectiveness is pretty weak.

        But in general, war is about mobilizing resources, then getting in and ideally getting out. We’ve mobilized vast resources, and haven’t budged the poverty rate, which–curiously–stopped declining around the time we declared war on poverty.

        What if the real secret wasn’t to mobilize resources but to stop putting roadblocks in people’s way? I don’t mean this ideologically, but the evidence doesn’t seem to indicate that our war, using our current techniques, has been working.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Sure but there are different ways to view roadblocks and different roadblocks. Some roadblocks might fit in terms of regulations.

        Other roadblocks could be a constant cultural conservatism that a mother belongs at home, our constant refusal to adopt good maternal and paternal leave policies except for the educated class (and not even then sometimes), a love of at-will termination that does not take into account life’s emergencies, an ultra-right wing Republican party that constantly tries to slash and destroy food stamps, corporate CEOs that probably support Republican politicians that vote to cut said food stamps while also telling workers to go on food stamps.*, petulant bosses who seem to think that safe working conditions are somehow a serious affront to “freedom” instead of being the right and decent thing to do, etc.

        I’m rather tired of people who seem to think it is impossible to act decently and also exist in the world of business. If Western Europe and Canada can do it, so can we. It is not like Western Europe is completely lacking in luxury goods and decent living. Sweden is far from East Germany or the USSR under Stalin.**

        *http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/10/audio-mcdonalds-tells-its-employees-to-sign-up-for-food-stamps/280812/

        Isn’t the whole point of work and labor so that one does not need to depend on the welfare state? I’ve heard stories about Adjunct Professors who asked for lower pay because it meant their kids could still have food stamps while the higher salary would disqualify for food stamps but still be crushing poverty. Something is very rotten when nearly half or more of university instructors are adjuncts.

        **I’ve heard that part of the deal for European welfare states is that European business is largely regulation free. If our business leaders were willing to accept this trade-off I would gladly go for fewer regulations but our business leaders seem to also want to place a trillion nails in the coffin of the welfare state and then surround it with a trillion tonnes of concrete.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        “But the evidence for its actual effectiveness is pretty weak.”
        @jm3z-aitch

        The evidence I saw (which I believe someone wrote about here) which demonstrated such also demonstrated that after completion of the Head Start program, no further follow up was needed.

        Sticking with the imagery of a “headstart”, its advantage only lasts so long if the other guy has a much faster car than you.

        Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Headstart will or does work. But it does say (to me, at least), that its implementation* has been too limited.

        * Or, more precisely, implementation of the idea of improving access to education for children of low-income families.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Kazzy,

        I don’t really follow you. Headstart has not been shown to have long-lasting lasting educational effects. Headstart children did not do better in later grades than non-Headstart children. This is not a comparison of Headstart children to middle class kids, but to other Headstart eligible but non-attending children.

        Headstart does no harm, but doesn’t appear to do a significant amount of good, either.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        ND,

        Nice rant, but I’m not sure who you’re talking to.

        I’d love to see some of our liberals here take a serious stab at thinking about why poverty rates stopped declining right around the time we declared a war on poverty. I’m not saying it’s causal–correlation isn’t causation, and that story might be a little too neat (and I have some hypotheses of my own that aren’t so simple). But something’s definitely fishy–at the very least the war on poverty hasn’t succeded in further reducing a povertu rate that had been steadily declining until the ’60s. In part that means it stagnated a good 15 years before Reagan and his evil poor-hating ways. So what do serious liberals who want to do more than just defend food stamps (that lovely Dep’t of Ag farmers’ welfare policy) say about this?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @jm3z-aitch, as a liberal, I’ll share my thoughts, in no particular order:

        1. Income mobility upward is a learned habit. I grew up very poor; and the first few years with my sweetie, who comes from a much wealthier family, were a learning experience; it requires different ways of thinking about money that many poor people simply don’t have enough models for in their lives.

        2. TV. I think any major social change we peg to 1960 has to incorporate television. Same thing for some point in the late ’90’s or early 00’s with the internet.

        3. Opportunity. Coming from my background, I know that most poor people don’t have access to the opportunities that people with just a bit more wealth have; most importantly, this springs back to point #1, seeing opportunity is also a habit of thinking. If you don’t think that education is going to help, you don’t take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

        4. There have been some recent studies that suggest that constant stress over money actually creates cognitive drag and impairs decision making; my personal experience suggests this might be true.

        5. Desire. Some people don’t want to change their lives; and I don’t just mean people on the dole. They are content as they are.

        6. Nutrition. I actually think this may have been, up to about 1980, in many poor family’s benefit; now, I think poverty makes eating well enough to function at your best very difficult.

        7. Environment. Many of the pockets of poverty are environmentally challenged in some way; noise, air quality, pollution, etc.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Zic,

        Very few of those potential causes have been targeted by our war on poverty, right?

        And other than perhaps TV, what about those things would have changed in the mid ’60s and why?

        7 is probably less of a problem now due to environmental law improvements than in the ’50s.

        1, 4, 5 I don’t know why they would have changed (unless welfare critics are right and 5 has changed because of welfare).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I’ll throw a thought out too (if it’s welcome). I wouldn’t call this a “serious” attempt by any means; it’s just what comes to mind. The War on Poverty roughly coincided with (and was in part a response to) some of these trends/developments in the U.S. economy or American life:

        -suburbanization/the vacation of social and financial capital from the urban core
        -the rise of mass layoffs as a corporate cost-cutting tool
        -accelerating automatization in industries that were the backbone of the poverty-reduction trend referenced

        Separately, after the Great Depression there might have simply been a generation or so’s worth of steady gains to be made, after which the economy had to wait for another Next Big Thing moment, which didn’t come until the Internet, which we have again now more or less fully operationalized, so that growth is steady but not torrid. So, basically since 1900 we’ve had a big boom (1900-1929 with blips), a huge crash & bust that increased poverty so much that on the other side poverty was certain to fall for a while, another boom (1945-1970), a generalized slowing down (stagflation, etc.), a fairly big, quick boom (90s) with bubbles, and then a short slowing and sudden crash followed by more or less a bust that we’re still in. In 1900 we were still realizing the gains from the Industrial Revolution itself, so the poverty baseline we were working off of was profoundly low. The Great Depression compressed a lot of that potential for a decade, so that afterwards prosperity really rebounded and poverty plummeted. But stored potential can only spin out so long. A cycle of development may simply have come around to a low-momentum phase by the time the mid-60s & 70s rolled around.

        In short, the idea would be that the truly long-term American expansion that steadily (outside of depressions) lowered poverty from a truly daunting 19th century baseline began to sputter in the 60s and really sputtered in the 70s, and that combined with the effects of the refinement of corporate efficiency innovations that were inevitable given the maturation of the Fordist production model and technology and the mobility of capital, combined with social responses (sorting via municipal balkanization) to demographic change in urban areas (i.e. the Great Migration) that caused poverty to be more concentrated and thereby more entrenched, were enough to slow the rate of change in poverty levels to basically stasis.

        I’m completely spitballing here; this could just all be flat wrong.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch
        I’d like to present some grounding for two claims made from the left-of-center position in this subthread.

        We’ve mobilized vast resources, and haven’t budged the poverty rate, which–curiously–stopped declining around the time we declared war on poverty.

        First, the US, relative to OECD peers, has not mobilized vast resources to combat poverty. As a percentage of the US budget and as a percentage of GDP, the US spends startlingly low amounts on social protection when compared to other OECD countries. (Figure 4 “Government spending as a share of total budget” and Figure 5 “Government spending as a percent of GDP (average 2004-2007)”, on pages 7 and 8, from “Comparing Public Spending Priorities Across OECD Countries” pdf).

        I don’t really follow you. Headstart has not been shown to have long-lasting lasting educational effects

        Second, Head Start can also be seen as shorthand for an array of early childhood interventions (e.g. nurse home visits) that in combination are proven to successfully combat poverty (and other social ills like criminality) in later years. Here’s “Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage” (linked earlier in the discussion thread):

        [from page 4] Early and sustained investment in children and families can help. A key role is played by early childhood education, care and health. Financial transfers and in-kind services to parents are also important as they provide them with the resources to better rear and care for their children. Overall, a strategy based on a greater investment in children holds the promise of breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantages because of its effects in reducing child poverty and contributing to child development.

        [from page 26] Overall, the literature suggests that a variety of resources contribute to child development. These resources interact with the children’s cognitive and non-cognitive abilities in ways that combine to influence their future life chances. Among these resources, parental income and education are critical, but others also matter. In fact, the literature suggests that the effect of liquidity constraints on parental educational choices is less important than that of a wider set of parental characteristics. These include the home and social environment where the children are raised and where their beliefs, attitudes and values are shaped. For example, Heckman and Carneiro (2003) suggest that better family resources during a child’s formative years are associated with a higher quality of education and a better environment for fostering cognitive skills such as verbal ability and non-cognitive habits, including self-discipline, which improve life chances.

        Therefore investing in early childhood seems to bean efficient social policy and a large literature suggests that early child development programmes have a positive impact on school achievement and other outcomes (e.g., Duncan et al., 1994; Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000; Cameron and Heckman 1998, 2001; Chevalier and Lanot, 2001; Carneiro and Heckman,2002; Heckman and Carneiro, 2003; Heckman and Masterov, 2004; Cameron and Taber, 2004; Esping-Andersen, 2004; Barnett and Belfield, 2006; Heckman, 2006a; Cunha et al.2006; and Heckman et al.2006. See also OECD, 2001, 2006). Some recent longitudinal studies also highlight that these programmes significantly reduce the risk of early pregnancy, criminal activity, violence, and drug use (see e.g. Kagitcibasi et al., 2001).

        Report

      • Sorry, “Intergenerational Tranmission of Disadvantage: Mobility or Immobility across Generations? A Review of the Evidence for OECD Countries” is in another thread, the pdfReport

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @michael-drew

        I’ll throw a thought out too (if it’s welcome).
        It’s a blog. I don’t think welcome or not has much to do with it. 😉

        I wouldn’t call this a “serious” attempt by any means; it’s just what comes to mind.
        No, it’s serious, in that it deals with the question seriously, not flippantly or just shuffling it off as an inconvenience one would prefer not to address. And you provide good food for thought.

        the vacation of social and financial capital from the urban core
        I totally read that wrong the first time, and thought “how often does capital take a vacation?”Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @creon-critic

        Head Start can also be seen as shorthand for an array of early childhood interventions
        I strongly disagree. Not all interventions are equal, and each should be judged on its own merits to the extent possible. Your framing sets up my criticism of HeadStart as a possible criticism of all early childhood interventions (I’m not saying you implied that of my criticism, just that the framing makes it easier for someone else to do so), and that’s certainly not my position in any way, shape, or form. I believe in supporting those interventions that work, not turning a blind eye to those that don’t because they’re part of an overall set of interventions that include some number of successful ones.

        First, the US, relative to OECD peers, has not mobilized vast resources to combat poverty.
        Well, how should we analyze this? How much we spend compared to OECD countries, or how much we spend relative to the number of poor in this country? By some measures, we spend enough to bring every person out of poverty. It’s unclear to me how that doesn’t constitute at least sufficient resources, if not exactly vast. (For the record, here’s a pretty even-handed account of that claim.)

        Please note that I’m not arguing against anti-poverty policy. I’m just questioning whether our current set of anti-poverty polices are proving effective.Report

      • Cool, thanks James. It’s one narrative, and not one I mean to be fully explanatory, to be clear. I don’t dismiss ideas about adverse unintended consequences from 1st-gen War on Poverty policies either, but I will say I’m skeptical that those effects were broad or strong enough to be the major factor that led to a wholesale stalling in the society-wide trend. The causes of that seem to me to have to be more structural than a policy shift like implementing AFDC or food stamps, etc.

        The other thing I’d say about those policies which I’ve always said is that, as they for the most part are explicitly designed not to move any but a certain sliver of precisely positioned people on the income scale out of official (after-aid) poverty, I’m not sure judging them on whether they’ve done so makes sense. AFAICT, the only perceptible policy aim of a policy like food stamps is to alleviate the pain of being poor, because it really doesn’t have the potential to actually make very many people not-poor who were poor before. Which, if a person wants to say that the pain of being poor is a big thing that had kept the poverty rate falling, is perhaps a real loss (and I know you’re looking to say that, but as we know, some do).

        But it makes sense to judge the War on Poverty as a whole by whether it’s been successful in fighting – i.e. lessening – poverty, since declaring a war on something pretty much implies you want to eliminate it, or at least roll it back. So I think your point about the term itself – as mis-chosen and largely misapplied, (though the WoP did have elements meant to fight poverty’s very existence, such as efforts like Volunteers In Service To America that were and are intended to fight some of the loss of social capital that I mentioned) is perhaps more well-taken than necessarily are some critiques of the policies under the banner that might accompany a critique of the name on the banner.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        The other thing I’d say about those policies which I’ve always said is that, as they for the most part are explicitly designed not to move any but a certain sliver of precisely positioned people on the income scale out of official (after-aid) poverty, I’m not sure judging them on whether they’ve done so makes sense. AFAICT, the only perceptible policy aim of a policy like food stamps is to alleviate the pain of being poor,

        I’d say it does make sense to judge them on that, if our avowed aim is to eliminate poverty, or at least reduce its incidence. To note that a particular policy isn’t contributing to that is fair game. Not that there’s anything wrong with alleviating the pain, or even having some pain-alleviation policies within our overall anti-poverty policy set, but if that’s all that our policies as a group are doing, then we’re not choosing strategies that will achieve our avowed goal.

        That fees into why I suspect that our anti-poverty programs are neither achieving our goal nor clearly inhibiting it. I think they’re not designed to achieve that goal, and whatever affect they may have toward that end (on the social level, not necessarily on the individual level) is swamped by one entirely different type of policy and one cultural change: the first is the war on drugs (as noted by Roger on the “sticky at both ends” post) and the other being single teen-motherhood.

        Put another way, I suspect we’re just targeting the symptoms of poverty, rather than targeting the causes.Report

      • As a narrow response, I’d say that, while noting that policy P designed to do X doesn’t do Y may be perfectly “fair game,” productive, and even appropriate, it isn’t necessarily “judging” the policy. I.e., my concern was with an argument of the form, “Specific first-gen WoP policies like welfare didn’t have the effect of reducing the incidence of poverty, therefore they are a failure [that’s the judgement] and should be abandoned [that’s a policy recommendation likely to follow from that judgement in many cases].” As you say, there was an array of policies enacted under the banner of “War on Poverty.” As a set, we can say that probably that set of policies has, as a set, failed to achieve the aim implied by that name (and I’m sure explicitly avowed by its proponents). But within that set, as you say, some of those policies might be aimed mainly at treating the symptoms of poverty. We can either think that’s legitimate under the WoP rubric or not, but either way those policies are more or less explicitly meant to do just that: alleviate the symptoms. So it seems to me we can judge the set by whether it achieves (all of) its aims (including reducing the incidence, as well as alleviating some of the symptoms, of poverty), but that it doesn’t make sense to judge the members of the set that were meant to achieve one of those aims for not doing the ones others (of which maybe there were not enough or the wrong ones) were meant to do).

        Which might be what you’re saying, I’m not sure. One other thing I’d say: if a set of policies that is independent of and subsequent in time to (War on Drugs) the set of policies we’re considering (the initial War on Poverty policies) is significantly responsible for setting bck progress on the latter set’s goals, I’m not sure it makes sense to judge the latter set by its failure to redress the harmful policies in the first set. It does make sense to critique those who continue to be committed to the aims of the former set for not trying or even not succeeding in achieving that redress though. I think it’s fair to say that there is a split among those committed to the aims of the War on Poverty on stances toward the War on Drugs. You have your Joe Bidens and you have your Bobby Rushes.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Mike,

        It’s not so much judging the policy on its own terms as judging it by the terms of the program of which it is a part. As noted, I don’t think there’s anything bad about alleviating pain. But our anti-poverty program is not just about alleviating pain.* Now if we showed that alleviating pain enabled people to take advantage of policies that actually did move them out of poverty, then we could say the pain-alleviation policy was successful in programmatic terms.

        So it’s not the pain-alleviation policies that are themselves the problem; it’s that the program seems primarily composed of them, effectively using them as end-goals instead of means toward a bigger goal.
        ______
        * Or at least that’s not the claim LBJ and his advisers proclaimed, maybe that’s what our program actually is now, instead of an anti-poverty program, and we just haven’t bothered to say so out loud. If so, then pain-alleviation policies are successful not just on their own terms, but in terms of the actual program goals.Report

      • I believe in supporting those interventions that work, not turning a blind eye to those that don’t because they’re part of an overall set of interventions that include some number of successful ones.

        Ok, but it is really difficult to tease out which interventions work better than others. I mean, try getting through an IRB a project that says for instance: give some needy children Head Start but not pre/post-natal nurse home visits, some children nurse home visits but not head start, some children both nurse home visits and head start, and some children neither to see how things turn out. We try to work with natural experiments as best we can, but social sciences involving humans makes making controlling the relevant variables and rating interventions accordingly particularly difficult. (All highly unlikely to be news to you, but I’d just highlight the point.)

        Well, how should we analyze this? How much we spend compared to OECD countries, or how much we spend relative to the number of poor in this country?

        Indeed there’re a number of ways to analyze this. I’d just point to the United States’ horrible child poverty figures when compared to peers and the United States’ low percent-GDP spending on social protection compared to peers as a fairly straightforward way to analyze the situation. Also, I’d have to dig around for the numbers, but I believe if we disaggregate the United States into individual states, child poverty figures are even worse than the already abysmal national figure in those states that less generously fund social interventions. To me, it is a clear story of you get what you pay for. Reluctance to properly finance anti-poverty interventions leads to more poverty. I think it is also clearly right that program design, the type of intervention, structuring programs to reinforce independence and so forth matter a great deal – but the US underfunding anti-poverty overall has predictable consequences for the well-being of the vulnerable.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @creon-critic –In regards to “underfunding,” you glossed over my question about that. Put another way, are we sure it makes sense to pay for programs, rather than to just provide income?

        @michael-drew
        It does make sense to critique those who continue to be committed to the aims of the former set for not trying or even not succeeding in achieving that redress
        Thank you.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        P.S.,
        That’s probably where I’ll have to quit for the day. Maybe the next several days.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        I think it makes sense to provide funding for programs in some cases because it makes sure that aid gets to children. Universal Pre-K means that all children get pre-K. Just giving money puts some children at risk if they have neglectful or uncaring or abusive or other-wise sub-optimal parents who don’t quite rise to the level of dsyfunction that would mandate intervention and removal. Same with food stamps.

        This is probably a bit to very paternalistic but it makes sure aid goes to help those who are not direct recipients.Report

      • James,

        Right. The program make-up was flawed, we now know. But the program elements that were meant to alleviate pain shouldn’t be judged by their failure to do things other than that. The program should be, though.

        And, yeah, I was going to suggest that about our poverty program now, at least as a de-facto matter. I wouldn’t say that we should go the direction of formally saying that’s how we should define our anti-poverty program. I guess I would say that we should acknowledge what our program is right now, look at pain-alleviation measures as having that aim (pain-alleviation) and evaluate them that way (and, recalling that pain-alleviation was among the aims of the initial program, not automatically see them as problematic because other aspects of the program were underemphasized or misconceived), and then look at what other kinds of policies should go into a revamped anti-poverty program.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        “Is it possible that thinking about poverty in a war frame has hindered our efforts, rather than aided them?”

        Yes. A war frame is essentially one of top down master planning and imposed order. Let us establish a huge administrative bureaucracy to address the issue. Some obvious problems:

        1) the time proven cure for poverty is economic liberalization with prudent safety nets. The safety nets do not necessarily require central governmental command, and the economic liberalization is more likely to be hampered by interference and meddling than helped beyond the basic rule of law. In other words, the war is a diversion from the true cure.

        We need freedom, equal opportunity and an absence of interference and privilege. Instead we get a state choosing winners and losers and picking favored groups and micromanaging every move with activist regulators. Rumor has it that it takes sixty days now to open a lemonade stand in NYC. The freedom to operate a taxi was lost so long ago we forget to even consider the possibility.

        2) creating a bureaucracy in charge of a nebulous, complex problem risks preventing it from being solved. The reason is that the bureaucracy and political agents depending upon the problem are actively harmed by eliminating the problem. This is especially pernicious when cause and effect are ambiguous. It is likely that over time the bureaucracy will evolve to feeding the problem not the solution. This does not even require bad intentions, though it doesn’t preclude them either.

        Today we have people arguing for Head Start even though it doesn’t even work. We have millions of people depending upon monopoly schools (despite better examples to the contrary in Nordic countries) which have effectively flipped the bird to poor students, almost guaranteeing they get mired in poverty. We have a war on drugs putting millions of poor males in prison and destroying any chance of a good life. We have a disability program which allows lifetime work avoidance.

        I know a fellow surfer in California who confided with me the benefits he gets to not work. They amount to over $45,000 a year. He then made the mistake and got a part time job and saw his income and benefits plummet. This is a conscientious guy. Bad institutions create dumb incentives and lead to perverse dynamics. I am sure all the politicians and administrators of these various programs see themselves as noble soldiers fighting the good war.

        Don’t get me wrong. I am all for effective safety nets. They do not all need to be central top down bureaucracies. The central command state framework is the wrong one to adopt, at least as a first resort.

        Creon’s link on mobility shows that inter generational class mobility is alive and well in the US compared to the past and other nations (for example see page 38). However, it also reveals that we have a huge problem with the lowest quintile being trapped in poverty. To some extent, the war on poverty framework set the trap and sprung it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        My point is that if a Headstart kid and a non-Headstart kid end up in the same shitty K-5 school, they’re going to have similarly shitty outcomes. The Headstart kid likely enters Kindergarten with an advantage over the non-Headstart kid, but this is mitigated by the subsequent years of shitty schooling.Report

      • Me: The other thing I’d say about those policies [cash welfare, food stamps, etc.] which I’ve always said is that, as they for the most part are explicitly designed not to move any but a certain sliver of precisely positioned people on the income scale out of official (after-aid) poverty, I’m not sure judging them on whether they’ve done so makes sense.

        James I’d say it does make sense to judge them [the policies] on that, if our avowed aim is to eliminate poverty, or at least reduce its incidence.

        Me, after much back and forth: It does make sense to critique those who continue to be committed to the aims of the former set [of policies] for not trying or even not succeeding in achieving that redress

        James: Thank you.

        Me: For helping you figure out what you were arguing but not for conceding anything you had been arguing? You bet.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        James & all,

        As an addendum to the discussion of the War on Poverty program in which I conceded the program’s flawed overall make-up, I waned to note that the program’s initiatives included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides aid to schools and school districts with high numbers of poor kids. That is probably one of the most significant pieces of federal legislation passed in the last century, after Social Security and Medicaid & Medicare (the latter two of which were also parts of the War on Poverty, I guess we’d say in the pain-alleviating portion thereof, though the effects of Medicare on people’s available incomes might be enough to have prevented a good deal of poverty, and that’s reflected in elder poverty numbers, which kept falling, albeit not as fast through the time when poverty in general stopped falling and indeed began to rise a bit at times). We can say that ESEA has been a failed policy at reducing poverty, though as my explanation for the trend we’ve seen suggests, we don’t really know what economic baseline we’re working on top of – the time in question has been the time of job loss in sectors that had kept people out of poverty theretofore. But with a legislative behemoth like ESEA as part of the program, I don’t think it can accurately be said that the War on Poverty anti-poverty program was basically just about pain-alleviation measures, or, if you accept the ongoing reality of Title I as still being pat of our anti-poverty program on the strength of having been introduced as such, that our current anti-poverty program is just about pain-alleviation measures, either.

        At this point I’d like to turn around James’ question about the effects (or lack thereof) of the War on Poverty to ask other questions it implies: if there was going to be a major national federal initiative to combat poverty launched in 1964, what should its basic aims and strategies have been and what should it specifically have consisted of? Was Johnson even right to conceive the notion that such an initiative (of any nature and make-up) was called for in 1964, even if he was wrong about how to conceptualize and realize it and what to call it, or was it simply not necessary and not justified? If such an effort ( a major national, federally-led initiative to combat poverty) had not been advanced in 1964 nor at any time since, would one be called for today? What should it consist of? And last, given that the program that was conceived of and implemented was conceived of and implemented, has had the effects and produced the responses it has, and we are where we are today, does there remain a need for a major national effort to combat poverty to be maintained? How should it be conceived and what should it consist of, including: what parts of the legacy of the one that was implemented should be retained & how should they be reformed if at all? What parts should be abandoned? What should be added anew?

        Anyone is welcome to answer this, though I of course hope in particular that James would do so. I feel like we have some sense of what Roger’s response would be if he were to respond since he’s laid out his basic policy program again here in this thread as he does on nearly every thread he participates in in nearly identical terms, but if he wants to add his thoughts, he’s welcome too. As always I’d be interested in hearing more specifics and less general concepts and principles from Roger if he chooses to add to what he’s already said.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        My post was comprehensive enough and apparently gets extra credit for consistency. The proper paradigm is crucial. If you try to fix a circuit board with a sledgehammer, you probably need to consider you are going to make the problem worse.

        The central command state metaphor was all the rage in the middle of the last century. I guess some folks never learned the limitations of this particular sledgehammer.Report

      • Like I said, your comment gave us a good idea what you think in quite general terms, as your comments always do.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @michael-drew
        Me: For helping you figure out what you were arguing but not for conceding anything you had been arguing?

        No.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        For what then? That’s not what you’d been saying.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        …I mean, it might have been something you were saying, but it wasn’t something I was disputing. It was you who were disputing whether we should judge programs like AFDC and food stamps by whether they reduced the incidence of poverty, something you fairly quickly stopped doing, switching to saying we should judge the success of the War on Poverty (and poverty policy generally so long as it aims to reduce the incidence of poverty) by whether it reduces the incidence of poverty. That was something I was always saying I agreed with. And had you put that in the specific way I did that you said thank-you to where I suggested that policymakers who are committed to the War on Poverty’s aims should address what things outside of by current policy are keeping poverty from falling more (such as the War on Drugs), I’d have agreed to that formulation all along a well. That just wasn’t material to the point we were (slightly) disputing.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        if there was going to be a major national federal initiative to combat poverty launched in 1964, what should its basic aims and strategies have been and what should it specifically have consisted of? Was Johnson even right to conceive the notion that such an initiative (of any nature and make-up) was called for in 1964, even if he was wrong about how to conceptualize and realize it and what to call it, or was it simply not necessary and not justified?

        Considering that poverty had been declining over time, with the exception of the Depression, I think it’s a fair question as to whether it was necessary or not. Almost no liberals here have yet seriously addressed the oddity that the reduction in the rate of decline of poverty coincides so closely with the introduction of the war on poverty. It’s not inane–although it might be incorrect–to suggest that the war on poverty was so badly misguided that it stopped the decline in poverty rates. I’m quite dismayed that despite liberals being biased toward reality they are so unwilling to seriously address that inconvenient truth and challenge their own assumptions about the utility of government social welfare programs.

        My own view tends towards thinking that the stalled decline rate was caused in part by social changes, particularly the increase in divorce and the increase in teen-motherhood, that are not particularly amenable to social policy changes (although some studies do suggest that more generous welfare is positively correlated with rates of teen motherhood), and with the war on drugs.

        So what should Johnson have done? Very little of what he actually did, I’d say, since there’s no evidence, after almost a half century, that those programs effectively reduce poverty. (I’m not sure their failure to reduce poverty rates is even an arguable point anymore.) Ensuring better quality for schools in impoverished areas is a good idea, but I’m not confident that simply increasing funding was the key, as opposed to making some fundamental changes in how we educate kids. Or he should have gone to a system of school choice–fund the kids instead of funding the schools. It works well at the college level, but for some reason there’s resistance to the idea that it might work at the K-12 level, too.

        Some policies (both state and federal level) may have distinctly harmed individuals’ ability to climb out of poverty. Public housing as we traditionally practiced it created ghettos that were hugely damaging to kids’ economic opportunities because it kept them from growing up in communities where large numbers of households where two-parent households* with dad** working were the norm.

        If LBJ was right to act, he should have acted by removing barriers and controls on poor people, especially minorities. Getting rid of most occupational licensing requirements–the great majority of which are purely cartelization policies–would have been a good start.*** Welfare programs should have been set up as direct cash subsidies for people to use as they defined their own needs. Instead of building shitty housing; instead of giving them a coupon that dictates how exactly many cartons of eggs and boxes of cereal (and what type) they can receive, just give them the money and let them decide how much they want to put toward housing, how much toward food, etc. etc. A negative income tax–an idea that did exist at the time–would have been far less administratively costly, and far more beneficial to the individuals we were trying to help.****

        In other words, give them the one thing they most needed and then get the hell out of their way, instead of placing more constraints on them with excessively conditional assistance.

        Roger keeps emphasizing the problem of top-down planning, and in my considered opinion, he’s right. Our welfare polices have been top-down planning from the beginning, based on the assumption that the best choices will be made by experts. But those experts can’t know what a person’s preference order is. We had a short-lived experiment with subsidized housing, where instead of designating some housing as suitable for subsidies we tried direct cash subsidies without constraints, on the theory that people would then use that to select better housing. The program was ended when it was discovered that the direct cash subsidies did not in fact lead to people choosing better housing, but to using the surplus for other needs, like better food and clothing. They weren’t using it “right,” so the program had to be eliminated, but who is more of an expert on whether your bigger need is a nicer apartment or more steaks for dinner, you or some admittedly very smart person in D.C?
        _______________________________
        * This is not an attack on single-parents. It is an attack on whole communities composed primarily of single-parent households.
        ** Keeping in mind that the most stubborn poverty is among males, the lack of job-holding role models in young male children’s lives seems likely to be a contributing factor.
        *** Getting rid of occupational licensing requirements does not mean a free for all. The laws against fraud would still apply. Those with demonstrable qualifications could advertise them and be able to charge more for the assumption of quality; those without could still operate but could not claim to have qualifications they did not have. It’s silly, at best, that car mechanics don’t have to be licensed, but hair stylists often do. Even lawyers do not really need to be licensed–Arizona is the lone (I believe) state without an unauthorized practice of law statute, and their non-law school grads do practice law, but their lack of credentials means they generally stick to the low level stuff that a trained monkey could do (shuttling someone through misdemeanors, etc.), and they generally refer clients with bigger problems to trained lawyers–because god knows they don’t want to be sued for giving bad legal advice. If you think that’s crazy, keep in mind that the guy who works on the brakes of your car isn’t required to be licensed.
        **** I am boggled that liberals aren’t overwhelmingly in favor of a negative income tax. I think the problem is that the NIT doesn’t actually allow us to show how we’re “helping” people. We can’t boast that we’re ensuring the kids get good nutrition; can’t boast about providing housing. Or money is just a dirty word. Or there’s a general disdain for the poor that assumes they’ll make the wrong choices if we don’t make those choices for them . That’s definitely strong among conservatives, but in my experience it’s more prevalent among liberals than we might expect–liberal condescension toward the poor combines with conservative disdain for the poor to prevent our policies from treating the poor as fully human, with their own decision-making capacities.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        For what then? That’s not what you’d been saying.

        I’m pretty sure I was. The two critiques are not only not mutually exclusive, they’re pretty close to logically inseparable.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        James,
        I’d be all for a Negative Income Tax…
        (though I do think we ought to put SOME constraints on quality of housing.
        whole cities burning down is not my idea of “let people do what they like”).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        As I say, you may have been saying it or implying it, but it’s not at all what was at issue in our semi-dispute. The idea that WoP-aims supporters should audit overall anti-poverty efforts (and the broad WoP policy set) for success & failure, areas of inattention, new evidence, etc., I conceded absolutely at the outset, in the very same comment in which you chose to take issue with my saying that programs AFDC and food stamps in particular should be judged by their aims, which were the alleviation of the suffering from existing poverty. You could have just agreed with my explicit, voluntarily offered agreement that the broad policy set “War on Poverty” should be judged as to its aims. That you chose to contest the other thing that I said means that’s what was at issue. My later again agreeing that people still concerned with the broad aims of the WoP should be critiqued for not giving all relevant issues their due attention in assessments of the overall anti-poverty policy suite under the assumption it still has the WoP’s broad aims isn’t in any way a new concession that was on-point to the one you chose to contest. It’s the same thing I openly agreed to from the start.

        So the specific statement you quoted and said thank you to didn’t concede the thing we had been contesting. It reiterated a point of agreement that was on the table from the start. It was not, again, on the point you contested.

        And thank you very much for your thoughtful replies to my questions. I’m going to read them carefully and see if I have any reactions worth sharing.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        (though I do think we ought to put SOME constraints on quality of housing.
        whole cities burning down is not my idea of “let people do what they like”).

        Less flammable housing is dealt with through regulation of supply, not regulation of demand. I’m only talking about deregulating the demand side, not eliminating basic safety regs on household wiring, etc., on the supply end.

        There’s a common assumption that “deregulation” means eliminating all safety regulations. It can mean that, in the mouths of extremists. But because safety flaws are often associated with both incomplete information and negative externalities, they are often legitimately definable as market failures, and thus appropriate for regulation. Nothing I’ve said, ever, contradicts that.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Will someone burn down Houston? Please?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        it’s not at all what was at issue in our semi-dispute.

        From my perspective, it very much was at issue, because the two are, as I said, nearly inextricably connected. I thought you’d caught on, and that was why I thanked you.

        What are we gaining from going round and round on this? What are you looking for from me?Report

      • Ideally, an acknowledgement that it can at one and the same time, and does, make sense to judge the success of the War on Poverty on the one hand by whether it reduced poverty levels, and to judge the success of AFDC and food stamps in particular, on the other, only by whether they were effective in alleviating the suffering that people experienced due to poverty – or else a denial that the aim of those particular policies within the War on Poverty was to alleviate suffering caused by poverty, while the policy-reduction aim of the War on Poverty was meant to be achieved with measures like the ESEA and the Economic Opportunity Act (something that we can legitimately differ on I think).

        But actually, really just an acknowledgement that in the sentence you quoted and said thank you too I didn’t concede that this isn’t the case.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Both of your assumptions, about what you think I didn’t concede and about what you think I think you conceded, are incorrect. What you want has been there all along.Report

    • Avatar Notme in reply to NewDealer says:

      “I don’t want more situations where the cops feel free to shoot first and ask questions later. Police should be trained first in deescalation.”

      Why are you assuming that the cops shot first without telling the kid to put down the pellet gun that looked like an ak-47? If you have other details then please share them.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Notme says:

        Because it was less than 10 seconds from the time the police called in to report being on-site to them calling back & saying shots fired. Because 2 witnesses say they saw the police pull up, duck behind their doors, tell the kid to drop the gun while his back was to them, then opened fire before he had a chance to do so.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

      @jm3z-aitch

      Yeah that was a rant.

      Now for the more straight version. I was probably using Headstart as a stand in for all sorts of anti-poverty and childhood development policies.

      I recall an episode of Planet Money on NPR where they talked about universal-Pre K. There were studies done that showed that pre-school even just a little but can seriously increase chances of graduating from high school and lower the likelihood of going to jail. This would seem to me to be an unqualified good.

      Certainly we could spend more money on education and have universal pre-K over our super-expensive military budgets? We almost had universal pre-school in the 1970s but the Christian Right quashed it because they thought it would destroy the idea that mothers belong at home.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

        @newdealer

        It might seem weird for me, a preschool teacher and advocate of universal preschool, is going to push back against this, but I must. Given that preschool is not universal and, therefore, most children who are enrolled in it are there because their parents made a conscious decision and effort to do so, my hunch is that any difference in outcomes is attributable to that, and not necessarily to the preschool itself.

        Let me make it clear: I am a strong proponent of universal, quality preschool. But the idea that one year of schooling at age 3 or 4 will serve as a panacea to a seriously flawed educational system is a red herring. Preschool can only do so much if the kids then enter shitty K-12 schooling.

        Universal preschool is part — perhaps a major part — of serious education reform, but it cannot be the reform in and of itself.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

        But the idea that one year of schooling at age 3 or 4 will serve as a panacea to a seriously flawed educational system or seriously flawed parenting is a red herring.

        Hope that addition is ok by you.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

        ND,

        I realized later that my calling it a rant may have come across as harsh, when it was really meant tongue-in-cheek. I hope I didn’t offend, and if I did please accept my apologies.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Yes and no.

        On the one hand, when I talk about our “education system”, I very broadly mean the way in which we, collectively, prepare our young people for the world. This includes schooling, parenting, and a whole host of other things. So, I wouldn’t object to that addition and would, in fact, likely include it in there.

        On the other hand, if we are speaking strictly about the schooling system, the reality is that there are things that are out of our control. Chief among them is parenting. Sure, we can attempt to work with parents to improve their efforts, but there isn’t really much we can force them to do. An idea schooling system is one that can account for the varying circumstances the students come from.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    At least a fraction of the law enforcement questions Vikram asks are traditionally answered by raising the issues of risk, cost, and probability of success.

    Sending a cop, alone and dressed in civilian clothing, even with backup nearby and surreptitious monitoring equipment deployed, is a risky endeavor in terms of that cop’s safety. That’s not to say that such things never happen, but it’s not something that I think most cops want to be involved in as a routine endeavor precisely because so many things can go wrong.

    The equipment and the labor involved in such an operation is pricey, obviously. It’s not something that most law enforcement organizations can be doing as a routine matter. There’s also the opportunity cost of those same resources not being allocated to detecting or preventing other crimes, or the opportunity cost of detecting and preventing the sexual assault in question through other means.

    And of course, there’s the issue of whether it’s going to work or not. If an attractive cop is tangled as bait for a targeted rapist, particularly if the identity of the suspect is not known, it’s simply fishing.

    If Innocent Guy thinks he’s doing well with Attractive Woman, and Undercover Cop thinks she may have Actual Rapist on the hook, the situation is ripe for danger and liability.

    The argument is that preventing sexual assault should be given a higher priority than it is, that it is worth allocating more resources and incurring more risk than is currently assigned to that goal. And this may well be true. Perhaps it seems crass to say that we can’t aggressively go after your rapist because we also have to go after this other person’s burglar or this business’ embezzler — or when public resources other than law enforcement are considered, because we have to educate this other person’s child and we have all these potholes to patch. Public policy decisions are inherently about such budgetary considerations.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Act as if everything were entirely your fault.

    Christ, you mean I have take responsibility for this really bad moral philosophy too?

    OK. It’s my fault.Report

  6. Two sentences that are most troubling, troubling to the extent that I’m not sure you can even mean them as I’ve understood them.

    You need to learn to bear ultimate responsibility for what happens to your kids, and your kids need to bear that same ultimate responsibility too no matter how young.

    No matter how young? And what about when a parent or the parents are the perpetrators?

    Further, how is it “practical” to fault oneself for exogenous shocks like leukemia or acts of God?

    If you care about what actually happens to people rather than who gets blamed for it, the only part of the system that it makes sense to blame is the part that you control: you.

    The divorce of blame from culpability. Because I have agency, personal autonomy, does not make me blameworthy for everything that happens to me. It is a really distinct examination of agency and blame that leads to this linkage. And I can see precisely why the accusations of victim-blaming crop up as a result. I mean, how must it feel to be that teenager about whom you write “If a 13-year-old girl is a candidate for sneaking out their bedroom window to hang out with men, she ought to know the possibilities.”? Or how must it feel to be that victim of sexual assault involving alcohol that Yoffe writes about? That’s not reducible to “P(rape | reading the article) < P(rape | not reading the article)”. Victim-blaming is not prophylaxis.Report

    • You need to learn to bear ultimate responsibility for what happens to your kids, and your kids need to bear that same ultimate responsibility too no matter how young.

      No matter how young? And what about when a parent or the parents are the perpetrators?

      You can certainly make good and even great arguments for all sorts of exceptions why people ought not be held responsible. I just don’t want that done in advance because they give excuses for inaction. “It’s always your fault” is meant to be a bit of an exaggeration, but once you amend it with a dozen “unless” clauses that you want to tack on, you’ll find yourself back to where you started: having done what you could but it not being enough.

      Because I have agency, personal autonomy, does not make me blameworthy for everything that happens to me.

      Well, no one else should blame you. You are not blameworthy in a global sense. They should be blaming themselves. If you are doing a fault analysis with a view towards doing better next time, you *should* actually look at what you can do.

      Put differently: the only person who it makes sense for *you* to blame is yourself. That doesn’t mean that anyone else should blame you though.Report

      • Avatar Fnord in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Sometimes, having done what could and what was reasonable and what was efficient and then STOPPING is the best thing you can do. Even knowing that some bad things could still happen. Knowing to make that decision is part of utilitarianism, too.

        And, as some of the Wars we do have demonstrate, failure to make that decision is a common policy failure, too.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Creon Critic says:

      Just think of it as putting yourself on the worlds biggest guilt trip.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I disagree, any reasonable moral philosophy has to take into account that stuff happens. A person can take responsibility for every aspect of their life and do everything right and still fail for reasons outside of their control. People should not have to feel guilty for things that they could not have prevented.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I probably shouldn’t have offered this as a “moral philosophy”, and I admit that I did do that. Really, it is a way I would suggest for viewing things that happen. It doesn’t really have a defense as a “philosophy” other than helping you try to think of all the things you could be doing to make things better.Report

  8. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I think the idea behind how we talk about rape is that if/when as a society we assign blame for rape solely and universally to the rapist, this will discourage rape. If “evil guy hiding in the bushes” is what comes to mind when you think of rape, this won’t make any sense – but the stats I’ve heard show most rape being committed by people who the victim knows. I would not be surprised if a substantial amount of rape is committed by guys who don’t think it’s rape (i.e. drugging a girl and taking her hope, or getting her incredibly drunk so that she’ll have sex with you, or having sex with her when she’s passed-out drunk). We can decrease that by assigning more moral responsibility to guys and focusing on the message that yes, those things ARE rape, and there’s no excuse for either doing them or keeping quiet when a friend/acquaintance does them.

    Short of expanding the security state into every bar and house party, we aren’t going to be able to stop those actions with heavier policing (though we could do a lot better with prosecuting them – I’ve read examples on The Atlantic of some truly awful cases of judges letting rapist go because, basically, they thought the victim was asking for it).

    When people condemn columns’ like Yoffe’s, it’s not because they care more about assigning blame than about preventing rape. It’s because they believe that the way in which we assign blame has a direct effect on the frequency of rape, and that columns like Yoffe’s are counterproductive to the goal of reducing rape by muddying the waters on the nature of rape and the moral culpability of rapists.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to KatherineMW says:

      IIRC, a relatively small number of people are to blame for the vast bulk of “jump out of the bushes, break into your bedroom” stranger rape. They tend to be serial rapists, who rape dozens or more before they are caught. Those are what people think of when they think of “rape”. Strange man forcing himself on a woman.

      You have to be seriously, seriously, SERIOUSLY screwed in the head to do that. Borderline sociopathic, because there’s no moral wiggle room. No way to convince yourself it’s anything but forced sex — and that, as is famously said, is general about power and control and not sex.

      However, many — most, I think, but I don’t recall those stats — aren’t stranger rapes. There is no lurking in the bushes. They’re boyfriends, spouses, dates, uncles, acquaintances, people the victim knows. Trusts to one extent or other.

      And many of those rapists? They don’t think it’s rape. Because they don’t have a knife, they don’t have a gun, they didn’t break into a house. They just served heavy screwdrivers all night, or “argued” or “convinced” (generally by being right in her personal space, forcing kissing and gropings, and terrifying the woman, not that they see it). To them, the girl was playing ‘hard to get’, was being a tease — she wanted it, she just didn’t want to admit it.

      It’s rarely violent — not fists and weapons violent, just words, body language, implication and the feeling of fear — but it’s still forced. Saying “yes” because you’re afraid “no” WILL lead to fists and violence is still rape.

      But to the men doing it, they don’t see what they’re doing. They excuse it. They’d be shocked and DEEPLY insulted if you called it that. They’re not rapists. They didn’t do anything wrong.

      And it’s people like that that victim blaming lets off the hook. “She shouldn’t have been drinking if she wasn’t wanting sex. She shouldn’t have dressed like that. She was asking for it. She was playing hard to get”. And they’re the people who, if they get accused later, always say “She just regretted it in the morning. Another false rape claim! Aren’t women bitches.”Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to KatherineMW says:

      When people condemn columns’ like Yoffe’s, it’s not because they care more about assigning blame than about preventing rape. It’s because they believe that the way in which we assign blame has a direct effect on the frequency of rape, and that columns like Yoffe’s are counterproductive to the goal of reducing rape by muddying the waters on the nature of rape and the moral culpability of rapists.

      For myself, I have a really hard time believing that the marginal effect toward moving the blame from rapists to victims of columns like Yoffe’s and other efforts to give good information about ways to be less likely to be raped (and which don’t blame the victim) will have a greater effect in increasing the number of rapes (or preventing a decrease) than will the dissemination of the information itself decrease the number of rapes, to the point where I have a hard time believing other people really think that. Therefore, I have a certain reluctance to believe the reaction to Yoffe was really about such a consequentialist calculation about what will really lead to fewer rapes, and the tenor of the response to me suggested the concern really was over whether this is a just way to direct one’s words when the issue of culpability for rape could arguably said to be implicated (though of course Yoffe would deny that her words implicated culpability; here I tend to side with those who think that at some level they do, though not to the point of assigning blame to the victim). But I do endorse the strictly consequentialist (calculated by effect on the number of rapes) approach to figuring out whether it’s right to write columns like Yoffe’s. I don’t know how it could ever be determined, but if it tuned out that you’re right, Katherine, and a column like Yoffe’s leads to more rapes not less, then in retrospect I believe she should have said something else. But I don’t blame Yoffe for not agreeing ex-ante that that’s the likelihood.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        …And btw: it’s not an easy choice IMO. The argument that in even the remotest way suggesting any blame could potentially lie with the victim or, especially, that putting any onus on potential victims to change their behavior to avoid victimization by predators is tantamount to accommodating predators (or just rapists) and thus to taking some blame off them, is a powerful argument. Women shouldn’t have to act differently than they like to in order to avoid sexual predation. But that argument is not an argument that says that whatever discussion and action leads to the fewest rapes is the kind of discussion that should take place. The two could in practice run more consistently or less consistently with each other in the event. There are no guarantees one way or the other; it depends entirely on the facts of how people respond to the different courses of discussion. But they each very clearly operate on their own distinct logics.Report

    • columns like Yoffe’s are counterproductive to the goal of reducing rape by muddying the waters

      @katherinemw, That occurred to me as a possibility too. It’s the reason I stopped short of saying that her column was good and instead only provided the rule by which I think it ought to be judged.

      The whole “rape culture” thing is another area in which third parties ought to consider what they can do to make it less likely for bad things to happen.Report

  9. Avatar Kazzy says:

    @vikram-bath

    What if in attempting to prevent one harm, the likelihood of another, but perhaps later or more distant, harm rises? What then?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

      Then you’ve answered your own question.

      I would note, however, that distant effects tend to be more speculative than proximate effects. And in this case even the proximate effects are not necessarily all that clear.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I don’t know that I have. Or, rather, if I have, then your advice here tells me I should change very little about what I do.

        As a general rule, I seek to take steps to achieve the best possible outcome as I’ve defined it. I might misidentify the steps to take, but correct whenever possible.

        What should I be doing differently?Report

      • Your general rule sounds good to me.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @vikram-bath

        During a recent discussion on Mike’s post about education, I bemoaned how rarely people seem to be truly goal oriented. I am astounded by how many people take action or seek advice without actually identifying what they are ultimately trying to accomplish.

        “Should I do more cardio or more weight work?”
        “Well, what are your goals?”
        “I want to get in shape.”
        “Well, yea, but ‘get in shape’ can mean any of a variety of things. What, specifically, are you trying to accomplish?”
        “I don’t know!”

        “Should I invest in stocks or bonds?”
        “Well, what are your goals?”
        “To plan for retirement.”
        “Okay, but what is your plan?”
        “To one day retire!”

        Oi. This makes zero sense to me. I do my best to identify goals, be they long-term, short-term, or medium-term, and take steps in service of them. I don’t bat 1.000 (who does?) and sometimes one set of goals conflict with another, at which point I have to make a tough call and/or try to thread that needle. But I try to make my actions deliberate and purposeful.

        If you have any insight into how people more broadly tend to act… whether the people who make me roll my eyes are the exception or whether I am… with regards to this, I’d love to see your thoughts on this.Report

      • @kazzy,
        The phenomenon you describe is well-known to me. Personally, anyway. I don’t know of any research on it. (Perhaps that’s an opportunity for some researchers in the future.)

        When you are confused by something in reality, that’s an indication that your mental model for how things work is incorrect. It’s your job to fix your mental model because reality can’t be wrong, but you can be wrong about reality.

        The first step is to make your mental model explicit. I suggest that your model is:
        1. Individual has a clear, precise goal.
        2. Individual seeks advice on how to achieve goal.

        Obviously, you are wrong about this, and it seems like the mistake is in “clear” and “precise”. It sounds like it might be a good model for *you*, but not for others. And that makes some sense if we do some speculation on what things might have been like in the ancestral environment…

        Gurg: “Gurg hungry. Kazzy take Gurg to food. Gurg kill food. Eat food. Gurg happy.”
        Kazzy: “Well, what would you like to eat? What priorities dictate your dietary choices and how do you weight them?”
        Gurg: [Kills Kazzy. Eats Kazzy. Is happy.]

        I submit that a better model might be that the people you are talking about are agitated. For whatever reason, they have been nagged by society, their parents, their spouses, or Maxim into Doing Something or at least asking about Doing Something. What they really seek is for the agitation to go away. They never cared about getting in shape for itself. If they did, they’d just do some push-ups, not ask questions. Similarly, if they wanted to work on their finances, they’d discipline themselves to save money, not ask whether they should invest the money they don’t actually have yet in bonds or stocks. They want to release the agitation so that they could go back to doing whatever they were doing before without actually having to change anything about themselves.

        At least, that’s *my* mental model of people. I bet it’s not perfect and wrong for many people. But I bet it predicts human behavior better than yours. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @vikram-bath

        My model clearly does NOT predict human behavior, since I so often look at people and think, “WHY ARE YOU ALL SO CRAZY?!?!”

        Related, I’m considering a post in which I explain why I always think I’m right. It is not because I actually believe that I am objectively correct 100% of the time. But, rather, it is because I strive to take purposeful action and therefore am constantly asking myself, “Is this the best way this can be done?” If the answer is “Yes”, I proceed. If the answer is “No”, I reconsider. Now, “best” can be defined a number of ways, so we get back to goals. I understand that the way I fold laundry is subideal on a number of levels. But for my purposes, which is neat and orderly drawers, it is ideal. So, for me, I fold laundry right. And to hell with everyone else.

        So, back to always being right… my wife will sometimes say, “Why do you always think you’re right?” To which I respond, “Well, if I thought I was doing something wrong, I would stop doing it.”

        Now, it might turn out that I *am* wrong. And, upon learning that, I typically adjust.

        But shouldn’t we all go around thinking we are right? I wonder about the person who says, “I know this is wrong, but I’ll do it anyway.” More often than not, though, I just assume the person isn’t thinking and is simply doing.

        Which similarly boggles my mind.

        If you are wondering if I am Vulcan, the accusation has been made before.Report

      • There is an alternative. You could say, “I don’t know for sure that I am right. I am reasoning under uncertainty, but my current understanding of the world leads me to reason and act thusly.” You know you could be wrong, but you are doing what you believe to be right.Report

  10. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t know why people find this so hard to understand. All he’s saying is that blaming yourself for any bad thing that happens is the mindset that’s most conducive to you acting in ways that minimize the probability of bad things happening. He’s not saying that blaming yourself is correct—just that it’s effective.

    It’s like strict liability in law. The point is to give the liable entity a powerful incentive to guard against bad outcomes, even ones that aren’t 100% its fault.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      The title might be one reason.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It’s a good headline. It made me think, “What the hell is he talking about? I want to read it and find out.”Report

      • Most of Vikram’s titles are best read in that manner.

        (To be fair, we go back with him a lot longer than most people here.)Report

      • To expand on Will, almost all of my titles are written by trolls. I try to mostly be an adult when writing (though even then I am prone to exaggeration), but I am physically incapable of restricting myself when it comes to titles. On my “Is Poverty Real?” post, I asked other contributors for suggestions for another title, and some of them were good, but I still couldn’t help myself.

        I suppose the best way to fix it isn’t here in the comments but to instead to get over myself and pick real titles chosen for clarity rather than for provocation.

        Actually, I’d be interested in what you guys have to say. Do you generally think the titles get you interested or make things confusing? Is it more of one than the other?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Brandon: it can both be a good title and be the reason people are missing the point of the essay (I suppose). I agree that it’s good, or, okay at least.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Will: that latter thing seems kind of key to me.

        And I’m not saying that the fact that Vikram’s meaning isn’t clear in the piece and it’s on him that people are misunderstanding. It’s on the people. It just doesn’t make any sense to say you truly have no idea why people would think that the point of a piece entitled “It’s always your fault” is to say that if it can conceivably be said to be your fault, then it is.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Vikram,

        I like the approach generally. I think it’s maybe just a little too pat in this instance. I think “Act like it’s always your fault” would have been sufficiently intriguing to get the job done here; YM obviously V’d (which is fine; I wasn’t complaining, just addressing Brandon’s incredulity). I actually was more or less expecting you to argue that we simply absolve ourselves of actual fault (if not sole fault) way, way more often than we have any business doing. To me, there’s clearly a case to be made for that; contra the thrust of your piece, I don’t think it’s a very practical one, as people only have a carrying capacity for so much stress and guilt, and I think pressing that case would likely get people to care less about the actual fault they really should, as a practical and moral matter, pay most attention to.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @vikram-bath

        I assume your titles are being deliberately provocative, but do not find them confusing. However, they often seem the expression of a potential logical conclusion that your reasoning can arrive at, so I understand why people might be confused.

        To be more specific, someone could take what you’ve said here and conclude for themselves that it is always their (or your) fault. So, it is not without reason to think that you might be espousing this, with the title itself being exhibit A.

        I, personally, find that you usually right clearly enough to show this isn’t the case. But, I see why others might feel differently.

        My two cents.Report

      • Michael, Thanks! I’ll actually change it to that.

        @tod-kelly, could you vote as well?Report

      • What am I voting on?

        If it’s that Vikram should change his post title, I abstain. Up to him.

        On the bigger subject, I don’t actually have a problem with using clever or provocative titles on posts. I’m not a big fan of the, “I didn’t read what the author wrote, but based on the title of the book/article I really must disagree” argument.

        True story: Most men’s rights activists I spoke with this summer believe Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men book is an argument to get rid of the male half of the species. I don’t think it’s on Rosin’s that some guy couldn’t be bothered to evern read the dust jacket.Report

      • There was no way you could have known this, but my brain was asking you to vote on “Do you generally think the titles get you interested or make things confusing? Is it more of one than the other?”

        It’s more a general question on the type of titles I’ve used rather than on this post in particular. Will, Burt, and Brandon know me from many years ago, so they have probably been desensitized.

        “I didn’t read what the author wrote, but based on the title of the book/article I really must disagree”

        To the credit of the commenters, I don’t think anyone has done that for any of my posts here. The most I’ve gotten was “I agree with the post, but not with the title, which doesn’t seem to match.”

        “The End of Men” is *totally* the kind of title I would use. I’m a little surprised that the MRA folks hadn’t read any of the excerpts. They were published in a bunch of outlets. It’s actually one of those books I have no plans on reading because I feel I probably got everything that happens from the previews.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      And if it’s completely, 100% not your fault, then it doesn’t matter, because you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it anyway.Report

      • To be fair, I did not expand on the possibility of forgiving oneself. I did mention that the attitude can sometimes be psychologically unhealthy, but I felt for the post it was important to stick with the note of taking responsibility.

        Because it is way too easy for us to offer ourselves forgiveness. My assumption is that no one here would ever dream of asking me for permission to forgive themselves, so I don’t feel too bad about not offering it.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      I don’t know why people find this so hard to understand.

      What, the claim Act as if everything were entirely your fault.?

      I agree. It’s crystal clear. Not hard to understand at all.Report

      • These two things seem to me like these two can coexist:

        1. He’s not saying that blaming yourself is correct—just that it’s effective.

        2. the claim Act as if everything were entirely your fault.?

        I should note that when I write “Act as if everything were entirely your fault”, this is being written to all the individuals reading this including myself. You should not interpret it as me personally blaming you personally. It is rather asking that all of us individually and voluntarily bear the burden–at least before anything bad has actually happened.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        These two things seem to me like these two can coexist:

        So, it’s “effective” for me to blame myself for the MBS crisis and ensuing financial collapse? For Tiller killing abortion providers? For Clinton perjuring himself before Congress?

        Is it my fault that GOP held the government hostage?

        I don’t think it is, but apparently it’s effective for me to act as tho it was.

        Look, I don’t have a problem with you advocating personal responsibility. Who would? But when you say “act as if everything were entirely your fault”, I think you’ve got some looser boundaries than I’m comfortable with.

        And more to the point, I guess, I don’t think that sentence actually expresses what you mean to say.Report

      • If you meditate on an issue and are really unable to figure out what you can do or could have done, then it is OK to forgive yourself. If your personal guidelines, however, don’t *start* with blaming yourself, then you are likely to forgive yourself for far more than the financial crisis.

        As I mentioned, I don’t think we have a societal problem of taking too much responsibility. For that matter, who has taken responsibility for the financial crisis? Has anyone? No, they’ve all adopted the same line regardless of whether they had any influence or not. Those who you and I think responsible would find the idea that they are responsible as preposterous as you find the idea that you might be responsible.Report

      • Avatar Fnord in reply to Stillwater says:

        As you yourself seem to be getting at in the piece, the assignment of responsibility per se is pretty much a meaningless decision, compared with actual action. So asking whether this country has a problem with taking enough responsibility is asking the wrong question. The question is whether the country is has a problem with taking action versus leaving well enough alone.

        Has anyone taken action on the financial crisis? Well, yes. Enough action? The right action? That’s harder to say. But it’s not nothing.

        But that, of course, is hardly the only thing going on in the world. We’ve been “taking action” in the Wars on Terror and Drugs way more than we should be,I think just about everyone here agrees. The government, whether explicitly or not, is acting as if it’s “taking responsibility” for every poor fool who gets hooked on meth, and is quite determined to take action to prevent it, even if it means arresting granny for buying cough medicine.Report

      • @fnord ,
        I don’t really have much of a response other than to say that’s a really good critique. I find it pretty convincing.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    This is risk management 101, isn’t it?

    Yes, you should minimize risk.

    But it would really suck if kids I know, kids who otherwise would have been in all sorts of trouble, weren’t encouraged to ride their boards and skis off jumps and do flips in the air; some of them even won events in the xgames.

    Being drunk and having something bad happen go hand in hand. But that doesn’t mean that if you’re raped while you’re drunk, it’s your fault; it’s still the rapists fault. It means you’re guilty of increasing the probability of a bad thing happening; not that you made the bad thing happen. Get the difference?

    People who cross streets, take their kids in their cars, live in places where there are natural disasters, don’t have a fire extinguisher in their kitchens but don’t have bad things happen are also guilty of increasing the probabilities of a bad thing happening. If nothing goes wrong, we just don’t think about it as something to be guilty about most of the time.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to zic says:

      >xgames

      Yes, a valid point. To be honest, I’m not really so much about coddling as this post perhaps implies.

      But that doesn’t mean that if you’re raped while you’re drunk, it’s your fault; it’s still the rapists fault. It means you’re guilty of increasing the probability of a bad thing happening; not that you made the bad thing happen. Get the difference?

      Well, I wouldn’t say *either* of those to anyone who had actually been raped. “You did something to increase the probability” is actually an awful thing to say after something has already happened. This is purely about how someone ought to act before anything has gone wrong. As I mentioned, the accounting for blame after things have gone wrong is clear but to be avoided if possible.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        The accounting, after, includes, I hope, learning from our mistakes.

        I do find I learn more from getting things wrong; and sometimes, the bigger the mistake, the more the wealth of learning. If you survive the mistake.Report

      • True. We do want to learn from our mistakes. But I would still frame things in a future oriented way. I’d say, “From now on, we’re going to do X, Y, and Z” every time this might happen again, where X and Z might not have been applicable in the situation, but Y might have been.

        My wife once got some harassing phone calls at the university and took a community self-defense class. In that sequence, it was a precautionary measure, but if it she had been attacked instead of getting crank called, it wouldn’t. And then there would be the natural questions of why she didn’t do it earlier and whether she might have avoided it or fared better if she had taken the class before.

        Those are uncomfortable questions, but also unavoidable. I know my wife well enough to know that even if I never mentioned anything she could have done, she would have been thinking of what she could have done.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

      “But it would really suck if kids I know, kids who otherwise would have been in all sorts of trouble, weren’t encouraged to ride their boards and skis off jumps and do flips in the air; some of them even won events in the xgames. ”

      Vikram isn’t saying they can’t do those things.

      He is saying that when they do those things and they duff a landing and break their arm, they don’t immediately start wondering whose fault it was, whether someone did something, what happened that someone did that made them get hurt. Their first thought should be “damn, I screwed up”.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    Fourth things:

    First, the internet loses its mind over everything, these days. In fact, we’ve built an internet culture within which losing one’s mind seems to be the thing to do. It’s endlessly annoying.

    However, second, since victims of rape are so often blamed for their own rape, in society and in court, people are very sensitive about anything that looks like victim-blaming in cases of rape. This is a good thing in the same way that looking out for yourself is a good thing.

    Third, I can’t imagine there are many girls who don’t know, by a certain age, that they have to be careful, because they are surrounded by predators. That they don’t always act perfectly carefully is yet another example of humans being imperfect. Advice that girls or women should be careful in the face of a girl or woman not being perfectly careful smacks of concern trolling.

    Fourth, I saw a wonderful parody last week (I don’t remember where) of the “girls who drink risk being raped” essay that is inevitable anytime a case of a girl or woman who was drinking is raped, in which the author argued “boys who drink risk raping someone.” You are responsible for yourself, right? I wish that essay would come out every time too, or maybe instead.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

      since victims of rape are so often blamed for their own rape, in society and in court, people are very sensitive about anything that looks like victim-blaming

      Yep, good point. I tried to acknowledge that in the Addendum. There is an open question as to whether it is sufficient for me to say I have no intention of blaming the victim. I actually don’t and generally find the examples of it reprehensible. Does that make the subject so poisoned that someone can’t write an article about rape prevention in the women’s section of Slate? I don’t really have an answer to that question other than to note that it’d be really sad if the answer were “yes”.

      I can’t imagine there are many girls who don’t know, by a certain age, that they have to be careful
      I linked to the xojane article specifically because I though that might be an instance in which the girl didn’t realize the risks that she was taking. She might have been vaguely aware that that was a thing that could happen to people, but it probably never occurred to her that it might happen to her. It’s the same reason no teenagers think they will ever get in a fatal car accident even knowing at an intellectual level that they are at the highest risk for it.

      “boys who drink risk raping someone.”

      This is not that, but is worth mentioning as an excellent message to deliver to boys: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/magda-pecsenye/steubenville-rape-mother-letter_b_2902943.html

      For what it’s worth, I also do think the advice should apply to men even if was meant as parody. Everyone doing everything they can is a basic tenant of everyone bearing ultimate responsibility for what happens.Report

  13. As a parent, some large fraction of you feels tremendous responsibility for anything that happens to your kid even if it isn’t your legal fault. Even if no reasonable person or unreasonable person could have predicted it. Even if there was no way you could have prevented it. Even if it’s leukemia.

    As a parent, you perceive everything as your fault. This perception isn’t legally accurate or even psychologically healthy, but it is practical view to hold.

    Well, no. Not really.

    To whatever extent the behavior of the victim of Catastrophe X can play a part in bringing about said catastrophe, then perhaps there is some practical value. But believing that even totally unpreventable illnesses like leukemia are somehow a parent’s fault leads to a host of incredibly impractical results.

    It results in parents giving their children wholly worthless supplements. It results in parents demanding entirely unnecessary, wasteful tests for diseases they don’t have. It results in consultations with specialists that increase everyone’s healthcare costs and wastes everyone’s time, including the parents and children who could be using that time far more practically going to work and school.

    I also think the OP overstates to a great degree the control that parents have over their children’s behavior, and how practical it really is to expect that ever-more-vigilant parenting can effectively mitigate the risks of their children’s risk-taking.

    Do parents feel that everything is their fault? To some extent, yes. But are behaviors that arise from this feeling genuinely practical? Not really, and certainly not in all cases.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      This gets at my point about goals. If your goal is to “raise a healthy child”, well, that is so vague as to be useless. If your goal is to raise a “cancer-free child”, there are probably some steps you can take to mitigate (though not eliminate) your child’s risk of developing cancer, but they do not come without costs. These costs may be harmful. However, if you judge cancer-avoidance to be of the utmost importance… well… I guess that is that.

      My goal would be other. I would not seek a skinned-knee-free childhood because I value too strongly the types of experience that are likely to result in a skinned knee. So I would see “avoiding skinned knees” as being actively harmful to my child.

      So, if we read Vikram as saying that parents ought to work to avoid anything bad ever happening to their child… well, that is impractical. If we read Vikram as saying that parents ought to act in a way that increases the likelihood of students achieving their goals for their children, I’m much more amenable to his advice. Of course, we just need people to choose the *right* goals. I’m happy to tell them which those are. 😀Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think I now understand what you mean about long-term risks above.

        Yes, there are certainly instances in which overprotecting your kids now can lead them to be impaired later. In fact, I think that’s probably a good way to distinguish between “overprotecting” and protecting.

        My only defense is to point to that utilitarian star. Do whichever is better. If something’s not better, then don’t do it.Report

    • @russell-saunders ,

      Giving a child worthless supplements and testing them for diseases they don’t have would be exactly the behavior that would be dismissed out of hand by a parent bearing ultimate responsibility (assuming they know them to be worthless, and if not, then that is a knowledge problem, not a responsibility problem).

      control that parents have over their children’s behavior

      This needs to be an input into the parent’s decision-making process. Note that the OP suggests giving information to the kids. This might not control their behavior, but it might influence their thinking.

      Do parents feel that everything is their fault? To some extent, yes. But are behaviors that arise from this feeling genuinely practical? Not really, and certainly not in all cases.

      I definitely *could* have written this post with the exceptions in there for leukemia and everything else that isn’t really your fault. As I mentioned to Stillwater though somewhere, the dozen exceptions would leave you with two much wiggle room to the point that you might excuse yourself for things you actually might have influence over if you took the five minutes to think out of the box.

      I trust that even if a parents’ moral philosophy were to always act as if everything were her fault, she would still be able to reach the conclusion that she couldn’t have prevented her child’s leukemia. She would, however, do everything she could within her power from that point on. And from having done the mental work of trying to figure out what she could do, she might do better.

      I don’t see how you can guarantee that result if you chop out a bunch of exceptions.

      I wrote this post without exceptions, but I think readers will add exceptions anyway. So, there was no need for me to write them in. The *text* of the post might be more technically accurate if I put them in, but the message communicated would be lost.

      It’s the same way how the Bible can say “Thou shalt not kill” but a devout Christian can still fight in wars. And trust me, no one here thinks I’m G-d!Report

  14. Avatar morat20 says:

    Ever heard Lonely Island’s song YOLO? YouTube link here

    This post reminds me of it.Report

  15. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    “If there were lots of people who said that someone got what he deserved when their car was stolen, then perhaps people who say people should lock their car doors would be accused of victim blaming.”

    And I have had people accuse me of exactly that, in response to the same suggestion, without a shred of irony.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      Car locks don’t deter serious thieves, anymore than sobriety (or a burkha for that matter) would deter a rapist.

      And the ‘every little bit counts’ defense towards a locked car (a single key motion that otherways does not affect your day) compared to, oh, changing the way you dress entirely, making vast swathes of the city off limits, giving up the ability to be alone with any male ever unless you plan to sleep with him, the ability to drink at all….

      The problem with victim blaming on rapists is that ‘being safe’ is basically “Live your life in fear and paranoia, and also don’t do vast swathes of things men do free of risk or worry. Like go to a bar, or invite a friend over for dinner”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to morat20 says:

        FWIW, the one time my car was broken in to, it was locked.

        They stole my GPS. And some change. But deliberately picked out the pennies and left those behind.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Or go pee in a public restroom.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to morat20 says:

        “Car locks don’t deter serious thieves, anymore than sobriety (or a burkha for that matter) would deter a rapist.”

        Rapists are as opportunistic as any other criminal, most car thieves are not ‘serious’, and most criminals are not even close to being criminal masterminds.

        Nobody’s saying, and Prudence is definitely not saying ‘wear a burkha’. She *is* saying ‘don’t be drunk in unfamiliar locations and away from friends’ which is good advice for women, men, or Navy sailors. (and in the rules now for the last set)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        Most rapists don’t think they’re rapists. They think the girl was playing hard to get. Most women aren’t raped by strangers, after all. They don’t think no means no, they don’t consider what they do rape.

        So the equivalent of locking your car would be, what, deciding to live life chaperoned? Hiring a, female I guess, bodyguard? Huddling in your house with a shotgun?

        Yeah, as a man — the problem is men. It ain’t short skirts or booze or whatnot — it’s guys who don’t grasp the concept of ‘consent’ and seriously don’t grasp how just being a few inches taller and a lot stronger can translate into fear and coercion.

        The guys who jump out of bushes or break into houses? They’re more like serial killers. Not many, but they do it a lot.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        I agree on the attire issue. Any difference that makes is miniscule. Drunkenness, though, is different. Being drunk makes one less able to physically resist. Some percentage of rape is opportunistic. So one would be safer by being sober because that will act as a deterrant to some rapists. And it will make it more likely that a woman can thwart or evade other rapists.

        A couple caveats, though. Just because it would be safer does not mean that it is an obvious tradeoff. That it is reasonable to expect women to remain sober at all times in order to avoid horrible crimes against her. Nor that we can be dismissive of a woman’s injury and trauma because she “chose to get drunk.”

        We put ourselves in harm’s way every time we get into a car. We don’t say “Well he chose to get into a car” when someone dies in a horrible automobile accident.

        The second caveat is that at least some of the gains are going to be zero sum. Suzie is the designated driver and doesn’t drink, so she becomes less of a target by Johnny. But Annabelle becomes more of a target because she, instead of Suzie, is the drunkest person in the room. So Suzie not drinking may be fortunate for Suzie, but not fortunate for Annabelle. Even if nobody drinks, there is a good chance that Johnny will not turn over a new leaf.

        Which all brings us back to the point that rape exists because of Johnny, not because of Annabelle or Suzie.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to morat20 says:

        No, the equivalent of locking your car doors is always go clubbing/partying with a person /people (men or women) that you trust. And if someone breaks that trust – just like if someone breaks your car window – hold them accountable to the full extent of the law.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to morat20 says:

        I think part of the difficulty with this conversation is our use of the word rape. Many women, rightly so, consider any and all non-consensual sexual contact as rape. And many men who might engage in behaviors that women consider rape see themselves as different than the violent rapist who jumps out of a bush and rapes a woman at knife point. And, perhaps, they are just as right in this consideration as the women.

        I have confessed that, in my younger years, I had inappropriate sexual interactions with women. All of the “We’re both drunk and seem to be having fun making out and touching body parts*” variety. To my knowledge, none of the women expressed regret or otherwise classified the interaction as rape, sexual assault, or anything of the like. However, my actions would probably qualify as rape. Yet, I still hesitate to classify my actions as “rape” or myself as a “rapist” because we tend to see those terms as indicative of such monstrous behavior by such a monstrous individual, which I like to think does not describe me.

        So, this is really, really tricky. How do we appropriately stigmatize rape behavior without stigmatizing it so much that men are unwilling to consider themselves guilty of it?

        I know I’m not a monster. But I do know I engaged in wrong behavior. Is it possible for us to see men who rape not as monsters but potentially as good people who have deeply and seriously erred? Or does that minimize rape?

        I dunno…

        * None of the interactions involved vaginal intercourse, for whatever that is worth.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Kazzy and morat20,
        I question your numbers.
        are 20% of men out there rapists?

        If we’re talking something more like 5%,
        then yes indeedy most of the guys who are
        rapists know exactly what the fuck they’re doing.

        I don’t know, I think Kazzy is right — there needs
        to be paths to reform. And people need at least
        the potential to be able to speak out about being
        better.

        a drug addict may well be shamed for what he
        has done, but we acknowledge that he can become
        clean.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Will,
        Reality check: by saying that being drunk makes a woman
        less able to resist, you’re saying that women ought to resist.
        I don’t think that’s an expectation we ought to put on women.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to morat20 says:

        Rape is just another form of violent crime with overtones of hatred. Hatred comes on a sliding scale, varying from disrespect to sociopathy of various sorts, out to its terminus in outright murderous rage.

        Is there any place for observing drinking or drugging blurs the decision-making process, that drunk people don’t make good decisions? I don’t accept the proposition that sobriety has no bearing on the problem. Every drunk gets drunk in his or her own particular way. People do crazy stuff when they’re drunk.

        We’ve evolved laws punishing drunk people who drive — but we can’t tell drunk people not to have sex. There’s as likely to do stupid things anywhere they are, on the barstool, in their cars, in their beds — it’s all the same problem to me. We’ve all seen that stupid t-shirt, “Beer: helping ugly people get laid for 5,000 years.”

        Drunk sex is usually not as good as sober sex, anyway. Macbeth:

        Port. Faith, sir, we were carousing till the second cock; and drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.

        Macd. What three things does drink especially provoke?

        Port. Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery; it makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

        Stupid people do stupid things. Not all of them are criminal in nature but all of them have consequences. Makes him and mars him, especially if the nature of stupidity runs to its usual conclusion.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        Kim, not really. What I am saying is that there are more rapists who would prefer targets that are less likely to or able to resist than there are rapists that would prefer targets that are more likely or able to resist.

        My comment should not be construed to say that women bear a moral responsibility to avoid being raped. There are things they can do to make it less likely, but as I mention in the comment itself, just because there are things that can be done does not actually place a burden on women to actually do them. They aren’t the bad actors here, pretty much no matter what they do or don’t do.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        Kazzy, have you read Scott Turow’s “Limitations”? It’s a rather short novel about a judge overseeing a rape case with some ambiguous legal ramifications (whether or not the statute of limitations on the crime has passed, hence the title) and trying to wade through the issue. An interesting thing is the judge (a very sympathetic character, having appeared in more than one of Turow’s novels) is his dealing with the fact that when he was young he engaged in behavior that would, today, certainly be considered rape.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to morat20 says:

        Kim,

        I offered no numbers.

        I’m sure that is inconsequential to you.
        @will-truman

        I’ll have to check out that book. Thanks for the rec. For the record, I am not asking for sympathy nor am I sympathetic about the act of rape. But I do think that there is a difference between the different forms of rape and sexual violence which necessitates differing responses. Neither form is acceptable. But they happen for different reasons and therefor prevention will require different tacks. And we may be better positioned if we had different terms. Though I would wholly understand why using different terms would be seen as somehow mitigating the violence perpetrated upon the victims, who are victims all the same regardless of which “type” of rape it is.

        I make no excuses for my actions. Were I still in touch with any of the women, I would apologize to them, profusely. Some would probably say, “Whatever man, I had fun that night.” Others would say, “I was never comfortable with what happened that night.” They may or may not choose to forgive me. Thankfully, I have grown from that time and recognize the error of my ways and would never follow in those footsteps again. But am I a rapist? A man who rapes? Who raped? If I assume any of these identifiers (all of which could be accurately applied to me), does it necessarily follow that I be considered a monster and stigmatized from society?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Kazzy,
        I agree… but my differentiation may be different than yours.
        There’s Adult/child incest
        There’s Sibling incest
        There’s deliberately removing the ability of someone to
        grant or withhold consent.
        There’s taking advantage of someone who is unable
        to grant consent (without deliberately causing the inability).
        And then there’s the whole muzzyfuzzy…
        “I thought you could/would say no!
        But I was scared!”
        etc.

        There should also be a place for peer pressure in all of this.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to morat20 says:

        You say “Car locks don’t deter serious thieves..” and then you say “Most rapists don’t think they’re rapists…”

        And I wonder if you aren’t trying to have it both ways. A “serious thief”, if we’re talking about rape, really is the kind of person who hides in the bushes at the park and ambushes single joggers. But the sort of people who Dear Prudence is talking about–and the kind of people you refer to when you say “most rapists don’t think they’re rapists”–are the kind of car thief who wanders through a parking lot trying the door handles, and if someone left their car unlocked they have a rummage through it.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        are the kind of car thief who wanders through a parking lot trying the door handles, and if someone left their car unlocked they have a rummage through it
        Not unless those people believe an unlocked car means it’s free to the first owner. Some sort of giveaway.

        Date rapists don’t think it’s rape because they think sex is already agreed to, has been promised, or they’re “owed” it.

        That’s one of the real problems with rape that ISN’T a problem with most other forms of crime — the ability to believe it’s not a crime. You know the car you just took isn’t yours — whether you broke the lock or it was left unlocked, you still know it’s not your car.

        Dropping a roofie into someone’s drink is pretty hard to rationalize, but serving her heavy drinks to ‘loosen her up’ is a grand ole’ college tradition that has the same effect.

        Just look as these godawful cases coming out of small towns — girls plied with alcohol, rendered unconscious, raped and video-taped and then mocked about it — and assuming you can actually get the cops to respond? “Oh, those poor boys“.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      Live in Vancouver much?Report

  16. Avatar Kim says:

    Vik,
    I’m sorry, but Police officers do routinely go undercover to work on sexual assault. on subways, at least.
    That’s considerably more public, and easier to prove with witnesses if someone’s groping you.Report

  17. Avatar j r says:

    Am I the only one who questions the whole narrative of the college rape epidemic in the first place? Every time I see those 1 in 5 or 1 in 4 statistics, I go look at the source and what I invariably find is either shoddy methodology or an incredibly expansive definition of rape and sexual assault. Also, the widespread use of date rape drugs has been fairly well debunked. Most people claiming to have been drugged were likely just really drunk. And in cases were drugs are involved in sexual assault, they are usually self-administered.

    You wonder why there’s never been a “War on Sexual Assault,” but it seems that there indeed has been. And I’m not sure why I ought to support anything that gives law enforcement more power to lock people up or school administrators more power to kick people out of school without due process. I would think that all of the other failed “War on…” would have taught us a lesson.

    Rape seems to be one of those issues that turn progressives into reactionaries.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

      jr,
      1 in 3 in the American fucking military.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Kim says:

        Perfect example. I saw that number cited in a news article once and found out where it comes from. The source (this one: http://www.arlingtonwestsantamonica.org/docs/Sadler_Military_Environment.pdf) is one study, conducted with about 600 veterans (from the Vietnam era to the First Gulf War) who were all already seeking treatment for PTSD with the VA. Also, the 600 were the one who responded from a total attempted sample population of about 2200. And, the researchers polled a sample of the non-responders and 50 percent of them said they did not participate because ” the topic (sexual victimization) did not relate to their military experience.”

        You see why the “1 in 3” statistic is pretty much bunk?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        jr,
        you’re offbase with your premise that a 600/2200 response rate is out of the ordinary.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Kim says:

        I didn’t say that it was out of the ordinary, but a sample of 600 people out of the population of every who has ever served in the American military is not a very robust sample size.

        And the real problem with the survey is that it is using a pool of people who are already seeking treatment for PTSD. You don’t just extrapolate from that group to the entire population of the U.S. military. That would be very poor social science. Indeed, the point of the study was not to estimate the incidence of sexual assault in the military, but to say something substantive about the conditions that existed in cases where there was assault.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r says:

      “…an incredibly expansive definition of rape and sexual assault…”
      @j-r

      I discuss above some of the problems with the expanded definition of rape and sexual assault, while simultaneously being uncomfortable attempting to tell victims whether they are justified in considering themselves victims.

      There are problems with calling ‘everything’ rape. And there are problems with not calling ‘everything’ rape. I won’t pretend to know what the answer is.

      Regardless, it seems relatively accurate to say that the incidence of inappropriate sexual contact is much higher than we traditionally assumed. But a blanket approach to all forms of inappropriate sexual contact is very unlikely to be successful. The handsy drunk college kid and the serial violent rapist demand different responses, even if we recognize both of their actions as wrong.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        And the serial nonviolent rapist demands yet a third approach,
        particularly when his actions are likely to be judged “legal”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yes… there are more than two required approaches. I was simply aiming to highlight the two ends of the spectrum (though there might be something even beyond “handy drunk” that qualifies as inappropriate sexual contact*).

        * A term I have made up for the sake of this conversation.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy says:

        being uncomfortable attempting to tell victims whether they are justified in considering themselves victims.

        I have to say that I’m not quite sure what this means. Rape is an objective occurrence, not a difference of opinion. The circumstances of a particular case may make it very difficult to know what actually happened, but every time something does happen it’s either rape or it’s not rape.

        Even more troubling than eternally expanding the definition of rape is treating rape as if it is something that is wholly determined by how the alleged victim feels about it. Regret is not rape. Sometimes people engage in a consensual activity and then convince themselves it was not consensual. And sometimes people are raped and then blame themselves. The act is not the feeling afterward. And the feeling afterward is not the act.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        jr,
        A good deal of rapists — you know, the smart ones that don’t get caught, choose their victims with a good deal of care. The feelings afterward are intentionally created by these rapists, be they guilt or shame, in order to avoid prosecution.

        It is possible that some people convince themselves that consensual sex was not. But statistics show that it is far more probable that rape occurred in such a way that a bystander might not have understood that it was occurring. It is possible to be raped and not to understand that one has been having sex. Some rapists do this deliberately.Report

    • Avatar NoPublic in reply to j r says:

      Am I the only one who questions the whole narrative of the college rape epidemic in the first place? Every time I see those 1 in 5 or 1 in 4 statistics, I go look at the source and what I invariably find is either shoddy methodology or an incredibly expansive definition of rape and sexual assault. Also, the widespread use of date rape drugs has been fairly well debunked. Most people claiming to have been drugged were likely just really drunk. And in cases were drugs are involved in sexual assault, they are usually self-administered.

      There aren’t that many. And if there are, they aren’t all really rape. And if they are they haven’t really been drugged. And if they were, it was their fault anyway. Q.E.D. i give you Rape Culture Apologetics 101 in a nutshell.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to NoPublic says:

        And I give you rape culture as circular logic game. If your ideology is not falsifiable, then you are operating on nothing more than faith and emotion.

        You can try to shame me by calling me a rape apologists, but that won’t work on me. Show me evidence. Show me rigorous intellectual ideas. Otherwise, I won’t take you seriously.Report

      • Avatar NoPublic in reply to NoPublic says:

        If you think discussing rape is an ideology, I don’t really know where to go from there.

        It’s simple. Rape is de facto shorthand for “sexual assault” in our culture. Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent. Impaired consent is not consent. (And yes, that means plying someone with martinis and then having them sign a contract isn’t a legal contract, even if they’re adults and know what a martini is. And I know there’s case law in various directions on this, but that’s simply the only correct moral judgement IMNSHO). Ipso Facto, blah blah blah, much of what is currently deemed “harmless drunken fumbling” is in fact not harmless (and anonymous surveys bear this out). I’m sorry if that means kids can dip their wicks much less often, but it’s the only logical path I see.

        I’m not trying to shame you, I’m trying to educate you. If you’re ashamed, that’s on you. If you’re not, that’s also on you.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to NoPublic says:

        @j-r “You can try to shame me by calling me a rape apologists, but that won’t work on me.” Looks like a duck. Sounds like a duck. Yup.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to NoPublic says:

        Looks like a duck. Sounds like a duck. Yup.

        I am not sure how to compete with such unassailable logic.

        @nopublic and @cascadian

        I am sorry, but there are far too many commenters on this blog making interesting and salient points to spend too much time arguing with people who these sorts of “if you disagree with me then you must be a creepy rapist with a small penis who lives in your mom’s basement cause you could never get a real man” comments.

        I will, however, simply point out that this is what I mean when I talk about circular feminist logic. If you question the empirical basis or the intellectual validity of the rape culture argument, it means that you are part of the rape culture. You simply cannot argue with that, so I won’t.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to j r says:

      I used to question the 1 in 5 statistics. But I’ve chatted with two separate friends who described sexual experiences to me that they didn’t use the words “assault” or “rape” that actually were that. They didn’t seem to be overly hurt by it psychologically. It was just something that happened, and I think if you asked them “Have you ever been raped?” they would say “no” without thinking about it because they have a different picture in their heads when they think about what rape actually is.

      So, now I totally think the 1 in 5 is plausible.

      I’ll also note that in parts of Asia almost a quarter of men admit to rape: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24021573
      That is obviously a different thing, but it suggests to me that as a species a significant fraction of men are capable of rape if the circumstances are suitable, which means that 1 in 5 women having been assaulted sometime in the course of their lives is a plausible statistic.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        This depends on what statistic you are referring. I absolutely disbelieve any statistic that says 1 in 5 or more American women have been raped. If you are talking about other forms of sexual assault or misconduct, then it probably is something like 1 in 3 or 1 in 4, it may be even higher than that. The problem is this: the more you expand the definition of sexual assault, the higher the incidence will be, but there’s a point at which you have simply created a category that has no real meaning.

        What I’m really objecting to is the way that these statistics are used. When some group says that 1 in 4 women have been raped or assaulted, without disaggregating the two categories, they are absolutely purposefully misleading people to create the most outrage and emotion. And law made by appealing to outrage and emotion is almost never good law.

        Further, I have a conceptual problem with the way that people talk about this issue. It’s easy to say something like “no means no” or “any action without explicit consent is rape” or “don’t have sex with drunk women,” and it may even be the right thing. It is, however, almost completely out of sync with how real people have sex. Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe most human beings are all really horrible people. And maybe one day we will all live in some super-sanitized world where no one drinks or curses and all restaurants are Taco Bell. And then sex will be dealt with in an open and upfront manner and all incidences of escalation will be preceded by an explicit invitation and a verbalized affirmative answer. I don’t mean to play the villain here, but that’s just not the world that we live in now. No doesn’t always mean no. People often set boundaries for themselves and then decide to cross those boundaries in the heat of the moment. And lots of people drink and do drugs with the specific purpose of lowering their inhibitions enough to have guilt-free sex.

        If you are going to construct laws and social norms to help some problem, then those norms and laws need to be realistic about the problem and the context in which it exists. Otherwise, it’s just status signaling and empty gesturing.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        jr,
        quoting wiki:
        Research indicates that 46% of children who are raped are victims of family members (Langan and Harlow, 1994). The majority of American rape victims (61%) are raped before the age of 18; furthermore, 29% of all rapes occurred when the victim was less than 11 years old. 11% of rape victims are raped by their fathers or step-fathers, and another 16% are raped by other relatives.[60]Report

  18. Avatar DavidTC says:

    We could even train female cops to act really drunk and accept rides home from strangers. There would be police backup, of course. The random navy blue Camry behind the rapist’s car? Full of cops with guns. The undercover cop’s earrings? Hidden cameras. Of course, if you’re a good guy who just drives the “drunk” female cop home, you’ll never know about any of that. (It’s possible you may get out of a speeding ticket later and not know why you’re on some cop’s good citizen list!) But you try to force your way into her house, you will find yourself on the ground within seconds.

    I find myself constantly wondering that.

    I’m not entirely sure how much rape this would stop…rape is actually more likely to be done via acquaintances of all sorts, and some sort of ‘date men until they attempt to rape you’ undercover operation seems dubious.

    Actually, thinking about, that would work, but only if she’s clever in what she says and wears. In reality the officer should just have to wait for some sort of coercion and have them arrested.

    But I’m worried that juries would not actually convict. So the police officer would end up acting fairly odd and possibly be spotted.
    Best plan: Act flirty during the date, and then when they get back to her place, just flatly refuse sex…but then don’t make him leave. Let him hang out on some pretense or another. He will continue to make advances, which should be rebuffed. Date rapists think they are entitled to sex, and thus I predict, at some point of being ‘strung along’, the asshole will just physically attack the undercover cop.

    Please note that _I_ don’t think this is now normal date rapes go, but I’m trying to design this specific one so an idiotic misogynist jury can see it’s an attempted rape. I think if you make most date rapists angry enough by withholding their ‘deserved’ sex, they will in fact turn violent, or at least start threatening…but I could be wrong there.

    (Incidentally, I suspect some asshole is going to object to this as ‘entrapment’. I’m warning you right now, if you think this way, you need to go away and think long and hard about why you think this way, instead of posting a followup where we will crucify you.)

    But police don’t do that for the same reason that…well, you know that gang-infested street where they threaten cops? Well, gee, if only there was some way that someone could walk down that street and witness a crime being committed, like threatening cops, and arrest them for it.

    It is honestly astonishing when you think about the areas of society, both physical location and general interactions, where the law is regularly broken, and how the police seem unwilling to even try to deal with the problem, which they could literally do by strolling around that ‘area’ until they witness a crime and arrest someone. And someone else. And someone else.

    Meanwhile, we have entire divisions of police officers whose job it is to drive around to stop traffic violations.

    It rather makes you question the entire premise of police officers.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to DavidTC says:

      Huh? I don’t know in what country you live. I live in the United States, the country with 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. There are 2 million people already behind bars in this country (and that’s only the people in state and federal prison, not counting the people in county/city jails and the roughly 5 million people on parole and probation).

      You’ll understand why some people might find your comment to be a bit bonkers.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        You’ll understand why some people might find your comment to be a bit bonkers.

        Actually, I’m pretty certain it’s only you who finds my comment ‘bonkers’, and that’s because you’re decided to play rape apologist, but are trying to pretend you’re not.

        Let’s parse out what he actually just said here: There are enough people in prison in this country for things besides rape, we don’t need to send _rapists_ there too.

        I don’t know in what country you live. I live in the United States, the country with 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners.

        Meanwhile, I live in the United States, where only 10% of _reported_ rapes result in a conviction. (And who knows exactly how many unreported rapes there are.) Even being charitably to law enforcement and assuming that the victim can only identify the rapist 75% of the time, that’s still a pretty crappy prosecution rate.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Actually this was the part of your comment to which I was reacting:

        It is honestly astonishing when you think about the areas of society, both physical location and general interactions, where the law is regularly broken, and how the police seem unwilling to even try to deal with the problem, which they could literally do by strolling around that ‘area’ until they witness a crime and arrest someone. And someone else. And someone else.

        You imply that there are just all these criminals out there waiting for cops to pay enough attention to arrest them. Considering that a full 2 or 3 percent of the entire U.S. population is already under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Just how many more would you like to see locked up? At what point does locking up more and more people no longer have anything to with actual crime and instead is just a way of further justifying our constantly-expanding criminal justice apparatus.

        As for the “rape apologist” moniker, please… Save that for someone who cares. I don’t apologize for anyone who assaults or rapes another person. I do question the statistics and I do question the means that you’re proposing. If you think that is the right thing to do, then you should be able to respond to legitimate criticism without resorting to that sort of ad hominem.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        jr,
        question the statistics all you want. but get better ones.
        Rape is more common than you think, more common than reported.

        Do you have any idea how many video tapes of rape happen each year?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @kim

        It sounds like what you are saying is that it is my responsibility to prove that not all men are rapists. That’s not how the criminal justice system is supposed to work and that’s not how social science is supposed to work.

        I have no problem with the proposition that rape is more common that most people think, but I do have problems with your particular definitions of rape. I know a lot about PUA and seduction material. And while there are plenty of people trying to sell fool-proof, magical seduction methods, those people are charlatans. What you are describing is more akin to Caribbean voodoo than actual PUA methods.

        The case of sex escalating quickly is another matter. If two people agree to clear boundaries about what they will and won’t do and one person bulldozes across those boundaries in a deliberate way, then that may be rape. However, people rarely agree to clear boundaries, which makes it very difficult to say with any clear authority what goes on in a private moment between two people. If a woman says to herself and to the man, “I am not going pass third base,” and in the moment gets turned on enough to go past third base, that’s not rape.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        jr,
        Mistaking arousal for consent is rape. Plain and simple.
        People have bloody orgasms while being raped (not everyone, but it does happen).

        Did you really think holding a gun to someone’s head is actually conducive to them giving consent???

        Because they were fucking aroused. Sure they fucking were…

        But they sure as hell weren’t consenting.

        Every gosh damn man, woman and child knows the difference between
        “getting carried away” and “arousal implies consent”.

        Do you really think it’s okay to have sex with someone, without them
        knowing that you did it, simply because you were able to arouse them?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        jr,
        Is it suddenly okay to remove a woman’s ability to revoke consent? is that what you’re saying?

        Is it okay to lie to a woman and tell her that you’re not fucking her? Is she still consenting then?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        jr,
        no “technique” is foolproof.
        But predators choose their victims with care, and
        tend to get a whole lot of success by doing such.

        Do you have to prove that men aren’t rapists?
        Hell no. But you can rest assured that claims
        that rape is overreported or exaggerated are
        going to result in peals of laughter from me.

        Rape will continue to be rape, regardless
        of whether you agree with me or not.
        Also, regardless of whether as a society,
        we decide it is prosecutable or not.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

      Again, one of the issues with rape is when you SAY rape people think “Guy with a knife breaking into your house” or “Guy with a knife leaping out of the bushes” but statistically you should think of “Guy serving you screwdrivers with 3 times more vodka than normal” or “Guy slipping something into your drink to ‘loosen you up” or “Guy you were on a date with deciding you wanted it and coercing you into doing it, except he was only trying to sweet talk you and the fact that he loomed over you and had a 100 pounds of pure muscle on you is totally immaterial to his logic and sweet talking”.

      Cause you know, those aren’t real rapes. That’s just women making poor decisions they should have avoided by, you know, being out and public and going on dates it basically hangs a “Free entry” sign on their vagina.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Or an older relative decides that you being proximate to him is hanging that sign up.
        Or you wind up having sex without realizing it (and therefore are unable to give or revoke consent).
        Or a guy deliberately removes your ability to give consent, without using chemical substances. (you try prosecuting that one…)Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to morat20 says:

        Or a guy deliberately removes your ability to give consent, without using chemical substances. (you try prosecuting that one…)

        That does not exist, so it’s a good thing that you cannot prosecute someone for imaginary crimes.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        jr,
        /plonk
        Calling someone a liar is a good ticket out of any conversation.
        Calling someone a liar on an issue that they have personally
        experienced is a good way to get told off.
        I’m doing you the courtesy of leaving first.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to morat20 says:

        I don’t think that you are lying. I think that you are wrong.

        It is possible that I am mistaken, though. And I am always ready to learn something new and be proven wrong. How does one take away consent without using force or chemical substances? How does one have sex with someone in a way that renders that person unaware that the are actually having sex (other than a passed out person, obviously)?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        jr,
        you’ll perhaps pardon me if I don’t refer you to date-rape manuals.
        It is possible to rapidly induce a high enough state of arousal
        that a woman is not able to talk. (this presumes that predators
        have their pick of the field, and can choose women predisposed to this).

        It is possible to move from thirdish base to “done” in less than a minute’s time.
        Have you never frozen up? Had something happen to you that took you a bit
        to deal with, to even become coherent? [is it rape if the girl is asking “don’t look at ]

        It is quite possible for a girl to just think “he’s touching me with his finger”…
        particularly if the guy is fairly skilled and slow.

        I’m not saying that these are universal things that everyone can pull off.
        I’m definitely not saying that all girls are susceptible to these.
        But they do happen.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20 says:

        @morat20
        Again, one of the issues with rape is when you SAY rape people think…

        Well, yeah, so the only reason to solve that is to actually start arresting people who commit ‘standard’ rape, the actual most common rape in the US, intimidating or otherwise coercing a date or female acquaintance into sex. (Well, apparently, the most common rape in the US is prison rape, but there’s a _trivial_ way to stop all of that, and literally the only reason we haven’t done that is that we don’t want to. Hint: People in prison have no privacy rights, and hence can all be monitored 24/7, and hence it is literally impossible for them to commit undetected rape unless we choose not to allow them to do that. So there’s yet another ‘Why don’t we try to stop rape?’ question, but not related to this discussion.)

        I’m not entirely sure how many of those would result in convictions at first, but, frankly, I could care less, and that’s not actually the point here. I’d be happy if we started having some people realize such thing is illegal and you can and will be arrested for it.

        And I’m not _exactly_ sure of the laws, but video-tape the entire thing and let the public see how this behavior works and how it’s not acceptable.

        @Kim
        At some point, you’re going to have to ask yourself if j r is just ignorant or is an actual rape apologist.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        There are some ethical issues with arresting someone and putting them on trial if you do not have strong reason to believe that you can convict them.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        There are some ethical issues with arresting someone and putting them on trial if you do not have strong reason to believe that you can convict them.
        Even more difficult when society tells you you pretty much deserved it for wearing such a short skirt or having a drink, when agreeing to press charges means you’re gonna be slut-shamed on the stand, and when you get subject to people saying things like “Well, it wasn’t real rape”.

        Oh yeah, and the fact that often cops and prosecutors are quick to discourage or outright dismiss claims if there wasn’t a weapon, violence, or you know — it wasn’t rapey enough to suit them.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to morat20 says:

        There are some ethical issues with arresting someone and putting them on trial if you do not have strong reason to believe that you can convict them.

        Yes. In fact, there is a term for it: prosecutorial misconduct.

        In what other area of the law would we say that it is OK for the government to pursue a case against someone knowing full well that the evidence isn’t there to support a conviction just to send a message and to enact some form of punishment against the accused? What sort of twisted version of the law is that?

        If someone were to make that sort of case for any other crime, people would see it for the sort of illiberal, reactionary idea that it is. For whatever reason, however, in the context of rape, stating that the accused ought to have the benefit of the doubt and that prosecutors ought to uphold due process gets someone accused of being a “rape apologist.”

        I’m against the death penalty. Does that make me a murder apologist? I oppose the war on drugs. Am I a narcotics apologists? I believe that the war on terror is built on lies and misrepresentation. Am I carrying water for the terrorists?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        jr,
        Here’s the thing: we ought to prosecute people who commit rape. If your doctor got you drunk before he obtained your consent for an operation, we DAMN WELL WOULD prosecute him.

        I would love to have a world where Bristol Palin’s babydaddy was prosecuted for the multiple rapes he perpetrated. Sadly, film isn’t enough proof.Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to morat20 says:

        There’s the world we would like to live in and there’s the world that actually exists. We would like to live in a world where every allegation of rape was genuine, provable, prosecuted, and punished. I’d also like a unicorn.

        I got on the bad side of some here in the past by suggesting that, as a father, it seemed appropriate to me to school my daughters on how to avoid being a victim, particularly of date rape. Apparently it’s more important for women to be assured that the rape isn’t their fault than it is to take practical measures to prevent being a victim. Yes, absolutely, work to change the “rape culture”, and “don’t be that guy”, etc. But understand that we will never create a culture free of rape any more than we have been able to create a culture free of theft and murder.

        Say a young woman goes to a bar, gets drunk, flirts with strangers, and goes home with one of them and is subsequently forced to have sex against her will. Is it rape? Absolutely. Is she responsible for being raped, did she somehow deserve it? Of course not. Is he going to be arrested, tried, and punished? Not a chance in hell. Because while the rape isn’t her fault, what she is guilty of is behavior leading up to the incident which makes it virtually impossible to prove in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she was, in fact, raped. And her punishment is knowing the bastard will get away with it.

        Nature has a way of punishing the stupid.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Rod,
        one issue I have with people trying to school their kids to avoid date rape (something I support) is that most people don’t understand the problem very well at all.

        I can assure you there are quite a few circumstances where a girl can wind up raped, where it is unprovable in court. When she’s not drunk, when she doesn’t go home with someone.

        This isn’t to say that your recommendations are bad, surely they aren’t! I just think that a whole lot more could be done, and a lot of it would seem counterintuitive to most Americans.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to morat20 says:

        I got on the bad side of some here in the past by suggesting that, as a father, it seemed appropriate to me to school my daughters on how to avoid being a victim, particularly of date rape. Apparently it’s more important for women to be assured that the rape isn’t their fault than it is to take practical measures to prevent being a victim.

        And apparently your lesson about how to protect themselves could not possibly include the messages that it’s not their fault, that they should get help immediately, and you can always come to dad without fear of retribution or shame.

        Sigh. As the dad of three daughters, including one at dating age, I am right there with you on this. Criticizing parents for teaching their daughters the real dangers of the world and how to minimize their risks is about as backwards as we can get.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to morat20 says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        I think the issue arises when it is only women getting this advice. If we are teaching women to avoid being raped but not teaching men to avoid raping women, than we are tacitly sending the message that avoiding rape is the sole responsibility of women.

        The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is aimed at precisely that, yet tends to get much more fervent and much less defensible pushback.Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to morat20 says:

        @jm3z-aitch , thanks. To the extent that there’s actual thought involved as opposed to reflexive political correctness, I imagine the logic chain goes something like this:
        Women are given well-meaning and correct advice wrt to self-protection.

        Young women, particularly teenagers ignore said advice (cuz, you know… dumb old dad [eye roll]).

        Bad things previously warned about happen.

        Victim remembers being given said ignored advice.

        Victim feels bad, stupid, and perhaps a bit guilty for having ignored advice.

        Bingo! Victim blaming. Even if it’s self-blame it’s still blame and that’s unacceptable.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        That’s right. If we don’t agree, it’s because we’re unthinking slaves of the PC police.

        You’ve figured it out.

        Guys? It’s over. Rod’s worked it out. We’re gonna have to start thinking again.Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to morat20 says:

        Aside from feeling dissed in your fe-fe’s, what have I said that you believe to be factually incorrect?

        That rape is always 100% the fault of the rapist?

        That women actually aren’t children and have some capacity to self-protection?

        That in an ideal world no means no and no man would ever be “that guy” but we don’t and never shall live in that world despite our most fervent desires and concerted efforts? (Improvements yes; perfection no)

        That some rapes occur under circumstances which make them extremely difficult to impossible to successfully prosecute?

        Related to the last, that our constitutional protections afforded the accused, particularly the presumption of innocence and the legal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” are so fundamental to our liberal political order as to be sacrosanct? On the other side lay Gitmo and lynch mobs.

        That as a consequence, while the victim is never to blame for being raped, she/he can be “guilty” of actions that increase vulnerability and make prosecution nearly impossible?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20 says:

        @will-truman
        There are some ethical issues with arresting someone and putting them on trial if you do not have strong reason to believe that you can convict them.

        Erm, no in this case. The problem here is that society may not be willing to convict _actual_ rapists.

        In an area where trial-by-jury has completely broken down and society is letting guilty people walk free, it does not then follow the ethical solution is stop trying to convict them. Especially when the reason that such crimes are gotten away with is that society does not appear to consider them criminal acts.

        It’s an ethical issue to arrest and charge people with crimes if you feel their guilt cannot be demonstrated by the evidence. It is, however, perfectly fine to arrest and charge people with crimes if the evidence is there, but juries are often made of misogynistic assholes so do not convict despite the evidence.

        Do the police have evidence for a conviction in my scenario? Yes, in fact, the entire point of it is to give them evidence. Thus, they should arrest. It matters not how fucked up the jury is.

        If in the south in the 1920s a white man killed a black man, he likely would not be convicted of the crime…that does not mean he should not be arrested and charged with it if the police were willing to do that.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Dave,
        “In an area where trial-by-jury has completely broken down and society is letting guilty people walk free, it does not then follow the ethical solution is stop trying to convict them. Especially when the reason that such crimes are gotten away with is that society does not appear to consider them criminal acts.”

        … are you familiar with any cases where this has actually occurred?
        If society is letting terrorists walk free, it is probably a good idea to
        investigate other options. (I realize this wasn’t your example).

        Perhaps restricting the availability of date rape drug precursors might be
        a decent way to spend funds?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20 says:

        @kim
        … are you familiar with any cases where this has actually occurred?

        Erm…what?

        Did we suddenly forget the topic here?

        Of course I’m familiar with cases where this has actually occurred. Specifically, in cases involving _rape_, it happens all the time…events are proven that legally are rape, and yet a rape conviction does not happen. Or there is more than enough evidence to convict for assault, but somehow it magically becomes not enough when it’s sexual assault.

        Perhaps restricting the availability of date rape drug precursors might be a decent way to spend funds?

        The war on drugs is rather a failure at this time.

        I mean, I have no real objection to this if you can manage it, but ‘restricting the availability of date rape drug precursors’ is not actually something that local law enforcement would be doing anyway, so if you’re asserting they should do that _instead_ of sting operations, that makes no sense.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        Dave,
        I’ve already posted that officers are doing stings where it makes sense to do them.

        … and yes, I frequently wander off topic.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        @davidtc If you’re limiting it to cases where the evidence is absolutely there and the only concern is that the jury will ignore it, I agree. From there it becomes a question what constitutes sufficient evidence. I’d certainly agree that Steubenville did and it was good to go forward even if there was a likelihood that the jury would just ignore the evidence.

        But that seems like low-hanging fruit. Definitely pluck that. But rape is, very often, a very difficult crime to prove. That’s where I am particular concerned. Leaving you with a whole lot of cases where she says it was rape, he says it wasn’t, and you can maybe prove that sex occurred but not much else because there was no rape kit done.

        My sense is that happens a lot of the time. And fearing that being the case (because, quite understandably, the first thought the woman had after getting raped wasn’t assisting the future prosecution) is why a lot of women don’t ultimately come forward. That and, on the way to an acquittal, she will be called a lot of nasty things and who wants to go through that when all that you can demonstrate is that sex occurred?

        But cases where it’s on tape? Yeah. Rape kit positive? Yeah. Suspect lied about ever having met the girl and you can demonstrate otherwise? Yeah.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to morat20 says:

        @will-truman you can maybe prove that sex occurred but not much else because there was no rape kit done.

        Maybe I am missing something, but even a rape kit can only, at best, tell you that sex occurred, right? Some consensual sex may leave marks or abrasions. Some rape may leave comparatively little physical damage.

        So a rape kit can overcome a suspect’s claim of “no we didn’t” (the first hurdle to successful prosecution), but it can’t overcome a claim of “she said yes to it at the time” (apparently a far more successful defense, not least because in some cases it could be true).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        @glyph This is one of those things that I should understand a lot better than I do. My impression, though, was that it gave you an idea of whether or not there was a struggle or whether it was consensual (with a fair number of false negatives, where she was raped but didn’t struggle for fear of further injury).

        But, again, I don’t know nearly as much about this as I should. So anyone who does know more who wants to chime in would be appreciated.

        If you’re right, though, than that makes for even more ambiguous cases and cases where he probably did but you can’t really say that there’s no reasonable doubt. Which is depressing.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to morat20 says:

        My understanding is that a “rape kit” (and this may vary some from place to place) is essentially a physical exam that seeks to locate/preserve foreign semen/hair/dna material, and as part of that physical examination, they look for things like physical signs of struggle: bruising, external or internal abrasions/bleeding, skin under the nails, and the like.

        The problem is, of course, that regular old consensual rough (or insufficiently gentle) sex can produce some or all of these same markers. Unless the victim looks roughed-up enough that it’s clearly plain old “assault”, a rape kit by itself doesn’t prove the occurrence of sexual assault; only sexual contact.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20 says:

        @will-truman
        But that seems like low-hanging fruit. Definitely pluck that. But rape is, very often, a very difficult crime to prove. That’s where I am particular concerned. Leaving you with a whole lot of cases where she says it was rape, he says it wasn’t, and you can maybe prove that sex occurred but not much else because there was no rape kit done.

        I really hate this discussion format, which has apparently made it unclear what we’re talking about. I don’t understand why web sites seem unable to manage something people were doing on Usenet back in 1980, with nested replies. It really is rather idiotic.

        Anyway, I was actually talking about arresting rapists in the context of police stings. I.e., women ‘unsafely’ inviting men into their house, or pretending to be drunk and asking for a ride home. Where the police arrest people because they _have personal knowledge of being rapists because that person tried to rape them_.

        And, yes, I have such a low opinion of the public at large that I think entirely correct police stings will well-documented video evidence of attempted rape will not actually result in a conviction of attempted rape 100% of the time. (Or sexual assault, or whatever ‘attempted rape’ actually is.)

        Indeed, I suspect there would be an outcry, with people getting _very_ upset at the ‘targeting’ of men under this, where police have complaints about a man, but not enough evidence to do an arrest, so they make an undercover easily-raped woman available for him to rape and see what happens. They will think this is unacceptable, despite the fact this is literally how every single sting operation in existence works.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to morat20 says:

        Anyway, I was actually talking about arresting rapists in the context of police stings. I.e., women ‘unsafely’ inviting men into their house, or pretending to be drunk and asking for a ride home.

        So… what exactly would the crime be? In stings involving drugs, the suspect is either bringing money or drugs with the intention of doing a drug deal. If cops pose as unaware victims to lure a mugger, the suspect is trying to rob them. Prostitution stings, the suspect is trying to hire a prostitute. All of those things are illegal, regardless of the other participant is willing or not willing.

        Trying to have sex with someone is not illegal. As far as I know, it’s also not illegal to try and have sex with someone who is pretending to be drunk. How do you prove “he was thinking about raping me” in a court of law? To get to any sort of prosecutable offense, the undercover cop would most likely to go well past the point that any sane cop would want.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20 says:

        @kim
        Successful rapists (about, say, 5% of the American population) do not get caught. and hell, even with a god-damn policewoman there, you still probably couldn’t prosecute.

        Oh, you sure as hell could prosecute. You arrest the guy, throw him in jail, present the evidence in court.

        Might not be able to _convict_, but you sure as hell can prosecute.

        (if NOTHING else, rapists tend to go for the naive and innocent. And you can’t tell me you’ll have fifteen year old policewomen).

        Erm, police officers go undercover as minors all the time.

        Sure, you could catch the careless. But, far better than what you’re suggesting, would be to simply seize the photographic evidence of rape (if you don’t believe me, I suggest you watch Jesus Camp. Lotta candid photos out there).

        Why would I not believe you?

        As I said, rapists are literally the most careless felons in the world. If burglars or muggers behaved like most rapists, we’d have no unsolved crimes of that sort.

        I’m not entirely sure what you think we would do with the photographic evidence, though.

        @j-r
        You are suggesting sending policewoman out with the specific intention of pretending to be drunk, or otherwise vulnerable, and engage in heavy petting with random men, with no particular concern for how this sort of thing would play out in court and you think that everyone else is a moron…

        I like how you’ve invented ‘heavy petting’ in there. I’m pretty certain I didn’t say anything about the police officer initiating any physical activity at all.

        And I especially love the idea that the important thing ‘how this would play out in court’, somehow. How, you can’t quite explain. But I know _exactly_ why you can’t explain…because you’re a rape apologist and explaining would require you to admit one truth or another you don’t want to admit.

        Here are the two options:
        1) The person who _assaulted a police officer_ would not be convicted, which would rather demonstrate how _horrifically_ biased our system of justice is in favor of rapists. (Especially considering how normally biased it is in favor of police officers.)
        2) The person _would_ be convicted, which would, uh, mean that ‘how it played out in court’ is _exactly right_ and we just got a rapist off the street.
        (And there’s option 3, wherein the man don’t do anything, but that is not going to end up in court and hence isn’t what you’re talking about. And option 4, where the undercover officer is actually injured or killed…which presumably would _play out in the courts_ perfectly fine…the problem there isn’t the _court_.)

        Please note that other people are objecting to this because of hypothetical _danger_, or that regardless of the actual danger, the public would think it was too much danger. It has nothing to do with the court at all. (Will Truman mentioned it, but he thought I was talking about something else, and we’ve cleared that up.)

        You’re the only person here is worried about ‘the courts’, which is a very telling mention. There are only two possibilities ‘how it plays out in court’…it _either_ demonstrates systematic bias in the legal system in favor in rapists, _or_ a rapist is off the streets.

        Which of those two things are _you_ objecting to?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to morat20 says:

        At some point, you’re going to have to ask yourself if j r is just ignorant or is an actual rape apologist.

        Alternatively, you could grow the hell up. But barring that, I guess calling people who disagree with you “rape apologists” is an attractive option.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to DavidTC says:

      Some of this was fleshed out in the comments of Jen’s blog. I don’t know how effective a “rape sting” unit would be, but it certainly seems like the police do a lot of other things that are less effective preventing crimes that don’t have victims.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I think a lot of people at that blog have missed the fact that while most rapes are acquaintance, the thing is, rapists _will_ rape someone else if they think she is vulnerable.

        I.e., I think the sort of people who rape their girlfriends regularly will also rape a random first date.

        All the law has to do is maneuver the potential rapist into a situation where they think they ‘deserve’ sex. A flirty ‘drunk’ girl who asks for a ride home, for example. A first date that ‘runs long’ and she offers to let the guy sleep on her couch. (Please be aware I’m just guessing here, and I suspect it would be easy to collect stories from actual rape victims and figure out likely scenarios.)

        They aren’t raping acquaintances because they have some sort of weird moral code(1), they’re raping acquaintances because acquaintances are easy to find and coerce. Give them someone else who seems easier (pun intended), they’ll go after her instead.

        1) There probably are _some_ rapists who only think they deserve sex after dating a women ‘long enough’, or even rapists that will not ‘cheat’ on their girlfriends(?!), so I guess you couldn’t catch those, but you could catch most of them.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Or to put it another way:

        I have heard various lists of things women should avoid doing. (Not victim blaming, lists that women pass around among themselves as very bad ideas. And the point isn’t this list, so lets continue.)

        On almost all those lists is ‘If you need a place to stay, do not accept an invitation to stay at a single man’s house that you are not dating’.

        Why? Because it leaves women incredibly vulnerable (Especially during sleeping, showering, etc.), and in a position of owing something to the man, and him having a threat to hold over her, threatening to kick her out at 3 in the morning. It is, all in all, a very bad combination.

        Now, non-acquaintances are unlikely to even consider sleeping at someone else’s house, so most rape that happens that way is logically acquaintance rape.

        But there’s nothing inherent in that premise that _requires_ an acquaintance. There’s nothing stopping undercover cops from going up to suspected rapists and asking to sleep at his house for some invented reason or another.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @davidtc – most of my knowledge of how stings work is taken from TV and movies, but…

        There’s nothing stopping undercover cops from going up to suspected rapists and asking to sleep at his house for some invented reason or another.

        Seems like a pretty bad idea. In most drug or prostitution stings, the cops attempt to control the space where the crime will occur, via surveillance etc. They are the ones who rented the hotel room, and wired it up for sound and video. And they can bust in immediately upon the commission of the crime or things going sideways.

        Putting a single female cop alone into space that the suspect controls (his house), and hoping that she does not get overpowered/raped/killed before the cavalry can arrive, seems like a recipe for potential disaster.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        In most drug or prostitution stings, the cops attempt to control the space where the crime will occur, via surveillance etc. They are the ones who rented the hotel room, and wired it up for sound and video.

        …not really. That’s awesome when it can be done, but I’d be astonished if it happened more than half the time.

        And they can bust in immediately upon the commission of the crime or things going sideways.

        Yes, that is the premise, and it would be true here also.

        With the added bonus that the attempted rapists is hardly going to try to murder the undercover cop if he figured out who she is before attacking her, considering he’s not committed a crime yet. (If he does, well, hey, that solves that problem, and now he can be arrested.)

        Putting a single female cop alone into space that the suspect controls (his house), and hoping that she does not get overpowered/raped/killed before the cavalry can arrive, seems like a recipe for potential disaster.

        That’s what a wire is for. And a gun.

        I don’t think you’re comparing this correctly.

        A rape sting is _certainly_ safer than pretty much any drug sting, where dealers routinely search people and drive around to secure locations and require all sorts of reference from other criminals and expect law enforcement interference and are all armed and willing to shoot and will _kill_ any police officer they find. (1)

        Compared to that, a potential criminal taking an undercover officer back to _his house_ (Which location is known in advance.) and attempted to grab her and hold her down to rape her is almost a trivial police operation. Date rapists do not exactly search women for a wire and weapons, nor do they have armed guards in a secure location.

        Of course, if this becomes common and well known, than rapists could, indeed start suspecting the police…which means less women get raped as the rapist aren’t sure if someone is a police officer. Along with a few rapists overreacting and become violent and kidnapping women at gun point and searching them for a wire and tying them up before raping them…which is actually sorta a win in this fucked up world, as maybe we’d actually _convict_ such rapists.

        And either way, it exposes what is actually going on in a way better than any ‘education campaign’ could.

        1) I guess it’s less safe than a prostitution sting, but that’s a bit silly. Prostitution stings are probably safer than traffic stops!Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        We know more about rapists than almost any other class of criminals. They’ve been studied to death. Straight failure analysis tells us two things: the precursors to rape aren’t something the victim can get out of the failure chain: the usual nonsense about sexy dressing or avoiding parties or any of that. Drinking? One in three rapists are intoxicated, too.

        The other result of analysis tells us rape is one of the least-reported crimes. The rapists, when we capture them and debrief them, have committed far more rapes than we might have supposed. In that, the rapist is a serial criminal: once they get a taste for it, they’ll continue until they’re caught.

        Where the serial murderer carefully selects his victims, preying on people nobody will miss, the rapist is utterly dependent upon his crimes going unreported.

        Rapists start early. Most, perhaps two out of three, know their victims. By location, four out of ten rapes happen right in the victim’s residence.

        Rape, beyond certain aspects of statutory rape, is fundamentally an act of violence. About half of rapists are rearrested on other violent crimes offences.

        The only way we’ll ever attenuate rape is to change the way we raise boys. Rape happens in context: I’ve often said the difference between morals and ethics comes down to this: morality is what you won’t do under any circumstances. Ethics are what we won’t do because we’re afraid of the consequences. Until boys are imbued with a moral proscription against rape, it’s pointless trying to enforce the ethical proscription from the outside.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @davidtc – don’t get me wrong, I like your line of thinking, in the sense that I would much rather have police stinging violent criminals (rapists) than victimless perps like dealers and prostitutes, plus there has to be a way to get past the “he said/she said” problem with rape so as to get scumbags like that dude in Baltimore off the streets.

        I’m just unsure of how it would work. The suspect has to initiate violence (or threaten, or attempt to drug, or whatever) the undercover cop before a crime has been committed. Until that happens, his actions could be defended in court as simply the time-honored male tradition of “begging, pleading, hoping, and wheedling for sex”.

        So to nab the suspect on the rape charge, we have to accept that he might get some licks in first. That’s a bad position to put the cop in, and different from prostitution or drugs where all they have to do is negotiate the deal to prove the crime.

        And the first time the door doesn’t get busted down in time, and/or she gets overpowered/disarmed (every sting goes sideways sooner or later), there could be a real outcry over using women as bait, dangled in front of people we strongly suspect to be rapists.

        A john doesn’t have to be assumed to be violent; and a dealer may be violent, but it’s not his whole purpose. If violence occurs against the undercover cops in these other stings, the public considers the violence an unfortunate side-effect of police business.

        But the first time a cop in a rape sting gets raped, I am not sure the public will just accept that as the cost of doing police business. “You put a woman alone in a house with someone you suspected was a rapist, hoping he’d try something?!”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Rape stings, at best, can only catch the careless outlier in the population of rapists. Rapists know their victims. They commit their crimes the victim’s residence. Law enforcement runs prostitution stings where the business is happening. I just don’t see how we can prevent a crime which is happening inside the victim’s home with a sting operation.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @blaisep
        Rape stings, at best, can only catch the careless outlier in the population of rapists.

        My theory is that rapists don’t actually understand what they are doing is illegal.

        And hence they are _extremely likely_ to be careless while doing it.

        In fact, they _are_ careless. Rapists are often trivially identified, in fact, they are often known to their victim. They make absolutely _no_ effort in covering up their crime. They leave evidence everywhere.

        Rapists are basically the most careless felons in the world. The only reason they _don’t_ get convicted more is systematic bias in the system.

        Rapists know their victims. They commit their crimes the victim’s residence. Law enforcement runs prostitution stings where the business is happening. I just don’t see how we can prevent a crime which is happening inside the victim’s home with a sting operation.

        Police stings do not exist to prevent some other crime.

        Police stings exist to arrest criminals by having a criminal commit a crime in front of the police.

        You cannot prevent a rapist from taking an acquaintance home and forcing himself on her. But what you can do is hand a rapist a pre-packaged victim, vulnerable in all the right ways. He’ll go for it.

        (And when this tactic becomes public, hey, win! Now rapists won’t assault vulnerable women they think might be cops!)

        @glyph
        So to nab the suspect on the rape charge, we have to accept that he might get some licks in first. That’s a bad position to put the cop in, and different from prostitution or drugs where all they have to do is negotiate the deal to prove the crime.

        While I am not a woman, I’m fairly certain we could find women to do this, especially for _this_ purpose.

        And the first time the door doesn’t get busted down in time, and/or she gets overpowered/disarmed (every sting goes sideways sooner or later), there could be a real outcry over using women as bait, dangled in front of people we strongly suspect to be rapists.

        Yes, people are morons.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        David,
        Successful rapists (about, say, 5% of the American population) do not get caught.
        and hell, even with a god-damn policewoman there, you still probably couldn’t prosecute.
        (if NOTHING else, rapists tend to go for the naive and innocent. And you can’t tell me you’ll have fifteen year old policewomen).

        Sure, you could catch the careless. But, far better than what you’re suggesting, would be to simply seize the photographic evidence of rape (if you don’t believe me, I suggest you watch Jesus Camp. Lotta candid photos out there).Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Yes, people are morons.

        You are suggesting sending policewoman out with the specific intention of pretending to be drunk, or otherwise vulnerable, and engage in heavy petting with random men, with no particular concern for how this sort of thing would play out in court and you think that everyone else is a moron…

        That is interesting to say the least.Report

  19. Avatar Cascadian says:

    Sure thing Will. Prosecuting white on black crime back in the day. The current rapes in question have video but what does that count? Just read this
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/10/29/the_lessons_of_the_maryville_rape_case.htmlReport

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Cascadian says:

      @cascadian and @morat20

      I was responding to this:

      I’m not entirely sure how many of those would result in convictions at first, but, frankly, I could care less, and that’s not actually the point here.

      The point of arresting people and putting them on trial ought to be to get convictions. It should not be used as punishment when there isn’t actually evidence to convict.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

        Oh no, I agree.

        People don’t deal well with shades of grey, and rape is a crime that turns around ‘consent’. When it’s a stranger with a gun, the lack of consent is obvious.

        When it’s a guy plying his date with booze, the line is fuzzier, the culpability and immorality easier to hide.

        And honestly, “no means no” isn’t that complicate and yet there are a surprising number of people who interpret “no” as “keep working on me until I say yes, you know I want it”.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        morat,
        yes, and some people think failure to say no is in fact a “Yes”.Report

  20. Avatar Cascadian says:

    @trumwill thanks for clarification. Makes more sense. On phone sorry about terseness.Report

  21. Avatar BITFU says:

    C’mon. Religions have have been grappling with the issue of walking the line between Personal Responsibility and Guilt for 2500 years.

    Your Code sounds good at first. Then it gets harsh. Then cruel. Then it gets exploited. It happens every time. People have tried to implement strict personal responsibility since the dawn of civilization. It always ends in neurosis and exploitation.

    Exploitation comes from the fact that an established “source of power” fills the void and assumes the position of bequeathing the much sought after Forgiveness. [Hence the constant refrain of Forgiveness and Redemption as a constant theme: How does one obtain these things?]

    Your Code is a silly, trite philosophy predicated on moral narcissism, which when taken to its logical conclusion leads to nothing more than Guilt Hemophilia.

    Not only that, but if a person actually states “I strive to always feel personally responsible for anything bad that happens to anyone” that person is a liar, mentally ill or both. Without exception.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to BITFU says:

      Your Code sounds good at first. Then it gets harsh. Then cruel. Then it gets exploited.

      I disagree that it sounds good at first. I think the comments show that it actually engenders a lot of resistance.

      I agree that it can be harsh and cruel. In fact, I would say it ought to be. But please note that it is a self-inflicted harshness. And if you truly couldn’t have done anything, the end result is being able to walk away more confident of the fact than if you just gave yourself an excuse from the very beginning and never made an honest attempt to figure out what you could have done.

      Exploitation requires someone else to do the exploiting. That is specifically prohibited by the admittedly trite code.

      Regarding calling it moral narcissism, I think that is a fair characterization. Does that make it less effective than a more permissive code?Report

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