In Which I Write Digital Security Lessons Disguised As A Celeb Gossip Post



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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171 Responses

  1. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    I would almost be willing to go for a setup where if I forget my password I have to go to the DMV and show documentation to prove that it is really me and pay for the visit.

    Regarding this scandal in particular, I’m confused about some of the details. Why does it seem to be only nude pictures? Surely these services aren’t only uploading the nudes. Why aren’t there a bunch of pictures of Jennifer Lawrence’s salads over the past month (or of her or her friends clothed?) Were those also compromised? Why haven’t I heard about it?

    Also, how did all of these come out at the same time? Did they try to accumulate as many as they could and then release so that no other celebrities would be warned and hurry up to secure their accounts?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      Probably but those were also probably already available from Lawrence and others because of brand management or the hackers just didn’t care and took only what they were interested in.

      There is a chance that some to many of the nudes floating around could be fake but the reaction of some of the celebrities is showing that a good number are potentially real. As far as I know, no celeb has denounced their alleged nudes as faked. Kirsten Dunst’s angry tweets at Apple is some evidence that the hack against her is legitimate, etc.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      I would almost be willing to go for a setup where if I forget my password I have to go to the DMV and show documentation to prove that it is really me and pay for the visit.

      So would I. There isn’t one.

      I’m confused about some of the details.

      My current understanding is that the user who uploaded the files, originally, claims that they’ve gathered them from various places (presumably by paying for them, since the person in question is complaining that they aren’t getting paid enough for the release of the photos).

      My guess – and it’s only a guess at this point – is that somebody is releasing their private collection of photos that they’ve collected from other sources, each of which may or may not have acquired the photos originally using the same methods.

      As to why the food shots haven’t been uploaded, well, the food shots aren’t titillating.Report

      • Avatar ian351c says:

        Not sure if I trust the DMV not to lose my keys, but this combo is a step in the right direction: and

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Of course there is one. It’s in use for the type of people whose data would be a Problem if it got stolen. (actually, I’m sure what they’re doing is better).

        There’s plenty of data in this world that is kept locked up tighter than NSA data, mostly by corporations scared shitless of the liability they have already incurred.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Kim, you are so full of randomly crazy bits of faux information it’s amazing.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        what would be the point in faking it?
        There’s a good deal of point in making sure you won’t take me seriously, though
        (Sony, Tanks, for real?).

        Besides, the NSA stuff isn’t tight at all — Snowden proved that.
        In order to make something decently tight, most people just mothball it.
        If it’s not on the net, it’s vastly harder for folks to get it (better if you bury it on tape under a mountain. then they have to sort through all the tapes, and that’s slow).

        There actually is a celebrity or two who has good electronic security
        (we’re Not Counting the folks who use joke-a-day as security questions,
        I don’t think they’re actually trying to keep the comedians out)Report

    • I would almost be willing to go for a setup where if I forget my password I have to go to the DMV and show documentation to prove that it is really me and pay for the visit.

      It would suck to have to work at that place. A lot of self-righteous customers are probably going to be blaming the DMV workers for the fact that they, the customers, forgot the password. I can imagine an irate, inconvenienced guy or gal lecturing someone at the service window, saying, “why do you need to charge us. You‘re the one who doesn’t let us get our password back.”Report

  2. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I decided to leave my comment here and not over at Tod’s thread because it feels like his thread will be where people tell me that there is zero fault with the celeb. Ever.

    I guess I just don’t understand why these folks haven’t figured out that cell phone nudes is probably a terrible idea. There has been release after release of celeb nudes for years now. At what point does their agent (or anyone else in their life that actually cares about them) say, “No matter how important you are and no matter how unfair it is, if you take nude pictures with your phone they will end up on the internet.” ?

    I think what the people who hacked these phones did is terrible (no matter how curious some of us might be to see the photos) and if caught I think it’s completely justified to prosecute them, however, someone needs to tell young Hollywood that this is going to keep happening until they stop providing material for people to steal and distribute.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      his thread will be where people tell me that there is zero fault with the celeb

      Well, it isn’t her “fault”. She is not blameworthy.

      But I agree that there are things that she should have done but did not and things she shouldn’t have done but did. Even so, in a good world, she’d have been OK, but ours is less than perfect.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      So the world, at least for young hollywood, is to be determined by the things that put you at risk of what someone else might do; and if they do, it’s your fault. You were asking for it.

      Where have I heard this logic before?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        I think what the people who hacked these phones did is terrible (no matter how curious some of us might be to see the photos) and if caught I think it’s completely justified to prosecute them, however, someone needs to tell young Hollywood that this is going to keep happening until they stop providing material for people to steal and distribute.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oh look, someone stole money or jewels somewhere today or recently or all of the fucking time. Someone needs to tell people that this is going to keep happening until people stop providing material for people to steal and distribute.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        I can see a distinction here between “what is reasonable to expect from society” in terms of a normative prescription and an empirical probability.

        “What we are shooting for society to be” and “what society is and what that means for those who participate in it” are two different things.

        I think this is a disjoin between how the two tribes use the word “responsibility”. For the Left tribe, if you’re responsible for something it’s your *fault* if some bad consequence occurs.

        For the Right tribe, if you’re responsible for something you possess some measure of *control* over the likelihood of the thing happening to you, and it’s your *fault* if you don’t exercise that control.

        I think the Right tribe focuses too much on trying to determine what is the reasonable amount of exercise, because the Right is generally focused more on the individual. I think the Left tribe focuses too much on perceived opprobrium leveraged by society on the individuals, because the Left focuses more on the collective.

        Discussions like this generally result in people yelling at each other.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        To a certain extent I agree with Mike Dwyer. What happened in this case was evil but celebrities are public people not private people. Reporters have been trying to get the dirt on famous Hollywood actors since the days of silent movies. One of the purposes of the studio system during the Golden Age of Hollywood was to prevent gossip reporters from getting too much dirt by giving them ritualized gossip and access in exchange for not approaching the real scandals with a ten foot pole. The end of the studio system meant that more dirt was accessible to people. In the Internet age, you have even more creeps trying to get the goods on celebrities and publish them because they have more ability to because of the wonders of modern technology. This means that anybody who is a famous Hollywood actor or actress should know that there are certain perils to celebrity and that a certain amount of caution is necessary.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Outside of pure victim blaming, there is a dynamic in this conversation where men decide what is important and what women need to hear, instead of letting women drive the conversation. When you choose to opine (or shall I say, pontificate) about rape or other sexual abuse prevention, you are stepping into this minefield and should be very sensitive to how you sound to women.

        Or don’t. But keep in mind that women might understand this topic quite well and you’ll come across as a total bore. Perhaps you are okay with this.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        There is nothing wrong with taking nude pictures of yourself! And for a lot of people, their phone is their camera. Maybe leaving said pictures on your phone when you might lose it out in the world is a bad idea, but in this case, at least some of the victims say they had deleted the pictures.

        Hell, if they had taken nude photos of themselves with a regular digital camera, and uploaded them to their computer this could have happened. Or if they had taken them with a film camera and gotten them developed this could have happened. Basically, what ya’ll are saying is that women shouldn’t take nude photos of themselves. Which is sorta stupid.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        There is nothing wrong with taking nude pictures of yourself! And for a lot of people, their phone is their camera.

        This is true, as are the other points you make. Nevertheless, everyone ought to be making an informed decision, based on Patrick’s correct statement: there is no real security. Everyone should realize that the nude picture was taken and initially stored on a networked device, that for the most part you have no idea what software is running on that device, no idea how much of that software is exposed to the network, and whether or not said software has particular security problems. And there are unscrupulous people who have much better information about the software and will exploit the network exposure to extract data if possible.

        It’s not like this is a new problem for celebrities. Long lenses and acrobatic photographers have been around for decades. I recall hearing a PR consultant saying, many years ago, “You don’t want pictures of you topless at the beach circulating? Don’t go topless at the beach. You don’t want pictures of you sunbathing in the nude circulating? Don’t sunbath in the nude.” Who is in the right and who is in the wrong is just as clear today as it was back then. “Circulating” is much easier and faster now, but that’s as true for good things as bad. I’ll note that back in the day, the studios assigned people to stick with their stars and keep them from doing things like going topless at the beach.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        No, what I’m saying is that celebrities should know the risk of celebrity just like baseball players should know that a baseball might hit their head. Getting and circulating private photographs of famous Hollywood actors and other gossip as been the money earner of the tabloid press since forever. Everybody involved in entertainment should know that and be aware that they unfortunately do have to take steps beyond that of a private citizen to protect their privacy, especially when the sorts of people that would steal and distribute photographs have more tools available to them because of the Internet. Private and unimportant people are having a difficult enough time protecting their privacy in the age of the Internet so of course, celebrities are going to have it worse. Thats the only thing I’m saying.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “Basically, what ya’ll are saying is that women shouldn’t take nude photos of themselves.”

        i think everyone on earth would benefit from learning a simple phrase:

        “the internet is forever and it has no mercy*”

        the seminar keynote speaker would be anthony “appropriately named” weiner.

        that said i have no idea what mike is banging on about upthread. paparazzi are real and so is obsession and unreality; it’s all part of the machine that they feed themselves into to become more than human.

        i have no pity for people who choose to become celebrities, but presuming that somehow they’re baiting this kind of behavior by doing anything more than existing is to presume that the unreality engine is, itself, not real.

        and that’s baloney. if it wasn’t this it’d be some other weird, obsessive, invasive, unreal shit because that is what their world demands and people form real attachments to false images and ideas because something something movies or whatever.

        eventually we hit peak nude selfie (the publicity value of sex tapes has fallen through the floor, for example) and then it’ll be stealing their blood via nanobot bedbugs or some such nonsense. the machine will be fed and will not be denied.

        *note: maxim void in some areas of the EUReport

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        i have no pity for people who choose to become celebrities, but presuming that somehow they’re baiting this kind of behavior by doing anything more than existing is to presume that the unreality engine is, itself, not real.

        zackly. It’s like both arrows got reversed midflight.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        There are contexts in which I have pity for people who become celebrities, and this is certainly one of them. If they had been caught taking pictures of themselves out in the world, not so much.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        The only reason you pity them in this instance, tho, is because they’ve chosen to become celebrities.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “There are contexts in which I have pity for people who become celebrities, and this is certainly one of them. If they had been caught taking pictures of themselves out in the world, not so much.”

        i feel badly for those thrust into the spotlight by the accidents of history or machinations of others. they’re basically pawns for the machine to use up. that sucks.

        but having a life that is not your own is part of the pursuit of celebrity. one may not accept that until it’s too late, but it’s part of the deal. that may suck, but it’s a self-inflicted stardust wound.

        to echo saul – but hilariously – don’t these people read faust? (the joke is not whether they read faust or not; the real joke is that no one ever believes that they could be and most certainly will be faust in some capacity/capacities, over the course of their life)

        more cynically, i also don’t rule out episodes like these as not being ploys or misdirections. when money is at stake many, many things are going to come into play that normally wouldn’t or perhaps shouldn’t.

        there are major and minor obscenities in this great world of ours. if one person is willing to poison their child to death for the sake of blog posts, what might similarly-amoral but better organized people do for real money and real power?

        hell, one could argue that outside of temporary embarrassment, there is nothing lost (from a rep/pub pov) and everything to gain.

        1) those who previously chose to ignore jennifer lawrence now at least know she has a body that exists underneath clothes, and thus may now engage commercially with her body of work
        2) those inclined to rally the troops in her favor may now engage commercially with her body of work with a spirit of fervor and solidarity
        3) those inclined to blame the whole kaboodle on her are going to be stuck in a vicious k-hole of nude imaginings, and thus may now engage commercially with her body of work
        4) it is harder to ignore her, and thus harder to ignore the properties she stars in

        and at the end of the day #4 is generally the goal of publicity. unless she’s ganking american hostages for isis or molesting children on camera, there’s not a whole lot of negative impact publicity to be had.

        my outlined scenario certainly seems like a bit much, to understate the case ever so mildly, but weirder things have happened.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @leeesq I suspect they are more familiar with the costs of celebrity than we are.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @will-truman, they maybe but more than a few of them seem to think that they can go undiscovered while it will be other celebrities that get caught.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I honestly don’t feel any pity for these fools. They were stupid, and now they may learn a lesson. This is life.
        (Perhaps the creepy scumbag who decided sending the rest of the cast nude selfies will ALSO learn that they’ll get all over the internet).

        None of this was done with a sword hanging over their heads. They weren’t told “fuck me or I ruin your life, and your parents.”

        … I have pity for those celebrities — because you damn well don’t expect to be turned into a fuckslave simply for being on TV.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        What the hell is wrong with you people?

        No, I don’t pity Jennifer Lawrence. Since when is pity the emotion we should go for here? Why is that even in the conversation? But as a woman who has also been publicly humiliated via photographs, I feel for her. I sympathize, which is not like pity at all.

        Seriously, you fuckers are broken.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @leeesq I suspect that the vast majority of them do go undiscovered. We just don’t know about it for that reason. It should be a social goal to make that number as high as possible, rather than tut-tut those that get caught up. It’s probably a fool’s errand, but to the extent that we comment on the issue, that’s where our focus should be.Report

      • Re: celebrities and pity

        An acquaintance of mine has a spouse who isn’t a celebrity by almost any definition, but has a quasi-public job in which she interacts with and helps a lot of people. Those people tend to live in or close to the neighborhood of my acquaintance and his spouse. Sometimes, my acquaintance finds that when they’re out, his spouse is recognized and people seem to think it’s okay just to interrupt their privacy and any conversation they may be having, sometimes to ask for help or advice off-the-clock that’s related to her job. It’s probably similar to the way lawyers in social situations are sometimes asked for legal advice, or doctors for medical advice.*

        That’s not being a “celebrity,” but it’s part of the job that comes about mostly from the fact she does her job well. I imagine a lot of present-day celebrities encounter that, only on a larger scale. They had a job to do–usually acting, or singing–and they hit the big time and press it to their economic advantage because life is short, money needs to be earned, and you never know if 10 years from now you’ll be in the same demand. Yes, they’re there because of a choice, and they should be smart enough to know that they are in the public eye more than others, but they also have to live their life.

        So pity…..maybe that’s not what I’d say. But there can be empathy.

        *Historians, on the other hand, are usually dangerously too eager to talk. If you value the next 2 or 3 hours of your life, don’t ask a historian about anything, especially if it’s their dissertation research.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Sometimes I run into a celebrity in public. I don’t often recognize them, because of this, but sometimes the people I am with do. We share a “oh look, it’s so and so.”

        You know what I do… nothing. I leave them alone. I might make eye contact, if they are looking around. If they seem receptive, I could conceivably go say hi. But that has not happened.

        Which is fine. I don’t need to meet these people to like their art.

        On the other hand, this has absolutely nothing at all to do with stealing their dignity. Nor with our society’s relentless abuse of successful women. Separate topics entirely.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      “I decided to leave my comment here and not over at Tod’s thread because it feels like his thread will be where people tell me that there is zero fault with the celeb. Ever. ”

      Nothing is ever anyone’s fault, bro. You should know that by now. I can just do whatever I want and it’s the world’s responsibility to conform to my desires and prevent me from coming to harm.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      @mike-dwyer Even if cell phone nudes are a bad idea – and they are – that is so far from being the primary issue here that it is barely worth mentioned. Particularly when the actors in question did not do anything with the images that should have punctured an expectation of privacy. At the risk of also getting on everyone’s bad side, I do feel less sympathy if they send it to their boyfriend and their boyfriend sends it out after the breakup (though, even there, the boyfriend is the asshole and she is the victim and that remains the most important thing).

      The question here shouldn’t be whether it is wise to take pictures, using your phone, that you don’t want the world to see. The question is whether we should implicitly endorse a world where any picture taken with our phone should not carry with it the expectation of privacy. If I take a picture of my daughter goofing off in the bathtub, and someone hacks my account and distributes it, that shouldn’t happen, and the answer to that shouldn’t be “Don’t take pictures of your daughter in the bathtub.”

      Which I won’t. Not just because I would fear being hacked, but because I do have a fear that I could end up on the wrong side of laws against child pornography that are ridiculously broad. You can say that I am being cautious and prudent. But even having to be cautious about such things demonstrates something terribly, terribly wrong. Let’s talk about the thing that’s wrong, rather than the guy who doesn’t show appropriate caution and prudence. One is a tactical error. The other is an egregious moral wrong.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I’ll take the opposite position. If you take the picture using a networked device, not knowing what software is running on the device, not knowing how much of that software is exposed to the network, not knowing the security history — past and current — of that software, knowing that unscrupulous people with enormous computing power at their disposal have set up a whole lot of other networked software that is actively striving to capture the data you have (unintentionally) exposed…

        For years I’ve been making the same argument about the Internet of Things (IoT) [1]. If you attach your washing machine to the network, without knowing what software is running on it, without knowing how much of that software is exposed to the network, without knowing how good the security of the software is, knowing that there are teenagers out there who think overflowing your washing machine and doing thousands of dollars in damage is fun, well…

        [1] 15 years ago I worked for a telecom/cable company with a “concept” demo lab that included smart kitchen and other household devices (we had to modify the appliances, but it wasn’t like it was hard). The IoT was obvious then, along with the security problems that it entailed. The company has a broad patent with me listed as inventor for a software architecture that addressed some of the security problem; not that the device builders actually care about such things.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I pilot a two ton metal vehicle at a mile a second, and I have comparatively little idea how it actually works. I just need to know what I need to do to make it work. I assume, to some degree, that the makers of the vehicle made it so that it won’t explode if I tap the breaks wrong.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I pilot a two ton metal vehicle at a mile a second…

        What have you not been telling us about yourself?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        If cars were built like software, you’d get one free at the gas station, they would run on a few cents worth of electricity, there would be faster models every year, and every month or so they’d explode.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        To expand on Mr. Schilling’s analogy, every six months a major new capability would be added: first we make it a bank vault, then we make the bank vault fly, then we stick a hydroponic garden into the bank vault, then we weld on Doc Ock arms, then management decrees that we’ll replace two of the vault walls with plastic instead of steel, and we need to make it 400 feet tall… OTOH, an auto designer from 100 years ago wouldn’t understand the finer details, but would recognize every major mechanical subsystem in today’s cars: engine, transmission, suspension, steering, body work.

        20-some years ago, the FCC made choices. High-speed data could be turned over to the telcos, who had a long history, deep understanding, and legal framework for providing security; their architecture was also relatively rigid. Or it could be turned over to the agile, flexible IP-and-Ethernet vendors, whose whole notion of security was based on tight control of physical access to the network by a limited number of people. Experts at the time knew that any hope of real security was out the window with IPv4 and 802.11. Lord knows I spent enough time demonstrating just how nasty even tiny cracks in firewalls could be. But IP meant you could cobble together almost anything, and there would be a magnificent array of insecure applications :^)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And then we connected to this already precarious framework million of boxes running Windows, an OS that didn’t even have the notion of logging in.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith says:

        I want to ride in @will-Truman’s jet car. Safety be damned, I’d even take a selfie in it.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        To expand further on Mike’s analogy:

        There is a screaming horde of people out there demanding the octopus arms, right fucking now. And I’m not talking about the marketing guy in your office, he’s just relaying What The Customer Wants.

        They will not listen to you talk about how dangerous the octopus arms are.

        I’ve had I don’t know how many conversations in my lifetime where I’ve sat down with friends, loved ones, customers, and random strangers, and I’ve had some version of this conversation a million times:

        “If you do this, eventually this bad thing will happen to you. ”

        “Can’t I just do this other thing, to prevent that?”

        “Yes you can. You probably won’t. You’ll start off doing that other thing, but eventually you will forget, or you’ll get lazy, or you’ll try to do it some other way that you haven’t thought about ahead of time, and then this bad thing will happen to you.”

        “Well, I’ll just go ahead for now, just until I can come up with a better solution…”

        Time Passes

        “Hey, some random bad thing happened to me?”

        “What, that bad thing we talked about two years ago when you said you were going to do that thing that I warned you would cause bad things?”

        Almost inevitably, the next line is

        “I don’t remember that conversation.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Man, I dream about marketing guys who tell me the crazy things the customer actually wants. The ones I’m used to believe the competition about the insane things they claim they’re working on and tells me the psychotic things he needs to sell against them.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I think that celebrities should have the expectation of privacy…but they don’t. My point above is not that the act of stealing the pictures is bad but that in today’s world taking the pictures on your phone in the first place demonstrates poor judgement. Their agents should be doing a much better job of educating them about this stuff. On the other hand though, if it wasn’t for a ‘leaked’ sex tape Kim Kardashian wouldn’t be worth millions.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        There is real security out there. But it’s a bitch, and most people don’t really like hiring the counter-espionage folks.

        I just hope for the love of god they turned the GPS coordinates off. Leaving those on has gotten people killed.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        If we’re going to bash Microsoft, let’s be sure to point out that they’re the company that thought a macro language for office suite software that included the ability to reformat the hard disk, and a browser that executed anonymous blocks of machine code, under an operating system with a very limited notion of memory protection, were Good Ideas.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        They even left “Download a cool new skin for Windows Media Player” insecure enough to be a vector for viruses.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I just watched a video about how to defeat scammers who are using FLIRs new iPhone IR camera to get your pin number. Pretty sure FLIR didn’t want that to happen, but I bet you money they knew it could be done long before they ever built the camera add-on.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Will Truman wrote,
        Even if cell phone nudes are a bad idea – and they are – that is so far from being the primary issue here that it is barely worth mentioned. … The question here shouldn’t be whether it is wise to take pictures, using your phone, that you don’t want the world to see. The question is whether we should implicitly endorse a world where any picture taken with our phone should not carry with it the expectation of privacy.

        And Mike Dwyer wrote,
        I think that celebrities should have the expectation of privacy…but they don’t.

        There are variables and there are constants. We don’t talk about controlling constants, because we can. We talk about controlling variables, because we can.

        As I see it, Will is effectively arguing that variables aren’t the question, the constant is. And as I see it, others are arguing we shouldn’t talk about the variables because the problem is the constant, and nobody should ever have to suffer the consequences of the constant.

        But however true it is that we shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of the constant, the variables are the only thing we can control.

        Even if, over time, we can manage to change the constant, so we no longer suffer from it, until such time all the individual can control are the variables.

        If we don’t want to talk about the variables because the constant is an unfair thing, we aren’t talking about the one thing individuals can actually control.Report

  3. Avatar NoPublic says:

    Two comments to victim blaming. Not quite a world record, but close.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Regarding Lesson Four: There are right ways and wrong ways to present advice. One wrong way is to go straight past the actual wrong-doer and on to the victim. Which a lot of people do.

    The right way is to outline the best ways to prevent this from happening, matter-of-factly. Along the lines of:
    (1) The only sure way is to never take these pictures.
    (2) If you are going to take these pictures, here are the ways you can avoid being embarrassed:
    -(a) Don’t send them to people or send them only to people that you could embarrass in turn.
    -(b) Turn off cloud backup. Lock your phone.
    -(c) Re-evaluate your security measures. Come up with fictional answers to Security Questions that you can remember.

    Here, the this is not that nobody knew #1. You don’t have to tell them that. They know it. But 2b? A lot of people didn’t even realize that their pictures were being backed up, or they didn’t think through the ramifications of that.

    So if you’re giving advice, focus on 2b and 2c, which also includes a lot of things that people don’t think about as perhaps they should. But #1? Assume people know that. Assume that they took the risk anyway. Don’t assume that makes them culpable, because we all take risks every single day of our lives.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      Regarding 2c, the best advice I’ve run across is to answer the questions with the real answer to a totally different question by some pattern you can remember. So the answer to “Your mother’s maiden name” might be “Fluffy” because she likes cats, or “Toyota” because she bought you your first car. It doesn’t really matter what the pattern is so long as it’s not obvious but you can remember it and it results in answers that don’t make a bit of sense to anyone else, no matter how well they know you or how much they find out about you. Basically the answer should be something that’s a totally different category of thing.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        This is what security professionals do.
        (although I’m kinda partial to taking an roleplaying character and using their responses to the questions).Report

  5. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    At this point I’ve my credit card number needing to be cancelled twice due to it getting out there somehow, and one full-blown ID theft stemming from a break-in to my car and snatching a laptop. (Interesting side note: In the case of the ID theft, we quickly knew who the guy was because he shipped everything he ordered online to his studio apartment. Couldn’t get the police to do anything about it.)

    At this point I just give up. I buy everything online with a card that has insurance, I pay attention to see if unauthorized purchases/withdrawals/etc. have occurred, and if there are things I deem “too private” they don’t go on my computer or online.

    That’s just the way of it now. I expect all of these things to eventually happen to me, and I am at peace with it.Report

  6. Avatar Wardsmith says:

    Fun fact. Every single piece of information in my Facebook account is fictitious starting with my name. What’s hilarious are the friend requests and phishing schemes aimed at that false identity.

    I wish I had access to it here, but there was a tie-in to a video game (I think about a sniper or something covert ops), and if you let their software login to your Facebook account it gave an extremely scary report where you were now the target of some black ops agency. Don’t know if it is still out there but it should scare the pants off people. It almost made me nervous about my fake account and got several of my friends to quit Facebook altogether. One had to practically threaten lawsuit to force them to delete his data.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      What’s hilarious are the friend requests and phishing schemes aimed at that false identity.

      Somewhere I have a paper where a guy did a research problem with a corpus of fake social media accounts, and managed to cross-link a bunch of those schemes back to a likely (if unknown) single entity. I’ll try to dig it up, you’d probably enjoy reading it.

      There are times when I miss reading more security lit.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        did you catch the one where someone in Scandinavia triggered a DDOS by saying that Gore was going to win? (he wrote a paper about his scheme to keep the server functional during the DDOS).Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Stack 0verflow’s “we’ll post your desktop publically if you steal our game” was pretty good trolling.Report

  7. Avatar zic says:

    I’m half-way through this New Yorker profile of Anonymous. It’s a fascinating look at the hacker world, both good and bad; take human nature and turn it up to 11. Here’s a sample, the response to credit-card companies honoring the fed’s request to stop sending payments to wikileaks:

    During Operation Payback, in early December, Anonymous directed new recruits, or noobs, to a flyer headed “HOW TO JOIN THE FUCKING HIVE,” in which participants were instructed to “FIX YOUR GODDAMN INTERNET. THIS IS VERY FUCKING IMPORTANT.” They were also asked to download Low Orbit Ion Cannon, an easy-to-use tool that is publicly available. Doyon downloaded the software and watched the chat rooms, waiting for a cue. When the signal came, thousands of Anons fired at once. Doyon entered a target URL—say,—and, in the upper-right corner, clicked a button that said “IMMA CHARGIN MAH LAZER.” (The operation also relied on more sophisticated hacking.) Over several days, Operation Payback disabled the home pages of Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal. In court filings, PayPal claimed that the attack had cost the company five and a half million dollars.


    • Avatar zic says:

      moderation rescue.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Anonymous is kinda wacky.
      They do some important, very good work…
      and some stuff that most people dislike to downright hate.

      They’re also a big bloody distraction, sucking up a lot of resources
      that could be used to go after more valuable targets.

      If you read Encyclopedia Dramatica, you’ll get more of what Anonymous is like,
      in it’s own words. (I do not recommend going on 4chan unless you’re better
      at computer security than I am).Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      hmm… interesting article.
      Doubt anyone got hurt on that epilepsy prank, though —
      way I heard it, they had tested it to make sure it wouldn’t
      actually hurt anyone.

      [And, yes, certain “trolls” will lie about getting hurt.
      talk’s always cheap online.]Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @kim that link would have triggered a massive migraine for me. Not harmed in the long term, no. But a few days lost in pain, vomiting, etc.

        Epilepsy, migraine, etc. are brain inflammations; and knowingly triggering one in someone else isn’t all that different from slipping someone a date-rape drug.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        hm. might not have tested for migraines (posting to an epilepsy site, after all).
        It wouldn’t have been a lulzy prank if folks got hurt.

        That article is full of unintentional hilarity: “Within two years, Alexander warned, the group [Anon] might be capable of destabilizing national power grids”

        … though I must say I’m surprised to hear little coverage of what happened in Iran.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @kim conspiracy-minded zic would suspect that numbers of these operations in the Arab Spring had covert government support — which would mean that anonymous is totally infiltrated and most of those gov. reports are to keep the cover intact. But we all know people who believe in conspiracy theories are nuts, right?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Doubtful, extremely doubtful. And I do believe in conspiracies, though they’re generally quite dull (and limited in scope). I know where the Knights Templar hang out.

        If you wanted to make an argument about covertly supporting hackers, GWB’s administration is a much better target than Obama’s. GWB never arrested anyone for anything (seriously, it was like they weren’t looking). Obama arrests folks even on the vague suspicion they could have done something.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    “On the other hand, this has absolutely nothing at all to do with stealing their dignity. Nor with our society’s relentless abuse of successful women. Separate topics entirely.”

    I agree. The reason I chose to comment on this post instead of Tod’s is that far too often in our modern discourse, this site being a good example, we pretend like we aren’t intelligent enough to have two debates at the same time. On this particular topic there are two key points:

    1) Celebrities have just as much right to privacy and not being the victim’s of crime as the rest of us and what happened to these actresses should be a criminal matter.

    2) Most people are really naive about their technological security and certain young female celebrities seem to be extra-naive/dumb about it.

    I saw this thread as focusing on #2 and I find it the more accessible topic in the sense that we could all learn a lesson from this. I will also repeat my earlier statement which is that their agents should be drilling data security into their heads repeatedly. I think there seems to be a failure on that front and in the security sense I think the actresses do bear a certain amount of responsibility, no different than if I parked my car in a bad neighborhood with my wallet sitting on the seat.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “…no different than if I parked my car in a bad neighborhood with my wallet sitting on the seat.”
      @mike-dwyer (and, really, everyone…)

      Is this victim blaming? If so, when, if ever, is victim blaming acceptable?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I don’t think it’s ‘victim blaming’ at all. That’s a pretty popular term these days but to me it feels like a contrived shield against the notion of personal responsibility. And that’s my point here. These actresses should know that stuff like this happens with increasing frequency. If they don’t know, then their agents should know and should be educating them. If the actresses do in fact know and/or have been educated on the subject then why the hell are they taking naked selfies with their phones?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        That’s a pretty popular term these days but to me it feels like a contrived shield against the notion of personal responsibility.

        THe concept can be used that way, but does that define it? I agree with you that the concept can be overused, but what you’re essentially doing is blaming the person who leaves his/her wallet in their unlocked car as deserving to be robbed. Which strikes me as a confusion. That person, in the scenario described, is clearly a victim and it seems to me you’re blaming them for the offense they receive. I wouldn’t disagree with a characterization of that person as naive, or stupid, or negligent, or unserious, or ignorant, or whatever else. But to say they weren’t a victim – hat they somehow deserved what happened to them – makes very little sense to me. But maybe I’m wrong about this, ya know? That’s just how it strikes me.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I noted several times that yes, they are victims. But Patrick’s post was about digital security. My remarks are aimed at that. Everyone, not just celebrities, has a personal responsibility to keep their information secure. Female celebrities, knowing the additional risks they face of having people who really want those nude selfies, should know better. If they put them on their phone, someone is going to try to take them. The solution has two components:

        A) Go after the criminals who hack their phones.
        B) Educate them to be smarter about how they use their devices.

        Item A is for the people that want to seek justice for the victims. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I see this post as being about Item B. Too much focus on A means B never happens. (I could spend lots of digital ink here about how that is a recurring theme in American discourse but I would rather not.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @mike-dwyer (and others who know the tech better than I),

        Is there anything these women could have done to prevent this that wouldn’t have been onerous? I mean, sure, we could say they should not use cell phones or never take pictures, but we’d all agree that is ridiculous. So, what should they have done that they didn’t? Or what did they do that they shouldn’t have done?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        You’re a teacher. Obviously the kids you teach are young, but I am sure you are aware of the ‘billboard rule’ ? We constantly remind our teenage daughters that they should not put anything on the internet they would not want to see on a billboard.

        Smartphones are entry points to the internet. They can and will be hacked and it is very hard to stay out in front of the bad guys. With that in mind, I think the ‘no nude pictures on your phone’ is really the best strategy.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Female celebrities, knowing the additional risks they face of having people who really want those nude selfies, should know better.

        But that’s identical (to me, anyway) to the argument that women who are attractive to men who inhabit dark alleys are somehow to blame for the morally repugnant outcomes they receive when walking down those paths.

        Seems to me that often enough, in these types of discussions, there’s a basic conflation of the pragmatically prudent with moral blameworthiness such that a failure to behave prudently entails that a person who suffer harm is no longer a victim and are themselves morally blameworthy.

        Epistemology and metaphysics and all that. I mean, either the woman who had her nude selfies stolen was harmed or she wasn’t. What difference does it make to that judgment that “she should have known better”?

        That’s a serious question, by the way. I’m just not seeing it and maybe that’s a failing on my part.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        To me this stuff comes across less as “victim blaming” and more as simple mansplaining.

        Which, look, you can say true things but still come across as boorish. And really, that is what mansplaining is. It is boorish behavior with a gendered flair. It is men who feel a need to explain things to women, things we know. And then explain them again. And again. And again, until our girlish minds will finally take in your deep man knowledge.

        Sometimes if you use small words our brains can handle it. Be warned, only the most manly of men can truly reach us.

        (At this point veronica giggles and looks up at the men with doe eyes. The men seem to enjoy this.)

        I suck at getting dates with men, partly because I have no idea how to play these games. And all the status stuff men (so many of them) seem to need I cannot provide.

        (It’s funny when they talk to me about computers. I say, “Oh, cool! Yeah. Anyway, I’m a software engineer at {company name} and I work on {complicated project}.”

        Men (so many of them) hate this.)

        Anyway, security advice. Sure. Why not. But if you come across as a boor, well, that’s on you. Saying “I’m not being boorish” is kinda pointless. You are if your listeners think you are.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I’m familiar with the idea. However, I’m also a pretty intelligent person and I had zero idea that someone could have accessed images stored on the ‘hard drive’ of my phone and which I did not actively upload to anything.

        And to say that [young, attractive, female] celebrities should not have nude photos — photos they uploaded no where of their own volition — on their phone seems onerous to me.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        But that’s identical (to me, anyway) to the argument that women who are attractive to men who inhabit dark alleys are somehow to blame for the morally repugnant outcomes they receive when walking down those paths.

        The guys who attacked me on Hayes St. that one time can’t be excused. But does that mean I wasn’t an idiot for being a white guy riding my bike through the projects after dark? Would it really have been so bad for someone to tell me I shouldn’t do so? Was the black woman in my cab who told me as she got out, “Now you drive straight out of this neighborhood and don’t stop for anyone,” offensively blacksplaining things to me?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Yah, again, I think you’re missing the point. Pragmatic prudence is a different concept than harm. Categorically so.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @james-hanley — If men were systematically shamed for public bike riding, and then you were attacked while riding a bike, and then people responded by saying, “Well, you know, if you choose to ride a bike, what do you expect?” while you want to talk about what happened to you and how unfair it is that men cannot ride bikes anywhere without getting a world of shit, then yeah, I think it would be similar.

        Stop making analogies between this and things that happen to men. The analogies do not fit because (white, cis, middle-class) men are not the targets of this kind of systematic abuse and double standard.

        This is about women being lectured by men regarding their sexual behavior. All the context in the world does not erase that aspect. That aspect makes this conversation particularly fraught. Ignoring this fact is boorish.

        All that said, sure, online security is a good idea.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I understand you may have not known about the cloud storage. But it’s not just about that. There are plenty of other ways you can hack into devices. This is just one example. I continue to repeat, that was the point of Patrick’s post, to educate people on that subject. Furthermore, if you’re a female celebrity, this is not a new phenomenon. Sex tapes get ‘leaked’. Cell phone videos get taken. This has been happening for years. Kat Denning had nude photos leaked four years ago. The point I keep trying to make is that if the actresses haven’t figured out that this can happen and if their agents haven’t made them aware, then someone needs to educate them. In self-defense parlance that would be called ‘situational awareness’.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @veronica-d : [feminist rant snipped]

        All that said, sure, online security is a good idea.

        When you get a chance scrolly-scroll up to the top of the page and take note of what the subject of this particular post is. Then back out to the homepage and… looky-looky. A whole nuther post devoted to the general topic of how female celebs are fucked over by scummy men on the internet.

        Finally, take a moment to contemplate the meaning of the word, “threadjacking.” Thank-you.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        First, let me thank you for answering my questions thoughtfully and sincerely. In re-reading some of them, I see they may have come across as more pointed than I intended.

        I’m going to make an analogy that may or may not work, so bear with me…

        There remains a stigma on men who work in early childhood. For a variety of reasons, I have learned that I need to protect myself in ways that my female colleagues don’t. I don’t like that I have to approach certain situations different than them, that I sometimes have to handle myself differently from them, but I recognize reality for what it is and do so. Some of these “best practices” I’ve gleaned from other men in the field. Some I’ve learned on my own. A few I’ve taken away from thoughtful, considered conversations with trusted female colleagues. But you know what I never really learn from? And what is often insulting? When women who don’t really know me and don’t know what it’s like to be in my position want to tell me just what I need to do and why. They may be well-intentioned to the core, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

        This kinda feels like that, only in reverse. It is one thing to say, “Holy shit, everyone. Looks like our phones aren’t nearly as secure as we thought. Here are some tips on digital security that everyone could benefit from.” That is generally-applicable advice on ‘best practice’. But it is quite another to say, “Hey cute, young, female celebrities. You’ve got to follow some different rules than the rest of us.” Even if the advice is spot on, there is something unsavory about from whom and how it is delivered. Perhaps this is a bizarre form of ad hominem, but as someone who has been in what I think is a somewhat similar situation, I can tell you how off putting it can be. It just lands differently when it comes from A) someone you don’t know and B) that person has not experienced what you have. This isn’t always the case but I think it is in these types of situations.

        And to be perfectly, 100% clear, I do not doubt for a second your intentions when you offer the advice you’ve offered here. Your reputation precedes you in terms of your genuine nature and all-around good heartedness.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Without weighing in on the rest of what @veronica-d wrote, I think this part is both relevant and accurate:

        “This is about women being lectured by men regarding their sexual behavior. All the context in the world does not erase that aspect. That aspect makes this conversation particularly fraught. Ignoring this fact is boorish.”

        You may disagree with the latter, but I think that makes clear that she is engaging with the topic being discussed here, albeit in a ‘meta’ way by discussing the discussion itself.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Stop making analogies between this and things that happen to men. The analogies do not fit because (white, cis, middle-class) men are not the targets of this kind of systematic abuse and double standard.

        Thanks for the femsplaining this to us, but in point of fact, there is a common Internet scam in which men are induced to start a videoconference with an attractive woman (or someone using a video of an attractive woman to pose as one). The scammer escalates things sexually and then takes off her clothes and convinces the man to do the same. At this point, the scammer has some embarrassing footage of the man, and uses it to blackmail him.

        When I heard about this, I suppose I could have raged against the agents of the matriarchy trying to control my body and slut-shame me, but being a reasonable person I filed it away under “useful things to know.”Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @kazzy : Please cite where anyone on this site, either contributor or commenter, has offered a word of criticism regarding the sexual behavior of the victims. I’m not interested in what people imagine “between the lines” or any other such nonsense. I’m not responsible for the hallucinations of others.

        The regrettable but altogether natural fact is that nude images of (primarily) female celebs are highly prized by certain people. Another regrettable fact is that our cell phones with cameras and cloud backup systems are less secure than we want to believe. Combining these two regrettable facts with some people with more computer skills than morals guarantees that any such photos in existence will eventually see the light of day.

        Noting these facts is not in any way “victim blaming,” nor is pointing out that certain steps can be taken to mitigate or eliminate these risks. To assign blame is to say that the person bears some moral culpability for doing something “bad.” I don’t hear anyone saying that here. I haven’t heard anyone say JLaw can’t or shouldn’t enjoy her sexuality or share that wonderfulness with whoever she chooses, however she chooses. But if an element of enjoying her sexuality involves nude images, then the simple, unavoidable reality is that it’s her responsibility to take the steps necessary to keep them private. No one can do that for her.

        Saying someone made a mistake and is suffering the consequences of that mistake is not the same thing as saying she did something immoral and, frankly, I’m baffled why otherwise intelligent people are conflating the two concepts. It’s like Fox News hacks picking apart some utterance of the president to make it mean something completely different than what he actually said or meant. It’s fundamentally a lack of charity and honesty.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Stop making analogies between this and things that happen to men.

        Actually, it was about me being white, not about me being male.

        And it was about whether all suggestions of prudence are necessarily ‘splainin’ or whether sometimes they could just be suggestions to be prudent. But apparently that question is off-limits. I’ll make a note of it.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @brandon-berg — That’s gross and criminal. How often does this happen. Links please?

        BTW, when they police bust up the scams (and I hope they do), who do they discover is running the show?Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @james-hanley — Obviously it is possible to advise prudence. But I am trying to explain why women keep responding badly to men who do this. And this keeps happening. And men keep going, “Awww shucks, why are you ladies so offended. I’m just trying to explain…” And women keep saying, “No, stop, it’s gross.” And then the men double down.

        Perhaps at some point you might stop and listen.

        Or not.

        Do you ever wonder what the women in your life say about you when you are not around?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Read my comment down below. That’s my response to you.

        You want to know what the women in my life say behind my back? I have no idea, of course, but would you like a list of emails? That is, are you asking an honest question or are you just making a nasty implication because you think nobody can potentially disprove it?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        BTW, when they police bust up the scams (and I hope they do), who do they discover is running the show?

        LOL. Because the lil women must be taking orders from men. Their little feminine minds couldn’t come up with something like this on their own.

        You’re right–the anti-woman bias is omnipresent and subtle.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:


        Your question to @james-hanley was uncalled for.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @james-hanley — Well, the conversations don’t always bring out the best in me. But behind my frustration I have a real point: women are often very hesitant to confront men who mansplain to them. In fact, if you take to time to read what they write on this subject (Google “men explain things to me”), you’ll see our typical response is to smile and put up with it, until we escape the man. Then we talk among ourselves about what an ass he was.

        Look, I am not the only woman on this forum who has become fed up with you. But face to face, you will be less likely to hear it. I certainly don’t confront men at work who pull this stuff. Not worth the backlash. But it remains the fact such men are THAT GUY.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @james-hanley On @brandon-berg ’s point: he is clearly implying some terrible thing that women do to men that matches what men do to women. Basically, he is spouting MRA 101 talking points. So I am asking for links about this stuff. Who is really doing it? To which men? How frequently? In other words, is this really a thing?

        Or is it the fevered rage-dream of MRAs?

        I don’t hate men. Nor do I hate male sexuality. I’m a sex positive kinkster. I think men and women (and other genders) should be free to explore a wide variety of sexualities in safe, positive, and consensual ways.

        If men are being blackmailed cuz sex, that sucks a lot.

        On the other hand, consider @brandon-berg , consider what a piece of pondscum he is, how he misses no opportunity to hate on women.

        You so mad at me you wanna hitch your wagon to that creep’s point?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      It’s more like your neighbors convincing you to give them a copy of your house key for emergencies, and then they leave it in an unlocked car in a bad neighborhood, labeled with your address. If you’re to blame it’s for not knowing how totally irresponsible those people are.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I would say it’s more like you knew that the neighbors had left unlocked cars in bad neighborhoods for years…and you give them the key anyway thinking, “It won’t happen to ME.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I honestly don’t know how many iPhone users know that Apple automatically copies their pictures to the cloud. Without that feature, the only risk is that your phone would be stolen.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        My Mother in law didn’t know he Ipad copied all her photos to the cloud tube things. Granted she is old, but i’m sure many people don’t know that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Thanks for the info Mike. As if I didn’t have enough reasons to not use Apple products….Report

  9. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    You’re off-topic here. If you want to keep talking about the broader problem of crimes against women, Tod’s post focuses on that. Patrick’s post is about digital security. I specifically commented here to discuss the photo leak in that context. You keep trying to broaden the conversation to crimes against women which seems to imply that you are going to dismiss any ancillary topics as irrelevant. That seems a bit unfair to those of us who want to talk about how people (including celebrities) can better protect themselves against these types of crimes.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      Just saw your comment above re: thread-jacking.


      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        FWIW (not all that much, I’m sure, but I cling to the hope of something more!) I don’t think VD was threadjacking. She was responding to the content of certian claims she disagreed with. I think that’s entirely appropriate and justified. I mean, if the discussion is about the length of skirts women should wear to avoid being raped on their walk home, I don’t think it’s inappropriate for someone to suggest that *that* discussion is a part of the problem.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Is skirt length the disussion here? Up above you seem to suggest we shouldn’t suggest women stay out of dark alleys at night. I think there’s a world of difference between saying stay out of dark alleys and criticizing skirt length. But if I read you and Veronica correctly, we have to conflate the two things and not talk about either, because each are equally mansplainin’, each are equally about controlling women’s sexuality.

        Intelligent conversasation requires making intelligent distinctions. If we want to shut down conversation, then, there’s no better way than to reject distinctions, to hide them in a moral smokescreen that says anyone who considers them is just being furthering the oppression of women.

        We call that progress.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @stillwater is correct. I was responding to the conversation as it developed, not so much to the original post. For example, at one above, some person pointed out how little the “felt pity” for celebrities, with the clear implications that celebrity status alone makes these crimes not really crimes.

        This is the “it’s just like the weather” model of Internet behavior, as if 4chan trolls are the same as storm clouds.

        But they are not. They are people doing horrible things. That women are so often the target is not an accident.

        Anyway, if you like so much to explain things to women, from time to time you might want to stop and let women explain things to you.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:


    (DOWN HERE!!!)

    With all due respect, I don’t think it is up to you or me to decide what qualifies as “lecturing” women about their sexuality. If the women here or elsewhere feel as if our well-intentioned advice amounts to a lecture, we would be well-served to listen. If our goal is to support women in fully realizing themselves — sexually or otherwise — than taking time to understand how we can do that is an important first step. If some women tune out as soon as we start off with, “What ya should do is…” then we should adjust our tack.

    This is certainly an intent/impact thing. The intention may not be to “mansplain” (a team I have deliberately avoided using here) but if that is how it is received, we cannot ignore that. Look at what @veronica-d said here:
    “Which, look, you can say true things but still come across as boorish. And really, that is what mansplaining is. It is boorish behavior with a gendered flair. It is men who feel a need to explain things to women, things we know. And then explain them again. And again. And again, until our girlish minds will finally take in your deep man knowledge.”

    It’s not even so much what is said but how it is said. I have zero doubt that your intentions — and those of most of the men here — are anything other than fully supporting women. And with that in mind, we should take the time to listen to them and know how to best go about doing that. Being boorish, mansplaining, what-have-you, is cutting ourselves off at the knee. Resisting that criticism make the conversation about men instead of women. And then we’ve entirely missed the boat.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      It is men who feel a need to explain things to women, things we know…And again, until our girlish minds will finally take in your deep man knowledge

      Is it possible that the above is boorish behavior also?

      Here’s where I’m coming from. Every year, at almost every college campus, one or more girls get raped. Some of these rapes happen to frosh girls who are away from home on their own for the first time, who drank a bit too much at a party and lost situational awareness and/or the ability to successfully resist.

      I’ve seen the effects on these students. One was a friend when I was in college. I was present when she broke her hand punching the wall in anger. I have sat on a committee that wiped out a student’s entire semester so the slate of Fs (from all As on het mudterm report) would not appear on her transcript. I was the one who told her she didn’t need to ever apologize for–in her words–“not handling this very well.”

      So three weeks ago I was advising incoming frosh. It’s not in our script, but I take time to talk about this. I tell the students I’m with the reality of their risk of rape. I encourage them to practice situational awareness. I suggest they use a buddy system when they go to parties. Because I look at them and I see my college friend. I see the student whose grades fell from all As to all Fs. I see my daughter who’s going off to college next year.

      Am I mansplaining? Am I blaming them? Am I trying to control their sexuality? Or am I desperately trying to prevent at least one young woman from being raped?

      Am I protesting too much? Is that in itself evidence that I’m actually oppressing these students?

      I also tell them that if they are raped they should not blame themselved. That even if they drank too much, or were walking home alone after dark, or went to the guy’s room at the end of the date, the guy is in the wrong. I tell them to not keep it to themselves and just try to deal with it, but to tell someone, whomever it is they can talk to, to get help.

      I also tell the guys no really does mean no–legally, even if they don’t want to believe it–and nothing gives them the right to sex. That their lives also can be ruined by rape, that they can be expelled, convicted, imprisoned, put on a sex offenders list for the rest of their lives.

      But we know some guys aren’t going to get that message, or in the way young people are, they’ll think it–the consewuences–can’t happen to them. We know some guys are going to rape, given the opportunity. So part of my lecture, my sermon, is young women, don’t give them that opportunity–in the end only you can protect yourself.

      Should I drop that part of the sermon because of course they know it? Should I shut up entirely and not be blunt about the reality that is out there for these young women who are on their own for the first time in their lives?

      The message I’m hearing is that I should cut out that part of message, the part where I say “this is how you do your best to protect yourself.” I’m hearing that I shouldn’t tell my daughter to use the buddy system at parties; that I shouldn’t tell her to not wear her headphones when she’s walking from the library to her dorm after dark.

      And I wonder if we’ve all gone mad, if because some men only give the one part of the message and forget the rest, if because of some type of political correctness, we’re actually failing to equip young women with the key factor that they can utilize to protect themselves.

      Do they already know this message? Does it matter? I worked at a family-owned building supply company whose main competition was Home Depot. Having one store insteaf of hundreds, it couldn’t compete on price, so it competed on service. We all knew we competed on service, so they didn’t need to keep reminding us, right? Wrong–we had required biweekly training, 90% of which was about customer service. It was repetitive, irritating, even condescending, but it worked, because it was a constant reminder, keeping what we knew in the forefront of our mind.

      I don’t care if someone’s offended by what I tell these students. I don’t care if Veronica Dire thinks I’m oppressing them, if someone thinks I’m mansplaining, if the students themselves think, “yeah, yeah, grandpa, we know that.” I care if sometime a female student wants to go to a party, and gets a friend to go because some tendentious old fart reminded her that going alone was maybe not the best idea.

      Maybe I’ve saved no one from being raped. Maybe I have. Probably I’ll never know. But if in the thirty years I expect to teach my sermon protects one young woman, I’ll happily trade that off against the offense of Veronica, you, and however many others. Because offense is not harm, but rape is.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “Am I mansplaining? Am I blaming them? Am I trying to control their sexuality? Or am I desperately trying to prevent at least one young woman from being raped?

        Am I protesting too much? Is that in itself evidence that I’m actually oppressing these students?”

        I am wholly unqualified to answer these questions. But the young women in your audience might be worth asking. Were they to tell you, “We heard what you said and understood it but, frankly, we’d have rather had that conversation in a more intimate space with just women present,” would you help facilitate that happening? I’m pretty confident you would because I’ve come to know the kind of guy you are. Your goal is to help those young women and I think if approached with constructive criticism about how you might be able to do that better, you’d be all ears. This forum — the internet in general — doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that sort of constructive dialogue. I’m trying to pick the helpful bits out — from all comers — and not get bogged down in exactly who is being how boorish.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        I think some people don’t want to have that conversation. Sometimes, “shut up and listen” isn’t followed up with anything to listen to. There’s the criticism, without the constructive.

        And for all that someone like Veronica cares deeply about these issues and in fact is more directly affected by them than I am, these students nevertheless are, to her, abstractions, representations of womanness, while to me they are living breathing individuals. Veronica had no doubt hugged women who’ve been, but she did not hug my friend who’d been raped. She no doubt believes that no woman should apologize for being raped, but she’s not the one who told the 18 year old facing a committee who was sitting in judgement of her academic performance–because she’d been raped; how horrible was that for her, and to have to admit to this group of professors something she was so embarrased about that she’d never reported it– that she shouldn’t apologize.

        Does Veronica really want me to listen? Then say something. Or does she just want me to shut up? These students who are abstract representations of womanness for others are flesh and blood individuals to me. I’m a helluva lot more concerned about them than I am about what some anonymous person on the internet thinks of me. So if I’m doing it wrong, let’s talk about how to do it right–but we’re not doing that, we’re only, always and forever, talking about how someone’s doing it wrong.

        My position is, if anyone want me to listen, then say something constructive after telling me to listen. Give me the fucking script to help these young women protect themselves or just shut the motherfucking hell up, already. If the concern of not being paternalistic overrides the concern of helping these young women not get raped in the first place, then just go to hell.

        Because, goddamit, saying “Don’t go to that frat party alone, and don’t drink too much” is not judging their sexuality, unless it’s followed by “or it’s your own fault.” And the assumption that it’s always followed by “or it’s your own fault,” implicitly if not explicitly, is deeply stupid.

        Do I sound angry? I sure as hell am, because I look these young woman in the eyes every day in my office, and I know how easy it is for young people to make mistakes, and how they don’t deserve to suffer that much for a simple mistake. But we’re told not to remind them how to avoid those mistakes. As though they’re superhuman, never needing any reminders, instead of being humanly fallible, as though they are “Woman”TM instead of a woman.

        If someone emphasizes telling me how wrong I’m doing it over showing me how to do it right, I’m persuaded they’ve prioritized demonstrating their moral superiority over protecting young woman.

        And that makes me angry. Very angry.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @james-hanley After four years of being a female student in college (and working on a crisis line) and about twice that many of supervising students who are mostly female, I strongly believe there is one set of things that REALLY helps students be safer from these threats:

        Make sure that every student in the school knows that there is always help a phone call away, for them or anyone they’re worried about, and drill those phone numbers into their heads. Then if they call, show up promptly and make sure everyone involved is safe without consequences for having called. (For eg, we have a drug/alcohol amnesty clause that administration can invoke to protect bystanders and victims.) Then let the student making the call decide if s/he wants to pursue the matter further or not, with full information and as little pressure as humanly possible, rather than coercing her/him into doing so (or not doing so). Make sure that your school has a cultural expectation that this is what will happen if they call campus authorities: that everyone will be almost always be safe ASAP and almost no one will ever end up horrified at the consequences of having called them.

        That is the most efficient safety method. I was thoroughly lectured, at the big school where I was an undergraduate, as were my female friends. It did very little good, and quite a bit of harm – I often heard variants “Well, I didn’t feel safe calling anyone and I knew it was my own fault for being there, so they would probably blame me anyway…” or “There’s no point in reporting it, they’ll just send out another email about people watching their drinks…” Campus safety felt to us like a lost cause at that point in time at my big undergrad school, so we found alternative trusted networks that we COULD rely on, not including the student organization that spent a lot of time telling us what not to do, but which DID include other campus folks who offered help and spent a lot of time emphasizing that they weren’t there as judges. And those of us who worried about others of us made a lot of noise about how we DID trust those particular authorities and WOULD call them.

        And in my experience (my real, hugging people, non-abstracted experience), people that age are much more likely to realize in the middle of something dangerous that it is a bad idea, than they are to plan ahead – planning ahead is usually way more subject to “oh, but it won’t be a problem just this ONCE”…. – if they have an “auto-response” drilled into them of calling someone who isn’t intoxicated / alone / threatened and can help, they might reach out for that rescue. if their ‘auto-response’ is focused on what they could have done to have avoided being in that position in the first place… it just contributes to their inability to get out of the situation.

        The piece I think you are missing is that our culture ALREADY victim-blames young women (or really any victim of sexual assault – but my experience as a young woman was of being blamed “proactively”) – whether or not you ever say anything that would even imply blame, you are talking to an audience that is walking around with the expectation of being blamed, plus culturally or socially there is a huge stigma to having been sexually assaulted – and so there is a really big risk that your well-meaning, pragmatic advice just reinforces those cultural messages, EVEN IF you are not blaming them at all. Because they have heard that same advice a million times in a context where they were being blamed, explicitly or implicitly. The association with self-blame is already wired in, and so when you flip those switches, the whole thing comes along, not just the part you want them to hear.

        Pushing really hard for campus safety and other related authorities to be reliable, trustworthy, and non-threatening is a hell of a lot harder, politically riskier, and less comfortable than giving young people some sound practical advice about what to avoid. But I’d much rather give sound practical advice about urgently getting trustworthy help than sound practical advice about living in fear, so I do what I can to help make that work. (Mostly, here where I work now, it’s been other folks doing that work, and I get the easy job of emphasizing that IT WILL BE OKAY to call those folks. Well, it’s not always easy. Some of these kids are as afraid of anyone in a position of authority as I was at their age.) I suppose it does include the sound practical advice of “carry your phone” – but they all do that automatically anyway….

        I honestly hate giving you this advice? Because even now, today, as an authoritative person, what I hear is “well, they need to learn to call the cops.” and I have ever so many reasons why I couldn’t do that.

        But what I’m really saying is that there need to be people in positions of authority in their college who are NOT cops, and who ARE going to stop sexual assault in its tracks, and then everyone in the college needs to do their best to promulgate student awareness of those folks. Which still makes my hindbrain twitchy, but as you say – I don’t really care if it is politically or personally miserable to advocate for this, I just want the bad stuff not to happen to my students.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @james-hanley — I you really saying you want to listen? Really, really?

        Okay, do you check in with these women, by which I mean, work to create a safe space where they can give you honest feedback? How hard do you work on gaining trust? (Women who have been abused and ignored and shamed and blamed are often very hesitant to trust.)

        During your conversations, do you stop from time to time and ask them how they feel about what you are telling them? Do you get their explicit consent to have this conversation with you at this time?

        If you do not do these things, you might try it.

        If you have not already done so, maybe talk with the people who do anti-rape activism on your campus. Get their advise. They certainly have training material.

        Perhaps you already do these things. Perhaps what you are doing is fine.

        I only know how you treat women on this forum.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        My college is working on that kind of thing. We’re behind, and it’s faculty driven because…well, not all administrations think about these things. Rapes are bad for the reputation, right? Well, not so much the rapes, but the public awareness of them. Sigh.

        I also want that response drilled into them. That’s why my talk included the “but.” What comes after the “but” is always a sort of negation of what comes before, right? (I’m not a racist, but…) So I don’t say “get help and you’re not to blame, but be prudent.” I say “Be prudent, but you’re not to blame and you should get help.”

        Does it still do more harm than good? I’m open to that possibility. But I want them to internalize situational awareness every bit as much as they internalize getting help. And, FWIW, I don’t say call the cops, because I know the thought deters some from reporting at all–I say call whomever you trust.

        Still, I’m open to a better script. But notice what you did in that comment–you assumed I care, not that I’m just covering for slut shaming, or trying to downplay sexual assault. You classified me as an ally, if perhaps a misguided one, not as an enemy. Lately here, I’ve been defined as the enemy by a couple other commenters. It makes a big difference in whether I’ll listen. I’m told I should listen, but you’re the only one who’s given me the impression you actually care about really getting me to hear.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        More implications, Veronica? That’s always such an honest form of argument.

        Maybe my issue with you isn’t your gender? Have you noticed how I talk to a lot of the guys around here? Have you noticed I don’t talk to Maribou that way? Have you noticed how often I’ve had good conversations with you when you didn’t begin by condemning me?

        Sometimes it’s just about personality. I’m a difficult personality. So are you.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        As a followup, just because your comment made me remember this,

        We had a discussion among facultu last year about the “call the police” line. One facultupy member, who teaches criminal justice, insisted that we need to tell women who are raped to call the police right away, so they can get there and collect evidence before it is drestroyed or decays. There’s a logic to that, of course. But those who’ve been working on improving our response and support system kept pointing out that saying “call the cops” actually deters reporting, because its just too big a step for many women to take right away. And damned if that’s not understandable–the questions about where you were and why, what were you doing there, being asked by a stranger, by a person with authority, god forbid maybe by a man in a uniform with a gun, which is intimidating in the best of circumstances. And then, if they’re able to think it through that clearly in such a moment, the rape kit. Thank god we can use rape kits to convict, but it must be, at least for some, piling humiliation upon humiliation, a feeling of violation upon a feeling of violation.

        The crim j guy couldn’t wrap his head around it. But they should, he kept insisting, so that’s what we should tell them to do. But in fact, the others argued in response, all you’ll do is deter them from talking to anyone, because they’ll fear it will lead to a police interrogation.

        It was a powerful moment. And people were listening. Unfortunately, we also need to hear it over and over, and we probably won’t.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        You say: Pushing really hard for campus safety and other related authorities to be reliable, trustworthy, and non-threatening is a hell of a lot harder, politically riskier, and less comfortable than giving young people some sound practical advice about what to avoid. But I’d much rather give sound practical advice about urgently getting trustworthy help than sound practical advice about living in fear, so I do what I can to help make that work.

        +1. These are words to live by. I don’t want to learn how to defend myself from constant potential attack, I want the attacker to stop attacking; and with the 1-in-4 number of women victim of rape, there’s pretty good reason to agitate for less rape, for safer campuses, and for better response when a sexual assault happens.

        I know that most cat calling is harmless. I’m human, and sometimes it made me feel good. But mostly, it’s creepy and inappropriate; you never know if it’s the guy who’s going to follow you home. (I had that happen once, or so it seemed.) So it’s always got this level of danger. So am I supposed to just stay home, so that I don’t risk that unwanted eye? That’s the logical extreme of teaching potential victims to be prudent. We see cultures like that, recent events in England seem to be an extreme result; I don’t see that it made any woman safer.

        That’s not to say that prudence doesn’t matter, but it’s no longer useful if you’re in the middle of a bad situation. There are a whole lot of reasons why it’s not good to get shit-faced drunk often; but also very good reasons to do so once in a while. In any state, we can be presented with that bad situation; and when we’re able to extract ourselves, safe help without judgement is essential. But not constant fear of being in that situation. That’s no way to live, and that’s where the onus is now: don’t do these things to avoid that bad outcome. It should be on the people doing the bad things to cut that shit out, and take care of the people they harm.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I’d much rather give sound practical advice about urgently getting trustworthy help than sound practical advice about living in fear,

        A. I don’t see these as either/or. But I do see the latter as an after the fact response, rather than a preventative matter. That’s not to dismiss its importance, but to say that to me it seems strange to stress reaction instead of prevention, rather than to stress both.

        B. I don’t think talking about prevention and situational awareness has anything to do with living in fear. Some people don’t talk to their children about stranger danger because the don’t want their kids to live in fear. Others tell their kids how to respond to strangers, and while those kids are better armed to protect themselves, they are not noticeably living in fear. In fact I think it’s a huge mistake to treat being aware, and taking precautions, as living in fear, because it deters people from learning how to protect themselves. That’s broader than the just the issue of sexual assault. When I’m walking at night in a city I don’t use headphones, I don’t put my hands in my pocket, and I keep my head up and looking around, and I walk with more of a strut than I normally do–I’m trying to make myself look less easy as a target. That does not mean I’m living in fear.

        For similar reasons, I actually do check the exits in airplanes, and I try to be seated in the exit row, and I actually look at how that door works. I don’t fly scared, though. So, in all seriousness, across a range of problem domains, I think equating preparation, awareness, and prevention, is an exceptionally dangerous thing to do.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      I think the big problem with the whole ‘man-splaining’ meme is that it does more harm than good. Yes, there is a certain segment of the male population that likes to treat women like naive little lambs. Most of us though just want to share our own knowledge and be helpful. When we are told that we don’t have a right to try to help people, especially in a blog comment section where CONVERSATION is encouraged, that is incredibly short-sighted. And I’m being honest when I say that I don’t think most women take such offense. Some people have baggage though and it comes out with these topics.

      An anecdote: My oldest daughter shares an apartment with some friends in a not-very-nice part of town. When she moved out (in spite of dad begging her to stay a bit longer) I tried to give her the personal safety talk. Things like being aware of her surroundings when she was walking to and from her car, making sure she locked her door at night, etc. I assume this is what Veronica and others would call man-splaining. And of course I got the eyes rolling, you’re being an over-protective dad response. A few weeks ago I got a phone call from her one evening and she was whispering to me that someone had been banging on the door to the apartment. She was absolutely terrified. I have a friend that lives close and he drove over and checked on things and thankfully it was probably just someone at the wrong door. I resisted the urge to say I-told-you-so but the next day she texted me and said she wanted self-defense lessons for her birthday (which I happily purchased). I was just glad she was now taking things more seriously.

      The whole issue of digital (and personal) security isn’t just about women. It could have just as easily been Brad Pitt’s credit card number that was leaked. Or your bank account hacked. Or my daughter could have been someone else’s teenage son just as scared of the knock at the door. The benefit of having a society is that people with knowledge can teach others. It’s why I am not offended when the guy next to me at work shows me how to do something I didn’t already know. I want that knowledge. I wish more people felt that way.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        This strikes me as very much akin to the “the problem with racism is accusations of racism” thing that is all too common (note: I’m not accusing you of racism, simply making an analogy to a common response to accusations of racism to highlight the structural relationship between this particular accusation and your response here).

        “Mansplaining,” as annoying as I find the word (and pretty much every post-2008 internet neologism), is less about men telling women what to do and think than it is about men not listening to women when they tell them what to do and think. And the reaction to the women in this thread by the people being accused of “mansplaining” is a pretty good example of that.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Throughout this thread I’ve been thinking about your responses to Brooke.

        I think you’re being just as badly moralistic here, relying just as much on simplistic tropes to decide who’s good and who’s bad. White argues against black about racism = white automatically wrong and racist. Man argues against woman about preventing sexual risk = man automatically wrong and sexist.

        It’s a great way to avoid thinking about issues, but that’s not really what you’ve been known for.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, honestly in that thread I wasn’t not sure you actually read, I mean with understanding, a word I said to Brooke, and I’m still not sure. If you think that what you just described captured what I said, in fact, I’m quite sure you didn’t. If you look back at that thread, you’ll see a pretty extensive analysis of what Brooke said and why I had a problem with it. I won’t rehash it here, of course, but you’ve yet to engage with any of the reasons I gave. Your analysis has been, from the start, that I was simply being moralistic and saying white people can’t have a real conversation with black people about racism, because anything they say will be wrong, which is not even close to what I’ve said.

        Now, in this case, I made the point rather quickly, mostly because I did not want to wade too deeply into the mess that I saw upthread. So here I’ll simply reiterate what I said here: what I saw upthread was a woman express her problem with what some men had said (in the thread started by Dwyer; why Veronica is getting accused of thread-jacking I do not know), and the men then going after her for suggesting that they couldn’t say anything at all. Which, of course, was not what Veronica did. She said she didn’t like what you were saying, and that if that’s the way you approach it, you should probably listen to women more. Even that got her attacked.

        I of course think men can have insight into things like this, though that insight is limited by the gaps in their experience. Comparing a woman’s experience to your own can only get you so far, but even suggesting that you might want to listen to women whose experience can fill some of the gaps in your knowledge got Veronica nothing but grief.

        And then Mike, down here, suggested that the problem wasn’t not listening to what women are saying, but women using the word “mansplaining.” Which I, then, commented on.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        I thought you were wordy, not in-depth. It all seemed very tropish to me. Or more importantly, it was all designed to attack and belittle her–designed to stop conversation, not create it. In that, it wasn’t so different from her position.

        Here I think the term mansplainin’ is in fact a problem, because it’s also a trope used as a conversation stopper. Its use does not promote discussion, and it doesn’t promote listening. It’s not even clear that the intended purpose really is to promote listening. It’s a conversation stopper. It’s “shut up and listen,” which also is a conversation stopper. There’s a subtle difference in wording, but a great gulf in meaning, between phrases that respectively mean “Here’s why I think you’re mistaken” and “you don’t get to talk now, only I get to talk.”

        The problem is not that women aren’t agreeing with men. The problem is not that women are saying, “wait, listen to this thing you’re not seeing.” The problem is someone using words that mean, “Only I talk; you don’t get to talk unless you agree with me.”

        It turns out that people can actually be on the right side of the issue and still be employing conversation stoppers. Being right doesn’t always put one in the right.

        That’s Veronica in spades, when she first jumps in on an issue. That’s what she did here. (Often, when she’s chill, she’s great at talking to and damn well worth a listen, and I do, so I hesitate to over-criticize her.) And you know who didn’t do that here? Maribou. It could be that Maribou actually does think I’m mansplainin.’ I don’t discount that possibility. But she didn’t whip out the trope and treat it as the important insight that concluded discussion. And while I don’t fully agree with her, I’m happy to have a real discussion with her. Which means I’m willing to listen to her.

        Because that’s part of what it takes to have a real discussion, dispensing with tropes whose primary function is as conversation stoppers.

        But I’ll give you this. At least you were honest with Brooke when you said you didn’t want to have a conversation with her. That’s a lot better than saying “You shut up so we can have a conversation.”

        (And again, as I said over in that thread, I don’t think Brooke was in the right, either.)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, I’d accept that as a potentially valid criticism if your description of the content of what said bore any resemblance to what I actually said, trope-filled or not.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I just went back and re-read the thread. I’m dubious about the thread-jacking claim, too. But look closely at what Veronica was saying. She was saying we can’t talk about issues of personal responsibility. She blasted me for bringing up the question of whether it’s ok to talk about how to be prudent. She claimed that all such talk is just men trying to control women’s sexual behavior.

        Hell, I could have politely listened to any number of “here’s why you’re factually wrong” arguments. But instead of that we got the “you’re really just trying to control women’s sexuality argument.”

        Any any demurral to that claim is just waved away as mansplainin’. And any attempt to say, “no that’s not just mansplainin'” gets waved away as more of the same, guys just not willing to let a woman talk.

        So any disagreement is preemptively delegitimated, so very happily we don’t even have to think about whether it has any substantive value.

        But of course that complaint is also just proof that I’m just mad that women won’t listen to me, so we can wave that one away without thinking about it, too.

        I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my sister. She insisted my children were growing up hating me. I pointed out that whenever I came home from work they ran to me and gave me hugs. “You’re just deluding yourself,” she said. Well, if I’m deluded, everything I might say is just further evidence of the delusion, right? And the same here–any disagreement I might have is just further proof that I won’t listen.

        It’s a wonderful system. There is no escape from it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I’d accept that as a potentially valid criticism if your description of the content of what said bore any resemblance to what I actually said, trope-filled or not.

        Here’s the thing, Chris. I’m not trying to lie. That’s how it really came across to me. It came across as really condemnatory, accusing, and dominating. There seemed to be a pretty clear claim that Brooke’s words proved she was racist, and a pretty clear claim that you wouldn’t engage with her unless she dropped her “let’s not have any claims of racism” position.

        Maybe that’s not the message you meant to convey. To me it seemed to be the message you conveyed.

        Maybe I read you totally wrong. From your statements, that appears to be the case. So maybe I’m just a really bad reader of what you said. But maybe I’m not such a bad reader. Maybe, just maybe, I had a bad text.

        So that brings up the question of what you’re saying here. Because it sure reads to me as you saying, “if you complain about use of the word mansplaining, that just means you’re mad women won’t listen to you.” That’s how I’m reading you, so if that’s not what you’re saying, then maybe you’ll want to set me straight.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, first, I don’t think you’re lying. I’ve known you long enough to know that you are honest, if sometimes heated, but I have no room to talk with respect to the latter. I do, however, think you read me poorly then, and are continuing to do so. I wasn’t the only person who said so in that thread.

        Second, I don’t read Veronica that way. She admits that she was a bit heated (that word again) in her presentation here, but she was clearly trying to say listen to women, and what she was criticizing was not men simply saying, “be prudent,” but men saying, “Don’t do this specific thing,” which is somewhat different. If the advice had just been, “You know, the internet is not secure, so if you’re going to take nude photos of yourself with your phone, it’s probably a good idea to get them to a secure place quickly, to make sure no one can get to them,” that’d probably have been cool (though I could be wrong). And if, when it was objected that telling women “Don’t do this” was uncool in whatever way, the guys had said, “OK, how do you think we should say it? What is wrong with the specific advice we’re giving or how we’re giving it?” instead of, “What are you saying?! That men can never give advice to women?!” things might have gone very differently, even if in the end we had ended with, “OK, you know, I still think you shouldn’t do this specific thing, because it leaves you vulnerable.”

        Instead, we got a bunch of men who didn’t listen, and then at least a couple who blamed the failure to communicate on the word “mansplaining.”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Yeah, no. You’re letting Veronica off easily and glossing over what she actually said, while imputing bad faith from every disagreement uttered by a guy. It’s a rigged system, in which every objection is just further evidence of guilt.

        I’m thinking I should just not get involved in certain arguments here anymore, because I honestly don’t think this blog makes room for real debate on them. It’s “all in” (and I think you remember that reference), and I’m just not interested in that type of thing.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        A while ago I wrote that I’ve never met a white person who says they’re a racist, that I’ve never even heard of a white person admits that their racist, yet when we look at all sorts of statistical data and accounts from personal experiences, it’s seems entirely obvious that racism exists.

        Except Chris. 🙂

        Same thing with mansplainin. I’ve never met anyone who says they mansplain or heard of anyone admitting to doing so. Yet when we (men!) hear accounts from personal experiences, it seems obvious that mansplainin exists. But if no one is a mansplainer, then why do so very many women think it’s a real phenomenon?

        I’ll go on record: I have and continue to mansplain. It’s something in me, part of my upbringing and whatnot, something I try to keep in check. Mindfulness!Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Still, part of the reason I wrote a whole post not only saying that I’m a racist, but detailing how (which was not pleasant; it wasn’t pleasant reading it 8 or 9 years later!), is for that reason: if everyone thinks racism is something in other people, nothing with racism will ever change. Same goes for sexism.

        Anti-racist movements, from WWII on, have done such a good job of making overt, conscious racism taboo (even if there has been a trend, over the last 6 years, to make being consciously and overtly racist OK within certain social circles, aided by the internet where no one may know that you’re a dog at first, but where you run into a bunch of other dogs who encourage you to express your dogness publicly) that you’ll only find a relatively small minority of the population of this country who are still willing to engage in it. However, racism still pervades every inch of our society, with very real and serious consequences for people of color. The implication of this is that one of these things is true: a.) a very small minority of people, the consciously and overtly racist, have an almost all-encompassing influence on our society, b.) that very small minority is supplemented by a larger group of people (a minority? a majority) who think like they do, but are too smart to express it except in the safest environments, and only rarely screw up and say something publicly (think Donald Sterling), or c.) a substantial portion of the population contributes to the racist nature of our society, but does so mostly unconsciously, and mostly implicitly. I suspect most people who believe they are not racists think (b) is true and (c) is false.

        However, what if it turns out that they’re wrong, and (c) is true (which doesn’t necessarily mean that (b) isn’t also true)? How will we ever begin to fix things if we are mistaken about the nature of the problem? What if other people, the people who live on the other side of racism from the one on which most of the people who believe that (c) is false live, see a lot of reasons to think (c) is in fact true? And if we go into any conversation about how to fix racism, refusing to believe (c) can possibly be true, because it implicates us, how productive can that conversation possibly be if (c) is really at issue?

        In the thread James is referencing, MRS described a professor who taught her students about racism in the sort of way a lot of teachers and professors teach their students, and it is undeniably the case that teaching it that way has gone a long way towards marginalizing the sort of conscious overt racism that was once so prevalent. But here we are, still afloat in a sea of racism. Maybe what’s needed is a bit more of a defibrillator approach: clear, then shock. But that sort of approach is only possible if (c) is not ruled out a priori, because ultimately it means bringing to the light the racism in so many of us, if not all of us.

        I believe you can substitute sexism for “racism” throughout the above, as well.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        Well … yeah. I’m still struggling to understand my own role in this whole racism thing, and I have to say that it was a conversation with you – on one of the Bundy threads – that really put the screws to my shackles, as it were. I haven’t quite gotten past that pinching sensation since, actually. Still mulling it over. Everyday since then, in fact. It’s a tricky business. I’m more than slightly in awe of the fact you arrived at that place and liberated yourself from those damn shackles. I’m still working on it.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      I think there’s two things going which run a cross purposes. Advocating prudential behavior and situational awareness are surely justified on just about any perspective from which we (any of us, I think) would view these issues. What I think is more problematic – very actually – is think that failing to act prudentially justifies the judgment that someone got what they deserved. Or that their claim to victimhood is undermined. And along those lines, it seems to me – and this is the contentious part of my contribution to this topic – that if (hypothetically!) someone were to suggest that prudence demands that women who don’t want to be raped wear less revealing clothing, then I’d say that person is missing a very serious issue which could, and often does, constitutes part of the problem in discussing these issues. Namely, it can confuse the moral properties of prudence with the moral properties of being a victim of real harm. Those are distinct concepts and collapsing the distinction between them begs all sorts of questions.

      Without presuming to speak for anyone here at the League, it seems to me that a discussion about prudence which fails to clearly identify the very real harm which can often enough result from a failure to act prudentially gets very close to a form of apologetics for those types of harmful behaviors. Often enough this type of thinking leads to the conclusion that a failure to act prudentially entails a moral judgment to the effect that that person “got what they deserved”. But that seems like a huge confusion to me since a) it blurs two types of concepts which are in fact distinct but also b) it places shifts the moral burden of blameworthiness onto the victim in situations where a real harm is perpetrated on that person. Seems to me that the only way to square that circle is to conclude that a woman (say) who is the victim of a sexual assault which could have been otherwise avoided had she behaved prudentially is not the victim of a real harm. (Same argument, mutatismutandisafortioriergo, applies to having nude selfies stolen from the cloud.) But that’s crazy, in my view.

      I could be wrong about all that, of course, but that’s how it strikes me. When women hear men advocate prudential behavior as a solution to harm-prevention, I think they hear men apologizing for the behavior of men which results in real harms. Part and parcel of that worry is an argument (or view, anyway) that women shouldn’t have to engage in what kazzy (I think it was kazzy) referred to as “onerous” prudential behaviors. But surely, it seems like a mistake to think that a failure to act prudentially justifies some claim about desert if bad shit happens to go down.

      All this is tied to the concept of mansplainin in the following way, I guess: insofar as men want to focus on prudential behavior as a solution to the problems women face, they’re leaving out a whole bunch of stuff which women are uniquely aware of which constitute their moral and pragmatic judgments about contexts and behaviors in question.

      (Deep inhale) Finally, I think the sensitivity and what I view as defensiveness revealed in discussions about this issue exactly mirrors the sensitivity and defensiveness revealed in discussions about racism. One way to approach these issues to to just listen to what women (or black folks) have to say about not only their experiences, but also the analysis and judgments the hold devolving from that experience. Insofar as those folks’ views conflict with (for example) my views of those things, I’m presented with some choices wrt how I react. One would be to react defensively and argue them down. Another would be to accept the legitimacy of those views, even if they’re uncomfortable for me to hear, without any attachment to presuppositions one way or the other.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        1. There’s a continuing implication that within these threads is the suggestion that imprudent women deserve what happens. I challenge you or anyone else implying that to show where in these threads that suggestion occurs.

        2. Who the hell here is talking about prudence while “fail[ing] to clearly identify the very real harm which can often enough result from a failure to act prudentially”?

        We’re talking about having your private nude photos being released to the entire world? I’m talking about being raped?

        I don’t think anyone here is doing these two things you’re saying people are doing

        And then you accuse those folks who aren’t doing those things of doing them through “defensiveness.”

        By that point you’ve so triply strawmanned everyone talking about room for the discussion you seem to suggest you’re inviting.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Hmmm. (Thinking, thinking…)

        I don’t know how to present this stuff any clearer than I have, James, and that’s a failing on my part. Your response clearly reveals to me that I haven’t written clearly enough since you missed every point I was trying to make.

        I’ll leave it, tho, since no good can come of our delving any deeper into it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I’m willing to have a conversation. My initial position is that prudence-talk does not automatically imply slut shaming. What’s yours?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        My view is that very often it does.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        That is, I think the conflation of prudence talk with slut shaming has a tendency to shut down prudence talk. And since no individual woman can stop men from being assholes, or even rapists, prudence is, to some extent, all they’ve got to protect themselves.

        Simultaneously these days I hear concerns about young women putting themselves in risky positions for employment concerns. Women are told not to put nude selfies on the internet because employers do internet searches. So we know young women are not always prudent–because they’re human, and because they’re young, not because they’re female.

        But despite warning them not to put up nude selfies because of employers, we’re not supposed to warn them not to put nude selfies out there because Joe the Asshole she Broke Up With will forward it to everyone with her name attached? That seems perverse to me. Worse, I think it increases the risk to young woman.

        How is saying Joe’s an asshole who’ll forward your nude selfies to everyone, so beware of putting up nude selfies, an act of slut shaming instead of an act of pointing out that Joe’s an asshole?

        Bottom line, if one side is not talking about slut shaming, but the other side is convinced that’s what they’re really talking about, it’s hard to have a real conversation.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        My position implies that it can. Your position implies that it does not automatically do so.

        So far, so good.

        Do you think that anyone on this page is doing do? I think no one here is (unless perhaps I missed a particular comment).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I suspect the issue with a prudence talk is that it often becomes an “is-ought” problem and raises serious concerns.

        Yes everyone should be able to store nude photos in the cloud and/or send sexts to their lovers without fear of it being spilled into the general public. Yes everyone should be able to dress how they want without raising fear of attack, comment, or unwanted looks, or someone taking offensive about inappropriate dress.

        But we do not live in a world like this and never did. Teenage boys can be stupid and not think and then show off “look what my girlfriend” sent me, relationships can go south and people can be vindictive, people can be dumb and use work computing instead of personal computing (there was a court case like this where a cop was fired for sending sexting messages to his lover on a work cellphone), and then you have hackers, and other assorted malcontents.

        But this basically means that people have to conduct their lives because there are shits and assholes out there and then you need to think about how fundamentally unfair that is. Why should the malcontents control the behavior of the masses whether famous or not?*

        *This raises the question about what percentage of the population are malcontents. I think it is a power law situation where it is a vast minority with good tech skills who are willing and able to ruin it for everyone else. That being said, we live in a nation of 300 million people and a world of 7 billion people so this can mean millions if not tens or hundreds of millions of malcontents.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        But this basically means that people have to conduct their lives because there are shits and assholes out there

        Yes. But some people don’t want us to talk about that because it’s unfair.,

        But we have to be extra careful driving because of the shits and assholes.

        We have to lock our doors because of the shits and assholes.

        We have to be careful what neighborhoods we go into because of the shits and assholes.

        You have to think twice about what town you move to because of the shits and assholes.

        Nude selfies? Same thing–we–particularly women–have to be careful because of shits and assholes.

        It’s unfair in general, and sometimes it’s doubly unfair because some have to worry about the shits and assholes a lot more than others.

        You know “the talk” that black kids, especially black makes, get? And how everyone here said “it’s so unfair, but of course you’d give your black kid the talk”? I feel like we’re talking about the talk here, and some people are saying, “it’s so unfair, so don’t give the talk”.

        And I don’t get that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I have to say that I tend to be with James on this question. It’s one thing if we just want to say that moving to prudence talk too quickly in the aftermath of any event of victimization (in personal or public-media life) is just fatally poorly timed. If we want to say that it itself is not prudent, because it’s likely to be received as slut-shaming in any are and thus be useless. And maybe that’s what’s going on here.

        But I have to agree that at this point it seems like prudence talk of any kind from the wrong quarters at any time gets dismissed as slut-shaming. And it seems to me that that unfortunately muddies any good understand of what slut-shaming should really be thought to be, as well as shutting down

        There’s definitely a gender thing going on here, too (obviously). It may be that men simply can’t ever adopt the prudence-talk pose without being regarded this way. (Though at the same time one of the recent biggest flare-ups in the prudence/S-S-ing wars was the reaction to Emily Yoffe (Slate’s “dear Prudence” author) making the point that excessive alcohol consumption by young people leads to tragic outcomes, including rape, and that therefore part of attempts to reduce rape on campus has to be attempts to promote moderation in alcohol consumption.) AFAIAC, that would be unfortunate, but perhaps that’s exactly what this trying to restructure discussions of these matters are trying for. It certainly seems to be in many cases.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …as well as shutting down any useful discussion of what would be prudent (and reasonable) ways of learning to manage risk as one goes through life, that is.

        …And again, as I say, if we just want to say that this is a gender thing, and that men just shouldn’t offer thoughts about prudence in these matters and that women will handle that among themselves as they see fit, fair enough. Let’s say that, then. But if we’re not going to say that, then I think people offering criticism of the way men or others offer ideas about prudence would be best served to try to be as constructive as possible about offering suggestions about how to do it so that they’re received in the spirit in which they’re offered.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        I think they’re more saying, “If you’re white, don’t go into a black family’s living room and try to give their kids The Talk. The Talk is for them to do their way.”

        Which seems like pretty much conventional wisdom.

        I think this is a gender thing – we can’t do it because we’re guys. They’ll do it, and they’ll do it well or poorly and experience the consequences. But they’ll do it.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:


        Yes everyone should be able to dress how they want without … comment, or unwanted looks, or someone taking offensive about inappropriate dress.

        I disagree with the quoted portion above. Actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequnces are comments, unwanted looks, or someone taking offense.

        This raises the question about what percentage of the population are malcontents. I think it is a power law situation where it is a vast minority with good tech skills who are willing and able to ruin it for everyone else.

        Yes I have certainly found that people with good tech skills tend to be “shits and assholes”.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        It is men who feel a need to explain things to women, things we know. And then explain them again.

        This seems to me to be a very subjective & overly broad definition of “Mansplaining”. It’s also silly, since dispensing safety information is always a repetitive exercise. My parents did it when I was a kid, my Petty Officers did it when I was in the Navy, my local government does it every year as the seasons change. Now, a guy who is doing this explaining with the attitude/tone of, “Listen to me you little bubble-headed bimbo, I’ll use small words so you can understand me”, that’s different, and arguably offensive. But then, I don’t recall anyone doing that in this discussion.

        Anyone got a more objective definition, because otherwise this whole discussion is rather pointless.


        I’m going to push back on the whole prudence/fear bit as well. Wearing a seatbelt or motorcycle helmet or life jacket is prudent, and those who do so, & encourage others to do so, are not encouraging others to live in fear of driving, or riding a motorcycle, or boating. So it goes with encouraging young people (men & women) to practice situational awareness and good judgement when desiring to intentionally impair one’s judgement (my parents always told me if I wanted to get hammered, just make sure to do it amongst people I knew & trusted, rather than at a party full of acquaintances & strangers).

        Now, if a person’s advice to a young woman was “Every man is a potential rapist just waiting for the opportunity to harm you.”, that’s a different ball game. That is encouraging a woman to basically spend her life in Condition Red except when solely in the company of women. No one can sustain that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        Yes everyone should be able to dress how they want without … comment, or unwanted looks, or someone taking offensive about inappropriate dress.

        I disagree with the quoted portion above. Actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are comments, unwanted looks, or someone taking offense.

        I fell prey to this in my language to some extent as well. But it’s not the case that it’s a consequence of how someone dresses that they get catcalled. There is an agent intermediating those facts – the catcaller. that’s the basic insight that those who react to discussions of prudence by regarding it as slut-shaming think is being missed when people talk about prudence. It remains the case that it’s prudent to be prudent, but the chosen actions of others like catcalling are not strictly consequences of preceding actions like wearing a tight dress or etc. They’re actions of independent agents. That’s what we’re being asked to keep clear.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I think they’re more saying, “If you’re white, don’t go into a black family’s living room and try to give their kids The Talk. The Talk is for them to do their way.”

        I get that. I know I’m not the best source of the message. But what if their parents don’t give them the talk? What if they’ve never been taught how to protect themselves?

        Some of these frosh women have been so protected, are so naive, that they’ve never gotten that message. They’re ripe for exploitation by the shits and assholes. They need to hear the message, from multiple sources.

        God knows I hope they’re not getting it just from me.

        But some people seem more focused on how I don’t have a right to give them the talk, or their own obsession with the belief that I’m trying to control these girls’ sexuality, than they are with whether they’re prepared with the knowledge they need to take care of themselves in the real world. And that, I think, is inexcusable.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        I hoped I made it clear that prudence wasn’t a bad thing; it’s not. But Hanley put it nicely, there’s prevention, typically in the terms of prudence — strategies to avoid the bad situation, there’s preparedness, knowing what to do if one occurs. I think Maribou’s getting at that too much of the focus rests on prevention as prudence; the things a girl’s supposed to avoid to keep herself out of bad situations; and there’s not enough focus on what to do when she is in a bad situation. She’s also stressing that the discussion ought to include the other party in the prevention discussions, the “Don’t rape” talk. I’ve been saying that for a long, long time: men have to step up and stop rape; women, no matter how prudent, cannot because raping is not something women do, it’s something done to them. You make campuses safer by not only telling women to be careful drinking, but by teaching boys that raping drunk girl is wrong, they’re the ones shamed by it, not the girls. This is not the world that women inhabit, however, they live in a world where their purity and reputation is their responsibility, and if she’s attacked, people will think it’s her fault, she’s damaged goods, her life’s ruined. And pretty much every woman knows that if she presses charges, she’s pressing charges against someone who’s probably part of her social circle (and has more status, she’s now damaged goods,) and she’ll be put on trial, too. That’s the cultural baggage we carry; and it’s very different from other, non-sexual crimes.


        But I have to agree that at this point it seems like prudence talk of any kind from the wrong quarters at any time gets dismissed as slut-shaming. And it seems to me that that unfortunately muddies any good understand of what slut-shaming should really be thought to be, as well as shutting down

        The trouble is that a woman who’s been raped is already running through the prudence failures already. Women also don’t find a justice system that treats them honorably; they find one that puts them on trial for prudence failures; justice is not for the victim.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        he discussion ought to include the other party in the prevention discussions, the “Don’t rape” talk. I’ve been saying that for a long, long time: men have to step up and stop rape

        You mean like I explicitly said that I do in my talk?

        Funny how nobody seems to want to talk about that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        Understood completely. I think some folks aren’t making a distinction between what might be said in the general public conversation or on the internet in the aftermath of an event like the photo leak or Steubenville, and what might be said by college faculty and administrators by way of imparting some forewarning of the environment that new students might not even know they’re in. In one of those cases there is an in loco parentis obligation and in the other(s) there isn’t.

        The only thing to keep in mind is that that distinction works both ways. What might be appropriate for a university to say to its own students about how to stay safe on campus might not be the right thing to say in general conversation about an incident of public notoriety. Not to say that you said something that falls afoul of the latter (I haven’t read the thread closely enough to say, and in any case would be inclined to think you haven’t absent it being clear that you had) rather than merely saying what you say in the former context.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I generally agree with James to. I think that these sorts of stories and debates show what Hume called the Is-Ought problem. Though I could be radically misunderstanding Hume:

        I think there are all sorts of other issues with internet culture as well. My general theory is that people heavily involved with internet culture think that terms and groups like MRAs, incel, 4chan whatever are widely known and identified by the general public. I highly doubt this the case. Most people probably have no idea what incel means but if you listen to certain sections of Internet forum life, there are millions of raging MRAs and Incels out there.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I think it depends.

        If the Yale Club or the French Laundry wants to exclude people for wearing jeans that is fine*. I think someone who tries to wear jeans and gets excluded is suffering the consequence.

        Women should/ought be able to wear shorts or a miniskirt in public and not be catcalled or have a perv say something vile like “I want to lick you all over.” In that case, the burden of behavior is on the man and not the woman. There are some guys who would probably say that to a woman who was in cover-alls and an alpine sweater. People have a responsibility to act civilly in public and this includes not being a pervert.

        *Allegedly at the Yale Club, jeans are called denim trousers. I find this charming for some reason.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Absolutely. When I sat on the committee where the girl told us her bad grades came about because of her rape, after she left the room we all turned to the Dean of Students, who in such cases was a font of all knowledge, and she said, yes, the student had been raped at a party by an athlete, but hadn’t officially reported it, so at present the College could not do anything.

        When the girl returned, I didn’t say “you shouldn’t have gone to that party.” Good lord, that would have been an awful thing to say, wouldn’t it?

        And I don’t even tell students, “you shouldn’t go to parties.” I say “Some of you are going to go to parties, and some of you are going to drink, and even though the government says you can’t do that legally, I think it’s ok. But be careful, because drinking leads to fights, to people getting hit with bottles, shoved out windows, shot. It leads to vandalism that will get you expelled. It leads to car accidents that could maim or kill you. It can lead to you guys committing rapes that could land you in prison and on the sex offenders list. It can lead you women getting raped. So go in a group, use a buddy system, be careful, drink in moderation, and look out for each other.”

        That’s what you say beforehand. Afterwards you don’t say, “didn’t you use the buddy system!?”

        [The weirdest thing about that meeting was when the girl apologized for not handling her rape better. Half the “adults” in the room were women, and mostly very left-leaning women, and I expected one of them to immediately jump in and say she didn’t need to apologize. But after an uncomfortable silence that probably only lasted 5 seconds but felt like forever, it seemed like none of them were, so I jumped in and said it. And I’m glad I did, it was obvious it really meant a lot to the student. But I still find it weird that I wasn’t beaten to the punch, and never have been able to figure out why that happened.]Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        Lots of stuff in your comment but this

        I think this is a gender thing – we can’t do it because we’re guys.

        strikes me as wrong. I think the discussion generated from a comment made uthread where the commenter used the phrase “they should know better” as part of his account of the moral dimensions of celebrity women the nude selfies stolen and published on the innerwbs. My comment at that time was that “they should know better” effectively eliminates a distinction between the moral harm that women suffered with her failure to act prudentially. I think that’s a mistake, as I said upthread, downthread, sidethread…

        So the issue isn’t that advocating prudential behavior for women is restricted to only women (at least, I don’t think anyone thinks that way). It’s rather that men believing a compete analysis of the situation includes only personal responsibility as it is imposed on women – prudential behavior – constitutes either a form of victimblaming or – as VD suggested – mansplainin. I’ll leave it to the careful reader to understand how men offering such an analysis to women could constitute mansplainin.Report

  11. Avatar Patrick says:

    This thread went all over the place, so I’ll try and catch up tomorrow and see if there’s things I should respond to directly, but a quick scan:

    If the women here or elsewhere feel as if our well-intentioned advice amounts to a lecture, we would be well-served to listen.

    Take out “women” and put in “people” and what do you get?

    You get my job.

    That’s my job. That’s pretty much the entirety of my job. I secure things as best as can be secured without crippling functionality, and then I tell people what the consequences of using the system are.

    I can dress up the advice as a lecture, or as a gag, or a running comedy skit, but it’s still a lecture.

    I don’t have any choice: I have to give you the lecture. You NEED TO KNOW how the system works, because I cannot design the system to be secure (or you wouldn’t be able to do 3/4 of the things that you demand to do your job at least). So I have to design the system to be least-worst, and I have to tell you how to avoid the worst on your own. It’s my professional responsibility.

    When discussions like that get turned into something else, because all of the social context surrounding what’s going on, that’s regrettable, but that doesn’t change how the system works.

    You can’t easily take sexy selfies in a secure fashion, you can only take them in less-insecure ways.

    But you can’t bank securely on your phone, either, and people do that *every single day*. Oftentimes folks who are telling people not to sext people or send nude pictures on the Internet are the same folks who are – as they’re talking to you, mind you – rebalancing their 401k contributions via their phone.

    You have to audit yourself, to have any chance at avoiding terrible consequences. You can do that with money, because banks and financial institutions have some legal obligations and they have some things in place to prevent you from getting totally screwed (you can’t close out your retirement account over an app yet, to my knowledge).

    But it’s hard to do that with something like a nude photo, because there’s no organization who can unmake the photo for you once it gets out there.

    Me, I don’t care. If I wanted to take a naked snapshot of myself, I would, and if it got out there, eh, who cares? So you’ve seen me naked… so what?

    But that’s my risk analysis, and not anybody’s risk analysis.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      man, you have the boring parts of the security gig, don’t you?
      I know someone in counter-espionage… that’s a good deal more fun.
      (Yeah, I’m in pittsburgh, it’s no surprise I know someone in security).Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        I have the actual part of the security gig.

        Security is about people. Everybody that thinks it’s about algorithms is ending their system analysis at the wrong border.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Your security gig doesn’t involve playing “pin the tail on the idiot” (which is what security auditors do, getting people fired is a game for them).

        Half the time when Hollywood runs “security” they simply claim to be doing something entirely different. Distractions appear to baffle the snoops. (eh? That Tv show is awful. And Boring. Let’s stop snooping!)

        Security is always about people and processes — but sometimes its about the people inside the company, and sometimes its about the people outside the company. Capacitor plague didn’t happen for no reason…Report

  12. Avatar Damon says:

    I haven’t commented in these threads much, frankly because they went pretty much how I expected. I will point out something I read this morning….

    From Forbes in late July 2014:
    “In a video interview with the Guardian published Thursday, Snowden said it was not unusual for employees who “stumbled” across an “intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation” to pass it around. He said he saw it happen, describing it as “routine” and seen by many as “a fringe benefit of a surveillance position.”

    So, my question is where’s the frickin’ outrage over this?! I’d argue that this is much worse than some trolls hacking a celebrity’s cloud pics. Again, WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE FOR THIS? Oh right, doesn’t have celebrities in it.

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      First of all it’s old news. This came out some time ago and I recall some minor outrage for a couple of days.

      The celebrity angle is surely driving a lot of the current energy. Lawrence is America’s new sweetheart (move over Aniston). But the real big difference is the public release.

      I understand — and respect — your position that the stuff Snowden’s talking about is more serious by dint of being committed by government agents using government equipment on “company time.” I suppose it’s just harder to work up a good lather over some guys doing what must be mind-numbingly boring work breaking up the tedium with naughty pictures of random prostitutes and girlfriends of “evildoers.”Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        I’m reading your comments as “it’s the public disclosure” that’s the issue. So the disclosure of a buch of naked selfies of NON actresses by some dude who hacked the NSA would generate as much of a news firestorm? Doubtfull it seems to me.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Of course it has celebrities in it. It’s not like their webcams are magically more secure than the rest of ours.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      I wrote about 47 posts about the NSA and surveillance on my old blog. Nobody paid any attention to those, either.Report