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Briefly, On The Making Of Lists

Men make so many lists. Here is The Women Of The 2017 Maxim Hot 100 list. Maxim subdivides its bigger lists, creating things like Maxim.com’s 25 Hottest Brunettes and The 25 Hottest Mexican Women (that second one’s subhead is as follows: “Using Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo holiday as our excuse, here are the caliente-est señoritas we could think of.”)  Here is a list of Hollywood’s 25 Hottest Women Under 30 from something called Mentertained. Here is a list of Hollywood’s 25 Hottest Fit Celebrity Women from Men’s Fitness. Here is a list of The 20 Hottest Women Of Golf from Men’s Health. Here is a list of The 40 Hottest and Most Naked Women On Instagram from Stylecaster.

Women make lists too.

One of these lists was the Shitty Media Men list, a list documenting the behavior of some men in the media. These men were being categorized by threat. The list specifically categorized these men from crude remarks to rape and everything in-between the two. The list was a simple Google Sheet. It was created in an attempt to document abuse and protect others from it. It was a digital manifestation of the sort of whisper network that women have used in the past to protect themselves from men who can rightly be understood to be predators. The original list existed for twelve total hours before being taken down, although other, ongoing versions of it remain. The original list included a warning that claims were not corroborated, and it was subdivided into its own categories of behavior. It totaled 70 men, with 14 of them noted to have been accused of sexual assault and/or rape.

The list’s existence was immediately controversial. Buzzfeed published about the list’s existence within hours of its creation. Others followed up. All of this occurred as monsters like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly and so many more tumbled from the perches that been built for them. The Shitty Media Men list made it clear that the issues went far deeper than those at the top of proverbial pyramids. The problems were everywhere and pervasive and the women who filled in that list’s cells knew about them. But without a meaningful way to deal with them – when human resource departments cannot be trusted to give a damn, and when management structures cannot either – things like Shitty Men in Media become necessary.

In an absolutely incredible essay published last night, Moira Donegan outed herself as the list’s creator. Whereas men can create entire publishing empires based upon nothing more substantive than creating lists of women, women creating a list in an attempt to protect themselves from danger is considered so outrageous as to deserve thorough investigation. Donegan outed herself ahead of a planned attempt by Harper’s Magazine to out her.* That effort was being coordinated by Katie Roiphe, a catastrophic cinder block who has spent a significant portion of her career blaming women for the behavior of men. Donegan, for the record, identifies precisely this inconsistency, noting that her own list is based upon the following:

The spreadsheet did not ask how women responded to men’s inappropriate behavior; it did not ask what you were wearing or whether you’d had anything to drink. Instead, the spreadsheet made a presumption that is still seen as radical: That it is men, not women, who are responsible for men’s sexual misconduct.

Roiphe, for the record, is pleading ignorance now. Roiphe told the The New York Times that she had no intention of outing Donegan, a claim people are simply meant to believe because, well, because. The available evidence says otherwise. That evidence includes a significant portion of Roiphe’s entire career and the actual facts of the matter. Donegan explains that a Harper’s Magazine fact-checker had emailed her about Roiphe’s work. (Bolding has been added for emphasis.)

Katie identifies you as a woman widely believed to be one of the creators of the Shitty Men in Media List,” the fact checker wrote. “Were you involved in creating the list? If not, how would you respond to this allegation?”

Roiphe would have readers believe that “identifies you” is not the same as a plan to reveal an identity, and, goodness, it must be awful to have claims disbelieved simply because of who you are and what you have done. (Since this started being drafted, Roiphe has started a Twitter account, in which her very first tweets thoroughly illustrate her own lie.)

Back to Donegan. She feared what her outing would mean:

People who opposed the decision by Harper’s speculated about what would happen to me as a result of being identified. They feared that I would be threatened, stalked, raped, or killed. The outrage made it seem inevitable that my identity would be exposed even before the Roiphe piece ran. All of this was terrifying. I still don’t know what kind of future awaits me now that I’ve stopped hiding.

Donegan’s account of the list’s creation is as stunning as it is nightmarish. It documents an attempt to create a way for women to protect themselves from men who had long ago figured out that they enjoyed behavioral immunity. The list spiraled, not because it was uncontrollable, but because so much abhorrent behavior had been occurring for so long.

Because of Roiphe’s lying meddling, Donegan outed herself instead. Roiphe, in a way, has the victory she wanted. Donegan will almost certainly face severe consequences, and she has every reason to be fearful. Women who stand publicly against abuse are routinely subjected to intense and ongoing retaliation. There are literally millions of people who like things they way they are, and would prefer very deeply that they never, ever change. The list itself is but one example. There are plainly plenty of men unused to the idea that there would ever be any sort of accounting at all for their actions. They recoil in anger at the idea that any such documentation would exist anywhere. Donegan’s creation of it, then, should be understood to be what it is: a heroic, and dangerous, act.

Donegan refused to trust that accountability will eventually change – that things will get better at some undetermined point far off in the future and, “Can’t you just wait until that day instead?” – and took steps necessary to force the issue. She has been deservedly praised by many. She is owed not what she will inevitably receive, but rather, a thousand opportunities instead. And her list shouldn’t then be the end of such things, but rather, the very beginning.

(*Counter-efforts led by, among others, Nicole Cliff, deserve the highest of praise.)

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259 thoughts on “Briefly, On The Making Of Lists

          • You know exactly what contrast I’m getting at, playing dumb doesn’t address that.

            Personally, I have no issue with the list. The likelihood that it will include some guy who doesn’t deserve it is slim enough that I can’t be bothered to care, because it isn’t a government list. It has no official sanction.

            But don’t pretend that it’s in the same arena as the lists you used as exemplars. It’s a list that can damage a reputation. It’s more akin to lists like this, or this. Lists of “Hot” celebs are objectifying, but are not typically harmful to a reputation, and there are oh so many ‘lists’ out there of women that are unsubstantiated and damaging to reputations. I’m at a loss as to why you didn’t find some.


            • Not only are the “hot women” lists entirely unrelated, it does not take any effort to find similar “hot men” lists. The implication is that women make lists for noble purposes, while men make lists to objectify, which is inaccurate.


                • I am not sure how my statement can be seen as a defense of anything, I just do not understand why the bit about “hot women” lists was included. It is irrelevant at best, and it comes across as a bit of deceptive rhetoric.


                  • It isn’t irrelevant. Making lists of “hot” women is so standard that nobody bats an eye. You certainly don’t think it is a big deal to classify women by how they look. Meanwhile, women making the attempt to protect themselves from predatory men is seen as an enormous deal, worthy of multiple investigations.


                    • And making lost of hot guys is standard too, so if entertainment magazines objectifying celebrities is an issue, it is not a gendered one. The existence and acceptance of these lists has nothing to do with the existence or acceptability of private lists about predatory men.

                      Meanwhile, women making the attempt to protect themselves from predatory men is seen as an enormous deal, worthy of multiple investigations.

                      Are there investigations? I have not been following this all that closely, but the searching I have done has not shown evidence of multiple investigations, though it is possible the relevant items are being pushed out by talk over the creator revealing herself.


          • …Those lists are offensive…

            Those are collections of photos publically released by women who are using their sexuality to further their careers. For many/most of them this actually is their career.

            This is not a lifestyle choice I’d make, and I’ve strongly discouraged my daughters from attempting to go down that path. However the bottom line is not only is Kate Upton consenting to be on those lists, but she’s actively trying to be there and from her point of view it’s a serious problem if she’s not on them.


  1. At least for the Hollywood set, and probably the High Power Media guys, but maybe not some of the smaller fry, the names were already well known. There’s been plenty of reports about how Weistein’s behavior was an open secret. I suspect the same of Matt Lauers. So the list only gives a broader audience and to the general pubic.

    The real scandal I think is that the press had decades to look into this and never did. They didn’t because they could get something out of not doing, or more senior people could. The list SHOULD include the names of those in the press that helped enable this situation, and the women, who could have spoken up, but didn’t, either taking hush money, or “going only” for their own career benefit.


    • and the women, who could have spoken up, but didn’t, either taking hush money, or “going only” for their own career benefit.

      At least they are willing to speak up now, when there is little risk to their careers for doing so, and they have had plenty of time to enjoy the benefits of staying quiet.


      • Are you going to do what’s right or what’s convenient or safe? We all make choices, choices we have to live with for the rest of our lives. Choices that can have a far greater impact down the line that we ever imagined. I know this all too well. Women aren’t the only ones who keep secrets.


  2. “Why didn’t you speak out sooner?” my be a natural question, but focusing too heavily on it, or condemning people harshly because you don’t like their answers, seems to be a good way to ensure that people also don’t speak up in the future.

    It’s a difficult needle to thread (because some people will actively collude and abet corruption) but giving people more reasons to keep their heads down is the last thing you want.


    • fwiw it made sense to me as a descriptor and I didn’t see it as sexist at all given that I’ve heard it used to complain about plenty of men.

      I’m not familiar with it as a sexist term but I’d be interested to know why you read it that way.


        • I’m aware it’s an insult but I don’t see why your interpretation of the insult is gendered. And lord knows I am, if anything, normally oversensitive to gendering in insults.


          • That effort was being coordinated by Katie Roiphe, a catastrophic cinder block who has spent a significant portion of her career blaming women for the behavior of men.

            That is what Sam wrote. No explanation at the time of why he is using, in your terms, an insult. Two paragraphs later he presents hearsay as evidence of such, but it is simply that, hearsay. I wasn’t aware that a comment must be specifically gendered to be sexist. With no explanation for using a term that is only there for negative aspects, I can only see it in that light.


            • In honor of MLK: “I have a dream, that one day the meaning of people’s sentences will be evaluated not by the content of the words expressed but by interpretations of words’ meanings as subjectively determined texts revealing the author’s true intentions…”


            • I believe he assumed the link the words are linked to (detailing some of Roiphe’s work in blaming women for being raped) would provide ample evidence of why he believes the insult is deserved. Generally speaking, that’s what links placed as that one was imply.

              Being reasonably familiar with Roiphe’s work over the past 20 years, I would tend to agree with that assessment, that the insult is deserved, but I can see how someone else might not.

              However, I still honestly don’t see what’s sexist about insulting a public figure who has spent their public life insulting others. We have no checks here, on insulting public figures, and it could just as easily be sexist to insist he not insult her – given that he would have insulted (I mean, this is *Sam* we’re talking about) just about anyone in that role?

              (I asked what was gendered about cinderblock b/c it seemed from your initial comment that you were objecting to the term itself as a sexist one. thank you for clarifying.)


          • Now lets gender “Raging Tire Fire”, “Dumpster Fire”, “Festering pustule” and “Vomitous Shithole” so they can be appropriately assigned to the correct Cabinet member.
            Or my new screen name, whatever.


  3. When I was in the dorms, the men’s room stalls tended to have all kinds of graffiti.

    They ranged from the silly (“What’s Irish and sits on the deck all day? Paddy O’ Furniture!” “My pappy”) to the sublime (“those who write on bathroom stalls roll their shit into little balls; those who read these words of wit, eat these little balls of shit”).

    I made a comment about the graffiti to a female friend and she told me about the stuff in the ladies’ room. Stuff like “don’t make yourself throw up! Don’t do this to yourself! You’re beautiful!” and “watch out for John Smith in Biology Department!”

    “There are specific warnings about people?!?”, I boggled. “Yeah. There are plenty in there”, she shrugged.

    These decentralized whisper networks have been around for a long time and they’ve been decentralized for a long time due to the whole issue of what happens to the people who can be tied to any specific whisper.

    M.D. is going to be pilloried for creating a very public and visible bathroom stall that anyone will be able to read. And she will be treated like the problem rather than the guys who got named. The list will persist, though. Katie Roiphe will find herself surprised to be tied to it henceforth.

    Keep an eye on Katie. Will she be promoted in half a year or less? Will she change cities? That’s an indicator of whether this is eventually going to be something we can compare favorably to the Catholic Church or unfavorably to it.

    As for M.D., keep an eye on her stuff too. Next time she writes something, like it, link to it, tweet it. Even if it’s about the new ice cream shop downtown or something equally trivial.


  4. Regarding the assessment of Roiphe’s guilt, I guess I’m struggling with how it can be “outing” Donegan if she was already “widely believed” to be the creator and if they were contacting her only because that belief was out there. To out her would require specific and un-public knowledge that she was in fact the creator.


    • The confirmation of “open secrets” to the broader public is rarely to the benefit of the person the secret is about.

      In some cases, it’s good that the person whispered about gets bad consequences for her actions! She shouldn’t have done those things! (Or he, as the case may be.)

      In other cases, it’s bad that the person whispered about gets bad consequences for his actions. Power doesn’t like having truth spoken to it, after all, and will slap down a critic even if he is telling the truth (perhaps even *ESPECIALLY* if he is telling the truth). (Or she, as the case may be.)

      This seems an obvious case of someone doing something good for the peons but it reflected poorly on power. And power swatted back.

      Who are you most likely to identify with?


      • To be clear, I’m not arguing that there’s no harm in “outing” her — i’m questioning the evidence that “outing” was what was going to happen. Re this:

        The confirmation of “open secrets” to the broader public

        Was Roiphe in a position to confirm it, and is that what she was planning? Based only on the evidence available, it sounds like the article had a sentence along the lines of “Donegan, widely believed to have been one of the creators of the list, …”

        Perhaps this is just a terminological quibble, but to me this is not “outing”. It’s giving a rumor a broader public presentation.


        • Well, I’ll just go back to the whole issue of whether it’s a truth that will benefit peons in general *AND* whether it’s a truth, if outed, that would harm the person who told it.

          I’m getting a “yes and yes” for that.

          After that, it’s easier for me to see that it’s power slapping down a dinky little critic.


          • I actually think that begs for some really unprincipled stances when all we’re talking about is allegations of misconduct by one private person against another (as opposed to, say, state abuse of power). Once the list went viral finding out who made it and telling people so they can assess its credibility is totally fair journalistic practice.


            • *HAS* it gone viral?

              I haven’t seen it. Sam pointed out to me that nobody outside of a circle of journalists (and, apparently, Cernovich) has seen it.

              Have you heard of anybody investigated because of their inclusion on this list?

              I’ve only heard of somebody being investigated for creating it.


              • It looks like it has? If someone is circulating a list including accusations of violent felonies (which I believe this does) widely enough to get on the media’s radar (which it seems to have been) I don’t see any legitimate reason for allowing the creator to remain anonymous. That includes if the list was going to be used as a reference for any reporting without full disclosure. Transparency is the only fair way to assess these allegations (and to be clear, they should be assessed).


                • Well, there are public accusations of violent felonies and private ones.

                  To repeat a point made every time we discuss sexual dynamics, one of the big problems with a lot of intimate interactions between two people is that there is nothing that really meets the level of legal proof after the incident. Just a he-said/she-said.

                  Which then brings up the question… if a guy does something that would be felonious if it could be proven (that cannot be proven after the fact), is his victim obligated to not tell anybody in private?

                  If she tells someone else in private, is she obliged to tell him about telling someone else so that the someone else can hear his side of the story too?

                  This seems odd.


                  • I think you could have a lot of interesting conversations about that, and there are times where I’d even agree with the sentiment. If we were talking about, say, hacking a computer to get at private emails or a private diary, I might even agree. That said, circulating something on the internet among a relatively large group of people is a pretty easy call for me, especially when its apparently starting to create repurcussions in the lives of people on said list.


                          • If we are talking consequences, such as somebody getting fired, I hope there is more substance that “we saw your name on a list.” Hopefully there is some sort of investigation. If people are getting fired, just for being on the list, that makes it very easy to strike out at ones enemies.

                            I prefer an environment where some sexual harassers remain employed to one in which somebody can be fired just because somebody put their name on a list.


                              • Yes, the accused should have the benefit of the doubt, especially when the accuser is anonymous.

                                Or would you be okay with getting fired if a coworker made an untrue, anonymous complaint about you?


                            • They weren’t fired because someone put their name on a list though? They were investigated b/c of it.

                              If that led to their firing without other evidence, they were fired because their company’s policies are crappy, not because of the people who put them on the list in the first place. People who were, on average but possibly not in every specific case, just trying to look out for each other in a shitty situation.

                              It’s weird, until I read Donegan’s article I saw this list as a shitty thing to do, but now I find it far more sympathetic than I had previously…


                              • I agree, . From what I have read, it seems this list has led to investigations. I believe some of those on the list were also cleared, after being investigated. I am responding to , who (unless I am misunderstanding) seems to think that just being on the list means a person should be treated as if they are guilty, and that no effort should be made to validate the accusations.


                                • I thought based on what I’d heard that the intent was to make it public, and as public as possible, and it seemed so ripe for exploitation that a person would have to not care who got unjustly ruined to set it up. It seemed like it was a way to loudly shame people and stir up legal trouble without any kind of filters.

                                  It really changes things for me to understand that it wasn’t originally set up to be a shaming tool, but a mutual protection tool, and that it then went awry.

                                  Basically I have more information now than I did then.


                                  • That makes sense. I’m trying to remember what I knew about the list and when. I feel like I didn’t really have conscious knowledge of it until I saw Sam post about it on FB. But the idea of the list sounded familiar so maybe I heard of it somewhere along the line without thinking much about it? I’m not sure.

                                    I listened to a podcast wherein a female guest who works in the media talked about how what she called “informal whisper networks” to protect women have existed for a long time and that she’s even been the recipient of smaller, even more private lists. She said that a drawback of the informal whisper networks is that you have to know someone to be included, which often means women of color are excluded because they don’t have all the same connections, leaving them at greater risks. Her understanding was that this list was intended to extent whatever protections the informal whisper networks offered to a wider range of women. I haven’t read the çreator’s essay yet so maybe she speaks to that, but this woman (Anna Hossnieh, a podcast host and producer who is herself a woman of color (Iranian)) offered a really interesting perspective.

                                    Situations like this also remind me how different my experience is in the working world as the result of spending my entire career in female-majority work places. Schools aren’t devoid of harassment (my teacher girlfriend has been/is subjected to questionable comments that I’d call harassment based on her description but which she is more likely to just refer to as merely weird and creepy) but the culture is obviously different.


                    • So this is a problem of scale. A woman should be allowed to write “stay away from Joe Blow in accounting!” in the restroom stall but as soon as a picture of the graffiti makes it to the front page, we need to find out who wrote it and hear from Joe Blow his side of the story?


                      • Who brought ‘allowed’ into it? People can say whatever they want.

                        Scale is important but so is the medium/publisher. Graffiti on the bathroom has a naturally limited audience, but it also has a very low credibility ranking. Putting something on the front page of the NYTimes is different, not only because it effectively reaches hundreds of millions of people, but, at least in theory, it comes with the understanding that the claim has gone through some very serious vetting/investigation.


                        • The bathroom stall going viral is an example of the original scribbler putting something on the front page?

                          That doesn’t seem right to me.

                          The fact that there were a ton of women who had a ton of experiences quickly moved this list from private conversation among a whisper network to the front page… but that seems like an awful precedent.

                          Hell, just looking at all of the incentives going on here, it looks like all of them point to women just not talking about it.

                          That seems like it’d eventually result in a situation that is ripe for blowing up.


                          • I’m not sure I’m following you. If you’re saying you think a list circulating among news reporters/media industry types on the internet is the same as ‘watch out for Johnny’ scrawled in a ladies’ room stall we’ll just have to disagree.


                              • Gotcha. This is what I mean about a spectrum. At some point there was a jump. The internet is new to humanity in a relative sense but I think an adult ought to understand that once ‘submit’ or ‘send’ or whatever is clicked you’re taking a risk that you will one day be confronted with whatever you said. These are highly educated, intelligent, professional, tech-savvy women we’re talking about here, not children, and not wilting flowers.


                                • Many of the creators of / adders to that list are also victims of traumatizing sexual assault of one kind or another. Dissociation is actually a fairly common coping mechanism for anything one does later, related to the assault, especially anything that involves having to be personally brave, such as saying it happened – even anonymously. Particularly if those brave (they were *brave*, whether or not also wrongheaded) actions are taken in an activated state where people have been talking about stuff similar to the assault one suffered, for weeks.

                                  When I read Donegan clearheadly enumerating the ways in which she was incredibly naive, and then saying “I have no idea why I was so naive, but I was…” Yeah, I know why. Dissociation.

                                  I suspect she was fairly dissociated when she wrote and posted her confession, too. (Though it certainly didn’t affect her writing quality.)

                                  It’s important to remember we’re not talking about folks who aren’t hurt, here. They’re not delicate flowers – but many of them are also deeply scarred by violent attacks against their person. And sometimes that results in behavior that seems puzzling to those who haven’t had similar experiences.


                                  • I’m hesitant to assume someone has a mental illness who hasn’t actually said that’s the case. I actually think the references to PTSD, disassociation, and similar psychological phenomena that permeate these discussions are themselves pernicious. If the argument is that women need to be taken seriously when they make these accusations (which they should) the last thing we should be doing is arm chair diagnosing them with things that hurt their credibility or call their agency into question.

                                    I read her essay yesterday and I think she actually acquits herself well. Part of the reason I think that is because she can admit an error. That shows integrity.


                                    • I didn’t say she had a mental illness, I didn’t say she had diagnosable PTSD. I said she (like most people who claim to have been raped or violently sexually assaulted) was displaying signs of dissociation in her behaviors.

                                      *Everyone* dissociates some of the time, and almost everyone who has been assaulted (any kind of surprising or deeply threatening assault) displays some kind of dissociation around it.

                                      You were asking earlier why women don’t come forward for years and years and years. Dissociation is part of why they don’t. Call it compartmentalization if that makes it feel less clinical to you, and I apologize if my lazy writing made it sound like I was saying more than I was saying – but I’m not going to pretend that something that’s just something *people* do, regardless of mental health, and which people do more when stuff is really hard, isn’t almost certainly a part of this story, just so that it doesn’t seem like I’m guessing about people having mental illnesses.

                                      If it were up to me there’d be a lot more support and understanding of mental processes in response to assault and abuse that *didn’t* pathologize common, healthy coping mechanisms into being an illness in and of themselves. But that one is probably a long way off.


                                      • I guess I find this… challenging because we aren’t talking about stranger in the parking garage scenarios. We’re also talking about a really wide range of misconduct (I believe the list in question at least distinguished between violent/non-violent). It would take a lot to convince me that psychology is preventing a significant number of women from identifying and reporting misconduct perpetrated against them by people they know well under circumstances where at least some degree of corroboration is possible. This is especially the case when we’re talking about stuff that’s bad but not violent (harassment, unfair/creepy expectations based around sex, etc).

                                        I don’t think I said anything in this discussion about allegations made long after the fact in this thread but I probably have on OT before. I think they’re a really bad hill to die on because evidence, witnesses, and memories all disappear and fade. Outside of really unusual circumstances I’m left relying on Blackstone’s ratio. A lot of the psychological stuff about people forgetting or being unable to understand what happened at the time sounds to me suspiciously like the recovered memory stuff during the daycare scares.

                                        None of this is to say I have any issue with whatever people need to do for catharsis. Also just because I’m skeptical of a lot of the post hoc explanations doesn’t mean I don’t think the systems we have in place are working adequately. My idea of reform would be making sure women know their rights and how to assert them (especially in ways that can create evidence/witnesses), really encouraging immediate reporting, and requiring high standards of investigation before the trail gets cold. None of that requires messing around with due process or convincing people to buy into ideas or theories they disagree with.


                                        • “My idea of reform would be making sure women know their rights and how to assert them (especially in ways that can create evidence/witnesses), really encouraging immediate reporting, and requiring high standards of investigation before the trail gets cold.”

                                          That would be good. But I don’t see it happening any time soon (people have been trying to make it happen since the sixties). Particularly the last two, which are getting worse, not better. Hard to encourage immediate reporting in a culture where reporters are still shamed, mocked, roughly handled, etc – by cops as well as HR depts. And as for investigation, insofar as we have more and more evidence going untouched after collection – what are we up to now, 400,000 untested rape kits? 80,000? no matter how conservative you are about it, it’s a huge number -, more and more cases being lesser-plea-bargained rather than going to trial – because trial would require a lot more staff time for investigation as well as for argument – such that felonous offenders are wandering around with nothing more than a misdemeanor on their records (I think this also leads to more innocent people being bludgeoned into pleaing for fear of losing their case, fwiw.) Three also feeds back into two – why bother reporting when you know the case won’t be pursued?

                                          In the mean time, women (and other people at risk of being assaulted) have to do *something* to protect ourselves and each other. And we’ve been doing those things, however imperfect, however insufficient, for a very long time – it’s just more out in the open than it used to be. Or, perhaps, as Donegan suggests, it’s just less ignored by men who haven’t been assaulted than it used to be. Probably a mixture of both.


                                        • Also do you really think being attacked in a parking garage is all that much scarier than being attacked by someone you know from work? At least in the parking garage you’d be on guard to start with. Most women know that most rapes happen from someone they know, that most murders are committed by someone the victim knows, and that if bruises aren’t left, it’ll turn into he said / she said. I’ve heard of cases where women deliberately fought back, thinking that if the rapist killed them, at least he’d be more likely to get caught and it wouldn’t happen to the next person… and if not, there’d be bruises and they’d have more proof it wasn’t consensual… but that really seems like the kind of logic no one should ever be put in a place to use. I don’t blame women for making different choices than those.

                                          (To be clear – I am not at all saying you think they should have to make such choices. I just don’t see how continuing to make the efforts you describe as the acceptable route to reform – efforts which *fail* over and over – doesn’t keep us in this place where that’s what happens.)


                                          • Help me understand what policy you think is failing and in relation to what specific types of incidents. These last two comments I’m reading as applying to rape or sexual battery. With those, the accused should be charged and if convicted go to prison for a very long time.

                                            The list though, and these conversations, include a much, much wider array of conduct than that. Some of the things I’ve seen included were getting annoying text messages, or ‘creepy lunch dates’ or taking credit for something a female co-worker did the work on. There are of course also things (repeated, aggressive sexual advances after being declined, indecent exposure) that are worse than that, and do require some type of (proportionate) corrective, but that aren’t as serious as rape.

                                            My point above is that every calculation about this shouldn’t automatically take us into assumptions of severe trauma and really hard and unfair decisions that sometimes victims of violent crime are forced to make. Overall though I don’t think the pessimism is warranted. Violent crime, including sex crimes, have been in precipitous decline for decades. There are more women in more powerful places in the work force and more mechanisms to seek redress than ever before. This isnt to say things are perfect/more change isn’t necessary or that there still aren’t some really gross abuses of powers out there but I don’t recognize the world you’re describing and I don’t think the statistics paint so grim a picture.


                                            • It’s not that policy is failing, it’s that reform is failing/has failed. Everything you list as a needed and valuable reform *has been tried* and isn’t happening. That was my point.

                                              As for the pessimism, 14/70 of the men on that list were multiply accused of rape. 14. Even if some people are lying, what does that mean – 10 people were known rapists that people were afraid to accuse? 8?

                                              The statistics for rape are very different depending on whether you look at “asking women if they’ve ever been raped” or building your case around what actually gets reported.

                                              I’d like to believe sex crimes are, like other types of violent crime, in decline, but so few of them seem to go to charges that i find it hard to believe. If we have so few sex crimes now, why are there so many tens/hundreds of thousands of unprocessed rape kits?

                                              I know on campuses they actually have a big unexpected problem with Title IX: The high reporting and follow-through standards have actually made young women less likely to pursue anything OTHER than reporting to a confidential source that won’t share details, because they don’t want to be pilloried and they don’t necessarily want the person expelled, let alone jailed for decades. They just want what happened to them to be known – but there’s no safe way to do that. And yes, I’m aware they could all just be making it up blah blah blah except that – they’re not.

                                              And while I don’t think there’s a rapist lurking around every corner or anything, I do think unchecked serial rapists are relatively common. Common enough that most (not all –
                                              most means more than half, right?) women either have directly come across one, or have at some point in their lives had close friends who have.

                                              If you don’t recognize that world, I’m happy for you, I guess? But I also think you’re oblivious to something pretty awful that does exist. And insofar as you look at a list like that and you’re focused on the names who are minor offenders and not the 14 people multiply accused of rape – and you don’t see why on earth women would associate the two groups to the point where they all belong on the same list *for sharing and discussion purposes* – I think that obliviousness is … not part of the problem so much as an example of the conditions that allow it to persist.


                                              • If we have so few sex crimes now, why are there so many tens/hundreds of thousands of unprocessed rape kits?

                                                Look at Detroit, they started working through the backlog of rape kits and they’ve already identified 8 serial rapists (not personally identified them, but found 8 DNA profiles that show up over & over).

                                                As for college campus issues, does Title IX impose specific requirements, or are campus officials interpreting guidelines?


                                                  • Excellent, thanks.

                                                    Usually, whenever I hear about something egregious regard a Title IX sexual assault issue, it’s either campus treating the report as a nothingburger, or campus not even trying to protect the rights of the accused*.

                                                    *Technically, what protections they have to offer the accused strikes me as rather vague to non-existent, so I think it’s really up to the school to decide how it will approach that. I do think schools should be concerned with it, because having the appearance of kangaroo courts or star chamber tribunals can result in a lot more than just expensive lawsuits.


                                                    • Yep, those two things are the ones that are newsworthy. Unfortunately, “young woman gets sexually assaulted, doesn’t want to go through all the drama that goes along with Title IX and/or drops out of the process because she didn’t want the guy to get EXPELLED, let alone go to the cops, because she just wanted things to change, so she keeps a really low profile as far as the school and cops are concerned” isn’t the kind of thing that makes the news. It makes the whisper networks though.

                                                      It can be very stressful and fraught for anyone to report anything sexual-assault-related on a college campus, no matter how glaringly obvious and theoretically verifiable, and thus straightforward, it might seem. Obviously I can’t talk specifics but I’ve helped a few young women navigate the start of the reporting process, and all I can do – my job is theoretically completely unrelated, but as an older non-professor person they look up to it just happens – anyway all I can do is be as supportive, honest, and non-directive as I can (while also warning them before they start that if they want to talk to ME about it, I might have to tell someone in confidence that they were the ones who were affected, but not what the issue is – and that if that person reaches out to them they’re allowed to refuse to discuss it- and that there are certain things I won’t keep confidential no matter what ). I’ve seen people in very similar circumstances make wildly different decisions, for equally good reasons. And the outcomes vary quite a bit, too, and never transparently at all.

                                                      There are some situations that are even weirder that I’ve dealt with. Sorry to bring it up and not be able to get into it with any level of granularity (you wouldn’t believe how many things I’ve typed here and then backed up and erased over)- but it definitely affects my perspective on title IX enforcement. Not just my own experiences, but those of other people I know in similar slightly-outside-and-yet-have-to-be-aware-how-it-works roles on other campuses.

                                                      A lot depends on who the Title.IX coordinator is (or who *they* are – Harvard is up to 55 now I think??) and what their priors are, as well as other staff members. They end up with what I think is really an undue amount of power…. but they’re also under what really seems to be an undue amount of pressure from the way the gov’t requirements are structured.

                                                      And of course Devos’ stated intention is currently to “revoke or rescind” the existing directives, rather than revising them… which means that now colleges have been sent a message that all of this is up in the air from now on, so who *knows* what they’re actually required to do…

                                                      It’s a mess.

                                                      Were I to be raped on campus (god forbid), I would actually be more comfortable going to the campus cop than to the Title IX folks. And not because there’s anything wrong with them – ours are pretty good as far as I can tell with such a non-transparent-by-design-because-they-are-*not*-a-court process – among the most reasonable out there – but because I know how things would go with the cop, and I trust him. I’m not sure if I would get justice beyond what he coud do for me, but at least I know what the rules are supposed to be, so I feel like I would know if people weren’t following them. And that’s as a 40-year-old person with a pretty large amount of experience around these issues.

                                                      When I was in college in a completely different country twenty years ago, we dealt with all of this stuff by sidesteppng the college completely and only going through confidential organizations run by students for students to figure out what to do. That didn’t work super-well either, in terms of stopping serial rapists… or rather, a lot of the times it DID work well, and some seriously bad situations were prevented from happening again, guys who needed to never drink again shamed into going to rehab and (apparently) actually changed their ways, serial date rapists reported to cops in ways that resulted in actual arrests eventually being made (which tended to slow them down even if they didn’t get charged), etc., but it was weird and sometimes almost-vigilante (I didn’t participate, just heard about it second-hand a few times and was curious enough to learn more) and some people still slipped through the cracks. (either didn’t get needed help, for victims, or didn’t ever even get slowed down). And I’m sure some people got tarred as much worse than their behavior actually merited too.

                                                      So I don’t know what the right way to handle things *is*.

                                                      But the way we have been is definitely sub-optimal.


                                                      • Whoops, I just did some research and they *did* rescind all the Obama-era guidelines, rolling things back to the stuff people said wasn’t working before…. last I’d noticed was in the summer, when they were endlessly saying they were going to. September is a month where I don’t pay much attention to the news, so I didn’t see the actual doing-so.

                                                        Things happen so fast anymore I can’t even keep up on what’s going to happen vs. already happened when it actually might affect me….


                                                        • …rolling things back to the stuff people said wasn’t working before….

                                                          Would you say the current system is an improvement?

                                                          I read about kangaroo courts and administrators who are trying to do the jobs of police. My expectation is the college-legal(?)-system will mysteriously put the U’s interests first. I’ve told my kid to call the cops (not the U) if she needs this kind of help.


                                                          • I’m honestly not sure. The way things were before was awful too, I wasn’t here then, and I don’t trust cops. I seriously, seriously don’t trust the cops.

                                                            So I think they’re both terrible and I would have preferred the directives get fixed, not just deleted. I think having all these rules and then just ditching them without providing any alternative guidance is a recipe for an even worse mess. I mean, they’re still holding the campuses *responsible* and they still expect them to do things, they just won’t say what. Not helping.

                                                            If I was your kid, I would want to know if there is one (or more) city police officer on the campus, working as a liaison, and I’d attempt to find out in advance if people thought they were trustworthy people to talk to if something like that happened to me (or my friends). And yep, as I said, I’d personally go to them rather than to the university. And for that matter I’d go to our head of campus safety (an ex-cop) long before I’d go to the wellness office or the Title IX coordinator. No disrespect to them, but I don’t like the process.

                                                            There also should be someone on campus who is legally bound to confidentiality in ALL matters (chaplain, sexual assault response coordinator, etc.) and has no duty to report except for numbers. (I think it’s really important to know of at least one person like that if you attend or work for a college, no matter who you are.) She could also talk to that person,as long as she doesn’t take their advice, just their support/information. In the moment of being attacked, I would also call the cops, not the U. (And in fact that’s what our U, wisely, advises students to do in the moment of being attacked – call 911.)

                                                            Usually the first thing someone needs in the aftermath of sexual violence is to tell someone who will believe them and support them through talking to the cops, going to the hospital to be tested etc etc. If something like that happens to you, it’s almost impossible to deal with police effectively alone. Sometimes there are campus groups who are v. dedicated to that and independent from the college, sometimes not so independent. Sometimes it’s a trusted friend, or a rape crisis advocate from a townie organization. Some police forces actually work *with* the rape crisis centers to make sure victims get such an advocate, which is admirable, and one sort of reform that I do think has made some small difference. Sometimes that person for a college kid is mom or dad or an auntie on the phone.

                                                            Just saying I wouldn’t normally suggest someone go straight to the cops without a support person unless it’s SO immediate that they might catch the perp.

                                                            But overall I completely understand your concerns.

                                                            I mean, it’s only been 3 months, maybe this will turn out historically to have been the best thing Devos ever did (that bar is very low).


                                                          • The Obama-era guidance was a well-intentioned attempt to address real problems with the system that went more-or-less awry.

                                                            The DeVos-era recision of that guidance is effectively just a raw denial of those real problems.


                                                            • The Obama-era guidance was a well-intentioned attempt to address real problems with the system that went more-or-less awry.

                                                              The DeVos-era recision of that guidance is effectively just a raw denial of those real problems.

                                                              First do no harm.


                                                      • (while also warning them before they start that if they want to talk to ME about it, I might have to tell someone in confidence that they were the ones who were affected, but not what the issue is – and that if that person reaches out to them they’re allowed to refuse to discuss it- and that there are certain things I won’t keep confidential no matter what )

                                                        Are you referring to Clery Act compliance here? If so (or even if not), what’s your opinion of the requirement? I have very mixed feelings and fear that that law might prevent some people from seeking help and might lead others to state something they don’t want reported to a mandated reporter. At the same time, I can understand that a culture of protecting confidentiality can morph into or be a part of a culture that sweeps things under the rug. Also, the rules, at least as I’ve learned them, might be interpreted as to imposing on the supervisor a positive obligation to report “criminal” conduct, and therefore get people into trouble, for minor crimes (I’m thinking of an underaged person casually mentioning that they had had alcohol at a party.) That interpretation might be wrong, but the training they give us seems to suggest it.

                                                        Fortunately, for me, who supervises some students, no student worker has ever come to me with something even debatably reportable. I say it’s fortunate “for me” because it seems like a hassle to have to deal with. However, I realize that what’s fortunate for me might just be someone not feeling safe to talk to me, or worse to talk to anyone else, about something they really need to talk to someone about.


                                                        • Yeah, mandatory reporting.

                                                          This is a conversation I’m not particularly willing to have in public, other than to point out that I do my best to reconcile my expeiences as an abused kid with the requirements the state puts upon me in the hope that it will actually help people, and meet the moral expectations in both cases.

                                                          Though I will say that mandatory reporting was something I was very much aware of as an abused kid, and something that was a big part of why I never reported my abuse to adults. Even ones I otherwise trusted. Because I figured either they’d tell, or I’d be forcing them not to tell, and even at 7 or 8 I was mature enough to see how awful that was. (Unfortunately not emotionally solid enough for many decades afterward to see that they would rather be in that bind, than have me have continue to go through what I did.)
                                                          So overall, I’m really not sure it works. OTOH, Paterno, you know?

                                                          I will say that there was an attempt a few years ago to insist that all student employees be held responsible as mandatory reporters (but not actually receive any campus-wide training on it, or have it described in the student employee handbook, just be pressured about it at random times when there was a situation, and have supervisors pressured to insist to them that they were), and I threw a fit about it and was in open dissent and refused to train my students on it despite having, otherwise, the greatest of respect for the sexual assault response coordinator at the time. (Her beliefs and experiences around mandatory reporting were the opposite of my own.) Fastforward a few years later (2015?) and that particular expectation went away. And good riddance.

                                                          Asking kids to either lie to you, or lie to their roommates, best friends about not lying to you, or to refuse to discuss said things with their roommates, best friends, etc., is flat out immoral, IMO. It freaked me out a lot while it was going on.


                                                          • All the above is about sexual misbehavior/crimes, obviously. Or other serious abuses where the people are afraid to give up their abusers.

                                                            For minor drugs and alcohol stuff, I have occasionally given a (pre-emptive) speech more or less like this:
                                                            1) People being safe is ALWAYS more important than whether someone will get in trouble. If you think someone’s live is in danger, or you’re worried you’re going to tilt off the edge yourself, TALK TO ME and we will figure out how to fix it so that we get people the least amount of trouble possible but for the love of god, TALK TO ME.
                                                            2) Otherwise, if you are doing anything that is illegal, and you tell me or talk about it in front of me, you put me in a really problematic position where the only responsible thing for me to do is to treat it like a cry for help and act accordingly, pressuring you to talk to wellness folks, and even going to them myself if you won’t. Not because I care what you do, where I went to college the drinking age was 18, but because I know you are all smart kids who know that YOU SHOULDN’T BE TELLING YOUR BOSS about illegal stuff unless it’s a cry for help of some sort, so if you do, I’m going to treat it like a cry for help.
                                                            3) If you aren’t sure what to do about something like this, and don’t want to talk to me, you should talk to your older friends, especially the ones that have RAs for friends. They know things.

                                                            Unsurprisingly, no student has ever finished a sentence around me that might possibly end up having anything to do with illegal use of intoxicants. I have a responsibility to report, not to uncover.

                                                            If something of that nature is going on in the library (rare but not unheard of), I *always* call campus safety first, not cops. (Luckily our campus safety folks are amazing.) This is just my gut feeling after 10 years, and I have no real evidence whatsoever other than observing consequences – but it seems like around drugs/alcohol, they and the cops have a healthy relationship and are looking for dealers (we get some BIG-time, hard drug dealers floating around from time to time – not students but otusiders looking to build a market). They aren’t trying to arrest users. They also don’t seem to pressure users to give up dealers. Basically they treat it as a medical problem. Which I mean, if someone is getting trashed *in the library*, they quite possibly do have a medical problem, so I’m quite comfortable with that and don’t feel any moral anxieties over it. And they do record it etc for statistical/Clery purposes.


                                                            • Obviously if I was worried that one of my kids (or any student) actually had an addiction problem based on whatever cues I had picked up, that would be different and much more serious. But that’s only once, and the student did get the help they needed.


                                                              • Thanks so much for your (as always) thoughtful comments on the issue. I can certainly respect not wanting to get into too personal details. Even I–who so far has only had to deal with hypotheticals–am not willing to speak much or at all about what I would or would not do.


                                                      • Speaking as someone who is poorly informed on the topic…

                                                        Sounds like a good idea is for a campus to have an office for reporting, where the office assigns a reporter a, for lack of a better term, guardian ad litem*, who will talk to the reporter, lay out there options for them, and find out what they want to do.

                                                        In the same vein, and given that I suspect a non-zero amount of sexual misconduct between students is probably due to alcohol/drugs and/or kids not really knowing how to talk to other kids about sex in the moment (or, ever), it might be useful for there to be a set of middle options, like ‘I just want someone to know, for there to be a record, but I don’t want to do anything else’, or ‘I want to confront the person and talk to them, but in a safe setting with someone who can mediate intelligently’. Or something (I don’t know if that is something women want, but it’d be nice if the reporter could actually be the person to decide what direction to go in).

                                                        *Yes, I know that is for minors, but it’s easier than writing out disinterested third party who looks out for the reporters interests, and doesn’t care what the school or the police or whoever wants.


                                                        • In theory, those things are all part of the system at most schools, and the now-repealed Title IX directives. In theory. Sometimes in practice, sometimes not. The first one is why I suggested DM’s daughter should know who on her campus is bound to full confidentiality. Unfortunately not everyone whose job is “just lay out the options and be supportive” is actually going to do that, especially if they have strong opinions of their own. They’re going to push fairly hard for their preferred options, usually subtly but not always, and if it does then go to Title IX, the nature of the process is just really weird.

                                                          If everyone saw things the way you or I did, I think both of those things would be great. In practice, most of the schools you read about where things went horribly awry theoretically had both of those things… and that’s even before the actual process starts.

                                                          Most schools I know of sit somewhere are somewhere well in the middle of ideal and disaster – my anxiety is that “in the middle” still leads to a crapload of unaddressed seriously inappropriate behavior, all the way up to violent assaults, because everything (and I don’t just mean college campuses when I say everything) about how we deal with sexual harms is so damn broken.

                                                          (I’m really as happy as I’ve ever been how my school is *right now*, tbh, where by right now I mean for the last year or so, and much happier than I would be at some of the other schools I’ve heard about from people who work or went there. That’s just still not very happy, for any number of reasons. WRT the Title IX process, once begun, it is its own strange and non-transparent beast. Even when everyone is “well-trained” and doing their best, it relies on a lot of non-experts to make a lot of very difficult judgment calls.)

                                                          Wish I could tell you more, but the risk/benefit analysis on blathering about stuff like this on the internet is… non-optimal. My pseud’s pretty transparent. And my workplace is pretty small.


                                              • First, sorry it took me forever to respond to you, yesterday got totally away from me.

                                                Second, I think your response illustrates one of the biggest issues I have, which underlies much of my skepticism, and that’s conflating all kinds of seperate conduct that runs the gamut from rape to rudeness/bad social skills. Those 14 guys need to be investigated by the police, and with multiple accusers in a relatively recent time period (i.e. we don’t seem to be talking about something that happened decades ago) I think chances are good some of those accusations could stick. I get that the activist set doesn’t believe that but, even if they’re right I think they still need to try. Even if we take for granted that there are a huge number of undetected/unpunished rapists (not saying I do) it doesn’t change the fact that large numbers of people are convicted of sex crimes in this country every day.

                                                Back to the list, even if we assume for the sake of argument that everyone is guilty, I don’t think that the other people, including those whose actions require a corrective, belong anywhere close to that 14. I also think that, if you break down each accusation on the list, you’re going to find such a wide variety of different issues, problems, non-problems, and tempests in teapots that it calls into question the seriousness and credibility of the list itself. By attaching ‘I was raped’ to ‘some guy creeps me out in the break room’ a lot of questions are begged, including around how these terms are being defined, and how true they really are.

                                                Which brings me to the issues around studies based on self reporting. The publicized studies I’ve seen (the WaPo study claiming to validate that 1 in 5 college women are raped for example) all define terms like ‘sexual assault’ in ways that are so broad that it’s impossible to know what respondents think they’re reporting much less how conclusive they are. Combine this with the post-modern theories (i.e. all truth is a social construct) and highly politicized environments underlying the studies and I think there’s ample reason to doubt their conclusions. So while I’m open to the possibility that the numbers the government keeps are flawed, I’ve yet to see anything that credibly challenges them on violent crime statistics.

                                                There’s a similar problem with the untested rape kit number. Some of these are almost certainly the product of callousness, and failure to take the report of a crime seriously. That’s a problem, and something that needs to be fixed. However, others are the product of things like the occurrence of sex isn’t disputed (i.e. the issue is consent) or no suspect has been identified. Without that context the numbers, while facially troubling, don’t in themselves, make the solution or even what the problem actually is particularly clear. There’s a parallel to when we talk about mass shootings and people quote 30k gun deaths in the U.S. without accounting for the suicides, gang violence, etc.

                                                So to bring this all around, and hopefully you believe me when I say this, I care about the issue. I wouldn’t spend time debating you about it (much less people in my personal life, including but not limited to, my wife) if I didn’t. What I’m looking for, to the extent we are talking about policy and presumptions (as opposed to venting/catharsis), is some dispassionate, careful, and evidence driven proposals to address specific types of misconduct (as opposed to some amorphous concept like the patriarchy or rape culture) thats also respectful of due process. I understand that’s a very tall order for people who feel (and in some cases undoubtedly have been) badly wounded. But it’s the standard I apply to everything, and I apply it here because I take the issues seriously, not as a pretense for dismissing people. All I can do is keep showing up at the table, trying to be charitable, and making my goal posts clear and static.


                                                • “I get that the activist set doesn’t believe that”

                                                  Something you may want to consider is whether the set of women who don’t believe that is far wider than “the activist set” and whether that affects what happens.

                                                  I’ve had whisper-network about specific men from women *everywhere* on the political spectrum, and from women who are or aren’t activists.

                                                  This particular list was never meant to spur policy or proposals, it was meant to protect people. It being a list for *media* people definitely complicated things.

                                                  I haven’t seen anything related to the careful reforms you propose actually *happening* on any wide scale despite 50 years of people trying for those things. As long as they don’t happen, women of all stripes (and also men to some extent, and def. nonbinary-identifying people) are going to have whisper networks of various kinds. And in our
                                                  collective experience, the guy who tries something that needs a corrective on one person, is the same person who will commit rape in another instance. Our collective experience, to the best of my knowledge while leaving jargon out of it completely, is that only certain kinds of sex crimes will ever be tried, and that the court system is totally unreliable. (My abuser’s sexual abuse of his 14-year-old stepdaughter was not brought to trial, for example, but less-plea’d. Because her mother was an unreliable witness. He has a history of crimes like that, also a history of being a creeper to people, none of which are try-able at this point, and I’d assume he was on plenty of whisper networks. Honestly I feel like the best use of him having a misdemeanor on his record is that the whisper networks will be strengthened. I’m also not about to stop saying he abused *me* – fairly publicly – even though there’s zero point in taking it to trial this many years later and I do risk being sued for defamation etc. (In Canada you have to prove you’re telling the truth- it’s the opposite of in the US where the suer has some responsibility.)

                                                  I appreciate you taking the time to explain your position – it’s much clearer to me than it used to be – and it is far better to be in the middle than to jump to what I think is the wrong side. :D

                                                  But as long as you believe in a world that is *much* different than the one your wife and others are telling you they experience, and as long as your primary response to circulated-among-women, deliberately not publicized, lists is to see them as dangerous to lesser assholes (and/or the innocent) rather than the-best-tool-we-have-and-wow-do-we-need-some-culture-change-if-that’s-what-women-believe ….
                                                  you really are part of the reason things keep being a problem.

                                                  Because you can have all the well-reasoned policy you want, but if the culture is such that a) that’s not what happens on the ground and/or b) virtually no women trust those policies to work as advertised …. nothing good will come of those policies.

                                                  Every woman my age knows plenty of other women whose detailed, specific, self-reports they trust. And those self-reports tell us that women don’t trust the system and expect that going through the system won’t just be useless, it will result in further humiliation, job loss, etc.

                                                  I’d turn your argument around and say that if you want lists like this to stop happening, *you* have a positive obligation to work toward better policies and cultural change such that those policies actually work.

                                                  I’m fully willing to believe you are doing and/or can do those things…. but what you tend to communicate here most of the time is that it’s on women to fix and change things. That you’re openminded about what you’ll allow/support vs. try to prevent/argue against, but that overall, it’s kind of not your problem to actively work on this. When I seem frustrated or like I don’t appreciate your depth of caring about the issue, that’s probably where it’s coming from.

                                                  Again, I appreciate your in depth explanation of your perspective here.


                                                  • On raw numbers we may have to disagree on certain things. As best I can tell all evidence points to a generally safer, less violent world. To me narratives contra that need some scientific, unbiased proving.

                                                    I don’t have a problem with whisper networks in principle (I think they’re kind of inevitable around all kinds of issues, not just this one). My problem has always been the argument that broader society needs to accept everything floating around in them as unimpeachable truth and react accordingly.

                                                    All that said I’m more sympathetic than I probably come off in these discussions.
                                                    I’ve had my own experiences on the complainant side in the criminal justice system (including one very recent episode). It sucks. The police can be unresponsive and unprofessional, you have to fill out an ungodly amount of paperwork, you get questioned by unsympathetic bureaucrats, and there’s no guarantee anything is going to actually happen. I try to keep that in mind, including when I get brought in to support HR investigations. You’d probably be surprised where I end up coming down on these when I actually have facts to work with.

                                                    Also for the record I think our conversations on this are always interesting/productive, and I do appreciate you having them given how personal it is for you. I’ll keep in mind the question about responsibility for action (it’s a fair one).


                                                    • I probably wouldn’t actually be surprised that you are more sympathetic than you have come off to me, now that I’ve been reminded a couple of times that you argue with your wife about this stuff regularly. :D

                                                      (Jay and I both tend to have a person-in-our-head of the other one that pushes us to do the very best we can in certain situations, and also to argue more strenuously than we would otherwise for a related position which the person-in-our-head disagrees with.)

                                                      Thanks for your patience in pursuing these questions, and for taking what I have to say seriously.


                                                      • ER. More sympathetic on THIS ISSUE than you have come off to me! You come off to me as sympathetic in general, I hope you realize.

                                                        (This amendment brought to you by rereading and by being French/English bilingual… “Il n’est pas sympa,” is not at ALL what I was implying at any point.)


                                                • It’s vitally important to understand that the list was never intended to go public, therefore no one who was adding to the list expected the list to be used to launch an investigation of any kind (at least, that’s my read on it).

                                                  The fact that the list went public against the wishes of the creator does not change the intended purpose of the list.

                                                  Now, if the police use the list as evidence of criminal activity, then we have a problem. They can use it as a starting point for an investigation (this kind of information is, AFAIK, often used to justify launching an investigation), as can corporations, but as long as no one in the government is attempting to convict people with the list itself, it’s not a question of due process.

                                                  Had the list been started as a public list, and widely advertised and distributed, or had the creator decided to publicize the list for her own gain, that might also represent a problem with regard to defamation/slander/libel (I always forget which would apply).

                                                  I understand your concerns regarding due process, et. al., and we often agree as to when it’s an issue, but this is closer to the gossip sites than anything else. Hell, society at large is just fine with police/DAs doing perp walks, pressure arrests, and all kinds of damaging evidentiary leaks, all of which I find a lot more concerning than a list of men women should avoid being alone in a private room with.


                                                  • This gets back to my conversation with Jaybird above. I get the original intent may not have been to make it public but it did get circulated online. Anyone, especially people in media, understands there’s a chance something like that is going to get out. All I was saying in my original comment is that, once it’s out, there’s nothing unreasonable about scrutinizing it and its creator. The counter-argument people are making seems to imply that its ok for accusations (including some of a very grave nature) to be made public (intentionally or not), but not ok for people to scrutinize the allegations or defend themselves in public. The other implied argument I’m hearing is that even saying that it’s ok for people to defend themselves from public accusations is itself a bad thing that implicates people in the bad things the accused people allegedly did.
                                                    This is what I’m pushing back on.

                                                    Also slander= oral speech, libel=writing.


                                                    • Oh, yeah, absolutely agree, once it’s public, scrutiny is a must, (especially if it will be used by some to launch investigations) lest it run away with everyone’s sensibilities.


                                                      • @oscar-gordon “there’s nothing unreasonable about scrutinizing it and its creator.”

                                                        Except that scrutinizing the creator (who was one of however many accusers) isn’t safe in the current climate. It is, and 100 percent, should be legal. But Donohue’s fears for her safety seem extremely justified to me, and thus I don’t think outing her as the list’s originator would have been moral.

                                                        I think I take this personally in part because when I was invited to take on the bulk of the moderating duties for this site, and again when named as a senior editor, my biggest single concern wasn’t would I do a good job – though that was (and is) the second biggest, and I would’ve rather it had been my first. My biggest concern was, “am I going to open myself up for some large amount of gendered abuse that will go beyond what I’d normally expect as an approximately-50-percent woman in a mostly-male environment? will I get doxxed? will I get swatted? will I get death threats? am I putting Jaybird at risk?” (To date: nothing I can’t handle, not as far as I can tell, no, no, and no.) These are things that anyone female or femme thinks about when taking on public roles, these days, and so it complicates my feelings about women being outed, period. Add in the level of toxicity around anything gendered, and the fear grows.

                                                        FWIW, my intellectual belief is that the fear of that is disproportionate to the risk. But I don’t know *how* disproportionate – I have friends who’ve been doxxed so it’s not RARE – and some of those consequences are so extreme that, to me, it changes the calculus about the morality of outing someone in that position. (I think it’s worthwhile and valid to figure out WHO the list-originator was, fwiw – just not to publish it unless it was absolutely necessary to the public interest to do so. And Katie Roiphe being Katie Roiphe, I don’t trust her judgment of the public interest whatsoever.)


                                                        • Being something that should be scrutinized does not necessarily mean everything about it should be fodder for the general public.

                                                          That said, I sincerely hope that should some future soul try to recreate the list, they will do a bit of research into how to make sure their name, nor any else’s, is not attached to the metadata in any way.


                                • Sure. But if Bob in accounting is a sleaze and you don’t have any way to “prove” it… then what?

                                  Well, one thing you can do is tell the new hire “watch out for Bob in accounting, who is a sleaze”.

                                  Or maybe that’s the wrong tack to take. Let’s take a different one.

                                  Let’s say that you know that Sarah in HR is a Social Justice Warrior Extraordinaire. Maybe she’s got the aposematic colorings, maybe she doesn’t, but there’s a new hire that you’ve got on the team and he made a comment about beating some video game that you *KNOW* is on the naughty list. Cuphead or something.

                                  Is it okay for you to pull him aside and tell him “hey, just watch out if you talk about playing video games in front of Sarah. She is really toxic and will assume that you’re a member of Gamergate the second you talk about being good at Cuphead.”

                                  You can’t go to HR about this. Sarah *IS* HR. If you try to complain about it, it’ll go to her and she’ll make your life at the company a living hell.

                                  So it’s best to just pull the new guy aside and tell him “hey, watch out for Sarah in HR… don’t be dragged into a one-on-one conversation with her. She’ll ask you about your hobbies.”

                                  If it comes out that you told the new guy about Sarah… then what? But if you don’t tell the new guy about Sarah… then what?

                                  Shouldn’t you be able to tell the new guy to not talk about video games without being called on the carpet and being forced to defend telling the new guy to be careful?


                                  • I’m still kind of lost on where you’re going. I’ve never said people are prohibited from saying anything they want to say. My original comment was about when anonymity should(n’t) be granted by a news reporter. What it seems like you’re getting at is the right/ability to say something without consequences.


                                    • What it seems like you’re getting at is the right/ability to say something without consequences.

                                      I think that something like “watch out for the guy who will sexually assault you” is something that pretty much ought to be able to be said without consequences.

                                      The fact that there might be consequences for saying such a thing is one of the things that makes it easier for sexual assaults to happen.

                                      You know why Weinstein was an open secret for so very long? (Or insert any other number of open secrets here)

                                      Because people didn’t have the right/ability to say something without consequences.


                                      • Well, to be clear, that’s a totally different situation from my original comment which was limited to reporting news. I think I clarified it sufficiently to Maribou below but I’m definitely getting the impression I didn’t explain myself well enough on that issue.

                                        On this issue, which again I regard as separate, I don’t see how there can be any general rule like that. People lie. People also gossip and repeat hearsay, but they also do tell the truth too. Every individual has to decide for themselves what to do if they learn about something wrong. Doing the right thing is hard, it always has been, and it can often come at serious personal cost. I’m open to ideas about minimizing the costs of doing the right thing (there are many rules already out there but we could probably do better). I’ll never be on board with saying certain things are beyond criticism or doubt, and even if we all did agree on that I don’t see how it’d help Weinstein situations. We want people to come forward not base their decisions around whisper networks or whatever we’re calling them.


                                        • I don’t see how there can be any general rule like that.

                                          Oh, I agree with this. But we’re in a situation where we have to figure out what to do when “general rules” like “don’t grab boobs/butts in the break room” get broken.

                                          We’re in a place where different principles are in tension with each other and certain principles have been ascendant for so long that we’re due for a correction.

                                          We’re in that correction now. It will, itself, have excesses that will need to be corrected.

                                          We’re not in that correction yet.


                            • It’s wild that you’re more concerned with protecting men’s reputations than you are with a situation that is apparently so bad that women are forced to create lists of men to avoid. Err, not wild. That isn’t right. But more like, precisely the problem.


                              • I don’t think he is demonstrating that and I don’t think he’s said that. (In fact he said a few things that indicate the opposite.)

                                Part of the process of change is addressing people’s fears rather than mischaracterizing and dismissing them.


                              • Dude. I said I think identifying the source was reasonable in this instance. On the broader issue I’m open to things that make the way sexual misconduct allegations are handled fairer. We need to jettison the unfair assumptions about women, make reporting these things easier (to the authorities who can do something about them), and ensure they’re taken seriously. What I’m not interested in is replacing one sexist set of tropes and stereotypes with another. If you think that makes me part of the problem well… all I can say is I’m at the table and open to reasoned arguments.


                                • And since none of that is ever going to happen, or at least, since it is going to take so long to actually achieve, what are women meant to do in the meantime? If warning one another about danger isn’t acceptable, in other words, what exactly is?


                                  • People can say whatever they want. I’ve never said otherwise and I’m not imposing rules on speech of any kind. But if you level an accusation of criminal conduct in public you might be asked to prove it and the accused might defend themselves. It’s weird to me that people would think something else would happen.


                                • “Identifying the source” in this instance means subjecting her to a torrent of harassment and threats (at least) and plausibly murder attempts (in the form of SWATting) because there is a virtual army of chantroll MRA scumbags just waiting to take down any woman who does anything to, well, protect women.

                                  I don’t see how that is remotely justified in this instance.

                                  It seems of a piece with the general idea that people should be behaving as if the various systems that should allow (mostly) women to deal with sexual assault and harassment are functioning properly, when all signs suggest that they’re broken beyond repair, or simply don’t exist.


                                  • We also need to be remember that “the source of the document” is not the same as “the source of the information in the document”. As I understand it, many women contributed to the document. The document was simply a compilation of data points from various sources.


                                  • As far as I can tell, someone is claiming that various people are various things up to and including being serial rapists. I’m all for treating these sorts of claims seriously, but this isn’t that.

                                    The first problem I see is presumably we’ve got repeat serious sex offenders where the law isn’t involved.

                                    The second is this list, by its nature, invites weaponization, no matter what says about it being defensive. If you have the ability to anonymously brand your hated ex-husband/boyfriend as a serial rapist, why not? Tripply so if you’re fighting over the kids.


                                      • If there is a fight over kids then any claims need/will be brought into court to be argued over. This kind of list won’t effect that.

                                        Not Directly.

                                        Does Google keep employing someone on that list? Can they be sued if they do? If the guy is an outside contractor, will they still do business with him? How about if he’s working for a University?

                                        Courts pay a lot of attention to whether or not you have a job/home/etc.

                                        Further you’re assuming logic and planning. If you’re fighting over the kids, emotions are going to run high and trashing someone’s life can seem like a great option just in general. For that matter in the context of divorce it can seem like a great option even without kids.


                                        • Well i work for a court in custody/divorce matters so i have some idea how it all works.

                                          People leave or lose jobs for all sorts of reasons including being sexually harassed or having a mental illness such as PTSD which can result from abuse or assault. Courts pay attention to lots of things. Lots of courts are very sensitive, correctly, to false allegations or people badmouthing the other due to the animosity in custody cases.


                                          • Lots of courts are very sensitive, correctly, to false allegations or people bad mouthing the other due to the animosity in custody cases.

                                            Yes. Because it happens all the time.


                                            • Yeah by men and women and on all sorts of subjects. There are all sorts of whisper networks that could influence what happens to a person. I’ve seen a lot of them in churches where people look askance at women/men for not sticking with their husband/wife or with winks that someone might drink a little to much or not be quite the right kind of men or etc. This list is nothing different then all that for better or worse.


                                              • Dark Matter: Yes. Because it happens all the time.

                                                greginak: Yeah by men and women and on all sorts of subjects.

                                                I was replying to your statement about people making false accusations to the court in the context of nasty divorces. The reason it’s an issue is because it’s an obvious button to push.

                                                This list is nothing different then all that for better or worse.

                                                Except it’s publically available to everyone on the planet. Comparing it to taking someone aside in church seems incorrect, it’s more equiv to making a front page advertisement on the NYT (or if you prefer, page 3).


                                    • The first problem I see is presumably we’ve got repeat serious sex offenders where the law isn’t involved.

                                      That’s not a problem for the list, it’s a problem for our criminal justice system. Or do you think those women are lying *because* they haven’t reported those assaulters to the cops?

                                      The second is this list, by its nature, invites weaponization

                                      The criminal justice system codifies weaponization: in a sexual assault trial a woman’s character and hence reliability of her testimony is determined by the type of clothing she was wearing the night of the assault, or the type of clothing she sometimes wears, or type of pictures she posts online, or things she’s said in a FaceChat post, or how many drinks she had, or if she allowed her date to pay for the dinner…. All of that allows actual full-fledged criminals to go free. Potentially the type of repeat assaulters you’re worried about locking up.


                                      • Or do you think those women are lying *because* they haven’t reported those assaulters to the cops?

                                        There’s something of a rorschach test here. If you want you can see they’ve got nothing to gain, they’re simply warning people, and they don’t want to subject themselves to pain and drama.

                                        Alternatively, the police are used to people lying to them and attempting to misuse the system. Things written on the bathroom wall aren’t known for being trustworthy.

                                        The criminal justice system codifies weaponization: in a sexual assault trial a woman’s character and hence reliability of her testimony is determined by the type of clothing she was wearing…

                                        It’s not clear to me how much of this statement is caricature, I’ve never encountered this part of the system.

                                        I have been on the sidelines of six different accusations where officialdom got involved. All of them were proven false. That’s “proven” as opposed to “not enough evidence to proceed”. Weaponization of the system is a serious concern, the idea that no one makes false accusations is already a joke.


                                    • “If you have the ability to anonymously brand your hated ex-husband/boyfriend as a serial rapist, why not?”

                                      The implication of this statement is to question anyone’s *ability* to do so. The implication of which is to question women’s general ability to speak freely.


                                      • Dark Matter: “If you have the ability to anonymously brand your hated ex-husband/boyfriend as a serial rapist, why not?”

                                        Kazzy: The implication of this statement is to question anyone’s *ability* to do so. The implication of which is to question women’s general ability to speak freely.

                                        There is a world of difference between “speak freely” and “make anonymously and unsupported accusations on the front of the NYT”. Trying to equate the two does not lead to good things. And yes, I do “question anyone’s ability” to do the later.


                                        • Only… the list didn’t do this on the front page of the Times. And questioning what the potential consequences ought to be is different than questioning the ability to. Women’s ability to speak freely should not be in question or up for debate.


                                    • Like I said, the list is a response to a bunch of systems (including law enforcement and corporate HR) that have repeatedly demonstrated complete ineffectiveness dealing with sexual harassment and assault. Obviously it lacks due process protections, and really, what kind of “due process” could possibly apply to people just saying stuff about you and avoiding you on the basis of what other people say?

                                      And even if the list is, on balance, bad, it’s unclear how that justifies outing the person who started it, to be nigh-inevitably swarmed by abuse from the worst scum on the Internet.

                                      I mean, surely, dealing with a terrible situation in a flawed way doesn’t deserve to be punished with SWATting, does it?


                                      • …SWATting…

                                        SWATting deserves a federal (because it normally crosses state lines) law with a decade or so of jail time. Maybe with the recent death we’ll finally see that.

                                        I mean, surely, dealing with a terrible situation in a flawed way doesn’t deserve to be punished…

                                        I don’t view it as “punishment” to treat allegations seriously.

                                        She’s managed to publicly accuse 14(?) people of being serial rapists. That’s raising the stakes pretty high, but that’s fine. 14 serial rapists is a serious problem which mandates a serious response.

                                        At the moment that’s what we know. It’s possible she’ll get to give speeches in the future about the massive good she’s done for society by having 14 monsters taken off the streets. It’s possible she’s set herself up for a Rolling Stone style debacle.

                                        However the potential for the later doesn’t change that we should treat allegations seriously (including appropriate punishment for false allegation).


                                        • The appropriate punishment for even a false allegation doesn’t include SWATting, threats of violence, or even sustained harassment. At most, given that the allegation was very explicitly not directly to law enforcement, it is a civil matter.

                                          Given that you admit that there’s no particular reason to believe that these allegations are false, I’m not sure how you justify all these things (almost inevitably) befalling the person who started the list.

                                          Maybe, if we want these things to be handled without needing anonymous lists and their analogy equivalents, we really ought to do something about the large numbers of people who are poised to use criminal means to punish people for making even truthful allegations first.

                                          As it is, law enforcement agencies have repeatedly shown they doesn’t really give a shit until they themselves are used as a murder weapon. And it’s not like they haven’t been known to jail women for making entirely plausible allegations on the grounds that the allegations were “false”.


                                        • How on earth is what Donohue did, and publicly accusing 14 people of being rapists on the front page of the NYT, the same thing?

                                          If reporters published that list on the front page of the NYT – which I haven’t seen but for the sake of argument I’ll accept it – aren’t the reporters the ones who did that? Why is Donohue, by starting a non-public but widely shared Google sheet, the one you think has crossed the line?


                                          • How on earth is what Donohue did, and publicly accusing 14 people of being rapists on the front page of the NYT, the same thing?

                                            @maribou It’s a scale thing, so let’s think about “what Donohue did”.

                                            If it’s set up as a whispering network with ten friends, then I’m clearly wrong and we can use the “church” analogy. But that’s not the scale here. At a hundred friends maybe we still want to use the “church” analogy, or even “writing on the bathroom wall”.

                                            At a thousand then we’re talking about a fairly large community and I question whether we can reasonably say “a thousand of my closest friends”. More importantly we’re getting into newspaper range, especially if we have a thousand contributors and ten thousand lurkers.

                                            My intuition isn’t trustworthy at this point, but intuitively it feels like we’re still lacking in scale (how reasonable is it to find 14 serial rapists in a small set), so I’m inclined to add another zero here.

                                            And then it goes viral, so we’re deep into “publisher” territory. The NYT only has about a million subscribers (Google), but Facebook has 1.5 Billion accounts (also Google). Social media lets anyone become a NYT style publisher if they get lucky.


                        • Allow me to quote you:

                          ” I don’t see any legitimate reason for allowing the creator to remain anonymous. “

                          also you:
                          “Who brought ‘allowed’ into it?”

                          Hopefully the first one answers the second one.


                          • Gotcha now I understand. I meant from the perspective of a newsreporter covering what has become a national story. I don’t think third parties who knew about it had an obligation to do anything. For example, if you were going to write an article about this list in the newspaper and knew who wrote it I don’t think you’d have a legitimate reason not to name the creator. That’s all I meant. Does that clarify?


                            • It does. What if you were going to write an article about something else that vaguely touched on the list, and you happened to have a pretty good idea (but not proof) who started the list and you were planning to mention it in passing? That’s what Roiphe is now claiming (in contradiction to what she said before in public, which is that she didn’t know). Would you be allowed to not name the creator then?


                              • I think Roiphe is being cowardly and probably is full of it. Assuming she isn’t I guess I’d have to see how the list was referenced. If it was that non-essential to the story I’d probably just omit the list entirely.

                                Generally though my view is that the press gives anonymity way too freely and journalists are turned into useful idiots because of it. The only time I think it’s really merited is Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning situations. The story needs to expose something big and the threat to the source needs to be serious and non-hypothetical (prison, torture, and death to specific people can qualify, social media shitstorms, including the real nasty ones with threats, don’t).


                                • How about social media shitstorms including SWATting?

                                  We’re in this really weird place where being thrown to the mob can literally result in the things that being thrown to the mob used to result in.


                                  • To me that still falls into the realm of hypothetical. Also the only rule that could really account for that would be for journalists to offer anonymity to everyone in all circumstances, maybe with the exception of elected officials.


              • This article
                mentions men that were investigated and fired since the list was released. It does note state that they were investigated due to being on the list. It is possible that there were independent complaints that were taken more seriously due to the current environment.


              • Yes, multiple people have been investigated because of their inclusion on the list, and it did go viral.

                I recommend reading the creator’s essay outing herself, it’s really well written and addresses these details from a different angle than Sam goes into here (understandably since he’s making a different point). He linked to it but here’s the link again.



    • I think “widely” is a relative term. I was paying attention, vaguely, to the existence of this list, as part of the whole #metoo thing, and I’d never heard of Donegan. She’d never been publicly accused of it in print, afaik. I also suspect that Roiphe’s version of “widely” is “I’ve heard this from 3 different sources,” or something.

      The history of the term outing does, specifically, *mean* making open secrets within a small community (in this case, that of women in print media?) loud and broadly public to everyone and his dog. It’s not like many of the Hollywood celebs Signorile outed weren’t widely believed to be gay already…


    • Like said, there’s a difference between a few dozen New York media types knowing and thousands of MRA/MGOTW/’false rape accusations are 50% of all rape accusations’ types knowing.


  5. Here, in a single tweet, is a very important explanation of what the list was, and what it wasn’t.

    The thing worth asking is what, exactly, is wrong with women warning other women about the behavior they might encounter if they are going to be in the proximity of particular men? Do women now, on top of everything else, owe men their ignorance?


    • There’s nothing wrong with warning other women. The list is the equivalent of a water cooler chat with the new girl and the experienced female employer. “Stay away from X, he’s handsy.”

      Example: it was common knowledge that a profession at my university was overly affectionate with the coeds. NONE of the women wanted to go to visit him during office hours to ask questions. No, they came to tutorial services where I helped them. This professor straight up assaulted my sister in law by kissing her and shoving his tongue in her mouth.

      Most of the girls knew to stay 1) away from this classes, 2) away from him. If not, they were soon warned.


  6. It is really depressing to me that a list that, to my understanding, was intended to be private and only up for all of 12-twelve hours and managed to have 70ish names 14 of which were violent allegations….and everyone, okay many seem to only be worried about the men listed. Which I am concerned about false or misidentified people as well. However, ABSOLUTELY no concern the treatment of the women who are sharing their
    experiences with each other to warn of dangerous situations to avoid. The author is then forced to out herself to get ahead of those who would out her and is now subject who knows what kind of backlash. But we all know there will be backlash and only for her and only incidentally for men on the list. I am disgusted by it all


  7. Sully has written an essay about this and makes a handful of good points.

    The fundamental problem is that there are principles that are being put into tension with each other with the whole #MeToo thing and if you are one of the people who found yourself thinking something like “I don’t condone what Franken did but forcing him to *RESIGN* seems a bit heavy handed…” at some point will find some stuff in there to agree with.

    That said, the list’s conception was to be a restroom stall wall where women in media could tell each other “hey, watch out for that guy in accounting… he’s handsy” and not intended to be a court of law. It went viral and became a courtroom of public opinion and that’s created a new dynamic on its own that will result in a backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the… anyway. The #MeToo movement will pass and, if we’re lucky, maybe that guy in accounting won’t be as handsy anymore.

    If we’re not lucky, we’ll find ourselves saying “oh, he’s only handsy… he’s really good at accounting!”


    • Sully is getting absolutely roasted for that column, not only because he goes out of his way to excuse abhorrent behavior (he can’t understand why women might object to men sneakily removing a condom, for example) but because he intentionally misrepresents the list, Nicole Cliff, and other aspects of the entire situation. Which, considering that it’s Sully, is par for the course.


        • The praise is coming, predictably, from the groups that insist that women need to endure a certain amount of this for the benefit of men. I’m not surprised that he would want such praise, but I’m still not certain why that is a reasonable ask to make of women.


          • Well, I think that this goes back to the whole “principles in tension with each other” thing.

            There are principles in tension with each other here and asking “why don’t you care about this principle” is probably not as good a question as “why do you prioritize that principle over this one?”


        • Maybe the allegedly good points he made are poorly served by being made alongside excuses for absolutely grotesque behavior.

          Maybe the fact that people who are supposedly interested in the principles he’s allegedly defending should pause before praising him. Maybe the fact that they have to stoop to the likes of Sully to find someone who will articulate those allegedly good points alongside stuff like sneaking condoms off should, you know, give them pause.


          • Maybe the allegedly good points he made are poorly served by being made alongside excuses for absolutely grotesque behavior.

            Oh, absolutely.

            Maybe the fact that people who are supposedly interested in the principles he’s allegedly defending should pause before praising him. Maybe the fact that they have to stoop to the likes of Sully to find someone who will articulate those allegedly good points alongside stuff like sneaking condoms off should, you know, give them pause.



  8. The Aziz Ansari thing touches on an interesting dynamic that seems adjacent to this one.

    Now, of course, what he did is *NOTHING* like what most of the entries on the list were accused of, but, culturally, it feels like this is something that is happening within the correction that will, itself, be looked back upon as something that helped inspire the upcoming correction to the correction.

    Caitlin Flannigan wrote a piece for the Atlantic that had a conclusion that opened with this:

    I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser focused on college-educated white men for another few months.

    The NYT also ran an opinion column today talking about the Aziz incident.

    The deeper and deeper we get into the whole #metoo thing, the more and more difficult it is to avoid thinking about EvoPsych the way I know I should.


    • @saul-degraw brought this up elsewhere (in the daily linky threads?).

      I think it’s relevant to the story that Ansari has built a considerable part of his post-Parks-and-Rec public persona around being thoughtful, considerate, pro-affirmative-consent, blah blah blah. The kind of person you could count on to not press the issue. The kind of person who could accurately pick up on someone else’s deep uncomfortableness at the time, act accordingly, and not spin it as “after she reflected she was unhappy” when she texted him in tears the second she left the place.

      I mean, on some level, I do agree with the NYT writer.

      But on the other hand, if she said, “I don’t want this to feel forced,” that’s a pretty clear signal of someone trying and failing to say no. If you keep sticking your fingers down someone’s throat as part of your sexy moves, and not letting them distance themselves from you physically, you might not be too surprised if they see it as sexual assault later, and it might be reasonable for them to fear that if they don’t do what you want, it could get ugly. (not saying WAS – I wasn’t there – just saying MIGHT)

      That said, am I still going to get around to reading Modern Romance? Yeah. Was I really surprised that this guy wasn’t very good at handling hook-ups, to the point where someone felt violated by his behavior, and that he seems somewhat clueless about that going forward?


      I’m also not twenty-two and full of expectations that men I don’t know will treat me with some modicum of not-being-a-thing-ness. Regardless of how well they sell it. My expectations on that matter are at best neutral, until I get to know them.

      tl;dr: No, he shouldn’t be charged of or convicted with assault. Yes, he does have a lot of nerve being all YAY! Woo! Time’s UP!!! all over the place and should have expected this would come back to bite him, publicity-wise, if he wasn’t upfront about having learned through experience, the culture is toxic, even I have made choices that were not illegal but also not optimal, blah blah blah.


    • I read the Flannigan piece.
      “Hit squad”?
      Really, Caitlin?
      This is what I was referring to earlier about how the legalistic rights based language is failing us.
      In this formulation, Aziz’s behavior can only be discussed in terms of rights violations, or lawbreaking, with all the attendant implications of due process, presumption of innocence, and ultimately either some sort of conviction and punishment or complete exoneration.

      But of course human relationships are never so tidy. Did he act poorly and hurtfully?
      Yes, that’s easy to see.

      What’s not so obvious is where we go from here.

      Banishing him from human society? Blacklisting him? Well, that seems a bit harsh.

      But of course, much depends on his reaction. Suppose he asks forgiveness; Suppose he makes an earnest attempt to make amends, or grow as a person.

      This is where I think we as a society can help, by offering a map of how people can work their way back into the embrace of society.


      • I don’t know why we should be shocked that older generations see things differently than younger generations. But that seems to be the reaction here but the “older generations disagree with younger generations” outrage might as will be “In other news, Franco is still dead.”

        I agree with you that we are in a moment where things are changing but as you have mentioned before, people yearn for both excitement and a thrill and safety at the same time. IIRC you got yelled at on LGM for that observation. FWIW I agree with you, there are contradictory aspects of human nature. But we need to deal with these aspects and do so honestly if we are to advance with a new social consensus as you note. The problem with human nature is that it is filled with examples of “you can’t have it both ways but both ways is the only way I want it” kind of thinking. It is also filled with strenuous denials at any pointing out of contradiction.


        “A recent survey by The Economist/YouGov found that approximately 25 percent of millennial-age American women think asking someone for a drink is harassment. More than a third say that if a man compliments a woman’s looks it is harassment.”

        Suppose this is true. This is shy and formally not very successful with women me’s worst case scenario. Why even bother trying if there is a 25 percent chance that merely getting the courage to ask someone for a drink is going to be seen as harassment?


        • I think the Aziz Ansari affair is a really illustrative example of why so many men are cynical about liberal sexual ethics. The current model pushed by liberals regarding any sexual sexual act is that there should be enthusiastic consent between all participants, which is a good thing. What I suspect most men believe is that women are never going to give a strong verbal yes or strong non-verbal clues of consent but something more ambiguous regardless of whether they really want sex or really don’t want sex. This could be culturally or biological or both.

          I can easily see the survey being correct but my experience on the dance floor isn’t that the harassment is from being asked out for a drink or being complimented on their looks in general. Its being asked out or complimented on their looks by a man they consider bellow them. They just don’t vocalize that part.


        • If those survey numbers are correct, I’m not really sure how dating is supposed to happen. Many men aren’t going to take the risk, especially if they are scrupulous in their behavior. This means that it will be the unscrupulous men that really don’t care that are going to do the pursuit work. You have the same issues with ambiguous non-verbal clues, scrupulous men will take it as a no and unscrupulous men will tend to interpret it as a yes. This doesn’t seem to be what the MeToo movement wants unless its really a much more cynical movement than it presents itself to be.


            • I’ll give you a concrete example of how this plays out Sam….first hand experience….

              So there were some complaints in the jujitsu class from some of the women….this was all second hand as they complained to the instructor vs directly to the “offenders”.

              1) guys refuse to roll with women (for some reason)
              2) guys used their strength to escape/power out of a submission that the woman had, but couldn’t hold.

              There were other complaints but those were two of the big ones. Re #1-there’s lots of reasons not to roll with a particular woman at a particular time that have nothing to do with them being women. Most of the women are lower experience and aren’t a technical challenge. Some women are very small, etc. This is a big deal if you are focusing on technique and prepping for a belt test, of which several are. RE number 2. What’s a guy going to do when a female opponent complains that he used his natural ability to get out of a submission? He’s going to do the minimum necessary to not get into trouble. And remember, this is a class for STREET jujitsu to be used in self defense. If you train at less that 100% you fight at 100% So every one is worse off.


                • I was referencing Lee’s comments above where he said “Many men aren’t going to take the risk, especially if they are scrupulous in their behavior.” and your response. I used an example from my world on how men will behave when confronted with accusations-in my case those accusations are “he won’t roll with me” or “he’s not playing fair”.

                  Men are going to go full anti risk mode and not be aggressive and try to win on the mat. What that means is that the women taking this self defense martial art, WILL NOT be learning how to actually defend themselves–because they never will experience anything close to a real world scenario.


                    • Because in both cases, you end up helping the people you didn’t intend to help. With self-defense classes, women are going to experience a man acting with maximum strength and aggressiveness at the worst possible time because they wanted the men in the class to go easy on them. A criminal is not going to do that and women are going to find themselves in a much tougher fight.

                      With dating or sex, the scrupulous men are going to take an ambiguous and non-verbal answer to mean a no and not press on. That’s good or at least should be good. Based on what I hear from other people, many women aren’t going to respond less ambiguously if the man they want doesn’t get her non-verbal cues. She is going to get annoyed that the man can’t read her signs and find the entire thing a turn off from what I heard.

                      Entitled assholes are going to press on until they either get a real definite and unambiguous no or if not, either read the non-verbal cue directly or commit an act of sexual assault. Either way, the entitled person willing to act on ambiguous non-verbal cues will get more dates, kissing, and sex than the scrupulous man.


                      • I keep trying to explain my perspective on this to you and failing, but maybe this time it will make more sense:

                        If the scrupulous man figures out the fairly complex *but learnable* skill set “how to get someone you want to want you and have it feel like their idea too,” he should do just fine, better than the unscrupulous one b/c he will develop a rep for being a good, non-demanding, no-pressure guy to hook up with. Which sounds extra creepy when I phrase it that way, but is actually what women have sometimes been doing when they set their cap for someone for eons. Because they weren’t allowed to press. Women have *only recently* been allowed to press at all (generalizing, but vastly more accurate than not). To put it less creepily: men could, I think, learn the skill set of communicating interest in a non-directive way that increases the chance of that interest being returned while putting zero physical, verbal, or non-verbal *pressure* on the person they want to sleep with. I strongly believe men can learn this skill set because I know plenty of men who *are* good at it, regardless of looks, dress code, or any other factor people might suggest to you it is – it really is *its own separate set of skills*, and women sleep with them very very often (which also means if a particular woman doesn’t sleep with them, they let it go and aren’t bitter or frustrated, which helps them use their skills to best use next time, etc.). I’ve also *seen* men learn it, including one of my best friends. He figured out what he needed to practice and then he practiced those things on every woman in sight who was likely to be patient about it (including me! these are the kind of skills that don’t creep out married people you are already close with!) until he had achieved mastery. Soon after which he ended up married. They’re … intimacy skills, for lack of a less loaded word, not seduction skills per se. The skill of opening up a broad field of enticing possibilities, basically. I learned it, I’ve used it effectively – I’ve actually, in my youth, used it *accidentally*. We once had a student worker who didn’t realize he’d learned it and we had to get him to turn it off when he was addressing his coworkers…. he always had 4 or 5 female students trailing along after him and he literally was not any more attractive, smarter, or anything else than his peers. He just knew how to make people comfortable

                        But right now no one is *teaching* younger men these skills, it’s all either “let her decide” or “be direct! be manly!” when it comes to coaching men on dates/kissing/romance. So they figure it out or they don’t. And if they don’t they float around in the middle of a false dichotomy that’s leaving out a whole range of middle of the road behaviors. Personally, I think any time a woman says the things “Grace” says she said, that goes well beyond not figuring it out and into raging asshole territory, but whatever. Regardless, no one is teaching guys this stuff, certainly not as teenagers.

                        Meanwhile women get tons of cultural and other feedback about how to be indirect, gentle, non-threatening, open up the field of possibilities, etc., and basically no training on how to just directly proposition people (which is amazingly effective with men, from what I recall A VERY LONG TIME AGO before I was married). Or on how to be strongly verbal in their cues when they *aren’t sure what they might want in two months* but they definitely don’t want that now. Or on how to tell dangerous men from not dangerous men *accurately* (remember part of “Grace”‘s confusion was that Anzari is supposedly super-good at all this communication stuff and she panicked and froze, rather than realize he was awkward and a jerkface but not actually dangerous) – so that you don’t use violent-rapist-survival skills on awkward overly friendly dude.

                        Our expectations of people’s skills, adaptability, and versatility in gendered roles have far outstripped the education (formal, informal, friend-networked) that most people get in these areas.

                        I had ONE, just one, sex ed / health / relationships teacher that sort of got this and addressed it in how she taught us sex ed / health / relationships (7th grade – and without splitting us up into boys and girls, which is relevant) and I swear it was a lifesaver for me. Especially considering my history, but anyone else who was in that class also immediately goes “YES SHE WAS AMAZING THANK GOD SHE WAS THERE” if I bring up her name in casual conversation….


                        • I don’t believe that anybody really wants to teach young men these skills. Most probably think that these skills are unteachable to men at least. Men with these skills aren’t really going to be into creating competition so they go for the other two methods. Women do not seem to want to teach these skills to young men as a class for some reason but individual young man might get instruction. Most men are left to flounder by themselves and any attempt to ask for help is seen as wrong.


                          • I don’t think anyone much *has* been teaching young men or young women the oppositely-gendered-by-society skills, I’ll see you that far along the path. There are a number of reasons why women and men and whomever might decide to change that, though. For all of our benefits.

                            But it’s a bit frustrating to go to that much effort to explain myself only to be responded to with as much despair and bitterness as this comment seems to show (if you’re not despairing and bitter, I’m not sure what you *are* – but apologies if I’m misinterpreting). I just don’t have the energy required to engage further at this time, beyond this one last comment. And I do wish you’d consider taking a different tack next time someone wants to talk about these topics, than making it all about how difficult and unfair it is to be a man in the present context. In particular, I really really wish you would stop characterizing the #MeToo movement in terms of its effects on men who are trying to find mates, when it’s a movement with a long history before this moment, and that history is all about helping survivors of sexual violence to recognize and support each other.

                            As far as help goes, I can only speak for myself and my friends, where asking for help is seen as asking for help, and help is offered in return, or explanations given as to why it’s not possible in the rare cases that it isn’t. If your friends treat your requests for help as wrong, I would guess that you either need different friends (again, perhaps try a book group, not just dancing circles, which IME can collectively be pretty unpleasant), or, if you react to your friends like you react to me, maybe try being a bit kinder and gentler – less angry – in your interactions with them on this topic. I understand why that might seem like a catch-22, because if you could stop being this way about this topic, you would, duh. So perhaps this is more like being a sandfly than a help, and, if so, again I apologize.

                            But it’s really really hard to talk to you about it.


                            • Ideally, family would somehow teach this sort of thing; but to be honest, at this point, I think we’d need something more formalized because I’m not confident a sufficient number of adults understand (or even realize) their own non-verbal cues (the ones they send out), much less other peoples, to be able for family to handle that kind of education.

                              We know some of them instinctively, but clearly not enough.


                            • I’m sorry. This is an area where many people included myself are being treated as unlimited pain receptacles. You either get it or you don’t and if you don’t, the world says fish you.


            • What people are trying to point out is that they believe that the MeToo movement and the Enthusiastic Consent Movement are going to benefit the men who are entitled assholes and be most effective against other men.

              It’s what Saul and Chip noted, people want it both ways. They want thrills and chills but they also want safety. Based on my experience and the experience of other people, most women still want men to do the approach and the initiation. They expect the traditions of courtship they like but they don’t want to be harassed. According to Saul’s survey, even the most minor flirt I g or approach is seen as harassment.

              Likewise, every woman rightly wants men to get their enthusiastic consent before sex. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that many women also want to express consent with ambiguous non-verbal cues that can mean yes or no. The Enthusiastic Consent Movement states that non-verbal cues are not consent and not good enough. Yet, men are also supposed to read them.

              What this means is that scrupulous men will ask out less and tend to interpret most things as no. The Entirled Assholes will get the most dates, kissss, and sex because they won’t care about harassment accusations and will tend to assume consent.

              When you point out these contradictions to the MeToo movement or the Enthusiastic Consentors, they are having none of it. They double down. They argue that men tried to have it both ways and know it’s paybsck time like revenge is more important than meaningful social change even if it gets the wrong targets. Scrupulous men get labeled entitled assholes and contributors to tape culture while actual entitled assholes go free.


            • Maybe men could consider not being entitled assholes?

              3,000 years of recorded humanity, in one sentence.

              No seriously.
              Almost all of recorded mythology, religion, history and philosophy grapples with that question, of how we stop behaving like assholes and behave like the people we wish we were.


              • Without the gendering, sure. (And I share your appreciation for the distillation.)

                With the gendering, well, *as filtered mostly by Victorian men*, that’s the story.

                Again, cannot recommend highly enough that everyone read The Power, by Naomi Alderman. It is the opposite of anti-male, and a very powerful fable / far future science fiction / near-future disaster story about, among other things, the history and pre-history of the gendered narratives that we tell ourselves.


          • This gets back to something I said to regarding campus sexual assault, that a whole lot of the issue is that people, in general, are really bad about talking to their partners about sex. I mean, in a very frank manner. Women are socially conditioned to not talk about what they want/need/feel comfortable with regarding sex because that would mean they actually enjoy and seek sex, and down that path is slut shaming. Men are socially conditioned to not talk to a woman about what she wants/needs, or what he wants/needs, because he is expected to just magically know what she needs, and he should just take what he needs.


            • The issue is whether this is cultural, biological, or a mix of both. I guess we need to compare what happens in regards to sexual communication in the United States compared to a more sexually Frank country or culture like the Netherlands or one of the Nordic countries. The ones with the sexual education that people believe should be replicated in the United States. Does Sweden have a sexual communication problem like the United States?


            • Many people might find sexually frank talk with their partner unsexy and terribly unromantic. Media conditions people to believe that there should be a chemistry or spark and make outs or more should just happen. Never mind that this doesn’t work for the more complicated types of sex and rarely works for the simpler stuff either.


              • Seems part and parcel of social conditioning, no?

                We have close friends who grew up with Norwegian parents, but lived in the Bay Area. They were, and still are, much more frank about it.

                But yes, the myth of the spark is a big part of the problem.


    • The deeper and deeper we get into the whole #metoo thing, the more and more difficult it is to avoid thinking about EvoPsych the way I know I should.

      You should think of it. IMHO Evo-psych has been terribly unfairly maligned hereabouts.


      • Hrrmmm. I’d evo psych has been appropriately maligned in general. There is something there but it’s hard to find it mixed in with people starting with their conclusion then coming up with an evo story to explain it. It would not surprise me at all if you would avoid the common evo psych traps.


          • This is a good observation regardless of how correct evolutionary psychology or AGW is. Both are sciences that threaten certain ideological under pinnings of the respective philosophies and are treated accordingly. If AGW is really correct than the entire conservative/libertarian notion of small government and doing everything by the market isn’t correct because the planet will be thrashed in the process. For liberals, evolutionary psychology makes the liberal social project more questionable because your going against a lot of hardware stuff. Contemporary liberalism believes things like gender rules are cultural constructs, i.e. software that can be changed, and not hardware that is built in.


            • This is problem with how evo psych is used. Is gender at least partially socially constructed? Of course, no question at all about that. It would be trivial to review the different roles, attitudes and behaviors that were supposed to be male or female and how they have changed just over the last 100 years. Could there be biological basis behind that: yeah but very little has actually been found.

              If we are going to talk how evo has shaped gender then, if i’m going to take it really seriously, i want to see a large cross cultural survey. Tease out what is culture and what is evo over the course of time and varying culture.


            • If AGW is really correct than the entire conservative/libertarian notion of small government and doing everything by the market isn’t correct because the planet will be thrashed in the process.

              There are “pro-market” solutions to GW, i.e. “carbon tax”.

              That only anti-market solutions are given air time speaks to agenda and mindset, i.e. “let no crisis go to waste”. If the solution (gov control) is always the same no matter what the problem, then maybe the problem isn’t the only issue.


              • Carbon taxes have been raised a solution. You’ve heard of them right. The current conservative position seems to be that nothing should be done so a CT isn’t’ a possible solution even with conservatives.


                • Carbon taxes have been raised a solution.

                  The liberal problem with carbon taxes is two fold.

                  First (and most importantly), it’s not a command+control expansion of the gov.

                  2nd, if we properly value carbon taxes to offset the damage to the environment, we’re still going to have oil and lots of it. Oil (etc) has been a huge net positive for humanity, FAR worth tolerating GW.

                  The current conservative position seems to be that nothing should be done…

                  Yep. I’m good with that too.

                  However it’s worth pointing out we basically already have a carbon tax expressed via income taxes. Exxon’s taxes probably pay for the all of the Green energies gov support by itself. The gov steps in to “help” when we have fires, or hurricanes, or blizzards, or whatever weather event we want to lump in there under GW.

                  Of course it’d be more cost effective to not build houses where they’re obviously going to burn down, or flood, or blow over, but whatever.


                  • Liberals spent years advocating for carbon taxes as a compromise solution on global warming, only to find that conservatives didn’t want carbon taxes either. You live in this strange sort of fantasy world where anybody to the slightest left of you is a Stalinists while you ignore all the government expansion of power done by your side during the War on Terror.


                    • …carbon taxes as a compromise solution on global warming…

                      Say we get a carbon tax. Oil doesn’t go away, weather doesn’t go away, we still have fires and hurricanes. The oceans continue to rise.

                      So the issue won’t go away. Then we need another “compromise” with a higher tax, or a gov control solution or whatever.

                      Since you’re not going to be happy with any reasonable solution, you might as well be unhappy with Less. We’ll hold the “compromise” card in the back pocket in case you get all three houses.


                  • However it’s worth pointing out we basically already have a carbon tax expressed via income taxes. Exxon’s taxes probably pay for the all of the Green energies gov support by itself.

                    That’s not a carbon tax. The point of a carbon tax is to make carbon-emitting activities relatively more expensive, so as to create an incentive to spend less money on carbon-emitting activities and more on non-carbon-emitting activities. If you just have income taxes that are applied equally on income from all sources, regardless of whether it’s derived from carbon-emitting activities, that doesn’t affect the relative costs.


                    • If you just have income taxes that are applied equally on income from all sources, regardless of whether it’s derived from carbon-emitting activities, that doesn’t affect the relative costs.

                      That’s the theory. In practice, are there any green energy companies which have a positive income from green energy as opposed to gov handouts?


                    • My issue with Carbon Taxes isn’t the idea, it’s the fact that they are Pigouvian, and I never trust politicians to have a plan for what happens when the tax does it’s job and the projected revenues begin to fall. One thing I liked about WA carbon tax (IIRC) was that it was being implemented with a corresponding tax relief offset, so the implementation would be revenue neutral.


                  • First (and most importantly), it’s not a command+control expansion of the gov.

                    This is that thing where people on the right think that because they think less government is the goal whether or not it makes sense, people on the left must be the opposite and think more government is the goal in and of itself.


                    • That’s the dynamic. They don’t believe that liberals and leftists want to do something about global warming or provide universal healthcare because we think these are important things to do. Its all about expanding state power for its’ own sake.

                      A commentator in Slate Star Codex, on the I can Tolerate Everything But the Outgroup post, noted that the Left tends to see the Right as Defective Leftists to an extent but the Right tends to see the Left as Anti-Right. I’m not sure about the later these days but many liberals do seem to believe we all want the same thing in the end but the right has a bad way of achieving it. The Right does seem to perceive the Left as having the exact opposite goals they do.


                      • They don’t believe that liberals and leftists want to do something about global warming or provide universal healthcare because we think these are important things to do. Its all about expanding state power for its’ own sake.

                        Notice how everything “important” needing doing also needs to expand the gov, not redirect existing gov resources? Is everything everything the gov currently does much more important than this “important” thing? There’s an infinite number of “important things to do”, we don’t have infinite resources.

                        I would feel better about using the gov to solve problems if there were serious attempts at reviewing existing gov programs and easy ways to remove them after they’re installed. Instead every gov program instantly creates groups which depend on its functioning and advocacy groups for that program’s existence, even if our return on it’s “investment” is negative. This implies as the gov gets larger the threshold for creating a new program should also increase.

                        Until I start seeing plans that require “less” government or “the same but redirected” government as opposed to simply “more”, “expanding state power for its own sake” seems an accurate description of what’s going on.

                        For example, there’s decent reasoning and support that a Universal Income would be FAR better than the welfare system we currently have (although I’d like to see large experiments with this first). How politically feasible is it to get rid of welfare and all similar programs and redirect all of those funds into a UI ? The Left would squeak about leaving people starving in the streets. Both sides would dislike the loss of control, absence of micromanagement, and tens of thousands of jobs lost by destroying the bureaucracy.

                        Even things like Fighting poverty (via a UI) or GW (via a carbon Tax) doesn’t HAVE to be about expanding gov power, bureaucracy, and control, but expanding gov power seems to be the only solution for a certain mindset.


                        • This liberal would enthusiastically support a drastic downsizing of the military, reducing our global footprint of bases and wars being fought.

                          As well as an abolition of Homeland Security, folding its functions back into the DoD and intelligence agencies.

                          As well as nationwide legalization of marijuana and pardon for all cannabis related activities, and a reduction in prison spending;

                          I am thinking something on the order of like a 10% cut, which amounts to roughly 80 Billion per year.

                          But see, this is a unicorn dream at the moment, since there exists a political movement who has as one leg of their tripartite structure, the continuous permanent maintenance and enlargement of the military industrial complex.

                          This political movement has succeeded in making it politically impossible to reduce government.

                          There exists no one, anywhere in any position of power anywhere, who seriously speaks of reducing the size and scope of government.

                          This sort of talk is done solely by internet bloggers and commenters, who exchange barbs with liberals indulging in similar unicorn fantasies.


                          • As well as nationwide legalization of marijuana and pardon for all cannabis related activities, and a reduction in prison spending;

                            I am thinking something on the order of like a 10% cut, which amounts to roughly 80 Billion per year.

                            I suspect we’ll see something more than a 10% drop after we legalize weed. The black market uses guns to resolve their disputes, the legal market uses contract law.

                            …the continuous permanent maintenance and enlargement of the military industrial complex…

                            This political movement has succeeded in making it politically impossible to reduce government.

                            Below is a link to GDP percentage spending on the military. It’s basically a linear line down from after WW2 to present day, with slight upticks for various wars. The “military industrial complex” not only can be reduced, but it has.


                            There exists no one, anywhere in any position of power anywhere, who seriously speaks of reducing the size and scope of government.

                            We’re not in enough pain yet. Something which can’t grow forever, won’t.


                            • This is, depressingly illustrative of my point.
                              It shows how warped our national attitude towards the military is.
                              First, the graph starts at WWII. Why then, and not, say 1935?

                              In WWII we spent like 120% of GDP, a wild crazy insane amount.
                              Of course it would go down it would have to.

                              And why measure against GDP anyway?
                              GDP rises all the time, but our defense needs rise and fall, so there shouldn’t be any sort of relationship between them.
                              Except we constantly redefine our defense needs so as to continually enlarge the military.

                              America has been in a more or less continuous state of war since 1941. Immediately after WWII, there was the Cold War, then Korea, then more Cold War, followed by Vietnam, then a tiny lull, then the Reagan buildup, Gulf War, then 911 and the Thirty Years Xtian Crusade*

                              Our military spending far exceeds any possible “defense” needs, and no one really bothers to argue otherwise.

                              Instead, the public, left right and center, has accepted the framing that we need to have 800 odd bases in virtually every country in the world, not to defend America, but to defend American interests which as so broadly defined as to be meaningless. The F-35 is now described by the military industrial complex as some sort of a WPA make-work stimulus project because they can’t quite identify what problem it solves or against who.

                              We’re not in enough pain yet. Something which can’t grow forever, won’t.

                              Now this, I agree with.

                              *The name I believe future historians may give our ongoing wars in the Mideast. I am optimistic that they may be wrapped up in 3031 or whenever the Chinese foreclose on us.


                              • First, the graph starts at WWII. Why then, and not, say 1935?

                                In general we consider WW2 to be the start of the modern military. If you want a graph over the entire history of the US, then here: https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_spending

                                In WWII we spent like 120% of GDP, a wild crazy insane amount.

                                Yes, but the alternatives were worse. Without the US’s intervention, Hitler or Stalin ends up in charge of all of Europe after WW2, both of those are really nasty outcomes.

                                If it’s Hitler then he does to all of Europe what he did to Poland. He also goes nuclear quicker than the USSR did. The Russians started their nuke project during WW2 because the German and American scientists stopped publishing.

                                Except we constantly redefine our defense needs so as to continually enlarge the military…. America has been in a more or less continuous state of war since 1941.

                                I think we learned in WW2 that while we could define our “defense” to be purely local to the US, the world was messy (and small) enough that we’d get pulled into problems after they got big enough.

                                It’s fun to look at our various military misadventures/mistakes and think the world would be better off without them. This ignores that everyone else would change their actions if the global cop stepped down. We’ve seen this demonstrated occasionally, we step away from Iraq and ISIS takes over forcing us back. We step away from Africa after Blackhawk down and Rwanda has a genocide.

                                If the US hadn’t become global cop after WW2, that role would have fallen to Stalin and/or Mao. Lots more countries would have either gone the insane-socialist route or would have needed to (nuclear) arm up to oppose them.

                                GDP rises all the time, but our defense needs rise and fall, so there shouldn’t be any sort of relationship between them.

                                GDP reflects the cost of labor and state of the art equipment. We used to be able to field an army, not care if they could read, and pay them what we’d now think is below poverty wages. You don’t attract highly qualified soldiers at those wages and we need highly qualified people to run modern equipment.

                                Percentage of GDP is also a measure of the military’s burden on society.


                                  • So now you have eloquently explained why our unsustainable spending must be sustained.

                                    “Unsustainable” isn’t the word to use when describing something whose percentage-of-GDP is headed down.

                                    It’s the entitlements which are “unsustainable”. Their percentage-of-GDP is a straight-line headed up, so they’re growing exponentially in a way that eventually breaks things. The military we could do forever.


                                    • Social Security could be self-sustaining for the next 75 years with only a small adjustment in the cap.

                                      So “Entitlements” means Medicare which is rising unsustainably.

                                      So we need to make hard decisions.

                                      American seniors are not getting healthier or wealthier, so cutting Medicare means consciously choosing to let sick Americans die for lack of money.
                                      Which would be a hard choice but under some circumstances could be supported as a lifeboat thing.

                                      Consciously letting sick Americans die for lack of money, while we also consciously choose to build hospitals and bridges and power plants in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and where the hell else we are nationbuilding, is an explosively bad decision.
                                      Like, tumbrels and guilllotines bad.

                                      The 800 million number I floated above would pay for a helluva lot of sick Americans.


                                      • Social Security could be self-sustaining for the next 75 years with only a small adjustment in the cap.

                                        This is a good point. The only way to make social security self-sustaining is to admit that it’s really a transfer program and adjust the math accordingly.


                                        • It’s always been self-sustaining, taking in more in the payroll tax than was paid out in benefits.

                                          It’s only with the surge in Boomer retirements that the future payouts will become unsupportable by 2035.

                                          So raising the payroll tax cap to a more reasonable amount would make is sustainable past all of our lifetimes.


                                          • So raising the payroll tax cap to a more reasonable amount would make is sustainable past all of our lifetimes.

                                            Yes, if you increase taxes on higher earners while keeping their benefits the same, you can make social security more sustainable. But that’s an increase in the transfer element.


                                            • When the current regime was put in place in 1983, the cap was set to cover 90% of earned income. At that point in time, there was >30 years of history — pretty much everything post-WWII — that said productivity gains were shared uniformly across income level. So Congress set the increases on the salary cap on the basis of increases in median wage. If the assumption of uniform distribution of productivity gains had held, the debate we would have been having for the last 15 years is that the SS FICA tax rate is too high.

                                              The reality is that within five years of the formulas being locked down, productivity gains began to shift dramatically towards people who earned more than the salary cap. I don’t attribute that to any evil motives — but it’s what happened. If Congress had tied the salary cap to the 90th percentile, rather than the 50th, same thing as in the previous paragraph — we’d be debating lowering the FICA tax rate.

                                              SS solvency is based on one simple macro formula. If

                                              w + p > r

                                              where w is the growth rate of the worker population, p is the productivity growth rate for workers’ income subject to the tax, and r is the retiree population growth rate, things are stable.


                                              • I didn’t say anything about FICA taxes being too low or too high. I’m not making any judgments. I’m just pointing out that the sustainability of social security is tied to how much we hew to the fiction that social security is insurance and not a transfer program. Although, personally I’d prefer that we just keep FICA taxes where they are and start means testing. Well really, I’d prefer that we scrap the current program and move to a scheme based on forced savings, but that’s well outside of the window right now.


                                      • Coupla footnotes:
                                        America is spending about 500 million in Syria alone; Including bridges and “humanitarian assistance”, with no estimate of when or if this will ever end.
                                        Expanding US involvement in Africa, with base-building and ground troops;
                                        America will be paying the medical costs of wounded veterans for the next half century or longer; Costs of the Afghan war topping 1 Trillion dollars;
                                        US involvement in Yemen, with no clear path to victory;

                                        No plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, even after ISIS is defeated;

                                        Our global footprint grows ever larger, spreading our “red lines” in a vast network resembling the complex tripwires that preceded WWI. All it will take is a few troops captured in Africa, or a shocking video from Yemen, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, and the America public will be stampeded into another full scale war.

                                        The bill for the wars since 911 already stands at 4 Trillion. 4 thousand billion dollars!

                                        It doesn’t matter what percentage of GDP this is. This is unsustainable because it robs us of the ability to spend for our actual needs.

                                        We are literally, building bridges in Syria, and schools in Afghanistan, and hospitals in Iraq while claiming we can’t afford to build them here.

                                        And this 4 Trillion dollars has produced no tangible result except the death of one single man who planned the 911 attacks. By every other metric, we are in a worse military, strategic and diplomatic position now than we were on September 10, 2001.
                                        And the same people who produced this 4 thousand billion dollar catastrophe are now insisting that the remedy is a new war with Iran, for another few thousand billion.


                                        • America is spending about 500 million in Syria alone; Including bridges and “humanitarian assistance”, with no estimate of when or if this will ever end.

                                          GDP of the US is 18.57 Trillion, or 18,570 Billion, or 18,570,000 million.

                                          500 million is 0.0027 % of GDP. Round that to hundreths of a percent and it disappears.

                                          Medicare as a whole is more than 3% of the GDP (wiki).

                                          The cost of providing care for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease has hit $259 billion, or $259,000 million, or 1.4% of GDP.

                                          Fraud and billing mistakes cost Medicare between $16 Billion and $60 Billion (sources differ), or $60,000 Million, or 0.32% of GDP.

                                          Syria nation building is less than 1% of Medicare’s billing mistakes.

                                          Costs of the Afghan war topping 1 Trillion dollars;

                                          Excellent example. The war started in 2001, that’s 17 years ago, that’s about $60 Billion a year (although this is mostly front ended, the current costs are a lot less).

                                          And it was a forced war because of 911. 911 happened in no small part because we lost interest in that part of the world after the Russians pulled out.

                                          From your Syrian example, half a billion dollars a year creates a lot of influence and order. In Afghanistan we decided to not do that, presumably because it was expensive.

                                          In terms of cost, the war was 2,000 years of nation building. It would have been cheaper to stay in Afghanistan after the Russians left to supply a bare minimum of order and influence.

                                          No plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, even after ISIS is defeated;

                                          Obama pulled the troops out. He found that while it’s expensive to have troops there, it’s FAR more expensive to not have them there. He saw the same dynamic in Afghanistan and quietly canceled the pull out.


                                      • Social Security could be self-sustaining for the next 75 years with only a small adjustment in the cap.

                                        Assuming we don’t keep living longer, benefits aren’t increased, and we cut the rest of gov spending to properly fund the trust fund, then yes, that’s true. And your “small adjustment” is a $100 Billion a year increase in taxes on the wealthy (link below). This is the segment of society which has the most ability to move their money around and hire expensive tax lawyers, so we also need to hope really hard they can be harvested like carrots and don’t change their behavior.


                                        However it’s a mistake to point to any one entitlement, program, or whatever and proclaim that since we can pay for it, we don’t have a problem. What’s driving this is politics. Obama implemented a big new entitlement. Bush implemented a big new entitlement. HRC had election promises for various entitlements.

                                        Every generation of politicians needs to buy our votes.


                                        …cutting Medicare means consciously choosing to let sick Americans die for lack of money.

                                        People will die from lack of money no matter what we do. Even if we devoted the entire GDP to Medicare we still wouldn’t be able to give everyone everything. The overall death rate holds steady at 100 percent and that’s going to continue.

                                        Consciously letting sick Americans die for lack of money, while we also consciously choose to build hospitals and bridges and power plants in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and where the hell else we are nation-building, is an explosively bad decision.

                                        This is like paying mortgages on five houses but claiming we can avoid bankruptcy by not having a daly ice cream cone. Eliminating the military, even to scary levels, just buys time. If memory serves, the growth in entitlements is like firing up a new war, we intend to fight forever, every other year.

                                        The 800 million number I floated above would pay for a helluva lot of sick Americans.

                                        You didn’t say “800 million” you said “800 military bases”. Some are radar stations or are near abandoned. Collectively they cost 160 to 200 million (link below). Totally eliminate all of them and that pays for roughly one years increase (depending on which year) in the cost of Medicare.

                                        Of course this also leaves us blind to incoming nukes, let’s ISIS take over Iraq, and does a bunch of other really nasty things which probably result in massive loss of lives, property etc. It’d be like announcing we’re suspending all law enforcement in Baltimore to save money and prevent the loss of life from cops killing people.

                                        The power vacuum will create more problems than it will solve. Those problems will quickly grow until we need to come back, it will probably be more expensive than if we’d never left.



                                        • Dark Matter: Assuming we don’t keep living longer, benefits aren’t increased, and we cut the rest of gov spending to properly fund the trust fund, then yes, that’s true. And your “small adjustment” is a $100 Billion a year increase in taxes on the wealthy (link below). This is the segment of society which has the most ability to move their money around and hire expensive tax lawyers, so we also need to hope really hard they can be harvested like carrots and don’t change their behavior.

                                          Back of the napkin math time.

                                          New York has a State+City income tax of roughly 13%
                                          Federal Income tax is 37%
                                          Combined that’s about 50%

                                          Getting rid of SS’s cap is adding +12.4%, which since it’s applied to only the remaining 50%, is taking a quarter of what used to be take home pay at the highest marginal rate.

                                          So if your previous take home pay was $4 Million, now it’s going to be $3 Million. If your expenses are say 3.5, then it’s going to be interesting.

                                          I’m obviously handwaving a lot of issues and only looking at the top of top of the marginal rates, and more importantly, I’m hardly an expert in this level of income and financing.

                                          Intuitively this feels like it will drive behavior and we’ll get less tax than we expect. It doesn’t seem as bad as the proposed Wall Street tax where it’s expected to get 20 cents of tax on activities which currently have a profit of a penny or two, but it does seem like a proposal which could cause problems.


                                          • See, you keep over and over telling us how trivial 1 Trillion dollars is, so long as it is spent on defense.

                                            Take everything you wrote, and switch out “Afghanistan” or “Iraq”, and replace it with “schools” or “healthcare”.


                                            • See, you keep over and over telling us how trivial 1 Trillion dollars is, so long as it is spent on defense.

                                              No, I’m telling you that the bulk of the money is spent on entitlements, whose costs are expected to explode, rather than the military, whose costs are heading down.

                                              I can say that 500 million dollars of nation building is trivial in the context of multiple Trillions of dollars spent on healthcare because it is trivial.

                                              Take everything you wrote, and switch out “Afghanistan” or “Iraq”, and replace it with “schools” or “healthcare”.

                                              I can’t do that, because the math of it won’t let me.


                                              • I can’t do that, because the math of it won’t let me.

                                                I can.

                                                As a share of the federal budget, over the next decade, the amount of Medicare spending will become 17% of spending instead of the current 15%. Defense is at 15% of spending. Rather than exploding, the costs have been slower than previously projected.

                                                A 10% cut to Defense would be 1.5% of the budget. Transferring this to Medicare would leave the rest to be paid for by higher premiums, or taxes, or some combination.

                                                There is nothing there that is un-doable. Just painful, since a 10% cut to Defense means a complete re-thinking of our foreign policy.

                                                But that’s a political issue, because budgeting is just a matter of priorities. We can take care of American sick people, or we can take care of sick people all around the world, but we can’t do both.

                                                We can disagree on whether it should be done. But it clearly can be done.


                                                • As a share of the federal budget, over the next decade, the amount of Medicare spending will become 17% of spending instead of the current 15%.

                                                  You rounded 14.7% up to 15% and 17.5% down to 17%. We’re going to see Medicare’s budget share increase by +3% (2.8), not 2%. (Another way to view this is Medicare will increase by 19% over the expected GDP’s growth).

                                                  a 10% cut to Defense means a complete re-thinking of our foreign policy.

                                                  I suspect less than you’d think. Defense is, long term, trending down. We’re just coming out of several wars, I wouldn’t be shocked if this is already baked into the cake. (I didn’t look up recent numbers but I found older ones suggestive of this).

                                                  A 10% cut to Defense would be 1.5% of the budget. Transferring this to Medicare would leave the rest to be paid for by higher premiums, or taxes, or some combination.

                                                  And then we get to deal with the issue all over again the next decade, and then all over again the decade after that, and so forth. Let’s look at what your link says about the long term.

                                                  While Medicare spending is on a slower upward trajectory now than in past decades, total and per capita annual growth rates appear to be edging away from their historically low levels of the past few years.

                                                  According to CBO’s most recent long-term projections, net Medicare spending will grow from 3.1 percent of GDP in 2017 to 4.2 percent in 2027, 5.3 percent in 2037, and 6.1 percent in 2047.

                                                  The terrifying part about that statement is it reads like it’s adjusted for growth. I’m not sure what rate they assumed. So it’s not a true double over 30 years, it’s a true double after growth. If the GDP grows one percentage point less than expected then the program will be 35% bigger proportionally, i.e. 8 points of GDP instead of 6.

                                                  And this totally ignores all other entitlements and their growth.

                                                  This situation is why I try to focus policy decisions around economic growth. I think we’re going to have to make painful choices no matter what we do, but more growth means a lot less pain.


                                            • See, you keep over and over telling us how trivial 1 Trillion dollars is, so long as it is spent on defense.

                                              I think I misinterpreted this statement so I’ll try again.

                                              I’ve pointed to various 1 Trillion dollar military disasters as things we could have avoided if we’d been willing to spend 500 million.

                                              Our choice isn’t whether we’re going to have the military there, 911 resolved that. Our choice is whether we want to have a light touch (and 500 million is a light touch), or whether we’d rather wait for things to burn down and HAVE to come back.


                    • If only.

                      People on the left don’t necessarily want more government, government regulation is just the first tool they reach for in their toolbox because it’s worked in the past for certain things.[1]

                      Of course, people on the right don’t want tiresome, complicated regulation, they just make whatever it is illegal and arrest the scum.[2]

                      [1] One can then argue, in good faith, whether or not the thing currently in question is best served by government regulation.

                      [2] Seriously, how often has this actually worked to the benefit of society?


                      • first tool they reach for in their toolbox

                        What other tools are in that toolbox, anyway?

                        I mean, if one’s goal is to effect society-wide change, what non-governmental tools are there to use?

                        For example, producing less harm to the environment, reducing discrimination, producing more affordable housing…

                        Even if the solution is “directed tax breaks” or “subsidy” or “eliminating regulation” that still is the product of a government tool which distorts the workings of the status quo.

                        Which just makes sense since the status quo of market demand plus regulations and legal structures is what produced the problem we are trying to fix.


                        • That’s why I said ‘government regulation’, which I see as different from criminal law, or policy, or taxes, etc. A carbon tax isn’t a regulation, it’s a tax. Choosing to not subsidize fossil fuel exploration or production, while subsidizing ‘green'[1] energy is a policy and budget action, not regulation, as such.

                          [1] For whatever value of ‘green’ one has.


    • The deeper and deeper we get into the whole #metoo thing, the more and more difficult it is to avoid thinking about EvoPsych the way I know I should.

      I am always confused when people disparage evolutionary psychology. Are they objecting to the people who make up just-so stories to justify their pre-existing prejudices or are they objecting to the entire academic study of how natural selection affects human psychology and behavior? Neither option seems particularly reasonable. Natural selection exists. And to say that it shapes our psychology in ways that can be demonstrated and cataloged is so basic as to be a truism. The fact that some people take it a step too far is an odd reason to disparage the whole enterprise. A lot of people were spitting nonsense about how Mercury being in retrograde was causing bad things to happen; that doesn’t change the fact that Mercury being in retrograde is an actual scientific phenomenon. No one reacts to astrology by dismissing astronomy, at least no one that I’ve met.

      Perhaps more interestingly, and maybe this is what is alluding to, the de facto position of Babe, the site that published the story about Ansari, and the story’s supporters are, for all intents and purposes, positing their own evolutionary psychology just-so story, one in which women are so inherently powerless in the face of male demands that there doesn’t even need to be physical or mental coercion for a man to emotionally overpower a woman. Just being a jerk is enough. By the way, I’ve seen Aziz Ansari in person and calling him slight would be an understatement.

      This site labels itself as being “for girls who don’t give a f*ck.” Part of the negative reaction is likely because folks grok the inherent disconnect between this type of fake bad girl posturing and the fragility underlying this theory of the female mind. When you purport to tell the story of the “worst night” of someone’s life and you start by mentioning that Ansari didn’t offer her preferred choice of wine, some people are going to not completely buy into the narrative. And perhaps more importantly, you’re going to find that the people who do stick to the narrative are going to be the people who support more because that’s what they’ve built their media careers on than any real commitment to social justice.

      By the way, the inclusion of the wine detail is kind of fascinating. There are really only two reasons to leave it in there. One is that the writer thought that Ansari choosing the wine with no input from his date was some kind of telling detail about the patriarchy’s desire to control interactions with women. The other possibility is that she knew exactly how dumb that point of view would seem to lots of people and included it to help the story go viral. The latter option is probably worse, but the former is definitely scarier.


      • I find it deeply and darkly funny that this scandal got revealed in an outfit called Babe. From my teen years in the mid to late 1990s, I remember many feminists hating the word babe because it applied a woman as a hot sex object for men to look at or more. It was always regarded as a sexist term and never a positive compliment in some circles.

        Calling your site Babe implies a comfort with outward sexuality and being seen as an object of desire unless they are being ironic.


      • Are they objecting to the people who make up just-so stories to justify their pre-existing prejudices or are they objecting to the entire academic study of how natural selection affects human psychology and behavior?

        Almost always the former. Of course, there’s often a motte-and-bailey thing where people who are insisting on a certain just-so story will fall back on claiming that evolution has shaped human behavior and psychology in otherwise unspecified ways.


        • This. It’s not that I disagree with the basic premise. It’s that I went through 4 years of hearing otherwise sensible people lose all sense of scientific method the minute humans came up. (And I’m trained mostly as a wild-animal-behaviorist, so it’s not like I don’t get that control groups are hard.)

          Most people who publish as “evolutionary psychology” are the same set of people that used to publish as “sociobiology” and it’s a keyword that throws up a lot of red flags for people even *near* to the field. People who publish the stuff that is actually *good* in this general area tend to call it “human behavior” or “human evolutionary theory” or just plain “anthropology” (or evolutionary anthropology, or primatology, etc etc etc etc.). And plenty of that stuff I do disagree with – but it’s *sound* stuff – that’s where I’m drawing my lines, about methodological soundness, and hypothesis sturdiness as compared to hypothesis certainy, etc.

          It’s not that there’s a problem with lay evolutionary psychology – we all do it, as you point out – it’s that there’s a problem with people treating it like a valid scientific endeavor when it combines the worst flaws of two different ones (the myopia of [some] evolutionary biologists with the cavalier attitude toward study size and falsification of [some] psychologists, just for starters).

          Given the way publications happen and the way different approaches to a discipline tend to group themselves under different labels, being mad at “evolutionary psychology” is being mad at the folks who tend to use those labels (again, coming from my training as an animal behaviorist and my sharp awareness of how one should actually do such studies and how much it is safe to claim), rather than being mad at the process.

          It’s like if I had a beef with the Evangelic Lutheran Church of America and you were saying “But the Lutheran evangelicals are TOTALLY LEGIT!” because you thought of the Missouri synod as the evangelical branch (which would, frankly, be a perfectly logical thing to do given their beliefs vs the ELCA’s beliefs). I’m sitting here going, yeah, I said the ELCA, not the more-evangelical synod of the Lutheran church, and if you don’t know anything about the two synods and the language they use for themselves, it’s probably pretty damn confusing.

          EP-hating biologists (or biologists manqué) are mostly in that situation – we’re confusing you laypeople, and sounding like we don’t know what we’re talking about, but we’re also being precise about what we do and don’t approve of in that general area of study.


          • PS I <3 the ELCA, for the record, and I'm mostly indifferent to the Missouri Synod other than thinking it odd and fascinating that they put themselves in some state of communion with the Episcopalians of all people at one point (not sure if they still are, but it seemed like an odd marriage at the time). It's just an example.


      • By the way, I’ve seen Aziz Ansari in person and calling him slight would be an understatement.

        Just a note that a guy can be slight by guy standards and still have a significant weight/ strength / intimidation advantage over a woman. I know plenty of women in the 90-120 pound, 4’11-5’2 range. Plenty of them are strong and tough, but strong and tough only gets you so far, and women are definitely socialized to be very aware of that.

        I started noticing this consciously more after several of the trauma books I was reading pointed out that adult weight gain is a symptom of sexual abuse in childhood, as far as they can currently tell. (Er, not that it’s 1:1 at all, but that there’s a very high level of statistical correlation.)

        Do I weigh 300 pounds in part because no #@%*@# is going to have that particular advantage over me ever again? Oh yeah, on self-reflection that is one of the main reasons. Is this irrational given that losing SOME weight would help me get in much better physical condition? Yes, I have this conversation with myself every so often and I’m hopeful that eventually it will sink in.

        Just saying.

        What I find most weird about this whole thing is that this kind of discussion and minute parsing of blow by blow what-happened-and-then-what-happened-next historically happens in only two contexts:
        discrediting victims
        purportedly justifying murder of innocent accused brown men by white people

        Flanagan’s essay is (as usual for Flanagan) quite over the top, but if we’re going to keep doing this as a society**, I’d like to see it done with a) awareness of both of these two historical contexts, and b) a little more attention to … I mean, babe doesn’t believe in trigger warnings for something as triggering as sliding from typical dating chatter into explicit descriptions of non-consensual sex (one of the few things I’d think people with half a clue would understand would be triggering)? but they do think ansari should be publicly shamed in this way? they’re not being self-consistent in the least.

        the cognitive dissonance is quite overwhelming for me.

        ** which I suspect we are.


        • Late response, but there are some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head and this is as good a place as any to jot them down.

          I didn’t mention Ansari’s size as any kind of comment on what could or could not happen. I mentioned it to make the point that it highlights the disconnect between what this Babe brand of feminism purports to be and what actual behavior demonstrates. You can feel physically and emotionally overwhelmed by a man who fits the very definition of unimposing or you can be a badass Babe who doesn’t give a fuck; there is nothing necessarily wrong with either, but the two things don’t really go together. I think that realization is part of why this hasn’t gone the way the rest of the recent sexual assault conversation has gone.

          Nothing I said was meant as a defense of Ansari. Quite honestly, I have very little sympathy for him and that’s largely because I believe in the idea of radical responsibility. If someone calls you out for doing something to make them uncomfortable, it’s your fault… even if you didn’t do anything to reasonably make them uncomfortable. You failed to manage the interaction and that’s bad enough. As a black man who, before I was married, had my fair share of causal sexual encounters, many of them with white women, that mentality was necessary for my survival. I knew that if I handled one of those interactions the wrong way, I was setting myself up for failure. Interestingly enough, when I talked about this story with my wide, she seemed much more inclined to defend Ansari and to view the women’s story with a side-eye. I don’t think that she could relate to the idea of giving up that much power in a situation that didn’t involve being physically over-powered or coerced in some other way. And that’s likely because she grew up in a place where terrible treatment of women was/is much more commonplace and she has her own sense of radical responsibility. I guess there is a reason that we are together.

          Your response to Sam echoes the other conversation we were having about the relative importance of race in other political and social issues. In this case, Sam is much more interested in signalling his woke feminist cred than he is in considering the historical significance of white women accusing brown men of sexual misconduct, with the subsequent retaliation of white men. And like I said on that other thread, that’s OK by me. We’re all allowed to have our own priorities. I’m not mad at that. I recognize it and adjust my behavior accordingly (going back to the whole radical responsibility thing). Although, it does highlight the extent to which intersectionality is an illusion.


        • There is also absolutely no widely available history of men who aren’t white being hurt for supposedly violating white women’s consent, irrespective of the facts of the case! Another bullet dodged!

          (Seriously, is this the best way to have these conversations?)


          • Considering that this thread seems to have devolved into some commenters looking for ways to continue blaming women for the things that happen to them – and considering we have people objecting to good faith efforts among some women to protect themselves from dangerous men – I have no idea what would be productive. I don’t know how to respond to, “But think of all the men’s whose awkward groping will be misinterpreted!” or whatever some of this nonsense is.

            To put that another way, it’s wild that what we’re debating is what women do, and that the conclusion seems to be that whatever women try to do is, inevitably, wrong.


            • I understand your frustrations on these counts, believe me. I literally grew up being expected to swallow them every day, at home, in school (my HS band teacher’s current sexual assault charges keep being delayed a month to give his lawyers time to adjust as more and more women come forward to talk about how he assaulted them and/or coerced them into sex when they were still 14 or 15 years old (there’s no difference to me but the charges are different so I can tell both happened) – it’s been 4 months now – but I bet nobody is talking about how the school’s culture at the time made space for those things to happen), and pervasively throughout basically my entire life. I get mad too.

              But if you don’t distinguish between nuanced, complex comments coming from different perspectives, poorly made comments that are focused on the wrong stuff, and unbridled misogyny, it’s pretty hard to have a moderate conversation.

              I’d be happy to close comments on the post if you feel it’s devolved too far from the topic at hand. That’s well within your rights as an author, and something I’ll pretty much do for any author at any time (and have done).

              I can also assert, if you would like, that we need to stick to the topic of this list / Donohue / etc. Not sure that would help, but it is also something I can easily do and have done.


  9. General notice regarding comments:

    The spam filter is on overdrive (mostly because it’s been rightfully filtering out a lot of more-clever-than-usual giant spams). People’s comments are getting filtered – I just fished one of my own out of spam and I’m not the first one to experience it. If you notice any of your comments just disappearing, please email me, the inquiry address, Will – somebody – and one of us will go fishing in the spam pool and rescue your comments and restore them to the page.

    I promise no one is deleting them a-purpose!


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