pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Another interesting point for Perv is that individual men tend to have much narrower sexualities than individual women. This fits with my personal observations: women are more like to be bisexual, more like to switch in a BDSM sense, less likely to have a true paraphilia (something they cannot become aroused or orgasm without. As opposed to a kink, which is a non-standard sexual interest that someone enjoys but does not require for every sexual encounter). Of course, it's impossible to determine the extent of cultural influence from observation alone, but Perv introduces some animal evidence that males fixate to a narrower range of targets.

You might think that supports the idea that it's genetic, but it doesn't. The experiment in question swapped baby goats and sheep with each other, and observed the sexual behavior of the adoptees. Males of both species pursued females of their adoptive species, females remained receptive to both (book didn't mention the behavior of females adopted by the same biological species and I can't find the cite). Male goats do not have a sheep-fucking gene. What this actually shows is not that courtship targets are inborn, but learned from the environment, and that males narrow down their target in the time between birth and puberty in a way females do not.

This offers a really satisfying explanation for the range of human male sexual behavior. Most obviously, the wide range in beauty standards between cultures but narrow range within cultures, and in what an individual man finds attractive. Young male brains have the capacity to learn from the culture what is most advantageous to impregnate, and work with that, but have a hard time shifting targets later in life. It works for non-reproductive sex too: Pederasty will never result in a pregnancy, but if sex with young boys is correlated with gaining resources that will aid in reproduction (e.g. status in Ancient Greece), and the relevant section of the brain is taught that while young, it will find the idea exciting.

So once again, the answer to the question "what are humans programmed to do?" is "be astoundingly adaptive to local conditions."
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Eh, it's all right. I wish there were enough decent sex-science writing I could blow it off for not only using Alfred Kinsey's quantitative data, but praising it, but there isn't, so I'm forced to see it's better points: it approaches the subject amorally while respecting the importance of morals, it taught me a fact I so *want* to be true even though I looked up the original reference and it appears to be shakier than he claimed (foot fetishism peaks during STD epidemics), and its consideration of proper moral handling of pedophilia is pretty nuanced.

Actually, let's talk about that. The data is pretty strong that:

  • A sexual attraction to children (pedophilia) is as out of conscious control as any other sexual attraction
  • It is possible to have these thoughts, recognize that acting on them is immoral, and refrain from doing so.
  • The available data is excruciatingly limited, but appears to point to access to child porn leads pedophiles to be less likely to attack an actual child, not more.
  • The stigma against pedophilia makes it very hard to pedophiles to seek out the kind of help that would strengthen their resistance to their urge to act with an actual child.


Hypothetically, what if we legalized simulated child porn (so no actual kids are abused in production), but only for people who registered as official pedophiles? If we managed to keep the consequences to registering reasonable (e.g. it only blocked you from jobs that brought you into contact with children), it could make everyone better off. You might think no one would ever go for it, but if you allow for a concept of pedophiles that includes well meaning people tortured by the corruption of one of the strongest drives in the human soul, it could work. It allows people to simultaneously get some relief while giving their current, morally strong self a way to block their future, weaker self from temptation. And if you ever found an unregistered pedophile in possession of child porn you could feel more justified in throwing the book at him, because the only reason not to be on the list is to have access to children.

Obviously we can't get there from here, but I like it as a thought experiment.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Ginger Snaps is an extended werewolves:puberty/sexuality metaphor. I'm usually annoyed by overt metaphors, but in this case I think it worked, it part because it was so full of context. The relationship between the two leads is wonderfully nuanced right at the outset,* to the point I think you could base a more talky movie on it all by itself. So when menstruation/werewolfization changes it, it actually means something.

Recently I've talked a lot about how comedy can be used to breech people's defensiveness on sensitive topics to get them to hear points of view they otherwise wouldn't. Ginger Snaps does something... similar? opposite? Basically, I can see myself taking someone who was well meaning but clueless and obstinate** and telling them "you remember how Bridget felt when werewolfism led her sister to push her way? Yeah, puberty can do that all on its own, and it feels exactly like that."

Scare wise, it's okay but not astonishing. It started me and scared my hilariously easy to terrify boyfriend. Most of the actors are great, although one of the two leads is either mediocre or has too strong a theater influence. It is not a great sign that I thought this movie came out 15 years before it actually did. And yet, it did some really difficult, important things that very few movies even attempt, and it did them really well. And its mediocrities hew very close to genre standards. So I'm going to say it's definitely worth watching but I hope that 50 years from now it's interesting as an example of where our culture was at the time, rather than a classic.

*It's also got some brilliant examples of how girls use sexuality/fear of sexuality to police each other, which you do not see very often.

**Again, when obstinance costs you your well-meaning card is a tricky subject.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Long, long ago, a blogger I liked posted about the prison healthcare system. It's atrocious everyone in the USA, but especially in her state of California. CA has tried to save money by using private prisons, which were handling prisoner health care horribly (although it's not clear to me how it compared to state-run prisons). She had a longstanding fascination with libertarianism, and asked "Libertarian readers, I think private prisons are a thing you support, and I think they're doing really horrible things here. What is your stance? What health care do you think prisoners should have, and how should we get it to them?" As I remember it, she was talking less about responses to obvious, acute things like stabbing, and more about things that were fuzzy and chronic.

My response? "I think the biggest contribution we could make to inmate health is to stop putting them in rape factories. Until we've dealt with the prison rape problem, worrying about cancer treatment is misplaced." Which, I will admit, sounds dangerously close to "you can't have feelings about men violating your clearly stated boundaries while female circumcision is practiced". But I don't think it's the same, and not just because we're actually talking about the same people and institutions in my example. What I wanted to convey was that the institutional rot in prisons was deep, and leading to worse outcomes than prisoners dying of cancer, and removing the rot would require a complete rethinking of how prisons work. This would probably incidentally help with the health care issue too. Libertarianism has a lot to say about whether jail is ever justified, and if so for what crimes, and how do we determine that, but by the time someone is in prison? Consumer choice is by definition absent, and libertarianism is irrelevant.

That was how I felt reading Emily Yoffe's widely disparaged piece on alcohol and sexual assault First, I wanted to punch her for acting like she was a lone brave voice fighting against a feminist conspiracy to leave women ignorant of gender-specific dangers.* Then I wanted to punch her for conflating "drunk but functional woman consents to acts she wouldn't have while sober" and "alcohol renders woman incapable of physically preventing an assault." Then I wanted to punch her for saying it was her daughter's "responsibility" to prevent her own rape but merely "advantageous" for her imaginary son to avoid being accused of rape. But after I got the punching out my system, I realized I was punching at ants. Yoffe is looking at the intersection of two different systemic rots and concluding the symptoms are the problem.

The first is rape culture- the fact that a man can get a reputation for "if you're drunk and he's around, you have sex with him" and still get invited to parties. The solution to this is enthusiastic consent culture, which involves less teaching teenagers "drunk people can't say yes" and more "sex with someone who genuinely wants it is amazing, settle for nothing less, and don't tolerate people who do." This won't work on people for whom predation and violation are the point, but if Yoffe thought they were the major problem she would have written a very different article. Solving the interaction of rape culture and binge drinking by ending binge drinking still leaves rape culture in tact.

The other is why college students are binge drinking at all. What are they getting out of it? It doesn't look like fun to me even if it was a rape preventative. She briefly touches on it, but her best solution is "more friday classes", which makes me think she has not fully considered the issue. One possibility is that binge drinking is a vulnerability ritual- in which case, warning women of the dangers is about as effective as warning teenage boys driving fast is dangerous. If that is the case, we need to ask why a ritual type generally performed privately with a trusted few is being done in public with strangers. The answer could be gendered (in that women are pressured to place trust in men who haven't earned it), but I suspect there's a large gender neutral component that has serious implications for the state of our social fabric.

Of course, we don't want to wait on those issues to be solved to stop rape. It is entirely possible that the best choice for a woman is to curtail drinking she would otherwise enjoy because of the risk of rape. And she should be given accurate information to with which to weight that risk. But her drinking was never the cause of the issue.



*Because that's what feminism is known for. Seeing situations where women face more risks or penalties than men, and insisting everyone ignore it.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Some anecdotes I think illustrate a common thread:

  • Megan McArdle has a blog post up about how many women in Harvard Business School in particular and prestigious, demanding jobs in general drop out of the work force. The comments go off on a tangent about how high performing men who previously would have married secretaries are now marrying women much closer to their own achievement level, but post marriage logistics win out and the wives' careers are either dropped entirely or they shift into something emotionally rewarding but undemanding.
  • The "generous, discrete" business man who messaged me on okcupid, looking for "smart, beautiful, intelligent" women to "share an evening with" while he was in town for work.
  • That guy I went out with once who talked about how much he enjoyed smart women, how he couldn't imagine dating a dumb woman, but also couldn't imagine dating someone who wasn't at least five years younger than himself. He also believed all women were two drinks away from bisexuality.
  • A former friend who started dating a 19 year old college student when he was 26 and several years into a career, and claimed she was so smart and mature until the break up, at which point she started "acting her age." AKA she was smart and doing what he told her, and then she stopped.
  • Hugo Schwyzer (noted student-fucking professor), who claims he was never tempted to increase the grade of a student he was fucking because “The only students I was interested in were already A students. It’s not just a pretty face. It’s also intellectual ability.”.


That last one is extra on my my mind this week because I'm at my alma matter on a recruiting trip. I took a walk around the bookstore, and what I found myself most nostalgic for was a time in my life when the success criteria were determined by someone else and reachable via an obvious path. I could sign up and someone would stuff knowledge in my brain and I would get a reward for it. Relative to the real world, college required a lot of effort but very little executive function. Now, a good chunk of my job is deciding what my job should be and getting everyone else on board with it, and that's exhausting.

Simultaneously, what I most regret about my time at college is that I stuck to such a very strict path. I chose my first (very demanding) major when I was 12, committed to a second (also very demanding) my first semester, and had no time left over to explore. I avoided fuzzy classes both because I found the uncertainty inherently scary, and because my schedule genuinely didn't allow for anything to go wrong. I wanted a second major because otherwise all my credits from high school would have me graduating from college in two years, and I really wanted four. It never occurred to me I could use those extra two years to just explore a bunch of interesting things that might be interesting, without a clear use case for them. I was living Alfie Kohn's nightmare.

At the same time, that second major is what got me my current career, a career that has given me untold freedom in my adulthood. That's worth something too.

There are any number of reasons a very smart person could be getting less than an A in Hugo Schwyzer's class. Maybe she has to work to put herself through school or take care of family members and it cuts into her homework time. Maybe her dad died the day before an exam and she didn't know she could ask for a delay. Maybe she's brilliant in a different area and took this class deliberately to stretch herself. Maybe she did exemplary work that challenged Schwyzer's views and he lowered her grade subconsciously as punishment. Maybe she had grad school interviews that semester and they severely disrupted her study schedule. My point is that if Schwyzer is only fucking students getting As in his class, he's not selecting for intelligence, he's selecting for skill at following his rules.

That would be problematic to all on its own, and becomes worse when the perpetrator tries to mask it under something socially acceptable like an intelligence fetish. But I find it almost tragic in this case, because I'm pretty sure Schwyzer has done more to help me recognize this pattern than anyone else I've read or talked to. He is the one that explained that the sign of a good partnership isn't an absence of conflict, it's the presence of conflict that leads to growth for both parties- that "iron sharpens iron"- and that looking for less than that is a failure of moral courage. I'm not surprised he failed to live up this, because his writing always sounded like a dry drunk, but I am sad.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Commitment to free speech is measured by tolerance for speech you don't like. Otherwise, you're making a merits based argument. That is why I respect reddit's reluctance to shut down even really vile subreddits, like /r/jailbait (sexual photos of 16 and 17 year olds, culled from the girls' own social media pages) and /r/creepshots (surreptitiously taken photo of adult women in taken in public, including but not limited to upskirts). I don't like these forums existing, but as long a the law protects them, it will protect unpopular things I care about too.

Violentacrez, the founder of /r/jailbait and rescuer of /r/creepshot was recently* outed. And if those were his only crimes, that would make me really uncomfortable, because there are legitimate uses for anonymity, not everyone agrees that they are legitimate, and I want the cultural norm to support anonymity as part of supporting free speech.* But violentacrez did not limit himself to providing immoral jerkoff material: he founded a number of subreddits, including /r/chokeabitch, /r/rapebait, and /r/niggerjailbait, explicitly for the purpose of pissing people off.

This strikes me as different, and not worthy of protection. Deliberately pissing people off is a violation of a social contact. One with fewer consequences than upskirts, but specifically targeted at the same norms that support anonymity. Deliberately pissing people off is the opposite of supporting free exchange of ideas. Moreover, it punctures the argument that you need to protect this ugly speech in order to protect good speech. He can't argue "this doesn't affect anyone else" because that's the goal, and he can't argue "I'm advocating for political change that I would face persecution for" (which, yes, would protect speech by NAMBLA, although of course not actions). He just wants to piss people off.

So that's one violation of the social contract. But there's something more than that. I've played D&D games where the GM would let players decide whether or not their character was killable- some people got attached and found death disruptive, others enjoyed the risk. The one time we had PVP, it was between a killable and unkillable player, and the unkillable player temporarily flipped her kill switch because otherwise it was just unfair. This guy is trying to hurt people without taking damage in return. If he cared about the topic you could "win" by arguing with facts. If he wanted to do his thing without interference he would not deliberately attract attention. But there is no inalienable right sniping.

*relative to when I wrote this, which was months ago.

*For example, gay, kinky, or poly people may wish to be able to look for partners, or advocate for their right to do the same, without their families or jobs finding out. I think this is a legitimate use of anonymity even though it could be trivialized "just sex".
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I've read and watched a few things on the emergence of pornography as part of the sexual revolution, and this is the first one that gave me some insight into what a shift it was. I always thought of this period as "sex moved into the public sphere", and of course Deep Throat was tried for obscenity because it was the most public. This is untrue. The first prosecution of Deep Throat specifically focused on its legitimization of the clitoral orgasm. That is, there was an actual court case in which the government's* argument was "this film teaches women that they can get pleasure from something other than vaginal intercourse, and that is morally corrupting and bad for society."** And they won. This was non just about sex, or non-marital sex, becoming more visible, it was about women participating in sex rather than having it done to them.

Then there is 1970s feminism's relationship with porn. The touch on this just long to reinforce my belief that Hugh Hefner is so close, and yet so far Let me paraphrase an exchange:

Feminists: Playboy will be sexist until you come out with a cotton tail on your rear end.
Hefner: I think I have more in common with the girls than they...
Feminists: women. We're Women.
Hefner: *eyeroll* I have more in common with the ladies.

This is perhaps a very good illustration of the difference between "being an ally" and "having some goals in common."

*I believe this was the local NYC prosecution, but I could be wrong.

**the fact that this was occurring with a mythical throat clitoris, and elevating an act that at a physical level is really about male pleasure, is an interesting complication.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I want to draw your attention to Ta-Nehisi Coate's post on erections and vulnerability.

Masculinity's central tenet is control—and perhaps most importantly, control of the body. Nothing contradicts that edict like erections. It unmans you, it compels you through sensations you scarcely understand. And it threatens to expose you, to humiliates you, in front of everyone. Laugh now at the boy at the middle school dance, who gets an erection on the slow number (God help him if he has orgasm.) But he does not forget that laughter, nor does he forget what prompted it. That boy is going to be a rapper. Or a painter. Or an author of fictions where men are men and somehow are invulnerable to the humiliating effects of the female form.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Just watched Orgasm, Inc, a documentary on the creation of the diagnosis Female Sexual Dysfunction and the search for treatment (verdict: decent, but not spectacular). My short thoughts:

  • If 80-something percent of people who can have the diagnosis do have the diagnosis at some point in their lives, it is probably worth reevaluating the concept of what merits the dysfunction label.
  • There was a woman who had new wires put into her spine in order to correct the deficiency of being unable to orgasm from penetration. Goddamnit doctors, you should not be so bad at this.


My longer thought involves the (long term) use of testosterone to treat FSD. Testosterone is a critical chemical in many biological pathways. Using it to treat one very localized problem seems like using a sledgehammer on a fly. On the other hand, testosterone seems like an excellent treatment for low testosterone levels, for which low libido is definitely a symptom. Because of the way medical patents work, there's no financial incentive for a drug company to investigate what a normal testosterone range is, and what symptoms indicate a person would benefit from more testosterone even if their numbers look normal. This seems like an excellent thing for the government to invest in.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
A while ago I was filling out a new patient form for a doctor's office, and saw an "other" option for both gender and sexual identity, and a "polyamorous" option for relationship status. As it happens I don't need any of those boxes, but I still felt better for seeing them on the form. At first I thought it was because if the doctor considered these sometimes heavily stigmatized states of being to simply be information she needed to know to do her job, then there was reason to believe she wouldn't judge me for my non-standard interests. It made it easier to talk freely without fear of judgement.

But now I think maybe there is more than that. I was watching For The Bible Tells Me So, a documentary on use of the Bible to justify hatred of homosexuality. And it occurred to me that they never say "I hate men having butt sex" or "I hate two men being in love" or "I hate women getting off without a penis involved", or anything specific. The talk about abominations, and perversity, and sickness. Which is a good strategy on their part, because there is nothing homosexuals specifically do that could possibly justify that amount of hatred and fear. But it makes me think that some of what was so comforting about that intake form was the willingness to explicitly name things that many people would not acknowledge.

People, including people who pride themselves on being open minded and accepting, including me, sometimes complain about the extra time it takes to not use "woman" and "vagina haver" as shorthand for each other, to not assume an anonymous internet is a woman because they mention having a husband, to not say "mom and dad" when you mean "parents" and not say "your parent" when you mean "grown up who is mostly responsible for your raising." It makes sentences much longer, ruins comedic timing, and it's a lot of effort for such a small portion of the population. But taking the time to draw these distinctions helps more than trans women and men, gay men, and children being raised by their gay grandfathers. By talking explicitly about things often left implicit due to discomfort, they help everyone whose life is even a little nonstandard feel more accepted and less afraid. And that is worth doing.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
There is a point I see a lot in writings on Nice Guys (TM), which is that it's no good identifying a target for sex/a relationship and then pretending that's not what you're after, because they can tell. I saw this most recently on Ferret's blog, but it comes up lots of places, many of which devote vast swathes of their other writings to talking about Using Your Words. This strikes me as a little contradictory, and I'd like to expand it.

Some people can successfully fool others as to their intentions most of the time. These people do not ask me, Ferret, or Captain Awkward how to get laid.* Of the people who read about Nice Guys (TM) and think that it might apply to them personally, and are trying to disguise their desires: some targets will know what they are up to immediately. Some will not, but will vaguely uneasy. Some will feel fine, but the attempt will still fail because hiding the fact that you are lost from your passengers doesn't mean you are not lost. And hiding your wants might even work in some small fraction of the population. But not often.

The more literal/ASD side of me wants to say that if people detect bad intentions 100% of the time, than surely it's reasonable to expect the same accuracy rate when I develop good intentions, and see a corresponding shift in behavior. Which is in fact not a fair or reasonable thing to expect, and reinforces the mentality that women are vending machines that dispense responses appropriate to the amount of change you put in.


*My opinion is that doing this has serious hidden costs, but that's a different issue.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
There are certain things that are supposed to be based on mutual desire, sex and romance being the primary examples. I will freely admit that this mutual desire is a relatively new context for both of those things, but I'm not changing my position. I think the belief that sex or marriage when one partner doesn't want it is a profound violation is one of the best parts of living of living in the future. It's not just that sex without mutual desire is wrong, it's a profound violation of the concept, which is why it not okay to describe an accusation of rape as a "sex scandal". Romance is, if anything, more dependent on the idea of mutual reciprocity. You can have unrequited love, but a romance it is not.

There are lots of smaller things built on the same concept. It is not enough to want to do things with your friends, you need to want to do things that they enjoy. Obviously there are things we do even though neither of us want to be doing them, like moving my stuff, and sometimes you do a thing you otherwise wouldn't to support your friend (thanks in advance, supporters of my nascent stand up career). Hell, sometimes you have sex you otherwise wouldn't be into because it will make your partner happy. But it is still important that those things 1. be recognized as being driven by one person, 2. be given freely, and 3. be relatively infrequent, relative to truly mutual interactions.

Disagreement on mutuality can cause a lot of discomfort. To use the least loaded example, consider if your friend is accepted into an art show, and invites you to be their guest. They think they're doing you a favor because you get to go to this cool art show for free. You think you're doing them a favor because you're going to a boring thing to support them. You can't inform them of their misperception because then you're basically saying "your art is boring". But the etiquette of turning down favors is very different than turning down requests for favors and it just becomes ARGH.*

Now, back to sex. I don't think you need people's consent to find them attractive or even fantasize about sex with them, provided you're discreet.** So in a certain sense, it's totally cool to want sex with someone who doesn't want you back. But you need to be clear that you wouldn't actually have sex with them if they weren't into it. When you are dealing with an actual person you could conceivably have sex with, this distinction is even more important.

And this is why violating an assumption of mutual enjoyment is a very fast way to get you on my "do not sleep with" list. It's not that every friend who invites you to their poetry slam is a secretly thinking "I would totally penetrate that person without their consent." It's that the skills needed to recognize and care that someone isn't in to something generalize. I had a failed date a few months ago in which the guy kept trying to cuddle. I gave it a shot, didn't enjoy it, and stopped. He kept- well pushing is such a strong word, but definitely trying. And in one sense, it was an ambiguous situation and you can't fault a guy for trying. But in another sense, his behavior reflects the idea that me being into the current stage is not a prerequisite for escalation. This is also why I found Michael Ian Black's bit on women not finding him funny so disturbing: he was angry at them for not giving him something that should be an expression of enjoyment.

So I think one form of creepiness is someone unilaterally escalating towards something that should be mutual. It is probably not the only form, but it is significant.


*Friends I rope into coming to open mic nights with me: I'm very clear on who is doing the favor for who.

**To keep this simple, let's say discreet means there is absolutely no difference in your behavior towards people you do and don't fantasize about. I think you could argue there's some wiggle room there, but I only need the weakest form for this argument. Also, there are still certain cases where it is never okay, like a high school teacher fantasizing about their students.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Since leaving tiny ninjas, I've been teaching biology at a school for sick children and their siblings. The school is really there as a support system and to keep their brains busy, which is good, because the biology program is in terrible shape. I didn't get a textbook until this week, and it is terrible. There is no curriculum, and I'm completely unqualified to teach a real biology class. But I am reasonably qualified to show two kids things I find interesting and show them how to follow up on their own interests. It took me four weeks, but I finally got them to ask questions so I could start opening their minds to the wonders of science.

Unfortunately, what they want to know about is the genetics of racial differences.

They're asking innocently. They used the same tone when asking about the biology of zodiac signs, whether their red hair meant they were angrier, and if the doppelgangers from Vampire Diaries could actually exist. But it puts me in a tricky position. There is a lot of horrible psuedoscience used to support racism, and I don't want to lend credence to it. On the other hand, I don't want to teach them that questions with potentially unpleasant answers shouldn't be asked. Some day they may be doing medical research. Back on the first hand, stereotype threat is a real problem and truth is not an ultimately defense when it is involved. Also, I would like to not get in trouble.

What I told them at the time was: most people talking about genetic differences between races are evil and also bad at science (bonus: they're young enough I can shock them by swearing!), there are often substantial differences between small populations, but two distinct Asian populations look as different from each other as they do from a European population. I threw in a bit about how the classic racial categories just are not biologically true, but maybe not enough. For homework I assigned them articles on sickle cell anemia and lactose tolerance, on the theory that malaria and pastoralism are neutral ways to talk about differences in environment applying selective pressure. I dream of ultimately finding one of those racist fact sheets and eviscerating it with them, which would be both anti-racism and pro-science, but we are not there yet.

The problem is that a neutral reporting of the facts is not enough here. There's reasonably good statistical evidence that Ashkenazi Jews are slightly smarter than Europeans from the same geographic areas. There's super interesting speculation as to why*, and I have in fact discussed that speculation is detail with a very socially conscious Jewish friend. But if all I tell the kids is "Jewish people are smarter", I risk reinforcing some really horrible stereotypes. Luckily, the story of the selective pressure is intimately tied up with persecution and bigotry, so it's easy to bring up. If I talk about rice farming selecting for mathematical aptitude or poor hygiene in Europe selecting for a better work ethic, relative to south Asia, I risk reinforcing some really horrible stereotypes. But the things that would counter those stereotypes are outside the scope of a biology class.

It'd probably be much the same if we cover reproduction (not guaranteed- kids are only here for a few months and I'm letting them choose the topics). In a world where kids learn all about enthusiastic consent and masturbation and queer sexuality, I could teach them the biology of reproduction and move on. In the current world, teaching reproduction reinforces the undeserved primacy of straight, cis, PIV sex.** But I don't thing I can assign What You Really, Really Want as part of biology class.

I'm open to suggestions here, on both the meta issue and on specific examples I can explore with them.


*Short version: the risk of spontaneous attacks by Christians rewarded medieval Jews for keeping forms of wealth that were easy to travel with and hard to seize. Farm land was the opposite of this. Gold was pretty good. Intelligence was perfect.

**I have a BA in biology and the only time I ever heard vaginal wetness discussed in college was a psychology class, where they explained that arousal experiments were done primary on men because they were easier to measure.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
You're not doing it right

I will order any comedian autobiography I hear of, regardless of my familiarity with the comic. If the guy who does Larry The Cable Guy came out with a book as himself, I would read that. I ordered You're not Doing it Right despite only vaguely being aware of Michael Ian Black's existence up until that point. Three days before it arrived at the library, I stumbled on a clip that made him Exhibit A for rape culture*, and also was not funny. So I went into the book in a sort of combative mind set.

The book is good, and Black is very funny. He would have to be, to get me through a book that depressing.

I want to accept Black's word that his life isn't that bad, he's just writing down the absolute worst parts. That is plausible for his graphic fantasies of shaking his colicky baby, because colic seems like it should be banned by the Geneva Convention. It's the things he maybe doesn't realize are tragic that I worry about. The story of both his proposal to his wife and their decision to have children boil down to "it was the next step and I didn't have a good enough reason not to." Allow me to channel Captain Awkward and say that not wanting it badly enough is sufficient reason to not marry someone and ESPECIALLY a sufficient reason not have children . I want to give this book to every engaged couple so that they can see the cost of inertia-based decision making.

I saw Louis CK live once, and left with the vague feeling that he was depressed and having me witness it was part of the depression. But at least CK knew it. I get the distinct impression that Michael Ian Black doesn't realize that happiness is a thing. He just assumes he's supposed to feel vaguely numb and unhappy all the time.

Humor definitely adds to explorations of the crushing depression of suburban existence. I feel like I should admit I've never even started a novel of the form I'm about to lengthily criticize, and if someone recommends one I will read it. But in general, ennui is the least interesting emotion to read about, so Black must be doing something very very right for me to finish the book in three days.

Contrast with Kevin Smith. I finished his latest book, Tough Shit on the same day, and have made a point to watch all of his stand up. Smith's love for his wife suffuses the book. He tells stories that make their sex life sound really depressing, but he also tells stories that make it sound awesome. And not in a "it's not so bad" way, but in a "in this completely unrelated comedy special, I have a funny story for which awesome sex is part of the set up" or "I cannot believe how lucky I am" way. And in general, Smith sounds like a man who's doing what he loves, recognizes and appreciates how lucky he is to do it, and shares that luck with his friends. He seems super cool to be friends with, and not just because he might let you run his comic book store. From the way Michael Ian Black talks, you'd never know he was a comedian/actor. He lives in a NYC bedroom community and commutes in like a banker. The only time he ever feels lucky is when hot girls say yes


*No, seriously. I think this clip might actually be useful for explaining/demonstrating/proving the concept to people who are sympathetic but skeptical. I use my dad as the my test model for this. My dad is one of those people who totally believes in equal rights and would have died fighting anyone who told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl but starts a lot of sentences with "As a man, I..." when he means "As myself, I...". He will tolerate use of the word "privilege" from me, and me alone, and only then after the requisite 45 seconds about how he doesn't feel privileged because the cheerleaders wouldn't fuck him in high school. For those who are wondering: the concept of extrovert privilege is really useful for introducing the concept, because people are much more sympathetic to learning about privileges they don't have.

I think my dad would (after I explained it) get that Black is expressing an entitlement to have women find him funny, and that this is not a fair entitlement. And that expecting people to pay you for something they didn't ask for is manipulative and an indication that you do not want to accept favors from this person. But it's about mundane enough that you can't dismiss it as "but that guy is clearly a bushes-lurking rapist, it has nothing to do with predator and prey day."

And for the record, you can do that same joke in a funny, not rape-culture way. You just have to make the comedian the butt of the joke, not the women who fail to find him funny.

**I'd like to reassure everyone I'm not a mental health professional and that if I somehow became one, I would not approach the job with this attitude. But I feel okay having it as a literary taste.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Autism and Oughtism has a post about how she feels her son has covered an ever shifting third of the house in invisible red paint. She can't see it, but he can, and he gets very upset when she touches or moves anything he's painted red. It wouldn't be so bad, she could just memorize everything she wasn't allowed to touch, except he keeps painting new things, and sometimes he paints things she really needs to touch at some point, like lightswitches. It was, as you can imagine, incredibly stressful to live with.

Women deal with this, in less obvious forms, a lot. Don't be a slut, but don't be a prude either. Don't be mean, but be a tease. Don't be fat, but don't ever admit to putting any effort into being thin. Don't be a moocher, but don't make more money than your husband. To be fair, the opposing paints are often being applied by different people, but all that means is there's no one person to yell at for the whole mess. The paints are often applied and enforced by other women, not men, which makes almost 0 difference to how frustrating it is.

In the form of "creepy", women finally have gotten their own paint. For once, we don't have to give a powerpoint presentation to justify our feelings, we can just call someone creepy, get the behavior change (or at least sympathy) we want, and move on with our day. Has the paint been used against certain men unfairly? Against men who were not only not safety threats, but obviously not safety threats? For very bad reasons, like race or class or trans-status? And is it being disproportionately applied against people who were already low on the totem poll? Yes. That is human nature. We kick down, and we're not known for surgical use of new tools. That's why we're outsourcing surgery to robots. Additionally, there is genuine ambiguity. Perfect use is an unreasonable expectation, and "you can only have your reasonable request if you've behaved perfectly" is something women hear a lot and are just not in the fucking mood for now that we have our paint. Lastly, sometimes we're using a dirty trick to get a fair outcome.

Mindy Kaling has a story in her book, Is everyone hanging out without me, about going to a photoshoot and finding racks and racks of clothes that were half her size, and one mumu that fit her. The photographer assumed she'd wear the mumu. She used the closely related "I only feel comfortable in" paint to make him more or less destroy a really nice designer gown so it worked on her in the photos.* It was unfair to make the photographer feel like a subway flasher when he hadn't violated any sexual boundaries. On the other hand, Mindy Kaling was the same size she had always been, which is a fairly common size, and it was bullshit of him to bring a bunch of clothes that didn't fit her to an event that was in large part about putting her in clothes. Could she have gone all fat acceptance on him? Sure. But it would have cost a lot of energy, probably wouldn't have worked, and could easily have gotten her a reputation for being difficult, with long term career implications. So she used the one weapon she had that, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, carried no retaliation risk.

"No retaliation risk" is another way of saying "no way to fight back", and it does suck to have people use weapons you can't fight against. That is why we get so upset about the slut/prude/fat/anorexic/rude/tease/gold-digger/bitch paints. Moreover, in a world that is constantly insisting we justify our feelings, it is really nice to be able to tell my friends "he was creepy" and have it just be understood.

The paint doesn't even always work. Which only makes the overuse issue worse, because we get used to hearing people dismiss the creep label even when it is used against really legitimate targets** and that makes us insensitive to complaints when it genuinely is misused. This is not unique to feminists or women or the creep paint, it's what human beings do.

So, commenter on No Seriously What About Teh Menz: you are correct that creep "is a stronger way of saying “I don’t like that guy” without giving any information about WHY he’s considered a threat". You are simply incorrect in your belief that anyone owes anyone else an explanation for their disinterest.

I am going to preemtively concede that men have a bunch of contradictory paints to cope with too, and that the creep paint feels like it conflicts with some of them (even though I think there's a third way not banned by any paint). I don't believe this changes my argument.


*If I understand correctly, they ripped it open from the back and sewed in several new panels. It would look hideous in person, but photographed well from certain angles.

**Seriously, read that post, men are dismissing their girlfriends complaints about men who sexually assaulted them in front of a witness.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
What is the cost of asking someone out? We claim it to be nothing- "they weren't going out with you before, they weren't going out with you now"- but that is clearly bullshit. I know it looks like humans make up things to be stressed about for no reason, but that turns out to very rarely be the case. The popevopsych* is that the other cave men will know about your rejection and it will lower your social standing, but that doesn't make sense to me either: all the other cave men knew you weren't having sex with her before too.

So what additional information is conveyed by asking? That you are interested, which prevents you from telling the other cave man that she's just not your type. Okay, that's fair, no one likes being vulnerable. But also that you thought you had a good enough shot for it to be worth risking that vulnerability, and you were wrong.

This explanation makes a lot of sense to me, and not just because my friend just had to talk me into asking for something (non-romantic, non-sexual) from someone (who I did not regularly interact with) with the phrase "It's not presumptuous to ask." Human beings do not like it when other human beings cheat the hierarchy. It also explains a lot of stuff that otherwise looks quite ugly, like men cheerfully accepting "I have a boyfriend" but not "I'm not interested." "I'm not interested" doesn't have to mean "you were wrong to ask me out", and it would be a better world if we could decouple those, but it is heavy with that implication. "I have a boyfriend" has no such sting.

Also worth noting, fear of seeming presumptuous is exactly what keeps me from responding to subtle "I'm interested" cues with explicit "I'm not" words. What if he wasn't interested, and it was all in my head? I would have to be an arrogant bitch to have so grossly misinterpreted overtures of friendship or simple politeness as interest in me. Interestingly, I get at worst a mild version of this when asking men out, whereas it can approach near-pathological levels when rejecting them.

So the stigma attached to "presuming" someone could be interested is clearly serving no one's interest. Not even the super hot people, if the beautiful women complaining that no one ever approaches them are to be believed. I want to talk about the system that led to such a stigma against presumption, but honestly I've just barely got my head around the smaller issue and I can't hold any more thoughts.


*which is a totally different thing from actual evolutionary psychology which is a perfectly useful line of investigation in science.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Attention women: if you don't react to a joke the way Michael Ian Black wants you to, you are a bitch. Actually, you're worse than a bitch, but Comedy Central beeped out the rest of it. But whatever it is, it's pretty bad

pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The hypothesis in yesterday's post has some additional implications.

First, guilt free dumping might lead women to prefer assholes for casual sex. Any sexual encounter carries some chance of the other person falling for you. Telling decent people you don't reciprocate sucks. Reciprocating when you're in a bad place for it- coming off a serious break up, about to leave the country, questioning your gender identity- sucks. Assholes are both easier to tell to fuck off if they fall for you and less likely to engender reciprocation. This plan is not without costs, but on the margin it will lead to more casual sex for assholes than you would otherwise calculate.

Second, the urge to keep harmony and avoid disappointing men could easily lead to a reluctance in women to make the first move. I'm operating off a small set of data and I'm very interested in hearing other people's experiences (on both sides- this one may not be so gendered), but I've noticed that men tend to take me asking them out as a sign I am Definitely Interested, as opposed to interested enough to want more data. They're less responsive to implicit cues of subsequent disinterest and less likely to solicit explicit ones. Now, I'm a grown up and I can give explicit instructions without being asked. But the work involved means there's a rather large margin where I would say yes if asked (who knows, he might be really interesting 1:1) but won't ask myself

Worse, there's a cascade effect. When I encounter someone I am definitely Interested in, I have less practice asking men out than I otherwise would have, so I'm worse at it. If my experience and reaction is widespread (and I think it is), it's self reinforcing.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I have a new hypothesis: Women say yes to assholes more often (than would be predicted by a naive model) because assholes are easier to say no to.

Let's suppose men vary on two traits: aggressive/passive, and decent human being/not decent human being. Passive not decent human beings are Nice Guys (TM). Aggressive not decent human beings are assholes. There's no catchy name for either side of the decent human being track, so let's call them Assertives and Laid Backs. Let's further posit that aggression level is very easy to detect, and decentness is not.

First, I posit that decentness takes longer to detect in passive men than in aggressive men. The aggressive ones just give you data faster. So even if aggression is associated with smaller chance of being a decent human being, you might be find more decent human beings faster by checking aggressive s than passives.

Related but distinct, I posit that assholes are easier to reject than Nice Guys. Women are socialized to not hurt people and smooth over disharmony. One way this manifests is a need for a reason to break up or reject someone.* Assholes will give you that reason, often in a way that makes for a hilarious story to tell your friends later. Nice Guys will make you second guess yourself- maybe I misinterpreted that, I shouldn't be so quick to judge, I guess I have to give him another chance. And they will never provide obvious points at which to reject them, so it will drag on for weeks if not months.

Even among the decent human beings, it's easier to reject an Assertive who is nonetheless not the pants for you than a Laid Back. They'll present you with a clearer decision point, and faster.

Let's illustrate this with two men I know through the same set of friends. The Nice Guy has spent multiple evenings making up excuses to be around me, trying to make me touch him, engage me in conversations I don't want to have but can't politely leave, etc. I avoid this guy like the plague any time we're at the same party. Could I use my words? Sure, I guess. But what words? "I will never ever consider you a viable sexual or romantic prospect"? That's awfully presumptuous to say to a man who has never asked me out. "Stop trying to engage me in conversation"? So he can't join a conversation with his friends and roommates because I'm there? Yeah, that'll go over well.

Compare with the Asshole. It took four minutes to figure out he was an asshole, because he explained a basic economics concept wrong despite working in finance and was horribly condescending when I asked a clarifying question. He then tried to organize a twister competition but somehow forgot to invite any men. I won't seek this guy out, but I'll tolerate his proximity, because there's a reasonable chance he'll do something entertaining, and I can slap him down the minute he does something unwanted. This guy coming from behind (when I didn't know he was there) and putting his arm around me bothers me less than the Nice Guy repeating soliciting fist bumps, because I was able to immediately and completely impart my displeasure to the Asshole via the point of my elbow, but the fist bumps just hung around.

So women don't have to prefer assholes as long term partners for going out with assholes more frequently to be a rational decision. The general form of this is that probably-bad ideas that will reveal themselves quickly will be more attractive than more promising but slowly resolved ideas, which has all sorts of consequences.





*Men aren't immune from this, but I think the example is clearer when I use specifics.

New Rule

Sep. 6th, 2012 11:19 pm
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I would like to propose the following: if you can't tell the difference between a 14 year old and an 18 year old, you're not allowed to have sex with either. Either your 18 year olds of choice are too dumb to consent, or you yourself are

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